A video game bonanza

I’ve been meaning to post reviews of games I’ve been playing for a couple months now. But things came up and one thing led to another and…

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So instead here’s a cornucopia of non-review impressions instead.

Avalon Code

Really interesting concept. The world is ending, and it’s up to you to “scan” important things in the world in your “Book of Prophecy,” in order to help create the next new world. While the story is fairly linear, there’s some great character interactions and a sort-of dating sim-like experience that makes you want to keep playing to find out what happens.

The game’s hack and slash fighting, the puzzles, and the soundtrack especially evoked a Zelda-like feel. The “Book of Prophecy” serves as a library as well as an laboratory in which you can not only access the enemies and items you’ve come across, but also weaken or strengthen them, or create new items, by mixing elements together. Mixing things around is actually a lot of fun, but it hits upon the game’s biggest weakness – inventory management. Instead of say having a central storage of gold bars to pick from, you have to go search for the item or enemy or character that has the gold bar, drop it into your limited storage compartment (you can only hold 4 items at a time), and then go back to the original page you were on. I don’t think if I explained that well, but let’s just say if I spent 30 hours playing the game, I probably spent 15 hours of it paging back and forth in that damn book.

I really liked the scanning concept. If they worked on the inventory management piece, it’d make the game a lot more enjoyable. As it was, it was still a fun ride, and worth checking out, just be aware of the annoyances.

Suikoden Tierkreis

This was my first Suikoden experience, so I can’t compare it to any of the previous versions. After some early irritation with the game’s auto-battle mechanism (I hate auto-battles), I actually enjoyed this a lot. It’s a pretty straightforward turn-based RPG, but it has a great story, plenty of side quests, and with 108 total characters to recruit, a Pokemon-esque desire to “catch em all.” This is the one rare game in which I went out of my to complete everything and recruit every single one of the characters, so I could see the “special ending.”

One thing that irritated me in the beginning was the voice acting. Everyone spoke really, really fast and many of them seemed to have Canadian accents. It was a little weird. I don’t know if I eventually just got used to it, or if the v/o got better, but by the end of the game, I didn’t mind it, and actually liked the fact that there was a very liberal amount of voiceover in the game. There’s also a surprising amount of animated sequences in there. Between that, the voiceover, and the generally fantastic graphics, I was impressed by how much Konami was able to fit onto the cartridge. Definitely worth checking out.

Crysis and Crysis: Warhead

It’d been a while since I played a FPS on my PC, as the graphics revolution had left me behind for a little while. But I built a new PC a few months ago, so I’ve been catching up on some games I’ve been meaning to play.

I was a big fan of Far Cry, so I was eager see what Crytek had up their sleeves with Crysis. And you know what, they knocked it out of the park. Crysis was an advancement over FC (I haven’t gotten around to FC2 yet) in every way. Graphics, gameplay, but most importantly, story. Crysis has a exciting story that really sucks you in. I also liked the varied environments. Anytime a FPS isn’t taking place in some colorless, shadowy hull of a ship is plus. It’s a must-play for FPS fans and I’d recommend checking out even if you’re not terribly keen on FPSes.

Mass Effect

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my love affair with Bioware has ended.

I loved Knights of the Old Republic. It’s my favorite game of all time. No game sucked me in like KOTOR did. I remember the twist about 3/4 through that game just totally threw me for a loop. I actually stopped playing the game for a day or two, so I could come to terms with the twist. It shook me up man. Then KOTOR 2 came around, and I liked it a lot for the first 80% of the game, and then it became clear that they rushed it to get it out the door, because the last 20% of the game was a complete mess.

Then came Jade Empire, cool setting, martial arts, what could go wrong? Well, the story was sort of lame. The dark side/light side thing wasn’t as interesting, and overall it was just sort of boring to play.

Then came Mass Effect, and it took everything that was bad with Jade Empire and just kept going downhill with it. Repetitive side quests, NPCs that won’t talk about anything besides the weather when you’re out in the field with them, a bland story, and an uninspiring main character. About halfway through, after I realized that every side quest was identical, I decided to just try to get the main story over with as soon as possible. This is in stark contrast to KOTOR in which I played through like 4 or 5 times to make sure I got everything, checked out every dialogue tree, do the good/bad endings and max my levels as high as possible.

I probably would recommend skipping out on ME.

Call of Duty 4

Amazing what a change of scenery can do. Loved the new, timely setting. I mean how many times can you keep fighting the same war over and over? Definitely worth playing if you’re a FPS fan. Otherwise, it’s probably not interesting enough to capture your attention.

Half-Life 2, episode 2

Half-Life is Half-Life, which is to say it’s incredible. And episode 2 is more of the same, although there’s still major portions of the story still hidden in the shadows. Incredible ending to this episode though. The way Valve directs and designs the game experience is just amazing. If you’ve never played an FPS, HL is the one you should start with.

Portal

I’d heard so much about this, and was curious about the hubbub. Puzzle games are not my forte, but I actually had a lot of fun with Portal. For one, it’s short. Probably only 3-4 hours long. But more importantly, it’s challenging, but not ridiculously difficult or cheap in any sort of way. The fantastic level designs Valve did with Half-Life? Well, it shows in Portal as well. Finally, it’s a hilarious game. Murderous robots with a viciously sarcastic wit = WIN. Definitely worth playing. Especially when they do those Orange Box sales on Steam. I was able to get Portal, HL2 and all the episodes and Team Fortress for $10.

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