Why I Love: Red Dead Redemption

So, this is something new, and it might be interesting it might not be. This is for when I want to talk about a game but don’t want to write a review out in its own separate format (that you will see at the end of the month). This is just me gushing (or ranting) about a certain game.

Most people know Rockstar Games for their Grand Theft Auto series. While these games are great, I’ve always been much more o a fan of one of their other series, Red Dead. Even though I’ve never played the first game, Red Dead Revolver, I have thoroughly enjoyed Red Dead Redemption. The game is very similar to the GTA series where you explore an open world, do missions, and interact with the residents of the world. However, Red Dead is different because it takes place in the old west. You ride around on your horse, shoot banditos, hunt bounties, and do all sorts of things that reminds you of old spaghetti westerns. Rockstar crafted a really solid world and atmosphere that’s super easy to get lost in. Riding around from one place to another, finding a guy being attacked by bandits or someone whose horse was stolen, and you having to save them. The game just feels so good. The missions feel great and the characters aren’t masterfully crafted but they feel real. Shooting feels so good, especially when everything slows down for a second and you can select your targets with the “Dead Eye” mode. The only problem I really had with the shooting is that it can be hard to shoot and ride a horse, but it’s just as hard as shooting while driving a car in other games. The characters manage to feel real in this almost cheesy Wild West world, and even though the world is small it’s packed with things to do. One time I was riding across the desert and found the sheriff in the middle of a shootout and I decided to help him. I took out most of the bandits in the area and then went to take down the leader and he had the deputy hostage. I messed up and the deputy ended up dead. This game actually made me feel bad for my mistakes and my actions. The game does have a honor system that keeps you from just shooting people and stealing their horses whenever you please. Commit a crime and your honor bar goes down. However, both good and bad actions increase your fame meter. However, your honor stat really affects the gameplay. Right now, my honor is so high that the police won’t chase me until I kill someone. I’ve done so many good things and have become such a legend that I can steal someone’s horse and no one would care as long as I didn’t kill anyone. Honor also affects the price of items and guns at stores, and how much you get paid for jobs you complete. Riding from one place to another, you can hunt and shoot different game in order to skin them. You can then sell the animal skins and meat for money in a town. I’ve never had a problem with money in this game because whenever I see an animal when riding between point a to point b, I skin it. This game still feels fresh 6 years later, and I’m very excited for the sequel coming out next year.

Game Review: The Order 1886

Ah, my first game review. This will be interesting to see when it’s over. I’ve really enjoyed writing this blog and have had a lot of fun. Anyway, let’s get right into it.

The Order 1886 was released early last year by a new studio called Ready at Dawn, and when it was announced, it looked very promising. However, when it was released, it was a different story. Most of the big reviewers gave it fair to low scores and it just wasn’t received well. So, I thought I’d give it a shot. Here’s my review of The Order 1886

Presentation

The game looks beautiful. I’ll say that from the start. For being almost two years old, it still looks really good. I only saw a few cases of some weird facial expressions from the characters, but everything still looked great. The game looks almost real, with wonderful lighting, and great high-resolution graphics. The soundtrack is also very nice, and gives itself to the moody atmosphere the game has. The streets of London are misty and dark, and the catacombs dirty and grimy. The voice acting is great, as well, feeling natural and real, especially in the emotional moments. So far so good.

Story

Alright, so I won’t go into spoilers, but the game ends with some strings left untied. The developers have said that this wasn’t a one-off story and hoped to use The Order as a jumping off point for a new IP. However, I still feel that a lot of characters just stopped getting any action, and kind of fell off. The premise, unlike the ending, grabbed me very quickly. You are part of a secret order, you’ve lived hundreds of years, and there’s some cool Steampunk stuff going on. Oh yeah, and Werewolves. Rebels against the government have rose up in the streets, and riots have been getting larger. Oh I forgot, there’s Werewolves. So, the world feels really cool and I was really getting into it. There’s airships and cool steampunk weapons created by the one Nikola Tesla. Oh I forgot, there’s Werewolves. See, The Order is hunting Werewolves and has been for hundreds of years. However, the game makes you kind of forget about Werewolves until they show up again and you say, “Oh I forgot, there’s Werewolves.” So, eventually the game just throws vampires in there, and your character just acts like vampires are normal, even though nothing has been said about them at all. In fact, the game was rather on the nose about the historical references. For example, one time, a character said something about a guy named Doyle calling something “elementary”. This just kind of came out of nowhere and felt kind of forced. A lot of the plot twists are very predictable as well. Now, most games have pretty sorry stories. Let’s hope they gave us some good gameplay.

