Monday, October 23, 2017

Single Player only?

So when I first started playing video games on a home console it was on the Nintendo System . . . at my sister’s house.  It was my brother-in-law’s and I would play it while I was there babysitting my niece.  The first console I got to call my own was the Super Nintendo.  I had asked for a NES for Christmas but my mom said the salesperson said the SNES was the latest and greatest.  I wasn’t happy at first but I grew to love it.  Mostly because I could get all the games I liked on the NES (a trend Nintendo has a repeating their games when a new console is released) but also because it was the only system I had for a long time.

I remember when I got my first Playstation.  It was a hand me down from my brother because he had recently got a PS2 and it was backwards compatible so he didn’t need the PS any more.  At first I was skeptical but at that time I had a lot more expendable income, I was able to branch out even more and get a wide variety of games.  I also found that Playstation had more game I wanted to play then Nintendo did at that time.  I eventually bought my own PS2 and I fell in love with that system more than anything else.

When the Xbox system came out I wasn’t really interested in it at all.  That was until I saw that it had Star Wars Battlefront and I watched my brother play it.  I wasn’t interested in shooters (didn’t have a good experience with the ones that I bought (and traded in immediately) for the Playstation).  And I wasn’t interested in playing online.  I couldn’t resist and I almost bought it on Playstation but since my brother had it on Xbox I decided to go buy that system and play it on that console.

Why am I telling you all of this (since I’ve probably told you something like this before)?  Well I started to notice a trend on my game buying habits between Playstation and Xbox.  It started with the PS2 and original Xbox and has continued ever since.  But now things are changing once again.

The games that I bought for Playstation were single player games.  Occasionally there would be a multiplayer game but only local co-op and no online play.  For Xbox games I would get the multiple player online games.  If it was something I wanted to play with friends, it was something I got for the Xbox.  I really wasn’t buying single player games for the Xbox.  I viewed my PS2 as single player and my Xbox as multiplayer.  That’s how it’s always been.  But something has changed.

While I make a lot more money now than I did back when this all started, I also have a mortgage and a lot more expenses now that I didn’t have then.  Once again I find myself in a position that I have to be a little selective in the games that I buy.  I can’t afford them all . . . at least if I want to have food to eat and a roof over my head.  I’ve had to make some tough choices of what games I have to have now . . . and what games can wait until later.

After a lot of soul searching I’ve figured out a compromise with myself.  And it all comes down to the type of game and how I want to play it.  If it’s a single player game only I’m not going to buy it right away.  I’ll wait until I have more money or when it goes on sale.  That usually means that I don’t play those game right away.  Sometimes it’s several months, or maybe a year or more, before I get around to purchasing it and playing it.  That makes it hard on me as my friends usually get it right away and really want to talk about it but they don’t want to spoil it for me.  There have been times when I play with friends but I have to exit the party for a while so they can talk about it without spoiling anything for me.  When they are done discussing it they invite me back to the party and we continue playing as normal.  They only problem I have is that they think 6 months is long enough to be careful about spoilers.  After that they don’t think they have to be cautious talking about a game around me.  Unfortunately, I might not have bought it within that 6 months, let alone starting playing it.

Now, if the game is mostly multiplayer based (like Star Wars Battlefront or a Call of Duty, etc,) I’ll get those games right at launch, or as close as I can afford.  Why?  Because it’s no fun to pick up a multiplayer games 6 months or a year after launch and you find yourself playing against people who have mastered the game already or . . . well, everyone has left and moved on to the next best game out there.  If there’s a possibility that either one of those scenarios is going to happen I’m going to make every effort to buy that game and get in on the action while it’s still new and hot.

That being said, it has to be a game that I really want to play online with friends . . . and maybe strangers.  If I’m not going to enjoy playing online after a couple of weeks, it’s a game I probably won’t get.  I’m getting very picky in my old age.

