Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Quick Review: The Longest Journey

Geeze, that took forever. That is one game that really lives up to its title. It feels like it too. Anyways, quick review of The Longest Journey.

As a matter of fact: yes.

Genre: 3rd Person Point and Click Adventure

Story: To be honest, I thought it was only okay. It's really grand and sweeping, but the characters seem somewhat inconsistant. The world and lore around it are really neat, and the attention to detail was great. Also, it has a really satisfying ending, though I was surprised that a few things weren't tied off. Not the best adventure game story, but it was decent.

Graphics: Background still look pretty nice, but low-res text and 3d models are annoyingly out of date. And the pre-rendered FMV sequences look really horrible. It's not too bad though, and it certainly isn't eye-straining. It just would be nice if it hadn't aged so badly.

Music: Nice and atmospheric.

Voice acting: It was generally pretty good, but it felt really scripted at times. Most characters were also boring to listen to. Except this talking bird named Crow. He stole the show. Actually, on that note, the ending has him in it as a major character, and I think that was the best choice in the game. When you first meet him he's an inventory object, but his progression is really great and you grow really attached to him. The ending was an excellent nod towards this progression of the character, and felt really great.

This guy right here. He's awesome.

Gameplay: *sigh* I really wanted to enjoy it, but this was honestly painful. This game pretty much represents every bad design decision that is a trope of Adventure Games. Ridiculously overcomplicated MacGyver puzzles? Check. Agonizing walking speed? Check. Fetch quests and running back and forth? Check. Tons of dialogue with a really boring and simple dialogue system? Check. Annoying timed part in which you wrestle with the controls? Check. Honestly, it's terrible. Unless you're a hardcore adventure gamer, you're gonna hate the gameplay.

Puzzles: See comment relating to MacGyver puzzles. Also, I really had to use hints for most of this game. There's no way any sane human could think up half the stuff you have to do.

Length: The first third of the game feels just right, the middle feels too long, yet the ending feels rushed. Overall though, it felt a little too long.

Overall: You know, I really wanted to like this game. I haven't played a good adventure game in a while, so I was hoping this would be one. But I don't think so. It has some good parts, but it has a lot of bad parts. Crow was an amazing character, though even he's not very memorable since he's in such a bland game. Ultimately, I'd say skip it. There's a lot better out there.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Six: Modout 3

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3. Er, sort of.

SHADE: Pffff.... god this is boring.
SHADE: ...there's gotta be some way to make this game more interesting.
SHADE: Hm? Mods?
SHADE: *clicks*
SHADE: Shoot.
SHADE: *downloads*
SHADE: *plays*


SHADE: ...god this is boring.

To be honest the game kept me entertained
for about a month and introduced me to some neat ideas. (1960's robot designs were really cool.) It at least
deserves props for that
Plus, the modability on
the PC is really neat, and there is a ton of really creative and great
extra content out there. In the end, it doesn't save the game from eventually slipping from my mind, falling into the same stack of brilliant-yet-flawed-games-that-I've-beaten (and will probably not play again for many years), next to titles like Neverwinter Nights and Assassin's Creed. Was it worth 60 dollars? ...ffhhh... is any game? I dunno. If it weren't for the flaws, I'd say Fallout 3 comes damn close.

Just make sure that if you play it, you try out a ton of mods afterwards. That really does help save the game from doom.

In the end: It was fun. It was mindless... but fun. I reccomend that you try it on a console, and if you like it, buy it for PC. If your PC can handle it, that is. And if it can't, don't buy it at all.

And that's all I can say about the game.

-Review End-

- Shade Jackrabbit

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Five: The End?

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3.

Of course, at the end of every journey, it must come to a close. Well, okay, it could decide not to come to a close and encourage open-world gameplay, but that only works if your world is interesting and there is some sort of appropriate award for doing so. (Learning more about the story, for example, is often a good reward for RPGs. Unfortunately the story in Fallout 3 is too weak for this, as I mentioned in Part Three of my review.) I don't really think Fallout 3 would benefit from an open-world ending, so the rather abrupt and decisive ending didn't really bother me. Still, if you want to be able to continue fighting "the good fight" after the ending, you may want to look into getting the some of the DLC (downloadable content) such as Broken Steel, which apparently lets you play after the ending.

Truly he was the master of the wasteland.

At this point though, I found myself a bit confused. I had finally gotten through the game. It had been a long and hard journey, and I had conquered all odds. But... something was missing.

Sometimes games have the problem that, after you beat them, you just want to keep playing. But at a certain point I found myself not even looking forward to playing Fallout 3. The world was too bland, my skills were too high, and I had to install a mod to allow me to keep levelling up, for I had hit the level barrier way too soon. There just wasn't a challenge. When I beat the game, I felt relief.

Except... I didn't.

