Archive for July, 2013

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


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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.

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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!

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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.

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(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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Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock infinite came out three months ago, which is like 70 in internet years. It seems like it’s been out long enough that anyone who wanted to play it spoiler-free would have had the opportunity to do so, but then again, I only finished it like a week ago, so maybe not.

Having finished it, though, I do want to talk about it, and I don’t think there’s a way to do so in a spoiler-free fashion, so very soon in this article there will be a large spoiler break, and everything after that is fair game. Before we get to that, though, a quick note to those who haven’t played it – do not get your hopes and expectations up. The game as a whole is nowhere near as good as Bioshock, and the “twist” at the end is kind of a letdown. If you go into it with reasonable expectations you may find a fun game there, but it definitely doesn’t live up to the ferver the internet had for it, at least it didn’t for me.

If you’ve never played a Bioshock game, play the original instead.


First off, let me say, I’m going to point out a lot of the game’s problems. The overall tone of this article will likely be overwhelmingly negative. But this game did a lot of things right. For starters, it’s really pretty. That may sound like i’m being facetious and showcasing only surface elements, but really, the thing I am struck with the most is that this game looks really, really good. Not so much in terms of visual fidelity, but more in terms of art style. Much of the gameplay is fun, and the story is far more ambitious than most video games, especially moreso than most shooter games.

But, like I said, I had some problems.

1) The plot is pretty nonsensical.

Let me try to explain this. You play as Booker DeWitt, a former soldier who, to pay off some gambling debts, is sent to the floating city of Columbia to retrieve a girl named Elizabeth. Columbia is a city-state being run by a man named Comstock that has seceeded from the United States and is built on top of a bunch of floating platforms in the sky. It’s also full of some pretty terible religious zealots and racists.

Booker begins to search for Elizabeth, but at the annual “throw baseballs at black folk” festival, is discovered to be a “false prophet” and suddenly hundreds of cops start trying to kill him. But, they are racist cops, so it is totally okay to murder them all.

Eventually, Booker finds Elizabeth and they try to make their escape, but a giant sentient robot bird who is tasked with protecting Elizabeth attacks them.

Somewhere around this point of the game you meet Daisy Fitzroy, the leader of the Vox Populi, a rebel group. She starts bossing you around and says some things about the white devil. (Note: at this point, I felt REALLY uncomfortable. Both the character and me personally are not terrible racists. I wound up stopping playing for about a month because I really didn’t feel like being called a racist in my free time. Logically I can separate that it’s just a game, but damn, somehow that penetrated past. This is praise – not many games could forge such a strong connection.)

You’re tasked with getting some guns to help out the Vox Populi, but the gun-maker has lost his tools. Luckily, Elizabeth has the ability to open “tears” which are like a window to another world. Either you travel to a parrallell similar world, or the world you are in is subtly changed, its not super clear. Rather than opening a tear to a world where we had an airship to escape in, or simply a tear to a world where we were never there in the first place, Elizabeth opens a tear to a world where his tools are back. Okay, fine. But in this world, the gunmaker is dead. Whoops! To solve this problem, Elizabeth opens a tear to a world where the gunsmith is alive and also has his tools. Great! Well, this world the Vox are running around killing all the racists. Despite the fact that hours earlier you were doing the exact same thing, this is considered bad. Also, Elizabeth seems to forget that she can alter reality for the rest of the game and we just hang out in this terrible timeline for the rest of the game.

Oh, and despite Booker being a Vox hero in this timeline, they all start trying to kill you as well.

Eventually, you go to confront Comstock, but oops, Booker winds up way in the future – a future where Elizabeth destroys New York City. He then goes back in time to shortly after he left from, frees Elizabeth, kills Comstock, You escape on an airship, and the bird monster is your friend now and helps you for a bit. Then you eventually need to kill him, so Elizabeth remembers she can alter reality, and suddenly you’re UNDERWATER. In RAPTURE. FROM THE FIRST GAME. GET IT? The bird monster robot friend enemy thing is crushed to death by water.

There’s some more stuff with lighthouses to show that all of the Bioshock games are in parallel universes of each other.

Then the big “twist” at the end: It turns out that Booker felt guilty after the battle of Wounded Knee, did some shitty things and then sort of sold his daughter to some wierdo time travelers to pay off his debt. Then, determined to get her back, decides to go to Columbia to get her back. Because Elizabeth was his daughter the whole time, see?

