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Design Impressions: The Last of Us

June 29th, 2016 No comments

I don’t have a whole lot to say about The Last of Us, but i enjoyed playing it for the most part. It’s a pretty amazing interactive narrative experience, where gameplay usually takes a back seat to storytelling and spectacle – which is a fine choice if that’s what you’re into. Personally, i didn’t like the forced false choice at the end, but i’m sure it was meant to be controversial.

    Gameplay
The Last of Us cover• Melee combat is simplistic, but smooth and visually polished.
  ○ The sheer number of environmental interactions is staggering, and transitions between contextual states are seamless.
• Having to pick up the same items and crafting materials every time you die is the worst part of extended battles, especially those involving caution and stealth.
  ○ Obviously you can’t just keep those new supplies after you die and reappear at a previous checkpoint, because it would alter the ensuing battle progression and potentially muck up ammo counts.
  ○ But why not make it easier to reclaim the stuff you’ve already discovered? If showing found item locations on the map is too much, even having a checklist would save time and avoid that weird feeling of being unsure whether you forgot something the third time through.

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Design Impressions: Darksiders

June 22nd, 2016 No comments

Darksiders has a pretty cool thematic premise for an action game, but borrows heavily from God of War and Zelda mechanics. I played it shortly after finishing DmC: Devil May Cry and have to say its combat system isn’t quite as polished or nuanced, but i still enjoyed it. These are some random notes i jotted down while playing. If you agree or disagree with anything, let me know – but please read the two disclaimers at the bottom first.

    Gameplay
• Relatively slow placed action, with a fair variety of weapons and abilities to unlock.
• Lots of blind exploration in dark areas!
Darksiders cover   ○ It was less tedious when collectibles were all visible on the map in the introductory Vulgrim level. Why can’t that feature be on all the time? What’s the downside?
  ○ Or if the dungeon map needs to be an item (or in this case, two items: Map and Hoardseeker), then why not at least show those two chests on the starting map?
• Checkpoint placement seems kind of inconsistent.
  ○ Having to travel halfway across Anvil’s Ford on foot through three doors to fight Special K for the tenth time was frustrating. He’s practically a secret sub-boss!
  ○ Not restoring any Wrath meter on checkpoint reload is disappointing too.

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Design Impressions: DmC Harpies and GoW Satyrs

June 15th, 2016 No comments

I mentioned recently that Harpies were my least favorite enemies in DmC: Devil May Cry. I’ve been trying to pinpoint the exact reason for that – and i think a big part of the problem is their appearance. Even though they’re pretty damn tough to kill, they look like minor nuisances.

When you come across a group of them, your mind is usually in “I just want to get through this” mode rather than “Man i need to focus on this battle!” It doesn’t help that they’re fliers, which means they’re typically far away and appear tiny on screen.

DmC HarpyOf course that perception makes it harder to be patient and look for counter-attack opportunities, so Harpies end up doing more damage than they should – especially when grouped with other enemy types. On the other hand, Dreamrunners in DmC look like deadly ninjas so every encounter with them feels like a miniboss fight. That’s the magic of ninjas.

Most enemies in action games can be separated into two categories: The ones that you’re supposed to beat with straightforward knowledge and the ones that challenge you with a proper mixup. The latter group definitely needs to have imposing aesthetics that demand respect, so the player buys into holding their ground every time.

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Design Impressions: DmC (Devil May Cry)

June 8th, 2016 No comments

Lately i’ve been jotting down thoughts and observations while playing random games for fun. A few friends expressed interest in reading my notes, so i’m posting them here in case anyone else cares. Who knows, maybe some fun conversations will come out of it.

Disclaimer #1: This is not a review of the game. These scattered notes are just my personal impressions as a player. Please don’t take them too seriously.

Disclaimer #2: I’m not trying to say i could do better by any means. If i point out a flaw, it’s usually because i think it’s interesting; not to criticize anyone involved. There are countless reasons why a feature might be imperfect, buggy, or incomplete. Game development is a chaotic human endeavor, and it’s very rarely easy to figure out why something went wrong. Anyway it’s a safe bet that the dev team thought of most ideas or solutions i might suggest, but they couldn’t be implemented due to some unfortunate constraint.

    Gameplay
• Combat feels crisp, responsive, and satisfying.
  ○ The Demon Pull and Angel Lift mechanics are awesome. Controls can be hard to remember at first; but if you make a commitment to the game, it’s an incredibly fun and versatile system.
• Level design is often spectacular and exhilarating, especially during dynamic environment transformations. The church exit and car chase were both amazing experiences.
  ○ Those must have been an interesting challenge for the environment art team. I can’t think of anything quite like it in prior games.

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Game Spotlight: Killer Instinct (2013)

November 25th, 2013 1 comment

Debuting as an Xbox One launch title, Killer Instinct was developed by Double Helix Games in Irvine, California and released just a few days ago. It’s free to download with one rotating character unlocked (currently Jago). A total of eight characters comprise the Season 1 roster.

Killer Instinct logoAdmittedly, the game is a little light on content at the moment, but Spinal and Fulgore should be arriving shortly, along with a new Story Mode rumored to expand on the outrageous backstory of the Killer Instinct universe. Hopefully enough people will support the game to justify the addition of many more characters and features.

It’s worth noting that Double Helix reached out to a number of fighting game players (including me) to explore Killer Instinct and provide extensive feedback during development. Obviously this doesn’t guarantee the gameplay is flawless, but it’s nice to know they genuinely care about making the fighting game community happy. Let’s be honest, the FGC isn’t exactly known for being easy to please!

I know there’s considerable hesitation regarding the Xbox One in general. It’s certainly an expensive console, so i can’t blame anyone for not wanting to buy it for Killer Instinct alone. But if you’re one of the million people who did pick one up, i hope you’ll give KI a chance.

In my opinion, whenever a studio tries to make a new AAA fighting game, it’s a good thing. How often do American studios even attempt to make fighting games anymore? Believe me, it’s hard to do. I have no idea if Killer Instinct will make a good tournament game, but it obviously has the potential – and it’ll be fun to find out. If enough players support it for long enough, it might turn into something really special!

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