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Fall Gaming: MGS V, Lara Croft GO, Super Mario Maker, and more

As of last Wednesday, fall is officially upon us (or at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere).  I can already feel the summer heat beginning to chill, and my mood has turned with it.  Consequently, this will be a somewhat lazy post with lots of rambling and little focused commentary.  When I was much younger, I actually really enjoyed the fall.  Where I grew up, the cool of fall was often a welcome relief from the hot stickiness of summer.  But somewhere along the way I’ve come to find the fall chill to be rather dispiriting, and the older I get, the more I feel like I’ve become a creature of spring and summer.  But the good news is, video games tend to be great in the fall, so at least I have a lot of games to look forward to, and that brightens up my mood.

Metal Gear Solid V

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Right now, I’m deep into Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.  I actually picked this up on launch day, but only began playing this last week.  Someone told me it was best to play Ground Zeroes first, and fortunately, I had that from PS+ on the PS4.  Man, I knew that game was short, but I don’t think I fully realized that it was that short.  If I did, I would probably have beat it a long time ago.  Unfortunately, I’m playing Phantom Pain through Steam, so I’m not sure if I can pull through my Ground Zeroes save file through Konami’s servers and get the goodies that come with that.

I’m about 10 hours into Phantom Pain and really digging it so far.  I’ll be honest, I lost interest in the MGS series after Guns of the Patriots, a game which I really hated.  That game just wasn’t fun to me.  They were trying to evolve/modernize the gameplay of MGS beyond the original top-down games, but I just don’t think what they came up with was very fun to play.  It also doesn’t help that they took the convoluted ridiculousness of Sons of Liberty and cranked it up by an order of magnitude.  With Peacewalker, they took that new formula and tweaked it a lot (and added Monster Hunter style boss fights), and while I didn’t hate that game, I didn’t like it enough to finish it.  I think finally with Phantom Pain they’ve created a truly modernized MGS game that is really fun to play.  As an open world stealth/action game, the result is something that feels very different from the first 3 MGS games, but it’s so well-designed that I don’t mind that much.

MGSV has gone a long way to restore a lot of my excitement for gaming.  I was really looking forward to Arkham Knight this summer, and the awfulness of the PC version left me really disappointed.  I entertained the idea of buying the PS4 version, but I was just so annoyed about the whole ordeal that I swore off the game completely.  Part of the reason I wasn’t really all that excited for MGSV was because I expected it to launch in a severely broken state, especially around all the calamity that has been going on with the team behind the game.  But this seems to have actually been a very smooth release.  Even more so exciting is how well the PC version has come out.  I don’t think I expected so much from a team that appears so inexperienced with this platform, but the PC version runs very well.  Long story short, this game has gone a long way to restoring some of the faith I’ve lost in major releases.

Lara Croft GO

Lara Croft GO

I just finished Lara Croft GO.  I had heard good things about the game, and the real thing did not disappoint.  I’ve always thought turn-based and grid-based games were a good match for mobile and have been a bit disappointed that more console game translations to those devices don’t use such a structure.  These types of games work so much better with a touch screen interface than games that try to use a virtual controller.  

Lara Croft GO kind of reminds of a GBA game in a way.  Back then handheld gaming was a lot more technologically cruder than console gaming, with handhelds still focusing on 2D gaming and console focusing on 3D gaming.  Consequently, designers had to get really creative with the ways in which they translated their big 3D console games to a 2D handheld game.  Lara Croft GO is similar as it plays nothing like a standard Tomb Raider adventure game, but rather it takes the elements of those bigger games and converts them into a form that is more friendly to the mobile platform.

In Lara Croft GO, essentially all the elements of Tomb Raider, combat, puzzle solving, and platforming, are converted into a turn-based puzzle game with grid-based movement.  Lara takes a turn to move from node to node in a level, and after she moves, the enemies and traps in the level take their actions.  So the turns work sort of like how an old-school roguelike RPG works, the player takes their turn and then the dungeon takes its turn.  Maneuvering Lara safely to the end of a level takes some puzzle-solving.  For instance, if you walk onto a space adjacent to an enemy, they will attack Lara.  But if she’s on an adjacent space that the enemy isn’t facing, she’ll be okay, and in her next turn she can move onto the enemy space and kill it.  Some enemies will chase Lara if she crosses their line of sight, and this is sometimes needed to lure them away from blocking the way forward or to get them to step on a switch that needs to be activated.

I had a lot of fun with Lara Croft GO, and I highly recommend it.  The game is $4.99, but there are no microtransactions needed to win the game.  The only in-app purchases  are additional costumes, but you can also unlock more costumes by picking up collectibles strewn about the game.  In addition, you can pay for “solutions” to each level if you’re stuck, but I never found this necessary.  The later puzzles are far from easy, but it never got frustratingly difficult.  I would say it’s actually one of those rare games that is just “perfect” in difficulty.  And besides, if you do get stuck, I’m sure you can just YouTube the solution rather than paying for it.

Super Mario Maker

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I continue to play Mario Maker from time to time.  I’m not quite as enamored with it as I was that first week, but it’s become a pick-up-and-play game for me.  The perfect game for when I only have a small amount of time to play.  I haven’t posted any new levels since my last post, but I’m working on two that I hope to finish very soon.  I feel like these might have a little better difficulty tuning than my previous designs, but, of course, I have no way to judge that beyond my own feelings.

One other thing, I’ve started watch this game on Twitch a little.  I’m not usually a big Twitch watcher, but I find that SMM streams often show off little things about designing levels that I didn’t know before.  

Games I look forward to playing 

With the year winding down, we’re starting to get into the big release season for games.  Or at least this used to be the big release season for games.  There’s been a growing trend for a while now of Jan.-Mar. being the big gaming season, since so many games targeted at holiday release get delayed to these months.  

MGS V is mainly on my mind right now, but I hope to play the recently released Until Dawn soon as well.  Going forward I believe the two biggest games for me for the rest of the year are going to be Fallout 4 in November and Just Cause 3 in December.  These three open world games (MGSV, F4, JC3) are probably going to keep me occupied for a long while.  Most big releases right now seem to be really long open world games in the 30-50 hour range.  It’s strange how not that many years ago, during the middle of the 360/PS3 generation, there was some controversy that arose regarding how short games were getting.  Most of the big-name action games were averaging single player campaigns in the 5-8 hour range.  Now it seems like games are starting to get a lot bigger again, like what many of them were in the PS1 and PS2 generation.  Maybe it’s just a sign of how competitive the market for games has become.  If you’re a company wanting to sell games in $60 boxes, then you really need to pack a lot of content in there to stand out and capture gamers’ attention from your competitors.  

I may also pick up Triforce Heroes in October.  I really liked A Link Between Worlds, but I’m not so sure yet about this co-op focused game.  But lately I’ve realized that I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to Nintendo games, so I have a feeling I’ll probably cave in if it gets decent word of mouth.  There’s also Fatal Frame V on the Wii U.  I first got into the Fatal Frame series last year, and I’m a little curious about this new entry.  But the game has been out for a while in Japan, and I’ve heard no word of mouth about it either way, positive or negative, so I honestly have no idea if it’s going to be worthwhile or not.  It also doesn’t help that it’s a full priced release that’s going to be digital-only, and I’m fairly hesitant to spending that much money on downloadable games from Nintendo’s outmoded online storefront. 

Well that’s all I have to say for now.  Other than the new releases I’ve mentioned above, I plan to play a few older horror games for the Halloween season, but hopefully I’ll be able to write more about that in the future.  

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