The Player (Who Is Gillen) Of Games 2011

By Kieron Gillen on December 31st, 2011 at 5:50 pm.

So, games then.

2011 was my first full year away from the coalface of RPS. I’m regularly asked about games. Normally “do you still play them?”. Now, a lesser man would be paranoid they thought I was solely playing games so I could write about them for all the kudos and awards and golden chains and similar. Of course I still play games. I probably play about as many as I’ve played when I was on staff. Not having to do four posts on RPS a day has given me the lovely gift of a little spare time. Even though I filled some of it will unimportant frilliness like moving house and getting married to delightful girlfriend wife, it did leave a worrying amount of time to explore the boundaries of the tenth art form and/or kick the shit out of aliens who looked at me funny.

Looking at RPS’ calendar captures both sides of Being Out Of The Game for me. It’s the one I most disagree with (as I should, because I wasn’t involved in it. Lists are the start of a debate, not the end of one, etc, etc.) but I’ve still played the majority (14/24), loved the majority of them (9/14) and still had a number of games I adored which weren’t even included. This isn’t mine, but I’m still in the field enough to have a whole bunch of opinions. And, because I’m a gamer, they’re about games I haven’t played as much as games as I have. Because we’re terrible people.

What didn’t I play? Well, mainly John’s big crushes. Which is expected, as of all the RPS writers, John’s interests overlap the least with mine, and even when they do there’s a fair chance the game’s gained our love for completely different reasons. So no The Dream Machine (Adventure Game = Ugh), no Lego Star Wars: the Clone Wars (623rd in any series = Ugh. If you want to nail a key difference between John and me, it’s that he’s played every single Tomb Raider game and I’ve only played the first), no Cthulhu Saves The World (Comedy Genre Game= Well… not, Ugh, but not Yay! either) and not even To The Moon (Which I’m considering revenge for John never playing Digital, even after I wrote an open letter to him about the terrible boo-hoo-ing in games oversight he was making).

(In passing, Adam’s the writer on RPS who I’m most excited to see posting a new article, simply because I don’t know his aesthetic preferences nearly as well as everyone else. I can second guess John, Jim or Alec, but Adam is still in the new writer crush category when he’s still surprising me with posts. I’ve vaguely got him as a dream cross between Walker and Stone, but there’s still curveballs. I mean, how awesome was it when he did the first serious piece of Football Manager coverage on RPS? That wasn’t written by an Indie Pop Star?)

Well, I didn't play that much of it. Maybe I'll be more offended. I just started running ahead of people like a loonie.

Towards the mainstream… well, generally speaking, as a working games journalist I discovered that “you couldn’t pay me to play that game” was untrue. There is nothing you couldn’t pay me to play, because it’s always better that ditch-digging. However, as a retired games journalist, I did discover that I wouldn’t play a team-based shooter if you didn’t pay me. So while I did spend a lot of time virtual gun in hand by my lonesome, I didn’t bother playing Battlefield 3 and don’t regret it. Unlike Orcs Must Die, which I didn’t bother playing, and kinda regret it, being generally on side with the game from its genocidal title. I will get around to Batman: Arkham City, which had the misfortune to come out in a period which was full of games splenditude. I may get around to Dead Island, if only because it provoked the sort divided response which always wonder what my opinion is. And I almost certainly won’t get around to Rage, at least until I upgrade my PC and probably not even then.

There was a lot of shooting though. I didn’t find the little of Modern Warfare 3 I played nearly as objectionable as John, though got enormous amusement from following the ever-rolling ungame debate, which – as far as I could ascertain – was mainly caused by unreaders. I loved Saints Row 3, though there’s a lot more to it than just the shooting, and I wrote a load more elsewhere. Oh – it was also the first game I ever played to completion on OnLive, having picked it up for a quid. Which was a fascinating kind of development. Clearly, I’ve reservations, but for a quick weekend play on something basically disposable (i.e. Most modern FPS single player games) the rental fees are reasonable and with my ludicrous broadband, it runs worryingly well.

Then there was Crysis 2, which created a hefty backlash upon release, but appears to have come around to being quite well respected by the end of year reader responses. While the smaller environments were a little disappointing, its integration of the armour’s abilities was so much slicker than the first game that I was gnawing at my knuckles at people in comment threads arguing that they actually preferred to have the original system where you couldn’t activate your shields when you were under attack or swiftly focus energy to your jump-boost when you’re about to jump. At its best, this was X-Wing’s shield/ammo/speed allowance in an FPS, and all kinds of neat. Admittedly, I’m not sure I would have pushed for it in the Advent calender were I still here, but well done them.

A STORM OF BULLETS. It could only be better if it were called BULLET BUKKAKE.

I’d have saved that critical outrage for Bulletstorm, which is the single biggest example of the effect of changing staff on an end of year list. Bulletstorm’s loudest advocates were Quinns and myself. We disappear, and Bulletstorm does too. Pah! Shooter of the year, I’ll say, if only so I can change my mind in a couple of paragraphs. I’d also say it was the funniest game of the year, if it wasn’t for the aforementioned Saints Row: The Third and…

Well, Portal 2, innit? Brilliant. Expectedly brilliant, which was its main problem. For the first hour or so, I felt I was in the presence of something genuinely insanely off the scale in terms of being escalation on a previous triumph. It didn’t last, in favour of settling into a the canter of the original (with enough wind for a sprint to the end). The slight ritualism of its structure nagged at me (enter room/joke/puzzle in silence/joke/leave room/repeat), but that’s a minor problem in something that’s as witty and considered as this. I sort of pray that a Zelda was as well written as this, if only to see Edge try and work out how to expand their marking scheme. Also, the afternoon where Dan Griddleoctopus and I took on the Co-Op will live in sweary infamy.

The best Duke Nukem game of the year was Serious Sam 3: BFE. Which isn’t fair. As in, fair to Sam, as its macho-styling was never really akin to the Duke’s in any real way. Let’s just say it’s shooter of the year instead, and cause little minds some hobgoblining. After its slow build across the first couple of hours – there’s undoubtedly some Modern Warfare parody mixed in there, but the joke is both overlong and underplayed – it blossoms into bloody rose. I think filing it solely with the classic 90s shooter is a mistake. It’s a game that owes as much to Robotron and Smash TV as Doom, and it places incredible demands on your ability to filter information. Movement – both of your character and between your various weapons – is of paramount importance. When I finish a level, it just leaves me ecstatic and drained.

My brain hurts. Also, it similarly hurts when I pee. But not my brain. My penis. My penis hurts when I pee, you understand? Do you understand? I don't think so. :(

Which makes it a little ironic that a game with a reputation for dumbness finds – for me – its closest bedfellow with the game with a reputation for overwhelming smartness. When I LTK noted this in a comment thread, I could only nod. |I haven’t played nearly as much SpaceChem as I wanted to, but only because what I’ve mainly looked for gaming this year is unwinding – and SpaceChem is the absolute antithesis to it. But frankly, this is the best piece of game design I’ve seen since January, and should be gazed at in sheer wonderment.

Which leads us back into the world of the Indie. And… okay, this is me at my absolute worst, but seeing the games selected there’s a sense of I told you so. Rogue-likes, exploration/building games and all that? I spent the 00s banging on about this stuff and finally you get around to playing them, you wankers? Fuck the lot of you! I quit! Again!

The only odd thing is that the games being hailed just didn’t click for me. I could admire Dungeons of Dredmor‘s entryist charms, but felt like a jaded porn-aficionado being offered the Lingerie pages from mum’s mail-order catalogues. Realm Of The Mad God was a giggle, but only that. The one I tried longest on was The Binding of Isaac, which annoyed me from the use Pad2Key gag onwards. As much as I did love the theme, the aesthetics and the genre mashing, the basic mechanics of moving and shooting were so flat to kill any desire to persist. And – er – I didn’t play SPAZ. I don’t know why, but I suspect the name didn’t help.)

Away from the procedural indie world, I was only mildly impressed with Christine Love’s sophomore game, Don’t Take it Personally Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story. While it had its emotional moments, some interesting formalist choices, an unusual theme and something to say, it’s generally undermined by a sense of self-satisfied smugness. Much like Limbo, which wasn’t in the advent calendar, but I like getting my digs in where I can. On a similar smaller-scale high-quality game front… well, Magicka had some of the most wonderful marketing of the year, some inspired DLC, a genuinely innovative magic system and even some funny gags. Sadly, I never could get the multiplayer working before I lost all interest in trying to get it working, and the single-player’s difficulty spikes were all over the place. I never played Rock Of Ages and am disgusted with myself for the fact. I’m sorry. And then there’s Bastion, which – as I said elsewhere – found an undiscovered country on the boundary of old SNES arcade games and Cat Power. An elegant and compulsive streamlined action-RPG (No, shut up) married to a uniquely old story with real heart lead to something that’s an absolute charmer, and could even be my game of the year.

(Despite fifteen years of doing it, I’m not really a big person on favourite lists. Even when I’m doing them, I know the next day I could have switched around the top few.)

Ninja or Samurai? It's so difficult to tell with these modern haircuts. (Joke copyright AP circa 1994)

Then strategy! I liked both the games in the advent calendar, with Fate of the World being arguably the scariest game of all time and Shogun 2 being the Total War design equivalent of the prog band deciding they wanted to get back to basics and do a garage album. They always were big in Japan. Outside the calendar, I’m currently enjoying Unity of Command, which really is your chance to play an accessible wargame – an actual wargame - and pretend you’re as cool and clever as Tim Stone. While it’s the least of Cryptic Comet’s games, Six Gun Saga‘s cowboy-solitaire-war-card-game-thing really was oddly compelling. And strategy game of the year was Frozen Synapse, which was i) amazing and ii) robbed. It even made me try and be Total Biscuit for an afternoon! I stress, try.

(I think my most profound backseat designer thought of the year involved Frozen Synapse. After seeing people’s main complaint about the combat was the randomness of the duels, I believed all games should start with the enormous text legend THERE IS NO LUCK IN COMBAT. I’m the new Miyamoto, me.)

