Deus Ex: Human Revolution

me2_levelingA few random thoughts that wandered into my head as I started Deus Ex: Human Revolution for the PS3:

This game has a lot of loading screens. They are long.
I dig the music theme at the title screen.
This game has a lot of gold and brown colors.
I should have known that since the logo is also brown and gold.
The people in this game have small heads and big hands.
And, to Sean: crouching is not only implemented, but it’s important.

I’m not much of a fan of FPS, and I’ve never finished any of the prior Deus Ex titles, but games like Alpha Protocol and Mass Effect 2 have bridged the gap, as I see it, and I’m now happily wandering around New Detroit, trying to figure out how to get into a police station. Read More

Witcher 2: First Impressions

Despite being very excited for it, and despite calling the first Witcher my game of 2009, thanks to a backlog of games I’ve only now started playing the Witcher 2. And what do I think?

Overall I like it. I’ve just completed the first chapter (which means there are spoilers related to the conclusion of the first chapter only). And I’m getting that feeling that comes when you start to really obsess on something. The game has its flaws, but it does some things so well that the flaws become easy to overlook. Such as?

Here are some specific thoughts and observations:

As with most RPGs, the first few hours are overwhelming. The Witcher 2 is no different when you’re trying to figure out combat, equipment, upgrades for your equipment, herbalism and alchemy, using your amulet, figuring out the map and quest system, etc. It really is borderline unforgiving. And that’s without referencing the combat difficulty when you’re facing off against groups, and trying to catch up on all the intricate story happenings.

Once you get past the learning curve, or at least the first wave of it (in the Witcher 1, it took one full playthrough before I was taking advantage of all my abilities), it’s pretty easy to settle into the game. But this game could have used a smaller, more guided tutorial level that let you practice with and learn the value of your character.

In the opening scene, with you in prison and speaking to Roche, you are presented with three options: three different sections of the story to tell. In retrospect, the game wants you to pick them in a linear order. Each subsequent choice is a little more difficult and builds progressively upon character control lessons you’re learning. But when faced with three options, players can pick in any order for any reason. It might have helped to have that play out more linearly.

While trying to get used to the game, I also tweaked the graphics settings constantly to find the best ratio of performance to aesthetics. Oddly (though maybe this is just me since I’m more of a console gamer), I found that I can play with the graphics set to ultra (minus uber-sampling) and get frames in the 40-60 ranges (and it’s usually right about 60) — at 800×480. That makes the smaller fonts jaggy and difficult to read, but if I raise the resolution to 720 or 1080 pixels wide, even at low graphic quality the frames aren’t nearly as good and drop to the 15-20 range. I’m sure this elicits little more than a “duh” response from most, but I found myself surprised at the contrast. Regardless, I can “settle” for a game that looks fantastic and runs smoothly.

The game’s combat want me to play it as an action game, with quick reflexes and precise responses. However, the engine itself is not up to the task. It is a little sluggish and lacks in precise control.

For example, in my battle with the kayran I died a few times when a tentacle hit where I had been a moment ago. As another example, when hitting block I occasionally (frequently?) hear the sound that accompanies attempting to cast a spell without the requisite energy. The work-around is hitting another button before trying to block again, but a game’s major systems should not need a work-around for basic actions. If they built the engine from the ground up for this game, then they need to put a little extra work into improving the controls.

Balance is poor. The fight against Letho and also the kayran fight both made me want to rage quit. Same thing with the endrega queen. The fights are so far beyond the rest of the game’s combat that it should be a side plot that you can choose if you want to overcome it — except the kayran and Letho are both on the critical path. When I look on-line to find other people’s strategies, they’re a mix of cheating/exploiting the system and its limitations, combined with frequent re-loads until you also get lucky.

The game’s world is alive. Merchants don’t stand in empty courtyards while it’s raining out. Instead, when it rains people run for cover. And when they’re not working, they spend time at the inn or go home or hang out in groups. Additionally, there are people, and signs of people, everywhere — including on the way out to adventure areas where guards are fighting to secure the region with trap-setting and monster slaying. I appreciate the latter note. Most RPGs make you feel like you’re trying to save the world without any assistance from the helpless citizenry. In the Witcher 2, there’s the sense they’ve created a stalemate position which needs your heroic push to topple things in their favor.

Choice is limited. There was the choice of whether or not to fire a ballista to make an ensuring fight easier. There was the choice of fighting a strong warrior one-on-one, or allowing his back-up to assist him. There was the choice of allowing Roche to help you escape, or to die. In other words, choice isn’t a major component of the game.

