Open World Games: My Love Hate Relationship with them.

This article was inspired by reading a post from The Well-Red Mage.  You started my brain thinking again.  It’s all your fault.  But seriously, if you haven’t read the post yet, it has some really great suggestions for open world games for every gaming taste.  Check it out!

    Four stars? Guess I need my trusty six star rocket launcher.

    I fondly remember the hours upon hours that both my wife and I would play Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion back when it first came out.  I realize it was not the first open world game, but at least for us, it was the first you could really get lost in and play, or dare I say, virtually live in for countless hours.  I remember putting my time into Grand Theft Auto III/Vice City/San Andreas and can speak of how those games set industry standard levels of both fun, AND quality.  These were a virtual playground where I could be the little hoodlum my parents always thought I would end up being 😈.  I would say the Elder Scrolls series made things feel more like it was MY adventure, and I was writing the tale, which added to the immersion for me, but there was no denying, back in those mid 2000’s that open world games were here to stay and would be a genre I would both love…. and hate these many years later.

    Horse, I dont care how much you beg, Im not spending $11 of real world money for you to look cool in armor.

    Things I love about open world games:

    I’m a fantasy nerd at heart.  Give me dragons, swords and magic, and allow me to carve my own path in the world, and I’m beside myself with glee.  The joy of exploration and discovery, mixed with the freedom to put as much, or as little time as possible into each play session or full campaign, makes open world games so incredibly enticing to me.  Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with Sci Fi, or post apocalyptic open worlds either.  I’m just a sucker for some dungeons and dragons action whenever possible.

    Favorites

    • Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion
    • Elder Scrolls V Skyrim
    • Fallout 3
    • Fallout 4
    • Infamous 2
    • Infamous Second Sun
    • Grand Theft Auto III
    • Grand Theft Auto Vice City
    • Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
    • Assassin’s Creed II
    • Dragon’s Dogma
    • FarCry 3

      So much to do…

      Nope… Nothing to do around here…

      The beauty of open world games is that, as long as it caters to your interest, a good game will feel like it has an endless supply of quests and places to explore.  Everywhere you turn, there’s another exciting adventure to have, another crime spree, or another fetch quest to keep the locals happy or win favor.
      I’m not as in love with hidden collectables, but I have completionist friends who love scouring every square inch of the map, looking for one more feather/shard/tape/nirnroot.  It pads out the playtime for a trophy/achievement, but really doesn’t add any substance to the game or plot in any way.

      So little time…

      “Alright. Don’t forget. We need fishbones, fatty meat, and quantum circuitboards”

      I guess if I have to complain about anything with open world games as of late, it’s that with some of them, there is simply too much to do.  I haven’t beaten the three most recent games listed in my faves above.  Throw the excellent, but highly distracting Horizon Zero Dawn and even Shadows of Mordor into the mix and I may never have to buy another game for a decade or so…

      I remember playing Elder Scrolls III Morrowind and walking for what seemed like hours in that HUGE map and never really seeing a thing to do.  Now the maps are arguably smaller, but FAR more compact with things to do around every corner.  I could spend a week’s worth of play sessions just hunting for crafting ingredients in Horizon, or the same amount of time just hunting down the warchiefs in Mordor.

      I’m not sure if this is a complaint about the games being far too distracting, or that I just don’t have enough time to play as I used to, but I will say that I think that the complaint first popped up when I realized that another Assassin’s Creed was coming out, and I wasn’t even at 50% complete on this year’s model.

      Maybe I have to balance my desire to see all the story, with my desire to be level 6000 before I leave the first area.

      Listen Pete. You may be big, but I have 27 shouts that can kick your dragon ass.

      Good times…. Mostly.

      I’m going to keep buying them, playing them, exploring them, and hating myself for (probably) not finishing them even though I’ll be loving every minute of it.

      Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check The Well-Red Mage’s article as well.  What are your thoughts on open world games?  What’s your favorite?

      The Last of Us – If it was made on PS1.

      I will polygon you to death if you try to hurt her!

      I just watched an awesome video by YouTuber 98demake.  The Last of Us modeled like a 1998 PS1 classic.

      I’m going to say, Ellie and Joel don’t look quite as cinematic in their presentation, but it makes you appreciate the visuals from TLoU, and also how far we’ve come.

      Don’t forget to check out his other videos and if you have suggestions for other projects, there is a Patreon set up for support.

      The Last of Us 1998 youtube

      Would you play it!  Let me know.

      Enjoy and thanks for reading.

      Part 2:  Researching a Two Year Commitment.

