19 March 2013

Post Thoughts: Alan Wake


'Nuff said, really.


The characters are pretty well put together and realistic - for the most part. There's always a disconnect in characterisation and choice when dealing with surreal circumstances such as horror films. The same appears to be true here. For the most part, people react normally to the circumstances they find themselves in. However, there are various situations that are beyond believable... as is usually the case in the same vein and genre of films and TV shows. These scenes and actions threaten to take the viewer and gamer out of the developer's carefully crafted "suspension of reality" and they detract from the media being consumed. Good writers can mitigate or minimise these scenes through careful construction or direction of interest.

So this is a positive aspect to the game.

Don't they say that hell is being stuck in a room with someone you hate?


One thing that works quite well is the snippets garnered from the manuscript that the player can find. These lay the foundations for the story within the game and allow even more director's input than the monologues that Alan himself presents to the player. Unfortunately, these were tied into the "collectables" side of the game, meaning that you miss out on key insights and thoughts and actions that are explained and expanded on within these excerpts. These also result in added time within the game that is wasted as the player tries to find them all (if they care).

The story itself is confusing. I'm going to go with "on purpose" because someone confused is more scared and curious than someone who knows exactly what's going on! The most egregious instance of this is the FBI thing... I mean. WTF?! That's even more seriously out of left field than anything I've ever encountered in a game. An FBI agent brings in maybe 20 or 30 agents/police (because, let's face it, the local police department doesn't have that many) to chase a guy who punched someone who didn't want to press charges and his wife is missing. Sounds like good use of the agency's resources right there!
I never saw any explanation for his presence in the game or his justifications/reasons. I mean, who even called in the FBI? I actually expected there to be something in his lodgings about it but if there was I failed to see it.

The writers/developers are also very careful to avoid actual human harm: for the most part you'll not seen anyone die... just implied take-over to become one of the taken and people already dead. It actually detracts from the presentation a little as you have, in one instance, a police car being hit by a train but which is empty upon examination.

Oh, and that one scene where you have an "old" generator part being "fixed" by kicking it back into place? Puh-LEES, developers. Come up with something MORE realistic.
Yeah, Remedy... that's NOT how electricity works. Note the non-functioning generator in the back.... and even if it WAS operational, there wouldn't be sparks flying from the cable connecting it to whatever. 

I think the twist of the sanitorium was pretty cool though. Even though you know it isn't true due to the circumstances of ending up there, you still question what's going on as the artist appears to know you quite well. It would have been more funny if the cut-out that Barry is hiding behind was a tool that Hartmann used to brainwash the patients into knowing who you are and believing you are a patient there with them! A missed opportunity, methinks.

What is most distressing in the story, is that all of the advice you get from the mysterious painter (and apparent apocalypse hoarder) is given too late. You're told in the mine facility that "they fear the light" or some crap. Well you know what, Alan Wake the game? I knew that when you told me within the first 30 minutes.

Maybe I should trust that guy?
I think the story itself is probably fine - if they would just cut down the length of getting from A to B. Yes, it's realistic but man... I don't want to schlep from one place to another with not much happening in between for what feels like 40-50% of the game.


It took me a while to refine the controls in this game. I had to keep tweaking the mouse sensitivity to what I preferred for quite a while. I'm not convinced that the way they present the game is scary at all. It's not even "jumpy terror" as popularised by Doom monster closets. At normal difficulty, (full disclosure: I died quite a few times very early in the game until I was able to really understand the combat mechanics) you don't really even need to use your batteries very often.

The reason for this is that blinding an enemy is enough to slow it or stop it throwing missiles, and a normal beam strength, as opposed to a focused beam strength, still hurts them plenty. This results in an odd dichotomy whereby the scarcity of ammo is more pressing than the scarcity of batteries... which is the opposite of what you want in a horror game: you don't want your players thinking "Where's the next ammo clip, I'm killing these guys like there's no tomorrow!" but instead, "Holy shit! I can't see where they're coming from! I need more batteries!". Even then - most of the time you're not wanting for ammo either!

