In March 2013, I wrote this very positive review of the PC version of Tomb Raider.
I really loved that game: it was a proper reimagining of a mystical adventure series I loved to explore, growing up, often just completing an area by the skin of my teeth. And sure, Sony eventually lost their exclusivity on the series, but that didn’t bother me because by that point the games in the series were old enough, and the reboot felt like a new series, anyway.
So the Tomb Raider reboot went multiplatform, and it was well-received. Sure, it had its bits that could have been improved, but overall it was really solid, really fun, and really atmospheric. A sequel was talked about, and everyone who’d enjoyed the game on their various platforms was excited.
Today, Microsoft announced at GamesCom that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be an XBOX exclusive, and it’s such a blow: Tomb Raider game was multiplatform and now its sequel will be an exclusive. It’s such a slap in the face to the many people who played on non-XBox systems. And they’re twisting the knife by releasing a remastered version of the first game: you can buy and play that on a PS4 or PC but you have to do so with the knowledge that you can’t play the next game in the series.
My problem is not that the series is exclusive, or that it’s exclusive to XBOX; it’s that we were given a multiplatform game that is continuing the series as an exclusive. Even Kingdom Hearts had the heart to continue the main entries on the same console the series started on (PS2)—though having spin-off games on various handheld systems that count as canon was vastly frustrating.
The fact that Bayonetta _2 is exclusive to the Wii U is pretty similar to this situation, and I guess the only difference is that _Tomb Raider was played by many more people than Bayonetta was. Still, I can totally understand Bayonetta fans’ rage.
If an exclusivity deal is what’s needed to keep the franchise going (due to the money made from signing the exclusivity deal), then it’s better than a developer closing or a series ending because it cost more to create the game than sales can cover (I’m speculating; I have no idea if that’s the case), but I was really looking forward to playing Rise of the Tomb Raider on PC. I guess I’ll just have to play a friend’s XB1 when the game comes out.
But Square-Enix hasn’t ditched the PS or PC: they still have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming… -_-
What I’ve Been Playing, Summer
I’ve been trying to spend less time writing about games and more time actually playing them, but it hasn’t really helped. I’ve been a bit schizophrenic about gaming, switching between a variety of games I’ve slowly progressed through over the past six months to a year, but have not yet finished. I assume it’s me and my current attention span and not the games, but in the case of Bravely Default (3DS) I had to put that down because of the massive redundancy of the later chapters. Instead, I picked up Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS), which is my first SMT game. I’m really enjoying it and am about 5 hours in (though I can’t tell if I’ve moved slowly or at a regular pace—I’ve just escaped the first Domain). It’s different from what I usually play: the turn-based battles are first person and very dependent on your strategy rather than your strength, and it’s a Japanese school-based game—a setting I haven’t played since Valkyria Chronicles 2 (PSP). I’m not sure when I’ll go back to Bravely Default, but I hit Chapter 6 (of 8) and just ran out of steam.
Another thing keeping me busy is that I’m now one-third of a new gaming podcast: One Giant Pixel, an opinioncast by your regular, non-industry gamers. We have a few episodes up so far, but they haven’t made it to iTunes or a Google Play yet, so you have to listen in your browser from the site at the moment (though some podcast apps will let you add the URL to access it from within the app). We also made a Twitter account for it: @onegiantpixel. Please give an episode a try, and follow the podcast if you like it.
And to further split my attention, I started playing Assassin’s Creed: Pirates (iOS), Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation HD (PS3), and have been playing Super Metroid (VC), Pikmin 3 (Wii U), and The Wonderful 101 (Wii U). Oh, and Watch_Dogs (Steam), but it hasn’t been compelling me to play—the story and writing’s a bit flat.
In AC Liberation, I’ve just completed Sequence 3, but I think maybe I shut the game off too quickly after, because I never got the trophy for completing the sequence. Argh. It had better show up after I finish a Sequence 4; I’d hate to have a gap where a mandatory trophy should be.
Oh, and ia tried to continue playing Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (3DS) but I got distracted by SMTIV. I’ve realized that, as an adult with less free time than I used to have, I’ve started gaming for the sake of whatever whim makes me feel like playing a particular game instead of sticking with a game until I’ve finished it. This is probably more due to the fact that so many games come out so close together these days, and my attention turns to those new games. I guess I shouldn’t mention that I also just picked up Persona 3 Portable (PSP), Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Wii U), which I’m sure I will never ever get to, given my backlog. Sigh. I think I’ve become a collector rather than a gamer (and if you saw the number of I played Steam games I have, you’d agree).
