Looks like TESO is the first entry in the Elder Scrolls series to have passable character art. Exciting!


Lately, I’ve had a bit of a curatorial streak to my gaming. There’s games I haven’t played, either because they were on a console I didn’t own, or just wasn’t that interested in at the time, but have become a part of gaming history. And I’ve felt that even though I may not enjoy them, to get my “gaming literacy” up, I should play them – simply having experienced that “classic” game would enrich me, even if the game was garbage.

As part of this, I decided I would really buckle down and play all the Final Fantasy games, and to completion (I’ve only ever beaten X). And part of that meant giving Final Fantasy XI a try. For those who aren’t familiar, XI was the first Final Fantasy MMO. And with the release (or rather, re-release) of Final Fantasy XIV, their second MMO, I figured what better time than now to jump right in.

But as with any MMO, there’s a bit of a process to install and register before you can actually play, and the process for Final Fantasy XI is a bit more confusing and circuitous than others, so if you ever need to install, you can follow this guide which makes the whole thing simple!

  1. Buy the “Square Enix” collection in a Steam Holiday Sale. Enjoy many of the games included in the bundle, like Tomb Raider: Legend and Deus Ex. In doing so, obtain a copy of Final Fantasy XI, and relegate it to the “Shit I Will Never Play” section of your steam library.
  2. Wait two years.
  3. Buy a treadmill. Hook up an Xbox 360 and an original, backwards compatible PS3 to it. Realize that some games are better treadmill games than others, and that Final Fantasy games are pretty good treadmill games.
  4. Make a neat stack of all your PS2 and 360 Final Fantasy games near the treadmill. Notice a gap between X-2 and XII. The completionist in you feels sad.
  5. Remember that you own XI “so you can try it for free”.
  6. Read online that the Xbox 360 version (aka, “the one with gamerscore”) runs the same characters and servers as the PC (and Ps2, though that’s not relevant) and can retroactively unlock achievements for things accomplished on other versions.
  7. Have a really shitty day at work. Say “fuck it” and start downloading that steam version sitting in your library.
  8. Talk to your wife, decide to play Rift instead. If you’ve never played Rift, download the client, create an account and start playing. The process from deciding to play to playing takes like six minutes total and is incredibly seamless.
  9. Resume your Steam download. Buy the xbox 360 version of “Final Fantasy XI: Ultimate Collection Seekers Edition” for treadmill play. Sure if you buy the xbox version, it’s no longer free, but paying a bit to be able to try it on the treadmill as well is probably worth it. Also, this version has ALL of the expansions, and the 2-year old steam version doesn’t, so using the code from the xbox will unlock all of the content on both versions.
  10. Copy the “CD Key” from steam, go to the final fantasy website. You will be informed that PlayOnline accounts have been suspended, and you will now login with a square enix account. Great! You already have a Square Enix account from when you bought Final Fantasy VII during step 2.
  11. Attempt to sign into the site. Fail. Attempt again. Fail. OOPS YOU MUST HAVE FORGOTTEN YOUR SQUARE ENIX USERNAME AND PASSWORD.
  12. Continue attempting for a half hour to sign in with various possible email/username/password combinations you may have used. Each attempt, fill out a terrible aggressive captcha.ffxi
  13. Go to square-enix.com. Be automatically signed in to your account. You now know your actual username and email you signed up with, so the only guesswork is on the password.
  14. Make a few more attempts with various passwords you may have used. When none of them work, give up and click the “Forgot your ID or Password” link.
  15. Be informed that there is no square enix account at the email you entered EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE JUST ON IT.
  17. Come back the next day and pick up where you left off. This time, make a new square enix account!
