Once upon a time I made a blog about video games. And this is what's left of it (mostly tweets).

1 December 2014

Think I’m gonna rush through the end of Far Cry 4 so I can finally write my scathing review, be done with the game, forget it ever existed.

Because it’s unhealthy how much it pisses me off to think about this game.

2 December

Vainglory serves as a pretty nice, approachable introduction to MOBAs, but I don’t think I’ll want to endure the touch controls.

I want to post screenshots of all the Shangri-La missions — but they would technically be spoilers, so I can’t.

Far Cry 4 (PS4)

Far Cry 3 was my game of the year 2012 (Spec Ops was more interesting, but it wasn’t as fun). So you’ll understand that I went into Far Cry 4 with some trepidation, after reading several interviews in which Far Cry 4’s narrative director openly shat on his predecessor’s work. Turns out my expectations were a bit off: I thought I’d find the writing much more objectionable than it was, when in fact the main issue was that there was so little of it. Hindsight being 20/20, of course that’s what you get when you promote the previous game’s level designer as lead writer.

Let’s start with the villain: charismatic, well acted, well written, and present on screen for the first ten minutes and the last five of the game — literally. The main quest givers: oscillating between obnoxious (by design) and merely annoying over the course of the game. The side quest givers: always insufferable. The story: simply absent. Finally, the world: not that much prettier than Far Cry 3’s (just higher-resolution, with a nicer skybox) and so single-mindedly hostile that I resented every minute I had to spend there. The Rook Islands had their fair share of enemies and predators, but the place still felt like a holiday destination gone wrong; there were times when you could kick off your shoes for a walk on the beach — simply enjoy being there. Kyrat is so intent on killing you that death even comes from the skies now. “EAGLE!” So much for escapism.

But let’s get back to the writing. Unfortunately for me, I happen to be one of those people who have trouble finishing a game if it doesn’t make an effort to provide the most rudimentary story to propel me forward. Far Cry 4 doesn’t just lack a compelling story, it’s also adamant about making the protagonist as much of a cipher as humanly possible. And, as if that weren’t enough, it jumps squarely into the pitfalls the previous game had managed to avoid.

Far Cry 3 was criticized a lot — wrongly — for exploiting the “white savior” trope. American bro-dude Jason Brody arrives in the wrong place at the wrong time, and turns out to have such a knack at killing people that he is noticed by the leader of the oppressed indigenous tribe, who decides to use her charms to manipulate Brody into getting rid of the invaders. Sure, I can see how you could come out of it thinking it was a white savior story, but that’s just not what it is — the game’s main fault, really, was that it didn’t hit you over the head with its cleverness, that it was content to let you believe in the empowerment fantasy it ostensibly presented, if you didn’t care to look beyond appearances.

On the other hand, Far Cry 4’s young American protagonist, Ajay Ghale, isn’t just instrumentalized by the local resistance / terrorist group: they insist at every turn on making him choose the future of the country. Let’s all defer to the young kid who just landed here a week ago, who can miraculously settle the quarrels we were helpless to resolve ourselves! He’s spent his whole life in the USA, he doesn’t know the first thing about Kyrat, but it’s okay because his parents were Kyrati and he was born there. I suppose that makes sense to an American audience obsessed with ethnic origins — for whom it makes sense to call people “African American,” “Mexican American,” “Italian American.” To me, it’s just a hundred times worse than Far Cry 3.

That’s all moot, though, since the character is such a cipher. You can’t simultaneously claim that he’s not a white savior because he has the right genes (as idiotic as that is in the first place), and make a point of giving your character as little background, personality, and dialogue as possible, so that the white dudes you market your game to can fully identify with him. If he’s just an empty vessel for the player to project into, then he’s definitely not Kyrati in any practical sense.

And then, there’s the elephant in the room: it’s somewhat unclear whether Pagan Min is gay or not (Ubisoft’s PR will assure you that he isn’t, yet he says himself “I am indeed batting for the other team,” which doesn’t have too many possible interpretations, in a voiceover line that they probably forgot to cut), but either way his character design, from his pink suit to his bleached hair and eyeliner (seriously?!), harkens back to the most despicable storytelling tradition of using “effeminate” as shorthand for “obviously evil” — a classic trope that’s been thankfully subsiding in cinema over the last thirty years but is still, apparently, viable for videogames. And the less said about Mumu Chiffon, the better. Credit where credit is due for Amita being a strong female character, but outside of role-playing games we’re evidently facing another decade or two of homosexuals being, at best, comic relief.

So how did I survive a couple dozen hours of the most unpleasant, uninviting, semi-homophobic videogame I’ve played since… well, GTA V? (Ouch, I didn’t expect to end that sentence on such a recent reference.) Well, there’s an advantage to the game being just a reskin of Far Cry 3: the mechanics are well proven, and almost entirely beyond reproach. It’s a shame that elephants handle like Halo’s Banshees (I understand it makes the shooting easier, but I never felt I was riding a living creature, which I was looking forward to), and I still dislike the sudden difficulty spike when you unlock the second half of the world map, but the shooting and killing and hunting is fun, and the newly added grappling hook is great.

