Positive thoughts

Mar 29, 2014

There’s this cliche with bloggers where they enthusiastically write about three posts, abandon the thing completely, and then every few months they update it again only to apologize for not updating. Although this particular blog train has certainly lost some of its steam, it’s not like I forget about it. I initially promised myself to write at least one post every month and while that goal has admittedly slipped a few times, I’m not going to be the inactive apologizing type. Not yet, anyway.

Problem is, my standards for what I actually publish are fairly high for something with an audience in the low single digits. I’d estimate that the draft/published ratio here is around 1:1. Some drafts are just short keywords for what could later become a real post, while others are 1500 word behemoths I just don’t like. It also takes time for me to write these things. The time from typing the first word into the editor to actually pressing the magic blue button might be several weeks or even a month. Mostly, it’s because the first draft is always more like an awkward collection of words than an actual post. And the second draft. And the 56th. And around that time I basically give up and throw it up on the front page.

But I digress, let’s talk about something else before I fit the cliche too well. Lately I’ve begun to realize that more often than not I’m being either overly pessimistic or overly appreciative of anything video game related, and I think to myself: what idiot stores his opinions as Boolean values? In a small effort to combat my own awful attitude I’m now going to spend the rest of this post unironically writing positive things about games I don’t necessarily like.

Mirror’s Edge

The main problem with Mirror’s Edge is the gameplay feature that makes it stand out. Realistic first person platforming sounds thrilling in theory (because don’t we all want to be parkour freedom fighters sometimes) but in practice you end up looking at a lot of wall and making premature leaps of faith because you’re never quite sure where your legs are.

That being said, the game does have its strong points, such as its visual style. It’s the kind of game where you can look at it being played for no more than a second and immediately tell exactly which game it is, and that’s always a good thing. Look at any realistic first person shooter or medieval role playing game and that task becomes significantly harder.

Even the platforming is surprisingly alright when you’re not required to make precision jumps or navigate narrow corridors (which unfortunately is the majority of the game).

Brütal Legend

If there’s one thing that stands above all else in this game, it’s the soundtrack. Let me go on record as saying that I don’t understand or like metal in general, but I did actually like the style and music of Brütal Legend more than anything else. What kills it is the horrible RTS battles that make up pretty much every major event of the game. The soundtrack lends itself well to over-the-top action, not unit micromanagement, and when the game occasionally does throw you an action-packed sequence, everything clicks.

F.E.A.R. 3

As I hopefully made clear in my post about it, I think F.E.A.R. 3 does a lot of things wrong, but it’s not all bad. As I also mentioned in passing, the general shooty bits work pretty much like every other respectable shooter out there. Mediocrity is obviously nothing to strive for, and the game’s genuinely entertaining sliding kick and F.E.A.R. mainstay slow-mo power still manage to elevate it slightly above generic FPS status.

Prince of Persia (2008)

Aeons ago I bought this in a Steam sale for next to nothing, and I managed to get decently far into it before I realized how tedious it had become. The thing about this reboot (which Ubisoft is apparently kind of ashamed about these days) is that its world is very pretty and the prince’s movement animations are top-tier. What ultimately stopped me dead in my tracks was how empty and dead the entire world felt. I played for several hours and met like three other characters, none of which were particularly interesting. It’s a very shallow game in an extremely polished shell.

Assassin’s Creed III

Ask me about Assassin’s Creed II and I’ll tell you that it’s still the best of the series. Ask me about Assassin’s Creed III and I’ll tell you to fuck off. But suppose you asked the real me instead of the internet me and I’ll tell you that it ends up being a game more about naval battles than actual assassinations, which is not really fitting for a game series with the word “assassin” in the title.

A friend of mine once told me that the naval battles were actually some of the most fun things the game had to offer, and I didn’t believe him for one second. But lo and behold, he was right. Compared to the rest of the game, commandeering a frigate around an angry sea and ducking when it’s about to get smashed to bits is actually one of the high points.

And it’s a shame, because the world is absolutely massive and even occasionally beautiful, but it just doesn’t lend itself very well to what made the previous AC games so great, namely the sprawling, lively cities that usually allowed for some cool assassinations and escapes.

Jak II

I recently played the Jak trilogy for the first time and it was pretty good. The first one is a throwback to the olden days of platformers, back when they didn’t need complicated plots or explanations of why people would ever build a town inside an active volcano or why every animal on the island is out to kill you.

The second Jak game is a huge departure from the first one, going for a much darker and more mature setting, and it pulls it off really well. My one beef with it — and this might just be a case of me being bad at games — is that it’s unfairly hard. The biggest issue is inevitably that it’s a shooter, but you can’t aim. Your weapon automatically snaps to an enemy when you’re facing him, or more commonly, whenever it feels like it.

Okay, okay, positive thoughts. Jak II sets up some important plot points that pay off in Jak 3 and it also features a really impressive open world for the time, with enough things going on that it feels somewhat alive. The platforming works fine, and once in a blue moon when the aiming actually works and you’re not being swarmed by hundreds of enemies at once, combat is pretty good as well.

Final Fantasy XIII

You know that awkward feeling when you used to know someone you never got along with, didn’t talk for a long while, and then by chance you meet again and try to exchange pleasantries? This is a bit like that, except this someone is a video game, and then it’s really just sad.

Only a few months have passed since I haphazardly tried to describe how FFXIII is basically worse than leprosy wherein I labeled the development team as not knowing fun. I still kind of stick by that, but I suppose there are a few redeeming qualities to be told.

The graphics are generally pretty good, but the world design was a huge letdown to me. That being said, if you’re the kind of person who prefers the sci-fi FFs, you’re in luck, because this has lots of it, and that might redeem much of the world for you. The combat is at the very least functional where hey, it’s not as good as FFXII but at least it’s not FFVII.

What is perhaps most telling for me personally is that if I really hated it that much, would I have finished it? Granted, I took a break halfway through, but this is a pretty long game, and the fact that it had me invested enough to reach the end credits says something, at least.

Well, would you look at that. I started out wanting to appreciate things, and I ended up bitching about every single one of them anyway. Still, I think it’s a solid first step towards being less of an asshole, and as a great man once said, bla bla bla first step. Next on permortensen.com, why everything I love is actually just the worst.