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.


    • 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?

      Mass Effect: pre launch jitters


      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”


      ​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?

      Does your favorite game of all time suck by today’s standards?

      So many times over the years, I’ve had the same conversation over and over about videogames.  Someone will tell me what their favorite game of all time is, but normally they sell it as The Greatest Game of All TIME!!!  
      My inner jerk wants me to argue everything they say.  Not because I disagree with them, but to challenge their opinion and ask, “Is it nostalgia talking?  Or was this truly one of the timeless greats that we should speak of in legend five more console generations from now?”

      I’m going to try writing a series called “Still a Gem?” Where I will revisit past reviews or impressions, and then whenever possible, replay a game and decide if it has withstood the tests of time, and still truly is the classic that it has been touted as.  

      I’m not going for a clickbait article where I hate on everyone’s favorites, but it WILL be opinionated and comment discussion will make this a great way to determine, as fans, what makes a true classic.

      I already have two games in the pipeline, but any suggestions in the comments would be greatly appreciated.

      The Nintendo Switch.  Post Launch Mayhem.

      I’ve never been a huge Nintendo fan myself.  They have always been very popular without my help.  But as a videogame company in 2017, is team Mario really bringing their ‘A’ game to take on the giants of Sony, Microsoft, and PC gaming?

      In my 9-5 life I deal with Videogames daily.  I can say that of all the gaming communities, Nintendo has the loyalist, and most passionate fans.  Second to none.  I worked the launch of the Switch, and I can say, it was a monster day.  Sold out in no time, the Switch looks on the surface to be an instant success.

      Zelda, Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece title to lead the charge with a damn near perfect score

      But how about the other 4 retail lunch games?  A collection of mini games (classic Nintendo launch title – high on fun, weak on substance), a fun puzzle game that could have been a mobile game, and two ports of Christmas games that have been out for months on other platforms.  Maybe I’m being far too critical, but that feels like pretty slim pickings for a blockbuster launch.

      My criticisms of Nintendo have also been part of what makes them so damn charming as a company – they always do their own thing.  I thought that whole motion control gimmick with the Wii would fail.  I was wrong.  I figured that they hadn’t properly communicated what the WiiU was and alienated their new casual fans while not catering enough to their core fans with their last system.  I was….. Not entirely wrong.

      My worry is, with the smoke now clearing, how long can Zelda hold down the fans?   With a system priced more expensive than its competitors and over six weeks until the next “sure thing” first party title, can team Mario convince the critics sitting on the fence (like me) that this is the next big thing. 

      I would love for them to prove me wrong again, but I don’t know.  I guess time will tell.

      While I refuse to look up actual stats (because I’m not entirely sure where they are coming from, and therefore aren’t trustworthy in my books), I have found after a week that Switch ownership seems to fall into 2 categories.

      1.  Total joy and contentment.  Everyone I know that owns one adores it.  Zelda is more than enough to keep them happy.  Success with excitement of what’s to come.
      2. People who have had varying issues who feel that they have somehow exposed the new “Red Ring of Death” and are taking to all forms on social media to rage about it!  😡

      Sorry number twos.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t looked up any stats, but I haven’t heard of any consistent problem.  Part of early adopters syndrome with anything tech is, you may get to test the manufacturer warranty.  That’s why it’s there.  Until I start seeing videos everywhere of these things pulling a Galaxy Note 7 , I’m happy to see a new system on the block here to stay.