It’s pretty clear that I’m a big gamer. All kinds of games, really. I’ve worked in the AAA PC gaming industry as a support agent, in the indie arena as a script designer, community manager, and lead designer. I have even designed pen & paper systems. I love games almost as much as I love telling stories.
Hell, my wife even works as a manager at a boardgames company here in North County, so you can say that games literally pay the bills in our household.
I’ve been heavily into video games since my parents bought a TI-99/4A in the early ’80s. I even taught myself to code (Basic) on the console so that I could create interactive fiction games. So the heavy slant towards gaming posts (such as the last two Geekssential entries) really shouldn’t shock anyone. I love to write, and that’s “what I do” so to speak, but it’s not my only passion.
So I’m going to be dropping a series of posts here at the end of the year talking about 2013′s best games from my perspective. Some of that may get a little squirrely as I talk about some games that I have not actually played, but more know of and have something to say about them as a result. I’ll do my best to point that out when I get to them.
This first post is going to take a look at four different sequels which came out in 2013 and are worth looking at. Without any further ado, I’ll launch into the first one now.
I finally played through this during November (sorry Avenging Angel words) after having a fellow writer big it up repeatedly. I’d been meaning to get around to it since a long-time friend talked about the game way back at release. All I can say is that I owe Tiffany and Dane thanks for the encouragement, because the narrative in this one is exceptional. I won’t ruin anything, but I was moved to tears, and while I’m a big girly man who cries about a lot of things, the number of video games that get me is limited. (I tend to weep over films and books much more often.)
This is a beautiful, atmospheric, tight game. Its gameplay is not entirely standard, as it adds the character of Elizabeth who assists your Booker during most of the game. She’s good at finding you ammunition, health, or salts (mana) when you’re in a tight spot, and had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of cash stashed, errr, somewhere… Plus there’s skylines which add to the fun as you zip around in what I’m sure is a vomit-inducing manner for the less rock-steady gamer. (I cut my teeth on Descent, folks, I can’t be made ill by video games anymore.)
Grand Theft Auto V
Stupidly well reviewed, this one. I’ve played, but not gotten much further than a handful of main story missions (mainly because I keep doing side quests as they unlock) and have to admit that this is one of the few games (I’ll blame Skylanders: Giants on Bridgette) I have purchased at full price outside of the MMORPG genre in years. Good job, marketing machine, you got me. And hey, Rockstar has done a nice job in general with the game itself.
I expect that this one will get finished eventually, but I’m not convinced that it will be any time soon. It wasn’t helped by the demise of our XBox 360S (we picked up a brand new 360E from Amazon while the sales were running) and the acquisition of five new 360 titles (I went a little nuts when I knew I’d have a new/old console) but with the number of games I still have on my plate from 2012, the ones I’m more interested in from 2013, and some I’m hugely looking forward to in 2014, I expect I probably should have held off until later with GTAV…still, I didn’t, and that in and of itself is a testament to how good the game looks and how interested I am in playing it. (Worth mentioning I also played APB when it first came out, much to Bridgette’s dismay.)
I totally just did a Geekssential on this franchise (and this game in specific) this week, but I’m going to point out again that it is worth checking out. I haven’t played it all the way through, but what I have experienced thus far has me wondering if I can’t just club the kids over the head to get peace enough to play again right now. It’s that good. I can see this being the next game I finish off. (Go the fuck to sleep, kids.)
Graphically the game has much to offer, with both stunning cutscene cinematics and haunting environments giving your eyes something to feast on. There’s puzzling and shooting and jumping about galore, but also a solid emphasis on survival and the terrors of the unknown. Reboots are a risk, but this one seems to have paid off. (Says the guy who only really became interested in the games with this incarnation…)
Metro: Last Light
I do not own this game. I have not played this game. I have not even played Metro 2033. The reason this game gets a nod is for a number of reasons.
The development team worked under conditions that would have resulted in most teams not even succeeding at putting out a game. (No heat, smuggling hardware into the country, a tiny budget, etc.) From what I have seen, the atmosphere (and in particular, the lighting) in the game is incredible. I have very nearly bought the game multiple times since its release. The only thing that is holding me back is the copy of Metro 2033 that I keep telling myself I’ll play first.
I grabbed these four to spotlight, but let’s be clear, there were other good (or at least good-looking) sequels this year. The aforementioned Skylanders franchise gave us Swap Force (and cost us easily a hundred bucks in a single outing), the current co-op game we’re playing. (One of last year’s biggies: Halo 4 is up next, if Bridgette can get over her need to hork every time a screen turns.) The revamped Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was a hell of a lot of fun to play. We only did the free month (honestly, so little time…the game itself was loads of fun) but I loved the class system…and being able to JUMP. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag came so very close to wringing 30 bucks out of me when it went on sale briefly, but I managed to resist in spite of my love for pirates. I suspect it will eventually win out, but as of now I have a very long list of pending games to get through…and some novels to write.
Obligatory Eye Candy
The closing video is a look at Metro: Last Light. If you watch it, I think you’ll see why I’m really interested in getting my hands on the game at some point.