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A tale of two chesses

Chessboard Image

If we intend to interpret videogames entirely in terms of rules and mechanics then obviously we ought to model our study off the long tradition of analog games.

System and story

ICO Screenshot

Quantitatively speaking, I prefer Plants vs. Zombies to every game, ever. Plants vs. Zombies is not my favorite game. I'd say it's not even in the top 20. That honor belongs ICO, a game that typically lasts less than six hours and that I have played exactly four times, to net less than a fifth of the hours I have spent playing Plants vs. Zombies. ICO is my favorite game because of how it makes me feel.

Actor, director, producer: The player role in RPG battles

Final Fantasy XIII Screenshot

I have more to say about Final Fantasy XIII, but that post is so depressing to write I thought I'd hold off for now and elaborate on a point I made in my post discussing its combat mechanics. Role-playing games tend to get broadly divided into "turn-based" and "action" categories, distinctions that are not particularly informative, often get used inaccurately, and don't usefully elaborate the relationship between the player and the system.

How Jace Stratton nearly ruined Gears of War 3

Gears of War 3 Screenshot

While it's hardly high art, Gears 3 generally manages to craft a satisfying enough experience—except in one regard. For some odd reason Epic Games made the strange decision to saddle Marcus not just with his usual team of cohorts (Dom, Baird, and The Cole Train), but to also add in some new characters as well. The additions of female characters Anya and Sam to the mix works out well enough, but the decision to add Jace Stratton to the team is a disaster.

Human Revolution's giant hole

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Screenshot

Criticism of Deus Ex: Human Revolution tends to be mostly directed towards its boss battles. That's fair, because they don't fit the game very well, but the overwhelming focus on these moments seems to have distracted people from an equally significant problem, namely that the game seems to fall apart in its final level.

Interview with Samuli Viikinen, developer of Rochard

Rochard Screenshot

So, let me guess... You haven't played Rochard yet. In fact, there's probably a pretty good chance you haven't even heard of it—and that's a damned shame, since it's one of the best download-only titles I've played all year. I gave it an absolutely glowing review, but a game like this deserves more. So, in my pursuit of fighting the good fight, I'd like to present this brief interview I was fortunate enough to have with the Lead Level Designer of Rochard, Samuli Viikinen.

Adam Jensen, DMPD

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Screenshot

Unlike previous entries in the Deus Ex franchise, Human Revolution has a clearly characterized protagonist. Except for his extremely dry sense of humor, J.C. Denton was essentially a blank slate for the player, and Alex Denton had even fewer set characteristics. Adam Jensen, on the other hand, comes into his game with a long, involved backstory and several pre-existing relationships.

The bosses of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and what might have been

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Screenshot

The boss battles in Deus Ex: Human Revolution suck. Hard. The people of the Internet appear to agree on this notion. While they aren’t game-breakers, they are clumsy and uninspired bullet sponges whose design runs counter to the nature of the rest of the game.

The seven fundamental flaws of Dead Island

Dead Island Screenshot

I covered this a bit in the review, but it's important to reiterate—leveling up implies things to the player that Dead Island doesn't deliver. Extra health is meaningless, extra damage is meaningless—over the course of the game zombies will always take the exact same number of hits to kill, so all the experience I'm gaining doesn't seem to serve any purpose.

Enslaved: The trouble with Tripitaka

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Screenshot

During the "Females on Female Characters" panel at PAX East 2011, Susan Arendt argued briefly in support of Tripitaka (Trip), a character from Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. This appreciation seemed bizarre to me, so the moment stuck in my mind. Enslaved was a gorgeous game with phenomenal voice acting, decently expressive gameplay, and very bad writing, of which I thought Trip was a prime example.

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