Which leaves us with the big-boys, I guess. The dual RPG godheads were stunning achievements, in completely different ways. Witcher 2 was all about intensity of narrative, moral choice, and the sense of entering a literary world. Skyrim was all about choice of experience, functional choice and the sense of entering a simulated world. Both are contradictory urges, and that they serve their own master so shows that any fundamentalist idea of what an RPG “should” be is reactionary, self-defeating ghettoist nonsense. If I had to choose between the two, I’d plead the fifth. I completed Witcher 2, and am only ten or so hours into Skyrim (I got distracted by Saints Row 3 and Serious Sam whose short-sharp-bursts fit better into the busy run up to Christmas). Ask me next year, eh?

(Though I found this comments thread moment from Hematite an interesting argument about why I suspect, in the long run, I think it’ll be Skyrim. And it’s also a wonderful defence of the whole aesthetic. The Stalin paraphrasing “Quantity has a quality all of its own” is particularly key.)

I’ve yet to play Old Republic. Forty-five quid? Pull the other one, Obi-Wan.

Which, at least today, leaves what I guess has to be my game of the year. Deus Ex: Human Revolution had a pun in its title, which before I played it took as a very bad sign and after I played it took as a playful badge of honour. Frankly, I can’t believe the Eidos Montreal team pulled it off. It’s a game which focuses as carefully on what’s important to its design as Arkham Asylum did, and manages to make the most maximalist of games actually tight. It looked at Deus Ex under a microscope and worked out a way to square the circle by doing something that was simultaneously enormously faithful and necessarily modern. I’m not sure anything compares to it. Game of the year!

I'M GOING TO EMERGE MY GAMEPLAY INTO YOUR FACE!!!!!!

Or maybe it’s Bastion. Flip a coin and decide for me.

Well, there are alternatives. I could go with Games Journo Story, because it’s got me in it. Or my RPG Campaign, because I run it. Or At A Distance, because it’s only playable at parties and the one I played was where Cavanagh bought booze for everyone. Ah – You can take the boy out of games journalism corruption but you can’t take the games journalism corruption out the boy.

Oh, ignore me. I’m pretending to be a curmudgeon. Basically, my 2011 was a bit like this…

And my only regret is that I never had a chance to play co-op Saints Row: The Third while blaring out 212.

I can only hope everyone’s 2012 is half as good.

And now I’ve finished this behemoth, I can have a booze. Hurrah!

__________________

« | »

, .

171 Comments »

  1. Metonymy says:

    Good write up. I wonder how many people are still putting off playing Arkham City, simply because of when it came out. I’ve started it, it seems glorious, but I’m waiting for the energy to commit myself to it wholly. Skyrim didn’t have the longevity of FO3, and I’m wondering if AC will be the same.

    I was happy, and then very sad, when I realized the link at the end didn’t lead to Rush. WE’VE TAKEN CARE OF EVERYTHING..

    • Aankhen says:

      I played at least 10 hours of Arkham City, but… it didn’t seem as good as Arkham Asylum (I was especially disappointed by the voiceover work—Kevin Conroy was the definitive Batman; now it’s time to move on), I decided to finish Driver: San Francisco, and the game really makes itself hard to like with all the Games for Windows Live junk as well as the fact that tabbing out makes the framerate drop to 3 FPS with no chance of recovery. To the point where I actually regret spending money on it.

    • woodsey says:

      “Kevin Conroy was the definitive Batman; now it’s time to move on”

      Finally!

      I haven’t gotten to Arkham City yet (waiting for it to reappear on the Steam sale), but Conroy was just DULL in Asylum. Everything was the same tone, which meant that anything written with some conviction behind it sounded ridiculous.

    • migbasys says:

      Glad to see I’m not the only one thinking that way, I thought Bulletstorm was forgotten by everyone by now. http://trimr.de/17l6

  2. Wizardry says:

    Both are contradictory urges, and that they serve their own master so shows that any fundamentalist idea of what an RPG “should” be is reactionary, self-defeating ghettoist nonsense. If I had to choose between the two, I’d plead the fifth.

    Hi Kieron.

  3. Jonith says:

    A very very good read. It’s nice to see a differant opinion to the ones already on the site (not that their bad, I just like two opinions on a story)

    Bye Kieron, we’ll see you when you next, for some reason write a post (oh god, I don’t think I can go through this again, please don’t leave)

  4. AndrewC says:

    Ah, I haven’t seen this many typos on RPS since, ooo, about a year or so ago. It’s like slipping into a warm bathe!

  5. Freud says:

    Laughs are cheap. Go for gasps.

  6. Gremlin says:

    Bit of an HTML problem up there that makes it look like John wrote the Football Manager coverage instead of Adam.

    On the plus side, for Kieron fans: Easter egg bonus sentence!

  7. WhenInRome says:

    Wait, Deus Ex has a pun in it’s title? At the risk of sounding like an idiot, what am I missing?

  8. Zyper says:

    Well, I didn’t read this word for word, but as a whole I agree with your statements, especially on the fact that Deus Ex is GOTY. It has such a thought/emotion provoking storyline, and the game leads up to a perfect climax.

    • greenbananas says:

      “It looked at Deus Ex under a microscope and worked out a way to square the circle by doing something that was simultaneously enormously faithful and necessarily modern. I’m not sure anything compares to it. Game of the year!”

      To me as well, if only for showing that it’s possible to exhume a dead franchise without necro-raping it, cutting it up and mailing the pieces to the grieving family members.

      And it’s far from perfect, but a damn good game in its own right, one the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a long, long time. And one, I believe, we’re less and less likely to ever see again. Next up, Deus Ex 2: Invisible Revolution!

    • FriendlyFire says:

      Ironically, the flawed nature of DXHR I think might actually make it closer to the original Deus Ex. Both were flawed gems though I think the first will leave a much bigger mark, if only by being the first.

    • Thants says:

      Yeah, if anything it seemed so true to the original that it even shared some of its flaws.

    • John P says:

      An absurd fast-zombie map leading to four buttons to CHOSE UR ENDING is a ‘perfect climax’?

      DXHR was the dullest game of the year.

    • Dominic White says:

      So, everyone has blanked out the end of the original DX from memory? The slog through tunnels filled with those bloody irritating Karkians and Greasels followed by a ‘choose your ending’ single-line dialogue choice at the end?

      Oh, wait – I remember people PRAISING that for years, claiming that it was an excellent ending, or series of endings. People aren’t just wearing rose-tinted glasses now – they’re polarized to only work on one game in the franchise.

    • Gremlin says:

      Eh? The Deus Ex I remember had the end-choice sequence spread across two level-maps, where choosing an ending took multiple steps. Which is not to say that there isn’t a better way to do it, just that this is one area where the original still has the edge.

      Also, you’ve forgotten the robots.

    • John P says:

      Maybe you should play the original Deus Ex, Dominic. Sounds like you haven’t.

    • Voon says:

      Im with Dominic on this one. Both, IMO, had rather unsatisfying endings. But how you get them in the original usually involes a lot of backtracking unless you’re going to destroy the bunker, which you could do it early on and save yourself from all the fuss of meeting Bob, fighting the robots and all that. In HR, you have to meet some people hidden in different places in the Pancea if you want to get all endings. Then, choose your ending after destroying the Hyron Project.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Again John P with his ridiculous statements.

      You know, John, you can ghost through all this fast-zombie map without invisibility!!! THIS puts Deus Ex 1 ending to shame! Not to mention that Zack Shyder’s turbo zombies make Panchea one of the most memorable thrilling stealth experiences I’ve ever had.

      Yeah, 4-button ending was absurd, but still everyting before this moment wasn’t. And live action videos were pretty good too.

  9. Soon says:

    Skyrim is probably the best hidden-object game of the year.

    I do love Bastion. I found it an almost perfect marriage of mediums; it’s so rare the music will describe what’s on screen, the notes painting every colour, the rhythm matching every movement… Lovely. My Deus Ex playing was interrupted so I could play through it instead. So my coin flips in Bastion’s favour.

    Invincible Under the Sun. Happy Drinking!

    • LTK says:

      Skyrim has got nothing on Fallout 3 and NV when it comes to hidden objects. I haven’t once had to lift an upturned cooking pot from a shelf to find the mini nuke (or the Elder Scrolls equivalent) that was hidden underneath.

  10. Max.I.Candy says:

    agreed Bulletstorm is shooter of the year.

    • Caleb367 says:

      Bulletstorm needs moar loving. It’s so gloriously silly and plays wonderfully.

    • Thants says:

      Bulletstorm was great. I have a theory that the people who think it has bad writing are the same people who think that Max Payne was being completely serious.

    • Voon says:

      Oh, yes! That and Serious Sam 3. Glorious arcade shooters, both of them

    • Starky says:

      Great thing about bulletstorm something not many people know – is that if you turn the vulgar language off in the options screen, it doesn’t just bleep all the swearing, it plays entirely different voiced lines.

    • Maldomel says:

      Glad to see I’m not the only one thinking that way, I thought Bulletstorm was forgotten by everyone by now.

  11. Abundant_Suede says:

    I’m trying to reconcile regretting not playing Orcs Must Die because of its name, and not playing Space Pirates and Zombies because of its.

    I can’t. It’s just too big for me.

  12. AlexW says:

    I still disagree about Crysis 2 being any good, especially with regards to the suit system. (Beware, if anyone hasn’t played the game, you’ll know everything about it after this post even though I don’t go significantly into story spoilers.) Stealth is ineffectual against bosses that you actually need to use stealth on, the lack of energy when you need it is in no way better, there’s nowhere in the game that you can actually make good use of the easier sprint-superjumps due to the confined urban locales, and after extensive testing I can tell you that the stealth perks make little difference when it matters.

