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Monthly Archives: March 2010

So, just recently I got Mount & Blade: Warband. Warband is fantastic. It’s Mount & Blade, with some new tweaks AND multiplayer. And the multiplayer is just barrel-loads of fun. But ever since I got my hands on Mount & Blade I’ve been thinking…

Mount & Blade is made by Taleworlds. A company that’s so big you could probably fit it into a phonebooth. They’re basically two people, a guy and his wife, or a gal and her husband if you’re so inclined. These two people made this awesome, fantastic, superb game. So what if Mount & Blade 2 was actually made by a real dev-studio with the turkish couple as lead designers. In my secret wet dreams I imagine them backed up by Epic. Say what you will about Gears of War’s machismo attitude and script, but when you play and you sprint to cover you feel the  impact of your character against concrete in your chest. I imagine them making a brutal, realistic, bloody, gory, wonderful, game about riding horses and killing peasants.

Cliffy, it’s time you go indie.

This Sunday I want to give a shout out, TRL-style, to a personal fave in gaming. Not any one game in particular, really, but rather to games where there is no story incentive to play the game.

This may come as a shocker to some people out there. But not all games come fitted with a tacked on story to make people play. Not all games bother with poorly scripted cutscenes and dialogue just because it “should” be there. Some games are just inherently so awesome they don’t need any story. Games that fit into this category are among others: Monster Hunter, Mount & Blade, Flotilla, etc.

So, what makes these types of games great? Why do you play? If we use Monster Hunter as an example. Monster Hunter puts you in the position of a person who wakes up in a remote village where hunters live. And then you’re told to go hunting. Why? Who knows. They just say that you should. Now, someone too infected with the story norm may be put off by this. And if they decide to not play because of it, they’re missing out. Because Monster Hunter has a rich world, filled to the brim with fantastic.

Hunting Lao Shan Lung is a bit like hunting a mountain

In Monster Hunter you hunt monsters. After you’ve downed a monster you carve its innards out so you can string your bow with its guts and whatnot. After that you hunt a bigger monster, subsequently locking up new tiers monsters to slay. While there is no story in Monster Hunter, there is still progression. Usually progression comes from the story. Some important event happens to tell you “we’re this far along in the process of the game”. But a game without story needs something else. In Monster Hunter’s case there is always something bigger and badder to gut after the monster you’ve slain, and there is always better gear to make. If you haven’t played Monster Hunter you may well write that notion off from the get go. It sounds like you’re playing it for the gear right? Well that’s where you and your preconceived notions are wrong! I already told you that Monster Hunter’s world was rich and wonderful, and there is something about the atmosphere of the game that fills you with the joy of hunting. It feels as real as a game where you slay dragons rightly could. The various dragons and monsters all behave in certain ways that make you remember them. Everyone who has played the game remember their first encounter with the beast Tigrex. And from fighting Tigrex you instinctively know, even if  you haven’t thought about it, that Tigrexes are vicious and brutal and will eat your brains if you happen to miss a dodge. Just from the way the creature reacts to your actions and from the way it moves you know it’s the most aggressive monster in Monster Hunter. So to put it as easily I can, it feels right.

There is a parallel to draw between Monster Hunter and Mount & Blade. M&B is an open world game where you choose what to do with your life. If you want to join the Nords and create an army of Huscarls then go for it. You can do it just the same as you can become a horse archer and make a mounted army of Khergite. And while this freedom of choice could be limiting and make the game feel unfocused, it doesn’t. There is a realism to the medieval setting that’s always there, a nice vibe that sees you through. Something that makes you feel like a knight in the dark ages.

Just a man and his horse

For both Monster Hunter and M&B I’ve brought this feeling up. That Monster Hunter feels real and rich, and that M&B actually dons you the armor and puts a lance in your hand. These feelings can’t be superimposed on someone else, so they are of course subjective. But my opinion is that good games don’t really need story if the setting of the game makes you feel you create your own.

An interesting trend that’s been prevalent during recent years is streamlining. As developers try to reach a broader audience they’re forced to dumb down certain aspects of the games to make them more accessible. In some cases these changes are good, and in some cases the changes are bad. It has in any case led to a great divide in gamers. The hardcore and the casual.

