Dishonored (2012)

We All Start With Innocence, but the World Leads Us to Guilt.

Dishonored (2012)The true inspiration for today’s review was that terrible holiday known as Black Friday. Technically, it started a while before that with a number of people telling me how awesome this game was. But that didn’t actually inspire me to buy the game because it still didn’t look that interesting to me, and them talking it up was only going to make it worse. But there was something that could make it better. It could go on sale for $25 on Black Friday. And it did! Now, I hate Black Friday, and if it was my choice I wouldn’t have been there at all, or this game would have to wait for me until about 1 pm because there’s no way in Hell I’d get up early for it. Since I was forced to be there, and I was in the vicinity buying a game I wanted much more than this, I decided to relent and pick up a copy of Dishonored, developed by Arkane Studios, published by Bethesda Softworks, and including the voices of Chloë Moretz, John Slattery, Billy Lush, Susan Sarandon, Lena Headey, Brad Dourif, and Carrie Fisher.

We are the bodyguard of the Empress of Steampunk world. Our name is Corvo Attano and our voice box was apparently damaged at a young age, rendering us completely speechless. This becomes problematic when the Empress is murdered in front of us (because we’re also very bad at our job) and her daughter Emily (Chloë Moretz) is kidnapped (because we’re EXTRA bad at our job), and we are unable to tell people that we didn’t do it. We get all nice and framed for this, but we get freed by a group of Loyalists, led by Admiral Havelock (John Slattery). Then we are set on a mission to shake up the corrupt government and free Emily, the rightful heir to the throne.

You people need to knock it off with the whole overenthusiasm thing. You talk up a game that is “Okay” at best until it is made out to be the game of the year and the game can only suffer for it. I think the problems I had with the story made for the bulk of my problems with it. Actually, it was more how the gameplay changed the story, but we’ll get to that after a few other points. The first thing that struck me is that the story is kind of bland and mostly about political conspiracies, and anyone that knows me knows that there’s not a whole lot I find more boring than politics. The idea of the silent protagonist feels a little antiquated now as well, and it seems like it would have at least helped with some of the problems my character got into because of it. They say that the purpose of the silent protagonist is to get the player more involved with their character, but that hasn’t really proven to be the case, has it? I didn’t give two flying fucks about Corvo. I didn’t feel like I was him, nor did I get particularly involved in his story. If you really want to get me involved in a game, you need to make one about a guy playing video games, masturbating, and occasionally writing reviews that one or two people read. Then again, I wouldn’t buy that game either, and anyone else that did might get too depressed by it. And the other side of that argument is that there are plenty of games that have protagonists that speak that I got involved with. Ezio Auditore talks, Marcus Fenix talks, Nathan Drake talks. When my roommate asked me what my 5 favorite games would be, 4 out of 5 of them had protagonists that speak. The only one with a silent protagonist in that list was Final Fantasy 7. How about you have a great story to get me involved instead? There were also tons of things in the game that annoyed me because they didn’t make sense. When I was walking the streets on my way to a masquerade ball, why would guards attack me when I was wearing a mask? If that mask is good enough for the guards at the party, the other ones would surely have known about it or I’m sure half of the guest list was killed on their way to the soirée. And why did the guards keep trying to kill me after I exposed the Lord Regent and they took him to jail? Shouldn’t they all have figured at that point that I was framed?

I need to talk about the gameplay before I can combine it with the story to tell you what really annoyed me about the game. The gameplay itself was fine, but it’s really nothing I haven’t seen before. It feels like it wants to be, but it isn’t. And it ends up being a little boring to me, as most stealth games are. You have to do a really good job on your game to make stealth games feel like more than just waiting in shadows for someone to turn their back. They added in some powers, like the Blink ability, that makes it interesting when you can teleport behind someone to stab them up good. But if sneaking didn’t work out for you, there didn’t seem to be much by way of consequences for it. Fighting was fairly easy at first, being not much more than block and stab. Later it gets a little more complicated because the enemies dodge more and have guns, but fuck them ‘cause I can stop time now. The upgrades to your equipment never seemed to help that much, but the upgrades to your powers maybe helped too much, making the game a little too easy when you could see your enemies through walls, teleport right behind them, freeze time if you were in a pinch, and call in an army of rats if that wasn’t working. Also, the AI wasn’t that bright, which adds to the easiness. There was one part where I was flat out spotted by a number of guards and I backed up, falling down about 10 feet off a ledge where I could hear the guards say, “I guess it was nothing.” Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. The biggest problem with the gameplay I had was that I couldn’t play it for more than an hour at a time without getting so bored I had to turn it off. I’m sure the game wouldn’t take that as a compliment, and it wasn’t intended as one.

