Been a good week! Ben and I have both been busy, and hopefully you enjoy these little stories we have for you. Dig in!
So, I saw that Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen was coming out, and I thought, “Gee, I should grab the original.” So I bought it on Amazon, and then looked at Wikipedia to see what Dark Arisen had going on. Turns out it includes the original Dragon’s Dogma… so I spent a good five minutes kicking myself in the pants, and then got over it. The expansion doesn’t add that much, anyway, so it’s not really that big a deal.
Dragon’s Dogma wears its inspirations on its sleeve– Demon’s Souls, mostly, but there’s a fair bit of Elder Scrolls wrapped up in there too. Kudos to the character creator, by the way: I was able to create a scarred heterochromic-eyed hero in no time, and she looks pretty badass every time a cutscene starts up, if perhaps a little out of place in a town full of peasants. The combat is pretty enjoyable, though most of the enemies have just a little too much life, and the story is kind of weak. At the point where I’ve stopped, I’m just doing random jobs, presumably with the ultimate goal of killing the evil dragon, but it doesn’t really feel like I’m getting anything done or have any immediate goal.
Oh, and your AI party members, the Pawns, are talkative. Goddamn. I shit you not, within 10 seconds one of them told me we were near a shop, asked me how long I thought dried fish would keep (???), and waxed philosophical about the difference between villagers and warriors. It isn’t driving me crazy just yet, but it is mildly confusing why they won’t shut up.
Just wait until the Pawns start repeating themselves.
Dragon’s Dogma, Monster Hunter and Dark Souls all fall into the same boat for me; I appreciate what they’re doing, and I think they’re pretty awesome, but I’ll never be able to get into them. They require a level of commitment to learning their systems, but aren’t willing to hold your hand or make things easier if you struggle. More power to the fans that enjoy this sort of thing, but I’ll be over in the corner playing something else, thanks.
DmC: Devil May Cry
I grabbed the series reboot of Devil May Cry this week as well, which I’ve been excited about for a while now and was just waiting for the right time to snag it. It probably tells you most of what I think about the game that I’ve cleared 17 of the 20 missions in the game in two days. Man. I was never one of the guys who was like “You changed Dante, no sale!” but I was a big fan of the old series, and I was a little bit anxious about the new approach.
I needn’t have been. DmC is fantastic, with combat that approaches the heights of previous DMC titles (it’s not quite there yet, but it’s better than DMC1 or 2, so give them some credit), a better story and execution than the series has ever had, and some visual design that is just out of this world. I honestly think it deserves to be right up alongside BioShock Infinite for this year’s most stunning visual design so far. The level design and the art in that game just go places that blow your goddamn mind.
I’m a console junkie, I can’t stand the PC, and this game has me wishing I was playing on a killer PC rig just to see what the game would look like with that kind of power behind it. Gorgeous, imaginative, well-written, fun to play. Not the longest game in the world, but this is just an absolutely amazing title that deserves your time.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Still enthralled from my introduction to the game in my first Goddamn Mondays piece, I absolutely had to play more of this game. So I set sail from my tutorial island to the first challenge– the Forsaken Fortress. A treacherous castle in the water, covered with militant monsters, and forced stealth segments.
Stealth is maybe the hardest thing to make fun in a game, and here’s a surprise for you– Wind Waker doesn’t. The art is charming, the world is charming, seeing Link hide in a barrel is charming. Crawling along behind a Moblin at a snail’s pace because you don’t have any idea what his actual vision cone is is not charming. It is obnoxious. Combine that with some frustratingly finicky platforming, and I cleared that dungeon, and I was done. Not done forever, I’ll come back to the game, but damn that left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m ready for some action on the high seas already.
Dark Messiah: Heroes of Might and Magic
Dishonored was one of my favorite games of 2012, so I figured I would take another look at their previous first-person fantasy. It may be six years old, but Dark Messiah’s combat system puts Skyrim to shame with a sense of physicality and power that Bethesda has never quite managed. Unfortunately, the non-silent protagonist is sorely lacking any hint of brain power; it takes him a few hours to realize his mustache-twirling necromancer master might be a bad person, and even longer to fight against the sultry succubus said necromancer installed inside his head. While many of us may lament the current state of storytelling in AAA games, we only have to look six years back to remember that it used to be much, much worse.