In fact, I think the developers missed a key trope and idea behind horror and fear: namely that which you cannot makes you more fearful.

The taken are not scary. They are VERY known quantities and you kill too many of them and never see any real people get taken themselves. This is a problem in this game because it basically turns into a basic shooter, whereby ammo management is more important than understanding what is going on in an encounter.

If I were to "do" Alan Wake, I would have had more "show" and less "shooting". I would have used the characters you are introduced to as the seeds of your fear by taking them one by one - some in front of your very eyes. I would also make it so that during the day they are ALL like the waitress in the trailer. All touched and all controlled... yet you are the only person to see the change. Much less killing of enemies in general... and, in fact, I would have had it so that encounters with the darkness and the taken are less about killing and more about escaping.

The torch is, despite being a key gameplay mechanic, an ancillary piece of equipment. It's worthless compared to the flares and flash-bangs and its "focus" mechanic doesn't really improve its effectiveness all that much until late in the game where there are enemies that can't be harmed by the normal beam strength. No, if I were to make this game I would have the torch as a central piece of the experience. Akin to Luigi's torch in Luigi's Mansion or a cell phone/video camera in Supernatural (when dealing with ghosts). The torch would be to see and reduce the effectiveness of the enemy - not to merely remove their defences. After all, an invisible or partially visible enemy is far scarier than a fully visible but spectrally armoured enemy.

Haha! Missed me!

During the middle of the game, when the enemies are thick and plenty, you find a lot of batteries and less ammunition. This leads to a problem because you don't need batteries to remove the protection from your enemies... and your flash light isn't strong enough to slow them down in order to run away. No, in fact, your fastest speed is still slower than your enemy's. This causes an imbalance in the game play - and not one that feels fair - since the dodge mechanic is quite iffy when using mouse and keyboard, and since you can't see behind you, cannot be executed properly... nor when you are running.

It might even be preferable to have your flash light do some damage to an enemy when using the focused beam after revealing them from behind their shadowy murk in order to make the placement of batteries appear logical, at least. This would actually bring it in line with the rest of the game world logic - where flash bangs and flare guns kill opponents. Having other light-based "weaponry" not have the same effect (flash lights and flares) means that there's a cognitive dissonance between what "works" and what does not... and before some smart Alec goes around in the comments stating that the former two have "bangs".. well, it's funny how sound has no effect on the enemy by itself, isn't it!

Or at the very least - don't have your batteries/torch magically rechargeable...

What's more is that light isn't treated as a constant in this game. By this, I mean that lightning doesn't strip the spectral armour from the enemies and other light sources, unless they're spot-like in their application, also do not have any effect on the Taken (e.g. the copious amounts of moonlight throughout the game). Electricity will kill them, no problem though - despite it not really generating light.

I also didn't really appreciate the fact that of all the mobile power company lights that you come across, you are never able to reorient a single one... as if you're some sort of JRPG character that has to walk 10 miles because there's a ledge higher than half a foot between you and your destination.

The game is quite tetchy on what it lets you get away with an what it doesn't - depending on what the designers want you to do. Sometimes you're allowed free reign and sometimes you're not. A good example of the designers doing this is escaping from the police/FBI in the rut/riverbed or whatever, you are invisible to these guys with high-powered beams as long as you stay in it's 2 ft trench but as soon as you step off that little track everyone immediately spots you and starts shooting. Ugh!!

The game is also constantly telling the player that "Ooh, sometimes it's better to run as enemies will keep on spawning in!" but I never encountered a situation like that and I never ran out of ammo unless it was purposely taken from me.

Now, Alan. You can have your gear back when you end up like this poorly constructed jab at games developers and not a moment sooner!

One thing I really dislike about the game is the constant removing of your inventory. It's an unfair choice by the developers to not balance their game and instead enforce balance by restarting you every chapter or so. It's quite frustrating to go through the gamey side of things: managing your inventory and encounters, only to end up starting from scratch when you are next reset by the story. I wish they would have found a better way to deal with these inconsistencies than just stripping the player of all their power in a cutscene.

