A Suburban Fantasy
By Andrew Geczy
There’s an odd joy to playing games like The Sims. Perhaps it’s a joy not everyone appreciates, and perhaps it’s a joy that’s not the same for everyone. I mean what’s fun about watching little made up people go about their day, live and then die, when you could do that in real life? The whole point of video games is to pretend to do things you can’t do in real life, right? Well personally I’ve enjoyed naming sims after people I know, and characters from my favourite shows. Suddenly a boring game is fun when there are faces and names to those little fake people. Suddenly I want to root for them, and it matters to me whether they succeed or fail. It’s not a feeling unique just to the Sims. In hockey you can make your own players. In wrestling, you can make your own wrestlers. But X-com, for quite a while now, has been trying to capture that simulation aspect of The Sims and combine it with the ass kicking fun of killing aliens. Oh and the hard in depth strategy of Civilization. It’s not, perhaps, too much of a stretch to say that this game has a little something for every gamer. I can’t imagine anyone not finding something to enjoy in both this recently released game X-com 2, nor the recently free with gold first game in the rebooted franchise once previously first established in the early 90s.
For fans of the first person shooter genre, I don’t have to give the history of the Battlefield franchise. It got its roots in the, at the time overused, World War 2 setting, and brought new possibilities to gaming. It came out on the PC in 2002 titled Battlefield 1942, and the FPS landscape at the time was very different than it is today. It came out around the same time as Max Payne, Ghost Recon, and Halo, but offered something those games couldn’t. 64 player online gameplay. The game then was actually very similar to what it is now, a testament of how ahead their ideas were. The maps were iconic, the gameplay felt a little loose but was simple enough to pick up and play while also favouring realism just enough to be satisfying. They just needed technology to catch up.
My favourite game of all time is a title that has changed hands more than once throughout my life. It’s a list of games populated with all the regular cliches. Final Fantasy 7 is often at the top, for instance, though sometimes I’ll say Final Fantasy 4 when I’m feeling like a hipster. I love strong storytelling in games, and those are the games that introduced me to the concept. For a little while my favourite game was Perfect Dark on the N64 because of the combat simulator and all the options it provided. For the past while Mass Effect has been a regular go to. I’ve never felt more immersed in the role of a heroic character in a video game than I have for Shepherd in that game. The storytelling is so strong, and can change so drastically based on your choices that I really felt I was living the life of a starship captain and proving once and for all that I’d be amazing at it. And I was a complete bad ass. Dare I say I got, arguably, the best endings all three times on my first tries without really trying at all. Just role-playing. If everyone has one genre that is their genre, this genre is mine.
For as many console generations as I can remember, console wars have been waged for sales dominance, with first and second party exclusive games as their soldiers and weapons on the battlefield. There was a time when Mario would go head to head with Sonic, a time when Sega did what Nintendont. Though the players in the conflict have changed hands many times since then, the battle itself has stayed largely the same. Now it’s Sony at bat with Uncharted and Ratchet going up against Microsoft wielding the mighty Halo and the Gears of War. With Uncharted 4 and the new Ratchet already released, Sony has a head start on Microsoft who only just released the formidable though a little underwhelming Halo 5.
I never really liked the original Half Life. Sure I enjoyed the mods, and the whole multiplayer community surrounding it, but I could never beat the campaign without cheats. It was all the platforming levels. Trying to make precision jumps on small platforms that one could easily miss and fall to their death is really hard when you can’t see your character and adequately judge where your feet will land. It’s not that first person platforming is impossible, but it requires a particularly subtle hand at level design. DICE chose to tackle that challenge head on when they decided to make the 2008 free running game Mirror’s Edge. It was a game about parkour, following a path marked in red to run, jump, and slide your way from one point to another. The developer really explored ways in which to lead the player’s attention, and was able to accomplish something that felt novel and fresh, if a little wonky despite obvious and welcome streamlining.
There is only one event every year that geeks hold their breath the entire year round waiting for. And that’s Comic Con. Okay, and maybe Blizzcon, Penny Arcade Expo, Game Developers conference, and more. I’m sorry, did I say one event a year? The impact E3 makes on gaming seems to be growing smaller (some would call that shrinking) , and the conference no longer seems to have the influence it once did. This couldn’t have been made any more clear than the year when Nintendo announced they would not be showing up to the convention (Though their digital live stream seemed a lot like having their cake and eating it too).