    Other than that, it has a considerable laundry list of glaring flaws – stealth successes not carrying over to the next area (if you sneak through an area unseen, the next group still expect you), Alcatraz’s ridiculous and dangerous level of mutism (a notable step back from enjoyable protagonists Nomad and Psycho, who were bafflingly put in a box away from the plot for no notable reason), insufficient enemy variety, taking the player’s weapons away far too frequently, checkpoints being far too infrequent to make up for the loss of quicksaves, Post-Human Warrior being a shadow of the fun that was Delta, the minimised usefulness of sniping/stealth weaponry, essentially zero vehicles for the player to use outside of scripted gunnery scenes that sometimes didn’t even have shooting in them, and simply the gameplay point that the player has to fight through vicious human opponents when he should be shouting “Hey, idiots, we are literally being invaded by aliens! Stop shooting at me so I have to kill you and shoot at the aliens instead!”

    It falls down in just about every detail of its execution, and it’s just not a good sequel to Crysis. Which is a shame, as I quite enjoyed the overall plot, acting, and general ‘intensity’ beneath the overwhelming mound of rubbish.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Stealth was no more useful mid-fight as it had been, and the game makes a point of saying that you’re meant to go for hit & run attacks due to the limited energy, as if you’re caught in the open with no energy you’re a dead man.
      I stealthed my way through pretty much the entire game, and I can tell you it works much better than the first game’s, mostly as it’s not nearly as overpowered and they make you use it. Although the stealth upgrade halving its energy cost is possibly a tad on the powerful side, as it means you can be a lot more care-free about your stealth routes.
      Also, I’m curious about these ‘bosses’ that you speak of, as there was no-one that stealth didn’t work on, at least if you were actually being stealthy.

    • AlexW says:

      By ‘bosses’ I mean the tripods, obviously. Are you saying it was a bug, then, that when I turned on my cloak behind a building (completely, not partially exposed or anything) and then attempted to flank any of them they simply tracked me and shot me while I was cloaked and out of cover? Because that’s a goddamn annoying bug if so, and it was damn near a deal-breaker. I had to redo each of those on-foot fights dozens of times trying different combinations of explosives, and even with perfectly coordinated mounds of C4 and anti-tank rockets launched at their weak spots (when available – as mentioned, they faced me almost the entire time) I still almost always died after/during using every piece of high explosive in the area from my stash and the supply caches.

      I too stealthed most of the way through the game, of course. I take it that by ‘mid-fight’ stealth you mean you can’t cloak in front of someone and get away with it, which I’d agree with; if you meant that it’s useless to cloak, relocate, and fire where they don’t expect you, then you’re mad and I would question whether you actually played on PHW difficulty, because you WILL lose in a straight-up battle to all but the weakest of single opponents. I similarly played through C1 on Delta difficulty, and that was far more enjoyable (including the aliens, actually – I had no problem with switching to a loud loadout with a shotgun for the small fliers or a gauss rifle for the large fliers).

    • Ringwraith says:

      Oh the tripods? You do realise they track by sound right? You actually have to be quiet, and thus, stealthy. It’s also why you can distract them with explosions on the other side of the street.
      Also, I did my first and only playthrough on post-human warrior, and I did notice it gives you only about as much health as a standard trooper. It’s much more noticeable than in the first game as armour mode isn’t the default, and has to consciously switched to. Although the first game didn’t reduce your health when you racked up the difficulty, and instead took away your advantages (one of them being slowing your health regeneration) and made everyone more accurate.

    • Maldomel says:

      @AlexW You just resumed my own point of view regarding Crysis 2. A linear game, almost a corridor-shooter, with a disappointing gameplay (the armor sucks, you energy is always low, you cannot do what you expect a power armor turning you into superhuman dude would do), an even more disappointing story, even if a couple of elements were good, the rest was pretty basic (considering the writer bragged about how he would make something new and fresh compared to other sci-fi games).

      I got out of most of the game with stealth too, that and smashing aliens in the face till they collapse, hit and run style. Got a bit bored when I realized I could do the whole game that way (but I didn’t play on the highest difficulty setting though).

    • LTK says:

      I’d just like to say that the fact I don’t really remember what exactly ‘tripods’ are, in spite of completing the game, demonstrates fairly well that Crysis 2 was forgettable.

  13. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    I liked your paragraph on the different approaches RPGs can take (Skyrim, Witcher2, etc).

    I’m sick and fed up of people trying to pigeon-hole the genre and claim one style is more worthy than another. It’s narrow-minded and tiresome.

    • Maldomel says:

      The best is that it can be applied to anything in general. But to stay in the gaming side of things, yes it is tiring to see people claiming one “sub-genre” is the best. It only leads to mindless trolling.

  14. Craig Stern says:

    Your discussion of Witcher 2 vs. Skyrim got me thinking. I’ve always been a stalwart of narrative-driven games, but I will admit that there is something uniquely satisfying about being able to explore a game world and find things that have nothing to do with any narrative–they’re just there, and they’re your own discoveries.

    I remembering playing Eschalon Book II (an old-school indie wRPG), finding lots of cool little secrets exploring the wilderness, and then being genuinely let down when later on I ran across an NPC who already knew about it and had a quest for me to perform in that area. It’s like being a child and finding a mysterious, abandoned tree fort out in the woods, then finding out that your mom and dad actually had it built for you.

    • New Player says:

      In my opinion Baldur’s Gate 2 is still a good approximation of blending “open world”-feeling and narrative drive. Exploring the different layers of and around Athkatla really felt like discovering things. Bioware should look into that…

    • LTK says:

      This is exactly one of the things I appreciate the most in Skyrim and the newer Fallouts; the little discoveries, the short stories you stumble upon in physical form, that don’t really relate to anything, but do make the world feel like it has a history. It gives it a feeling of autonomy that you don’t get when you just go around accepting people’s quests.

      The Witcher 2 never nails that wondrous excitement of discovery, but it makes up for it in other ways: In the world of the Witcher, things happen whether or not you’re there to influence them. This really made me consider the morality of selfishness and pursuing one’s own goals in favor of what other people tell you to do. You can’t get this in Skyrim, because the world is literally just waiting for you to show up and save it, and nothing is going to happen if you’re not there to set things in motion.

    • Azazel says:

      Baldur’s Gate 2 doesn’t get enough love these days. It truly was and is a great example of a gripping main plot which feels like it’s happening in the middle of a vast world which you can just go out and explore.

      To be fair Skyrim has caused me to revert to a cave dwelling, coffee drinking existence anyway, but I imagine it’d be even worse if the main quest had that kind of oomph to it.

  15. Gassalasca says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you regarding Bullestorm, and disagree more when it comes to Bastion.

    But then that was always the case with you. We miss you, Kieron. :sob:

  16. Spinoza says:

    Thanks For Banks

  17. Shooop says:

    I laughed more at your picture/captions combos than all of the comics in today’s paper.

    Excellent article too, I have to give the FPS crown to Sam this year but Bulletstorm definitely isn’t something that should go unnoticed. Shame its multiplayer is a bad joke. And if you played either BF3 or MW3, you played them both.

  18. Wulf says:

    “Both are contradictory urges, and that they serve their own master so shows that any fundamentalist idea of what an RPG “should” be is reactionary, self-defeating ghettoist nonsense.”

    That’s something I’ve never wanted to say, myself. But I do look at what an RPG could be instead. Soemtimes, when I look at what an RPG is I’m disappointed. An RPG could be an enthralling series of tales which involve me, as a character, with a role that I play. What I’m disappointed with some games for being is nothing more than action-adventure homicide simulators, which sums up Skyhrim perfectly.

    I’m almost 100 per cent certain that I’m going to be attacked for saying something like that because, well, I always am by someone. But it’s simply what I feel. I miss being told a tale and being involved in it in a way that’s meaningful to me. That so many people fail to understand this is as saddening as it is exasperating. The first moment I’m forced into a decision without any any alternatives, I feel like I’ve switched over to playing an action adventure. As an opinion, I’d always thought that the defining difference between an action adventure, like Uncharted, or an RPG is that I get to interact in ways which are meaningful to me, vis-a-vis the character I’m playing.

    If an RPG stops being meaningful to me in this way, then it stops being an RPG, because it’s become a film. I’m following along with some character whom I have little to no control over. With an action adventure I may yell at the screen for not at least giving me the chance to speak my mind in some way, to use words (I like words) as opposed to violence to express myself in the aforementioned meaningful way. When an RPG allows me to do that, I feel like I’m playing an RPG, because the potential of an RPG in my opinion has always been about that chance, the chance to express myself in a living story, in a way which allows me to leave my mark upon the world.

    I changed the direction of this story because my personality imprinted upon it, and changed its flow, and through that selfsame desire to imprint upon a world, to be able to make a choice, and to have an outcome… and to have that is that marvelous opposite to the real world, in which we are so impotent. To step into a story about killers and to solve things peacefully, to change the flow of a world, to leave our footprints wherever we go, whether it’s for good or ill. Whether things turn out bad later, or good, that doesn’t matter, but it’s that chance to be a part of the story, to be a pseudo-narrator, rather than just watching from the outside.

    With Skyrim, as much as I liked a lot of what it was doing, I frequently felt that I was watching from the outside. One of the best examples? ‘Kill Paarthurnax.’ I have no way of expressing how offensive I found that as a concept. What can I do? I can ignore the quest and go on my merry way without my motivations even coming into play, or I can, indeed, kill Paarthurnax. In this way, even WoW has a stronger sense of personal expression, because at least that has an ‘Abandon Quest’ button.

    I couldn’t even begin to tell Delphine what I thought. I didn’t expect to be able to tell Delphine that she’s a crazed, xenophobic has-been glam hound who only hunts dragons because she’s a nobody who wants to be somebody, and she wants to be somebody by stealing the glory from the work I do, to give her the sense of self worth that she desires. And that that desire for worth has twisted her into a genocidal maniac that’s no better than those gestapo-like Thalmor (and they are, just look at the robes, that was intentional). I didn’t expect that. I’d only expect that in a rare moment of brilliance from an Obsidian game.

    But I also couldn’t say:

    - No, I have my own reasons for refusing, please understand.
    - No, and I don’t like you.
    - No, and I don’t trust you, I didn’t from the start. So I’m disbanding the Blades.
    - No, and I think you’re no better than Alduin or the Thalmor that you hate so much.
    - No, you will accept this, I’m the dragonborn and that’s supposed to mean something.