Guild Wars 2
The MMO industry is THIS close to making a game that finally clicks with me. 2011’s Star Wars: The Old Republic finally gave us a story worth caring about, but the combat suffered from the same blandness that plagued WoW and every other game of its ilk. I came to the trial weekend of Guild Wars 2 expecting the worst, and found myself pleasantly surprised. I could finally dodge and attack naturally, raining down combos and experiencing a fluidity that felt positively alien to the genre. Guild Wars 2 also boasts an incredibly diverse range of content; I completed a challenging jumping puzzle, fought off a horde of creatures with a group of players I randomly stumbled upon, and even got a taste of the franchise’s famous PvP combat.
I would have plunked down $40 to keep playing then and there were it not for the awful story that The Old Republic handled effortlessly. The acting, script, and character motivations are so lazy and hackneyed that it felt like I was watching a play penned by a 5th-grader. I found myself hammering on the keyboard to speed through every conversation, accept whatever quest they wanted to give me, and end the suffering. When someone manages to build an MMO with a strong story AND decent action, give me a call and I’ll jump right on it. Until then, I’ll stick with other genres.
I was more than a little nervous for my trip to King’s Dominion with a group of friends. I’ve been to many theme parks, but I never had the courage to ride any roller coaster with a loop or corkscrew, features that make up 90% of the interesting rides at this particular place. I resigned myself to the thought that this would be a miserable trip where I just sat on the sidelines, watching others enjoy themselves as I reflected on the tragic week.
After I gave into the group’s peer pressure and gave one of the intimidating rides a fair shot, my fortunes quickly reversed. I was having fun, and I wanted to join them on every other gigantic coaster we could find (save for the Dominator, a ride with a steep drop known for making visitors black out). As I conquered my fear of intimidating steel behemoths, it had an unmistakable impact on my spirits. I no longer felt trapped in a world fueled by a fear of bombings, shootouts, or failure. There is still an abundance of joy to be found in the world, and being strapped into a metal car, screaming my lungs out as I spun violently across the sky helped me find it again.
Let me tell you a tale of perhaps the strangest meeting of my life. Years ago, back when I was living in California, the main way I stayed in touch with my old friends from the Midwest was World of Warcraft. It was pretty good for that… until one friend, who always had a tendency to become hermetic if left alone, got a little too into WoW. He barely bothered to keep in touch with the rest of us anymore, or indeed anyone else– he skated by in college, then went straight home to play more WoW. No social interactions in the real world to speak of. Naturally, I and my other friends got pretty worried.
Well, we were both in the same guild, and he was doing a lot of raiding, and got pretty close with one of the guild’s raid healers, who was female in real life as well as in-game. Long story short, they got close enough that they started… I guess dating? It was entirely internet-based, because he was in the Midwest, and she, coincidentally enough, was in California. I’d talked to her on WoW some, and when she learned I was also in California, she wanted to meet. So now I was going to meet my alienated friend’s hyperactive internet girlfriend. Where did she want to meet? Six Flags! Naturally. That’s logical.
Now, I hate roller coasters. I mean, Disneyland, that’s great, but once you get to big boy rollercoasters, nuh uh. But… well, I was worried about my friend. This was the only person he really talked to anymore, and I was the only one who was in a position to make sure she wasn’t a psychopath. So I headed out to Six Flags one summer afternoon, and met her. I’m not here to gossip about what I thought about her, so let’s just say that she seemed like a decent person, but we wouldn’t be friends under any normal circumstances. But boy, did she love rollercoasters.
Most of them, I was content to sit on the sidelines, because as I said, I can’t stand the things. I did a few of the lesser ones, because I can handle a few loop-de-loops well enough, even if it’s not very fun for me. But the last one she wanted to do was one of those ones where you strap in to a harness around your arms, and your legs dangle way far above the ground. And she wanted me to come along, and not be a spoilsport. I caved to the peer pressure.
I won’t lie. The first few seconds of that ride were absolutely terrifying. But then, something incredible happened. I thought about it, hanging there by my armpits, zipping along at dangerous speeds: I was going to die. I was sure of it. I was not going to survive. And, well… my life hadn’t been crazy long. I’d done some stupid things. But I didn’t think I’d really been a bad person. If it was my time… then I was okay with that. I closed my eyes, and accepted it. And after that, the ride held no fear for me. No joy, not much of anything. Just waiting for the moment when I would die.
So yeah. I hate rollercoasters.