In years past, if you were a gamer, you were in some sense of the word hardcore. You might remember this as being the times before Counter-Strike when you kept it a secret that you were a gamer. Because if you let it be known, people would immediately associate your hobby with nerdy habits and anti-social behaviour. With the coming of Half-Life’s much enjoyed mod a lot of non-gamers were introduced to the scene, and thus began a long process of normalizing gaming as a past-time. While Counter-Strike was a fairly hardcore game in certain aspects, fairly soon the world would be introduced to something you could say lay in the middle between the hardcore and the casual (I’d say it was super casual, but there are players of the game who are indeed hardcore). Yes, you might have guessed it. WoW came.

WoW was an anomaly. While it offered the gamers an option to be hardcore, it was extremely streamlined. Everything was easy to learn, nothing was hard, everything was accessible. Hardcore in World of Warcraft didn’t mean you needed to be innately skilled, but rather having a decent computer and an endless hole filled with time. World of Warcraft slowly consumed the whole world. Turning everyone into a potential WoW nerd. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the impact of the game. I played for well over three years, sadly. I hated two thirds of that time, only playing because I had so many friends on the server, and of course not an awesome computer to play something better. But I digress.

WoW could be called a perfect game on thes basis of the impact it has had, but I don’t think that’s very close to the truth. I think WoW is a shitty game. In the end, the game was all about gear. You needed gear to have any chance of competing in pvp or pve. I recall when Season 3 in the arena was fairly fresh and I was doing the daily AV grind. A season 3 geared warrior came into the game and literally acted as a cannonball smashing his way through the Alliance. No one could kill him, he was after all kitted with the whole Brutal set. Does this make sense to anyone? Should gear be everything? This is at its core a discussion about gear vs skill in mmorpgs. But there are also parallels to be drawn in regards to streamlining. WoW chose to go with gear over skills, as opposed to skills vs. gear where a lot of balancing is required in classes. Classes which WoW had decided to streamline with the introduction of  Alliance shamen and Horde paladins (a change I did not take kindly!).

What’s being saved here is really your controller

While I thought WoW’s streamlining made the game dull, there was another game that came with a ton of good ideas, but didn’t quite nail the execution. Prince of Persia 4 was a game with ambition. It was intent on remedying the stale platforming of old. It wanted to do this by adding a character named Elika who had the power to save the heroic Prince if he fell. This mechanic meant that anytime you fell and and would have died in some abyss, you were returned to more or less the spot from where you had  leapt to whatever ledge or crevice you were trying to cross. Not without critique they implemented this in the game. I thought it was a swell idea. Because platforming is annoying. Say you get a checkpoint at the bottom of a tower. Your task is then to climb this tower doing several jumps to ledges, poles, drapes or whatever. And let’s say you die several times in this endeavor and then you die one more time right before you reach the top of the tower. What’s that feeling you’re feeling? Is it joy that you were close to achieving your goal? No, it’s frustration. To me the joy of platforming comes from timing the various jumps and grabs, not with restarting the whole process from the beginning again. Therefore I feel that the streamlining made in this part of Prince of Persia 4 was great. That’s not to say the game missed on other parts.

So, how do I feel about streamlining then? Well, it’s difficult to say. There are certainly elements of some games that could do with changes. But in the end, streamlining is only needed when there are mechanics that cause frustration or are just goddamned awful. I mean, there are complicated, “hardcore” games out there that are simply awesome. Although I only played it during a few trials, EVE is a great game. Despite of the fact that playing EVE is a little bit like being told to land a Boeing 747 without any help at all. So, when mechanics interfere with the joy of gaming, scrap them, when they don’t, keep ’em tricky.

/Erik

Today’s post will not feature any interesting news about gaming. Today’s post will also be short and unrewarding.

Today I am tired. There are days when I’m so sleepy that I can’t be bothered to do any gaming. Those days I watch tv. So today I have been watching tv mostly. Sitting here I am trying to figure out something awesome to tell you, but most of the stuff I’m sure you’ve already read about. But in case anyone missed it:

Portal 2 is coming. It features co-op. Who cares right? Portal was cool because it was original. And like any sequel the sheen that once surrounded it will have faded. So now Valve is adding co-op to the mix to spruce it up. It seems to be one of those magic fixes to put into games so that they become good.