Gears of War has been a franchise integral to the brand of Xbox since the release of the first game in 2006. At the time of release the shooter genre was a very different beast than it is now. There was a time when “run & gun” was the most common way to play a shooter. When you came across a boss, just throw ina little strafe-dodging into your arsenal and you’d be guaranteed a victory. Then designers began to toy with the idea of a more realistic shooter, and games like Deus Ex and Rainbow Six came out. Games that treated damage seriously, and asked players to utilize caution and use cover. There was just one problem. Taking cover from enemy fire was (and still is for many shooters) an awkward process of trying to crouch, using an oft-forgotten button press, and position yourself behind an item in the environment without any way to know exactly how much of you might be sticking out of each side. This all changed with Gears of war, which was the first mainstream game to allow you to snap into cover, and lean over it to sustain fire on an enemy. They were not only innovators, but they came out of the gate swinging with solid streamlined gameplay and a polished control scheme.
There has been a void in gaming, an absentee of a certain brand of First Person shooter. A statement like that will probably come as a shock to many people, as the FPS genre is arguably the most bloated and crowded genre in the current video game landscape. There’s been an ongoing movement one can plot, from before Call of Duty, pushing realistic game mechanics. Movement speed got slower, and weapons became more effective. Health stopped being a resource one had to boost with power-ups, leaning instead on a recharging mechanic that wasn’t honestly any more realistic. Since the release of Quake 3 Arena, there hasn’t really been a game that compares to its specific style of multiplayer mayhem. Thankfully Bethesda knew what we wanted before we knew we wanted it, and now we have Doom. Well not quite yet, but we had the Beta, and if it was any representation of the final product, then come May 13 we are about to be struck by a real surprise hit.
I often start these reviews by pointing out a common trend. Anyone who has read any other review for the Division is probably bracing themselves right now for me to compare this game to Destiny. Let me get that over now. This game is like Destiny. It’s a game run on numbers. It’s also like Assassin’s Creed, sporting the classic “Here’s an open world map full of shit you can check off, have fun.” approach that has been another common trend in gaming. But not the trend I’m going to talk about. I’m talking about the heart that has been lost in modern games. It seems more and more as games become larger and prettier they lose all meaning and depth. Sure when you start playing they come out of the gate strong. I had planned on giving this game a 9.0 when I started playing it. However, like many recent triple-A games, I quickly realized I was doing pretty much the same things over and over again all to make the numbers go up. If you’re looking for an overly meaningless way to waste your time with guns, there’s few choices better than the beautifully recreated New York City streets of The Division, just don’t expect anything you do in the game to matter in the end.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is a game just released, and both me and my girlfriend are falling into it in a big way. Unfortunately for us, I take my games a little to serious. Sometimes they almost even feel real to me. These are excerpts from my journal. Tune back in every couple days to see if there’s a new entry, right up to the review sometime next week and even beyond. If you enjoy this, say something in the comments to see more in the future, or visit my site linked below.
There are movements in games that you can track, sometimes deep into the history of gaming. For instance, the MOBA (Massively Online Battle Arena) is a game like Smite or League of Legends that traces its origins all the way back to a modification for Warcraft 3. Then there’s a game like Destiny which can trace its roots all the way back to Borderlands and Diablo. Diablo though? There’s no shooting in Diablo, but the basic concepts are the same. Kill enemies and complete quests to gain levels and find loot that will make you stronger. Even once you reach the max level the game continues as you find better and better weapons to multiply your powers to infinitum. World of Warcraft is another game like this. Or Guild Wars. Or Tom Clancy’s The Division.
Space and science fiction used to be popular in the nineties. It started long before then, but by the nineties we had multiple Star Trek shows, Star Wars came back, and there were more games like Elite Dangerous than I could count. And then, like Star Trek on TV and Star Wars in the theatres, there came a point in the two thousands when people didn’t really want space any more. And the space sim disappeared. Games like Freelancer and X-wing or Tie Fighter were once cherished, but now people were starved to know what it would feel like to be a pilot behind the joystick of their very own space faring craft. With Star Wars, Star Trek and The Martian all doing exceedingly well at the box office the time has never been more right for a space simulation resurgence. It’s disappointing, then, that Elite Dangerous is so complex and unintuitive most people will see in it all the faults that let the genre die a decade ago.
