The big news is that I finished the Borderlands 2 campaign. Ended at level 33; put in approximately 40 hours. Did a lot of the sidequests, but not all of them; it’s a little exhausting, frankly. And yet, it must be said that it’s a tremendous game, vastly improved over the first – and especially as far as the ending is concerned. I am torn between starting over in True Vault Hunter mode (which makes the game harder, but where you get much better loot), or starting over with a new character (I’m intrigued by the Siren and the Gunzerker). I may very well decide to take a break from it, however – it’s a lot of fun in short bursts, but over the course of a long marathon it becomes a little tedious and I end up running to my next objective instead of shooting my way through.
I’ve been struggling to determine the game’s pleasure loop – the thing that keeps me so engaged and eager to press on. Yes, there’s tons of loot, and there isn’t a single empty crate in the game, and I’d easily say that the ratio of usable loot to trash was far better than the year’s other loot-heavy game, Diablo 3, where I’d spend literally dozens of hours before finding something worth swapping out (although it should be noted that the Auction House played a large factor in that particular instance – I found far better stuff in the AH than I ever did in the game). But loot is, ultimately, junk – there’s so much of it that it ceases to mean anything after a while, and money eventually becomes no object. (Which is handy, since I died repeatedly during the final gauntlet – the one right before the final boss, the one that ends with a gigantic Constructor bot – so much so that I ended up losing over $20,000 in resurrection fees.) The actual shooting itself is fun, although reloading is still a bitch. The story isn’t terribly engrossing, though it should be noted that the characters are really well written and acted. I suppose I’m drawn to the exploration of the world – and what a huge and varied world it is – although the game threw so many enemies at me that I never felt that I had the time to truly savor every nook and cranny.
(Honestly? I’m kinda wanting to go back and re-explore Skyrim on my PC, now that it’s been almost a year since I last played it and don’t really remember everything about it.)
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I also dabbled a little more in Torchlight 2. It’s… OK. It’s very hard to not constantly compare it to Diablo 3. And while I had my problems with D3 – especially in terms of how choppy and laggy that game could be – it can’t be denied that D3 looked fantastic, and (when it ran smoothly) it felt fantastic. T2 is a far smoother experience than D3, which is very much to its credit, but… well… left/right clicking doesn’t seem to pack the same sort of punch. It also – and I hate saying this – looks cheap. Like a top-down World of Warcraft, except somehow with less clarity. (My PC isn’t a screaming graphics machine, but it’s not shabby, either, and I’m running it with everything turned way, way up.) I’m not doubting the game’s credentials, or diminishing the work that went into it – Lord knows I loved the hell out of the first game and was eagerly awaiting the sequel – but it feels like a budget title (which, lo and behold, is how it’s priced). I need (and want) to spend more time with it, of course, both offline and on, before making up my mind; it just makes an underwhelming first impression, I guess, which is a little disappointing.
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Also finally tried the XCOM Enemy Unknown demo; oh man. OH MAN. Did the very first mission – the ultra-tutorial – and didn’t even do the base stuff before logging off and keeping the rest unspoiled. I am READY. (I played it with a 360 controller instead of mouse/keyboard; still felt like a true, solid experience, and it looked great on my PC.)
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Finally, I must pass along this pre-alpha footage, released over the weekend, of the forthcoming HD remake of Abe’s Oddysee. I don’t know that I’ve written all that much about the Oddworld games recently, but the short version is that while I’d always been into videogames, I more or less stopped playing altogether between 1993 and, say, 1998 or so – the college years. I grew up with an Atari 2600, and then played a lot of my younger brother’s Sega Genesis, and that was pretty much it for me until a work colleague bought a PS1 and the Oddworld games (alongside Crash Bandicoot and a Cool Boarders game, I think). The Oddworld games immediately brought me back into the fold – they were intelligent, they were funny, they were absolutely gorgeous, and they were fun to play with a friend – tossing the controller back and forth after each death, trying to figure out each new dastardly puzzle. And so looking at this remake – the developers would call it a reimagining, anyway – is making me all sorts of giddy. Those first two Oddworld games hold a very special place in my heart, and seeing them get this sort of loving treatment for a new audience makes me very happy indeed. I’m especially intrigued at the change of getting rid of the screen-by-screen design in lieu of a fluid, continual level – back in the old days, one of the ways of fixing a tricky puzzle was simply to step back into the last screen, thereby resetting the next one. What they’ve done here is changed the enemy AI so that if they’re alarmed, they’ll go on a short alert, then go back to their predefined state, rather than simply resetting (since that’s now impossible). Anyway, check out the footage – it looks fantastic.