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Caffeinated Saturday, Episode 05

November 17, 2012

Holy crap it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I tend do this whenever we are gearing up for a move. We moved again, in the same town though, just a much nicer house.

I’ve discovered XBLA, and goddamn, why have I let that pass me by over the years!? There are gobs of indie games for good prices, and I haven’t even tried multiplayer in “AAAA” titles yet… I can’t wait to sink my teeth into that. I actually feel fairly /stupid/ for for not jumping on this bandwagon like, TEN years ago when I first bought an X-Box. Lesson learned – get the console, get the games, get online and enjoy. I don’t know if my opposition to XBL was mostly due to the cost. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat something out as some kind of poorly thought out “boycott”… that won’t be happening again.

Speaking of XBLA, I played the living hell out of Mark of the Ninja, which I honestly think is one of the finest stealth games ever, and shows that there is still plenty of life in the 2D side-scroller genre- devs just need to be /innovative/ with their design. There are some mildly obnoxious puzzles and a bit of repetition at times, which is the only down-side. Other than that, this is easily one of the best games of 2012.

I also picked up Red Dead Redemption, which is basically GTA, Cowboys and Indians edition. It’s a pretty solid game, even though the controls are probably the worst of any game that I have played in the past five years. The control scheme is inherited directly from GTA IV, but cars, rocket launchers, and long-range gun battles do not translate well to horses, fist fights, and close quarter combat with antique weapons. I THINK I’m almost done with the game – I actually killed/captured the main villains and now I’m just doing farm chores on the farm with the family (no, I’m not joking) – which I didn’t think /could/ be made into a “campaign”… but, whatever. This is another game I /kinda/* wish that I had picked up on YEARS ago when it was new. I would have enjoyed it much more then, since I was in field camp (geology mapping course, several weeks in the mountains) and a colleague was playing the game at the time. The environment in the game is almost identical to the terrain I was traversing on a daily basis – so the game and the course would have complimented each other well. Nevertheless, the game is solid and enjoyable – unless you are averse to Western themes. It’s an interesting historical fiction, which makes me wish there were more “kinda historically accurate” period-pieces. I’m confident there are MANY eras in human history that would make incredible games. *Kinda: The only reason I’m glad that I held out on buying Red Dead Redemption is because I bought it as a “Game of the Year” edition, or whatever it’s called – which includes ALL DLC – which would have otherwise probably totalled up to +$100 with the game at original shelf cost, and I got all of it for ~$20. Not bad. I did the same thing with Fallout 3, Fallout NV, and a few other games – and each time I was glad I waited rather than having done all of the DLC incrementally and payed WAY more for the total package.

I also bought and beat the new X-COM game. A very solid game, through-and-through, with only a few distracting bugs. If forum activity is any indication of the popularity of a game, then X-COM seems to be doing quite well; but some of those posts were people complaining about the game not being a re-skin of the original. Yes, the 2012 version does feature new game mechanics, and yes it does have a plot that diverges from the original (especially later in the game), but I think the developers did excellent work. I really don’t care much for total re-skins anyway. The complainers seem to ignore that the 2012 X-COM has very solid gameplay, and implements at least a few new mechanics that eliminate some of the tedium of the original while maintaining much of the atmosphere. When I say “much” of the atmosphere, I’ve got to say that for some reason, this remake doesn’t seem as scary as the original, but maybe it’s because 18 years have passed since I played the original.

I was also playing EVE online for a few months, off and on, while waiting for Guild Wars 2 to come out. Ultimately I found that in order to really get any joy out of EVE Online, one must be absolutely resolved to spend the majority of their available time in the game – something I can’t do, and even if I could, I wouldn’t for one game. It’s unfortunate that to enjoy the game one must completely invest themselves into EVE, because there’s a lot to like about the game. Basically if you can’t get serious about PvP (the only “fun” part of the game, if you ask me), then the game is just a space-themed chat room for hyper-nerds. Solid PvP requires a massive investment of time, not only learning the exquisitely elaborate game system, but also joining a Corporation (EVE Guild) and spending days of time practicing combat with them, finding enemies to fight, and following through with a campaign of war against those enemy players. It’s almost a goddamn sport, really, with teams of various size, capability, and intention waging continual war against each other. It sounds great, but to get to that part of the game, you need to be absolutely obsessed with the game. Otherwise I found the PvE the most drab, uninteresting slog of any MMO that I have played to date.

