So on my first wedding anniversary, I moved into a dorm.
Not to be a college student or anything like that, but because my wife got an assistantship to help offset the costs of going to grad school, and that meant she was now somewhat in charge of a dorm full of college freshmen, and we had to move into the apartment on the first floor (the one the kids call “the awkward loft”, and I don’t know if they are calling me or the loft awkward, both would be accurate). I would be lying if I said this was ideal. It does have its perks (no rent or utilities, being hooked up to a college net connection), but then it also has some major drawbacks, in that I spend large chunks of my life surrounded by 18 year olds in the middle of their “formative years” and such.
Now, I agreed to do this, because my wife needed to get out of her dead-end former job and, to move ahead in her field, she needed a graduate degree. And my wife understands that as a guy who moved out of the residence halls of Ohio State as soon as I could, I was not eager to jump back into the life of a dormie. So as a little reward for being willing to go along with this, I got to use up some of our savings to get a new computer, the first one I had since 2005. I named it Mason_Storm, a combination of getting a Cooler Master Scout Storm Case, and Steven Seagal’s name from Hard to Kill, so that I could tell it, in my best bad Kelly LeBrock, “I love you, Mason Storm.”
And that’s what this has to do with video games, in case you were wondering.
I go through cycles with PC gaming. It goes like this:
- I get a new computer.
- I binge on all the games I couldn’t play from the previous years on my prior shitty computer.
- I keep current for awhile, until I can’t run new stuff any more.
- I end up playing console stuff again.
Console games offer the comfort of “whelp, this is what you have and it isn’t gonna get much better” (or at least they did in the previous generations, prior to patches being a thing companies could do). I could keep up, upgrading my PC a piece at a time or whatever, and each time I get a new computer, I swear I will do just that, but then I don’t.
And so, in addition to whatever else I did in gaming in 2012, I got to do a quick catch up on some PC gaming I missed out on, so here we go with capsule reviews:
I will never be an expert SC2 player. Not gonna fight my way up the competitive ladders, nor try to figure out how to maximize my APM or any of that, but it sure is nice to see this game looking like something other than the Warcraft 3 mod my old computer made it look like. Also to not get those warnings from Blizzard that I can’t run this anymore.
I have owned this game for awhile, having grabbed it cheap from a Target Clearance rack in like 2007, but it just ran on my old computer at all, and when it did, there was nothing guaranteeing that at some point the whole thing wouldn’t just come crashing down. The one time I played it at a LAN, we got about a half hour into the thing and the entire LAN just decided to freeze up and tell us to fuck off. OK, then.
However, now on Mason_Storm, something like 6 years after its original release (and using the Forged Alliance expansion, which makes the UI look like something not designed for a CD ROM game in 1994), it runs. It runs well. And at a late in the year LAN party, it dominated a weekend, as we all learned about optimizing production, setting up proper patrols, and so forth. Someone made a sweet war game out of various industrial engineering principles (“your shit better be LEAN AS FUCK or I swear to god, you are getting trashed”), and man, it is a damn good time.
Also, it has giant robots and massive tanks that planes can land on, so yeah, it hits that nerve too.
Yeah, my last computer could have run this game, but I never did, and then the BFG edition came out, and everyone trashed it, so I went and picked up the original on a Steam Sale. It’s still Doom 3. The lighting is pretty impressive, and the game is loyal to Doom in a lot of ways, but with a few modern gaming conventions creeping in (see RAGE, ugh). The humans all look kinda hideous, and not being able to hold a flashlight and a pistol at the same time still makes no damn sense , but I still feel some affection for what it does for the mechanics, so I am fine with it. There is still nothing so kinda-terrifying-neato as having to kill enemies you can only see with muzzle flair. Yep, still monster closets, but it’s Doom so, come on.
Goddamit, you know how I said the modern game design was creeping into Doom 3? Well, in RAGE, it is all the rage (yup) and it shits up some otherwise nice stuff. As modern game design goes (run here to do mission here, collect this stuff to make a new gun/upgrade/whatever, drive your vehicle here) it isn’t terrible, but it just feels so unnecessary. Once you are past quest screens and inventory, you can get some satisfying blasting of crazy dudes in Postapocalytica (the country where all these kinds of games take place), and like everything id does, it sure looks pretty in its way, though I won’t blame you if you just want someone else to do something with it.
Jesus is the Darksiders series just kind of a waste. OK, not really, as I enjoyed the few hours I sunk into this one, in a don’t-think-just-do way, but I look at it and I just want all of -THIS- to get used to do something better. The convoluted silly mess that is the story (I didn’t finish Darksiders 1 either, so don’t ask me where this falls in the “canon”, and fucking wash your mouth out for asking) reeks of some dudes trying hard, and coming up with something that only just rises to the level of “oh shit this would be a comic I would only be not-embarrassed about if I had read it pre-puberty” in that it somehow starts sorta based on Biblical ideas (The Four Horsemen), but then just changes the identity of the Horsemen, and kinda adds in aliens or something. Anyhow, the story is only outdone on the “wishing for better” scale by the graphics, which are pretty, technically, but in service of a just hideous “JoeMad + Fantasy” bullshit style. And yet, still kinda fun. Not great, though. Never great.
So you know the kinda nice thing about not having a computer that is fully “up to spec” with games? I missed out on Free-To-Play for awhile. It was a thing I would see/hear people complain about on the internet, but then I never ran into it that much, since most of the games utilizing it as a model were well past my little box. Mason Storm, on the other hand, can totally handle them, and so having blown all the money I had on buying Mr. Storm, I downloaded a few of them right away to check them out.
This game is one of the two I spent any time with, and it highlighted the problems of the model for me right away. The game itself is a decent Call of Duty-esque FPS with a sci fi bent, but the problem comes in with how it is monetized. The player earns one kind of “points” as they play, and they can pay for another kind of points. Both kinds of points can be used to buy things in game. Pretty standard model, from what I have seen.
What bugs me about this game is the “rental” of items. For a far-cheaper-than-buying-it price, you can rent items for a period of time. The game doesn’t really do a good job of explaining this, meaning of course you will, at some point, waste some credits on it. And then it just feels hollow when your time=money cash disappears afterwards.
All of this just leads to feeling like you have to grind for weapons even more than in Call of Duty, which is no good. Still, at least this one is damn pretty.
The other F2P I tried, and I liked this one as a game a lot more, except for that is doesn’t explain a damn thing about itself to the player at all. There are Youtube tutorial vids made by the company that explain the game more, but once I played the game enough to understand what was going on, it just seemed like they could have explained it in-game pretty easily.
Due to this lack of explanation, most games are spent with new players running around trying to figure out what the hell to do, while people who have been playing awhile take easy potshots at the chickens running around wit their heads still attached. It doesn’t seem like the way to build a good player community.
When it does work, it feels really great. Huge pitched battles, people working together, missions getting accomplished, and so on. Unfortunately, this happened to me for maybe 15 minutes of the total time I spent in the game, and it feels like, with the right tutorials and such, it could happen a lot more. Normally, I am not one to argue for tutorials, but this game needs them.
That being said, at least the F2P model isn’t as shitty as Blacklight’s.
I still don’t know if I had to choose, would I go PC or console forever. It’s a stupid choice, and one I probably will never be forced into making, and if I am somehow, I will probably decide that is when I should just stop, or go PC and deal with how some console things will never make it over. That isn’t so bad I guess, but man I think I would miss my couch. And no, wireless keyboards and mice don’t make computers usable from my couch.