Monday, 25 February 2013

Reviews are essentially broken

We here at Quest Hard don't review games. We may occasionally spout off about how much we might love, or indeed hate, a game, however we don't rate or recommend games. I have been wondering of late about if game reviews have any real value any more. A couple of games have kicked off this thinking. The first being Hitman Absolution, which is a fairly linear stealth game that is, at best, OK  However it had a strange mix of reviews, some really high, that loved the stealth and more action approach, along with great visuals and sound design. And those that bemoaned the lack of freedom and options that the game has, compared to previous titles. I clearly fall on the disappointed side, with the linearity boring, with only a couple of levels opening up to the point where they are interesting. Unfortunately in this case, both review types are essentially correct.

The other game that got me wondering is Halo 4, a game that was pretty universally praised. I have played a fair amount of the single player and find myself conflicted. The visuals are very impressive for an Xbox game and sounds lovely. All the weapons are cool to use, even the new alien ones, which are very much just reskinned pistol, shotgun, assault rifle and sniper rifle. And most importantly they have nailed the game-play, it is quick and meaty in a way that only Halo games are. At it's core it is fun and satisfying to play. But the story is rubbish (so far at least), the level design hasn't got the spark that the earlier Halo games did and aside from the shooting the game is essentially go from point A to point B and press X. Hell on more than one occasion it asked me to do the clich├ęd "three of something", in this case destroy shield and power generators.

This is why reviews are flawed, because Halo 4 the game is excellent, smooth, exciting and fun. Halo 4 the overall experience is a bit rubbish, the plot is hokum, the level design pedestrian and it is linear to a fault. And a review is an opinion as to whether you should buy a game or not. It strikes me as a bit of a scary prospect being a game reviewer, as I would have given Halo 4 a 7, maybe 7.5 out of 10. "Great game-play barely hides the cracks in the story and world." Wow that would get me flamed.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

What I thought of the PS4

PS4, that's officially a thing now, so I guess I should do a blog about it. I watched the whole presentation and on the whole I was pretty damn impressed. Now I am not going to go into all the reveals, because if you are reading this, you probably already know them. I am instead going to take about what excited me. Being honest I was probably most happy to see the new Killzone game. It looked pretty damn stunning, and while it didn't seem to offer many new innovations in game-play  it still got my blood pumping. As far as other games go, I am glad that the Infamous franchise is returning, with a nice new, almost x-men like, game. Now that I think of it, all stuff I got excited about, not a lot of it was games. I mean Watch Dogs still looks great, but that would probably be a PC purchase, same goes for the likes of Project Destiny (Activison may be a horrible company but they have a strong tradition of bringing IP's to the PC). Krank looked like fun but was more interesting in that it showed what the PS4 can do with physics.

In fact probably the most interesting game (and I use the term very loosely) was what Media Molecule were doing, using the Move as a 3D sculpting and creation tool. Little Big Planet already has very inventive audience and I would be fascinated at what could be created. The fact that they are bigging up the computing power makes me happy, no, the CPU doesn't seem that fast but with clever programming, you can get the GPU to do things easily.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

My Return to Skyrim

It’s about this time last year I have finished my first play through or Skyrim, so 12 months on and 1000’s of mods later I am returning to the land of the Nords. I have installed 240+ various mods, mostly at random off the Top Collections on Steam Workshop. Looking through, most are graphical upgrades or enhancements, gameplay and npc tweaks, new quests and mobs etc. So I start a new game, with the new random beginning mod, seen as I have been through the normal beginning a fair few times before.

I awake in a cave, it’s black as all hell and I can’t see a thing, a quick check of the map shows an exit not far. The only light is the occasional ghost mushroom cluster. I find the exit slowly groping my way through the cave. No mobs so far, thank the 7, as I can’t see shit. I emerge into the beautiful land of Skyrim and OMG! Skyrim was beautiful before, but with the multitude of graphical, flora and fauna enhancements its now f***ing gorgeous. I remember to check my inventory. I have 1 small iron dagger and roughspun clothes. Great! I’m a walking meal waiting to happen.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The yin and yang of mmo's

Since quitting WoW I have played a total of 2 other mmo's. One of these games actively
tries to intrigue the player and get them involved in a dark and interesting world. The
other game is Tera. I will do a quick bit about Tera, because that is all it warrants. It
went free to play on the 5th February 2013, so I had a play. It is a gorgeous world, with
decent combat in, completely ruined by the grindy quests and monotony of play. Oh
and the characters (particularly females, including some very uncomfortable little girl
analogues) are so under-dress and sexualised that it is borderline softcore porn.

The "proper" mmo I have been playing is The Secret World, which has really grown
on me. Essentially it is set in the world we live in today, but with all the monsters from
legend and myth are real. And you play an average Joe given powers by swallowing a
magic bee (OK yes I know that bit is stupid). So you side with one of 3 factions, in my
case the Templars based in London, and off you go. I have just about finished the starting
area, which is full of zombies. I know what you are thinking, "sigh more zombies",
which is not unfair, however the game is reasonably complicated and I guess they wanted
something very accessible to start with.

DLC ain't going no where

I have a serious question about DLC,  who is buying it? Chatting to Hex, it becomes apparent that between the two of us, we have brought all of a dozen pieces of DLC. Yet we are now in the position where pretty much every single game released has some form of post release content, hell half the time it is being revealed before the game is even out. For the developers/publishers to keep churning it out,  there must surely be a decent market for it.

Is it a case of optimistic publishers seeing Activision selling over priced map packs for their titan like Call of Duty series, and thinking that they could easily sell as many.  I have no real figures to go on but surely the average game DLC isn't going to get picked up by more than 20% of the the people who brought the game.  Surely something like the Skyrim DLC is not picking up vast numbers. Maybe I am looking at this the wrong way.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Sunday, 3 February 2013

I just couldn't take the responsibility

I think I may not have been entirely honest with you, or myself, over why I quit WoW. The more that I think about about it, the more I realise that I was spooked by the responsibility. This
goes back to the compulsion to log in on a daily basis, just to
essentially do WoW chores. I felt responsible for my character, as if I was letting him
down if I didn't log in and do some farming (literally looking after his farm). I realised
that I never felt this way in any other mmo, I always log in, have some fun and log out.
I don't feel obligated to play, perhaps this is why I haven't touched GW2 in months.

But this sense of obligation and responsibility only escalated when I started the raiding.
Not just the raids themselves, but knowing that I had to grind reputation and unlock
points to get better items. I am not criticising the game, it grabbed me in a way that very
few games have, but I ultimately recoiled from that, well, sense of duty to my character
and other players.