Kozaki Yusuke art for the new Smash Bros. fighters! ⊟
Even though I’m disappointed that Nintendo went for the predictable characters versus the more interesting (Sully and/or Donnel) to fill Smash Bros.' roster, I ain't even mad because we get new art from Kozaki Yusuke to celebrate today's reveal. Yusuke, if you're not familiar with the name from our past posts, is the incredibly talented character artist who worked on the No More Heroes series, Liberation Maiden, and Fire Emblem: Awakening.
Nintendo’s three-minute live-stream has revealed the main player’s protagonist Lucina and Robin from Fire Emblem: Awakening…
Bayonetta developer Platinum Games will release a downloadable third-person combat game based on Nickelodeon’s animated show The Legend of Korra this fall, IGN reports.
The Legend of Korra stars the eponymous young avatar, a legendary figure with the ability to master all four elements. The game will take place between the show’s second and third season, and players will have access to all four of Korra’s elemental abilities in combat.
So excited. So nervous.
You Should Play Guacamelée if You Haven’t Yet
If you haven’t yet played Guacamelée, you should: it’s an example of good level design, engaging action, and a well-integrated story in a platformer. It’s also really funny. Drinkbox Studios wrote a comedic story full of fun-poking at luchador and Spanish culture, and built an acceptably plausible story around it all. And it helps that it’s just the right length.
The premise is that an agave farmer who’s in love with a childhood friend who may be out of his league faces off against an undead guy who has merged the realms of the living and dead on the Dia de la Muerte, who has kidnapped said childhood friend. The agave farmer is promptly killed, but a mysterious and magical luchador mask revives him and gives him superhuman luchador abilities. From that point, you can play either has him or the female luchador who guides him (so you’re not locked into one gender), and you can purchase costume changes that alter your character’s strengths and weaknesses. But the overall game has a metroidvania feel to it, in that you unlock new abilities (via a goat-man) and must revisit previously blocked-off areas. The plot guides you to the newly opened up areas, so it’s not so metroidvania in that sense, but it will have you doing fun platformer things for 5-8 hours.
Watch Dogs Impressions
Watch_Dogs is just good enough to keep you hooked. The story’s mediocre, the constant internal monologues explaining uber-hacker Aiden Pierce’s feelings causes eye-rolling, and the driving feels heavy and stiff, but everything’s beautiful and hacking brings a welcome variation to the shoot a hundred armed enemies equation. It’s a lot of fun.
But it doesn’t feel as beautiful as Red Dead Redemption, GTA V, or Sleeping Dogs did when they first came out—an important thing since the initial preview of Watch_Dogs really pushed what we’ve seen from a sandbox game’s graphics and we did not get what we were promised. And the hacking becomes repetitive once you find your personal strategy for hacking the environment to Aiden’s advantage.
The biggest complaint I see around the internet (after the graphics-are-not-as-good-as-they-were-hyped-to-be and the frame rate complaints) is about the way the driving feels. The last game from a similar genre that many people who play Watch_Dogs will have played was GTA V, and after going from its driving mechanics to Watch_Dogs’, Watch Dogs’ feels like you’re playing with a solid metal toy tank: the weight of the vehicles and their momentum feels wrong, and the result is that you feel like you really are playing a video game instead of feeling immersed in the faux-Chicago surveillance state.
Another issue I have has to do with the technology—which is a problem, since that’s the entire crux of the game. In the world of Watch_Dogs, the city of Chicago is surveilled and operated under one unified system: ctOS. This network links to the power grid, cell phones, cameras, trains, traffic lights, car alarms, electronic gates, steam pipes, tire spikes, road barriers, helecopters, and facial recognition data. Aiden has hacked into the one, unified system running the entire city, and can control anything he wants to from his smartphone (which is represented in-game by pressing “X” or square). When you’re tasked with actively hacking a system, it’s done by rotating nodes on what I call a separate “puzzle screen” until the active lines connect to the end-node. Sometimes you’ll trigger an alarm countdown and you’ll have to work quickly. This sort of thing has appeared in other games, and it’s never exciting. Occasionally it may make you think for a moment, but it doesn’t make you feel like you’re hacking and it doesn’t make you feel like you’ve been given a great challenge to overcome, so ultimately it doesn’t add much to the gameplay experience. I wish there were a more interesting way to activate environment-hacking than holding one button down, but I suppose it was done this way in order to uphold the quick pace of the game. Still, why would the entire city run on one network??
I know I sound bitter, but I do mostly like the gameplay. I was just hoping everything surrounding it would be more engaging. Maybe I’ll feel more positive about the next 17 hours than I did the first 17.
What I’ve Completed: South Park: The Stick of Truth
Most games, even when comedic, rarely compel me to laugh out loud and when they do it’s limited to an abrupt “heh!” But South Park: The Stick of Truth is put-the-controller-down-to-laugh funny from beginning to end.