Always with the cutscenes... It seems developers, in general, are unable to come up with valid ways of dealing with player potency in games without the aid of cutscenes to make what they desire to happen. It's an interesting problem and I understand the issues regarding giving players agency vs what the story requires... but, I think I fall on the side of the player every single time. There is no good time to reduce or change player agency via cutscene - whether that's stating the complete opposite of what the player wanted in Mass Effect 2/3 or having your very powerful player overcome by some inane means in Far Cry 3, Alan Wake or any other myriad games you may chose as an example. It's not okay. The sooner developers figure this out and figure out game-specific ways in which to deal with this problem, the better.

This is fun. Trust me! It's like an episode of Dr Who.

Playing Alan Wake as a horror or suspense thriller is just not going to work for most people because there are generally too many enemies... However, in the fourth act (I think) he ends up with two other people for brief periods of time and, in my humble opinion, these are the most fun parts of the game. On the one hand you have the comedic relief of Alan's closest pal and on the other the Sheriff, the dependable one. It's just great having that banter along with the gun play and increased - but very manageable - enemy count.

One last game play gripe: Driving. Oh. My. God. The driving model in this game is so terrible. I just wish they'd left it out entirely.

I meant to do that!

I think, if I could sum up my thoughts, the solo gameplay is annoying rather than scary...

Technical aspects:

I really find the PC controls very clunky and, when I say PC controls, I mean mouse and keyboard. The main problem I have with the game is that "centre" is actually, to my perception, off-centre. In other words, when my character is moving forward, the beam of light and his frame point off to one side of centre just a little.This means that when you're near things, like when you're being chased by enemies, you find it difficult to navigate without getting stuck on geometry.

Not to mention that Alan controls like a tank. Seriously, I think it's worse in this game than anything like Dark Sector, Gears of War or Afraid in the Dark (the original). It's quite frustrating when a possessed tree picker can outmanoeuvre you, a human being who can't even dive or sprint faster than a 2 year old human child. I mean, I'm out of shape but, BOY do writers have it bad!!

This is all compounded by the fact that the development team saw fit to sometimes place you on the left or right of centre, which means that, all of a sudden all your controls are controlling slightly differently.

Yeah, THAT'S not confusing...
I'd be all for this if it actually added to the sense of danger or fear... but these things do not - at least not in this game. All's they do is infuriate the player by being obtuse.

One last thing to be annoyed about in the technical aspect is exiting the game. Every other aspect of the game is via mouse control so, when it comes to exiting the game and clicking on "exit" or "escape" or whatever it's called and having a "confirm you want to quit" pop up on screen but finding no clickable options to go with it is quite frustrating. It's a blatant hold-over from the console design of the interface and means that the player is confused because the indicators are actually hidden down in the bottom right of the screen instead of the centre where the message is. Not very good for a port.

On a positive note: as far as set and level design are concerned I think this game is very well made. There are lots of interesting things to take note of and even the design of the Taken and the characters is quite nice.


I think Alan Wake has two failings that really upset the balance and purpose of the game:

1. The number, frequency and lethality (or lack thereof) of the enemies.

2. The length of the story.

The first undermines the whole thematic concept of the game and genre and results in the developers having to constantly remove the player's strength through cutscenes in order for the "tension" to be kept at an acceptable level. Games such as Fatal Frame 2 or Luigi's Mansion, while not perhaps being scary, manage to limit the strength of the player and rarely remove their abilities in order to make the game more challenging.

The second is just what it says on the tin: this game is too long... WAY too long. It was a good job that the game play was mixed up a bit when you got your buddies because I was ready to quit long before that but forced myself through - mostly because I wanted to see what was up with the resolution of the events. After the buddies were left behind once more and I was forced onto a never ending path of boredom that feeling quickly returned. I think this game would have been a lot better if Barry had been with you from as soon as he showed up in the beginning, making his transformation all the more powerful. His comic relief, observations about the ridiculous nature of certain genre staples and general emotional contrast to the stoic Alan who seems quite at home in the world that has been created would have created a better atmosphere for the player to enjoy. Yes, it would take away from the horror and scares but, really... are they present in any tangible form in the game in the first place?