From the very beginning of the Rainbow Six series, death has come swiftly to those used to the standard run and gun shooters. Getting shot even once drops your health half way. If it’s in the head, one shot is all it takes and you’re down for the count. Life is precious, and every moment you spend playing the game will have you on the edge of your seat with the sound up, tip toeing through any of the 11 maps listening and watching for any sign of the enemy. Your heart will beat fast, your breathing will stop. You’ll whisper to the people in the party where you think the enemy might be hiding. With a variety of ways to tackle each map and destructable environments that make every game feel unique, on top of everything already talked about above, Rainbow Six Siege feels like it might have been the best competitive shooter released in a year with Call of Duty, Halo, and Battlefront.
As The Force Awakens sets box office records around the world, Star Wars Battlefront has everything it needs to be the next huge selling game. A thrilling first person shooter set in the Star Wars universe, it’s impossible not to compare Battlefront to developer Dice’s previous game Battlefield 4. The game modes range from smaller team deathmatches, to twenty person flying skirmishes that act as a fine diversion from the main act: the large forty person matches. The large variety of modes does little to hide the lack of things to do in this exciting generic shooter. Since Disney bought the license everyone has wondered what effect they would have on the property. Well much like a family trip to Disney World, Star Wars Battlefront feels like it’s only worth half as much as it costs, but it offers an experience you can’t get anywhere else.
The jump from last generation to this one, however, wasn’t met with as much critical praise as previous years. NHL 15 came out last year with an immediate spotlight on its lack of modes, missing popular favourites like Online Team Play where everyone on both teams are a different online player. While that specific mode was patched in later, many other examples were not and the game remained feeling empty when compared to the fantastic NHL 14. NHL 16 aimed to correct their misfire, a goal they manage to achieve, but not without sacrificing stability for greater depth.
It’s fitting that The Witcher 3 is the first Xbox One game I’ve been tasked with to review, because I am arguably both the most and the least qualified person to comment. I’ve played both other Witcher games, beating them and loving every second of it. I’m a huge fan, and because of that it might be hard to explore how effective this game would be on a new scrub to the series. After all, Jeff Gerstman of Giant Bomb fame had complained on his podcast that the game is hard to come back to after leaving for a long time. I stopped playing for months as life got in the way, and returning to the game for this review after 70 hours in and months apart, I had no problem fitting right in. But I know and love these characters. Much of the enjoyment you’re likely to gain from this game will depend on what you come into it looking for.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, families and friends are getting together to celebrate the year. But it seems now, more than ever, people are getting bored of Christmas. And why not? The Christmas music started playing in November. We’ve been listening to it for over a month, and looking at the lights that have been left up year round so that we don’t even really recognize them as festive anymore.
When Christmas day comes, how long is it gonna take before everyone at your dinner gets bored of the stockings and the egg nog and the presents. What can you do that will keep everyone entertained. Well play Xbox of course! Here’s some games you can pull out to distract the folks this holiday season.
January 2017 - Adrift Homeless Chapter One
February 2017 - Aldonn Chronicles Chapter One
March 2017 - Adrift Homeless Chapter Two
April 2017 - Aldonn Chronicles Chapter Two
May 2017 - Urban Fantasy Chapter Three
Comic Book script with an artist attached but he hasn't contributed much as of yet besides a beautiful cover.
A teenage girl suffers from Synesthesia, a rare disorder that gives her abilities above the normal human. But as her abilities grow, she begins to lose control of them, and attracts the attention of the government. Now she's on the run with her best friendwho has to escort her across the country to find a cure before her powers drive her mad.
Survivors of a Zombie Apocalypse take shelter on a cruise ship, and cast out to sea, where they come at odds with a Somalian Warlord and his pirate fleet.
The entire first arc of my upcoming fantasy saga, written as a well paced TV show.
A bridge between Adrift Homeless and Adrift. About Harbet, esteemed Klinodan space captain who leads a crew on board an ancient vessel, in an attempt to save it from the destructive grasp of an evil tyrant.