“How’s our game?”

“Alright I guess…”

“You know what would make it fantastic? Co-op! Because everyone has a friend around at all times!”

“Uuuh..”

I’m not sure how Portal 2’s co-op will work without having your friend in the same room as yourself, but I’m sure it’ll be a good game. I thought Portal was ok, personally. Really the best part of the game was the ending song.

First I bid you watch this.

Then tell me that the woman and the host are not douchebags. It’s funny that whenever video games are featured in television these obscure research reports are brought up. 130.000 children are found to be more agressive?

I call bullshit, and I suspect most viewers will. But the sad thing is that parents will watch that show and think “Oh dear me, we’d better throw Sonny-Boy’s Wii out the window or he’s gonna go shoot lots and lots of people.”

And the goddamned host? “Common decency”? Fuck him.

Instead of going for a sensible debate about video games, they of course go for knee-jerk reactions in people. It’s sad, but I guess in the end they’ll die, and we’ll be the ones to call bullshit on the old generation of loons (just as we’re doing now. But we’ll be in charge!).

Lately games made by independent developers have been all the rage. It all started with Braid. And the success of the game sent the whole industry into a sticky-fingered fervor, where everyone was trying to achieve the same “arty-ness” that Braid had managed to nail down. I for one, think the trend is stupid. My opinion is this: Most indie games are shit and only get attention because they’re made in some artistic manner. Now, that’s not to say they’re inherently bad and that people shouldn’t like them. All I am saying is that I don’t like them. It’s my opinion that indie games tend to get away with a lot simply because they’re indie, and “they’re supposed to be that way”. Well, that’s bullshit, so without further ado, here are two indie games I love:

Mount & Blade

In Mount & Blade you start out as a guy (or gal) in one of the five kingdoms of Calradia. And after that, you’re pretty much free to do whatever you want. M&B is a sandbox game at heart, and after you start out you simply set off into the world and start carving a name for yourself. You could compare the game to Heroes of Might & Magic with a third-person perspective. You level your character, equip him, gather allies, level them, and then you can choose to join a kingdom and eventually become a vassal with your own keep. In battle you not only command yourself and your horse, but you can also give orders to your infantry, cavalry and archers, thus giving it a tactical aspect. There are no specific classes but as you level up you can specialize in all manner of skills ranging from horse-archery, lances, trade, capturing prisoners, two-handed weapons etc. etc. It’s safe to say that there are countless possibilities for your character to progress to suit your play-style.

This mix of gameplay elements come together nicely making Mount & Blade a satisfying experience. But the true joy lies in combat, if I’m to be completely honest. Mount & Blade has like no other game managed to nail down riding. It’s difficult to explain the feeling you get when you impale a Rhodok Crossbowman on your lance, or when you manage to put an arrow into a knight’s head while in full gallop on your courser. But let it be known, it’s hella rewarding. The game simply has that “it” thing you look for in combat. Mount & Blade is at its core a game that has successfully managed to implement impact and momentum to create a great ssense of realism, which many big dev companies have failed to do despite of their budgets. And no screenshot is going to do this feeling justice, so you’ll simply have to try it out for yourself.

Flotilla

My all-time favourite strategy game is Homeworld. I can think of no other game in the genre that can compete with the sense of awe I got from sending battlecruisers into combat accompanied by a full wing of fighters and frigates. Ion cannons, plasma torpedoes and hyperspace gates. To me, it was the perfect game. And after the release Homeworld 2 there were rumours of a sequel. But nothing happened. Still today I hear the whispers, but alas there seems to be less and less of a chance for Homeworld 3 to see the light of day.