    Instead, I had that quest in my journal up until the end of the main quest. Then it disappeared for a while and, ultimately, popped back into my journal later. It was at this point that the whole game being a homicide/genocide simulator got on top of me. The game was asking me to believe that most of the groups in the game were homicidal/genocidal maniacs, and yet somehow there was a functional society there. I just couldn’t stretch my suspense of disbelief that far.

    I played for a bit more, did a few dungeons… but every time I opened my quest journal I saw “Kill Paarthurnax,” and the only way I could remove it was with a cheat or a hack. Ultimately, the Blades are the ‘Mary Sue’ faction of the game, and for that I want to spite them at every turn. Paarthurnax is pretty much a pacifist, he’s old, he’s as wise as hell, and he chooses to be good at great effort, realising that being ethical is the more difficult choice. And I couldn’t drop the quest to kill that guy.

    And that’s Skyrim. Do all the killing you want to. Or in the case of me: Get depressed at all the killing you don’t want to do.

    So no, whilst ultimately I don’t think that anyone should say what an RPG ‘should’ be, I think it’s entirely valid to look at what an RPG could be, and to deny a person that is just opinion-hating anti-intellectualist fapping. So I hope that my opinion is as valid as anyone other person’s. I look at Skyrim and I see what it could have been, and I am hugely disappointed. I like a lot of what it did, but I also saw a lot of what it didn’t. And Wulf is many things, but someone who enjoys constant murder is not one of them.

    Couldn’t even arrest just one of them damn bandits.

    I gave it a fair shake, but that’s my opinion, and I’m sure I’ll be attacked for it further.

    I mean, really. The game is filled with murderous factions. But to put a quest in my game to kill the only one person who doesn’t want violence, and a dragon no less, one of the few people that doesn’t strike me as some sort of bloody mentally-challenged neanderthal…

    That person I get a ‘KILL THE PACIFIST’ quest for, which I cannot remove, and nor can I speak my feelings to those who forced that quest into my journal. This exemplifies Skyrim: Kill people, kill animals, kill dragons, kill everyone.

    Even kill the person who saved the world a number of times over and doesn’t want to harm anyone. I just… I’m ashamed to admit I played a game like that. That’s the kind of game that you hide in a box somewhere once people learn the true nature of it.

    The game that encourages the cold-blooded murder of pacifists, with very, very questionable justifications that wouldn’t stand up in any court of any civilisation.

    • Craig Stern says:

      Interesting. This is the second intensely negative reaction to Skyrim’s lack of options responding to offered quests that I’ve seen in the last few days. (This was the first: http://notyourmothersplayground.com/2011/12/guest-post-sex-negativity-skyrim/ )

    • The Hammer says:

      Wulf,

      I think what you don’t understand – and rarely acknowledge – is that most of the abuse you get is down to the abuse you dish out. Now, you mightn’t see it as abuse, but when you go on those egotistical rants about how you see things that others don’t, then I, like many others, lose all interest. The majority of your opponents on these things are not stupid, but you constantly imply that you are of a higher intellectual status than them. And that sort of behaviour rightly garners critics.

      Anyway, most of what you want from an RPG is commendable, but the caveat of it all is that there is only so much voice work, so much scripting, and so many set-pieces. For every conversation you want lambasting Delphine, there’s another person who wants to join the Riften guard to take out the Thieves’ Guild. And yeah, those things would be great, but games operate on budgets, and time scales. To properly devise the sort of game you want – all 3D, all free, catering to every interest – you’d need to wait fucking years, and that isn’t financially viable.

      For me, I wanted more orc quests in Skyrim. I wanted to properly investigate their society, since I play an orc myself. But the quests aren’t there. Does this make it less of a game? I could argue so, yes, but to do that would be to expect Skyrim to be even more generous than it already is. And, with the amount of goods already available in Skyrim, I feel that would be churlish.

      Open-world 3D worlds have limits. There are few other games that try to match the scope of Skyrim and Oblivion – there’s Gothic, there’s Two Worlds, and a handful of others. So it’s not exactly a crowded genre. These are very intensive games to produce. I mean, Bethesda seemed very impressed with itself for grabbing 70 voice actors for Skyrim. It indeed sounds impressive on paper, but in practice? You end up hearing the same dialogue from the same guards.

      Skyrim doesn’t rob you of choice entirely. There are indeed too few ways of interacting with bandits. I for one wish the yield mechanic had been properly implemented, but it does seem like it was meant to be, at some point. That, I hope you concede, at least shows willingness on Bethesda’s part for that style of play, even if it doesn’t show determination for it. But outside of those kill-or-be-killed dungeons there is a lot to do: you can hunt animals; you can spend your time roaming the countryside for plants; you can investigate old myths while only killing undead foes.

      The promising thing, of course, is that games will probably develop into something more than this, at some point in the future. As they grow more sophisticated (and I think they will, if they want to avoid another great games crash), more options will open up. For all my defence of Skyrim, I’m already musing on how good Elsewhere will be, as a nation to explore. Bethesda clearly has the creative pedigree to deliver something startingly weird. Have you ever considered that Oblivion, being the first Elder Scrolls title to really receive exposure for mass audiences, was a way for Bethesda to pick up doting fans?

      Because maybe that’s where it’s leading. Skyrim was the UK Christmas number one. It will have made many millions for Bethesda, and now they have a humungous audience who know their brand. It might be time for them to take that fanbase somewhere new, and ask of them more varied deeds.

      For me, Skyrim offers a lot of what is wonderful about fantasy. So we have those excellent dragon fights (for the first time in gaming, it really does feel like I’m fighting dragons), dungeons replete with puzzles and traps, and small remote villages to find work in. That is scarcely goes deeper than that is a shame, but an understandable one. It still offers one of the most comprehensive 3D worlds of fantasy fiction ever delivered.

      Incidentally, the inability to drop quests in Skyrim is a shortcoming that extends past the quest you reference. At least you’re able not to do it. Skyrim rarely forces you into doing anything you consider immoral. I’m able to roleplay my characters’ ethics quite well, even if I don’t get much chance to show their personality. But that, again, is a weakness apparent to many 3D-world, voice acted games.

      Skyrim is a cinematic, rather than literary experience. I like that, because I know if I want a literary game, I can always buy The Witcher 2, or maybe finally try out Planescape Torment. I sometimes go into a town in Skyrim and feel disappointed at the lack of quests on offer – especially when I overhear certain conversations the NPCs are having – only to become enthralled by a person asking me if it’s alright if they take the stuff I just dropped out of my inventory five minutes later. I mean, that is clever. The systems behind it are transparent the more you play, but considering the technical robustness of Skyrim’s world, it’s incredible that they can do that sort of thing.

      Also, a point: Obsidium could only have made New Vegas because of Bethesda’s original input. They created the tools with which to create the 3D Fallout environments, and then Obsidium used them to create something of their own. It’s a frustration for me that few RPG developers seem to be technically proficient and creatively gifted, but there we have it. With Skyrim, Bethesda show a soft touch in several aspects: I for one really like the idea of the Empire as a punching bag for the Thalmor, who have a delightfully slim presence in the game world of Skyrim itself.

      To finish, you mentioned the possibility of a Discworld MMO or single-player RPG (I forget now) a few days back. Great! But Pratchett is a keen follower of the Elder Scrolls games. He seems to really like them. So, as an author of many, many, many books, and the curator of a devoted following, is he not as intellectual gifted as you? I ask not as an accusation, but because I really can’t tell. You raise a lot of good points, Wulf, but the insulting language you use against people who class games like Skyrim as their favourite games is, to me, your greatest failing.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I’m not a Skyrim player, but this sort of thing generally appalls me about RPGs. The idea of letting me play a role and giving me dialogue options to do so is something I frequently mistake for some sort of me-baiting metagame. So often I can’t play a role the way I want to because the option to say what I want to say isn’t there. I’d happily forego voice acting from my own character and NPCs, lose all spoken dialogue altogether if need be, if there were a wider spectrum of responses I could give. I remember being really angry at the end of Mass Effect, for example, when I was given a key choice to make, and none of the three options were what I wanted to say. Even outside main plot events, the whole ‘yes, I am made of kindness / yes, give me money / no, I hate you’ as stock response options are pitiful. Makes it hard for me to care about RPGs generally.

    • Caleb367 says:

      I love both Skyrim AND The Witcher 2. I love both being lead through a story while able to influence it, and be set free in an enormous world free to do as I please. I love both rock-solid memorable characters and sit on top of a rock watching mammoths frolicking in the tundra. I love both playing as Geralt of Rivia, Commander Shepard or the Nameless One and as one Tullius Cosades, unknown Imperial wanderer happened in Skyrim or an obscure yer lucky courier wandering the Mojave with his silver tongue and a hunting rifle. In short, I love both being part of a story and making my own story at my own leisure. Am I a schizophrenic?

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      That person I get a ‘KILL THE PACIFIST’ quest for, which I cannot remove, and nor can I speak my feelings to those who forced that quest into my journal. This exemplifies Skyrim: Kill people, kill animals, kill dragons, kill everyone.

      Neat Christ allegory – the plot, not your post.

    • Mage says:

      Thanks for writing a nice piece of opinion and then putting in a spolier with no warning -_-
      I’m more than happy to read your rants about why Skyrim is a murder simulator and everyone will hate you for writing such heinous words, but for god sake please, a little warning…
      Really didn’t want to see that..

    • JackShandy says:

      It’s a “If only you could talk to the monsters” complaint, really. Skyrim doesn’t have any choose-your-own adventure dialogue options in it, even though many games that share the same genre with Skyrim do. That is because the developers decided to make Skyrim, instead of a different game. If you would like to choose your own adventure, I suggest you play a different game.

    • jaheira says:

      Not really seeing the problem. Paarthunax had to die because in the olden days he was naughty when he was the lieutenant of Alduin, and the Blades punish naughty Dragons. If you don’t want to kill him then don’t kill him. Personally I iced the scaly fucker so I could nick his stuff.

