Video games and other things.

Posts Tagged ‘open-world’

Non-QTEs, Less Linear JRPGs, and Other Stuff

Beat Devil May Cry 4 last week. Not the best game in the series, but certainly had its high points. All the hallmarks were there: bishies, hot chicks, gothic interiors, death metal songs that play during battles, and occasional violations of the 180° rule when moving from place to place. Unlike the others, Dante is not playable for much of the game. Instead, the player takes the role of Nero, a young man with similar fashion sense and slightly less campiness than Mr. Sparda. He also has a glowing arm, which can be used to grab far-off enemies and unleash brutal attacks on them. These attacks vary depending on the enemy, reminding me of Quick Time Events, though not in the traditional sense. As such, Nero is a fun character to play. Dante controls much the same as always, and is also tougher to control compared to Nero, due to the lack of Glowing Hand.

Although <i>Rune Factory Frontier</i> is mad addictive, <b>this</b> is what I'll be playing today!

Although Rune Factory Frontier is mad addictive, this is what I'll be playing today!

As for Rune Factory Frontier, I’m still plugging away at it, and passed the 100-hour mark this weekend. All that has been ever said about JRPGs and linearity doesn’t quite apply to the Rune Factory series. Yes, there is a single storyline and a set progression in terms of unlockable areas, and no, you can’t fully customize your hero character, but everything else is wide open. There’s tons of things to do—farming, fishing, crafting, cooking, and much more—and like any good Harvest Moon, there’s also a wide range of girls to hit on, and eventually, marry. It’s rich and immersive in a way that JRPGs traditionally aren’t, and despite the glaring flaws, I’m as hooked on Frontier as I was with its DS brethren. Can’t wait for Rune Factory 3‘s localization (please let this happen!).

Apart from games themselves, I’m getting a little weary of CAG’s forums again and am ready to take another hiatus from them, largely due to the fact that there’s hardly any humor in them. This seems to be a problem with many gaming forums, where games are Serious Business and there’s little to no room for levity. Perhaps this also explains why Shimrra won Best CAG Blog in this year’s Cheapy Awards, even though his regular Daily HaHa posts are mainly just images ganked from the likes of 4chan. Humor is in very short supply amongst gamers, it seems.

Anyway, looking forward to PAX East at the end of this week, and have been going over my options for what to see and do. Meanwhile, I will be playing Cave Story. On my Wii.

Best gaming week ever? It’s looking that way.

Special Stage: Cracked‘s gaming articles are funny, but also tend to contain nuggets of truth. Thanks to my husband for linking me to “5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted”, which is one of the latest, and chock-full of said nuggets.

Back on the Animus

I don’t like to play open-world/sandbox games; I tried Grand Theft Auto: Vice City some years ago, got stuck, and was uninterested enough by the game as a whole that I never bothered picking it up again. However, my husband loves them, and I’ve found these games much more interesting as a spectator. I’ve never watched one all the way through, but have seen a fair amount of the GTA series, The Warriors, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, and Assassin’s Creed.

In addition to playing open-world games, I didn’t much like Altaïr, the main character of that last game on the list. He’s the Crusades-era ancestor of one Desmond Miles, who lives in the modern age and is cooped up in some sort of lab, where he has to lie down on a device called an Animus, which plugs into his subconscious collective memory or some such. The short of it is that this machine puts him into Altaïr’s shoes, allowing for a believable “gaminess” when it comes to said ancestor’s adventures.

Assassin's Creed II: Ezio impales an enemy on a rooftop in Florence.Anyway, Altaïr struck me as something of an asshole, and not very likable at all. However, the same can’t be said for one of Desmond’s other ancestors, a debonair young man named Ezio who lives in the late 15th Century. Ezio is the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed II, which came out this Tuesday for the PS3 and 360 (a PC version is due next year). My husband had preordered it from Amazon, and it arrived yesterday; he had originally planned to start it after Thanksgiving, but the lure of more historical assassin action was too great to resist. Me, I had been planning to put some more time into Ys: The Ark of Napishtim last night, but ended up watching him galavant across Florentine rooftops until around midnight.

Assassin’s Creed II picks up pretty much right where the last one left off. After certain modern-day details present themselves, Desmond is once again jacked into an ancestor’s world, this time finding himself in Renaissance Italy. Here we first meet Ezio, a banker’s son and ladies’ man who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. As the plot moves along, the game’s various moves and features are slowly dripped out to the player, and once Ezio dons the clothes of an assassin, there are even more things to learn. Thus, the first few hours of the game feel like an extended tutorial, but one that the story is elegantly wrapped around.

Many of the distractions from the first game are back, including collectable sidequests, Leaps of Faith, and so forth, but these are put to work, rather that just being things to do for Achievements or Trophies. Some serve a story purpose, while others, like the high vantage points scattered throughout the world, lead to practical benefits. There are also new things to do, ranging from additional ways to earn money, to scattered clues that tie in to the overarching plot.

Aesthetically, the game shines. The script is engaging and sometimes even funny. I won’t spoil it, but there’s one line in particular spoken by one of Ezio’s associates that has us both groaning and smiling. There are a few weird character models, but for the most part, the visuals and animation are stunning. The sound design is fantastic, but if Ezio is ever facing away from a character, even if they are still nearby, the dialogue audio softens considerably. I understand that this approach is to make things more realistic, but it seems a little overdone. And speaking of the dialogue, Tycho is absolutely right in his suggestion to have the subtitles turned on. There is a lot of Italian woven into the dialogue, and unless you know the language, you will want to take advantage of the translations that the subs provide.

So yes, the game is very good, but there are a couple of nitpicks I would be remiss not to point out. First off are some of the early Achievements, which are for doing things that are required to get further into the game anyway; they’re small ones, sure, but still silly. My husband also found the controls a little finicky at times, especially the ones mapped to the ABXY buttons, which can frequently change depending on the situation. At any rate, I know he’ll have a good time with Assassin’s Creed II, and I also know that I’ll continue to watch him play every so often to see where the story goes.