Because of this I was overjoyed to see Flotilla. It’s a game where battles take place in a FULL 3d environment, where you have battlecruisers and frigates, and where space-elks commandeer the starships of the federation. While lacking the serious tone of Homeworld, Flotilla is still a fantastic game. The premise is this: you’re a flotilla commander and you have a terminal illness meaning your life will end in seven months. Because of this unnamed deadly disease you set off on one final adventure. You travel from planet to planet, acquiring gear to outfit your ships, new cooler more powerful ships, and meet some interesting people who you can either destroy or help (in some cases, you mostly destroy them). You can have your merry way in space until your time is up, and you die from the disease. This limit in time means you can never make a huge fleet kitted with all the cool gear, so the scope of the game is rather limited. But it should be noted, the game’s focus  is topping the high score so the time-frame is understandable. And while I wish they’d patch in a sandbox campaign to the game, it doesn’t draw from it being an enjoyable experience. If you want to fight panda bear pirates in space, or be the karaoke champion (you can become the champ in the game, but there are serious consequences…) then you should buy Flotilla. Get it for just ten buckaroos here.

I had some significant issues with finding a suitable picture for this post. So let me make it clear, I am not satisfied with the picture I ended up choosing. Arguably the screenshots, artwork, trailers etc. used in a preview or review should bear some importance for the post. They could be used to provide a vibe, show off some important aspect of the game, or be used as a point of reference to some point made in the text.

Aside from showing off Final Fantasy XIII’s main heroine, there’s no such point to be made here. Final Fantasy XIII for me stirs little excitement. There’s little that I can compliment about the game, but also there aren’t a whole lot of things I can say that are inherently bad. Why is it so hard for me to draw judgement here? Well, maybe because I know that this type of story, these types characters and this type of vibe will, by some people, be joyfully swallowed down hook, line and sinker. But for me the kicker about the game is that I don’t much care about it. It doesn’t vibe with me. Which makes it hard for me to find a picture to define the game, because I just don’t know what that picture would look like.

Although the game fails to make me despise it, the game does make me dislike it.  And since this is my blog, I shouldn’t be using other people as reference for my thoughts (amirite!?). So here’s what I think, starting with something good:

Final Fantasy XIII is a beautiful game. No one can deny that. Some of the cut-scenes are absolutely stunning. The backdrops for most of the environments look fantastic, and generally everything looks like it was made with great care. Aside from a few fugly looking polygons, it’s all mint. So, the art-director who took care of all of those bits should really be applauded. Well, how about the character and monster models? Some of the monsters look really, really, really badass. And some monsters look like random shapes with splashes of bright colours on them. But since this is a Final Fantasy game, it’s to be expected (and forgiven?).  I like the clear distinction between the two opposing world’s in the game. There’s on the one hand Cocoon. Cocoon is this floating ball in the sky where on the inside people live. And then there’s Pulse, which is a a planet described as HELL. From where I’m at in the game, it’s still unclear why that is. The art direction of the e.g. militarized beasts of cocoon are very sleek and cool looking. Whereas the robots from Pulse are these bulky clockwork constructs that seem way less sophisticated, but helluva lot more robust. So the monster models are mostly great with, well, quite a few exceptions. But in the end you’re supposed to kill them. And since they’re ugly it kind of  makes you resent them. Thus putting you in the position of the playground bully who goes after the weird looking kids.  In games, I tend to think this is okay (bullying in real life is very uncool!). Killzone 2, for example, annoyed me because you were sent to Helghan to kill people who were a lot cooler than you. They were awesome, and you were a generic soldier. I thought it provided me with an off feeling. But here you go around murdering weird mongrel beasts who shouldn’t rightly be alive anyways. So, one could really say you’re doing natural selection a favour.

Well, if I think that the art-direction on monsters can be forgiven because of some of the cooler beasts, then I think the art-director for the main characters should be shot. I suspect it all started with FFIX. I really like FFIX, I do. It’s just that I hate the main character Zidane. And Freya and the princess and Quistis and especially Eiko. I don’t hate them because they are bad characters, really (although Eiko does annoy me). I hate them because I think they look stupid. Up until Final Fantasy IX there’d been a certain sensibility to the characters created for the Final Fantasy series. And the colour palette used for their outfits tended to be… conservative. I liked that. I liked that only a character here and there stood out from that pattern. But in Final Fantasy IX the few remaining cool looking characters were Steiner, Vivi and Coral. That’s three characters out of out EIGHT, who didn’t get vomited on by a goddamned muppet. Now, you may be thinking “Hold your horses! Zidane’s colour palette wasn’t that outrageous”, but my answer to that is, well, he looked gay. I never took to his design, simply. I understand quite well that he is supposed to be a swashbuckler, but to me, that outfit looks like something you’d see being strutted down some New York fashion show by a person that might be a man, but could just as well be a woman.