    • sleepysalt says:

      @jaheira: Please put a bit of a buffer before putting spoilers in your post, since they can show up on the sidebar even if you don’t click on the article.

    • pilouuuu says:

      I totally agree with Wulf and this is the aspect that dissapoints me in Skyrim. Why the only solution in this game is a violent one? But nonetheless it’s a great game. I just consider it like Elder Scrolls Grand Theft Horse Skyrim and I have lots of fun with it. But the thing is that it could be so much more.

      Bioware apparently want to include open-world elements in their new games (Dragon Age 3?), so maybe here there’s hope that story and RPG elements will be better integrated in an open-world environment.

      What I would like is a new modern version of Ultima.

      Happy new year, everyone!

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Why the only solution in this game is a violent one?

      Because this, pretty much, is how the world works.

      It would be nicer if there was more complexity in the dialogue choices/outcomes. I’ve not finished the game yet, but there doesn’t seem to be an option to side with the Thalmor – although that kind of branching plot is more difficult to do.

      I do quite like the idea of Skyrim eventually burning to the ground if you don’t complete the main quest, but can understand why it isn’t programmed that way…

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      The Hammer deals with most of it, but – no – you’re doing exactly what I’m arguing against in my piece Wulf.

      It is always about resources. The Witcher by only having a single character and a narrowly defined world spends all its time creating quests with multiple approaches and a heavier eye on the moral element and story. Skyrim takes a wider rather than deeper approach, basically allowing you to be any kind of fantasy action hero. The key thing being “any kind of fantasy action hero” – which means action as the primary way of influencing the world.

      In cold hard and extremely simplified maths – if you had a peaceful solution for everything in the game, you half the amount of quest based content. The point of Skyrim is the scale – it has, in the stolen line, a quality of its own. You also change the character of the game completely. Both the Witcher’s approach (limited expression in terms of character type, wide ethical expression in limited number of quests) and Skyrim’s approach (wide expression in terms of character type, limited ethical expression in much larger number of quests) clearly have their charms.

      Or, in short, if you added what you wanted to Skyrim, it’d be half the size. It’s simply not the game you want to play, but you not liking something isn’t a reason to view what it is as somehow *wrong*.

      KG

    • Gira says:

      Empty, static script trigger quests with no simulated consequences and absolutely no reactivity vis a vis character build and character actions are okay if there are lots of them -

      Kieron Gillen, 2012

      Skyrim’s a joke. I mean, it’s no more of a joke than Oblivion was, but it’s kind of more so because it’s been six years and they’re still using their mountains of developmental resources to produce big pointless amusement parks.

      Seriously, what’s with the praise being drenched on this thing? Has everyone forgotten that Richard Garriott did it better decades ago or something?

    • DiamondDog says:

      Have you ever been to an amusement park? They’re really fun.

    • Gira says:

      They’re okay. They’re not games, though!

      You know, I’d kind of be okay with Skyrim’s critical attention if the critics in question actually admitted that’s what it is, rather than claiming it’s a Simulated Immersive World or some nonsense when it’s clearly pretty much the opposite of that.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Doesn’t immersion rely on being interested in the world to begin with? So if you don’t like the world of Skyrim of course it won’t immerse you.

      I don’t see how you can complain about something so subjective, unless you think your opinion is the only correct one.

    • The Hammer says:

      Skyrim’s world -does- change, at numerous points. It changes on certain big quest lines, away from the main one. Towns can change hands, because of the player’s actions. Sure, there has to be a quest to trigger that, but… sorry, what are we expecting? For the AI to be even more sophisticated than it is already? Skyrim’s radiant AI obviously struggles at some points, but in a 3D game with finite resources there is little else like it. To expect societies to change hands or go through revolutions outside of quest boundaries is very ambitious indeed, and not something you should expect at this point.

      Later on, when games evolve and progress? Yes please. That’s what I want too. But right now, I think a lot of gamers would be an awful lot happier if they accepted that games like Skyrim have accomplishments aplenty already, BUT to get a more malleable world isn’t current plausible.

      I’m no apologist for Skyrim. It frustrates me immensely at times. The same bugs that were hilarious in Oblivion are just sad here, in a more meaningful world. But, as already pointed out, there are a handful of other games that dare to try what the Elder Scrolls series does. Those that do try often fail, ala Two Worlds.

      The day when someone marries a 3D world packed with jaw-dropping detail with the surplus of choice of RPGs from a bygone era will be a great day. In the mean time, I’m more than delighted to explore Skyrim’s rugged hills, spot majestic dragons atop distant mountains, and be absorbed into weird, weird dwemer ruins. I’m thankful to Skyrim for bringing a free-roaming fantasy world to life, in a manner that few games have before it. It’s so strange to see giants walk across a realistic landscape.

      By the way, I also think Skyrim should be applauded for its Half Life-esque approach to storytelling. Apart from the opening sequence, I haven’t spotted the game taking control from me at all. This is at the expense of some unrelated NPCs occasionally wanderng into the scene and speaking VERY LOUDLY, meaning I miss what was being said (but I fixed this with putting subtitles on, which I guess is a must for Elder Scrolls titles). Up at Windhelm, there’s a lovely scene when you first enter, which I watched in horror, partly because it wasn’t flagged up with a cut-scene. I could have ignored it, but I didn’t. It was happening in front of me. So that’s nice.

    • Archonsod says:

      Funny thing about that comment Wulf is that I can’t help but think you’re missing the forest for the trees. I can get the desire for expression, but it’s not necessarily essential for every choice – just as in real life it’s reasonable to expect you won’t get a choice in everything. Although in fact you do get a choice in this instance – refuse to finish the quest. It might mean the storyline progresses no further, but similarly if I choose not to go to work tomorrow my career will likewise come to a grinding halt.
      What I really wanted to highlight however is fact you didn’t want to kill Paarthurnax. Which is what I think speaks to the quality of Skyrim – you wouldn’t feel that way if you hadn’t been able to invest in it’s world.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      What I really wanted to highlight however is fact you didn’t want to kill PXXXXXXXXXX.

      And in fact you don’t have to, and it doesn’t stall the main quest in the slightest. And Delphine’s portrayed as a shifty loon all the way through. So, ummm… what more do you actually want? Well, I’d have liked to be able to kill her, she’s apparently plot-immune. Which means I can set her on fire till she’s crawling around begging for mercy, but not finish her off. Which works too…

    • Craig Stern says:

      A couple of the things Wulf asked for would actually be very cheap to add. Letting the player drop quests? That’s a couple of hours of coding work at the most, so long as you don’t feel obligated to have that act cause changes in the quest-giver’s dialog.

      Likewise, giving the player alternate refusal lines is pretty much costless if you have all of them terminate the dialog tree, since the player isn’t voiced. (Assuming, of course, that you aren’t concerned about having the NPC remember whether the player was rude to them in refusing the quest.) I actually use this second technique a lot in Telepath RPG: Servants of God, since it’s such an easy way to give the player extra role-playing options at virtually no cost.

      Some of that other stuff on the wish list, though, I agree could cut significantly into Bethesda’s resources for pumping out new quests.

    • The Hammer says:

      Craig (I sure hope the reply function works here),

      I actually agree about how infuriating it is that you can’t drop quests. I take it it’s because it changes where NPCs are, or something, but it’s still an oversight, and leads to a cluttered quest log.

      Having said that, though, you can refuse many quests that you’re offered. Just about all the miscellaneous ones and a few of the missions that receive dedicated journal entires. For example, I said a firm no to an Argonian in Solitude who wanted me to compromise the city’s lighthouse. So the game doesn’t operate on the assumption you’ll be doing every single quest.

      EDIT: Oh, -alternative- refusal lines. Then yeah, that’d be good. I’ve actually seen a bit where you could refuse a quest in two separate ways. The game, perhaps thanks to its scope, seems very inconsistent in some of this, as if different design ethos were in opposition to one another.

    • Matt says:

      Burger King commissioned several games a few years ago, if you’d still like to Have It Your Way.

    • NathanH says:

      I suspect that the quest in question is supposed to go away forever if you tell Lord High Greybeard that you’re not going to do it, and the fact that it comes back later is just a bug.

    • Gira says:

      I fail to see how adding a bunch of fluff dialogue to Skyrim would improve it, anyway. Its problems run much deeper than that.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Take all that outrage about being only told to kill shit and limited in your option to refuse it and imagine it towards not being able to really do anything you want, including killing kids, rape/torture instead of kill outright to get items/info/overall submission and so on and so forth.

      You complain that there aren’t enough “be noble” options in a way; the sad truth is 99,9% of the gaming industry is geared towards always playing the taken to most sickenly heights do-gooder ever.

      That even in the “game of gray” that is the witcher, which endorses fucking for visual mementos had a discussion about overuse of tits shows just how depressingly thorough the fear of non-politically, or in this case it was argued “artistically”, correct depictions and playstyles is.

      Insofar I am actually 100% with you: The true test of anyone is not never giving him an option to be truly evil and disgusting in the first place, its putting both extremes there and then letting you discover yourself what you go for. Not giving choice at all just is another way of saying “This is just how the world functions”.
      Although obviously choice in gaming always by necessity is restricted choice, as you can only do what was made possible, no matter how broad or narrow.

      But it doesn’t get more narow than it is; ironically even “outright killing” is still politically correct behavior, as we have all agreed that a bit of “normal” gore and slaying is AOK and have the genre games sell like hotcakes for it.
      But as both an art medium as well as an exploration platform, the PC is severely underused when it comes to extremes being tested/offered, especially in a shape and form that isn’t uniformly good or evil with preconfigured intent(i.e. gore games will _only_ offer gore, rape games _only_ rape etc).
      There is VERY little “venturing off the path”, or, as one might say “Tits-out good times!”, without the morality police riding into town.
      I would normally say “And rightfully so” if its just one sided (I remember the deathtrap maze abduction horror game from a while back that was basically all about tortureful death), but as I tried to explain, the point isn’t a one-sided disgustfest or “See how low we can go” preconfigured BS, but a way to make YOU see how low YOU would go if only you COULD.
      Would you end up disgusting yourself with what really was an open choice with no necessity to it?
      Would you realize something has gone very wrong with your personal development? Would you stop and think?
      Etc

      That would be a much more intriguing experience than “Yea, well, you ONLY get to do x or y and that’s it”.

