Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In Rotation, August 2010

Sneaking in just before the end of the month is the August edition of In Rotation:

XBOX 360
  • Dragon Age: Origins. Oh BioWare, I wish I knew how to quit you. I'd put Alistair, Morrigan & Co. away for a good couple months while I played a few games that were less, um, inventory managementy. I mean, once I encountered the bug that prevented my elf mage and Leliana from consummating their budding Sapphic relationship, the magic (oh God pun not intended I promise) was gone. So DA languished on the shelf until the old backlog guilt surfaced again. When I picked it back up -- and finally got Leliana to give it up, durr hurr -- I remembered why I dug this game despite its cumbersome interface. (Yeah, yeah, I know I should have bought it for PC instead, but it was on sale!) Dragon Age harkens back to my NES days, I think, in its focus on party balancing, loot acquisition, leveling up, and micromanagement that is somehow mostly fun. The game world is all pretty standard fantasy fare, but as the story enters its final act, I find I'm becoming more invested in the characters and world. This is kind of an odd trajectory for me; with a few notable exceptions, game stories generally seem to lose interest for me as they near their resolution. I suppose there's a bit of guilty pleasure in my experience, which is weird considering the near-universal praise this game has gotten. I suspect its designers might not have intended it to be taken quite as seriously as everyone seems to think.
  • Just Cause 2. A library rental of the worst kind: a slow burn. Didn't get this one when I first jumped in; the grappling hook-to-parachute thing didn't click, and the abysmal voice acting, preposterous story, and um, "ethically problematic" portrayal of the fictional islanders of Panau put me off. But once I got a sense of how freakin' huge the game world was, and how gorgeously rendered the environments were, I started to open up. I spent hours just flying the damn jet around, discovering all the locations, occasionally parachuting out to help some rebel gangs liberate a nuclear plant from the imperialist pigs or whatever. In a GameLoop panel on Saturday, Irrational Games' Senior Designer Alexx Kay commented that Just Cause 2 has "one mechanic, and it never breaks it." That was a great way of putting it: there might not be much emotional or mechanical depth to Just Cause 2, but damn if it isn't fun. And of course, just as I 'm really getting into it, my week is up. Fortunately, I had another game waiting for me in:
  • Super Street Fighter IV. So, so incomprehensible. Looks like it could be awesome if you had a fight stick and knew what in the ever-loving crap you were doing. Since I don't, and I don't, this one went back to the library without much use. On the plus side, Mrs. JPG did walk around the apartment for a few days proclaiming, "FISTS WILL FLY IN THIS LOCATION!"
  • Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles. I would write more about this spur-of-the-moment library rental if the half-hour I played of it hadn't bored me into a coma. I'm not saying the production value wasn't high, but I am saying the interesting and/or fun things to do value wasn't high.
  • Star-mother-effing-Craft. Again. Still living vicariously through this dozen-year-old classic to fend off StarCraft II jealousy. I'm almost through the Terran campaign, and man, is this thing inexplicably addictive, emphasis on the inexplicable. I get the same perverse Pavlovian sense of satisfaction out of completing a mission in StarCraft that I do out of fixing formulas in an Excel spreadsheet. The focus is so microscopic it borders on a parody of RTSes (he says in perfect hindsight). Pretty sure I've caused some permanent ligament damage in both wrists from constant clicking and hotkeying. And yet, Jimmy Raynor, I wish I knew how to quit you.
Aaaaaaand now that we've come full circle, I'll close this entry with a brief note on future posts. I've got a mess of notes from Boston GameLoop 2010 to share, along with some ideas on a few topics I've been kicking around for a while. My schedule's pretty packed the next few weeks, but I'll do my best to not neglect the blog. And, since "not neglecting" has apparently become a synonym for "doing a good job," I can finally say with some confidence: I've arrived.


  1. I <3 Just Cause 2:


  2. Darius, great post. It's funny how closely my experience resembled yours; after getting past the initial confusion of how everything works in the game world, you just sort of accept all this ridiculousness as commonplace, and move on. Chris Lepine just wrote a post about going into games in a "play" mindset, where the stated objectives of the game take a backseat to the player's whims: http://www.artfulgamer.com/2010/08/31/the-neurotic-joy-of-gaming/

    Just Cause 2 invites this kind of "play" in a way other open-world games don't fully succeed at. I found myself booting it up for an hour at a time just to screw around, which is a nice change of pace from the story-heavy games I'm usually into.