I’m being consciously hard lined here. I don’t hate the characters as much as I’ve led you to believe. I like how Freya looks, even though I think that salmon was so 80’s (in fact, I don’t think salmon was ever the it colour). Her dragoon-look, looks cool, to put it simply. My issue here is with how the art-direction started changing. Not with the backdrop or environment art (the environments in FFIX were spectacular), but with the characters. I think the change that took place in FFIX in some ways enabled the goddamned filth that is FFX.

I absolutely hate the character designs in FFX. Tidus, is by far the worst Final Fantasy character, ever , in my book. I occasionally ponder whether it was the European/American success of the previous Final Fantasy games that led to this evolution. The Japanese devs might have been thinking :”Hey, these gaijin really seem to like our japanese art-style, so I guess we don’t have to worry about westernizing any further, in fact, let’s  do a 180′!”

His rapist smile still haunts my dreams from time to time

I intend to write more on the shift from steampunk to whatever colourful world FFX onwards represent. But to return to FFXIII, I don’t like the characters. They seem more a child of Final Fantasy X and XII than say VII. Or perhaps a more striking line could be drawn between the character designs in the game, and anime. Not just any anime, but generic, “I wear all my thoughts on my sleeve so you can know my next move”-type anime. If we for a moment ignore the fact that the bulk of the cast are horribly cliché characters, and just look at them, what do we have? One soldier woman, who wears a short skirt. Short skirts are obviously very suited for combat. We have one kid, whose colourful clothes just seem too much. There are just too much things going on with his outfit. Escapist video reviewer Yahtzee brought up a valid point during his review of Darksiders that dealt with the character designs. Kratos is a great character, art-wise, because there’s not a whole lot going on. You can immediately recognize a few tell-tale signs when you see him, thus making it easy identify him as the spartan powerhouse Kratos. With Final Fantasy characters, lately, it hasn’t been that easy. Whenever you see a cut-scene where people are featured, they’re all wearing ridiculous looking outfits. So how does one tell one ridiculous looking person apart from another? I don’t know. Maybe you can count the different layers of clothing and baubles. Anyways, most of FFXIII’s cast of characters seem to suffer from this issue. There’s just too much going on, whether it be colours, weird trinkets or strange layers of clothing. They all look odd. Not cool, not engaging, not sensible.

There is one character I do like. One I initially thought I’d hate. The character Sazh is a black man with an, wait for it, afro. Seeing him in the trailers way back when, I thought to myself “hello blaxploitation”. But he’s actually rather likable. Although he sometimes comes off as a cliché black man, more often than not he’s being rational, and sensible. And to add another layer (some layers are positive) of sensibility, he’s wearing clothes that actually make sense.

Blimey! This post has dragged on for longer than I thought it would. You’ll have to wait to read about the other impressions I had. Next time I’ll be discussing the new combat system, the running around corridors, leveling system and tacked on crafting system. What’s the chance I’ll be able to fit all of those into one post? Slim, but that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Oh, and also this will be the final daily update. From now on I’ll be doing a rolling every other day schedule. Saturdays will never feature a post, unless there are urgent gaming news, such as an earlier release date on Monster Hunter 3rd (or maybe Diablo III if you’re uninterested in awesome games). Sundays will be special, so look forward to those posts. They’ll not always fit the categories I’ve created so I think I’ll call them Saucy Sundays.

Right, ’til later!

/Erik

“Here you are!”

“Why thanks, I’ll be glad to share with you my view on this particular matter!”

Stupid introduction aside, the pennies category refers to my opinions on various subject matter. Since these aforementioned opinions won’t fit the pre-play or the review categories they deserve one of their own. So my first penny will be on this:

“Violence!?” – You say

“No, no, you misunderstand! This man whose face is being tenderized into non-existance by Roy Jones Jr. represents IMPACT, not violence!” – I say

Right right, enough with the faux dialogue. Today’s topic is in summary about fidelity in games. That is, how much does games make you believe that your rocket launcher just turned a house into unrecognizable scraps of cinders, as opposed to you just seeing a computer generated explosion that makes feel a little sad that you’re not out burning things to satisfy your wicked urges.

