The First Few Hours: Child of Light

As noted yesterday, reviews for Ubisoft’s highly anticipated Child of Light are a bit all over the place; they are generally positive, but some are much less effusive in their praise than others.  I tempered my excitement accordingly before firing it up last night.

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that it’s absolutely gorgeous, and in this I absolutely concur.  The game uses the same engine as the fantastic (and equally gorgeous) Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, and to great effect – every pixel seems to be lovingly hand-crafted and placed with delicate care.

Another thing that people seem to be noticing is that the game is told entirely in verse… and that the writing is not particularly good.  I also concur with this.  I’ve got no problem at all with a game or book or film told in verse, as long as the verse itself is artful and uses the form wisely and to its advantage.  Here, though, the writing is in verse ostensibly because it’s a bedtime story, but there’s no poetry in it – it’s awkwardly written and often seems forced.  After an hour or so of reading this crap, I came to the following conclusions:  either (1) an executive gave a note to the writers to make the poetry a bit less flowery so as not to antagonize dudebros and the writers basically threw their hands up in disgust, got drunk, and rewrote the script in about an hour before storming out of the office, or (2) the decision to go with verse took place at the very last minute, and the writers (or interns, or someone’s friend who had some free time and could work cheap) scrambled to put at least a first draft in place before the code went off for submission.  Or, alternately, what’s in the game is the first draft, and the subsequent revisions got lost in the shuffle.

It’s a shame, basically, because it’s so distracting from what’s otherwise a beautiful fantasy.  The game itself is a Metroidvania adventure-RPG with a sort-of turn-based timed battle system – you gain abilities as you progress and level up and previously inaccessible areas become open for discovery; there are treasure chests (though no real loot to speak of, at least not that I’ve yet come across); there also are some light puzzle elements.

I’m having a nice time with it, and I’m certainly curious to see more of where it’s going.  It’s just a shame that the writing is so dumb.

scatterbrained

I might’ve mentioned this already, but I suppose I might as well bring it up again; having a kid has completely changed my gaming habits. Granted, it’s also completely changed nearly every other aspect of my life, too, so the gaming slice of my life pie* was bound to get caught up in the sweeping change that having a kid inevitably brings.

Still, it’s something that I haven’t quite adjusted to yet. I’m finding it harder to get into new games, for one thing; I’m also finding it harder to stay engaged in the games I’m already playing.  And in any event, long gone are the days when I could just plug in to a game and stay there for 8 hours; now I’m lucky if I can stay focused for more than 30 minutes.

I think it’s been at least 2 months since I turned on my 360.  Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true – my kid was a bit restless a few weeks ago so I put in Rayman Origins because I figured it was colorful and musical and would maybe focus his attention for a little bit.  Alas – no such luck; he stuck with it for about 5 minutes before deciding he’d had enough.

This is all to say that I’m not necessarily doing a whole lot of gaming these days, and when I do, it’s very much in short bursts; I’ll get up to a checkpoint, save, quit, try something else; get to a checkpoint, save, quit, try something else.

Case in point: Shadowrun Returns.  I never played the original, and don’t know anything about its history.  Didn’t even follow its Kickstarter, beyond knowing that it had one.  I bought it because it seemed like something right up my alley – a cyberpunk/fantasy/sci-fi setting, a turn-based RPG with a battle system straight out of XCOM, lots of well-written text.  And for the most part, I’m really enjoying it – except for the lack of a quick-save, which means I can’t experiment, and if I die, I have to replay the previous 20 minutes all over again.  And while the text is fun, and the dialogue is sharp and witty, there’s also quite a lot of it, and I find myself scanning it quickly as opposed to taking it in.  And the game doesn’t necessarily explain its mechanics all that well – took me 3-4 battles before figuring out how to throw a grenade.  So, basically, I’m playing it one room at a time; once I finish an area, the game quicksaves, and then I log out.

I’ve been also sorta dabbling in the PC port of Fez, in a sort-of meaningless loyalty gesture to Phil Fish.  When I first played it on the 360, I got very, very deep into the hidden language and went out of my way to scour newsgroup discussions about some of the more obscure puzzles; this time, though, I’m really just out to enjoy the scenery and find some cubes if I see anyway.  It’s a very peaceful world to be in, which is a feeling I don’t often experience in games.

What else, what else… oh, I accidentally-on-purpose picked up XCOM on the iPad last week, when it was on “sale”.  And you know what?  It is perfect on the iPad.  Not that it wasn’t highly enjoyable (if a bit stressful) on the PC/console, but having it on the iPad makes idle moments on the go a lot more interesting.  The touch controls make perfect sense, and the in-between-mission ant-farm view was basically built to be used on an iPad.