      So, contrary to popular belief, 9-5 retail workers that write blogs with less that a dozen posts do not have unlimited cashflow to throw around at random, so when my cellphone died four days before my contract was up, I had already been in research mode, and managed to move reletivly quickly and keep those sweet “don’t forget milk on your way home” texts and all the social media meme posts rolling with little interruption.  I was looking for the best bang for my buck, considering there wasn’t a lot of buck to bang with, and one can end up spending a TON of money for almost nothing in return in the cellphone industry very easily.

      Two years, or 730 days and 24 bills to pay.

      In Canada, a subsidized phone plan is now a maximum two year contract.  While laws have changed here, and I’ve been keeping up with them through a really good Canadian tech site, mobilesyrup.com, you are no longer tied to your two year contract, but should you choose to walk from your commitment, you are stuck with the remaining amount owing on your phone, which if you want a decent device will soak you for a lot of money.  So, my mindset was whatever deal I ended up signing of the dotted line for, I was stuck with for the long haul.

      Its not just a Canadian site per say. Its also a really good tech blog as well.

      I looked at this whole thing with my personal budget in mind, and without divulging specific numbers, I determined I was either going to get the plan I wanted with a phone I could live with, or the phone I wanted, with a plan I could live with.  My budget couldn’t afford both.

      It didn’t take me long to realize the choice for me was a phone I’d love with a plan I could live with.  I use my phone for everything, and honestly didn’t need a ton of minutes or data, so why would I go for a compromise phone and a kick-ass plan?

      I hit up several Android phone websites, my favorite being here.  Sifting through all the options and pricelists has always been daunting.  Then there is always the sad realization that I have to convert the $US into $Canadian, and suddenly something I thought was in my price range is no longer even close.

      Lots of Android sites/blogs. Not many as good as this one.

      Once I found something I could be excited about, YouTube reviews were the next step for me.  Seeing my potential tech partner in action with someone’s professional (?) opinion narrating in the background was a solid level of quality control in my books.  I found it important to watch several different reviewers, as with some products, opinions varied on different issues or features and being as my budget told me I could not have all things, I would need to pay close attention to what I was ok sacrificing, and what was a red flag no go issue for me.

      I’m happy to say, I found my new phone.  We are a few weeks into this wild ride, and I’m ready to take my own spin on a review.

      But that’s part 3.

      Thanks for reading!  Do you take picking a new phone as seriously as I do?  Or is it just your same phone with a bigger number on it?  Let me know in the comments.

      Part 1:  Good bye Lg G3.  You were a true friend.

      Blue screened before your time…

      So I haven’t written anything in some time.  Months have gone by and my ambitious little startup blog now has an inch of dust on top of it.  I’ve been meaning to get back to this for some time, but 9-5 life seems to have a way of distracting me from my hobbies.

      One large speed bump was the death of my trusty cellphone, which was also my only link to WordPress and this blog. (Before you ask, yes, I have a PC, but it’s circa 2003 and loaded up with Windows Vista.  It terrifies me every time I boot it up.  Its 25 minute boot time, and demands for blood sacrifices and my credit card information have all but frightened me away for good.)

      Can’t blue screen if you don’t have any blue. Go Windows Vista.

      My trusty phone died sadly, logging into my WordPress account, to check on my stats and schedule another story.  In one fateful click, the screen went blue, and it was over.  Oh I checked, and it can be fixed, but at a cost far exceeding what I was willing to pay for a two year old phone.  Sorry, I mean a year and 361 day old phone.  Why did you have to die 4 days before my contact was up?!?!?

      I probably could have handled your death better.

      I was lucky enough that my provider let me slide on the four days, even though I ended up with another provider after my research (which had already been going on for several weeks at this point) brought me to a better plan, and my new phone, but that’s all in Part 2.

      What’s your cellphone horror story?  Was your favorite stolen?  Maybe a fate met with a toilet?  Let me know in the comments below.

      Thanks for reading!

      Mass Effect: pre launch jitters

      Trailer

      Oh Mass Effect.  How you seem to always incite passion in gamers.  For the past ten years you have given SciFi fans the near perfect canvas to paint their Star Trek / Starwars fantasies, and you’ve asked for so little in return.  But there is a darker side to your relationship with your fans that the BioWare PR department hasn’t used while talking about your newest instalment.  Of course I’m talking about the hate that comes from the strangest of places – your fans.

      “Please don’t hate me. Give me a chance.”