Oh, one last minor thing: fix everybody's eyelids!

Don't worry, Barry. It'll soon be over... NOT!

9 March 2013

Testing, testing...

I was a bit fed up with the old blog style - though I liked the colours - because it was not managing to deal with pictures very well. So I decided to tinker around with it. I know lots of people prefer non-white backgrounds so I incorporated that into the colour scheme and I'll probably stick with that decision but if any reader has any feedback they'd like to give on the layout or colours used just write a quick comment.

I'd quite like to have the sidebar a different colour but, for some reason, it wouldn't let me. :/ Maybe I can sort that out later on.

Post Thoughts: Far Cry 3


I was shocked to see UPlay given an actual character in the game...

A pain in the ass. Even when it's in "offline mode" and steam is offline as well, it is still connecting to the servers somehow as it continuously restarts and updates for other games that I DON'T own when both programmes are under this setting. It's frustrating being lied to. It's frustrating that they don't let me play the game without Steam being on and it's frustrating that UPlay isn't a ubiquitous (see what I did there) programme and somehow has shards or splinters that function differently on my PC.


This woman was probably the most interesting character in the whole game!

The characters are completely unbelievable and for the most part unlikeable. The only people I thought were well-written were the doctor, Daisy (your elder brother's girlfriend with the blonde hair) and Dennis. Their dialogues were pretty good in general and well-acted.
In contrast, Oli is ridiculously written and the arc between Brody and his girlfriend is very quick and overly dramatic without the player experiencing any of the emotions going on. You literally spend around 2-5 minutes with her after her rescue and there's just not enough time to form any sort of connection or reason to care about her. Then, you're a complete and utter dick to her. "Goodbye, Liza."

Keith is really the only person who is visibly traumatised by the events on the island, everyone else is just "business as usual". He's also written and acted in a way that makes you realise this even if his captor and tormentor was a very weird thing in this setting.

Vaas is really well voice acted. The best in the game in my opinion. However, well, his character doesn't really make any sense. He's the head of these pirates but he's crazy? That's who he is? I mean, come on. More on this below in the story section.

Citra. She's really two-dimensional and they play up her sex appeal for more than they should. She's probably the most stereotyped character in the game and is weaker for it. She's a MacGuffin, nothing more. Plus the forced "love interest" with her is patently unbelievable.

Dennis, and his unrequited love is another interesting sub plot in the game... usurped in his chance of winning that which he admires and desires by the person he was using to achieve those goals himself. He's a likeable character and, for me, relates well with the player.

It's difficult to second-guess a writer but if I had written this I would have had Daisy as your girlfriend as she's strong and has a better, clearer personality and relationship with Brody than Liza. She would also post as a nice contrast with Citra as both are strong but use their strengths in different ways. This is in comparison with how Liza is compared to Citra as Liza is not strong or powerful, she's vulnerable and it's quite an easy choice for the character of Brody to leave her behind without much of a thought. I would have had Liza as Grant's girlfriend and made her want to keep everyone together and be a little crazy/obsessed with it as part of her clinging to what she knows in the aftermath of finding out about his death and their captivity. This would have allowed them to write her the same as she is now and would make the "leaving" scene a bit better. Even Daisy's parting jibe to Brody as he leaves the cavern should  have been delivered by Liza, by his hurt, rejected girlfriend. But it wasn't.

I'd also have had some sort of dialogue option to speak to Grant's grave and say goodbye or something like you can to the rest of the party.

The cast of mostly-cardboard characters, also known as your depthless friends. Is it any wonder Jason Brody leaves them behind?