Gameplay

The Order is a pretty basic third-person shooter that says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It feels good to shoot (even though it can be a little heavy at times) especially when you get some of the really creative heavy weaponry. There’s a sort of electricity cannon that you have to charge before you let it loose, a rifle with a stunning smoke blast, and a thermite cannon. The thermite cannon is the one that I think is the coolest, because you have to spread flammable dust over everything before you shoot a thermite chunk at it to ignite everything it’s covering. The shooting feels solid except for some big problems. When an enemy throws a grenade, you can’t throw it back, you have to roll out of the way. Seems fine? No, because the majority of the time you roll out of cover into enemy fire. Next, is the armored enemies. Something seems off-balance with them. They are just bullet sponges and nothing more. There’s not any other type of enemy besides regular guys and guys you have to fill up with bullets. However, there are a few Werewolf fights where a few of them all gang up on you. Overall, it’s pretty cool if not a little frustrating at times when they all jump in on you. Then, there’s times where you have to fight like an elder werewolf (or something like that) and you only have a knife. It’s basically a huge button mashing quicktime event that I’m not a huge fan of. I wrote more about it in an earlier article about quicktime events that you can check out here. The shooting can feel clunky at times, especially the cover. Sometimes you exit cover for no reason. Sometimes you enter cover for no reason. This is very annoying and I died many times because of it. Also, I’ve noticed something with the level design. There are relatively few branching paths and the few that exist hardly ever reward you with anything. Sometimes, there’s an audio log à la BioShock. However, most of these are pretty boring and you have to stay in the menu to listen to them, and I’ve already sat through too many long-winded cutscenes. Oh yeah, and speaking of long-winded cutscenes and little amounts of gameplay, this game has it. This game is more cutscene then it is game. Not to mention that a lot of the gameplay is slow walk-around-this-place type missions. Combine that with very vanilla shooting and stealth and you have The Order.

Final Words

What can I say about The Order to sum it up? You know those bad Ninja Turtles knock-offs that lasted for like 12 episodes? They weren’t bad, but there was nothing that stood out either, and it didn’t last long. That’s The Order. I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t play it over and over again like other titles in its genre like Uncharted. Nothing stood out about the gameplay besides the interesting weapons. However, those are sort of impractical and rare to find. If you have a friend who spent the money on this (like I did) and you want to borrow it from him, go ahead. I wouldn’t spend more than $10-$15 on this game. If you just really want to check out the story, watch it on YouTube. With strong visuals, a pretty good story, a crappy ending, and a mixed bag of gameplay, The Order 1886 nets itself a:

6.5

 

Did you like my first review? Would you like to see more? Tell me below!