  18. Even though PlayOnline accounts have been merged with square-enix accounts (but not square-enix accounts, lets be clear). You still will need a PlayOnline account. Don’t worry! They will create you one! Your username and password will both be something easy to remember like XLIDNFLIDSN.
  19. During the account creation process it will ask if you want to set up the ability to spend “Crysta” which is Squeenix’s microtransaction currency. To set this up, you have to add a bunch of personal information to your account which is permanent and unchangable – including, for some reason, gender. Wonder for a bit why they could possibly need to know what your gender is in order to take your money, but since you’re not going to be using their microtransactions anyway, decide to politely decline and move on. However, there is no ‘politely decline’ button on this screen, and no way really to go back at all. So, hit the back button on your browser.
  20. At this point, the webpage will crash. Don’t panic, I’m sure it was supposed to do that!
  21. Log back in and continue, this time when it asks if you want to sign up for Crysta, don’t let your curiosity take you onto that screen! Shut that shit down right here and continue.
  22. You will get to the main page of the site. There is pretty much nothing you can do here. Trying to click on just about anything, including the things that would let you play the game, prompt you for that Crysta shit.
  23. Give up, and add in addition personal information about yourself that it turns out is not actually optional after all!
  24. Remember yesterday when you copied the “CD Key” from steam? Well since a day has passed, do that again.
  25. Even though you have a “square-enix account” (and a “square-enix account”) and a “playonline account” you now need a “service account” to redeem your code. So click on that handy “Add a service account” button.
  26. You will see a familiar looking series of five text boxes like you might expect for a CD Key. So click in that first box and Ctrl-V to paste in the code. This will paste the first 4 digits in the first box, and leave the other 4 boxes blank because I guess this is still 2003.
  27. Re-open the CD Key on steam. Resize and arrange your windows so you can see both at the same time. Type in the code manually. Click next.
  28. This screen will tell you two things. First, that the code you entered is only for a 14 day limited trial of the game. Secondly, that you need to create a service account before you can add a code. Wait, didn’t I click on the “Add a service account” button? YES. I CLICKED THE ADD SERVICE ACCOUNT BUTTON. THERE ARE ONLY TWO GODDAMN BUTTONS, ONE SAYS ADD SERVICE ACCOUNT BUT IF YOU WANT TO ADD A SERVICE ACCOUNT THAT IS NOT THE ONE YOU CLICK WHAT THE SHIT WHO THE FUCK MADE THIS HOW IS THIS STILL THE WAY IT IS YOU HAD ELEVEN GODDAMN YEARS TO WORK ON THIS AND THIS BULLSHIT IS STILL A THING SERIOUSLY SERIOUSLY JESUS CHRIST THIS IS GODDAMN FUCKING UNACCEPTABLE WHY AM I DOING THIS SHIT fuckffxi2
  29. Alright, you had a good night’s sleep! Time to resume! And today the xbox disk you ordered on Amazon is arriving, so you can use that code, and now you know how! Problems solved! This time click on the “Play Online” button to add a service account.
  30. Add the code from the insert in your xbox copy of the game. It’ll show you a list of all the content you own, including the base game and all expansions. Also on this screen you can purchase additional characters, why would you? Spending money? pfft.
  31. Okay! Done with account management. See how easy that was! Go into steam and launch the game.
  32. The “PlayOnline Launcher” will open. It will need to update itself IMMEDIATELY even though you just downloaded it.
  33. It will then prompt you for a PlayOnline profile and to create one, you need to give it your square-enix account username and your PlayOnline account username and your PlayOnline account password. Hope you wrote them down!
  34. After this, click on Final Fantasy XI. This will give you an error message about not having any “Content IDs”
