“This Can’t Be For Real!”

25 Mar

Oh, Aeris… I got you these links and now they just sit here, reminding me of you.

Dragon Rage

First up, I wrote a review of BioWare’s new role-playing game Dragon Age 2 that was… well, it was quite negative. I was very frustrated by this game. I disliked so many aspects of it, and I really liked its predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins, which my friend and fellow games writer Denis Farr and I talked about at great length in this appropriately epic Dragon Age retrospective.

I’ve read a number of really good posts about the things Dragon Age 2 does right, particularly in terms of its subject matter and the novelistic way it tells its story. Kris Ligman’s review, in particular, was well-reasoned and well-thought out. And then of course there is DA2 head writer Daivd Gaider’s excellent response to a complaint on a message board about how all of the potential romantic partners are sexually omniverous. Fuck yeah, BioWare; fuck yeah David Gaider.

But when all is said and done, I simply can’t get around how unenjoyable the game was to play, and how fragmented and claustrophobic it felt. Alas.

Problems Stack Up

Speaking of highly critical reviews, I also reviewed the downloadable game Stacking for Kill Screen magazine. Their web editor Ryan Kuo was cool enough to let me get a bit creative with how I wrote it, so if you know about the game’s subject matter, you’ll get my wildly clever and amazing joke.

Here was another game that had a lot going for it but that was undone by simply being unpleasant to play. This one actually gave me motion sickness. It was a bummer, because I really like Double Fine, but there ya go. Hopefully their next game will be as fun and focused as Costume Quest was.

Oh Hi, Tim

This one is so entirely random that it kind of boggles me still. While at GDC, Paste‘s photographer Brian Taylor (who is also a writer and generally cool bearded man) took a whole bunch of pictures of legendary game developer (and Double Fine head) Tim Schafer. After looking through them, he asked if we could do a photoseries of them at Paste. I agreed, and so we ran it.

The idea had always been to have a caption contest for the pictures, and sure enough, over at the discussion thread at Kill Screen we all took the pics and ran with them. Jamin published his favorite captions over there, and they are pretty hilarious.

I have no idea what Tim made of all of this, though I’m fairly certain he does think we’re all really weird.

Reality is Bokeh

I didn’t write this piece but I wanted to link to it because it is so damn good. Game designer/writer/friend Matthew Burns attended GDC on a Paste press badge, and agreed to write up some sort of essay about his experience. He really was there to pitch a game, so he spent most of his time in closed door meetings.

The essay he eventually wrote, titled “Reality is Bokeh,” is a hell of a piece of work and approaches the weird creative convergence that occurs when you spend time engineering and building worlds from a number of different angles.

Hold Me Closer, Tiny Bronco

I continue to have a really good time playing Final Fantasy VII and writing letters to Leigh Alexander about my experiences. We published a couple more parts to our series this week: Part 3 is called “Our Hero, Our Villain” and talks about Cloud and Sephiroth, and Part 4 discusses the campiness of the game. I also start to talk some about the community that has popped up around me as I play. I feel a bit like that community is the vestiges of a group that has been somehow connected to one another since the game came out in 1997. It’s been really fun to experience a bit of the comraderie and discussion that FFVII seems to inspire. An index of all of our letters so far can be found here.

I just finished disc 1, so you all know what that means. I’m currently coping by building a huge shrine to her in my roommate’s room. He doesn’t know I’m doing it but he won’t be back until tomorrow and I should have it done by then so I hope he likes it.

Thanks so much for reading, and have a lovely weekend. Oh and check out “The Lemon of Pink” by The Books, which I have been listening to at the recommendation of Gus Mastrapa. It is great stuff and sounds weird on headphones.

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