      -
      But also, to return to a tangent I initially thought of, I kinda do also want / would love to see games with a spirit and narrowmindedness of cheesy nuttyness like “Machete”.

    • Shooop says:

      Doesn’t that quest vanish if you talk to Arngeir and tell him you’re not planning on killing Paarthurnax?

  19. Will Tomas says:

    Thanks for the great write-up. Much appreciated, and we miss you. Place hasn’t been the same since…

  20. Scatterbrainpaul says:

    Anyone else read that without taking a breath?

    • gnodab says:

      F… yes!
      I couldn’t help myself. I know, at this point we should savor every drop of true vintage Gillen for it has become so excruciatingly rare, but I gulped it down anyway. sadface.

      But srs KG at least write a book or guest give us some Electronic Wireless Fun. At least one a fortnight? Pretty please?

  21. DocSeuss says:

    “And my only regret is that I never had a chance to play co-op Saints Row: The Third while blaring out 212.”

    Do… you want to do this, Kieron? Because I’m up for it.

    —–

    This is just me, but I always had the idea that an RPG was a game about role-playing, and that being turn-based and all that other nonsense were just abstractions that we never needed to begin with (no reason to have a dice roll regarding the success of a rat’s dodge; the AI, physics, and engine calculation of my sword’s swing can handle that now).

    I’ll try to get into my justification for that simple claim in a moment, but, first, I do wonder… why would anyone think any differently? The RPG is a role-playing game. It describes itself in the title. I like to think I can actually trust the English language enough to assume that a descriptor like that is quite literal. Presumably, a game that facilitates role-playing more than another game is the better role-playing game, right?

    I’ve been thinking about this in part because, when I think about it, I did more role-playing in STALKER than I ever did in most RPGs. The skills and classes of those games limited me to a role, rather than letting me truly be the person I wanted. Granted, STALKER wouldn’t let me play as a pacifist, but that’s more because one wouldn’t actually find a pacifist in a place like the Zone, only a pile of monster shit. It is a game that dumped me in a world, set forth the rules of that world, then let me be whoever I wanted to be.

    The stuff we generally think of as RPG mechanics are often unnecessary! Being turn-based, for instance, is the only way to keep a DM sane. Having dice rolls is the only way to keep people from being mad at the DM when he calls the outcome of a thing–it’s a bit harder to dispute a dice than it is to dispute a guy who randomly decides whether you hit or miss, after all.

    The other night, a friend got all huffy with me when I said I was quite happy with where The Elder Scrolls was heading. He said it was becoming less of an RPG because it was getting streamlined. I suggested that instead, a lot of the skill stuff was being offloaded into other areas (or removed because they figured out how to do it better–see classes). Skyrim was, I argued, slowly evolving (I realize that the use of the word might be provocative, but considering that role-playing is inherently a part of the immersive sim, and that the IS removes abstraction, then surely it must be an evolution of the RPG, no?) into an immersive sim, which is really what Bethesda has always wanted to make.

    My friend was a bit upset.

    For him, the stat elements in Daggerfall and Morrowind were what made it an RPG. For me, and, I presume, Bethesda, who has made a game less dependent on stats and more dependent on simulation with each release, it was the idea that Bethesda could put you in a world and let you be whoever you wanted to be.

    I guess I feel like people really want stats-based (or stats+turn-based, or stats+turn-based+isometric, or maybe something else) adventure games. Maybe they’d like a degree of choice, but that seems secondary to their primary interest, which is in a stat progression system (hi JRPG fans! It’s the only way you can consider your genre an RPG!). It’s why people seem willing to call Borderlands an RPG, when it’s no more of an RPG than Darksiders (in Darksiders, you gain souls to unlock abilities; in Borderlands, you gain XP to level up to get a skill point to unlock abilities). Ultimately, it seems as if a lot of people, particularly those who would moan about Skyrim being less of a game than its predecessors, are so focused on specific elements of RPGs that they don’t really pay attention to WHY those elements are there, or why they’re no longer needed.

    Computers can simulate all sorts of things that dice rolls previously controlled. Now we can do things like fluid classes instead of saying “okay, you are a rogue so you can learn these things, and for no reason whatsoever, that guy over there cannot.” Those elements were a result of RPGs being tabletop games and running on computers with crappy processors. We don’t have those limitations any more, so the abstraction can be removed and people can focus on role-playing without having to worry about the excess stuff.

    I’m not saying that the stats-based (or turn-based or isometric) game should die, just that I really wishthat the people who whine about RPGs shedding their previous limitations would shut up. It’s nice to see that they’re really trying to let people truly immerse themselves, not only in a world, but a role.

    No matter what you say, you can’t really immerse yourself in the other RPGs. The second that you level up (yes, I get it, Skyrim does this too–I said it was an evolution of the RPG, not its apogee) or watch XP numbers fly in the air or watch your character do something for you… you’re not immersed. The game is being a game and pulling you out of the experience. Sometimes, that’s awesome. Sometimes, I want my games to be gamey.

    But, yeah, um, this is getting long, so I’ll just finish it up with this: by being immersive, Skyrim’s actually a better RPG, because it’s removing as much crap as it can between the player and the player’s role. It’s not necessarily a better game–after all, The Witcher 2 has better graphics, writing, voice acting, sound design, art design, and a bunch of other details–but it is a better RPG, because there’s nothing stopping you from being the person you want.

    Why would there even be a debate on what the RPG is?

    (Also, Skyrim has more levels, skills, and perks than The Witcher 2. It’s a bit funny that I’ve heard people say Skyrim is dumbed down because of a reduction in skills, but The Witcher 2 is the year’s best RPG).

    WHY IS THIS POST SO LONG

    • Nick says:

      and I wish that ignorant people calling them limitations would shut up. Your long post is just as bad as the people who post that the only true RPGs are turn based stats heavy things, you should probably take a look at it and realise that: you are just the opposite end of the spectrum, but equally ill informed/incorrect/annoying.

    • Thants says:

      @DocSeuss: Yeah, I don’t know. I like your post, but you’re arguing for one specific type of game (the immerse, fantasy-world simulator), which is great. But the best thing about games is that they don’t go in one direction, they go in all directions.

      It’s a mistake to assume that abstracted, turn-based games are just trying to give you the experience of being there and not doing a good job. The game is the point. I mean, Chess is a rough metaphor for warfare, should we give it up because we have Men of War now?

    • Archonsod says:

      That’s a fairly good definition actually – remove the “immersive element” from a tabletop RPG and what you’re left with is essentially a war or boardgame.

      “and I wish that ignorant people calling them limitations would shut up. Your long post is just as bad as the people who post that the only true RPGs are turn based stats heavy things”

      And how is that precisely? He’s basically arguing that the mechanical aspects such as turn based play, isometric viewpoints and abstract mechanics arose due to a limitation (i.e. they were all that was feasible at the time), and that insisting they are enforced within a genre is necessarily limiting on the genre, which seems pretty sensible to me. Context is a wonderful thing.
      I’d also suggest that if you dislike a post you might be better served by simply not reading it rather than telling the poster to shut up. You’ll likely make more friends that way.

    • Craig Stern says:

      Archonsod: he explicitly states that by removing abstractions, Skyrim becomes a better RPG. That’s going further than merely advocating for a variety of different styles of RPG.

  22. El_Emmental says:

    That was a great read, the year-wide review had its own rhythm fitting the situation pretty well :) (didn’t took a breath too)

    (pardon my poor/weird english – foreign reader at work)

    Looking at all the present, past and future RPS contributors, I feel like I found my modern superheroes: playing video games, as one form of art/media (and not just “games for kids”), never taking things too seriously, having fun with everything (even with the video game journalism flaws/”corruptions”), always keeping a sense of humour, trying everything and still having your own opinion, sometime refusing to play a game (because you simply don’t want/feel like playing it), you know, like real humans.

    RPS is the only place where I read about wargames or a pro-Bulletstorm (a game that, for some reason, don’t like at all – maybe I need to rethink about it) write-up and still walk away feeling fully satisfied with my time spent reading these articles.

    Being right or wrong doesn’t matter there, what is interesting are the various reflections the author brought up. That’s pretty rare, especially online/regarding video games.

    ps: feel free to stop by RPS whenever you feel like sharing some words with us, we’ll always be there :)

  23. Gira says:

    When Kieron Gillen claims Skyrim has a “simulated world” rather than an empty, static collection of script triggers, you know he’s gone to the dark side once and for all.

    • Cryptoshrimp says:

      Every game is a static collection of script triggers, really. I think Skyrim does a good enough job of hiding them, but with such a large world, the underlying mechanics will always be partly visible. At least for now.

    • John P says:

      There are plenty of games with reactive worlds. There’s no excuse for Bethesda to continue making gameworlds that are entirely static and unchanging. See Stalker and Mount & Blade for a couple of examples. This is not an issue of technology; it’s entirely an issue of Bethesda being unwilling or unable to make a more interesting game. They present a huge number of quests (which almost all amount to ‘go to cave and kill everything’) and people are fooled into thinking it’s a ‘living breathing world’ or something.

      Demand more.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      You know the worst thing about Fallout (the proper one)? The time limit on the main mission. And this is what you’re asking for.

    • Gira says:

      Bizarre reply, both because having a time limit is kind of irrelevant to having an actual simulated world – as in STALKER, Mount & Blade, Europa Universalis, Arma 2, and countless other games – and because the time limit in Fallout 1 was great.

    • DiamondDog says:

      I’ve been fooled! It so good to have people tell me what I should think. I’d just be pawing at my screen and drooling, otherwise.

    • Gira says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest.

