Before I begin, a word of warning: I am tired. This is a different tired from the usual exhaustion of a busy week at work and parental duties. This is the tired that comes from our almost-3-year-old son, who now refuses to go to bed. Since the day we brought him home from the hospital he’d always been a terrific sleeper, but for the last two nights he’s completely changed his ways. We get him into his jimmy-jams, we brush his teeth, we read three books, we tuck him into bed, we turn on his night lights and his little sound machine, we turn off the light, we close the door… and then, 5 seconds later, he tear-asses out of bed, opens the door, and looks at us, giggling. We lead him back to bed, tuck him in wordlessly, close the door. He gets up. Last night this went from 8:00 until around 9:30. In the grand scheme of things, that isn’t terrible; we’ve had friends whose children refused to sleep, and to his credit our son does eventually conk out. But it is exhausting, especially since my wife and I are both a little under the weather, and we both have stuff to do after he goes to sleep.
So, yeah; between Henry’s late night antics and the barrage of work-related stuff, there’s been (a) little opportunity to write, and (b) not much of an opportunity to gather topics to write about. But I’m gonna do my best here.
1. I started and finished Firewatch last weekend. I’ve read a number of illuminating and insightful pieces about it (Brendan Keogh, Emily Short, Ed Smith, among others), which have helped me piece together my own opinion about it, though I’m still not 100% sure I know what I want to say about it. It feels less like a “walking simulator” and rather very much like an interactive short story, with wonderful dialogue and terrific voice casting. And of course, given that the player character’s name is Henry (as is my son’s), I felt even more connected to him than I otherwise would have.
All this being said, there’s a part of me that feels somewhat disconnected from it; that all the decision-making I did in the conversation trees didn’t necessarily matter. While Henry and Delilah have their own crosses to bear and work through, the larger story of Firewatch is about something else, and so at the end of the game I felt a little hollow. (Maybe now I understand why everybody was so up in arms about the original ending to Mass Effect 3; you can feel a bit like the rug got pulled out from under you when 180+ hours worth of choice-making feels like it ultimately doesn’t matter all that much.)
The ending – such as it is – is bittersweet, and I suppose it’s the right way to end this sort of story. But it also makes it somewhat difficult to return to, I think.
2. I played about an hour’s worth of The Division beta on Xbox One last night, and I’m hoping to play it again on the PS4 tonight (just to compare/contrast, in terms of graphics). My original impression of The Division upon its E3 reveal was that (a) I’m growing tired of this type of apocalyptic scenario, (b) it was very pretty and there’s simply no way it’s going to end up looking like that at retail, and (c) I don’t know if I need to play this. But then, just a few weeks ago, it was revealed to be an RPG, and now that I’ve gotten my hands on it, it’s now become something I’m very, very interested in.
Making a Tom Clancys’ game an RPG is a very interesting decision, as far as these things go. While all the Clancys’ games have had some very “game-y” aspects to them, there’s an additional level of abstraction that happens when you’re playing an RPG; leveling up, adding perks, comparing weapon pickups, etc. You don’t necessarily notice this in the moment-to-moment gunplay (which, actually, reminded me a great deal of Mass Effect, come to think of it), but you can’t help but confront it after each battle when you’re running around looting corpses and lockboxes. Any attempt at gritty realism and immersion kinda sails out the window when bright green columns of loot start glowing on the ground. This is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you; if anything, I’m all for it.
The problem, though, is that the writing – at least in the beta’s abbreviated levels – is kinda terrible. I don’t know if it’s Destiny-level terrible, but it’s certainly not Bioware, or even Bethesda. Maybe terrible is too strong a word; basically, I didn’t really care why I was doing what I was doing, and I was content to simply follow the arrow to my destination. The game also, sadly, features the classic Ubisoft trademark of having over-complicated controls; after an hour, I still couldn’t reliably get my grenades equipped and ready. This is a third-person cover-based shooter, Ubisoft; most of us know how these games are supposed to feel in our hands, and it’s simply bizarre that Ubi feels compelled to arbitrarily change the formula to make it twice as complicated as it needs to be.
Still, I’m intrigued, if only because I’ve got nothing else on my gaming plate at the moment. Tonight I test the PS4 version, and then I’ll run some sort of poll to figure out which of my gaming friends are picking it up, and on which system. That said, I played what I played solo, and it wasn’t necessarily that lonely an experience; I think it’ll be more fun in co-op, obviously, but what isn’t?
3. I’ve finished a few books since my last post.
- “The Lost Time Accidents” – I loved this book, even if some of the more scientific stuff flew over my head. Marvelously written, fantastically drawn characters, a pure pleasure to read from cover to cover.
- “Childhood’s End” – Apparently they’re making a TV show out of this? Interesting, though I’ve got no desire to watch it. I’ve actually read very little Arthur C. Clarke – until this one, I think I’d only read “Rendezvous With Rama“, and even though I’ve watched “2001” a bazillion times it’s not quite the same thing. In any event – I can certainly understand why this is considered an all-time classic sci-fi book, and it’s remarkable to see how close Clarke was to imagining current technology from the 1950s.
- “Sudden Death” – OK, I haven’t technically finished this one, but it’s very short, and I’ll probably finish it by Monday. I don’t have any idea how to describe this one, but it’s certainly very readable.
Hey, I managed to poop out 1000+ words! Even if none of them have any thought behind them. Have a wonderful weekend, everybody, and may you all get some sleep.