Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – The Beauty of Bluntness

•September 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an answer to Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s questions – what does it mean to be human? Do you stop being human if you replace parts of your body with technology? At what point? In a lot of ways, Mankind Divided is also the wrong answer to the questions asked by its predecessor, and that’s definitely the intent; where Human Revolution waxed poetic about potential, Mankind Divided sees it squandered.

For both games, even before their release, concerns were voiced about how various issues and questions were posed: where Human Revolution was almost entirely black and white about augmentation vs. purity, Mankind Divided is blunt about discrimination; simply put, there wasn’t a whole lot of nuance. However, I think that works to both game’s benefits – I think that a nuanced approach to both topics doesn’t fit well within the type of game both are, which is a mass market, AAA release. When you need to cast a wide net to bring in as many buyers as possible, you have to plan for lowest common denominators. And that’s where Mankind Divided not only goes above and beyond, but also might open a few eyes.

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Endless Improvements

•April 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment


I feel it’s important to start this discussion of Endless Legend and the Civilization series by saying I’m not a huge 4X (eXpand, eXplore, eXploit, eXterminate) player – I have 58 hours in Endless Legend and its expansions, 116 hours in Civilization V (Civ V moving forward) and its expansions, and 30 hours in the base game of Civilization: Beyond Earth. I have played enough to understand the flow of the game, and generally be better at Endless Legend than my friends who have half or less of my play time; I am by no means an expert, or even good. I have friends who have close to 2000 hours in Civ V. Despite this modest investment in the genre, I’d like to discuss exactly how Endless Legend gets so many things right, and how it brought me back to enjoying 4X after the Civilization series eventually fell flat, because I think that’s the true success story of Endless Legend: it takes the Civilization formula, and improves upon it for modestly invested 4X players.

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Hyper Light Drifter – World Building without Words

•April 2, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Hyper Light Drifter is a game about a world; sure, there’s a lot of fighting and weapons and upgrades (and even a bit of football), but ultimately everything is about the world Heart Machine set out to create. And what a world it winds up being.


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Failing to Fill the Boots: Players as Publishers

•February 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Recently, Peter Molyneux came under pretty heavy criticism for the lack of progress on his most recent title, Godus. The development of the project ran into several obstacles, which the development team then started discussing in public – to put it lightly, the public didn’t take the news too well. The issue I take with the recent onslaught of ill will pointed in Molyneux’s direction is that this feels like a bit of a witch hunt, with Molyneux suffering an unjust amount of criticism that has more to do with Kickstarter/Early Access growing pains, rather than Molyneux’s contribution to the list of troubled Kickstarter projects.

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Last but not Least

•June 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This is going to be a post about my time with Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. It’s going to be a collection of thoughts, criticisms, praises, choices, and experiences. It will contain all the spoilers. All of them. So if you have not played The Last of Us (and you really should, it’s pretty great), and care about discovering the story at your own leisure, don’t read this. I will be moving in somewhat chronological order through the game, so if you’ve finished part of it, you can rest mostly assured I won’t talk about the ending during the sentences discussing the first clicker encounter.

Oh, and there will be language. Strong language. So best not read this to your kids for a bedtime story or anything.

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Dead Space 3: Final Impressions

•February 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

In my last post, I gave my first thoughts on Dead Space 3, and boy was it long. In this one I will give my final thoughts, and it will probably be much shorter. Why? Because hardly anything changed.

Let’s start with what went better: after about…chapter 12 or 13, the environments got a bit more interesting. You enter an old research facility, and there are parts of the facility that all do different things: geology, biology, paleontology, the barracks. It feels like there’s a bit of purpose in these buildings. Only a bit, however. The necromorph terraforming infestation returns as a gimmick in two instances, requiring you to acid gas it away before you can proceed into…completely clean rooms. Only two hallways of this facility are infested, heavily infested at that, and only so we can activate Agent Orange to burn it all down and be on our merry way. This disappointed me, to say the least. And while it seemed each of these new areas had some purpose, you never got to experience that purpose; in the first game, the medical deck let you synthesize an anti-toxin for the poison gas, the bio deck let you use the various tools to cleanse the environment, the engineering deck had lots of machines for you to work on to get the ship working again. In the geology sector, you picked up a slab of ice with part of a dead body in it. In the paleontology area, you picked up a slab of ice with part of a dead body in it. In the biology sector you pick up two slabs of ice with a part of a dead body in it. You do get to reassemble the body at the biology sector, which was the exact sort of purposeful functionality I wish was in the rest of the environments. After you get through at the research lab, however, you go to the most washed out and bland area of the entire game. Corridors are all made of stone and largely repetitive, gimmicks are set up and poorly used (alien raptor sounds open doors, but do NOTHING else, which is wasted potential), new necromorphs show up that are even sillier and more poorly defined than Dead Space 2‘s “alien hunter” at the end.

The story also seemed to be heading in an interesting direction: you found some aliens, analyzed some aliens, learned some plot twisty stuff about the markers, and then Visceral Games removes the actual Necromorphs as the primary antagonist and replaces them with something absurdly ridiculous. They pull cliches out of their ass at every narrative turn: people escape the jaws of absolute death in impossible ways, the bad guy shows up yet again in his shuttle of pure convenience to thwart you multiple times, and there’s a cliffhanger after a rather anti-climactic boss fight setting up Dead Space 4. After all the bickering between characters in the first half, after all the stupid romantic triangle stuff in the first half, after all the being ordered around by armed and competent NPCs who refuse to accompany you or do anything useful in the first half, after the first half going next to nowhere, the story builds up for about 3 or 4 chapters to an utterly mediocre ending.

The resource collection system also becomes highly irrelevant in the last half because there’s no reason to save resources, but also no reason to spend resources. Any weapon you can craft through a unique blueprint was probably attainable halfway through the game, and thus not worth spending the resources on. However, any resources you have serve no purpose except to sit there unless you spend them on crafting, because there’s no other purpose for them. There are some circuits worth crafting, but they hardly drain your rarer resources, and it can be worth crafting ammo and medpacks to throw into your vault of unending medpacks and ammo just in case you run across something that might force you to use some of them (don’t worry, you never will).

The weapons also become increasingly ludicrous: by the end of the game I was using a rocket launcher as a shotgun, or panic button, or just general weapon really. Being swarmed? Rocket at feet. Something in front of me? Rocket in face. Something across the map? Rocket. I mean, I had 178 of them after all. The shotgun/forcegun combo that was also stupidly effective simply lacked the range and area of effect of my rocket launcher, so why use it?

For a series once so rife with detail, lore, and atmosphere, Dead Space 3 takes a dramatically sharp turn. And from generic environments, uninspired enemies, lazy writing, and pointless new “features,” it sure feels like a wrong one for the series. But let it never be said it isn’t, at the very least, fun to play. Because there are few things more fun than using a rocket launcher as a shotgun on everything that made you feel uncomfortable in the first and second game.

Dead Space 3: First Impressions

•February 11, 2013 • 1 Comment

A year or so ago I made a post similar to this about Dead Space 2. Now a third iteration of Visceral Game’s cult hit Dead Space is out, and I’ve played about half of it (I would have finished it, but my co-op partner has limited time). It’s been an interesting experience so far, and certainly enjoyable. But, simply put, it just hasn’t been a Dead Space experience.

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