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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

I don't really get scared watching movies. For me watching a horror movie is just to see what they've done from a gore stand point. Jump scares and all that are to easy to see coming whenever I watch something so I usually don't bother. Now games on the other hand, they can scare the living crap out of me. From some NES games to Resident Evil and more recently Cryostasis when a game has good jump scares they floor me. I don't know if it's something about the interactivity of it that makes me scare so easy but it does happen and will probably always happen.

When I first heard about Amnesia I was interested in playing it. It was being called the, "Scariest game of all time" and it would make grown people break down and cry. I knew it would be something that would be hard for me to play as I scare so easy when it comes to games so it did take me awhile to actually get around to playing it.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent was released in late 2010. Brought to us by Frictional Games who had made the Penumbra series before this. It was first released as a digital download and later saw a retail release.

This takes place in 1839, you play as a man named Daniel. You awake in this castle unable to remember why he's in said castle and really not a whole lot about who he is. You set off to explore and you eventually find out that you're after something and that something is hunting you down, I'm keeping this vague as to not spoil any of the story.

Amnesia plays out in a first person perspective but it is not a FPS, in fact there isn't any combat in this game at all. You walk around solving puzzles and trying to reach your overall goal. It really made me think of it as a first person adventure game, as if something like Kings Quest or Phantasmagoria were in the first person. You find items and usually need to use them in some puzzle later on.

The controls for this are extremely tight. I absolutely love the feel the mouse has when you're looking around, it just feels so right. When some of the sanity stuff comes into play you get this neat sway effect that again just feels right with whats going on on the screen. If I could have anything to complain about the overall movement Daniel feels like he jumps way to high for the type of game it is.

Light plays a big role in your journey. Then you're in the darkness you start to lose sanity the lower your sanity goes the more crazy stuff you start to see. It reminds me of Eternal Darkness but I never saw it get super extreme like that game did, it never fakes a format of your hard drive and any of that breaking the fourth wall type of stuff. To fight back the insanity you need to be in the light and this can be handled a few ways. Sometimes candles and lanterns and such are already lit when you find them. You can find tinderboxes to light additional candles and the like. You also come into possession of a lantern you can carry around with you. The catch there is you need oil to keep it going which you'll find in all sorts of nooks and hidey holes around the castle.

Darkness can be your friend at times, it helps you hide from the monsters. Since you have zero combat options whenever a monster comes along you need to duck behind something and hope to hell it doesn't see you. Even with that there is a catch, you can't look at the monster. If you look at it your sanity drops quickly and eventually the thing you're looking at will see you and well, kill you dead. You have to balance hiding and you sanity to make sure you stay hidden but don't got all bat shit crazy from the darkness.

Now I do want to say, Amnesia is a good game. It has a great atmosphere and the story and setting are all really well done. But I do need to say this the game isn't that scary. It's creepy and there are some really messed up stuff going on in the world of Amnesia but I didn't really get scared much. It has one really good jump scare near the beginning of the game and after that, not so much. The tension can build up when you're being chased which I will say is thrilling but not really scary.

One of the things that doesn't really make this game scary to me is the lack on monsters. You really only encounter two types of monsters through out and for about ninety percent of the game it's only one type you see. For me horror is about the unknown and after you're seen the first monster there isn't really anything left unknown. They all look the same when you hear that sound that tells you a monster is coming you know what to expect and it just takes away from the horror. Now don't get me wrong the two monsters you see most in this are really cool looking (But still very similar looking) I would of loved to see some other messed up things, a little more variety would of been great.

The other thing I really didn't care for were some of the puzzles. Some of them were not easy to figure out, I'm not one to shrug off a challenge, while some of the puzzles required a little thinking to figure out some were not intuitive to figure out at all. The solution would be so abstract it took away from the overall experience. I had to look up the solution to one puzzle and the still didn't get it after I knew the solution I just sat there and wondered how anyone would figure it out on their own.

In closing I want to say it again. Amnesia is a really good game and yeah you should probably play it but don't believe all the hype, it's not that scary. Everything about the game comes together to make a great experience but it's just not an overall scary one. After playing this I really want to check out the Penumbra games as I've never played them but I am expecting more of the same in the "horror" department but I do think they'll be fun to play.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent 7 out of 10 (It's not scary)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Some "Flawed" Games From This Generation I Really Enjoyed

I was over on Giant Bomb and they had a thread about "Favorite Flawed Games." I really liked what I wrote about it so I wanted to put my response here.

You can check out the thread here - Giant Bomb Thread

I can think of a few games as I usually find myself enjoying the "flawed" games over the triple A super polished ones.
Far Cry 2 is probably the top of my list. With everything it got right the flaws are still present. Guard post respawns, broken stealth and for me at least the lack of co-op in a game that is just screaming for it. I can't think of another game recently that was just begging to have co-op. So many things are already there that make you wish you could play with someone else, it's like Ubisoft was teasing us with them. Instead of tacking on a competitive multiplayer they should of taken that time and effort and made co-op.

Next one I think of is Stalker: Clear Sky, that game is still buggy as hell. The first time I tried to play it I got stuck in an endless death loop because the game decided to kill me as I saved and I have no idea why. It wasn't radiation or an enemy attacking I was standing in an open field and just dropped as soon as the save did it's thing. I finally ended up using Clear Sky: Complete to play through it and then even ran into that Limansk crash bug. While I think Shadow of Chernobyl is the superior Stalker game when I was done with Clear Sky I had really enjoyed playing it and would consider giving it another go when it's time for me to replay a Stalker game.