  35. Google a bit. Learn that the default number of characters you get is ZERO. You have to pay for the game itself, pay a monthly fee to have the game, and pay an additional monthly fee to actually HAVE A CHARACTER. WHAT THE FUCK no. I’m not going to get angry. This is incredibly dumb, but I’m going to keep my cool and push through.
  36. Okay, lets log back into the account management, and add a character. OH FUCKING GREAT I HAVE TO ADD A CREDIT CARD IN ORDER TO HAVE A CHARACTER FOR MY FREE TRIAL OF COURSE whatever. I’ll put in a credit card since I’m just going to cancel this shit later since I don’t even think the game is any good and certainly not worth this.
  37. Launch the game again! This time you’ll get in for sure.
  38. It has to patch first.
  39. JESUS
  41. CHRIST
  49. Alright, you wake up the next morning ready to go! Go downstairs to see if it’s finished
  50. “You have been disconnected from PlayOnline because you were idle for 20 minutes” OH MY GOD ARE YOU FUCKING SERIO oh false alarm it actally finished. phew! That was a close one!
  51. Okay, go through the like 12 step process clicking through the PlayOnline launcher to get to the actual game.
  52. Wow! Glorious 640×480 graphics! Since it’s not 2003, you’ll want to update that to 1920×1080. Okay where is that settings button to change that…
  53. Close the game, close the launcher, go to steam and launch the config utility. Set the resolution to 1920×1080 in three different places.
  54. Go through the 12 step process to get to the actual game again. This time it looks much better, but still not good.
  55. Oh joy! Another error! What could this one say “Expansion content is not installed and will not be accessible”. Well what the shit were you installing for 20 hours? I clearly have a license for the content!
  56. Look on the official website for expansion client – fruitless.
  57. Look online for the expansion client – fruitless.
  58. Go on steam and look for any DLC, there isn’t any, and the store page for the game is gone.
  59. Search Steam, find that although “Final Fantasy XI” is no longer listed, “Final Fantasy XI Ultimate Collection Seekers Edition” is. Go to that page, and download that?
  60. No, you can’t download that. You can buy it for only 30 bucks! BUT I ALREADY OWN THIS LIKE LEGITIMATELY LEGALLY OWN THIS JUST LET ME HAVE MY SHIT.
  61. Hey, steam has your back though! Previous owners of Final Fantasy XI can get the updated game for a special discounted price! Okay, good. Thirty bucks was pretty expensive for something you should already own. Okay, what’s the discounted price OH WAIT THIRTY BUCKS IS THE DISCOUNTED PRICE JOKES ON YOU FUCKER
  62. REALLY?
  63. At this point you have two choices: Give up and quit like a fucking quitter, or suck it up, pay the 30 bucks and power through. It is payday after all, but it really blows the “lets just try this free game i have” all to shit.
  64. WAIT. You own this on XBOX! You can just play this on xbox 360 on the treadmill and forget the pc version ever happened.
  65. Read the box of the xbox game. “Players 1” “Players Online 2-100+” “Storage required to save 13GB” Teehee those are some wacky requirements!
  66. Remember that the xbox in front of the treadmill is the cheaper model with a 2GB hard drive
  67. FUCK
  68. FUCK
  69. FUCK
  70. Okay GOD DAMN IT i have come too far have nothing to show for it! I’LL REBUY THE PC VERSION I DON’T EVEN CARE JUST FUCKING WORK THIS TIME
  71. “In order to install, you will need to ‘Delete Local Content’ for any previous versions of Final Fantasy XI you own on Steam” SURE, LETS FLUSH ALL THE WORK FROM STEPS 32-54 DOWN THE FUCKING TOILET I DON’T GIVE A FUCK
  72. Download the game on Steam
  73. Launch the PlayOnline Launcher; it needs to update itself
  74. Recreate your PlayOnline Profile using both you SquareEnix and PlayOnline account data
  75. Start installing the 20-hour patch
  76. Remind yourself how Rift went from download the client (right off their website!) to playable in SIX FUCKING MINUTES NOT 4 FUCKING DAYS
  77. Get to the game GOD DAMN IT SHIT GRAPHICS
  78. Close the game
  79. Run the config utility
  80. Change the resolution to 1920×1080 in three different places
  81. Log into the PlayOnline Launcher again and get to the game
  84. wow this game isn’t very good