So picky in fact, that I’m starting to notice that the number of multiplayer games that I buy each year is getting fewer and fewer.  I’m finding that, even playing with friends, I’m really not enjoying the online experience as much as I use to.  Now I’m more in to single player games and things I can consume on my own.  They don’t have to be linear games.  They could be open world as long as they are single player.

I find that really interesting at this time because EA just announced that they are closing Visceral Studios and reworking the single player linear story game they were working on for the Star Wars universe and they are scraping that and going to build something more fitting today’s appetite of what they think gamers want.  Apparently that’s multiplayer games with lots of microtransactions and loot boxes.  For some reason I’m just not in to the that at this point in my life.

The games that I like to watch on YouTube and Twitch and the games I like to play now are all single player, story driven games.  Give me a game that lets me experience something for myself.  Not be reminded that there’s always someone faster, smarter and with better eyes than me who’s going to kick my ass in an online match.  To me, that’s just not fun anymore.

So why mention the games consoles earlier?  Because I’m finding it very weird to only be gravitating to single player games on my Xbox One.  It feels strange to be on that system and NOT be playing with my friends.  I love playing the games (I wouldn’t be playing them if I didn’t) but I miss having things to play with my friends.  

I’m sure that will all change in November when Star Wars Battlefront comes out.  I’m sure almost everyone on my friends list will be getting it.  That’s where I first met most of them in the original Star Wars Battlefront game.  Maybe that will rekindle my love of multiplayer games and take me back to the glory games.  Until then, I guess both my Playstation and Xbox consoles are single player only.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Game Console?

I have a bunch of money saved up and if it doesn't take all of it to fix my garage door, I think I'll buy a new gaming console.  Which one should I get?

Playstation 4 Pro
Nintendo 3DS XL
Nintendo Switch
Wii U

I've wanted a PS4 for awhile now and that desire has only increased watching videos of Horizon Zero Dawn.  I want to play that game so bad.

On the other hand there are a LOT of games I'd like to get for the 3DS.  And I could get those games cheaper since they've been out for a while.  That makes getting one a little more attractive if it will save me money in the long run.

On the other hand the Switch might just scratch that itch for another handheld, portable game system.  There are only a couple of games I would get so far for the Switch but I'm sure there are more coming.

On the other hand I could get a Wii U.  Why a Wii U?  Pikmin 3.  Enough said.  I love the Pikmin games and I could play them for hours fine tuning my harvesting skills to shave just a few seconds here and there off of collecting things.  There are just so many subtle ways you can improve on your game play.  I don't know of many other games out for the Wii U that I absolutely have to have and I don't know if one game (even if it's Pikmin) is enough to buy a system just for that game.

On the other hand I could just add the money to my new computer fund.  Hopefully I'll be able to get a new very good supped gaming PC within the next 6-9 months.  Other expenses come first but I'm saving and hoping for that day.

With all these arms I feel like Parvati.  I wish I was just as powerful a godess as she is.  Unfortunately, I'm not.  I'm mortal and have to make these all important life and death (of gaming) decisions.  So what do you think I should get?  It might not happen as it all depends on how much it will cost to fix my garage door so it will open again.  But if there's money left over . . .

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Working Girl's Review - Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits

I finished another game!  I love saying that.  This feeling is even more wonderful for this game.  Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits was a game that I got all the way to the final boss and fought . . . and lost . . . about 5 or 6 times or more before I put the game away out of frustration.  Then my stuff got stolen.  This was a game that I really wanted to see how it would end but I wasn't sure I wanted to go through and play it all over again.  But I did.  And now it's done.  Here's my review of the game.  Slight spoilers ahead.

System: Playstation 2

Developer: Cattle Call

This is the story of twin brothers who were separated as babies and grew up living two very different lives.  One was raised as human with a hatred of Deimos.  The other raised as a Deimos "wannabe" raised to hate humans.  Both humans and Deimos use Spirits stones in their society and want to control all the Spirits stones so the other doesn't get them.  Both species want to wipe out the other and Emperor Darkham wants to take advantage of those dark feelings and rule the world himself.  Unfortunately, there is a higher power pulling the strings behind the scenes called the Divine Ruler (who later turns into the Lord of the Black Abyss).  Can the Deimos and humans put their differences aside and join forces to defeat evil and save the world for both species?  You'll have to play the game to find out.