The escape from the burning building - how are you all not burnt?! Come on, she was doused in petrol and literally had a flame flung next to her... and she was unharmed?! Yet somehow the floor was burned enough that it would collapse and set the rest of the building on fire too? Fire doesn't spread that fast... or weaken that quickly and I seriously doubt they doused the whole building with petrol.

Vaas doesn't make sense. Crazy people don't rule for very long and they usually get replaced or mutiny occurs. He's just not stable enough for me to believe that he runs any sort of operation larger than the couple of people we see him with all the time yet somehow he's this big danger and mastermind that's stopping the local population from pushing them off the island.

Speaking of which... where did all these natives come from? The temple? There's tonnes that just appear driving around and in the encampments once you've killed the pirates...

Then there's his hideout. Again, fire magically spreads and appears from nowhere and floors collapse less than a second after catching fire and the screen is all warped as if you're on drugs. AND you survive being stabbed in the chest with nary a negative effect... enough to hallucinokill your enemy in what I assume to be hand-to-hand combat (the rest of the hallucination being the fight).

Again, how many times do they wrest control of you away in a cutscene and have you defeated? It's frustrating. Developers - stop doing this!!

Then there's the boat. The escape boat I mean. The one that's trapped inside a caved-in inlet that you'd have to blow up with explosives to get out of and yet all the while the boat is being fixed by the swimmer this small hurdle is never mentioned - note the only thing she says is "you don't know boats", there's nothing established that makes her an authority on the mechanics of them!

Also, the flight to the southern island. The one that even I, a person with virtually no stamina, could swim to from the shore of the northern island. This makes no sense. I was expecting to be dropped off behind enemy lines or something but you travel less than a couple of miles from where you take off!

There are also many parts of the game were it's one short uninteractible cutscene shortly after the next. That part in the bar just after you get to the southern island is a prime example. The player's only action is to shuffle from one trigger to the next. Why not just make it all one scene?!

There are also many times when a character you're meant to meet disappears or whatever and somehow, magically (which is a good thing because there are no other hints or indications) you know from the map/quest marker. It's very gamey and stupid.

The part where you impersonate an enemy recruit is also quite ridiculous whereby you hope no one will realise who you are - despite the huge knife holed and blood-covered uniform...

Game play:

My problem with Far Cry 3 is that it makes no sense as a world. The developers have streamlined everything to make it all easy without really balancing the underlying game logic. So what would I do differently?


I think the idea of the encampments was good but the implementation was poor. The problem that Far Cry 2 had with the checkpoints was that they literally respawned immediately and you couldn't get past them without triggering a rubber band pursuit. The problem with Far Cry 3 is that they're permanently removed from play so it's completely the opposite.

I think what needed to happen was to maybe have fewer of these encampments/bases but larger compounds like the one Vaas uses as a hideout. From these, satellite checkpoints/guard posts would be stationed from men in the garrison there. The check points could be cleared by the player and this would eventually (say half a day in game time) be restocked from the local base, reducing the number of opponents there. This would then be restocked from a large main base (Vaas's island), which is crawling with pirates, every few days. This main base would not be restocked.

The important thing is that the supply of pirates wouldn't be infinite and actually taking out bases and checkpoints would have a gameplay reason beyond fast travel and weapon stores. This would also have the important effect of making the game more challenging in the beginning but easier as you go on and would negate the need for XP and special skill unlocks - just give everyone a standard set of skills from the get-go.

I also wouldn't have all the checkpoints and outposts or bases being replaced by Rakyat warriors. There's just too many of them in the game. Leave them empty and maybe, if it's possible, have the pirates re-take bases if there are enough of them to do so from the main base - just as if it's being restocked as per above.

Funny how a single bullet from several hundred yards away will destroy only the door to the cage of ferocious animals... Also, damn map!!


Vehicles make no sense in this game. They are just dropped around randomly for no reason. There's no story to tell why (say a dead person in the road next to a car, a half-eaten man near a glider). I'm okay with there being transport dotted around the island but at least have it make sense - give them stories and don't have them respawn - show the ones that are deep in the jungle as decayed, not brand new as if they were put there the same day. 