I have to admit, shots like this are pretty awe-inspiring when rendered in full 3d.

There was something about the wasteland that called me back. Maybe it was the fact that half the map markers were left un-seen. Maybe it was that I had played the good guy yet in the end I died, leaving a hollow feeling like all my work was for naught. (Speaking of which, in the end you either live or die, and it's pretty much a yes/no choice.) Maybe it was even that I wanted to know more about what was going on.

But it wasn't any of those things. I'll tell you what it really was:

I was bored.

This guy may be having more fun than I was at that point.

When it comes down to it, I think Fallout 3 is quite honestly one thing: Unsatisfying. That's not to say it's bad, as it's quite a bit better than some RPGs (like Dungeon Lords, though that isn't hard), and the gameplay is pretty satisfying, but it's really not much better than playing solitaire for hours on end. There quite simply isn't much thought, and the world isn't very intriguing.

And I think what bugs me the most is that it could be so much better. There are some really bad mistakes that Bethesda made, that really hold the game back from the title of "masterpiece". I really wanted to like the game, and there were a few points (listening to my robot butler tell horrible yet brilliant science jokes, completing the Wasteland Survivor Guide for Moira Brown, taking out a base of raiders or slavers with a sniper-rifle) that were really fun and are even, dare I say, memorable. But most if it is just so bland.

It's too bad really, because I spent a long time on this game, and I'm not sure if it was worth it. On one hand, it pushed the bar and reminded me that "satisfactory", "safe" and "solid" games aren't good enough, and had some really nice moments. On the other, most of it was forgettable, and the ending gives no satisfaction.

I guess to summarize: Gameplay? Pretty good. Story and Dialogue: Passable. Graphics? Both impressive and lacking. Music? Great. Overall?

...I don't know. I've written five parts about this silly game. It's crazy. The game's not bad, like Dungeon Lords. The game isn't really good, like BioShock. The game's just... mediocre? No, even that isn't right. I don't know what to think, or what to say about the game. It's... solid. The game is very solid. My reccomendation? ...I have no damn clue. Borrow it from a friend? Try it? Hopefully all this helped, cause I still don't really know what to think.

Just... something doesn't feel right. Could this really be... the end?

Images used in this review do not belong to me, nor do their contents. I took none of them myself, but merely found them on Google. I assume no ownership and am using them for referential purposes. If you do not wish them to be used, simply send me an e-mail and I will replace them.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Four: Graphics, Music, Sound

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3.

So before I wrap up the review, I still need to talk about the polishings. You know, the eyecandy, the sounds, the music; the stuff that any game that wants to succeed as more than a niche title or wants to hide gameplay flaws must have.

And you know what? This is one of the areas that Fallout 3 really succeeds. ...and fails a tiny little bit. Let's look at the graphics first: They're really good, but when you look closely kinda bad. Let's look at some shots, shall we?

Yeah, this is why the bomb is bad.

The shot certainly looks really good. The sky is overcast and dark, and we can see the wreckage of what used to be a small town, including cars and a house that have been ruined. Off in the distance there's some of those power line things, and let me just tell you: that's not a flat image. Those are 3D objects, and it's pretty damn impressive. Now let's look at another shot.

I'm interested to know how a tire got buried that deep in the ground.

It may not be that seeable here. But look at that rock in the lower-left corner. Anyhthing seem odd about it? Okay, yeah, I shrunk down the image so it's blurred a little. Let me just crop it to show you.

Is this a rock or rubber?

Okay, not so good now, is it? Note that this is with the highest-resolution textures. It's rather disappointing, really. Considering the technical capabilities in this day and age, it would've been nice to have a "super-high" setting for textures, to get more realistic ones. It's not as apparent when wandering the wastelands, but when you get indoors it can be really blatant and a little annoying.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the graphics are pretty good. They looks dank and depressing, and really feel dead. Great for a game taking place in a post-apocalypse wasteland.

Now the music is an area where the game really shines. The game doesn't really have any music, except in certain places where it is added for atmosphere. But most of the time you have to listen to your radio, which is often playing songs from the 50's. Pretty cheery songs too.

Actually, it's an interesting clashing effect, the graphics and the music. You'll have a pretty happy song playing, and you'll be attacking supermutants with your shishkebab. And sometimes it seems to just fit perfectly too, in a twisted sort of way.

And the sound? Well, the sound works. Quite well. Great game to play with headphones.

So overall: Nice eyecandy and earcandy, though the former needs a tad bit more detail.

Oh! And I said at some point that I'd talk about the supermutants, didn't I? Okay, well... they're orcs. Seriously, they're just people that mutated into orcs. But they're pretty deadly.

...I really can't add more. They're just orcs.