I’m not really going to address sound and explosions today. As was hinted with the picture of Mr. Jones (Jr.?) destroying that poor man’s face, I want to say something about how characters connect with their fists, swords, bullets and heavy-metal lightning bolts, etc. I’ll start off by saying this. We’re spoiled, people! We’ve had it too good, so now we’re all expecting too much from games!

What is it we’re expecting too much of, exactly? Well, realism, I think. I’m not talking about the sort of realism that refers to our world with 9/11 bombings and political polls and Ben & Jerrys ice-cream, but rather the type of realism that when distilled makes you really feel like the unnamed heroic hunter bringing down his mighty longsword on a beast’s neck(more on that below). I’ll try not to address Final Fantasy XIII just yet, but there is one aspect of the game that I want to bring up that really bothers me. The combat feels uninspiring, to put it bluntly. Without going into story and characters my opinion is that the combat lacks gravity and impact. Characters fling about like they were made out of air and when they strike, it feels like they’re slicing air. Surprisingly though, sometimes a huge beast will give you a smack and you think “Oh man, that beast’s swipe was soooo-ooo cool, if that had hit me I’d been turned into juicy chunks of beast-food!”

Primarily my issue lies with the main character, you know, the one with the pig-tail. And also with the blonde ridiculously cool looking (the japanese sort of cool) blonde guy. When they hit, I don’t feel the impact. When they return to the places from where they attacked, it looks as if their sprint there was a breeze. When they stop they stop dead on the spot as if they carried no momentum. One could regard it as nitpicking, but for a game that’s been in development for so long, I just wish it made me feel each hit. You might remember Final Fantasy VIII. The protagonist Squall was this ridiculously cool looking (again the Japanese sort of cool) guy, whose weapon was a gunblade (more on blades married with guns below). When you used Squall’s gunblade to strike you had the option of timing a press of R2. Perfect timing on this resulted in more damage, and a satisfying boom and a flash of the screen. This mechanic, coupled with the fact that the animations in FFVIII had the feeling of momentum made for an awesome feeling of impact.

So, how does a sequel to a game fail at absorbing something like this? I don’t know. I may simply not be far enough into the game to see when the main protagonist suddenly feels her blade becoming more heavy so that her animations get cooler. All I know is that there’s a slight feeling of discord when what we perceive to be a natural element of swinging something heavy is removed and we instead see some uncommitted French “i cyldn’t care lez if I dyn’t hid anyzing”-swing (that’s probably not a French accent..)  that doesn’t seem to connect. With this off-key note ringing in our (my) head, we (I) get a bit turned off. This is why I say we’ve been spoiled. We’ve been blessed with many games that animate so goshdarned perfectly that our standards have been turned way way up. For instance, I had decided to replay the E3 2009 demo of God of War 3 since the release is approaching rapidly. And man, when Kratos smacks the chimera with his cestus, you feel the impact in your bones. Another case in point is one of my all time favourite games, that now features a sequel for the platform I played it on:

That’s right. Monster Hunter. The series that does away with all those lousy story elements, because who needs story when you have monsters and bits of monsters to make armors and weapons! In the featured trailer, pay particular attention some time after 1:40 when we get to see the armory of Monster Hunter. You’ll see some outlandishly spiffy animations. Monster Hunter 3rd is not really the third installment of the game. It’s more like the sixth, or fifth. Granted, though, the previous releases have changed little in the seemingly perfected formula.

What’s new in Monster Hunter 3rd then? Well, you get the Switch Axe from Monster Hunter Tri (which is not the same game!), and unlike Tri, the gunlance makes a return (it was removed in Tri!). The gunlance was my favourite weapon from MHFU. I mean, just check out the attack in the trailer. First he swings it and then, BOOM, comes the blast. It does some hella sweet spike damage, and offers great opportunities for guarding.

I’ll be making a review of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite at a later point. The game has a special place in my gaming library due to more reasons than simply the animations, and I feel that to give credit where credit is due, I’ll need at least a whole post to do it justice.