The biggest problem I had with the game was how the gameplay affected the story. They let you know about halfway through the game that killing people turns the story dark at the end. Fuck that shit! Killing these enemies just makes sense. A: it’s mostly self-defense because if any of them see you, they will try to kill you. B: it makes the game easier because you don’t have to keep watching out for them after they’re dead. C: it’s more fun! All I heard about this game before I bought it was that it was basically about cutting throats. That is literally all I knew about it before I played it. Then you’re going to punish me by making me corrupt an innocent little girl and make everyone hate me and be shitty to me because I played the game the way that makes sense? Fuck you! The Spiderman game I’m playing now doesn’t punish me for webbing people and punching them in the face. Assassin’s Creed doesn’t wag its finger at you for stabbing the people that deserve it with your wrist blades. I understand punishing me for killing innocents, but I wasn’t doing that. At the end of the game, the formerly nice boat driver that took me to my missions was so shitty to me he pretty much said he hopes I get killed, and just to help that along he’s going to fire his gun to get the attention of everyone on the island before he departed. And Emily is drawing pictures of me standing atop a mountain of corpses with a sword dripping with blood as she talks about how she’ll kill anyone that opposes her when she becomes Empress.

I don’t have very much to say about the look of the game. It looks good. I had no complaints. It’s just a Bioshock-esque steampunk world, but it’s so bland and dark to set the mood that it ends up being visually disinteresting and adding to the boredom I already had for the game.

This is also not a great game for achievements. I’m leaving the game with just over 300. Most of the achievements are for completing missions without killing anyone and without getting spotted. I find that course of action too frustrating and boring to actually make an attempt at it. I probably would if I found the game more interesting, but I just don’t care. I was vaguely interested in finding out what would happen to the ending if I had played this game the shitty way, but that question could be answered by a quick trip to YouTube. It wasn’t worth it.

Dishonored suffered from the high expectations set by the people I know. Seems to be a running theme in some of my reviews, doesn’t it? This game was okay, but certainly not as spectacular as some people acted like it was. The story was pretty good if you’re into that kind of thing, and the gameplay is fine but in no way innovative. But I’ll tell you what no one told me: this game is, in fact, not at all about stabbing people and slicing throats. Go into the game with that idea and the game will hate-fuck your skull. Instead, play this game if you like falling asleep while waiting in the shadows to hug someone that’s trying to kill you until they fall asleep and you can move on. That’s how the game wants you to play it. Also, I guess the other option is to just not play it. I’d recommend that one. Especially with it still at $60. I paid $25 for it and I didn’t think it was worth it. But I am going to trade it in for $15 dollars, so I recommend buying it when you can find it for $10. Dishonored gets “It can take one to sublime heights or harrowing depths” out of “Are you chasing something, or running away?”

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Rage (2011)

Oh, I’ve Got Some Rage Now…

I was very excited to get my hands on this game since the moment I heard about it.  id Software has been one of my favorite developers since Wolfenstein in 1992, though they really stuck with me with Doom.  Quake was also a very good game.  When I heard that they were developing another game, I was already on board.  I saw a lot about it at E3, talking about the fact that all of their environments are hand painted and not just a random texture generator.  When it finally came to the store shelves, I didn’t buy it.  It was a busy holiday season for gaming and funds were tight.  But when it went on sale on Black Friday, the time had come.  This game is Rage, developed by id Software, published by Bethesda Softworks, and includes the voice acting talents of John Goodman, Dee Bradley Baker, Nolan North, Phil Lamarr, Tara Strong, and Claudia Black.

