Tag Archives: pc

MGS: Ground Zeroes Thoughts

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is interesting in that it feels like Kojima making a proposition to the gaming world. “Here’s the variety you can have with a single well-designed location and systems.”

The weather and time changing the way the game plays is fantastic. You go from the low-visibility (for both you and guards) of the rainy, nighttime hurricane in the Ground Zeroes mission to the calm sunny day of the second mission. It changes the feel and the approach to very similar infiltration tasks.

With some scripting alterations you can create a surprising amount of gameplay variety in the engine as designed. It doesn’t always work out great, I will say the third mission which is mostly just a helicopter turrent-gun style sequence is generally boring. Not because it’s badly done, it’s competent, but it’s an over-familiar kind of game mission at the moment and this one has nothing to really differentiate it.

Still, this is a proposition I’ve been behind for a while. Tight, smaller-space locations with strong design can hold a huge amount of variety, and with a focused visual development can often look more convincing than the vast repeat-necessitated landscapes that many games (lots of which I love) have to use.

I’ll always bring it back to Shenmue, such a formative game for me, because the first game had a very small, even for the time, playspace overall. Yet it was, outside of some textures and understandable models that repeated in the real world, largely unique. Every street was it’s own street, every shop a full location for itself, even if you never have need to enter it in the course of a straightforward linear playthrough. The abundance of detail gave the small location character in a way very few games ever manage and a sense of reality that broke through the now-dated graphics and complemented what Yu Suzuki was attempting to create.

Titan Souls – My Thoughts

I wanted to like it. I really did but the game completely ruined itself with the design of the fights, and when that’s the whole game it’s a pretty big problem. A few points stuck out to me:

1) The one-hit kill/death setup isn’t inherently bad but it doesn’t work here. You die fast and often and then you wait a short, but painfully cumulative time before you can try again. As I mentioned, pretty much constantly, an instant restart would help but I don’t think it would solve some of the problems.

2) Death teaches you nothing. In a game like Dark Souls or God Hand you die a lot but, most of the time, that death teaches you something. You learn a technique that works or one that doesn’t, you build your knowledge and as you approach the situation again you can go in feeling like you’re better prepared. Titan Souls has none of this, sometimes a bosses’ weak point will be obvious and you can just try to attack it, sometimes it’ll have no clear weakness and you’ll be fumbling to solve the puzzle of it blindly. If you had a life bar, you’d feel better about figuring out what hits work as there could be some indication you’re on the right track, even as simple as making the enemy flash when hit. Since you just die, die and die again you can have solved the puzzle but not know that because there’s no indication and the finickiness of the weak point can have you endlessly searching for another option. Someone on my G+ also nailed one point on the head, fights are at their easiest the moment you start. The ideal run to any fight is to hit them on their first exposure of the weak spot, anything after that scales in difficulty and frustration, and it again lacks any more meaningful info the longer you take.

3) The Overworld experience means little. In Shadow of the Colossus you spend a good deal of time simply traveling, searching for the target and in that time you drink in the spectacular world around you. It uses the ambient storytelling we often hear about in the best possible way, giving you a feel almost akin to a historian in a grand mysterious place. It’s varied and crafted so well that the journey is as much a part of the experience as the fight. Titan Souls aims for this but misses by a large margin, the world feeling overtly gamey and unnatural, exploring it rewards you with… nothing. The pixel art is nice but the world is oddly static and dull, with no character and an unfortunate reliance on game cliches like “Ice Area” and “Lava Area” that just hammer home the generic feel. More lessons from their inspirations such as SOTC and Zelda would go a long way.

4) Bosses look decent but, like the overworld, don’t really have their own character. Maybe there is a story to this land, something the developers know, but it’s not apparent to me as a player. They are hugely disparate without anything that really ties them together with any central narrative or concept. Fighting them also often feels very similar boss to boss, usually in a dull flat arena you avoid them then hit them in the front or back. The best difference I found was the water-dragon type enemy in the Ice Level and that ended up being a mashup of a Colossus and the fourth form of Chaos from Sonic Adventure, though I’m not really docking it marks for that. Again I must rep this person on G+ with his mention of the vertical movement of the bosses in an oblique perspective situation being extremely hard to judge, making bosses more annoying to fight than they rightfully should be.

As it stands Titan Souls is more of a recommendation to play its inspirations again, rather than it. In the same way 3D Dot Game Heroes veered too close to Zelda, but without matching the quality, Titan Souls does the same for SOTC, Dark Souls and Zelda, replay a classic instead.

Five Nights at Freddy’s

Five Nights at Freddy’s is a tense game.

It’s an extremely simple game of managing a single resource in order to survive. You have only the barest of interaction and yet it is incredibly successful at what it’s trying to do. It’s not deep in it’s horror but it is effective and quite clever for it.

It’s two primary elements are jump scares and a delightfully grotty atmosphere. The latter is fantastic themeing; a chuck-e-cheese/showbiz pizza type location is perfectly suited for creating a slightly disturbed feel. These kinds of family entertainment location already exist with a very bright facade covering a fairly dull or even unpleasant reality; it’s not hard to imagine an office as dirty and oppressive as the one in the game as a genuine location. Often taking something innocent and making it evil or creepy is a lazy trope done with little thought, it’s easy to sell to a teenage crowd who are only just encountering these ideas for the first time. Here Scott Cawthon creates an impressive sense of personality with the premise of the free-roaming robots and the absurd job you are performing. It echoes the kind of impossible, yet interesting, sci-fi worlds that were so common in the 70’s and 80’s. It’s grim, it’s unbelievable but it is also fun and compelling in it’s own right.

The jump scares are, as always, a fairly cheap mechanism but that is fine. They’re not the goal of the game, they’re the deterrent for failure. Knowing that they’re coming if you fuck up is your incentive to play better and the reason you end up filled with paranoia. It is, as in so many things, more about the anticipation rather than the action itself. Losing track of one of the characters means you’ve opened yourself up to a possible jump and you don’t want that because they’re very effectively performed! You’ll panic, you’ll scrabble at cameras, you’ll be afraid to look about in the game because it MIGHT JUST BE THERE.

THEN IT IS! DAMN YOU PURPLE DOG THING!

It’s simple, it’s short and it’s not particularly replayable but it’s also cheap, effective and if it’s up your street, highly entertaining.

What I didn’t expect from it, and am most glad of, is that it’s made me want to see this world expanded. It’s a grinning kind of dirt and fear and I’d love to see more of what could be out there.