    • JimRyanor says:

      As much as I love Europa Universalis, for the 100s of hours I’ve poured in, and the stories my nations have told, I am baffled you think it is any less than a collection of triggers than Skyrim. In fact thats what always causes me to eventually stop as once your country reaches a certain size it becomes entirely formulaic. Both games simulate worlds and for many the detail put into Skyrim is enough for us to suspend disbelief, which is what all gaming is about, and buy into their world. For you it doesn’t, fair enough, but clearly for a large amount of people it does, and you know what THAT’S OK.

    • Gira says:

      Wait … Skyrim has a simulated economy, dynamically-created trade routes, wars with actual simulated consequences?

      Man, what the hell have I been playing?

    • LionsPhil says:

      You know the worst thing about Fallout (the proper one)? The time limit on the main mission.

      You appear to have mis-spelt “best”. Particularly brilliant was the tradeoff of sending water caravans home to extend the first timer shortening the second because it gives away their location. And that this wasn’t telegraphed to you with HELLO YOU ARE PLAYING A GAME THIS OPTION GIVES +1 NOW AND -1 LATER.

      Time pressure also means you don’t spend forever wandering around the wasteland grinding. You have to actually get in character and follow the tail of your best lead for a water chip. I pity anyone who spoilt themselves before their first playthrough because although it’s almost all pre-programmed (OH NO, SCRIPT TRIGGERS!!1) it’s the closest I’ve ever seen a CRPG come to a (good!) tabletop campaign due to so much dev-team-thinks-of-everything.

    • JimRyanor says:

      No and I wasn’t claiming it was, but its a beautifully sculpted world filled with character while Europa Universalis isn’t all that far off a spreadsheet and ultimately boils down to calculating mean time to happen for events and how many bad boys you can afford to take (the bad boy mechanic itself being a very obvious and immutable trigger that eventually puts me off the game again for a while). You don’t find Skyrim enthralling and I’m not saying you should, but there is no reason to disparage the many who do for falling to the ‘dark side’. Its like the difference between theatre and film, both are often simulating the same thing in very different ways and some appeal more to certain people than others , but few people would dispute that they’re valid artforms.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Maybe the way to put it is that Skyrim has a low End of Greatness relative to the games Gira is talking about. They are built on scripted triggers, but they’re triggered by higher-level, larger scale things than those in Skyrim. So in EU, other nations turn against you when you invade them, while in Skyrim, other individuals turn against you when you attack them.

      There is only a tension here because Skyrim itself is large, but the scripted behavior in that world is limited to a small scale. It’s main selling point seems to be scale, but while it’s geographically large and contains a great deal of content, it doesn’t simulate large scale events.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Phil & Tool: clearly the time-trigger is at least divisive. Putting them in would radically change the game, no more nambling around the coutryside picking flowers, you’ve got dragons to kill etc. which given the main point of Skrim is the breadth would kind of be hamstringing itself…

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      because having a time limit is kind of irrelevant to having an actual simulated world

      No it isn’t, its implicit.

      You must save Skyrim from the dragons.
      If you do nothing – or not enough – then they win.
      That’s a time limit.

    • Shooop says:

      Name us a single game that isn’t a collection of script triggers. I’ll check back in a few months.

    • Gira says:

      I’ve already listed three in this very comment thread.

  24. Baka says:

    That song is rad!

    KG

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s one of those songs that you know will be a huge hit the first time you hear it. It’s destined to be. Even if they have to censor half to all of it.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      Hossa! Nice song, thanks for linking that. The only thing worrying me now is that I keep seeing images of Mr. Gillen in Mickey Mouse top and denim hot pants.

  25. JackShandy says:

    I’m just playing Serious Sam 3 now, and I think it and Human Revolution are my Game of the year. They’re almost exact reflections of each other: both third in the series, both prequels, both retread the same path the original took, down to the plot beats. Both have instant-kill melee moves. Both feature grizzled, sunglass-wearing protagonists.

    I think between them, you’ve got everything about games. Just play these two, and you’re set.

  26. Suits says:

    “The best Duke Nukem game of the year was Serious Sam 3: BFE.” Yes. Now back to Beyond Good & Evil. =|

  27. Tim Smith says:

    It’s not the same without you. I haven’t even properly read RPS since you left.

  28. BooleanBob says:

    Write more. Stay. Write forever.

  29. Wizlah says:

    Goddamit gillen. Why did you have to leave? WHY?

    Also quinns. You leaving fucker. You were the writers I enjoyed the most. The fact that gillen’s replacement left within a year, no doubt bored of dealing with obsidian rabbits, made it all the worse.

  30. Man Raised by Puffins says:

    Thanks for mentioning Spacechem, Kieron.
    Now my every spare moment is spent scrawling arcane chemical formulae and I see dancing waldos whenever I close my eyes. I’d quite forgotten how devilish the game is.

  31. Ayam says:

    That is the best photo of Kieron that has and ever will be taken – you’ve peaked, Mister Photogenius himself.

  32. McDan says:

    I’ve missed your words of (questionable, yet funny) wisdom Kieron. Yah, can’t think of anything much else to say. Good to see words of yours back though, even if it is very briefly.

    KG

    Wait, I’m not KG, you’re KG, that’s where I’ve been going wrong all this time.

    KG

  33. The Hammer says:

    “Seriously, what’s with the praise being drenched on this thing? Has everyone forgotten that Richard Garriott did it better decades ago or something?”

    Do you reckon Garriott could do the same in a 3D world of the same visual and audio splendour of Skyrim?

    • Nick says:

      Uh, yes?

      What has graphics and sound coming on a lot in nearly 20 years got to do with ingenious game design anyway? Surely the fact NPCs with (much better simulated) lives of their own was done 20 years before this makes it more impressive, no?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Because it’s easier to do design without graphical representation. It just is. It’s why roguelikes can have so many interactions and monster types – because the actual graphic side isn’t there.

      KG

    • JackShandy says:

      When you talk about simulated NPC schedules you’re talking about hard work, not ingenious game design. Giving NPC’s detailed lives is simply a matter of slog. You need much more slog to give detailed lives to 3D-modelled NPC’s that need animations for every action than you do for 2D sprites. Just a matter of resources.

      I would theorize that Skyrim required more slog than the Ultima games.

    • Gira says:

      Because it’s easier to do design without graphical representation.

      Please. Examples of games that do systemic world and NPC interaction infinitely better than Skyrim while being graphically comparable: STALKER, Mount & Blade, X3.

    • Cryptoshrimp says:

      I can’t argue for Stalker or X3, but MnB doesn’t look nearly as good as Skyrim does. It has never been a great looker. I wouldn’t hold it up as a shining beacon of npc interaction either. Most of the change in that game, besides armour and troops, aren’t graphical. Cities never change, new towns will not arise, stuff like that. The only change is the colour of the text in most cases, or a line of text reading which people are allied or at war.

    • Gira says:

      … All of which has (or can have, depending on which text you’re talking about) a dramatic effect on how the game plays out on a moment-to-moment basis. At any rate, I don’t think Skyrim’s that great visually, but that’s not what bothers me. It could be as ugly as sin and I’d still love it if it actually had any of the “simulated world” gameplay Kieron suggested it possessed. I still fail to see how NPC interaction is any deeper than M&B, though – do a few lines of flavour text really deepen the experience for you? At least in Mount & Blade your (simplistic) dialogue choices can mean the difference between war and peace, alliance and bitter enmity, and so on. And not just in a window dressing story sense, either – it’s actually reflected in the gameplay, which is not the case in Skyrim.

      What vexes me most is that Bethesda are capable of so much more, but people still give them concessions because “it’s graphical” or because “there are so many quests”. These guys make a lot of money. If there is any company out there capable of making a graphically detailed, complex fantasy world simulation, it’s them. And what do they do instead?

      A big asset tour.

    • John P says:

      Even if you don’t mind how static Skyrim is, it has some major problems even then. They could at least have scripted some consequences for your actions, but they usually didn’t. Near Riften you find a guy at a campfire, and can help him retake his family keep from bandits. Once you do that you’d expect him to, you know, move into his keep right? But he doesn’t. With the keep completely clear of enemies, he goes back and sits at his campfire. Come back six months later and he’ll still be sitting at his campfire. How is this acceptable?

      Or in Markarth you can help a guy break out of prison. If you do that, you’d expect all his men to ally with you, right? No. Once the breakout quest is complete he disappears forever and all his men in other parts of the world remain hostile to you, presumably so Bethesda didn’t need to script alternatives to other quests depending on whether those people are friendly or hostile. They can’t even flick an allegiance trigger as a consequence for your choices. Oh, and while this guy you broke out of prison kept talking about taking over Markarth, that being his whole life ambition and everything … he doesn’t actually do that. He just disappears. I guessing changing Markarth’s leadership would affect the main storyline too much …

  34. The Hammer says:

    Nick,

    I’m willing to bet that games like Ultima have miles more script to them than Skyrim has. But these days, games come complete with voice acting, and complex animations. They come complete with worlds with multiple dimensions. So who is going to pay for all the voice actors, performing all those lines? If we’re taking player freedom into account, then we need even more lines, for multiple, non-binary outcomes to each and every quest.

    How is that feasible, in a commercial industry? Like I said earlier, you’d be waiting years and years and years for the actual game to come out. There has to be a line somewhere.

    Is that so hard to see? The more detail you need to lavish on any one action, the fewer actions there’ll be. Them’s the breaks of a 3D, audio-visual world in this day and age.

    You can’t just add a new line for an NPC, should something unexpected happen. You could if the game wasn’t voiced, but the majority of gamers these days expect to hear – and not just to read – every character. As mentioned, Bethesda marketed Skyrim as having a tremendous number of voice actors, but the longer you play it, the more it becomes obvious that that number just isn’t enough for it to be a fully engrossing world, when inside a town. But… that’s 70 voice actors! More than a Pixar movie.

    EDIT: What other argument could there be for why Bethesda’s RPGs have regressed from their huge, half-the-size of England game worlds, to the shrunken nations of Cyrodill and Skyrim? The more detailed the graphics and the more heavy the voice acting, the less you can actually achieve in terms of the scope of the game itself. In Daggerfall, Bethesda didn’t have to worry about meticulously designing every object, every dungeon.