In the year 2029, an asteroid strikes the planet, killing a large amount of people.  The remaining people in the wasteland have huddled together in communities.  Some of them are just regular people, some of them are bandits preying on those regular people, some of them are mutants preying on anything.  There’s also an ominous authority figure called … what was it? … Oh yes, the Authority.  And, of course, there’s a resistance against them with the equally as clever moniker, the Resistance.  We play as a person that emerges from an Ark, buried deep underground and kept in cryostasis for 106 years.  We emerge and are greeted by a member of the Ghost clan (a group of violent bandits that look like Quan Chi from Mortal Kombat), but saved by Dan Hagar (John Goodman).  From this point on, we help people around various towns with their odd jobs to gain reputation in those towns.  Eventually, we join the Resistance and take on the Authority, who is hunting us because Ark Survivor’s apparently have access to something they want.

I was fairly devastated by this game, but the majority of the reason will be in the next paragraph.  This is a pretty classic first person shooter with not much by way of gameplay to separate it from the pack, but id Software arguably created the genre, so it’s all pretty smooth and comfortable.  They don’t add much of anything to the gun types.  They have the standard machine guns, pistol, shotguns, but they do add a boomerang type device called a Wingstick.  You could toss this out, get a decapitation, and have it return to you.  The weapon was nice enough, but it became pretty useless later in the game when it would only knock the enemy’s helmet off and allow them to keep shooting at you.  The enemies varied in type and look a large amount, ranging from bandits dressed like indians, bandits in armor, and the robotic, heavily-armored Authority.  Each one looked pretty different, and also moved different.  The mutants would run along walls and roll, making them difficult to shoot.  Part of the problem with this game is a problem I’ve had with other FPS games in recent history: the headshot.  There was a time when the headshot was all you needed to take out the regular enemies.  This first began to change when Dead Space came out, touting their strategic dismemberment and how a simple headshot would not be all it took to defeat your foes.  But I liked the headshot.  You have to be pretty good to get the headshot and you should be awarded for it.  This game makes the headshot pretty insignificant since most enemies are armored and a headshot would mostly just remove their helmet.  I want headshots to have their power back!  Especially since this game had a crossbow that the game claimed would help you get into locations with stealth, but without being able to one-shot kill your enemy with a headshot, a crossbow shot to the head just gets their attention and they start shooting, throwing stealth out the window.  The look of the game is pretty glorious.  Though you occasionally need to wait a beat or two for them to load up fully, you can see that they took the time to paint these textures.  The environments are ugly, but beautifully executed ugly.  What should you expect of the environments in a post apocalyptic game?  The game is kind of open world, allowing you to leave a town and drive around the wasteland a little, but there are certain paths to take and no real reason to do it unless you’re on a mission, so that turns it more towards linear.  The level maps repeat fairly frequently, but they make you take different paths through them and that keeps them fairly fresh.

::SPOILER ALERT::  It’s not much of a spoiler alert actually.  I won’t spoil the ending of this game because there wasn’t one.  I was playing through the second disc of the game, doing what felt like an average mission that might be closing the third act.  I get to the top of this structure, press a button, fight off mutants, press a button, fight off mutants, and then press the final button and … um … wait a second?  Where’d it go?  They completely forgot to write a ending.  You press that button, a cinematic plays of arks popping out of the ground, and the credits started playing.  For joking purposes, I half thought about stopping my review abruptly right about now, but then I realized how annoying that would be, which is something the people that made Rage didn’t realize.  It felt like it was rushed to completion, but I never saw the demand for this game reaching such a boiling point that they should decide to release it before it was finished, or crap out some really lackluster ending.  So why?  If you had the time, use it to make the game amazing.  Everything else in the game worked very well, but the ending was so disappointing that it tarnished my memories of the rest of the game.  ::END SPOILERS::

There is apparently multiplayer to this game as well, but the ending made me so angry I didn’t even look at it.  From what I can gather, it takes the mildly entertaining vehicle combat used during trips from one location of another in the game and makes you face off with others.  I don’t know, and I don’t care.