The Switch, the 3DS, and the Future of Hand-Held Gaming

I love it when this happens. I love it when we get something new, especially when it’s from Nintendo. So, we’re getting a little thing called the Nintendo Switch next March, and hopefully, the little thing will live up to the big hype. I’ve always loved Nintendo’s games and products and I’m sure the Switch will be no different. In fact, I think that if Nintendo can pull this off, they could change a lot. Now, there’s something to be said about portable gaming, and I know that Nintendo has had a pretty good track record with it. Their most recent one, the 3DS, is a bit outdated, however. The screen’s resolution is less than the Vita (which has it’s own sets of problems that I could write an article on if I was more familiar with it.) But yet, the 3DS still strongly sold more units. Both had very solid exclusives, but the 3DS was more marketable towards younger children than the Vita. This article isn’t about 3DS vs Vita, but it’s obvious that Nintendo knows how to make a good portable console. Now to the Switch. Nintendo has called this the “Switch” for a good reason. The Switch can transfer between a console and a portable device. The fact that we could get console level games on a portable system, like where we were getting to with the last generation of portable consoles. As someone who really enjoys playing portable games on a television, the Switch could be great. What does this mean for portable gaming, now that portable gaming is also console gaming? I think that in the future, most games will be developed for both portable and home. I really wish I could play Final Fantasy VII on a big road trip, but I can’t. Now, looking at the Switch and the list of developers that Nintendo is partnering with for the Switch (including Atlus, From Software, and Square Enix) there could be some really good opportunities for great games. Imagine being able to take BloodBorne or Persona 5 wherever you go. It’ll be awesome! If the Big N can pull it off, at least. Most people thought that the Wii U was sort of a failure, however I think it was just as good as any other Nintendo console. Most people thought the same of the GameCube, but a lot of people look back on that as a really good console. No matter of it doesn’t sell as well, I think Nintendo will definitely find some way to make the Switch worth all of its price tag.

Remakes, Remasters, and Re-releases

Recently, with Bethesda releasing Skyrim again people have been thinking about remakes. People are also very excited about the remake of Final Fantasy VII that is always around the corner. I personally had no interest in playing Skyrim again. There was nothing new added to the game. It is entirely a re-release. With FFVIII, it seems as if they are taking a different road. Square Enix is making the game similar to the upcoming Final Fantasy XV, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both games shared the same engine. Final Fantasy has always been very good with their re-releases. They usually add new dungeons and features, as well as rewriting some of the outdated dialog of the old games. Most of the time, Square Enix re-releases their games some good time after the original came out. Next year we are also getting a remake of Final Fantasy XII that will add a class system. Personally, I didn’t see the need to get Skyrim again. I am the type of person who if I want to play the game again, I’ll go play the original. I see no need in a remake that is just purely graphical. However, I will buy a HD Remake Collection or what have you even if it’s just a graphical upscaling, because you get more than just the original game. Now, I understand that Skyrim is a huge game and probably couldn’t be released with multiple games, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. I would be very interested in the BioShock pack if I didn’t already have BioShock and BioShock Infinite. I feel these collection packages make it much easier for newcomers to a series to get right in. I wanted to play Metal Gear Solid 3, but I really didn’t want to play it on my old PS2, so I bought the collection that contained 4 other games. If people don’t want to bother with outdated hardware or play on an older console than remakes can be great. However, I feel that Skyrim still doesn’t apply her, because the PS3 isn’t that old and most people who would want to play Skyrim again could probably play it. I do appreciate the fact that if you own Skyrim on PC then you get it for free, because Skyrim on PC is almost the same (and practically can be with mods) as the remake. Steam is great for re-releases because older PC games can be very hard to play on modern computers. Steam sells all sorts of classic games, some with HD remastering. All in all, I think that certain types of remakes for games are worth it to me. Maybe it’s not the same for everyone. Comment and tell me what you think about remasters!