      Alright, so I’m definitely more of a casual fan of the series.   I got to the party late on my PS3 and started with Mass Effect 2.  All the same, I poured close to a hundred hours into loyalty quests, upgrades, a complicated relationship with Jack, and my constant fear that Jacob was actually Xzibit and was going to try to pimp my Normandy.  I managed to keep everyone alive and felt a real sense of attachment to my crew and our story.

      There it was.  One playthrough.  Good times.  Fond memories.  Mad respect for BioWare and their crafting of another adventure I could talk about with both fellow players, and my non gaming SciFi nerd friends alike.  Genius.  I can only imagine how attached hardcore fans were by then, having played TWO amazing adventures at this point.  I never had to live through the choice between Ashley and Kaiden.  That was just a cut scene for me.

      I’ve had so many heated discussions with friends and co-workers about the Mass Effect universe. On several occasions, I’ve come pretty close to losing a few of both because I didn’t see eye to eye with their view of their  Sheppard and the whole story.  I’m not going to get into all the different gripes I’ve heard in the last decade about Mass Effect.  Haters gonna hate.  The world keeps turning.  

      The elephant in the room however is the perfect example as to why I’m concerned for Andromeda on the 21st. Mass Effect 3’s ending is what I’ve been building towards.  The huge fan outcry, to me, was a tad on the rediculous side.  I understand a real, emotional connection with  your Sheppard, but just because you worked so hard and fell in love with with the Normandy and her crew, doesn’t justify the need for a Disney fairytale ending where everyone hugs and the universe is safe once again.  I really enjoyed and respect the original, non edited ending.  War is won with lives.  The “Sheppard’s” in real wars, fighting on the front lines seldom get to return to claim victory.  Many lives are spent with little remorse to save many more lives.  Victory isn’t always the best outcome.  Sometimes it’s about avoiding the worst outcome.  This is what I got from the ending of 3.  These words fell on deaf ears of many, MANY hardcore fans after the credits rolled.  I can sympathize, even if I can’t agree.

      Thinking back on all those heated debates, where friendships were strained, I can’t help but worry.  The early access players are already stirring the pot, and while I haven’t heard the sentence yet, I can feel it coming.  “This isnt Mass Effect.  Where’s my Sheppard?”
      I hope cooler heads prevail and everyone can enjoy the new Mass Effect for what it is, a BioWare adventure you can get lost in and passionate about once again.

      No more cupcakegates. 

      What do you think?

      I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish Resident Evil 7

      ​Warning: Minor Spoilers

      Another day in paradise

      I’m at a stalemate in my first RE7 playthrough,and I’m not 100% sure why.  

      Don’t get me wrong.  I’m enjoying myself.  I’m​ not one of the RE purists that hates the new direction that Capcom has taken.  To the contrary.  I commend it.

      So why oh WHY am I not on my fifth playthrough?  

      I know what the number one culprit is.  The release date.  Had RE come out in the fall, when I’m marathoning my horror movie collection, I would already be in the mindset of “scary good”.  In January, the only things I find truly terrifying is the idea that I have to go outside into the cold, and my credit card bill from Christmas.  So after a long day (because you only play scary games at night, with the lights off). I still have to amp up to do myself a frighten.  Sigh.  Maybe I’ll just see who’s playing Borderlands instead.

      The other issue specifically THIS year, is the abundance of really good titles that have been released post holiday.  I didn’t actually get to RE until late February, and it started competing with Horizon Zero Dawn the moment that monster came out.  Sometimes I’m the perfect customer for the gaming industry.  I want almost all the games, and I seem to have the attention span of a goldfish.  Good for my local game retailer.  Bad for my wallet, relationship, and completed games list.

      But what’s wrong with the game?  Nothing really.  The graphics are great.  The sound design is top notch.  There is an atmosphere that I haven’t felt in an RE game in ages ( in a totally good way ).
      I think that maybe one of the design choices that works so well, and looks good on paper, even to me, is part of what has put me off so far – the tention that comes from the game never letting you breathe, or feel safe.  I know, I know.  “Stop whining.  It’s a survival horror game!”. 

      I just know im going to hate these freaks.

      With the switch to first person perspective, I’m just programmed to want to explore. And with a house of horrors and puzzles I can’t help but want to check under every cobweb covered detail for that next clue.  But it’s borderline impossible to do with Mr Baker, the unkillable super mutant after you.  Stalking you everywhere you go.  I had just ran him over with a car a few dozen times, set him on fire, and blew some stuff up in his half a face.  I got it pretty early on that he’s not going to be easy to kill, but I would have liked more than two rooms worth of peace and quiet before he showed back up ready to fillet my face.