It’s not possible to call this game a complete loss.  It’s a gorgeous looking game with some of the tightest shooting mechanics you can find, as well as enemies that give an added degree of challenge with their acrobatic maneuvers.  It’s a completely satisfying game that you will really wish they had finished.  The ending is just so rushed and crappy that it makes me feel like I just wasted my time.  But I didn’t.  I say this game is worth a rental, but know what you’re getting yourself into by the time you reach the game’s end.  Rage gets “…

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

The Massively SINGLE-Player Offline Role Playing Game

This has got to be the winner of the “Most time spent on a review” award for me. Clocking in presently at about 270 hours, I finally beat this game. I could have beaten this game much quicker, but I resolved to do as much for side missions, collecting, and leveling as I could before messing with the main story and finishing her up. And, even at 270 hours clocked, I am not able to say I did everything yet because I was trying to be a good guy so I didn’t do some of the more sinister side missions. Anyone that’s been around me recently probably knows this game already. This is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, brought to us by the life-draining people at Bethesda Softworks, and is sequel to other games that have stolen many more hours of my life known as Elder Scrolls, Daggerfall, Morrowind, and Oblivion. Throw in Fallout and there’s no telling what diseases I could have cured had my time been spent there instead. Bethesda can now be blamed for cancer.

It’s nigh impossible to describe the story in total of this game, so I’ll stick to the main story as I did it. You start off as a player type of your choice who is being transported as a prisoner to his execution with other prisoners. For some reason, a dragon attacks and creates a havoc that you use to escape, either with your captors or with fellow captives. I went with the fellow captives ’cause fuck those other guys, am I right? This set me on a path to a town called Whiterun. Shortly after I arrive, a dragon attacks and I’m recruited to throw down on it. I kill that bitch, and then I absorb it’s soul. This is apparently not a common thing. Everyone starts telling me that I’m the Dragonborn, a person that can speak in the language of the dragons and absorb their souls for power without training to do either. I’m told to go to meet with the Greybeards, who train their whole life to speak in the language of dragons. I assume I’m going up this mountain to rub it in to them. After a few well-timed “nah nanny boo boo’s”, they teach me some dragon words and send me on my way. I find out that there’s a big bad dragon named Alduin that has returned and is going to destroy the world unless I can stop him. In the mean time, probably around 250 hours of side missions.

This here is a really good game. When I got to thinking about it, it’s not the best video game experience I’ve had this year. I’ve probably preferred the game experience I had in Batman and even Uncharted better. What no other game I’ve played so far has given me the same value as this game. It’s a quality game, to be sure. But it’s true quality comes from how much game and how much game time you get for the same price as those other games. Batman and Uncharted were really good games, but I was all the way done with them in about 20 to 30 hours. After 280 hours, I wish there were more to do in Skyrim. I’m going to start another playthrough, and not just for the achievements, but for the fun in getting them. I like the first-person, open world RPG’s that Fallout and Borderlands gave me, but I’ve never been nearly as big a dystopia and guns lover as I have been a fantasy and swords lover. Describing the gameplay of this game is difficult as well because you have so many options. Though I finished the game fairly well rounded, I started off playing a game of stealth: sneaking through shadows, firing arrows, watching them run around in circles looking for me, then shooting another arrow when they gave up. As I got better, I would sneak closer and stab them for more damage. But you have many other options. You can do what I did when stealth failed: bust out a sword and shield and throwdown. You can also say “fuck the shield”, and whip out a two handed warhammer, throw on some heavy armor, and start beating the shit out of people. Or get rid of the weapons altogether and blast some magic at some bitches. You get better at these things as you use them, and as you level, you can add perks to different skills to get that much better at them. One problem with this is the lack of respec options. Non nerds may not know, but to “respec” is to start from scratch with your perks but at the same level, in order to basically fix any mistakes you had made. Some gaming purists think you shouldn’t be allowed to do this, because they’re shitheads and probably write C++ programs to map out their ideal perks. Me? I wasn’t sure which way I wanted to go at first. They would say “Start Over”. I would say “Fuck you”. If you don’t want to respec, don’t. For those of us that do, you should add it into your game at release. Gaming purists will buy the game regardless. My point is you have plenty of customization options in the game. I do wish I could get some of the cooler abilities (like breathing underwater, seeing in the dark, etc.) on characters that weren’t humanoid kitty cats or lizards.