I mean, why are hang gliders dotted around the top of the mountains? As far as I can tell it wasn't even a tourist destination before Brody and his friends showed up since a) they were transported from another island to jump over this one and b) there's no tourist stuff here and most importantly and completely unavoidably obvious: c) there are bloody pirates who kidnap people on this island and in full control of it! These sorts of things don't get overlooked. The pirates wouldn't bother with something like a hang glider, nor would the locals so what's the logic and why so many?!

Cars are easier to explain, though not much and not in the quantities they have in game currently. We have a poor, destitute, on the verge of poverty. They wouldn't have the money for all these weapons and vehicles and they would be in a generally poorer state than they are. I mean, this is the sort of thing you find in places like this:

Where's that in this game?

This whole scenario makes the repair tool worse than useless because you are never normally more than 500m away from transport - especially given that you can walk up to any Rakyat vehicle and commandeer it!

Finding, keeping and losing vehicles in this game should be a big thing. It should be important... but it's not. Imagine being able to destroy the pirate's motor pool (americanism) and then them having fewer vehicles to be able to get around in and harass you on the roads, get men to checkpoints and to bases etc. You'd find them walking along the roads to get to their destination. Imagine ambushing a group of 20 men you happen upon that have been sent to reinforce a base...

That sounds like fun to me.

I'd keep fast travel though. That's not a problem for this game, IMO. This lessening of transport would have the effect of further improving the lethality of wild animals as you'd find yourself forced to cut across jungle more often.

Boats. Is there any point to them in this game? You can't traverse large portions of the water despite there being viewable landmass on the other side and there just aren't that many large rivers going through the island and they make no logical sense - they're too big and too deep for such a small island: there's just no way for them to be filled and, moving around in the game there's no springs or huge lakes or resevoirs to keep them flowing and filled. Not to mention that they're all stepped like locks on a canal: you can't get far on the water without having to stop and walk around an obstacle. Hang gliders and land-based vehicles are just far superior in every way and there's no reason to choose a boat over one of these since all your tasks are on land and not water.

The wing suit would be a good addition but its use is fairly limited and I'm not really sure why they included it given all the other similar options (zip line and hang glider).

Guns and ammunition:

Guns and ammo are too cheap and too easily obtained in this game. You're never really worried about running out of ammo and your guns never degrade so they're disposable as you can get the same gun any time you want for free when you go to a store - you don't even have to physically buy it, since you can unlock them through play!

Again, having a good, well-stocked weapon should be a big thing. Weapons shouldn't be disposable. I would like them to degrade a bit too - but not as fast as it was in Far Cry 2. They should also be more expensive than they are as there will be limited availability and market among the locals and the pirates would be getting theirs through Voyt and his contacts, not little marketplace sellers in the towns they're meant to be oppressing. You think they'd allow their potential opponents to armour-up? No way! They'd be stupid to let weapons shops continue to operate.

Not to mention that ammo is cross compatible with every weapon in its class. i.e. All SMG ammo is compatible with all the SMGs etc. This is completely unrealistic and never explained in the game so, even not being into weapons I was initially confused about how ammo supply worked.

So, I'd make the weapons degrade, but not that quickly. I'd make them harder to get and no shops selling anything beyond hand guns. I'd make it so you had the bow from very early in the game and you would be able to craft arrows from the feathers you can get from birds (but can't do anything with!) and harvestable tree  parts. This would have the effect that scavenging for money would actually be important, rather than being able to overlook it. It would also mean that scavenging from your foes was important.

I would also put weapon caches in enemy bases and smaller ones in certain outposts. This would allow you to make the choice whether you want to break in/sneak in and steal some really good stuff and restock your arsenal or instead just do with the looting you get from killing pirates. There should never be a case where you're discarding a rocket launcher without a thought because you want a pistol now and you can get another whenever you want for free from a store. It would also mean that using weapons in the right instance/scenario would also be important and add to the tactical nature of the game.