Also, it’s determined that killing Comstock wasn’t good enough, because there are alternate realities where he is alive. So they vow to kill Comstock before he is born. Instead, Elizabeth drowns Booker then blinks out of existence. The end.

Ummm…. okay?

Fun fact – after beating the game and reading about the plot, I found out that Comstock was alternate reality Booker the whole time, and he kidnapped Booker’s daughter who is actually his own daughter because he is Booker okay who cares the game is nonsense.

It tries so hard to be high concept but it is just a giant mess.

I also forgot – there’s a sizeable chunk where Elizabeth’s mom, but I guess not her actual mom, is a techno ghost trying to murder you.

2) It tries too hard to be like the original Bioshock, but does so in dumb ways. It also fails to be like Bioshock in meaningful ways.

Bioshock was a great game. was the story of an Ayn Rand type libertarian society where science can proceed without impediment from regulations. It tells the story of a society that is built on this premise and the consequences of that. It’s a plausible alternate history, and every single thing – from the world, to the story to the gameplay – all works together with each other.

Bioshock Infinite starts off as a similar alternate history. It’s again the story of a man who seceded from society and built and improbable city, this time based on a new religion. However, at a fairly early point, Columbia stops having much at all to do with the story. It’s just a wierd sci-fi magic “rescue the girl” story that doesn’t feel influenced by the world, it just happens to take place there.

Plasmids/vigors are a great illustration of this. Bioshock had plasmids, which were basically magic spells you could cast with your left had. The story of plasmids is that they are the natural result of a world where science has run amok. They turned men into gods, and the world you find yourself in reflects this. Society collapsed completely, and the populace was turned into drug addled crazies jonesing for their next fix of Adam so they can continue with their plasmid use. Everywhere you turn, the world is influenced by the inclusion of Plasmids, and the inclusion of plasmids likewise influences the world. Vigors make very little sense in the world of Columbia. You get your first vigor when somebody at a carnival gives it away to you for free. But nobody else in the world (with the exception of a few “heavy” enemies) uses them. It makes NO SENSE in the setting. The only reason they exist is that somebody decided casting spells with your left hand “was Bioshocky” and put it in the game.

With the exception of plasmids, which were explained as science and made sense in the world, Bioshock felt rooted in reality, or at least plausibility. There could have been an Andrew Ryan. That story could have happened! Infinite goes way far the other way though. There’s just magic all over. Everything from alternate reality, to time travel to mecha-birds to ghosts. It takes would could have been a plausible interesting world and just fucks it.

And by the end, they tie it to Bioshock by explaining that they are alternate realities of each other (or something). Not only did they ruin THIS world by adding magic, they retroactively add magic back to the first game. It’s just sad.

I’m not even sure the story of Bioshock Infinite is served by it being a shooter. I think with less violence, they could have told a better version of that story. But Bioshock was a shooter, so this one has to be too! Bioshock had crazy monsters leaping at you, so this one has policemen leaping at you! It feels the same.

Bioshock was a game where every story beat, every mechanic was in because it made perfect sense to be in Bioshock. Sadly, Bioshock Infinite has far too many things that make no sense or only made sense in Bioshock. It really could have benefited from the purity of design the original had.

3) The end is too damn hard.

I will be upfront about this: I am bad at video games. A lot of the time I am bad because I am lazy and don’t try. There are some games, like Trials Evolution, that require a high degree of skill and focus, and I play them for the challenge. There are others I like to pop in after a long day of work, put them on the easiest difficulty, and relax and soak in the narrative. This game falls squarely in the latter category for me.

It is a wonderfully designed world with a compelling (if not good) story to it. The plot and world and characters are incredibly crafted, and that’s what separates this game from, say Call of Duty. If I just want to shoot things, there’s a lot of games that can do that. I want to experience a crazy alt-history story. And that crazy alt-history story should not be skill-gated.

The first 95% of the game is excellent at this. If you die, Elizabeth just revives you. If you run out of ammo in a fight, she just gives you more. If you fall off a building, it just teleports you back. This allows you to almost passively experience the world and story, and it’s exactly what playing a game on casual SHOULD be. If you die, no worries, no penalty, you are exactly back where you were.

But, for whatever TERRIBLE design reason, there is a fight at the end. A “boss battle” I guess. You are on a giant airship, and you are being attacked by Vox Populi. There is a damage indicator on the screen. If your ship gets too damaged, game over. You lose. Also, this is a LONG fight. It’s almost 15 minutes, and if you fail, you are back at the very start. That 15 minutes of effort you just put in is GONE.