After having an unreasonable amount of trouble with the rats, I get back into it and start on the next Fighters’ Guild quest,

My next quest is to go to a cave! With all the trouble I had in the dark before, I am sure this will be a cakewalk. I just will have to be sure and buy a torch before I leave town.

I read up on where I am supposed to go. Just follow the road south until you get to a suspension bridge and it’s right there. So I go south on the road for quite some ways; I’m almost back to Seyda Neen before i realize the directions were to follow the river south, not the road. So I backtrack a bit, and follow the actual directions, and find the place quickly. I talk briefly to the two people huddled around a fire outside, but they are of no help.

Once I’m inside I realize that I forgot to buy a torch before leaving town. Fortunately, the eggs are bioluminescent and are conveniently placed slightly apart, to make it easy for the humans harvesting their unborn.

Convenient, but not as convenient as having a torch

Convenient, but not as convenient as having a torch

I follow along, looking for my egg poachers, but they are nowhere to be found. I pass a door fairly early on, but decide it’s more likely that they will be in the main cave. Thoughout the cave, I encounter a lot of Kwama (bug things), though luckily I find them one at a time, so I’m good. I snake my way through the caverns and finally wind up at a dead end with a door to the queen’s chambers. That seems promising, but my health is pretty low by now. None of the individual Kwama were that tough, but there were many, and my poor body is pretty thrashed. I decide it’s probably better to go heal, and come back rested. As I cower my way back to the exit, proverbial tail between my knees, i realize just how good a decision that was – monsters had respawned behind me immediately and I had to fight my way out.

I walk back to Balmora, and sleep. I know that this time I should buy a torch before I leave town. However, when looking for a store that sells torches, I find a bookstore instead. I know that as part of my achievements, I have to read every book, and decide to put in some work toward that. Rather than pay for them, I just stand in the book store and read the books from cover to cover right in front of the shopkeeper. I AM THE REASON BORDERS WENT OUT OF BUSINESS IN TAMRIEL.

MGE Screenshot 007

A few books in, I tire of that, and head out for adventure. I don’t make it too far out the gate, though, before I remember that once again, i have forgotten to buy a torch. Sigh.

I check a few stores. The first one doesn’t have a torch. The second one doesn’t have a torch either, but does have something called a “Bug Lamp”. Sure, I’ll take that.

MGE Screenshot 009

Fun fact – If you look closely at this screenshot, you can see he DID have a torch, and I am dumb.

I attempt to equip my Bug Lamp in the off hand, and hey, it totally works! Success! I leave the store and head back toward the caves. When I get to the cave, i get up from the couch for a bit to grab a soda or something, I don’t really remember what I was doing. What I do remember is that when I got back, my Bug Lamp was gone. Apparently torch-type items are limited use and i totally wasted my Bug Lamp walking to the cave in complete sunlight.

Well, I’m here, and the cave was lit okay, so I decide to brave the darkness again. This time when I get to the door partway through the cave, I go in and explore that area. These dang egg poachers have to be somewhere!

In the low light of the next zone, i see something moving – and it’s not a bug, it’s a humanoid. I think i’ve found my egg poachers. I pull out my axe, and attempt to sneak around behind him. I get up close, ready to strike…and realize it’s an NPC. A generic egg farmer, not one of the poachers I’m after. I was moments away from murdering this dude. Phew.

“Egg Farmer” tells me he doesn’t know where the poachers are, they could be anywhere (real helpful, dude) and that I should watch out for large killer bugs (also helpful). He also informs me that the giant killer bugs won’t attack the farmers because they know the smell, but I smell like an outsider. That’s secret speak for “The developers coded the bugs in this zone to not be hostile”. However, let’s unpack that statement a bit. The bugs will attack me, because they have no idea what my intentions could be. But they won’t attack the people that they KNOW ARE STEALING THEIR UNBORN, because they recognize them FROM ALL THE OTHER TIMES THEY HAVE STOLEN THEIR UNBORN.

I walk through this safe zone, past a few other people (also named “Egg Farmer”) and non-hostile Kwama, and the door on the other side also leads to the bug queen’s chambers. Pretty sure that’s where my poachers will be. I go through the door, and sure enough, I’m being attacked immediately.

MGE Screenshot 016

“I have face paint, so I must be evil!”

