I nabbed Far Cry 3 from the Cool Ghosts key giveaway and gave it a try. It’s an odd one. The core shooting isn’t quite right, but its close enough to keep me going … except that enemy density is really wonky. There are vast swathes of territory with nothing worth worrying about, vast swaths where you can’t even sneeze without getting into a fight, and both places can host spontaneous wild animal attacks. The odd pacing itself wasn’t really a problem, but between the plot and characters being awful (good performances all around, but terrible writing) and boring by-the-numbers scripted sequences in the plot missions … wondering around in that sea of odd pacings and not-bad combat is all the game has to offer. To make matters weirder, the radio towers are at incredibly frustrating, there’s an invisible wall between the two islands despite being well within jet-ski/boat range, and the crafting system can go sky-dive into a cinder cone.
In the first twenty minutes of play, my inventory filled up with plants and random garbage; I couldn’t make the plants into syringes without crafting a bigger syringe kit which require murdering a bunch of specific animals which required a bigger inventory which required murdering a bunch of goats which required a bigger inventory. Or, sure, I could sell everything in my inventory … which required a bigger wallet which required murdering a bunch of goats which required …
Of course, things can be dropped out of your inventory. But the absurdity of the crafting system was infuriating. That basic functions like cooking a grenade were skill-tree upgrades was also infuriating. The game was dead determined to follow the standard video game power arc and I really, really don’t like the standard video game power arc especially not in Open World games where it has become the most insidious. In any case, I stuck with it because I have a problem sticking with games that aren’t working for me and I felt bad taking the free key away from someone who might have enjoyed it more, but finally threw in the towel on the second island during a sequence where I had to wait for a helicopter to pick me up after planting explosives on a communications array. Even on low difficulty, the sequence was rather pushy and was taking a lot of losing and reloading (usually the helicopter died, not me) and I got tired of repeating it.
I’ve also been playing Fallout: New Vegas. I like certain elements of it, but I’m genuinely surprised this is the game I’ve been hearing about for so long! I don’t feel like the storytelling is very much better than Fallout 3’s; I feel more like a protagonist, certainly, but I also feel more like standard-video-game-macguffin-man and that’s not exactly a breath of fresh air. For all that it was poorly implemented and badly structured … the idea that your dad, not you, were the hot-shot of the story in Fallout 3 worked for me. Locations don’t feel more flavorful, the wasteland doesn’t feel more alive, it feels like there’s less music (but that might be my imagination), it feels like there’s less … weird and I even took the perk for that, and the major factions feel just as nonsensical. I had a moment early on where I thought I had permanently turned the powerful Caesar’s Legion against me–they even sent assassins that were terrifyingly powerful. I thought I’d really messed up but in a good sort of way … and then I get a polite note from Ceasar that all is forgiven if I come to a meeting and discuss things. The game wasn’t content to let me screw with my own fate, here, it had to give me a chance to listen to some boring exposition about Ceasar’s Legion so I can presumably make some Big Moral Choice about whose side I want to be on.
To be clear, I’m quite enjoying my time with New Vegas! I just don’t know that its any better than Fallout 3 and it certainly doesn’t have as many interesting side-mission stories or compelling locations. The main plot is … both executed better and more video-game-y so I have mixed feelings about it. You can hear the hum of the Standard CRPG Plot 6a humming along. It’s a little weird navigating how I feel about that, because Fallout 3’s plot was handled so badly, its set pieces were so messy … and yet on some level it was more surprising and interesting until you actually had to sit through the weird and annoying choices this or that faction or character made and actually had to put up with the lack of compelling motivations paving and surrounding that more surprising and interesting road.
I booted up Baldur’s Gate the other night and probably won’t go back. I kept dying early on at the Friendly Arm Inn, eventually resorting to dodging around the guy who was waiting to kill me to get into the Inn but even coming outside with my newly bolstered party of 4 wasn’t enough to make up the difference and I still couldn’t escape the lose-control-of-your-party spell or the homing-missle-that one-shots-my-low-level-character spell. The writing seems decent so far and I can take a boring plot if the minutiae are well executed, which seems to be the state of affairs in Baldur’s Gate. Only if this is a harbinger of the encounter design to come I don’t think its worth trying this fight over and over and over until it goes right or I sort out another exploit to avoid it. Maybe the sequel has better encounter design.
I then booted up Dying Light and … you know, I’ve already criticized one very frustrating open-world game that shoots itself in the foot with foolish design decisions, so lets just leave it there for now.
I swear, I do enjoy games sometimes! This is what I get for trying to sort out my backlog … well, I can’t blame that for Far Cry 3 I suppose.