Story Score:

There are 2 main characters and parties that you control and play.  The story moves back and forth between the brothers and their stories.  The supporting characters for both policies are pretty similar so both parties play pretty much the same.  The hatred for Deimos from the humans; and humans from the Deimos is built up for believable.  The reasons why Darc (Deimos brother) hates the humans and wants to rule the Deimos over the humans and why Kharg (human brother) wants to protect the humans from the Deimos are understandable from the things they've gone through in their lives.  When the brothers finally get together and meet each other you're hoping for the best but things don't turn out that way for a while.

Each character has a personality with likes and hatreds all around.  The parties are so similar that it would have been nice to have a little bit more differences between the human/Deimos counterparts.  when you get to the final boss the best characters to take in to the battle are not the ones you'd think of at first.  When your parties combine which characters you take in to battle make for some interesting exchanges in dialogue.

Character Score:

Game Mechanics:
The battle is a turned based but allows for movement so characters can get behind enemies to do more damage.  That means you need to think about where/how you're going to attack but also where/how the enemies are going to attack as well.  It is sort of open world with the player deciding where they want to go next.  There are extra areas that are not required by the story but can be accessed for experience and loot.

There are four functionalities that I would have liked to have had.  1) I would have liked the ability to save when I'm on the world map.  You can only save at designated save points so if you venture too far away from one (or you're hurting and in need of help badly) you've got to figure out what spot on the map has a save point and then work your way back there.  You can always escape a battle and not fight if you don't want to but it's annoying to backtrack a way to save before you get to a new area.

2) the camera is fixed in battles.  There were so many times that I wanted to swing the camera around to get a better look at the battlefield.  Maybe it was to make sure I'm directly behind the enemies (some enemies are hard to tell) or maybe it was to see my character better because they were behind a bunch of other characters or obstacles.  Since you can't do that, lining up the perfect shot was difficult at times.

3) There are too many skills to learn.  I did a bunch of grinding in this game and yet I still didn't learn all the skills that my characters could.  I even had a character or two that didn't learn all the star levels either.  I tried to use those characters as much as I could, especially towards the end, but they never did earn much experience or skill points compared to the other characters.  When I finally decided which ones I was going to take in to battle I was worried that they weren't a high enough level to really be that usefully.  While I'm all for games giving you lot of skills/things for your characters to learn I think they should all be attainable by the time you reach the final boss and without having to grind to learn them. 

4) comparative inventory management.  I would have liked a better way to compare new equipment with what I currently had.  The best way I could find was to take an item off and highlight the new item to see how much it increased/decreased stats and then do the same with the item I had one.  I know there was a replace option but the info it gave me wasn't enough for me to feel like I was making an informed decision.

Game Mechanics Score:

Art Design:
The art design seems very simple by today's standards.  This is a Playstation 2 game and the system wasn't as powerful as gaming systems are now.  I do think it holds up very well and is not jarring to the eyes to look at it.  Just very simple and clean looking with very little embellishments to the scenery.  The colors were vibrant or muted, depending on the environment and didn't fall in to the cliché of matching the elemental attacks that each character could have (i.e. water attack = blue clothing, etc.).  I think it looked good and didn't interfere in the game play even if not inspiring.

Art Design Score:

Overall Impressions:
I'm so glad I went back and replayed this game so I could finish it.  The story has a nice message and the game play was fresh and allowed for experimentation so you could play any way you wanted to.  It's a game that holds up in all categories and I think should be played by everyone that wants a good experience.  It's not ground breaking or phenomenal in the game industries but very much worth a play.

Overall Impressions Score:

If you want to see how badly I played the game here's a link to my YouTube playlist for Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits