Hold Onto Your Demons: A Below Average Review For Doom Eternal Is Coming Soon(ish)

via: wired.com

My enthusiasm for the Doom series is no secret. I’ve talked about it here and here and even here. As such, a lot of you may have started to wonder why I haven’t reviewed Doom Eternal yet. The game released on March 20, 2020, which was about a month ago. That’s more than enough time to have played the entire game. So why haven’t I typed up a review for it?

Well, my dear, dear, above average readers…I’m milking this game for all it’s worth. That’s why.

During that debacle I had with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, I was forced to limit the amount of time I played the game to one hour a day. However, even though my shortened game-time was pressed upon me solely by Ori’s constraining bugs, I kind of grew to appreciate drawing out my experience with a video game.

I’m used to blazing through my favorite games at breakneck speed, a total Eager McBeaver to see the end credits roll. But I’ve realized that savoring a game makes the journey longer and sweeter, especially if it’s an enjoyable title.

That’s why I’m taking my time with Doom Eternal.

I’m collecting every item there is to collect, replaying missions after I’ve already done them once, spending inordinate amounts of time in the Ripatorium just for fun, successfully completing every challenge, fiddling around with cheats, etc. Plus, I’m still limiting how much time I spend playing games a day just to make every time I pick up a controller that much more enticing.

And I am having one hell of a time.

Pun intended.

Of course, since I’m enjoying the game so much, I’ve been dying to share my thoughts about it with you. However, I have that golden rule here that I won’t review a game until I’ve finished playing it. So you’ll just have to wait. As will I.

Seriously, I love to gush about games. It’s low-key hurting me to hold back every single thought I have about Doom Eternal.

Anywaysies, to tide us over until I do write the review, I thought I’d tell you guys the anecdote about how I got my copy of the game.

See, I had pre-ordered it at my local GameStop. And if you can recall, Doom Eternal released right as California enacted its shelter-at-home order.

I’m telling you, I have never felt so anxious to get my hands on a game. ‘Just let me have Doom Eternal,’ I prayed to every higher power I could think of. ‘Just let me get the game, and then I’ll stay inside for years if you want me to. I won’t ever leave my house. Just let me have this.

When the stay-at-home order was given, I had an opportunity that evening, (since the order didn’t go into full effect until the next day), to drive to my GameStop to try and pick up my copy early. So that’s what I did.

It was lightly raining, the sun was gone, and only a few people were to be seen. It looked bleak and grey. I left the car in a rush, the smell of wet asphalt serving to increase my anxiety levels for some reason.

Another person walked behind me, heading into the GameStop as well, a man dressed in dark colors. His brisk pace followed mine, a decent six feet between us. When we got inside, tape markings were on the floor, indicating the social distance customers were supposed to maintain. The man and I stepped on our respective spots, waiting for the one employee working to address us.

The GameStop employee was as cordial as could be, and he laughed at my transparent worry over picking up Doom Eternal. Using antibacterial gel and gloves, he found my copy and handed it to me. I took it from him reverently, thanking him profusely.

I must have looked a silly sight. I was wearing my middle school sweat pants, navy blue with white stripes on the legs, and my hot pink, long-sleeved shirt complete with hood that makes me look like Little Mac from Punch-Out!! I was grinning from ear-to-ear like a kid at Christmas. I think I might have seemed deranged.

The guy behind me, conversely, was dressed in black jeans and a black T-Shirt with grotesque cover art from some metal band on it. He was a big guy, beefy and dark-skinned, with an almost expressionless face.

As I was leaving, I brightly asked him if he was picking up Doom Eternal too.

He looked at me, not saying anything for a good, long moment. Then he smiled and said, “No, I’m getting Animal Crossing.”

Final thoughts?

The relationship between Animal Crossing and Doom fans is one of the most beautiful things to spring from this shit-show of a year so far.

Beautiful and Broken: Ori and the Will of the Wisps Review

This was perhaps one of my most difficult reviews to write.

Normally, when I love a game, a burst of enthusiasm propels me forward when typing up how I feel about it. If I hate a game, my disgust and loathing would likewise fuel my writing.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps straddles that divide.

If you read one of my previous posts, you’ll know that Ori and the Will of the Wisps burned me with game-breaking glitches and bugs that permeated the entire experience. The game actually made me cry with how broken it was.

However, I will never review a game here that I have not completed, so I made sure to power through these issues before writing a review.

And here it is.

I want to focus on the game itself for my review, but I also don’t want to ignore the bugs that plagued my playthrough. So before I dive into the game, I’m going to list the bugs I encountered and stress that when I finished playing the game (about two weeks ago), a patch had not yet gone through to address them. Do not assume they have been fixed by the time of this writing.

The bugs I came across are as follows:

  • Slowed frame rate when many enemies were on the screen
  • Glitching into walls and becoming unable to get out unless the game was restarted
  • Inability to access the main menu
  • Hiccups every time the game automatically saved
  • Freezing when opening the map
  • Triggered boss encounters causing black screen
  • Loss of audio
  • Increased poor performance if play-time exceeded two hours

That said, the rest of this review will focus on the game minus the bugs (though I may gripe every now and then). Still, do not disregard this list as it very much impacted my enjoyment of the game.

Let’s do this.

Story

Ori and the Will of the Wisps tells a touching tale very much in the same vein as its predecessor, Ori and the Blind Forest. It picks up where the first game left off, with Ori having saved his/her forest and adopted Ku, the offspring of Kuro (antagonist of Blind Forest). Ori and Ku live with their family of Naru and Gumo, spending inordinate amounts of time playing with each other, eating, and teaching Ku how to fly.

Unfortunately, Ku’s wing has been damaged since she hatched, so no matter how much she wants to, she is unable to soar like she is meant to. However, thanks to Ori holding onto one of Kuro’s feathers and Gumo’s ingenuity, they finagle a way to let Ku fly again.

During a test flight, Ori and Ku travel far beyond their home and get caught up in a storm. They land in a place called Niwen, which once had a Spirit Tree just as Ori and Ku’s land of Nibel does. Sadly, Niwen’s Spirit Tree, a willow, has fallen to decay, and the denizens of this place are prey to the vicious creatures and corruption that come with it.

It’s up to you and Ku to bring life back to Niwen and somehow make your way back home.

I do not want to spoil the conclusion, but I will say it hit me right in the feels. Even with my frustration with those glitches, the ending reminded me of why I’m a fan of Ori and his/her world and the themes that were also in Ori and the Blind Forest.

If you loved the first game, Will of the Wisps gives a satisfying conclusion (or new beginning) to Ori’s story.

Exploration

Ori and the Will of the Wisps tickled my fancy as a video game completionist. It’s as pleasant as it ever was to collect everything and see the percentage of the game completed slowly climb up.

Ori’s traversal options are expanded, and not always in the way you think. Blue moss provides sections of the map where Ori can grapple between spaces, like Spider-Man. Packed sand creates caverns where Ori must burrow through in order to reach objectives.

These new options for moving Ori around feel absolutely natural to Ori’s familiar moveset, and it does not take long to get used to.

Will of the Wisps also gives Ori a few more items to collect aside from Life, Energy, and Spirit Light. You can gather Gorlek Ore to build up your home base at Wellspring Glades. You can also collect Spirit Shards to upgrade Ori’s abilities. The collect-a-thon continues, and I loved every minute of it.

I 100% completed Ori, gathering every item, doing every side quest, and beating every encounter.

Oh, but one glitch I forgot to mention prevented me from getting the achievements related to collecting everything. So yeah…there is that.

Combat

It took me a while to get used to Will of the Wisps’ new approach to combat, but afterwards, I can recognize that it is an improvement upon the first game.

In Blind Forest, the Heart of the Spirit Tree, Sein, traveled with you. It was Sein that attacked Ori’s enemies. Sein blasted them with a dazzling light that you could upgrade over time.

In Will of the Wisps, Sein is no longer with you, leaving Ori to fend for himself/herself. As such, he/she is given an arsenal of weapons that players have to buy or collect.

This improves the combat of the game as it now requires players to pick and choose what weapons they want to use in battle. You no longer spam an attack button so much as you perfectly time a shot from an arrow, a jab from a blade, or a swing of a hammer. Combat becomes a beautiful dance that perfectly matches the manner in which Ori moves through the world.

Environment

If Ori’s movements are a sight to behold, then the environments of the game are doubly so. Every location is a work of art, beautifully rendered to convey both practical and thematic concepts to players.

In the Mouldwood Depths, the eerie yellow and blue lighting gives off a sinister vibe that all is not right in this place, and players soon learn that to go into pitch black darkness is deadly, making those glowing lights safe havens along the way.

I honestly believe the locations in Will of the Wisps are even better than they were in Blind Forest because they are so distinct from each other. Inkwater Marsh, the place where Ori first lands on Niwen, is a swampy and wooded area. Baur’s Reach is a spectacular icy world, as beautiful as it is deadly. Luma Pools feels like an alien tropical paradise, with strange pink foliage and crisp pools of water to explore.

If I could spend hours just staring at screenshots of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, I would.

New Additions

As with any good sequel, Will of the Wisps adds to the formula created in Ori and the Blind Forest. Perhaps for the first time when playing a sequel, I heartily approve of every addition.

Combat shrines are placed at certain points on the map. These Shrines give players a chance to test their skills fighting a variety of opponents. I only had supreme difficulty with one Combat Shrine, and that was because I was insisting on using a specific weapon that was, looking back, really not suited for the enemy types thrown at me.

Alongside Combat Shrines, Spirit Trials are also speckled throughout the game. These things are a bitch and a half, I shit you not. They’re basically timed races that require you to use every one of Ori’s traversal abilities to perfection. I spent more than half an hour on several of these races (because I wanted that 100% completion for the whole game). Part of the reason the bug that broke my game made me cry so much was because I lost the progress I’d made, including completing one of the Spirit Trials. Had to do the damn thing twice. However, if your game isn’t bug-riddled, Spirit Trials are basically fantastic challenges to overcome.

Ori also picks up Shards in Will of the Wisps. These Shards are what allow him/her to upgrade his/her abilities. This gave the game more of an RPG bent that I was not averse to.

Will of the Wisps gave players a central hub, in the form of Wellspring Glades, where they could relax and meet interesting characters. Populating the world with characters made the game breathe better. You no longer feel like you and Ori are alone against the world. Rather, you and Ori are handling dangerous situations for critters who, while cute, could not cut it against some of the bosses you go up against.

Speaking of bosses, yeah, Ori and the Will of the Wisps gives players boss fights. These are basically epic fights against massive creatures, complete with a mega health bar to deplete. They are way tougher than a normal enemy encounter, but they are not impossible. (I’d prefer a million boss fights to five Spirit Trials.)

Final thoughts

Honestly, the game is phenomenal. I could see that even through the tears obscuring my vision as I factory-reset my Xbox after a near-bricking bug. It challenges you as a gamer, giving you a Dark Souls-esque rush when you beat a particularly tough moment, all while being wrapped up in fantastic game mechanics and artistic visuals.

But even though my review of the game is largely positive, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend Ori and the Will of the Wisps until its issues are patched out.

I rate Ori and the Will of the Wisps a heart-breaker-because-you-can-see-how-beautiful-it-is-beneath-its-flaws-almost-as-if-someone-tore-up-Van-Gogh’s-Starry-Night-and-then-taped-it-back-together.

The Rise and Fall of the Tomb Raider: A Review of the 'Survivor Series'

While waiting for Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Doom Eternal to come out, I finally completed the Tomb Raider “Survivor” series, as the latest games from Square Enix have been called. My friend Bubba (hello, Bubba!) gifted me Shadow of the Tomb Raider a while ago, and I finally finished it.

My thoughts on the three games in the series are decidedly mixed, but for the most part, they’re positive. And as I wait for the only games I made plans to purchase this year, this is the perfect time to review these Tomb Raider games I played.

If you don’t have the time to read a lengthy review, all you need to know is that the first game is the star of the series in my opinion. It gets worse as the trilogy goes on. But, if you want to go more in-depth about each game, let’s get into it!

Story

Tomb Raider

The first game sees Lara Croft transition into her future role as the iconic Tomb Raider. She’s a young student going out into the field to test out her theories. She’s looking for the lost island of Yamatai, and she has mentors and friends accompanying her. But when her ship gets shipwrecked on the island and the situation is more hostile and mystifying than she originally thought, Lara has to survive the harrowing experience using her smarts, skills, and not a small bit of luck.

Tomb Raider excels largely because it is a beginning. Players get to experience Lara’s transition from an inexperienced and unsure explorer into the confident delver of history we know she becomes. It’s a fantastic journey to follow.

Of course, there’s a rampant case of Murphy’s Law going on, where everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Lara seemingly falls from one bad situation into the next, and it can feel like a rush of haphazardness. But this panicked type of storytelling gets the job done. It sets players on edge, heightening the peril Lara is in.

And by the time the game’s credits roll around, players are satisfied knowing that Lara’s story is only just beginning.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

The second game sees Lara a bit more experienced than in the first. She’s hot on the trail of a purported messiah, but the insidious group known as Trinity is after the same thing. Lara Croft must confront her past and her future as she is brought closer to the mystery of immortal life her father was always chasing after.

The fantastic thing about Rise of the Tomb Raider is the focus it places on Lara’s guilt surrounding her dad. Her father had an obsession with discovering this ancient culture, believed in it with a passion that drove his every waking moment, but people didn’t believe him. Lara didn’t believe him. So when he purportedly killed himself, Lara was understandably guilt-ridden.

It’s clear she’s continuing his pursuits in an effort to make up for her refusal to believe him. Obviously, there is a part of her that enjoys the discovery of artifacts and ancient history, but her father’s death is an undeniable reason for the turn her career has taken.

In the end, Lara has to reconcile doing the right thing with proving that her father was never crazy to the world. It’s a damn interesting concept, and Rise of the Tomb Raider handles it fairly well.

Another major draw of the second game’s story is that it introduces Trinity as an enemy, and having them on the field raises the stakes.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

The third game of the Tomb Raider “Survivor Series” has Lara accidentally set an apocalypse in motion.

Yeah, if you thought the stakes were high in the last game, this one really tries to lift them even higher.

While trying to stop Trinity from getting their hands on a Earth-altering artifact, Lara accidentally causes the beginning of the end of the world. She travels to South America to rectify her mistake and to see if she can’t stop Trinity once and for all.

Right off the bat, the third game has issues with Lara’s character development. The initial premise actually sets up a promising start. Lara’s obsession, eerily similar to her father’s, causes the death of hundreds of people due to floods, earthquakes, and mudslides. She has to accept the responsibility that her actions come with consequences.

But the game’s story doesn’t carry this theme through to a satisfying conclusion. Lara does not learn from her mistake, or at least you never really get the sense that she does. She saves the day doing the same thing she’s always done. Raiding tombs, shooting baddies, and hunting the shit out of the local wildlife.

Toward the end of the game, Lara has to make a sacrifice to stop the apocalypse, and for a brief moment, you get a glimpse of a weird kind of redemption. But instead of actually making the sacrifice, some hokey magic happens and…well…that’s it. Lara’s alive, her friend Jonah is alive, the apocalypse is averted, and Trinity is stopped.

Lara’s behavior is made to appear obsessive to the point of unhealthiness. And the idea that the beloved Tomb Raider is responsible for hundreds of people dying sets her up for some deep character development. But if you were hoping to see her cope with it or struggle with it, all you really see is her burying her head in her work as per usual and everything working out okay in the end.

Gameplay

Tomb Raider

The core gameplay for every one of the games in the “Survivor Series” stems from the first game. There is exploration, environmental puzzles, and combat. During exploration, Lara can find artifacts, complete challenges, and use those ever-present, video game “senses” to help her and the player locate important objects.

The puzzles involve a small amount of logic and a knowledge of how the game’s physics work. Whether you’re opening windows to allow some wind to push something out of the way or balancing carts with weights, they’re still fairly straightforward.

The combat leans toward stealth, with the bow and arrow being the preferred weapon to use in situations. The game rewards you more if you can sneak up on enemies to kill them than if you rush in guns blazing. However, there are those aggravating “action scene” moments that rely on trigger-quick reactions and QTEs to save Lara. On occasion, you might get confused trying to stealth your way through a section of the game only to realize you’re supposed to play it loud and proud. But overall, the combat is still incredibly fun.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

The second game starts to add the clutter. One of my least favorite things about sequels is when too many new mechanics are added that don’t really lend anything worthwhile to the experience.

Doom Eternal is giving me a flamethrower to incinerate demons.

Total yes.

Rise of the Tomb Raider gave me crafting.

Ehh…

I’m not against crafting in video games, but I personally felt like it didn’t add much to the Tomb Raider experience.

One of the good things Rise of the Tomb Raider added was rare animals to hunt. These intense encounters with predator animals always hyped me up. Nothing gets your blood working like a bear charging at you.

Plus, the snowy settings looked absolutely gorgeous and made the game feel different from the first based on looks alone.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

As with the story, the gameplay took a nosedive for me in the third game. The crafting was excessive, and the skill tree felt useless after a time. And do you want to know how often I used the Perception herbs to find things in the environment? Zilch, after the tutorial showing me how.

There were too many weapons available to upgrade, and they all felt the same. As a matter of fact, combat felt terrible in this final game. It became…easy. Encounters frequently relied on stealth, so much so that if you had some handy foliage and mud to cover yourself with, odds were you would survive the situation no problem. This final game became a walk in the park for me combat-wise.

The environmetal puzzle, on the other hand, did get upgraded in this game. There were plenty of times when I got stumped because I wasn’t using my noggin properly. So kudos to Shadow for that.

But you know what never makes a game fun?

Water levels.

And Shadow of the Tomb Raider added water levels. Breathing was an issue when you were trying to explore, but after a time I gave up on exploring underwater because I didn’t give a damn. (More on that later.) But even when trying to make my way from point A to point B underwater, frickin’ piranhas showed up and fucked with me.

By which I mean they ate Lara.

The manner in which you “hid” from the piranhas felt forced, and their awareness of you was hard to detect until it was too late. Once that swarm of fishies found you, you were dead meat.

And the side quests were the worst!

That’s right. Side quests.

At one point, I was asked to fetch a ceremonial horn for someone. I trotted over to the man who was suppoed to have it, but he was angry because his wife was sick and his son had gotten arrested trying to get medicine. So I walk over to where the son is held, but the guards won’t let me see him. Then I have to approach these neighborhood boys and fetch a toy they lost that’s not two feet away. The boys then feel amenable enough to distract the guards. I approach the son and tell him he’s free. I finally skip back to the horn-holder, tell him his son is safe, hand him the medicine, and then receive the horn from him.

This was by no means an interesting story, the horn didn’t really come into play in the main narrative later on, and I can’t even remember what I earned for that side mission. A feathered outfit…I think. It is a prime example of what not to do for a side quest.

But perhaps the most grievous offense Shadow of the Tomb Raider committed was getting rid of the various voice actors used for found artifacts and journals.

In the previous two games, Lara would often come across ancient writings, old journals, recorders, and other such things that told small stories of the people who had come before. Different voice actors would lend their talents to bringing these documents to life. I actually enjoyed finding these things because I was eager to hear the story of events past, the inner thoughts of a character, or a place’s history. This was one of my main reasons for exploring.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, gone is the cast of voices used to bring documents, journals, and records to life. Lara reads them all.

I take no issue with Lara’s voice actress. None at all. But if I wanted these documents to be read in the same voice, I might as well just read them aloud myself. Lara reading everything took away the fresh perspective those recordings should have had. They became almost pedantic in nature, and I lost all interest in the side stories they would tell.

Final Thoughts

The “Survivor” timeline of Lara Croft’s stories is serviceable, but toward the end of the trilogy it tempers my enthusiasm.

However, despite my complaints, overall, I did enjoy the series. It has its flaws, all of which became more aggravating in the third game, but the good times I had while playing were not negated by them. Just…occasionally overshadowed by them.

I rate this latest Tomb Raider franchise a fun-adventure-game-series-with-some-glaring-issues-but-still-enjoyable-nonetheless-that-is-if-you-are-okay-with-some-of-the-most-gruesome-death-scenes-in-gaming.

There Is Something WRONG with the Video Game Industry

As you can tell by the title, I’m not happy. In point of fact, I’m livid. I’ve never been angrier.

Why?

Because I’ve never been this hurt.

Let’s rewind a bit.

My early gaming days were ones of quiet receptivity. I never explored game stores or picked out intriguing titles for myself. I relied on recommendations from friends or direct sequels to games I already knew I enjoyed.

Perhaps one of the first games I ever chose to try out for myself was Ori and the Blind Forest, and I couldn’t have chosen a better game to start building my personal taste in games.

It was beautiful, it was challenging, and it was fun. In short, it was everything a good video game should be. I fell in love with the game, and the developers of Ori and the Blind Forest earned my trust with that single endeavor. I had such confidence in them and their dedication to a polished and engaging gaming experience.

So when Moon Studios and Xbox Game Studios announced a sequel, my gaming heart never soared higher. In less poetic terms, I jumped all over that shit.

I was your typical gaming fangirl, buying Ori and the Will of the Wisps shirts at conventions, hyping the game and its predecessor to all of my friends, and proclaiming loudly and proudly that I was preordering the Collector’s Edition, thereby cementing my fandom to the world.

Anybody who knows games and the industry behind them can see where this is heading. Gamers reading this can probably already foresee the reckoning that came my way.

After collecting my copy of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, I rushed home to play it. I had taken a day off from work solely to play this game. The first melodic notes from the menu uplifted my soul, but after a few minutes, the seeds of dismay were planted in my gut. The bugs were small at first, negligible. The game would hiccup every time it automatically saved. But the problems only got worse.

Too many enemies onscreen froze my game for several seconds, at one point crashing it, and shoving my nonplussed self back to the main menu. Ori glitched into a wall at one point, and with no way to get the little critter out, I had to quit and restart the game. At another time, after a spectacular death by combat trial, the game picked up again with a black screen, and only the sounds of Ori dying once more let me know the game was still going on.

But this was Ori, I kept telling myself. This was Moon Studios. So what if there are a few glitches. It’s annoying, sure, but just power through it.

And for the most part, I did.

A review on the game is (hopefully) upcoming, and it’s without a doubt a beautiful game…when it’s not breaking.

The bug that destroyed me, that finally broke me, came shortly after. It was 11pm, and after a decent three hours of playing Ori, I decided to call it a night. But the game refused to let me select the Return to Main Menu option. Flat-out refused. I could select any other thing in the pause menu, except that.

So after quitting the game using the Xbox side menu instead, I tried restarting it just to check if it was doing okay.

It wouldn’t turn on.

I would slip the disc in and wait for the game to start, the menu to appear, but there was just a black screen.

I ended up uninstalling the game, resetting my Xbox to factory settings, and reinstalling the game, only to discover that I had lost all the progress I had made in those three hours.

And so, this beautiful, broken game broke me. I was sitting on the couch at 1 in the morning, after dealing with this whole process, silently sobbing.

Before you call me a wuss or a baby or decry this as a first-world problem (which I’ll admit, it is), you have to put yourself in my shoes for a minute.

Playing video games, for me, is more than just a hobby, more than just entertainment (though it is that, too). It’s a safe space where I can forget about the world and its woes for a bit. It’s an invigorating experience that challenges me to overcome impatience in order to achieve a goal. It’s a story I dive into and experience first-hand. It’s a room where I can let out a scream of frustration every once in a while.

And a game that shatters this for me, robs me of all that it could be.

Again, I call out to fellow gamers who know this pain. The bitterness of losing hours of focus and work (yes, work, goddammit) for nothing is crippling at times.

Bare minimum, a video game is supposed to be entertaining, and when a game fails to reach that expectation it can be infuriating and depressing.

Now, glitchy games are considered a norm these days, and I knew that. But I had trusted Moon Studios and Xbox Game Studios. I had trusted them with my time, my money, my enjoyment, and with that all important space that video games create for me.

And that trust was betrayed.

I am aware I’m sounding melodramatic. If you share a love of video games, you’ll know where I’m coming from. But if this is still sounding a bit too overdone, let’s talk brass tacks then.

I paid a fairly hefty sum in advance for a product. What I received was not what I paid for. I received a bug-riddled game that halted my progress more than once, erased time spent playing due to unexpected crashes, and actually negatively affected the hardware it was playing on.

That’s more than just receiving a broken product. That’s receiving a harmful product.

In this post, I’m clearly laying the blame on both the developer, Moon Studios, and the publisher, Xbox Game Studios. The buck has to stop somewhere, and where else would it stop in this case if not the people who both made and sold the game.

However, they’re the symptom of a larger disease plaguing the video game industry.

Game companies are pushing to release poor products, expecting gamers to pay full price for something that can be fixed at a later time through updates and patches.

Bullshit, I say.

This practice is screwing us over at every turn. We shouldn’t pay for something that is broken. This is unacceptable.

And the worst part about this trend is that it hurts a game’s most dedicated fans. It hurts the people who go out of their way to buy a game on its release date, before any of those oh so helpful patches are applied. Why pay the full price for a game on the day it releases when, if you wait a year, it will have a reduced price slapped on it and will probably be updated enough so that it actually runs like it’s supposed to, am I right?

Updates and patches should be reserved for post-game content, a bonus for dedicated players who return to a game continually. They should not be used as a bandage over a gaping wound of a game that could have done with a few more days (i.e., months, even years) in development.

You know what I wish?

I wish I could invite any and every game developer and publisher who insists on fixing a broken game through patches instead of releasing a finished product to my house. Yup, I’d invite them in for sandwiches. Then I would take a shit on the sandwiches and hand those shit sandwiches back to them. And if they complained that this isn’t what they wanted, this isn’t what I promised, I would apologize. I would tell them I’d fix it, take it out of sight, scrape the shit off, and then hand the dish back to them.

Maybe then they would get the point.

My Love of Rapture: Taking a Closer Look at Bioshock

On this blog, I speak of my love for Halo so many times, but there is one game I have yet to discuss that I adore equally.

Bioshock astonished me in ways few games have since. I might have enjoyed Halo immensely, but Bioshock blew me away. It was the perfect combination of story, gameplay, and atmosphere, and I consider it to be one of the best video games of all time.

There aren’t many games I call a masterpiece, but Bioshock is one of them.

So for today, I thought I’d take a dive into why I think Bioshock deserves any and all accolades it receives.

Atmosphere Galore!

Setting matters in video games, more than you might think. In a movie, the setting is a backdrop to what goes on in the narrative, serving the story. In a video game, a setting is an actual place that players inhabit. You are surrounded by and interact with a game’s setting. If you’re not sold on a setting in a video game, you have a rough few hours of gameplay ahead of you.

Few video game settings compare to Rapture.

Rapture is the underwater city where Bioshock is set in. The place is teeming with personality. Areas aren’t just made for the sake of traversing through them. Restaurants, bathrooms, galleries, all assist in immersing the player in the world the game is creating. Rapture is so full of character, it feels like its own character.

Just by walking around, you pick up key details of the story. You absorb it through the nuances of the room you’re in, the furniture strewn about, and the advertisements that are fading on the walls. Bioshock’s story is assisted by these environmental details.

So not only is the atmosphere of Rapture entertaining, it is functional and informative. You learn about what happened in this once-glorious city before it collapsed into ruin. And the fact that it is dilapidated and slowly filling with water makes the whole experience uniquely eerie.

Seriously, if there was a walking simulator game set in Rapture, I’d be happy for hours on end.

Story from the Sidelines

The manner in which Bioshock’s story is told takes a minimalist path. Cutscenes are abandoned in favor of audio logs placed strategically in areas. Fantastic voice actors bring life to what people might have behaved like while living in Rapture. These audio logs not only give players glimpses of Rapture’s history, they can also provide helpful tips and clues on how to proceed.

In addition to these audio logs, the story is told by “objective givers,” off-screen characters that instruct the main character on what to do. While this story-telling mechanic gets overused in many video games, Bioshock’s use of this method leads to one of the best video game twists in history.

Another reason for why Bioshock’s story resonates with players so well is its connection to real-world ideologies.

Rapture is quite clearly based on Ayn Rand’s idea of objectivisim. Rand put forth the notion that man’s most moral purpose is to achieve his own happiness, and when applied to Rapture, this leads to a collection of businessmen and artists working to achieve their greatest dreams.

While this all sounds fine and dandy, and Andrew Ryan, one of the game’s antagonists, sure sells it as a noble pursuit, this kind of ideology at its core relies on selfishness. Each person is expected to do the best they can do for themselves for their own rewards.

But if an artist is living it up in Rapture, working to make great art, who is the person who cleans the floors, attends to sewage, and repairs mechanical issues? It’s clear to see why Rapture failed. Bioshock, through audio logs and contextual clues, reveals the flaws in this belief.

And it is this connection that makes the game feel emblematic of something greater than itself.

Gameplay Greatness

Bioshock mixes RPG elements with those of a first-person shooter. Players can upgrade weapons and the plasmid abilities they collect while roaming the halls of Rapture, defending themselves from the hordes of Splicers that attack.

The system encourages experimentation. Electrifying enemies before finishing them off with pistol shots buys players time. Utilizing security cameras and turrets around you can make for lethal distractions. Handy oil spills can mean some incineration is in order. Bioshock’s gameplay is all about catering to the imagination of the player as they fight their way through Rapture.

Even the system of saving (or killing) Little Sisters leaves the choice in players’ hands. Taking down the Big Daddies that guard the Little Sisters is a hefty risk, but once you get past them, you can reap a fine reward.

Plus, Bioshock slowly introduces new elements to the gameplay so that it always feels fresh. There is never a moment where it feels stagnant. Whether you’re introduced to new plasmids, new weapons, upgrades, research points, or crafting, the game has a very natural progression that keeps it feeling like a challenge.

Final Thoughts

I’ll frequently recommend games if I enjoy them. There’s nothing I love more than being able to share something I loved with another person.

But that’s a very subjective process, because a game I enjoyed wouldn’t necessarily tickle someone else’s fancy.

However, Bioshock is an absolute must for a gamer period. No matter your taste, it is an exemplary model of what video games can achieve when separate elements within them reach perfect harmony.

I rate Bioshock an instant-classic-to-anybody-who-has-played-a-video-game.

In Defense of the Let’s Play

Yes, this is me.

I don’t actually watch that much television. Growing up, my parents never got cable, so watching a show regularly was a thing unheard of. As I’ve grown older, though I now have access to things like Netflix, HBO, and Disney+, I still don’t watch that much television.

Or at least not what you would consider to be regular television.

Instead, I binge Let’s Plays on YouTube. I watch hours upon hours of them.

For those of you not in the know, a Let’s Play is a video where you can watch someone else play a video game.

Typing that out just now, it sounds stupid. I guess I can understand why there are people who scoff at the notion of Let’s Plays.

But I’m here today to speak in defense of Let’s Plays.

A good Let’s Play is always either informative and engrossing or comedic and entertaining. Some people watch Let’s Plays to learn more about a specific video game. Others watch it for the friendly factor of seeing someone goof up a video game.

I’m personally one of the latter.

There is nothing I like more than experiencing a video game with another person. Sadly, not everyone who is my friend is willing to sit for about fifteen hours to complete a video game with me. So I treasure the few moments I can get.

There is a specific and unique enjoyment I get from watching someone experience a video game for the first time, whether it’s seeing them delight in the same things I delight in, get the pants scared off of them, or cry at a particularly sorrowful moment.

So without having to kidnap and force my friends to play video games for me, a Let’s Play satisfies that itch.

Detractors of the Let’s Play usually say one of three things about them. The first is that it’s an incredibly boring experience to watch someone else play a video game. If you like video games, they say, why not just pick it up and play it yourself?

To which I say, sure, tell all those sports fans out there that in instead of enjoying watching a game, they should all go out and play sports professionally. Go on. Tell them.

Another issue these naysayers will bring up is the “copyright” issue. People who stream or record themselves playing video games are making money off of the material in the game instead of producing original content themselves. If you’ve seen any of the popular Let’s Players out there, you know that’s not necessarily true. The good ones bring a hefty dose of personality with them when they play. They’re almost like professional comedians. It’s a performance, and I’d say they do work to rake in those views.

The final thing I hear people complain about is how a Let’s Play deters players from buying games. If a person sees someone else play a video game, there’s no reason for them to purchase the game for themselves.

Well, I’m living proof that this is not true.

Sometimes I’m not sure about purchasing a new game unless I know I will like it. Call me stingy, but these durned video games are expensive. Before investing in a game, it’s important to know if I’ll actually enjoy playing the damn thing. A Let’s Play provides me with an extended glimpse into what gameplay is like, even more than a game review.