I tried this segment over and over again and NEVER managed to pull it off. It’s incredibly frustrating and punishing, and not in a fun way. I eventually after several attempts pulled the game out of the drive, popped it back in the box, and put it on my “never again” shelf with “Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer” and other equally terrible games. I watched the end of the game on youtube.

Do not get me wrong – I’m not arguing against having challenge in games. Bioshock Infinite has a 1999 Mode difficulty which is crazy hard and there for people who want something hard to triumph against. I get it, and I commend them for it. I love when games give you a choice! It would be incredibly self centered and wrong to suggest that everyone should play games the way that I do. Some people love hard games. I usually do not. This is fine.

What I am saying is that when you make a “Casual” difficulty, when you cater to those who want to near-passively consume your game, you damn well should build it so that they can. Bait and switching to add failure conditions at the very end is terrible, and that alone ruined the game for me.

Seriously, without this one encounter, it probably would have been a mostly enjoyable experience for me. Sure, my previous points would still stand, it wouldn’t be the pinnacle of gaming some on the internet made it out to be. But it would have been an above-average game and I would have some fun memories of visiting some one-of a kind locales, experiencing some bonkers plot twists, and mostly enjoying myself. Now my memories of Bioshock Infinite will be of that fucking airship disaster, of getting frustrated nearly to tears, of throwing my controller and nearly snapping the disk in half. I’m getting angry and emotional now just THINKING about it.

I played a bit of Aliens: Colonial Marines. That was a BAD game. I went into that game knowing it was going to be shit, and boy did it meet my expectations. Bioshock Infinite was nowhere near that bad. But it was way more disappointing. It was so close to being a great game. Fix that last encounter, shore up some plot holes, tweak gameplay a bit to better serve the world and narrative, and this could have been GOTY. But it wasn’t. It was a frustrating mess, and that’s a real shame.

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For a bit of background on why and how I am playing Morrowind, read this first: Morrowind – Now with Achievements!

The first thing I did, before I ever even attempted to play, was install Morrowind Graphics Extender 3.0. I may have been a bit overzealous with the settings, and the framerate drops to about 20fps when I am outside, but it is definitely playable and looks MUCH better.

So I boot up Morrowind, and make a new game. I had saves from a previous playthrough in the Steam Cloud, but they were using a different mix of mods and were unplayable. Bummer.

After creating my character (Kellierae, a female Nord fighter), I proceeded through the Census office, and when I got to the part where you are supposed to pick up the dagger, I instead did what I do in every Bethesda game and took EVERYTHING. In Skyrim and Oblivion, hovering over an item will give you one of two prompts, “Take” or “Steal”. Unless it says “Steal” you can grab it without repercussions. I would very quickly learn that this is NOT the case in Morrowind. Everything says “Take” and you have to rely on context to guess whether you are stealing or not. Luckily this time the only penalty for theft was a stern talking to from a guard. Lesson learned!

Once I got out into Seyda Neen, I started doing the standard first time quests in the area. I gave Fargoth back his ring, then later that night, stole it back from him. I bought a cursed ring from a sad sack so he would have enough money to leave. I’ve played these first few minutes of Morrowind several times, so I was able to fly through these fairly quickly.

I did run into some difficulty on the quest where I was supposed to find the corpse of a tax collector. There were two problems: one, Morrowind is a game made before there were quest markers prevalent in RPGs – they expect you to explore on your own and find things, rather than being guided right to it, and two, while the tax collector was fairly easy to find in vanilla Morrowind, I had some foliage mods installed that add grass and plants and hide the body fairly well.

I did eventually find the body and continued my quest to find the perpetrator of the evil deed, and when I did, got my first taste of Morrowind combat. I took out my axe, charged straight into melee…

…and whiffed, magnificently and repeatedly. With a large axe from 2 inches away.

See, Morrowind does a calculation based on your skills and attributes to see if an attack hits or not. It’s the same mechanic that is in every D&D based game. But again, we’re experiencing a relic of a different time: nowadays most games bank on player skill; if you are in range, properly aiming and attack, that attack hits. It’s not bad or wrong that Morrowind doesn’t, but it was jarring for me – I was not expecting that.

I did kill him though. My first (well, first in years) Morrowind combat experience was a success! Clearly I am an unstoppable juggernaut of skill. Nothing could go wrong for me!

Well, after buying some gear and reading every book in town (Rose insists that reading books is an important part of the experience)  I headed off into the wilderness, headed toward Balmora and Caius Cosades.

Tune in next week for more adventures!

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