August 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
A&E’s season finale of Longmire ended in a what I’d call an “uh, oh” rather than a cliff-hanger. However, this state of affairs does nothing to take away the ride this season has given its audience. The excellent “modern Western” series features incremental character development which culminated in cell-phone hating Walt Longmire’s long-eluded to secret becoming known during the season finale.
Along the way the familial and work-place feuding heats up. Vic confronts Walt’s would-be girlfriend, Lizzie, and instead of giving a warning, got some perspective on her own feelings. Branch’s sheriff’s campaign and workplace rivalry with Walt boils over into a brawl when Walt, rightly stops Branch from half-cocked police work. Most gut-wrenching is the Walt/Cady father-daughter turmoil spirals into a dark place with verbal kicks to each others’ guts. Above it all is the outstanding Lou Diamond Phillips’ Henry as the amazingly down-to-earth voice of reason and soul of the entire show.
“Unfinished Business” also had two notable guest-stars. Charles S. Dutton stars as a Denver Detective who has been trying to pin down Walt. Also, Q’Orianka Kilcher, best known for her turn as Pocahontas in Malick’s The New World, plays a mentally-challenged rape victim, Ayasha Roundstone. Both performances add to the already great acting ensemble on the show.
Will I be excited to see the next season? You bet!
August 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
Readers of this blog probably know we love The Walking Dead. So without further ado here is the video game adaptation review.
Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead is a great example of what can happen if a developer revives one of video games’ long neglected genre: the adventure game. My own PC gaming history begins with Sierra Online’s catalog of adventure that included favorites such as King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Hero’s Quest, Phantasmagoria, and who can forget Leisure Suit Larry.
Different from what would become more traditional RPGs where the player creates the details of their avatar, adventure games set the back-story and characters that the player would guide through the story. Some may argue that it diminishes player experience, but it gives designers the ability to craft a more intimate story tied to the characters. To this end, there have even been some attempts to root a specific common back-story to “custom” player avatars in recent games such as Dragon Age and Fallout 3.
The Walking Dead has players taking the role of Lee Everett, a UGA professor convicted of murdering a politician that was sleeping with his wife. The murder may or may not have been in self-defense. In a twist of fate, Lee is given a second chance on life by the outbreak of Walkers.
Almost immediately the player meets the little girl Clementine, who by circumstances becomes Lee’s ward. She becomes the moral compass by which most of Lee’s actions are judged by the game’s systems. Along the way, Lee meets with Hershel and Glenn who are also featured in the excellent AMC storyline. (I have not read the graphic novels so won’t assume they are from there.)
There are some hard decisions the player will have to make for Lee and sometimes there are no “right” answers. The game’s aesthetic is similar to the comic book, yet animated, and comes off very well. The “zones” or as they used to be called “screens” in old-school adventure games, remind me very much of the classic adventure games. There are features to manipulate and examine, not all of which are immediately useful, or have any apparent use. I must have had Lee look a newspaper clipping six or seven times before I determined they were just for “flavor.” One other interesting feature of the game is the stat tracker telling you what percentage of players choose certain paths compared to your choices.
So far Telltale has released two episodes of the game and I burned through both very quickly, even for me, the game is THAT intriguing. I think it will appeal to those who may not necessarily be fans of the zombie genre or old-timer adventure games enthusiasts like me simply because it is a well-made game.
August 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
Here’s the secret to why I left The Secret World behind: Apparently, I need levels more than I need achievements, crafting, innovative quest designs, and an intriguing over-arching storyline.
Really, it’s just that simple. For an old curmudgeon like me, levels provide an easy measure and a ready goal for me to pursue. In a single-player game, strangely enough, I’m drawn back for story. But in an MMO, for whatever reason, I need that sense that I’m rising through the ranks.
I hear a lot of praise for the art direction on TSW. Perhaps my graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560) is far too antiquated, but the style actually reminded me a lot of Fallen Earth‘s – a little post-apocalyptic game that Josh Peery and I helped build back in the good old days of 2006-2009. I didn’t dislike TSW’s graphics, although the character customization options were far too limited for my liking. In fact, the game’s visual similarity to FE actually helped draw me in.
But, no levels.
They had the Illuminati, who were so much like my beloved Travelers from Fallen Earth that I had to join their faction without hesitation.
But, but, no levels.
Look, they’ve got loads of achievements. They’ve even got location-based lore discovery nodes, similar to what we implemented on FE with the tourist telescopes. You must know, if you do not already, that I love achievements. But, uh, yeah, no levels.
They’ve got a crafting system that reminds me of a combination of FE’s resource management and Minecraft’s “put stuff in this kind of order until the craft grid spews out a new toy” approach. However, during the time I played, I didn’t see much that was craftable that would outshine whatever I got from dungeons or reward vendors.
But. No. Levels.
The quests, even though they’re mostly just chains of use object, kill X critters and kill named critters, actually have some very novel moments – from the mission that has you following a musical tune across the countryside to the one that has you unlocking computer files based on knowledge of classical composers. Scope and depth of story reminds me a lot of that favorite post-apocalyptic MMO of mine.
Still, no levels.
I need that motivation to keep going back. But if you want a game with great ambiance, engaging stories, oodles of achievements, and no levels: The Secret World is for you.