    I’m pretty sure that, if you were to ask the common gamer, they’d say they’d love utterly mammoth worlds to waltz around in. Hell, get a handful of gamers together and ask them to describe their ideal game, and more often than not, they slaver about huge environments, where they can do anything and go anywhere – but in practice most are only willing to play this kind of thing if graphics, sound, interface and accessibility are not stripped away as a result.

    Because eye and ear candy like that looks great on the back of the box. Hells, it feels great in-game, when you get to trek mountains and spy gorgeous vistas. Some people find that this audio-visual oomph is more engrossing in hooking them into a virtual world, while others prefer nigh-on unlimited choice and complex AI systems.

    Myself, I think I prefer forsaking voice acting for more script, but I’m pretty sure Bethesda’s investors wouldn’t.

    • pilouuuu says:

      I don’t think we’re asking for the impossible here. Fallout New Vegas had much more interactions, varied dialogues and choices than Skyrim and it’s a similar game. I understand that Elder Scrolls games are a different kind of RPG and all that, but couldn’t it be even better?

      I mean, why can’t we ask for proper populated cities like those in Assassins’ Creed. Why can’t we ask for likeable and non run-of-the-mill characters like some in Bioware games? Why can’t we ask for the facial animation of games like L.A. Noire? Why can’t we ask for NPCs which really have a daily routine, diplomatic solutions to conflicts and more interactions with the environment from Ultima?

      Are those things impossible in this day and age? No, I don’t think so. Are they expensive? Definitely. That’s why I expect that after all the success Skyrim is having, that Bethesda makes DLCs that expand upon the game itself more than just adding more of the same. Or maybe we can expect for an even more amazing Elder Scrolls VI. The thing is that I am having fun with Grand Theft Horse Skyrim, which is an improvement from Oblivion which I simply hated, so we can expect for the best from Bethesda in the future.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      The cities in AssCreed are only populated in the sense there are mannequins standing in them. There’s even less interaction there than in Skrim.

    • pilouuuu says:

      @Funkybadger3 it’s not that their better, it just looks more alive, the quantity of crowds, the way they walk around, maybe their animation is better too. And the cities as urban landscapes are amazing! Their big and populated. While some buildings look great in Skyrim, it all looks so empty.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      You’re not comparing apples with apples here – it wouldn’t make sense to plonk an Asscreed sized city (Jerusalem etc.) down in the middle of Skyrim (would have done in Morrowind, at least for Vivec). You may as well complain that Asscreed doesn’t have a huge wilderness for you to explore in and lots of hidden dungeons, or any dragons…

    • Gira says:

      TheHammer, it would be much easier to follow your posts if you actually put them in the relevant comment threads.

  35. TooNu says:

    DX:HR is the best game of the year 2011.
    Bastion is the game you should also have played in 2011.
    Skyrim is the most awesome game of 2011.

    I think that’s the only list you need.

    • Thants says:

      Your list is missing Portal 2 and therefore incorrect.

    • New Player says:

      Now that I’ve bought Bastion I have the same impression as when I played the demo or when I saw screenshots and heard it described. The voice and music are nice and fairly entertaining, the rest is extremely simple and hardly worth playing. I have the feeling that gamers are extremely easily enamoured with anything that is “almost a little bit good”. The companions of DA (oh, they TALK), any random “oh so beautiful” song at a certain point in a game is sure to be mentioned for months on end etc…

  36. Inglourious Badger says:

    Hooray, KG returns from the ‘guy off the front cover of the last Medal of Honour game’ wilderness! I have a a question: You wonderfully compared Deus Ex to MSP’s The Holy Bible, so I’m dying to know what does that make DX:HR?

    And “I’ve yet to play Old Republic. Forty-five quid? Pull the other one, Obi-Wan.”, you meant to say “Forty-five quid for a game that won’t let me play after a month without stumping up more cash? Pull the other one, Obi-Wan.”

    Also, Hugs!

  37. KoldPT says:

    So basically, what this article tells us is someone should buy Kieron a copy of Orcs Must Die and another of Rock of Ages.

    Swell to see you back KG! I started reading X-Men because of your awesome britishness!

  38. Om says:

    I never got round to mentioning this in the original FM2012 comments section but that WIT really nailed FM for me. Probably the best article I’ve read on RPS this year

  39. LTK says:

    When LTK noted this in a comment thread, I could only nod.

    Well, gosh. I’m flattered.

  40. MajorManiac says:

    Thanks for dropping in KG. Its great to read your words again.

    You’re like an alternative Father Christmas. See you next year.

  41. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    Mister Kieron, your comments makes me feel all warm and happy inside. I love you.

  42. cytokindness says:

    RE: Deus Ex and HR

    I just got Deus Ex as part of the massive Squaresoft pack a few days ago.

    I’ve kept hearing good things about Deus Ex from you and others – but in my first hour or two playing Deus Ex …. well it seems pretty terrible.

    Having to guess at all the future level design challenges, guess which stats would be best for those challenges, and then guess at which weapon is the most effective for all the future is just terrible game design – especially as the punishment for failure is having to restart the entire campaign.

    I’m not seeing any of this much-vaunted immersive gameplay I’ve been told about. See a door, use a tool on a door. See a camera, use a tool on a camera. See an ATM, hack the atm or get the password written down in the next room. Get hit in the face with a hint about “another path”, go around the back and stack crates for an alternate path.
    Trying to be a cop like your brother says is actively punished through gameplay, meaning that I am probably going to have to restart the whole thing due to the shitty non-lethal ammo count I get, and eliminate one of the lauded gameplay paths I hear about.
    Actually trying to fight is ridiculous too. Why do I have to stand still for THIRTY SECONDS to aim my pistol or crossbow properly? Oh, that’s right, I needed to predict the exact values of how aim decay skills work in the entry screen half an hour to an hour ago and replace one of the specialist skills with another upgrade in Pistols.

    I feel like I should just skip this and go on to Invisible War or HR. Invisible War seemed more competent when I played a demo of it way back, and the early parts of LPs for HR seemed pretty great.

    Can anyone inform me – does it get any better after you beat Liberty Island, and is there a specific starting loadout of skills and weapon choice that is meant to be picked?

    • jaheira says:

      I wish I could play Deus Ex for the first time again.

      In answer to your questions it depends on what you mean by “better” and no, but no-one picks swimming:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j8jMn2Kcgs

    • JackShandy says:

      The idea is that you don’t have to guess what loadout to choose, because all of them work well. In practise, just choose anything but swimming and that armour-using one. Pistols are good, pump all your points into that and rifles.

      If you’re not into it, try HR. It’s like DE, but tight.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Having to guess at all the future level design challenges, guess which stats would be best for those challenges, and then guess at which weapon is the most effective for all the future is just terrible game design – especially as the punishment for failure is having to restart the entire campaign

      I don’t understand this complaint. Actions have consequences. Choose one thing and you won’t be able to choose the other. Youcan’t achieve everything and lose nothing.

      Specifically: choose which weapon you lke and which play style you like – some work better, some work worse, but the game can be completed with pretty much any set of skills (unlike System Shock 2, for instance)…

  43. Just Endless says:

    I thought Don’t Take it Personally was very successful for making you feel morally reprehensible. Otherwise it fell a bit flat, especially in the ending. As did Digital, in my eyes, really; fall flat towards the end that is.

  44. RegisteredUser says:

    More people need to play SPAZ.

    It is actually really well made.
    UNLIKE FROZEN SYNAPSE, which takes, on a Core I5-750, longer to process a turn than SPAZ takes to preload the whole god damn universe..
    And quite frankly even as a great fan of the TBS like JA, FO, Silent Storm etc pp, I do not see why FS is supposed to be that great.
    It’s ugly, clunky and not at all fast paced enough, if just by merit of the eternal turn calculating waiting.
    I have also so far not figured out how to see my action radius for guns so that I actually KNOW how far a MG can shoot vs a shotgung, e.g.
    It just feels like a very amateurishly done interesting idea with little optimized followthrough.

  45. Howl says:

    The Steam sale is still on for another hour and a half or so. I just picked up SS3 for 15 quid after reading this. Thanks Mr. G!

  46. John Matrix says:

    A “Year in Games” list? How quaint!

  47. phenom_x8 says:

    Agree with deus EX HR become the game of the year (Not yet playing Skyrim though).
    I remember my initial resolution on my 1st playthrough! I want to be a good jensen, never kill anyone, always persuade them at any given chance (except for the boss of course).

    Up until the poin when *spoiler* I have to meet the hacker (van brought or something) at hengsha. The cutscene rolled in showing the belltower guard killing every civilian at alice garden pod without any hesitation.*spoiler* The same civilian that I’ve been talked before and sharing some thoughts about how difficult life is except for the higher parts of society (its kind of reminds me with my own country, kind of 3rd world country) . The civilian that each have their own problems with their lover, friends or their job . They all dead.

    This event makes me mad, very mad instead. I’m going crazy by killing every soldier I’ve met on my way down to the 1st floor! I killed them with stealth or mines or a silenced combat rifle. I think they deserve it because of what they’ve done before with alice garden pod residence and I’m glad they (the developer ) give me the chance to do it!

    Later in the game I’ve to kill (again ) to save one of my friends (you all know who she is) also from belltower guard. I’m glad I have take the appropriate decision in this situation (for me at least),and thats what makes me give another vote for DX HR as my personal game of the year

  48. Dave Mongoose says:

    I have to say, I enjoyed ‘To The Moon’ much more than ‘Digital, A Love Story’. I found that the emotion of the former had much better pacing because it is mostly obvious where to go next, while advancing the story in the latter relies on going to the right BBS (I kept revisiting the wrong ones and finding they had no new messages).

  49. New Player says:

    I still think From Dust would have been worth more than a mention in all that enthusiasm for any small thing. It may not be the greatest strategy game but it creates a unique feeling. And although I criticised Bastion earlier, I have to say that its narrative actually can get quite involving at a later point.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>