Ammo-wise, I'd have shops selling hand gun and SMG ammo. You'd also be able to get molotov cocktails because they are a low tech solution. However, rifles and anything else (including hand grenades) would be a rare stock item (if at all) and the probability of availability in shops might be dependent on if you'd cleared the local base/outposts and thus looting and selling by the locals would happen.

I'd also make the "signature weapons" be gifts from the locals for freeing them of the oppression of the pirate menace.

You can't get this weapon in the base game but I'm waiting for someone to mod it in. And yes... I have no idea what this guy is doing on the top of the mountain. Maybe he's the one who leaves all those vehicles and hang gliders lying around?

Radio towers and maps:

The radio towers are, IMO unnecessary to be able to see the layout of the land. Sure, use them to mark locations on the map but you should be able to buy a map of the landmass from any shop.

I think they are nice little platforming puzzles that make good use of geometry and the clambering mechanic but otherwise completely uninteresting.

Other than that they also lack the logic in the game world. The pirates blocked their signals from working for the population and installed circuitry to (presumably) make it so that only they could use the towers... however, they never come and retake them if you leave the tower and do not remove their forces in the area. 
If I had it my way I would do this - have men sent out to re-take the towers and deny the local population a means of communication.

Technical aspects:

The game is actually really well put together. It loads pretty quickly, there are virtually no bugs: I found two, one when sliding from a sprint I ended up sliding down a steep incline which got me stuck in the geometry but I could escape by fast travelling. The other is consistently occurring when alt-tabbing from the desktop: it messes up the UI scaling and makes the map/compass really small. 
There are issues with the automated aspects of clambering though, which as I mentioned in a previous post, often has you floating through the air. I also turned off the tutorial notices but they keep popping up during missions - even on the second island!

I do have two small gripes though. You can remove most of the UI from the screen but you can't get rid of the minimap/compass which means that all screenshots that aren't in a cutscene have that in the way - or at least I couldn't find the option. There is also a lot of blur used on distant landscapes in the game and I find it really distracting.

The distance blur is really off-putting to me in the aesthetic context of the game.

Other than these small issues the engine is really stable, not very demanding on hardware even at high settings and a decent-looking game: not the prettiest but not ugly either. I also REALLY appreciate the ability to change FOV to whatever I wish. That one option makes this game amazing in my book!


Vaas thinks Far Cry 3 is so-so.

I like the game. I think it's good. In many ways it's a step sideways from Far Cry 2 instead of a step forward - which is interesting given the amount of RPG they've stuck into the franchise from the first to this entry. Almost the polar opposite of the Mass Effect series in which they removed that stuff.

I'm still not sure if I'll finish it as it's a bit of a chore and a bit repetitive as well. I had the same problem with Far Cry 2 as well - once I got to the second map. Back then, Tboon convinced me to finish it months after I'd put it down and the ending was a least interesting. I fear that it may take another external force to convince me to finish this one... it just doesn't feel like there's anything interesting that it's going to say, story-wise. If there is, let me know in the comments!

5 March 2013

Addicted... (FTL)

It's rare, nowadays, that I fall into these sorts of obsessions but FTL has done it for me. 9 hours Sunday, 6 hours Monday and well, I've already started today... (okay, Steam clock is a bit broken but you get the picture!)

It's just so many levels of tick box feedback loop entertainment. Almost my ultimate operant conditioning chamber. I love it! It's hard... yes. But it has strict rules that it always follows. I never really got into the whole rogue scene (apart from a brief foray into Fatal Labrynth during my Game Gear days) mostly due to the graphics and partly due to the setting.

Although I love myself some fantasy tropes, for some reason rogue-likes never caught my attention beyond the first couple of dungeons. However, FTL fills the void that was dug with Flotilla. Flotilla was also a very good indie game and it took elements of rogue-likes as well as tactical and strategic gameplay, meshed them all into one semi-addictive bundle. Unfortunately for me, the game was ruined a bit because the first time I bought it I got it on XBLA, which meant it was tied to an ever-present internet connection and to this day none of my consoles have a permanent connection to the internet.