Also, I’m a giant pussy when it comes to horror games. Call me a coward, but I like to know when scares will happen or if a game is too frightening for me before I buy it. A Let’s Play not only allows me to observe when a jump-scare occurs, but it leaves me with lasting, funny impressions of when the Let’s Player got scared. In a way, their fear lessens my own.

And, on occasion, I watch Let’s Plays of games I could never even hope to buy because they’re for a console or machine that I don’t own.

Conversely, I also enjoy watching Let’s Plays of games I’ve already bought and played myself. (I’m a big rewatcher/replayer/rereader of things.)

Lastly, Let’s Plays have even turned me on to games I would never have even looked at had a favorite Let’s Player not taken the time to play it for their audience (namely me).

So, as my final piece of evidence in defense of the Let’s Play, here are just a fraction of the games I have played thanks in part to a Let’s Play.

Red Dead Redemption II: Yup, that game I loved so much I wrote a two part review for it, that game came into my possession because of a Let’s Play. I was super on the fence about it, especially after hearing it was a prequel. I knew it would be a long game and wasn’t sure I’d want to commit to it. I watched a Let’s Player start the game and fell in love with the look of everything. And after seeing the horse riding mechanics, RDR2 had me hook, line, and sinker.

Alien: Isolation: I was always a big fan of the Alien franchise, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about this new game. Want to know why? Because normally these games are shooters! They follow in the vein of James Cameron’s Aliens. And that wasn’t what I wanted from an Alien video game experience. Upon watching a playthrough of Alien: Isolation, I saw that the exact opposite was true. This game took inspiration solely from Ridley Scott’s Alien, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Ori and the Blind Forest: Not much was done to market Ori and the Blind Forest, so I had no clue about the game’s existence until one of my favorite Let’s Players picked it up. It looked interesting, and I watched the playthrough on a whim. Now it’s one of my favorite games (so much so that I bought the Definitive Edition), and its sequel is one of my most anticipated games of the new year.

Soma: I knew Soma would be made by the developers who did Amnesia: The Dark Descent. So even though I was very intrigued by it, I was a scaredy-cat when it came to actually playing it. By watching a Let’s Play of it, I was able to be assured that I could handle its brand of terror. (It helps that there’s essentially a no-dying mode.)

Telltale’s The Walking Dead: This game was everywhere on the Let’s Play scene when it first came out, and it’s easy to understand why. Its narrative-driven gameplay and branching dialogue options made it a game that was engrossing to go through multiple times. After watching someone play it, I bought it myself and went through the whole adventure again. Only this time, I made the *cough cough* right choices.

Waiting on a Prayer for Doom Eternal

Imagine you’re at a restaurant, and you’re about to eat your favorite meal. The savory dish is sending off aromatic scents that make your stomach rumble. You pick up your fork, about to plunge it into your food…

…but then it is snatched away before you can take even a single bite!

That disappointment you’re imagining, that’s basically me when I found out that Doom Eternal was going to be pushed off for three whole months.

We were so close, you guys. So close. Doom Eternal was set to release on November 22. I had pre-ordered it and already cleared an entire day of work with my boss so that I could spend it playing my most anticipated game of the year.

And now I have to wait till March!

Side note: Yes, I’m aware this is very much a first-world problem.

I don’t buy games often. I usually prefer to spend my time replaying games that I already have in my library. On average, I purchase about two games a year. Since it’s so rare when I buy a game, I take the selection and purchasing process very seriously. I like to know ahead of time that I’m going to enjoy the game I spend my money on.

Doom Eternal was going to be one of those games for me this year. I’d played the demo at E3, so I’d had concrete evidence that the game could potentially be the best thing my console ever ran.

And now I have to wait.

Three months doesn’t seem like much, and in retrospect, I am totally making a mountain out of a molehill. But it has seriously derailed my Thanksgiving plans. Now, I don’t have a valid excuse to laze away the beginning of my holidays.

In addition to that, I now feel worried about the status of the game. I originally had so much faith in the developers, but this news that they’ve pushed off the release has me anxious about why they need those three extra months. What bugs do they meed to fix? What glitches are permeating the game? Are they trying to add last-minute features? These thoughts are all crowding around in my head and I can’t get rid of them.

More optimistic fans take this delay as a good sign. They say that the developers are making sure that when the game releases, it is a polished, finished product. But what amount of polishing, the pessimist in me replies, could they accomplish in three months?

Instead of letting my worries consume me, I’m trying to fill my gaming hours with intensive sessions. I’m trying to burn away all the Doom Eternal longings I have within me.

I’m also buying unnecessary toys related to the franchise at my merest whim as a sort of consolation.

Hey, we all have ways to cope.