The fighting is pretty well done here. You can play this game third person, but I never did. I would only switch to third person to check out my sweet gear and look at my ass. Combat was all first person. With most weapons I used at first, I noticed no real difference from Oblivion or Morrowind. I typically used two-handed weapons like bows and arrows, big swords, or a sword and shield, but there is new variation to be had. Over time, as my skill in magic improved, I would do a lot more one handed sword fighting with a fireball in my left hand. And, even though you have so many options, the ability to make something a ‘favorite’ that can be accessed by pressing up on the digital pad made getting yourself ready a breeze. Another new thing for this game from other Elder Scrolls games is that they brought in the slow motion finishers from Fallout. These were much more interesting than they were in Fallout because you got to watch in slow mo as your character did some cool stabbing or slashing move to kill the shit out of your foe. The problem with this is that the same ability you love so much when it takes out an enemy can be used on you, and sometimes when you still have a pretty good amount of health left. When this happens, you will want to smash something. I never really figured out what caused them or if there was something I could do to stop it from happening, all I did was die and restart from very far back because I’m a lazy saver. I’ve gotten to believing that it has something to do with your level in comparison to the guy you’re fighting, problem is: you’ll have no idea what their level is! You find out if they’re a higher level by running up to them and getting killed in a hit or two. It would be nice if they took a cue from Borderlands and made their name appear in red or orange, or just flat out put a level on them so I could know how seriously I wanted to take this fight.

Graphically (though there are a few hiccups) this game is top notch. Someone more pessimistic than myself could focus on the parts where the landscape doesn’t meet the ground and there’s a hole, but I prefer to see the forest and ignore the small, ugly trees. Generally you get a fantastic grasp of how huge the world is, how lush or dark and foggy or how cold and mysterious the world can be is such great detail that should not be technologically possible. Textures are great, water effects are fantastic, the lighting in different dungeons is great, all of it is a pleasure to look at. There are many different types of enemies to fight in the game – from humanoid to animal and other – but they get repetitive, more from the amount of exploring you do than the lack of types. The much talked about dragons of Skyrim inspire both awe and anxiety in their approach, just as they should. There are different types but all are pretty awesome, they shake the ground with their approach, and some of them can kill you instantly if you don’t take them seriously.

I wondered whether or not I should bring this up, so I’ll give you my justification for it first. I was enjoying myself in the world of Skyrim a great deal for a good while until Bethesda released update patch 1.2 for the game, which ruined the game in many ways. I wondered whether I should bring it up or not because it wasn’t part of the release of the game. I decided to add it into my review because it came up during my review process. Unfortunately for Bethesda, their already-announced fix for this patch will not be released by the time I put this review out, and I ain’t going back in and fixing it. This patch was apparently intended to fix problems with textures loading, a problem I never experienced or noticed. What I did notice was that, after the update, dragons were flying backwards and into the ground, the game was lagging like I was playing it online via dial-up, and it would freeze more often. EPIC FAIL, BETHESDA! And it’s sneaky about it, so you might not notice it for a little while after the patch has been installed, so when I realized it was problematic and tried to take the update away, the files saved using 1.2 would not work without the update, so I either play with the game fucked up or don’t play at all. We both know what I chose. At first, it was easy to ignore, but over time I got a quest or two that required me to kill some of these backwards-flying, game-freezing dragons. I still haven’t been able. Hopefully 1.3 will fix it all, and it should be released within a week or so, but I couldn’t leave it out as it caused me a great deal of frustration.