      Don’t mess with me! I have a gun! Oh wait, I’ve shot you like 20 times already.

      I understand that the tention they are using is based on me never getting a chance to feel comfortable.  The knowledge that there is someone stalking you no matter where you are.  Doors won’t save you.  Neither will walls in some cases.  In theory, I love this.  I guess my frustration stems from feeling like there’s a whole game to be played, but I can’t for fear of having my leg removed with a shovel if I stop to check what that VHS tape is all about. 
      Maybe I’m just being a big baby.  

      Maybe I need to keep pushing on.

      I like what I’ve played so far.  I don’t want to play another horror themed walking simulator.  I just need to know that I’m not going to spend the next 10 or more hours getting the shit beaten out of me by a bunch of mutant yokels and that’s that.
      Maybe I’ll throw it back in after a few more missions in Horizon.
      What do you think?

      (Keep the spoilers minimal please)

      Still a Gem?  “The Last of Us”

      Trailer.

      ​Full disclosure, this is one of my personal favorite games of all time.  I chose to write about it first because, to me, it is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.
      The argument I end up in oh so often, is that game “X” it the greatest game of all time.  I personally don’t want to believe there is an untouchable greatest game of all time, and end up challenging someone’s views of their greatest game.  Is it grand nostalgia?  Or is their gem truly a timeless classic?

      The Last of Us – to me – isn’t a perfect game, but from the moment the end credits rolled the first time I finished it, I knew I would never forget the gaming experience, or the emotionally drained state it left me in.  To me it was the greatest game I have ever played.

      Looking Back

      Realeased originally on June 14th 2013 on the PS3, The Last of Us was received with fairly unanimous critical acclaim constantly scoring on average a 95%.  Just over a year later, in August 2014, it had sold over 7 million copies on PS3, and a million copies of the HD remaster on PS4.

      Reviewers praised the story, characters, and well designed gameplay.  It isn’t hard to find a positive review, but you can find one of my personal favorites here.

      Back to the present.
      After playing back through The Last of Us, one thing that might be starting to show its age is the graphics.  I played through on the PS4 HD remaster (without the 4K upscale – no fancy PS pros for this guy).  While still quite far from ugly, some of its textures, lighting and particle effects are starting to show signs of age.  It’s not that it looks bad, there are just some games doing a far better job now (I’m lookin at you Horizon Zero Dawn).  While important to the atmosphere and helping with the illusion of the stealth segments, these aren’t the most important visuals of the game.  Those still belong to the characters and both their motions and facial animations, and they are still excellent.  The performances by all the talented actors still shine through and make all those digital characters very human, and their story that much more of an emotional  affair.

      And then there’s the story.  If you’re ​a fan of The Last of Us, and you haven’t seen the movie The Road, bookmark this, go watch that, come back, and thank me in the comments.  

      Back?  Ok.  Let’s continue.
      While I can feel heavy influence from movies like The Road, and maybe even some Romero scattered in the background, The Last of Us has a story that feels familiar, but manages to focus so heavily on the human elements in such an inhuman world.  I could spend hours talking about my respect for the story, it’s themes of human relationships and dependancy, or how much I respect the game for not just making the entire 15+ hour experience about redemption, but I’ll leave it to this: the story and the characters within have been crafted with such love and care, that you can’t help but truly feel a connection with them that motivates you to push on and do whatever it takes to survive.  It’s a powerful and sometimes emotionally taxing experience that I have only felt playing a videogame a handful of times and never to this degree.

      But all of this could have just been a really long movie without the gameplay.  As a rule, I’m not usually a fan of stealth gameplay.  I’m horrible at it.  I get spotted and panic and then “poof” mission failed please try again.  The Last of Us manages to make stealth an important part of survival within the game, where if you’re spotted, the tention gives way to all out panic and chaos.  Once you hear that runner scream, you have seconds to run or make a stand, using up valuable resources in the process, leaving you vaulnerable for possible future confrontations.  I’ve played this game from beginning to end a dozen times.  I know every scene and senerio like the back of my hand, but because of the superbly crafted gameplay, I still find myself sitting on the edge of my seat with every encounter mumbling “oh god oh god oh man….” the whole time.

      If you’ve read this far, I’m sure it’s pretty obvious.  The Last of Us is a gem.  If you haven’t played it, you need to.  If you have played it.  Play it again.  It won’t disappoint.

      Now I will just have to play though it again while waiting for The Last of Us 2. 

      Thanks for reading.  What’s your favorite game of all time?