Monday, 16 November 2009

You're Late!

Things I’ve been playing recently:
Uncharted 2
The Left4Dead 2 Demo
The Torchlight Demo
Dragon Age (the reason I’ve missed another Monday post)

Given that the merits of Uncharted 2 have already been discussed in an earlier post, I’m only going to say that this is a game of sheer quality. Its one of those games that really pushes this medium as an art form, blending fun and intuitive game play elements with an exemplary cast and script.

Borderlands and Left4Dead 2 have been briefly run over by myself, so I’ll avoid these two. As much as I love Borderlands I don’t feel that there’s much more to say than it’s a brave attempt at a new concept, flawed if you will by its own design. Left4Dead 2 will be receiving a bit more coverage from me around the time of its release.

That leaves us with (arguably) this year’s two biggest RPG releases. Both games are vying for the void left between the date Diablo 3 was announced and its eventual release (probably in around 5 years time). I was going to rant about why I hate developers releasing in game footage of titles when they’re nowhere near completion but I don’t want to sound like a miserable git. Instead I’m going to actually discuss why after playing over 30 hours of one, and around 30 minutes of the other I adore both.

Created by a team of RPG veterans, Torchlight focuses heavily on Dungeon Crawling game play mixed with the same click to attack style of combat found in the Diablo games. For a short time, it’s an extremely fun game and its one I could see myself playing in bursts (and for £14.99 I’m not complaining) however over a long period of time, I’m really not so sure it will hold me as much as say... Dragon Age. That’s not to say Torchlight isn’t a good game, it has both good and bad points. Its just a shame that for me, its repetitive game play stands out as a bad point.

Overall, the thing that really stands out for me in the game is the music. Immediately on your arrival in the town a huge sense of atmosphere is created by the sombre song playing in the background. It’s almost depressing in tone, but works really well to set the mood of the dead end town you find yourself in. Inside the dungeon itself, the music takes much more of a background role to the well recorded combat sounds yet still manages to set the dark and dangerous feel of each floor you pass through. It really does help to make the very repetitive game play much more bearable and it is easily in my opinion, the game’s best feature.

Bioware’s latest effort, Dragon Age takes influence from a variety of mediums including most fantasy genres and of course, tabletop Dungeons and Dragons. What Bioware Game (Mass Effect not included) would be able to function without stats, stats, more stats and damage rolls. As confusing as it may be to your average gamer, it’s something that quickly becomes clear after an hour of play and in my opinion there is nothing like it. As ridiculous as it sounds, what better way is there to ensure you never play the same game twice than by adding random chance to almost everything you do in the game! Seriously, I’m not complaining here! I know it’s a huge over exaggeration but it’s something that I feel is a core component of the genre. Baldurs Gate was rock solid because of it and luckily, Dragon Age is just the same (to the point that I *may* have lost some hair).

The one thing that had kept me engaged throughout the difficult situations was the constant need to progress though the story within the game. Engaging narratives have been common features within Bioware games (even if they can be criticised for their similarities over the various games) and this one is no different, combining traditional medieval themes of war and treachery with a swords and sorcery fantasy setting. It works well for the most part, assuming that you ignore some of the stereotypical plot points and contrived characters (Morrigan) and focus on some of the better things to come out of the game (Opening Character Sections, Shale).

At present I’ve clocked up around 50 hours in the game and according to the in game progress calculator I’m around 30% of the way through. For £30 I think this is fantastic value for money, especially when you consider most games nowadays offer 6-8 hours of single player game play, with developers assuming most players will fall in love with the multiplayer side. In terms of numbers, you’re getting around 6 games for the price of one here and it’s a great deal for a great game. Definitely a game of the year contender.

This is all starting to look a little jumbled now so I’m going to quit whilst I’m behind. Stay tuned sometime this week (hopefully) for a Left4Dead 2 piece.

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