Saturday, 7 November 2009

Game Review- Pirates and Mutants

I wish I could throw up some reviews for new games, but until I stop being a lazy bastard that won’t happen. So I guess it’s time for another trip down memory lane.

Sid Meier’s Pirates

Its.... Fun.

The game is all about you going off into the new world to avenge the wrongs placed upon your family, but actually it’s about raiding the shit out of everything you see. It’s a relatively well designed game, with interesting mechanics and a well fleshed out economy.

Alot of the fighting takes place out at sea when ships start shooting each other with cannons, but if you want to be a successful pirate you have to learn how to sword fight. The reason for this is if you shoot a ship too much it sinks, while if you kill the captain in the duel you automatically win. In a way this sort of unbalances the combat way into your favour, as the smallest ship with a skeleton crew (Figuratively speaking, but it would been cool if they added ghosts and shit) can capture the biggest ship in the game if your sword skills are quick enough.

The ship battles themselves are pretty easy once you work out all the little details, to the point where you can be right next to another ship but dodge all 10 cannon balls shot at you. I did raise the difficulty, and while that kinda helped the game was still pretty easy.

I know I just bashed the game here for two paragraphs, but again I want to say that it is a fun game. I got to the point in the game where I would pass treasure ships or prosperous towns and think to myself “Hmm, That’s clearly not on fire enough for my liking...”, pretty much everyone started to hate me... But I was a pirate so I just kept burning their shit down whenever I felt like it.

It is a fun game.... But.

I wouldn’t say it’s a problem with the game itself, but rather its genre and my tastes. Free roaming. You get alot of these games these days, called sand boxes and so on, but I get the feeling I don’t enjoy these games as much as other people do. The trouble I have is the fact that I need a clear goal, there has to be an underlining reason for everything I do, and sometimes these free roaming games don’t give me that.

For me Sid Meiser’s Pirates the problem is the fact that it lacks any sort of storyline, which for some people is probably its greatest strength. I know the feeling that sometimes games can be games and nothing more, but I’m not the sort of person that applies to. Oh sure there is the whole business with finding your family and beating the bad guy, but it’s never really given any sort of gravity. The game pretty much straight up tells you “Oh this guy knows where your sister is.... but you don’t have to find him if you don’t want to.... He’s kinda far away anyway, it would be much more fun to just keep burning down towns wouldn’t it?” Other than a full score there is no real reward to following these things up... For me good games tend to give me an emotional motivation, after that I don’t need gold or good items, just a satisfying conclusion would be enough for me. But all the characters in the game (Including your avatar) are paper cut outs for you to choose to pirate or not.

After only two days of solidly playing this game I suddenly find myself unmotivated, what exactly is the point of collecting this mountain of gold? This is why I always have a problem with very open games, I hear how other people have gotten 100’s of hours out of them... but after I finish the storyline I find I have no more reason to carry on. Fun game mechanics alone do not keep me going (Unless it’s like... a megaman game) and I really do need a storyline in my games to keep me interested.


I really don’t like shooters.

I’ve tried, I really have, but at the end of the day it’s never happing.

I still haven’t finished Bioshock.

The graphics are good, the atmosphere is good, every good thing you’ve heard about it is true. But I will never love it because it’s a shooter. I can’t quite... describe why this is, its proving to be difficult to actually reason what I don’t like about them. I mean, I’d like to say it’s because they don’t have stories, but that’s not true is it? I’d like to say it’s the story structure that I don’t like, something about the first person perspective being restricting, or the way it follows the routine of shoot some guys, talk, shoot some guys, talk... But I played Dark Messiah and liked the story... which is structured exactly the same as modern shooter stories.

So what is it I don’t like exactly?

Honestly? I think it’s the fact I’m all alone. Most shooters are rather lonely places, filled to brim with creatures wanting to eat your face, and your only friends are either miles away or only willing to meet you for five minutes. The settings for most shooters are very hostile, and in most cases there are no ‘safe’ towns to get your bearings or to just talk about the weather. A sense of powerlessness overcomes me, and I wonder why I would ever come to a place like this.

At the start of Bioshock you crash in the middle of the ocean, saved only by a lonely lighthouse. As you explore it you find yourself in a metal orb with a switch on the wall.

I don’t think I’d ever pull it.

I would probably be the sort of person that would sit in that dark lighthouse, staring out into the sea, trying to keep hold of my hope for rescue. Only after a long desperate time would I even consider pulling the lever in the thing that clearly looks like drop pod of some sort, and I would probably instantly regret pulling it.

Now is probably a good time to mention that I am terrified of the dark. Not so much the night, or any lack of light, but rather the feeling of total isolation you get once you’re stuck in the dark with no one else around. You have to understand, I see my sense of imagination as possibly my greatest trait, but at the same time it’s the source of my greatest fear. It’s simply because I do not have an off switch for it, when I’m watching a movie I’ll tend to start going off into my own dreamland using the ideas of the movie as a bit of springboard. When I am faced with a void with no one to tell me there’s nothing there my imagination goes bonkers. It is not a pleasant experience.

The atmosphere of most shooters tends to bring up similar (But very toned down) feelings of the same sort. Unless I’m endowed with god like powers and a clear sense of invincibility I’ll not be able to finish games like this. In games I get scared easily because my imagination puts me in the feet of my character, I’m not watching someone getting their face ripped off, I am having my face ripped off!

I was able to finish resident evil 5 simply because it had coop mode, and despite how me and my friend tended to work each other up until were jumping at everything, having just a single person backing me up gave me a massive confidence boost. Hell, even when I play it online with a stranger, just because he’s there and working towards my welfare (Most of the time anyway) gives me the confidence to face any challenge.

Bioshock is all about total isolation from anything sane, and even though I’m pretty unstoppable the unpleasant feeling it gives me stops me from enjoying it.

I just want someone to talk to... Because I think the Mad Hatter is putting arsenic in my tea.

P.S. On the other hand if the roles are reversed and I’m the thing that goes bump in the night, I get a hoot out of that. Aliens vs predator 2 is a fun game.

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