And I can’t adequately express how thankful I am for the Shangri-La missions. (Of which I’ve only played the first two, because I want to forget everything I hated about the game before I savour the last four.) There’s such a sense of awe and wonder in those short diversions that I was truly depressed coming back to sad old Kyrat. When the main studio in charge of Far Cry 4 had to design its own “drug trip” missions, they added an ugly color-cycling fog to Kyrat, played shitty sitar music on top, and called it done. Meanwhile, Ubisoft Toronto managed, with mostly a palette swap and a bunch of copy-pasted buddhist ruins, to create a unique, vibrant world — most importantly, a world that I actually wanted to clean up of its demons, to restore to its original beauty. And that glorious tiger brings all the life that’s missing from both both the human and animal populations of the main campaign.

I just want more of that.

RT @reverendanthony: Mini-review of @telltalegames’ Game of Thrones: “Cersei will remember that” may be the four scariest words in the English language.

3 December

Sérieusement, pour choisir de pénaliser un joueur qui bute les animaux, il faut n’avoir jamais joué à un jeu vidéo de sa vie, non ?

6 December

Dragon Age: Inquisition on PS4 doesn’t know how to let me connect to an existing Origin account, insists I create a new one. Amazing.

Hurray for having to jump through hoops because each major publisher insists on having its own fucking online network.

As a UX guy I’m so annoyed, I have to fight the irrational urge to put the disc back into its box and return the game to Amazon.

My first contact with Dragon Age: Twenty minutes waiting for an EA rep to answer on the support chat. Ten minutes to get him to delete the extraneous Origin account that was automatically created without my consent as soon as I launched the game. Ten minutes to undelete the account, because it turns out that closing it did not and would not free my PSN ID to be linked with another Origin account. Then fifteen more minutes to actually transfer my PSN ID from one account to the other — which hadn’t been my initial request because I was afraid it would screw up my good Origin account, and with good reason.

Needless to say, I’m not really in the mood to play Dragon Age right now.

I absolutely love the idea of Link’s horse avoiding trees because “real-life horses don’t run into trees” — they’re not nature’s bikes.

Good grief, Cassandra’s accent is unbearable. Can I kill her?

7 December

Considering how much time it takes us to kill a bear, I’m not in any hurry to encounter a dragon.

The Uncharted footage looks as clinical as if it were shot with an HD camcorder. I’d say that’s much more suitable to first-person than third-person games, which need more cinematographic visual effects.

The foliage is lovely, though.

Protip: don’t pick the same button for “use” and “jump” if you don’t want your protagonist to look like a bumbling idiot half the time.

8 December

I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense in the world of Thedas, every game needs to have a camera mode today.

Just finished the first big linear mission in DA:I (Alexius), and it’s a much better fit for Bioware’s talents than their open-world envy.

Downloaded the weather update for Driveclub. Tried to start a race in the snow. The game crashed. HAHAHAHA.

Turns out I’m not very good at driving a Ferrari in the rain. But it sure looks gorgeous from here in the back of the pack.

Regardless of the server issues which would have happened anyway, it’s a shame that Driveclub didn’t ship with weather in the first place, because this new game is kind of amazing.

Worth noting that, unlike most recent games, Driveclub!Weather looks just as good as the videos.

Also, it just crashed again. Sans weather.

9 December

10 December

I’d never thought Crossy Road was in full 3D until someone tweeted their death pic (taken from a different angle). Seems a bit wasteful, no?

Three free card packs in Hearthstone! \o/

Oh, wait, updating my decks is the part of the game I enjoy least.

Comparing Dragon Age to Far Cry 4 (which is absurd, yes), I really like how you can see a bear and simply avoid crossing its path.

Do you think Blackhall would have liked to be here for this? I think Blackhall would have liked to be here for this.

11 December

Eurogamer (usually my reference) reviews The Crew without mentioning the driving physics and controls once. Uh…

I didn’t intend to play today, but I just tweeted on this account, which displayed my Dragon Age avatar, which makes me want to play.

Digital Foundry on DriveClub’s weather

No wonder the game looked dull before — had to save all the power for this.

12 December

Look, Skyhold is awesome, but next time couldn’t we get a menu to teleport straight to each companion?

16 December

Can’t believe I ever hesitated to buy the Monument Valley DLC. The design of those new levels is everything I wanted out of this game.

20 December

Oh, wow, RuPaul qui sort un clone de Peggle sur mobile. (C’est que cloner Flappy Bird ne serait pas aussi monétisable en achats in-app.)

27 December

I kinda want to pay someone to play Dragon Age: Inquisition for me while I just dictate the story choices.

29 December

I’ll probably never quite finish Escape Goat, but it was definitely worth more than the 1,24€ I paid for it on Steam.

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