weekend recap: all tombs raided

Finished Tomb Raider.  Currently at around 93% completion, and I’m not sure I give a shit about finding the last few things there are to find.  Lara is fully leveled up, as are her weapons (not that there are that many people to fight), and the stuff that’s left (mostly GPS caches) doesn’t have much of a payoff.  Usually when I finish one of these kinds of action/adventure games, I feel compelled to go back and replay one of my favorite levels, if only to really take in the scenery and find all the hidden stuff without the pressure of combat.  But you can’t really do that in this edition of Tomb Raider, as there aren’t really any levels to speak of.  There are certainly different geographic locations on the island, but it’s not quite the same thing.

I think, overall, that it’s a very good game; that the developer’s intentions were clear, and that they were largely successful in achieving what they set out to achieve.  But it’s not perfect; there’s still too much killing (and, let me tell you – for a girl who starts out hesitant and apologetic to kill a deer in order to survive, she ends up kneecapping dudes with pickaxes and spearing dudes in the throat with arrows), and the whole 2nd act is basically one long chase sequence where everything is on fire.

There’s also something else that troubles me a little bit, though it’s a bit more subtle; they go through great lengths to make Lara Croft a real, relatable human being this time around, someone grounded in reality (even if she has an incredibly high tolerance for pain).  But without getting too spoilery, the mystery of the island is, in fact, something supernatural.  I was actually hoping for some scientific, grounded-in-reality explanation to what was going on, being that everything else was meant to evoke a real-world feeling.  The ending isn’t necessarily disappointing, but it did feel a bit… hokey.

I’d also add that some of the systems they introduce in the beginning feel unnecessary and undeveloped – like the whole survivalist thing, about needing to hunt game in order to stay alive.  Actually, once you kill that first deer mentioned above, you don’t need to kill any animals (besides the wolves that attack you) ever again; and if you do, the XP you gain is modest, at best.  I’m not saying I wanted them to introduce a hunger system, but it’s just weird that in the beginning of the game it’s presented as something important, and within 30 minutes it’s an afterthought.

Still, problems aside, I had a really good time with it; I’d give it a solid B+.  I’m just not sure if I’ll ever find myself going back to play it again, the way I have with other, similar titles.

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My 3DS experience continues to be hit-or-miss.  I’ve got 2 games on rental right now – Etrian Odyssey 4 and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, which, if nothing else, wins the “Most Ridiculous Title of 2013” award.  I gave Castlevania about 30 minutes before sending it back; the screens are too dark to really see what’s going on, and the 3D gives me a splitting headache – even with it turned off.  And the first real boss was a bit of a dick.  I generally like Castlevania games – not necessarily for the fiction, but for the action and the map-filling and such.  But this one kinda felt like it was going nowhere, fast.

Etrian Odyssey, on the other hand, is a bit more interesting, and I’m tempted to stick with it – even if a lot of the mechanics seem needlessly convoluted.  It’s a fairly standard dungeon-crawling turn-based RPG, but there’s also this map-making feature that’s kinda fascinating, where you actually chart your progress through each dungeon’s maze.  Some of your quests actually depend on your cartography skills – you need to be able to point to something on the map in order to show your quest-giver where a given object might be.   The party management system is not very intuitive, and so I’m never sure if I’ve arranged my party correctly or if they’re as well-equipped as they need to be.  It’s tempting to think that a lot of this stuff would be familiar to people who’ve played the earlier 3 games, but I haven’t, and I don’t plan to, and so I’m stuck with a level of obtuseness that is a little intimidating.  But the actual exploring and fighting is fun enough, and the map-making aspect is certainly novel and engaging, and so I’m probably going to hang on to it for a little while longer.

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I was going to write a thing here about being conflicted about what to do about Bioshock Infinite, but it’s a very silly problem to have and I’m not sure it’s all that interesting, either.  But I’ll write it anyway.

The gist of it is that I was always planning on playing it on my 360, but there’s a few snags in that plan.  Firstly,  the release date (March 25) is right at the edge of the baby arrival window, and so if I were to pre-order a copy and the baby arrived before the 25th, then my game would be stuck at my office for 2 weeks (as I can’t really get packages delivered to my apartment).  Not that I’d be playing a game instead of taking care of my newborn child, but you understand what I mean, right?  The baby’s gotta sleep at some point, and when I’m in that weird exhausted half-sleep daze that will be as close as I can get to experiencing actual drug use, I’m going to want to unwind with some Bioshock.    Secondly, when the baby is sleeping, I’m sure my wife will want to unwind as well, and if I’m playing Bioshock on the big TV in the living room, she’s relegated to the bedroom with the smaller TV, and I always feel bad about that.

The reason why this is stupid is that the logical answer is for me to simply download the game on Steam, which is how I’ve been playing most of my games lately anyway  including Tomb Raider, actually.  I have kick-ass PC headphones which will prevent the baby from hearing all the strange noises, and the PC is in the office, which means my wife can relax in the living room.  My only concern, really, is that while my PC can run Bioshock, it can’t necessarily run it as well as it could, and so it may not look as fantastic as I’d hope.  Still, Tomb Raider looked more than OK on my PC, and so I’m sure Bioshock’s performance will suffice.

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