If you are the type of person who only buys a game every once and a while, only Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 could possibly contend with this game for value for the dollar. And if you’re not into multiplayer or shooters, there is NO game that gives you such value. 280 hours of gameplay and counting, people. I’ve not “tried” for a single achievement, but I’ve gotten 43 out of 50 just playing as I want to play. They’re not too time-consuming, and it’s all fun to get them. The gameplay is great, the customization is fantastic, fighting is great, graphics are great (except for a few small hiccups), this game is great. I just wouldn’t update it until 1.3 comes out if you can avoid it. Even still I give this game “What day/time is it?” out of “280 hours!”

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Brink (2011)

Having just completed both campaigns of the game, I am finally ready to talk about Brink, brought to you by Splash Damage and Bethesda Softworks. This game received resoundingly mediocre reviews when it came out so I was hesitant to give it a try, but I’m a Independent Reviewer now, so it is my quasi-job.

Okay, there is not much story to speak of in this game, and I was usually watching something else simultaneously as I played so I’m not sure how much I can recall, so here goes. When playing as the Security team, your goal is to stop the Resistance from destroying the Ark, a giant tower that was created before a flood sunk most of the surrounding city, causing it to come under pretty harsh government control. Through about 6 missions, you foil various Resistance plots to destroy the Ark. The end. As a Resistance member, your goal is to escape the Ark. Take what I just said, then go the opposite way. The end.

Okay, so this game was never really intended to be Bioshock, it’s supposed to be a game of stylish action and great multiplayer, or at least that’s what it’s incredibly awesome trailer lead me to believe. So let’s see how it does in gameplay. For some reason it seemed to me like this game was calling itself innovative for taking the world of the first-person shooter and mixing it with the internet sensation known as Parkour, or Free-Running. Apparently that means that the world forgot about Mirror’s Edge (which may be true, because I had to look up the title even though I bought the game and may still own it). Mirror’s Edge was innovative, pretty, and forgettable. Being that they gave no attention to the story, one could assume that the shooting mechanics and parkour got all of it. Not the case, I’m afraid. I found the game hard to aim and the auto-aim help tended to do more harm than good. Being so accustomed to FPS games, I completely forgot that I had the ability to do parkour in this game and, when I remembered, it functioned poorly, creating many occasions of jumping into a wall for a few seconds before it finally realized I was trying to reach that ledge. On flat surfaces, when only trying to jump over boxes and counters, it worked okay.

Graphically, the game is styled in parts and ugly in the rest. The opening movie is quite nice, where they have a Gumby-esque stop motion animation-looking video to tell what little prologue there is to this game. After that, the character customization was decent and the character looked good in it. I was able to create 2 pretty sweet looking characters (one for Security and one for Resistance) in not much time. Then you start the game, where some of the background looks nice, but the characters are fairly pixelated and ugly looking. And when you have the honor of watching one of them attempt parkour, the animation is robotic and unrealistic.

The AI is quite possibly the worst part of the game. I didn’t play any of the missions online because I only tried once and nobody was playing to enter my game. I assume the game is fairly unpopular. So when I played the game with bots as both friendly and enemy was where the problems arose. All of the AI in the game borders on retarded (I’d say no offense, but I’ve weighed the probability that someone who is retarded is reading this and feel I’m pretty safe). The enemy AI does not seem to realize you are there until you’ve shot them down to about half health, and then they don’t do very much anyway. This would make the game completely easy if it wasn’t a team based game and your friendly AI is equally retarded. More than once did an occasion arise where I was not the proper choice of the 4 classes to complete the objective, but the proper choice was nearby and completely uninterested in finishing the mission. They were more interested in capturing semi-irrelevant command centers than winning the game.

So basically, the game is what you may have read about in the other reviews. It’s not horrible, but it’s not good. It’s not worth paying more than, say, 20 or 30 dollars for. If you want, you can rent it and easily farm about 600 achievements out of the game in a day or two, but the other ones will probably take more than you’re willing to invest in the game. It was certainly more than I was willing to invest, and I’m an achievement whore! So that’s my review. I give my review a 4 out of 5. I had more in me.