Images used in this review do not belong to me, nor do their contents. I took none of them myself, but merely found them on Google. I assume no ownership and am using them for referential purposes. If you do not wish them to be used, simply send me an e-mail and I will replace them.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Three: Story, Dialogue, and Atmosphere

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3. Sorry about the lack of pictures in this one, but there's not much that can really be shown.

So what's a well-designed game without a good story to match it? ...well, Fallout 3, basically.

You see, there are a lot of problems that can cause a game's story to just not be good enough. Sometimes the story tries to much, sometimes it doesn't make you care enough, sometimes it gives you too much free reign, and sometimes it's completely seperate from the game.

Well... yeah, it's the last three. The main problem with Fallout 3's storyline is that it doesn't really matter what you do, aside from a few places that are part of the main plot. Okay, yes, the game cares about whether or not you blow up Megaton, but it certainly doesn't care if you retrieve Agatha's violin so she can run her radio station again.

That one in particular really got to me, because the whole time there's been only one other radio station that isn't broadcasting government propoganda. Yet when Agatha's station is renewed, nobody listens to it, and nobody seems to really care. Well, yes, it is very nice to have a new radio station playing classical violin music (a favorite of mine, which clashes nicely with blowing up zombies with grenades), it still isn't enough in terms of story. What would've been cool would be if you went back to Megaton, and someone's listening to it, and comments "Oh, hey there! Have you heard this Agatha lady's music? She just popped out of nowhere, apparently helped by a certain wasteland wanderer? *wink wink* Love the tunes she plays. So anyways, what did you want?"

Now, this isn't the only case of disconnect between actions and story, but I think it's a good example. We're talking about an entire new radio station, yet nobody seems to care.

And the story itself doesn't really hold up. Whenever you talk to people core to the storyline, they act as if time hasn't passed nearly as much as it may really have. For example, after moving into Megaton, people still will think you don't live there. And when you catch up to your dad, he acts like a lot less time has passed than it probably has. (For me, it was probably close to a year of in-game time, he acted like it was a few weeks.)

And the final nail in the coffin that makes me label this story as "poor" is that I don't care about any of the characters. Even dear old Dad doesn't feel as close to me as my shotgun, because he wasn't around for long enough. You're supposed to feel for him because he was there for 17 years of the character's life, yet he's only there for like 30 minutes of the player's life. This is pretty damn important. Characters like Moira Brown or the Sheriff from Megaton are more connected to me, because the latter is keeping an eye on the place I've spent days of the game in, and I've been trading with Moira as well as researching for her book. (It's one of the sidequests, and a pretty good one, if I may add.) But dear old dad? Bah. Hardly knew him. No character connections, no empathy, so I don't care.

And speaking of people, they really talk funny. I know I'm Canadian and may not know what most Americans from Washington D.C. sound like, but the dialogue in Fallout 3 is really... poorly acted. It's pretty wooden, although oddly enough it seems the male actors did a worse job than the female actors. I don't know why that is, but most of the men are really boring to listen to, and it's very hard to care about what any of them say.

That being said, a few performances stick out. The robots in particular are really well-acted, and some of the scientists have quirky and very mad voices. (The very stereotypical "scheming mad scientist" voice.) A few of the characters early in the game are done really well as well, such as the bully, Butch, who sounds like an authentic jerk.

A really impressive thing about the game is actually how many people are voice acted. Namely, all of them. It's not that impressive at first, but after playing for hours on end it really does help the feeling of immersion and is simply brilliant to see this sprawling wasteland where even the lone wanderers have their own lines. Not to say that those are original lines (they often duplicate across multiple people) but it's still quite an earfull. (What did bother me in particular though was the old man voice. He
seemed to play basically all the old men in the game, and it was really
obvious by the end.)

Now, this isn't to say that the place feels alive. This is the wasteland of a nuclear apocalypse. This place is dead, with what's left being either heartless monsters or small groups (or on occasion singular people) using all their effort to stay alive. And I really do have to say, the game pulls it off quite well. From the crushed houses to the collapsing metro and sewer stations, the game really feels like it takes place in the remnants of society. Order has given in to chaos, and there are only a few bastions of law and peace in the land. And those are constantly under threat.

Actually, one of the best atmosphere components is the raiders. Basically groups of sadistic wanderers, they hunt the wastelands and attack caravans; they mutilate, torture, murder, and downright destroy the people they find, and are really just plain sick. They're the crooks, the serial killers, the psychos: the people who can now run free thanks to the loss of order. I'd give you some pictures, but I really can't. There's a reason for that M rating. Still, they really add to the sense of hopelessness and despair that the dead wastelands have, and the game would certainly not be the same without them.

So to summarize: While the story itself is really poor, the amount of dialogue in the game and the fact that everyone talks is pretty amazing. The atmosphere is also really good, immersing the player into the world.