Saturday, 29 March 2014

Darksiders II isn’t sure whether the Internet exists or not. Sorry, it does.


In an entirely unintentional turn of events, I have an addendum to my previous piece about Darksiders II being too long for its own good. I of course appreciate any and all irony surrounding this occurrence, even if the below is not explicitly a continuation of that subject.

There is a ‘wholly optional’ dungeon within DS II called the Soul Arbiter’s Maze, which is essentially a wave-based survival mode wherein the player is tasked with besting an increasingly deadly collection of the game’s foes. What is interesting about the area, like much of the game’s core design, is its juxtaposition of videogame ideas old and new.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Darksiders II is almost fourteen times as long as Beowulf (starring Ray Winstone)


Achieving a feat as lofty as saving humanity from oblivion should be difficult. It should be long, unforgiving, testing, exhausting: all those things we want a hero to overcome when realising their towering goals. Epic poetry is full of tales of daring men and women descending into the underworld or embarking on a perilous journey for the sake of something very important. These are characters used to getting things done, even if it takes them many years to actually accomplish their goals. As Valerie Valdes pointed out a while back and others have further explored since, games have been modelling themselves after the epics for some time. Darksiders II very much aspires to reach these same heights of dizzying heroism, and like a mythological journey around the Grecian peninsula - by way of Hades, of course - is really, really, really long for its efforts.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

(Over) analysing The Bureau: XCOM Declassified’s chest-high walls (to within an inch of their lives)


I’ve done a close reading of the chest-high walls in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified and I’m happy to report that I think they could be a meditation on the tangible benefits of improved graphics. Furthermore, I reckon their implementation also questions if our lust to achieve increased verisimilitude between real and digital worlds is misguided.

In some of the Metal Gear games the player can take part in extracurricular virtual reality simulations. These largely take on the form of challenges, where the player is to focus entirely on their grasp of and prowess with game mechanics, unhindered by the troubles of setting, story, and the like. These VR excursions, in the guise of computerised training programmes, strip away all of these ‘distractions’ and stick the player-character in a glowing, geometric world made of cubes. In doing so, it could be said that the games are making a statement about where the real importance - the heart, if you were - of videogames truly lies. That while videogames are forced to inhabit the trappings of cinema, theatre and literature to attain wider cultural acceptance, the actual hallmark of the medium is, has and always will be the simple pleasures of the player moving things on a screen, and not some highfaluting screen moving the player. Pah.

Friday, 14 February 2014

I want to be stereotyped/ I want to be classified: This week I like microtransactions in my games on my phone



Those words right at the top there are the opening lyrics of Suburban Home, a song by punk band Descendents .In many ways it’s the archetypal eighties Californian hardcore/punk track; a biley swipe at the status quo emanating from a group of disaffected young people. They don’t like the stagnation of consumption-driven Middle America. They don’t like society’s attempts to constrain them. They don’t like talking frankly and often prefer the shield of sarcasm to carry their sentiments.

This type of anarchic protest runs through every era of American punk. I tend find it a little more interesting, however, as bands get older and begin to reflect upon their once-youthful selves. Instead of outright dismissal, we’re often witness to more thoughtful examination. This can go anywhere from simply exploring topics in a more objective manner, to harshly critiquing one’s very attitudes as a youngster. It’s this spirit of weary self-reflexivity that finds me compelled to re-evaluate them ‘orrible money-grabbing phone/browser games and wot I fink of them.