The new WoW expansion hit shelves recently, yet I didn’t even blink. This looks like it might be the end of any real time I put into that game. The only time I play it at all is for moments at a time, a few times a month, with my girlfriend’s kid. We play together on free Starter accounts, and he’s not interested enough in the game to actually hit the level 20 cap on the Starter account.

I bought Guild Wars 2 and even played the beta quite a bit. I’m surprised that I didn’t spend time on this blog blabbing about it – but I was biding my time, waiting to see how it would turn out after full retail release. All things said, it’s exactly what I expected. It’s probably the closest thing to a mix of online Zelda: Ocarina of Time, World of Warcraft, and Call of Duty that I could have wanted, with almost all of the gameplay and social features that I have been wishing for. Yet I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 less and less lately – and I never even hit level cap with my only character. It’s still an amazing game, but I think I am probably burnt out on MMOs entirely at this point. I will continue to play, but for now it’s on the backburner. That being said, there is absolutely no reason for anyone that enjoys fantasy games or MMOs to pass up Guild Wars 2 – you only pay once – there is no subscription – and this is the most solid, well put together, and thoroughly enjoyable MMO that I have played so far.

Another reason I’m not as much into MMOs and PC games in general lately is because I ended my friendship with a gaming buddy a few months ago. He and I played many of the co-op / group games that you can find on the market right now, including plenty that I haven’t talked about yet or haven’t talked about in a while (such as Portal 2, Shoot Many Robots, Left 4 Dead 2, Dungeon Defenders, Transformers, Team Fortress 2 co-op, Terraria, Star Wars Battlefront 2, and most of the MMOs I’ve talked about in the past year or so). It’s a bummer, but it was necessary since it was unpleasant to talk to him most of the time. He is very passive-aggressive and constantly whined about US politics, even though he’s Canadian. The worst moments were when he would go on and /on/ and ON about how terrible the U.S. is and how dumb all Americans are. Look, having lived abroad before, I’ve heard it all. Bitching about the US is passe, very much a Bush-era “cool kid” thing to do in Europe circa 2000. It’s very exhausting to listen to and it doesn’t make someone look smart for bellyaching about obvious problems – it just makes them look like a bitter, whiny crybaby for complaining ad infinitum about obvious issues. My father is Canadian, half of my family lives in Canada, but I’ve got to say that a Canadian constantly complaining about America is contemptuously pompous, especially when doing so with a tone that insists innate personal superiority simply by virtue of being Canadian.

A mutual friend of ours is also American, and I don’t know how he could have put up with it for so long (they had known each other for years before I met either of them). He had it worse, being a black muslim. Our Canadian “friend” would constantly rattle out a stream of racist slurs and stereotypes – with a smile – so that it was all “just a joke”. He really liked to push people’s buttons, yet he would get upset and become very defensive with people if they took exception to his nationalistic, racist attitude. I had enough of it. He is mean spirited, passive aggressive, and simply not worth talking to. Since talking is the only thing you can do with people that you only know through the internet, I didn’t see any reason to tolerate his negativity anymore.

His venomous dislike for the United States and Americans did have some positive impact on me however, it convinced me to vote. Specifically there were items on the ballot that involved my interests and quality of life – and I realized that there are people like him in America that would probably disagree with my point of view, and it’s my right (and duty) to cast my vote in order to be counted. It’s funny to me that his anti-American sentiment has not only made me quite a bit more patriotic, but has given me solid reason to vote.

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