Beyond that, I’m kinda just twiddling my thumbs, waiting for GTAV and trying to figure out how to play it without alienating my wife and child.  The next Mario & Luigi RPG comes out on the 3DS next week, which should be fun… Gone Home should be out on Steam next week, too, which I’m very much looking forward to… I’m still skeptical about Saints Row 4, the new Splinter Cell, and that other XCOMThe Bureau thing… and in the meantime, I still have my Steam Summer Sale to go through.

It’s going to be a weird next few weeks, is all I’ll say.  Not at all sure how updated this blog is going to be, though it won’t be for lack of trying.

 

 

* I was going to cut this out, but you know what? It’s not often you come across the worst metaphor in the entire history of written communication. So, really, you ought to be thanking me for leaving it in.  I very nearly changed the name of this site to better serve its honor.

belt tightening

Last night, the wife and I had a tough conversation about money.

Our 3-month old son (that’s him in the site’s header image, by the way) had his first “transition” daycare visit this morning, and he starts going in earnest in 2 weeks.  And for us to be able to afford daycare – and keep ourselves in baby supplies, and pay the rent and the rest of our bills, and also eat – well, we’re already cutting it pretty close, and there’s not a hell of a lot of wiggle room.  I’ve also got some rather sizable debt to pay off, too, and while I’ve made considerable progress on that front I’ve still got a ways to go, which makes this all the more anxiety-inducing.

Something’s got to give, basically.

And after some online banking and some soul-searching (and a little bit of drinking), I came to the realization that the only thing I really spend any extra money on these days is games.

This kinda sucks, as you might imagine – I am a self-professed consumer whore – but the more I think about it, this is not the worst time to be a broke gamer.   If I’m truly honest with myself, there’s really only one game coming out this year that I need in any sort of non-negotiable way.  Steam will have having its Summer Sale any minute now, too, and I could probably see myself picking up one or two things on my wishlist if they’re discounted enough – but let’s be honest here, after all the previous Steam Sales, there’s really not all that much that’s left for me to buy.  And I can certainly pare down my Gamefly account to one game at a time, as opposed to three, to be able to handle the rest of the to-do list.

Hell, let’s look at that to-do list (aka my GameQ) while we’re here, and I’ll take this opportunity to debut a new feature I’m calling Keep or Cut:

  • Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS) – I don’t even know what this is, to be honest – I’d just heard some positive word of mouth, and I wanted any excuse to keep my 3DS busy.  Will most likely CUT.
  • Mario & Luigi Dream Team (3DS) – if I can finish The Last of Us quickly enough, I should be able to rent this close to its release date.  Since Mario Golf: World Tour got pushed to 2014, this is the only must-have 3DS game I can see for the rest of 2013.  KEEP.
  • Saints Row 4 – I’m a big Saints Row fan, but I’ve had my doubts about this ever since they first announced it.  I do not expect high review scores, though I’d love to be pleasantly surprised.  KEEP, but with reservations.
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist – this was always only going to be a rental.  Chaos Theory was the high watermark for the series, and everything since then has been pretty disappointing.  Haven’t seen any indication that I should revise my expectations.  CUT.
  • Rayman Legends – Assuming this is as delightful as Origins was, this is an automatic KEEP.  Though I really ought to go back and finish Origins first.
  • GTA V – I’m not sure why this is still on my rental queue, as I’m probably going to pre-order it as soon as I finish this post.  (Still hoping for a PC release, though.)  KEEP.
  • Beyond: Two SoulsIs this the PS3’s final swan song?  More to the point – do I care?  While I remain in awe of David Cage’s wild ambition, I never finished Heavy Rain and didn’t really enjoy what I’d played, either.  Still, I’m cautiously optimistic, so this gets a KEEP.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins – as far as I can tell, this is the last “big” release of 2013 for current-gen consoles that I have any real interest in, since I don’t care about Call of Duty and I’ve lost all my faith in Assassin’s Creed.   But we all know this isn’t a Rocksteady joint, and this game is starting to smell like a cash-in.  CUT.

Now, you’ll notice that there’s no next-gen titles on this list.  That’s because I probably can’t afford a next-gen console this year; but even if I could, I still haven’t yet decided between the PS4 and the Xbox One.  I’m obviously leaning towards the PS4, but if Microsoft continues its backtracking ways and decides to play ball with indie developers by putting a less-restrictive self-publishing policy in place, well, that might keep the pendulum swinging the other way.  In any event, the only real “next-gen” game that speaks to me in any meaningful way is Watch Dogs, and that’s also coming to PC – which is a platform that already speaks to my current gaming habits anyway.

And speaking of the PC, the other clear upside to being on an austerity budget for the foreseeable future is that there’s really no excuse anymore for me to not finally tackle the GIGANTIC backlog of unfinished games I have in my Steam library.  Hell, even if I only stuck to seeing all the stuff in Skyrim that I never saw on the 360, that would be plenty.  (Now I just need to get over my seething Skyrim rage, which I’ve never quite managed to quell.)