I start whacking this dude with my axe, over and over. It takes probably 100 hits to kill him, or at least 100 swings (many of them were misses). He gets in some pretty good hits, but I eventually best him. There’s nothing of value on his corpse. Disappointing. His friend is nowhere to be seen.

My health is over half gone, so if I get into another slap fight comparable to that one, I’ll die. So rather than head off in search of his buddy, I walk back to Balmora again and sleep. This time I buy a couple of candelabras before leaving town, hopefully they will work as torches.

I head back to the cave for the third (and hopefully final) time. On the way, this time, I stop to pick some flowers. And by “pick flowers” I of course mean “gather alchemical ingredients” because I AM WAY MANLY.

MGE Screenshot 018

In the cave, I equip my candelabra (see, I learned to wait until it’s dark to not waste them) and while it does provide some additional light, it’s pretty much useless. It illuminates my axe, and it illuminates itself, and that’s pretty much it. The rest of the room is still dark as shit. Not only that, but apparently this is some sort of demon candelabra with some sort of satanic flame, because the things it lights up are in this sort of blood red hue.

MGE Screenshot 019

Demonic Candelabra – better than nothing, but barely!

I head back to the queen’s chambers (I know the layout pretty well at this point), wander around for a bit more, and then find the other poacher. I bust out my axe and start frantically mashing Left Mouse Button.

The fight takes, and I am not exaggerating, three to five minutes. And a prolonged fight can certainly be done in an interesting way. This wasn’t that. This was me and one other generic opponent standing more or less motionless in front of each other, swinging our weapons repeatedly, sometimes missing, sometimes doing a small amount of damage. There are no health bars over enemies to let you know you’re even making progress. Just clicking for minutes, hoping that you’re doing more damage to them than they are doing to you. At a certain point it looped back around and got so ridiculous that it was actually kind of fun.

Eventually he dies. He also has nothing of value. There’s no indicator on screen that I have finished a quest objective and now need to return to the fighters guild, I’m just expected to remember that (which is fine, because I do). No journal update, nothing. The whole experience feels a bit anticlimactic. But I head back to town, turn in the quest and get my next job from the fighters’ guild, which we’ll go into next week! See you then!

Before I go, though, here’s a fun note. Apparently all the items in Morrowind have a durability rating. If your stuff gets too banged up, it won’t work as well. Apparently in the very small amount of combat I had done up to this point, my axe had taken almost 500 points of durability damage, which explains why I was so inefficient in dispatching those poachers. I’m going to have to figure out how to repair things immediately, or this is going to be a slog.

MGE Screenshot 020

When I left off, I was being attacked by a Dark Brotherhood assassin. Luckily, I had decent gear, so I managed to best him. Still, it’s impolite to interrupt someone who is sleeping! I loot the corpse, he had some pretty good armor, though I’m not sure if I’m going to use it or sell it, but either way, I grab it.

I did some reading on this encounter, and apparently it’s the start of the Tribunal questline. Apparently at any point when you sleep in a bed, there’s a high chance this dude will attack you – even the first time you ever sleep in a bed! Luckily I geared up before I slept, but I can totally imagine a scenario where you don’t. It makes a certain sense that once you finish the main game you would install the Tribunal expansion and would want it to kick off right away, but nowadays you almost always will have the Game of the Year edition, so this seems kinda broken.

Anyway, he told me to go out and see the world, so I decide to join the Fighters’ Guild. Seems as good a place to start as any. I walk to the fighters guild, and talk to the leader, asking to join. She lets me in without asking any questions. I now have access to everything in chests in the fighters’ guild hall. This seems like a bad policy. Any stranger can walk in and say “can I have what’s in that chest?” and she’ll say “no, that’s for members only” and then he’ll say “can i be a member?” and she’ll say, sure, help yourself to whatever’s in that chest. I remember the first time I ever played, I joined every guild, just so i could loot them to my heart’s content without repercussions.

My first quest, as is tradition in Elder Scrolls, is to kill some rats. I head back across town to find my contact. She’s a dark elf, and rats are eating her pillows. SHE IS OBSESSED WITH PILLOWS. This is just one of multiple quests about how pillow obsessed she is. The first rat is in her bedroom, the rest are upstairs, which you have to go outside and around to get to.

The first rat is easy, but when I get to the upstairs storeroom, it is really dark. REALLY dark. My screen was basically solid black. I’m not sure if it was this dark in the original game, or if this is the result of a lighting mod I’m running. I could hear rats charging at me, though, so I just swung my ax wildly in front of my and hoped the rats would run right into it without me needing to see or aim. This turned out to be a workable strategy. I stumble around up here for a bit, but eventually find the door to the outside world. Now I just have to talk to the lady downstairs and quest is complete.

Morrowind - Dark

This is an actual, unmodified screenshot. It was FUCKING DARK.

I walk up to her and click on her, which is the talk button. Unfortunately it is also the “steal” button and she becomes very cross with me and starts to throw fisticuffs. This is bad. Time to load a previous save!

Morrowind does not have autosaves. When I load my most recent save, I am back in Caius Cosades’ house, him half-naked and smiling at me, a naked dark brotherhood assassin passed out on the floor. “This isn’t what it looks like,” he says to me.

Morrowind - Awkward

Have you met my friend Pete? He had a bit too much to drink…

I rejoin the fighters’ guild, re-talk to pillowpants, re-kill the bedroom rat, and head upstairs to flail my axe at the dark rats.

This time, attacking the darkness turned out to be a less good strategy than before. I get eaten by rats. Load save. “I swear, man, this really isn’t what it looks like!”

Because I clearly can’t be trusted to learn my lesson and manually save at reasonable intervals, I take a break, head online and install an autosave mod.

I do everything a third time, and this time, when I get to the door outside the darkness where the rats are I think “maybe I should go buy a torch or something.” I don’t. I do, however, manually save, just in case.

This time, however, I manage to kill the rats. I manage to talk to the lady without pickpocketing her. I manage to talk to my contact at the fighters’ guild and finish the quest. This quest, which is supposed to be really easy turned out to be really easy. However, looking at how much trouble I had with this introductory quest, I can’t help but wonder what will be in store for me the rest of the game.

GOT.5Y 2013

Game of the Year lists tend to come out late December/early January and tend to contain almost entirely games that were released November-ish. Now, to be fair, a lot of good games come out just in time for the holidays, but I do think there is a bit of short memory span in play as well.

So with that in mind, to help keep my memory fresh when it comes time to determine GOTY 2013, here are some of my favorites of the year so far. Also, its the time of year when the Steam Summer Sale comes around, so if any of these pop up on sale, you may want to snap them up.

A couple ground rules before we get going. One, a game must have come out in the first half of 2013 – there are plenty of great games that came out late 2012 that I enjoyed a great deal in the first half of 2013, but they won’t be on this list. Two, I have to have played them – I’m sure there are great game I’ve missed, but if I haven’t played them, I can’t very well rate them, now can I? And third, this list is my favorite games – not necessarily the best or most important. For example, my GotY for 2012 would probably be Mass Effect 3, even though The Walking Dead was arguably better, and Spec Ops the Line was way more important. I’m also splitting it into two distinct categories: Big, blockbuster, high-budget, AAA games, usually costing 60 bucks; and smaller XBLA or downloadable, maybe indie games, usually much smaller in scope, usually 20 bucks or less. The “downloadable” or “arcade” terms don’t mean what they used to, but there’s definitely big games and smaller games, and it can be tough to compare the two straight up, thus two lists.

Arcade/Downloadable/Indie Titles

2) Surgeon Simulator 2013

Surgeon Simulator, for the uninitiated, is a game where you have to perform several intense surgeries, starting with an open heart transplant and getting more difficult from there, but the twist is that you control each of your fingers manually, leading to clumsy misuse of all your tools. The result is hilarious. Succeed or fail, it is all good fun, which is good, because you will fail A LOT.

In fact, one of the only things placing it at number 2 rather than number 1 is that you have to complete surgeries to unlock the later ones, and I have yet to beat the first one, so that’s all I have available.

1) Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Far Cry 3 was a pretty good game, but like many AAA shooters, took itself very seriously. Blood Dragon, on the other hand, throws itself fully into the realm of over the top ridiculous. The result is a game that cares about one thing – the player having a good time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like serious games, but sometimes all you want is stupid escapism, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon does it better than most.

Big AAA Titles

5) Gears of War: Judgment

I love me some Gears of War, and while this is probably the worst Gears so far, its still pretty fun. They’ve traded in the campaign’s long, epic levels for a connected series of bite-sized challenges. While I typically enjoy the bigger, story-based levels, it was a nice change of pace to have mini score attack levels, plus it got Horde Mode into campaign.

I hope that this remains something of an ancillary title, and isn’t indicative of the future of the franchise, but it is a fun distraction nonetheless.

4) Resident Evil: Revelations

The first Resident Evil game I played was 5. I had tried to get into the older ones, but the controls are janky, and if you go in the wrong room, you get eaten immediately. So when I heard that this game was something of a return to form for the franchise, I was a bit nervous. However, it turns out “return to form” means “lets all forget Resident Evil 6 happened, come back baby we love you”. It combines the totally playable controls of 5 with more atmospheric horror style gameplay of the earlier titles.

This game is a port of a 3DS game though, and at times it shows. There’s not a ton of variety in environments or enemies. Still, the game is fun to play, and got me into the Resident Evil back catalog again, so the game easily earns a place on this list.

3) Last of Us

Disclaimer: I didn’t actually play Last of Us, as I don’t own a PS3. Instead, I watched a 6 hour playthrough on youtube with all the cutscenes and enough gameplay to merge it into a coherent story.

It’s easily the best story of the year. It takes well-rounded, well fleshed out characters and puts them in tough situations that they need to work through. The game takes place over a year, and you see the relationships evolve. And it wraps the whole thing up in an ending that is both heartbreaking and completely satisfying at the same time.

It looked like I might not have loved the gameplay, though. There seems to be a lot of sneaking, and there are 1-hit kill enemies which tend to irritate me. The game portion could easily be frustrating to the point of it completely detracting from the story (see Bioshock Infinite). So without having played it (and I’m not going to spend 300+ dollars to do so), 3rd is as high on this list as I can put it.

2) Remember Me

This game hasn’t gotten the hype and promotion of some of the other games on this list, but it’s pretty amazing.

The game is set in a world where technology exists to store your memories digitally outside your brain. With this technology has come the ability to remove painful memories, or add other people’s memories. You play as a memory hunter who is trying to take down the corporation behind it all, and you can steal people’s memories for clues on what to do next or for access codes, you can overload their memory units to disable them, and you can even “remix” their memories so they believe they should be doing what you want them to do. It’s pretty cool.

The surprising thing is that a game this ambitious from a first time developer actually works as well as it does. The world and story are great, the memory gameplay is amazing, the art direction is fantastic (the whole game is done in a white/black/orange motif that just works). There’s a lot of ledge climbing and navigation that is reminiscent of the last generation of Tomb Raider games that I liked a lot. Combat is its kryptonite though, as the entire combo system it’s built on can be replaced entirely by button mashing x. As the difficulty curve grows later in the game, if you don’t adapt to use the longer, more complicated combos, you’ll just wind up hitting x for a loooong time. So combat fell a bit flat, but otherwise, the game was amazing.

1) Tomb Raider

How could my GOT.5Y be anything but the game that got me 100,000 gamerscore?

Honestly, I was nervous leading up to this game’s release. I absolutely LOVED the previous three Tomb Raider games, especially Legend and was none too keen on a reboot changing things. Then somebody on the game said something along the lines of “Lara gets her strength after somebody tries to rape her” which obviously didn’t sit well with me.

