What Did You Play This Week?

FemShep.  Whole bunch of bullshit about the Ilos/Bring Down the Sky DLC.

FemShep.
The Ilos/Bring Down the Sky DLC thing? Bullshit.

Having just completed the initial Journal Club article, I sat down and to think about laying groundwork for the first Friday post.  And that’s when I realized that I was in trouble. I have absolutely no idea what game I want to play until I’m sitting there, actually getting ready to play a game. That being said, I was definitely going to have trouble writing a post about what game(s) I was going to be playing in the near future. I know what you’re thinking, “Great, another change. What is it this time?” Well, as it’s easier to say what you’ve done rather than what you will do, I’ve refined Friday posts to: “What Did You Play This Week.” From what I’ve written so far it seems to capture the forethought and anticipation that video games can create, even though it’s rooted in the past tense.

Basking in the afterglow of a successful Mass Effect campaign, I thought I would try to fall in love again with my XBox 360 to finish some of the games I never managed to complete. First was Batman: Arkham Asylum. My save game left me off at the part where you head to the party the Joker’s throwing for Batman at the Visitors Center – just from my gut, I was pretty close to the end of the game. Then several things happened in quick succession.

  1. The game glitched and a maniac pinned me against a door, forcing a restart
  2. The Joker says “You had to spoil everything, didn’t you? Beating up Bane, feeding Scarecrow to Croc, slapping around Harley, MY hobby by the way, and ruining all my lovely Venom plants!”
  3. I tried not to barf and turned the game off

A stark reminder of why I wasn’t able to enjoy or finish Arkham Asylum. The fact that this game won as many awards as it did, also makes me feel gross. I’m not above reproach on this one, because while my memory is foggy, this definitely isn’t the first statement of the kind the game has made. I just remember all the controversy surrounding incidental conversations of criminals about Catwoman when Arkham City came out (apparently the voice acting relied heavily on the word “bitch”) and this too stains my original thoughts about the game.

This isn’t to say issues like that can’t be referenced in the Batman comics.  The game makes clear references to Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo’s Joker as well as Alan Moore & Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke and rather than winding up with Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight, they came up with a homoerotic, misogynistic Mark Hamill. It’s disappointing, because Mark Hamill did really great work in Batman: The Animated Series. His voice acting attempts to fill the shoes of too many different incarnations of The Joker and all of them end up suffering as a result.

And Coats. http://goo.gl/gUjQx

Vashyron’s got a motorcycle jacket with ammo pouches, Zephyr is about to lead a parade, and  Leanne is wearing something practical and stylish.
http://goo.gl/gUjQx

Shaking all that off, I popped out the offending disk and decided to give Resonance of Fate a try. A subtle storyline unfolds in front of a backdrop of John Woo grade combat and epic coats. The issue is with that game is it can be incredibly slow to anyone without the controller in their hands – it is slow-moving and demands a good bit of attention due to so much world building taking place in incidental interactions. So while I’m still dabbling, it’s not scratching the gaming itch I have, so I’m giving it a bit of a break. If it’s ever released for the PC, it would be so much closer to the way I want to play it. It’s not great for group play as it tells its story in hours of nuanced dialog and off camera inference.

Still waiting for Mass Effect 2 to come in the mail. The one downside as far as getting a used copy is the slow delivery. I’m hoping it doesn’t take too long to get here from Illinois. A used version of the game became a much better deal since EA got rid of all their online gaming pass nonsense – you just pop in the disc and install it from XBox Live. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how the rest of Kristin’s Mass Effect experience pans out.

Finally, I’ve been spending the most time playing the closed beta for Card Hunter (sign up here). Minus a couple of fiscal missteps (which I’ll admit, I’m overly sensitive to) I think it’s a great game with a novel twist on the suddenly ubiquitous electronic collectible card game. Tonally, it reminds of The Knights of Pen and Paper. Same tongue in cheek attitude, same self-aware brand of Dungeons and Dragons based humor. The game truly shines through its mechanics. The logistic/deck building portion of the game consists of outfitting your character with various items. For example, a sword would have 6 cards of various strengths or even penalties. As you load various items into their respective slots, your deck begins to build itself. Having more discrete blocks of cards removes the some of the abstract nature of CCGs, and gives a distinct feel for a character and a more intuitive sense of the game. The logistic portion of the game is about exploiting enemy weaknesses and setting up synergies between your pieces of gear.

Sample combat

Sample combat

The strategic portion of the game breaks down into a miniature style D&D encounter. The 3 person party is placed on the map, along with the opposing party and then the groups alternate turns. During each phase the players alternate playing one card of their 3 heroes 4 card hands followed by the enemy, and so on. This continues until both parties pass on the same turn, which leads the hands being drawn back up to four. Cards can take form of attacks, healing, offensive spells, movement, equipment and several more. This phase is more about problem solving and adaptability.

One issue I had with the monetization efforts that apparently all games have to engage in. Most of the time Card Hunters gives you a taste of whatever boon or acceleration that money can give you, and wouldn’t you like more? The first time they suggest that you join the in-game Card Hunter Club, which results in one extra piece of treasure per victory, it leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth.  The fact that the bonus item is staring at you every time you win a round, it’s doing what it’s supposed to but something in there doesn’t feel right.  Conceivably the game could be abused by those who spend money over time and the areas called “Treasure Hunts” are behind a paywall.  Basically, everywhere you go, there’s a little free-to-play fly zipping around your head.  All in all, it’s a great game and Card Hunter only a misdemeanor offender in terms of scummy monetization habits, but it’s just intrusive enough to take away from the game.  I hope they give it a little more polish as it comes out of beta.

That’s it for the first, “What Have You Played This Week” so drop a quick note as to what you’ve been playing this week – games I should check out, games I should avoid, funny things that happened, it’s up to you.

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