I kinda don’t feel so terrible about this anymore.  I’ll call that a win.

weekend recap: holiday 2011

Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful, loot-filled holiday season.  I certainly did.

Lots to cover today, so let’s get to it:

1.  I finished the main story in Skyrim – almost by accident, similar to what happened at the end of Fallout 3 –  and I think I need a little time away from it.  Certainly I need to wait until a new patch comes out, because a whole slew of my side quests are bugged, and the problems they’re causing are rather serious.  For example:

  • There’s a civil war-related quest where one of the Jarls gave me an axe to give to another Jarl.  Problem is, there’s no dialogue option when I talk to that other Jarl to give him the axe; furthermore, the axe is heavy, and because it’s a quest item I can’t drop it.
  • There’s another quest where I need to retrieve a Forsworn heart in order to concoct some sort of recipe, and I need to kill a specific Forsworn dude in order to get it.  I killed the dude.  I looted him.  I didn’t get the heart.  His corpse is now listed as “empty.”  There’s a gaping hole in his chest, implying that I’ve already taken it.

As much as I’ve enjoyed my time with the game, there’s a reason why I couldn’t put it at #1 in my GOTY post.  Bugged quests are a pretty serious offense – especially since they’re still there, after 2 significant patches have already come out.

2.  I’ve hardly touched The Old Republic since I bought it, but that’s not the game’s fault – it’s my wife’s, as she is a full-blown addict.  She’s gotten her Jedi to (at least) level 10 – she crafted a light saber, acquired a companion and made it off the first planet, if that means anything.  It’s gotten to the point where it’s useless for her to ask me any questions, because at this point she knows more about how the game works than I do.  I’m thinking about running an interview with her, actually, since she’s a prime example of the audience that Bioware was hoping to reach – that of the hard-core Star Wars nerd who doesn’t play games.  This is my wife’s first real game-playing experience, actually – I mean, she’s played DS puzzle games on airplanes and she’s played Rock Band and You Don’t Know Jack, but she’s never actually said “I’m going to play my game now – see you in a few hours” and then strapped in and just straight-up disappeared for an entire afternoon/evening.  She’s never binged, I guess you could say.  But she played 2 or 3 marathon sessions this weekend, and last night she had some Star Wars dreams, which means the addiction is in full effect.  It’s a shame that her laptop doesn’t have a graphics card, too; there’s only one computer in the house that can run it, and it’s mine, and so we can’t play together.

3.  My wife got me a really nice pair of wireless, 7.1 surround headphones for Christmas.  This is great for everyone involved – it means I’m not keeping the house up late at night, and it also means that I get to truly experience the audio side of games for the first time.  As such, I kinda raided my library, wanting to hear the ambient soundscapes in Red Dead Redemption, the ferocious engine roars of Forza 4, and Cave Johnson’s cantankerous baritone in Portal 2.  But ultimately, I spent the most amount of time playing Rayman Origins (which my dad got me for Christmas).  I’d rented it previously and loved it, but I was so focused on Skyrim that I never really gave it proper attention.  And honestly, that game’s got one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, and the headphones truly give it justice.  (This Kotaku feature is an excellent primer – correctly noting the brilliance of the Sea of Serendipity music, and “Lum’s Dream” in particular – and it should be noted I found and downloaded the official soundtrack this morning – for free, no less.  Do a google search and you’ll turn something up.)

4.  I should remember to start my 2012 GOTY post with a category called “The Best Reason to Wait Until January Before Starting a GOTY Post.”  For one thing, I’d be able to talk about The Old Republic at least a little bit, and I’d also be able to correct a glaring hole – that of Battlefield 3.  One of my oldest and best friends bought an Xbox360 last week, and he’d asked me what to get – he thought about picking up Modern Warfare 3, and I said “no no no, if you want to play that sort of game online, you should get BF3.”  And then I felt like a hypocrite, since I hadn’t yet bought it (and hadn’t yet planned on playing it, actually).  Anyway, I bought it, but none of my BF3-playing buddies were online, so I didn’t end up playing very much.  I gave the single-player a whirl, mostly just to learn the control scheme, but I don’t plan on sinking too much time into it – the general consensus is that the single-player campaign is pretty bad, whereas the multiplayer is the best thing going right now.  As I’m not really an online-shooter kind of guy, I’m not expecting to have that great a time, but certainly playing co-op with friends is always fun for a little while, at least.

5.  Finally, I decided to clean up some side missions in Saints Row the Third.  That game’s post-story world isn’t really all that compelling, but it’s still fun in limited doses, and some of the side stuff is fun in and of itself.  I’m not sure I’m ever going to 100% it, as I hate the Snatch missions (and some of the Mayhem missions are fucking impossible), but I’m certainly down for leveling up my dude and making him impervious to everything.

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