So, what was this post about again? Was it about impact and momentum? I think this might all just have been a disguised pre-play of Monster Hunter 3rd. I think I’ll return to some more technical aspects of momentum and impact later (it’s always later rather than sooner innit?), but for now, you have my thoughts for your penny.

/Erik

There’s a special place in my heart for the Final Fantasy series. I must have been around 10-years-old when Final Fantasy VII hit the shelves in Finland. My friend, not yet a fan of RPGs, got it for the Playstation around the time of release. This was back in the day when the television channels of Sweden still featured a show or two about video games. So I recall having seen the game being previewed in one of them. I thought it looked awesome. Although I had no idea how it awesome it would prove to be.

Everyone with a solid career in gaming will recall that one game which glued you and a couple of friends to the television screen, no one minding that you weren’t the one playing. Final Fantasy VII was for me that game. I remember sitting at my friend’s house just staring and helping out translating the dialogue that was heavily featured in the game (remember, we were 10-years-old). This was my first true encounter with an RPG. It introduced a whole new layer to gaming, really. The games we’d played before were about high scores and shooting stuff. And suddenly, here was a game that wanted to tell a story. A game that more than anything wanted you to see the protagonists through to the ending, not for the sake of any scores or glory, but because you needed to save their world.

Final Fantasy VII was for me and many others the stepping stone into RPGs. Me and a particular group of friends became literally obsessed with them afterwards. After the discovery of the Final Fantasy franchise (I regard it as a franchise much like McDonalds these days) we started searching for the earlier games. The number 7 in the title hinted that there’d been a little bit more going on before the release of this fantastic game, and it’s safe to say we were, through the dubious system of emulation, eager to explore the previous installments. Thus followed a period of Final Fantasy frenzy.

This was many many years ago. And the games we played during that tumultuous time of hormones and pimples were mostly fantastic (Final Fantasy VI springs to mind).  In 2001 something changed in the series I loved so much, but more on that later.

This post is just a collection of thoughts before I move on to play Final Fantasy XIII. I had some gripes about the game initially, pondering to myself whether or not I should buy it. But in the end I deigned it be best I give it a shot so I can give my honest opinion on the game. I intend to write more on the change of the Final Fantasy series later, and perhaps draw a few lines between these changes and the game I’ll be playing.

/Erik

If you survived the 90’s and your computer weathered the dreaded Y2K bug, then you’ve probably heard about Deus Ex. If you happened to miss it(and you call yourself a gamer!) or were still in diapers at the time of release, here’s a quick summary:

You’re JC Denton. Neo from the Matrix lookalike and badass nanotech anti-terrorist agent. The rising levels of terrorism in the world has called for a new breed of “men” to combat this dreadful menace. And like the badass you are, you fight terrorists and robots on the Statue of Liberty, in Hong Kong, in Paris and various other places that make your nerd heart go “boom”.

Released in 2000 Deus Ex was the genius, if not a little awkward, child of an FPS game that had married a roleplaying game. The game had a particular focus on nanotech upgrades that enabled you to e.g. lift stuff, and see really really well(there were in fact cooler upgrades). I loved this game. To me it introduced roleplaying in an FPS, choice, trenchcoats and conspiracy. With organizations like the Illuminati, how was a thirteen-year-old boy supposed to resist it?

There was a sequel to Deus Ex. Namely Deus Ex: Invisible War. I borrowed it from a friend, but was in the end disappointed. Like an anorexic sister to the previous installment, the sequel had lost all that juicy booty which made me love the game in the first place. The roleplaying aspect of the game had been dieted down into a more simple biomod upgrade system, and the inventory management had been streamlined into a simple uninspiring slot system. Also, apparently bullets had in the somewhat farther off future been rendered useless by the advanced use of nanotechnology.

Well, with the first game in mind, I was super excited to hear about Deus Ex 3. This being a prequel to the first game, it tells the tale of Adam Jensen, bio-mechanically modified badass. Here’s the trailer, pay close attention to his awesome sunglasses:

(trailer not uploadable at the moment, so make due with that picture)

Judging from the awesome looking bio-mods and the noir-like vibe I remain excited. Let’s hope we get a gameplay trailer soon.

/Erik