I saw a lot of mentions of Too Human on here and while I don't really think that game is "flawed" in the since of it being broken it just didn't live up to the hype. Me, I absolutely loved it, I spent 60 something hours playing the living hell out of it until I found or traded for all the Elite armor pieces. I think at its core Too Human was a good attempt to bring a Diablo type loot gathering games to consoles, I liked the analog stick combat and the overall feel of the game. I just think when people hate on this one it's that they were expecting a game as unbelievably amazing as Diablo 2 and what we got was just a pretty good game.

A game I didn't see mentioned here yet is the newest Turok. While not the same Turok we know and love from the N64 days I still thought it was a fun simple FPS game. Every shooter we get doesn't have to be super military Call of Duty like shooter. Turok was like a throwback to the FPS games from back in the 90's and that was the main reason I loved it.

I guess the last game I want to mention is Cryostasis and really for the following reason. When I got to around level 12 the game would constantly crash on me until I messed with settings and worked through it. I've never had a game work better for me after I've turned the settings UP. Besides that another brilliant game more people should get a chance to play.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Some Thoughts On Far Cry 2

With rumors swirling around this week at the possibility of a Far Cry 3 being announced at E3 it made me think about Far Cry 2.

Far Cry 2 was a major departure from the the first game, no longer being developed by Crytek as that studio had moved on to Crysis it was instead made by Ubisoft Montreal. Ditching the man vs monster elements and the tropical island of the first game we're taken to a war torn Africa, on a mission to kill an arms dealer known as the Jackal. After a brief introductory/tutorial section you're presented with an open world to explore and find your way to your target.

Now this isn't really a review as I'm just writing down my thoughts on the game which I freaking loved. At a time when I was just tired of open world sandbox games Far Cry 2 was able to pull me in and every second of the entire month I devoted to playing this game was an amazing experience.

Now some people didn't really care for FC2 and yes I admit, it did have it's issues. It had some bugs and some glitches and some of the game mechanics could of been better but they're just some little things that I feel need to be looked past to enjoy what this game does right.

The one thing for me that FC2 had going for it was the immersion. Every step of the way I felt like I was in the deserts of Africa hunting diamonds and shooting fools. The little details like the barely there hub and the map you had to hold in your hands to use were so well done it helped bring you into the game. All this was presented with amazing graphics, I played the game on the PC and it is one of the best looking games out there, rivaling Crysis is parts. The Dunia engine really shines in this game as I think the only other game that uses it in full is the Avatar Movie Game.

I love the way the weapons work in this, they degrade as you use them and eventually jam and break down. It adds tension to a firefight when your gun is on it's last legs and you need to scramble to grab a fallen enemies' gun to finish off his friends. You can ambush supply lines to get access to new perfect condition weapons which will eventually break on you but for the real fun of it just use the guns the enemies drop. They only drop weapons in the worst condition and it ups the challenge and again the tension of the combat.

There is one thing I do not like about how they handled the weapons, they're broken up into three possible types. Primary, Secondary and Special. Primary are the basic assault rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles. Secondary are pistols and sub machine guns (Uzis and such) and finally the special weapons are rocket launchers flamethrowers and the like. I absolutely hate not being able to carry an assault weapon with a sniper rifle. You can get by with the dart gun in the special slot but really who wants to just put guys to sleep, I want to split skulls with a Dragunov and still be able to clean up with an AK-47.

Fire is very important in this game, you can use it to help in combat and that is really cool. Let's say you have a group of enemies in the field you can light said field on fire and kill them with that or use the same fire to corral them into an area for you to pick off easier.

I do want to mention that stealth in this game is just straight up broken. Enemies can see you from a mile away if you shoot one of their friends, you can barely sneak around and if someone lets out the slightest gasp when you shoot them in the face the whole area knows exactly where you're at. For a game that stressed how you could sneak and all that stuff for it not to work is really lame.

When you're wounded to your final section of life you get a severe wound. When you fix this wound you're treated to a gruesome animation of your character fixing the wound. You'll push bullet through your arm, reset broken fingers and pull sticks out of your leg. It's all really cool, I like how it's handled and I really wish more games would use this mechanic.

As I said in the article I did about more games needing co-op Far Cry 2 is the prime example of this. Most of the vehicles have multiple places to sit, namely the boats with a driver seat and then the gunner stations. It would of been great to cruise down a river with a friend, drop them off near the target then coordinate a strike on the target with them. This game sorely needed co-op and I think this is one of the biggest things it suffers from.

I also need to bring up the guard posts. When you pass through a guard post it's usually stocked with enemies, you kill them and move on. If you come back to the guard post they have respawned which is okay but you can just go barely out of sight of the post and turn around to be greeted with a full group of guards, all ready to kill you dead. It would of been cool if sometimes the posts are guarded by friendly units depending on you doing missions. The respawn rate on the guards should of been drawn out, you couldn't repair and restaff a guard post in a few minutes, it should take at least 24 in game hours for a post to respawn or even more depending on how far it is from the faction's main base.

The last thing I can say about Far Cry 2 that I didn't care for was the lack of mod support. Ubisoft didn't release the SDK for this one so the modders didn't get to have their way with the game. I imagine some amazing things would of been done to this one and I would of loved to see what people would of come up with.

I do list a lot of negatives here but don't get me wrong Far Cry 2 is amazing and it didn't deserve the hate it was getting by some reviewers and my fellow gamers. The game is one of my all time favorites any praise it gets it deserves but I see room for improvement in Far Cry 3. I hope Ubisoft takes some of the legitimate negative aspects of part 2 removes them and molds what's left into an even more amazing game.