Having played the game, I can safely say my fears were misplaced, it is fantastic. For starters, it’s the first Tomb Raider game where the gun controls aren’t total shit. As a result, the combat/platforming ratio has been skewed toward combat, which you would think would bother me, but didn’t, because combat is actually really fun.

The story is something of an origin story for Lara, though not necessarily how you would expect. She’s not just a college student who gets stranded on an island and magically learns all her abilities because bad shit happens to her. She starts the game as an archaeologist with plenty of camping experience, but not a lot of field work, and she certainly hasn’t been hunted by crazy islanders. She has all the abilities she would need from the start, but what she doesn’t have, what you can see grow, is her confidence in those abilities. And the confidence does not come as a result of something terrible happening to her, but grows organically from herself. It’s maybe a subtle difference, but it works incredibly well. (Also, nobody ever actually tries to rape her, which is nice.)

The game starts off pretty linear, but it gradually opens up bit by bit, and by the end, Lara is ledge hanging and jumping around just like you remember.

Sure, the “twist” at the end everyone saw coming a mile away. And Lara goes from being incredibly nervous about her first kill to slaughtering 10s of dudes at a time a little too quickly for the narrative, but these are relatively small nitpicks in an otherwise pretty flawless game. Even the multiplayer is fun, and I NEVER enjoy multiplayer outside of a LAN.


What are your thoughts? Agree with my list? Am I crazy for leaving something out? Leave a comment and let me know!

Tagra Reviews Games

Tagra Reviews Games

Did you know that my friend Tagra plays games, and writes about them, too? Now you do! Read her stuff.

(This is part of a series – see the explanation or part 1)

As I prepared to leave Seyda Neen for Balmora, I asked Rose an important question: “Should I walk there or take the Silt Strider?” (Silt Striders are giant bug things that are the fast-travel system for the game). Rose, unsurprisingly, suggested that I walk there and have adventures.

As you travel the world, the way you know where you are headed is that along the road, you’ll run into sign posts whenever the road forks that will point you in the right direction. In the base game, these are all identical, and you have to mouse over every one to see what they say. Well, apparently one of the mods that got installed changes these signs to actually say the names of the towns they are pointing too. It seems like such a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.

My walk to Balmora was mostly uneventful. I ran into one woman who looked like she was having some trouble, so I went up and talked to her. Apparently she was violently robbed by a bandit. But rather than hiring me to exact revenge or get her shit back, she just wants me to pass notes to him during class, because he was DREAMY. This seemed… odd, to say the least, if not downright creepy. I’m not going to set this victim up with a criminal. THAT’S NOT HOW I ROLL. So instead, I leave her pining on the road for all eternity. I’m not sure if that’s better.

When I get to Balmora, Rose tells me Caius Cosades’ house is in the top right corner. First she goes on about how great it is that the game doesn’t have quest markers, then she turns into one. I ignore her and continue my quest the way it was given to me, I’m supposed to go to the south wall corner club and ask around.

If this is what its like to go clubbing in Morrowind, count me out. It’s just some dude’s well lit house, and there about 3 people in here standing still. Worst rave ever. One of the guys tells me where Caius Cosades lives. It’s where Rose said.

Caius greets me inside. He is not wearing a shirt, and due to an interesting choice made by a modder, is RIPPED. This guy works out. I remember him being kind of a sad sack originally, but this dude has a six pack. I turn in the quest, and rather than giving me the next main storyline quest, he tells me to go out and do side quests for a bit. I’ve mentioned before that I think this is interesting. Most games will drag you through the story whether you like it or not. This one makes you work before you get any. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but it’s certainly different.

Then he offers to let me sleep in his bed. And if a shirtless stranger (who is also a drug dealer, did i mention that?) offers to let you sleep in their bed, NOTHING BAD CAN COME OF IT. It’d be rude not to, right?

Well something bad came of it, because before I could finish sleeping, I was attacked by the Dark Brotherhood.

Did I survive the encounter? Tune in next week to find out!

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