I just don't do console multiplayer for various reasons.

I got it again on Steam and the keyboard and mouse controls were far superior to the gamepad controls - especially for ship orientation which was semi-automated on the console. I still love it to this day but the addiction didn't last long because a single battle could take a long time and it felt like there wasn't much depth to the game outside of the tactics within individual battles. Though that's not a bad thing.

FTL distills these two essences into a 2D top-down version of essentially the same game but with added *oomph*. You still get the randomised systems, time limits and encounters but on top of that you get weapons, systems and abilities maintenance and even more tactical considerations.

Just for full disclosure, I've not been able to beat the game. You see, at least for me, the game isn't just about the journey - as Flotilla is - it's about confronting and beating that Rebel Flagship that's the whole purpose of your mission. There's no sudden game over - despite how good a game you're having - as there is in Flotilla. I've played on Easy and gotten to the "second end" a good few times now and on normal I managed to get to around sector 6 or 7. Like I said, it's a hard game.

But don't be put off. This is game is so much fun. Let me give you an example. I started a new easy game (after losing to the final boss) and began as I always do - searching through as many star systems as possible. The encounter is easy enough and, bolstered by this victory I proceed to a nearby jump beacon (aka encounter)... it turns out this is near a supernova and, well, I beat the enemy there but with my limited starting crew I struggle to control the fires. So I opened most of the airlock doors and let the vacuum take care of my problems. Smiling blissfully, I jump to the next encounter.

Unfortunately, the fire spreads to the next room and new fires are generated as I'm jumping due to the encounter's environmental effects. I warp into the next encounter with a small enemy vessel and proceed to beat that with my crew holed up in the front of the ship while busy repairing the shields. Unfortunately, the fire begins to spread and destroy the door control room. This room, as the name might suggest, is critical in allowing the player the ability to manually open and close doorways/airlocks.

At first I battle the fires in the adjoining medical bay they begin to spread to the room behind the cockpit/bridge. I bring my pilot back to help in the fire control but without any means to heal any of my crew I send the least hurt crew member to pilot the vessel and initiate the jump to the nearby encounter where a store/shop is present. The other two crewmates dive into the shield room to shelter from the flames while the other half of the ship is contentedly sitting in vacuum.

I purchase some things, while my ship continues to burn, only to realise that there's really no way for me to recover from this accident of fate. So, as the fire spreads as my ship orbits the space station that houses the store, I take a screenshot to commemorate the soon-to-be-deceased crew of the Shanghai Moon. May their souls fight the rebellion in the afterlife!

In retrospect, I'm lucky I managed to stop the fires in my engine room when I did - allowing me to progress via faster than light travel. I think I might dismiss my two injured colleagues. I, though, intend to go down with my ship....

3 March 2013

Sunday musings...

The final thoughts on Far Cry 3 are coming along - probably by the end of this week. It'll take that long mostly because I exhausted the FPS itch I had going into this game because of its grindy nature. However, I want to get to the end of the main storyline before I conclude because I want to see if they do anything with the themes that they hint at in the game or just leave them by the wayside as I feel was pretty much done for Far Cry 2.

I did, however, get into the strategy mood and played some Civ V and FTL. Maybe I'll do a Game Diary of the latter game as it'll be short and sweet.

Here we can see my remaining crew member, Tboon, being forced to pilot the craft after some reckless decisions on the part of Cpt Jim and Duoae to go to infections locations and get killed. Luckily, the things they'd managed to pick up were conducive to Tboon running the ship on his lonesome - namely, auto reloaders for the weapons systems and drone control for hull and systems repair and intruder repulsion.

Unfortunately, this encounter in the space near a supernova proved too much for him as his shields were damaged in a fire and the repair drones just aren't as good as live crew are at getting things back online. The enemy ship was easily dispatched but it proved impossible to get the rest of the fires under control once the airlock controls were also damaged in the fires.

Tboon, along with the hopes of the Federation, died in the glare of that hot star...