What’s Great About Let’s Plays

YouTube has quickly gained popularity in the recent years. While there’s all sorts of different content on the site, a lot of it is about video games. In fact, that is the kind of content I watch on the Internet. Reviews, news, and other types of game videos are very popular, but nothing has gained such popularity as Let’s Plays. Say what you will about them, you can’t deny that they’re popular. I don’t really like to use the term Let’s Players for the channels I watch, because, recently, that has gained a sort of double meaning. The most popular of these content creators are people like PewDiePie, Markiplier, and JackSepticEye. I personally don’t like these channels because it feels like they are putting on a show and a separate persona. While that, to an extent, can be funny (Game Grumps is a great example), if it’s done too much the effect fades. Most of the channels that I watch feature multiple people, and thus feels more like a group experience. Super Beard Brothers, Game Grumps, and Best Friends Play are my three current favorites. When people ask me who these people are I call them comedians because that’s what I think they are. As I write this, with Game Grumps playing in the background, I realize how natural these personalities feel to me because they can riff off each other. In certain cases, it feels like a podcast, because they can just talk. It’s not always about the game. However, like in the case of Super Beard Bros., they play really hard games, as well as normal stuff. The charm is both in the personalities and in seeing someone get through the challenge. There’s often moments of silence as they try to get through a tough part. Usually, dead air is considered a bad thing, however it tends to build suspense before they either fail or succeed. It’s just fascinating to watch someone do something so well. Currently, Super Beard Brothers are playing Mario 64, and they get every star in multiple levels in one episode. They are just grinding through it. To me, with funny personalities and gaming skill you can make a really entertaining show.

Are Quicktime Events Fun?

Quicktime events. Love them or hate them, they’re there. Sometimes, games do them well. Sometimes, they don’t. Some people say they’re fun. Some say they’re not. I personally enjoy them if they are done correctly.

Recently, I’ve been playing The Order. The shooting is fine and so far it’s nothing special, but there’s nothing that sticks out as completely atrocious. However, the worst part of the game so far, is the quicktime events. (A quick disclaimer: I am on chapter 4 or 5 and have not seen the rest of the game yet). At a certain point, you have to fight a boss. The guy’s pretty big and he’s slapped your gun away in a cutscene. You think the game is going to give you a chance for some melee combat after this little movie. No. It shifts right from the cutscene intto a quicktime event. Now, this can be done well if you are expecting it and the event makes sense. The Order just throws you right into dodging the bosses attacks. What have you used to move the character the entire game? The left stick! What do you suddenly have to use to dodge with your character? The right stick! And it’s not like it gives you a huge prompt in the middle of the screen. The game gives you a tiny little right stick icon on whatever side of the screen you’re dodging towards. I could barely see the tiny R on the prompt and assumed that it was the stick I was using to control my character for the rest of the game. Suddenly, the boss grabs you and you have to mash buttons (and more on button mashing later) to get him loose. I don’t know why but sometimes it just doesn’t work. I pressed the button and nothing happened. I died multiple times from that. When a quicktime event comes out of no where and completely blindsides you, that’s when it feels cheap and unfair. Now, we need to talk about button mashing, game designers.

Button mashing, like all other quicktime events, can work. An enemy grabs you (say in Uncharted) and you have to mash a button to get him off of you. The problem comes when the whole sequence revolves around button mashing. Take Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for example. At a certain point in the game you have to just mash the X button. That’s what the whole segment is. Of course, if you are playing co-op, the second player can do something really easy and prevent you from having to mash buttons. Now, I am a friendless loser and I have to resort to button mashing. I kept dying on this part over and over again. Eventually, I decided to look up how to get past that part, and there was no gimmick to it. It was pure button mashing. However, I did find out that if I put my finger inside my shirt and slid it back and forth across the button that would hit it much faster than my tiny human fingers could do. This is infuriating and not very fun, and it can ruin a game for some people. It just wasn’t fun, even though getting through that part felt so good because I was done with a tedious segment like that. Even the first Metal Gear game had something similar but it wasn’t required to progress, and in fact you got my preferred ending by failing at it. However, it just doesn’t feel good if it’s required.

Going back to The Order, there is a part where (SPOILER ALERT FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE GAME) you are attacked by three or four werewolves. You have to press the X button when they come towards you in order to dodge. However, you’re in very tight corridors and they seem to come out of nowhere. The prompt for the X button is sort of attached to the monsters, so if you don’t have your camera turned the right way, you won’t see the prompt. Plus, with the way they come out of nowhere it’s a huge pain to dodge like that. Then you have to run up to them and stab them in the heart. Well, while you are taking out a wounded werewolf another one shows up right on top of you and you barely have any time to dodge their attack. Not to mention, like before, where sometimes it just feels like the input doesn’t work. Quicktime event prompts need to be apparent to the player so they have time to react.

Quicktime events need to be fine-tuned. Don’t have them come out of nowhere. Don’t make the whole segment button mashing. Make sure the prompt is nice and apparent to the player. Those are my three biggest pet peeves when it comes to quicktime segments. Nothing makes me more mad then when a game does one of those things. This doesn’t make you want to blame it on the game. Games with good difficulty make sure that the player doesn’t feel like its the game’s fault, it’s the player’s. Make your quicktime events feel good and responsive and players won’t feel mad and like they got cheated.

Adventure Games Roots and the Future

During the 80s and 90s, one of the most popular genres for PCs were Adventure Games. With a focus on exploration, story, and problem and puzzle-solving these games created wonderful experiences that end up being pretty memorable. However, it seems that the golden-age adventure games aren’t really the heavy hitters they used to be.

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Zork, often considered to be the 1st Adventure Game
In the early days of adventure games there were no visuals. As you can see, you interacted with the game by typing in commands. Zork was one of the 1st adventure games, and the first mainstream one. Zork spawned off of some MIT students experimenting and making games. After being released by the company Infocom for many of the home computers of the time, Zork became a classic.

 

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Mystery House is often considered to be the first adventure game with graphics
In 1980, On-Line Systems (later famously known as Sierra) published a game called Mystery House. This was the first game developed by Ken and Roberta Williams, a power-house couple of adventure game creators who went on to make such games as, King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest for Sierra. Mystery House added basic visuals to help the player see what they were typing commands about. Sierra later became a heavy hitter in the adventure game world with their famous King’s Quest series. When the first King’s Quest game was released in 1983 it was revolutionary because of it’s well detailed graphics and animation for the time, and the fact that you controlled a character with the arrow keys. Eventually, games developed more ways for players to interact with the worlds within them.

 

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Enchanted Scepters was the first game to have a point-and-click interface
In 1984, an adventure game called Enchanted Scepters was released for the Apple Macintosh. Like the adventure games before it, your environment was described with text and shown by a picture. The only difference that Scepters had was that you could interact with your surroundings by clicking on things. Enchanted Scepters revolutionized the adventure game genre. Pretty soon most adventure games were point-and-click, with King’s Quest switching over in 1990. In 1987, however, a game came out from a little company called LucasArts.

 

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Maniac Mansion was the first game developed and published by LucasArts
George Lucas, best known for directing the Star Wars films, created LucasFilm Games in 1982. After making some small games for Atari and early PCs they made their first game in 1987. Maniac Mansion was innovative because it was the big point-and-click adventure game that hit mainstream audiences. Maniac Mansion had a system where you select a “verb” and then would click on an object to do that “verb” on the said object. With this system, LucasFilm Games (more famously known as LucasArts would make so many classics. Eventually, however, adventure games became less and less mainstream and the genre died down in the late 90s.

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The Walking Dead one of Telltale’s most famous games

In the late 90s the adventure game declined. With the rise of Doom, the FPS became the dominant genre on PC. In the mid-2000s, Japanese adventure games and visual novels (which may or may not be adventure games depending on your preference) gained popularity in America. However, today, when people think of adventure games they usually think of Telltale. Telltale began with The Walking Dead. Set in the world of the AMC TV show of the same name, Telltale focused more on story and characters than the puzzles of golden-age adventure games, and released them in episodic format. Telltale has become very popular in the recent years with many titles under their belts. However, even with the rise of adventure games yet again, nothing has come close to giving us the feeling of the classic LucasArts adventure games. However, two men have now embarked on a quest to fill that exact desire. 20b7a4925fc8731a8b045328357d51c3

Thimbleweed Park is a game by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick. These two men were the head directors of the original Maniac Mansion. They have set out to create a game that echoes back to the golden age of adventure games, and looks suspiciously similar to a game developed by the two almost 30 years ago. Hopefully, Thimbleweed Park can bring back the wonderful humor and puzzles that were ever-present in classic adventure games.