I was slightly disappointed with the level of choice in the first Witcher since I thought it was their primary goal, but I understand what they are trying to accomplish better now. I’m certain there are a few significant, story-shaping choices later in the game. But the way-you-proceed-through-a-quest choices, and further opportunities to impact the narrative, are more limited. And, not to defend the game against an issue of hype versus reality, wouldn’t choice have to be limited in a game that’s supposed to go as long as 40 hours? Also, there are so many side quests to explore and optionally accept that it satisfies a lot of the sense of linearity that might otherwise have pervaded the game. Coupled with the world’s level of detail and sense of life, I am less the hero changing things as I see fit, and more the traveler, journeying down the path of the story and loving every moment of it — at least, every moment that doesn’t feature an impossible fight that relies on me hitting the block button accurately.

DA2: Post 02

It’s been a little while since I updated y’all on my DA2 playthrough, so here are some more thoughts…

Is this a good time to talk?

Way back when, in Baldur’s Gate II, I was fighting a dragon. The dragon breathed fire on my party and everyone was looking brutalized. Suddenly, the game froze and the camera shifted. I panicked a little. What is going on?! Turns out, my companion Aerie wanted to tell my other companion, Jaheira, that she really liked her hair (I guess she approved of the fiery/ashen look). I laughed at the time, but I see that moments like this continue to exist. In DA2, Bethany and Aveline decided to have a conversation about having kids — while we were fighting some spiders.

The more the merrier

I didn’t like my group so much when it was just me, Bethany, and Aveline. But now I’ve got a real party happening, and I dig it. Added to the group are: Anders, Fenris, Isabella, Merrill, and Varric. I quite like the variety and the constant debate over the best set-up to complement my hero. Usually, I’m bringing along Bethany for the healing/fire damage, Fenris and/or Aveline for the warrior might, and/or Isabella/Varric for some bonus damage.

Most of my group seems less interested in chatting, but I have had a few food conversations with Merrill, Varric, and Anders.

Slicing and Dicing

Combat certainly isn’t strategic. In fact, it’s quite easy (on normal). That said, I enjoy it. I like sneaking my rogue past the front-line ranks and then chopping them up from behind. I find that when my effort to slip through are blocked, I’m hitting for 8-12 damage at a time and feeling pretty inept. But once I launch a backstab, body parts are flying everywhere and numbers like 250 are rolling up.

I’m tempted to up the difficulty to create more of a challenge, I’ve really only had to re-load a very small handful of times, but I usually resist. I’d prefer to enjoy the story and quests first, get a sense of the overall game progression and master its systems, then, on a second play, I can fiddle with higher difficulty.

Are four stars better than three?

I have heard rumblings that people don’t like the new star-rating system for equipment. They say it’s dumbed down and treats people as stupid. I disagree. If you didn’t have to think about it at all, and your character auto-equipped better gear, maybe that would take it too far. But right now I have 5-star equipment going unused while relying on 3-star and 4-star equipment. It really depends on the side abilities of the equipment and your own preferences.

And on a related note, do I hate that I can’t give my companions new armor to wear — like everyone else? No. I tend to ignore outfitting my companions in BioWare games as it is. I feel like I’ve been let off the leash here. Thank you!

That said, a lot of my companions are wearing 0-star or 1-star armor. I can see how this frustrates people, especially if there is plenty of better armor available. BioWare should have either implemented an auto-upgrade for companion gear — or allowed companions to auto-equip better gear. Or something to that effect.

Last note on this point, I do like the plentiful gear. In DA:O, I complained that I would find something good and be stuck with it for most of the game. Here, I seem to be rotating through equipment much more rapidly. I prefer this.

In and Out

I’m finding that most of the quests feel like they’re wrapped up in about 10-30 minutes. I hit a dungeon and prepare for a long slog, and just as I’m getting warmed up I’m done. Is short bad? No, not necessarily. There are a lot of quests available so instead of taking a lot of time on one long quest, I can jump through a bunch. I’m also liking that I feel less put off to play if time is short. That is, if I have an hour to play — I don’t mind hopping into DA2. I feel like I can still accomplish something.

Other random thoughts

I liked the concept of staying in one location immediately. I didn’t know if it would work, but I did like the concept. So far, I’m liking how it plays out. Traipsing about the world is fun in other games, but delving into the current location here has been just as enjoyable. I look forward to seeing if/how things change when I start jumping forward in time.

Along that same line of thinking, I’m finding that the game establishes a pretty straight-forward pattern. You scan the day-time map, scan the night-time map, and then scan the local-region map. You find the quests. You run through them. You activate new quests along the way. You talk to your companions. You repeat the process. Repetitive? Technically, yes, but I enjoy the pattern. It sets goals, establishes expectations, and creates a sense of reward.

Does this change how I view the motivation? No. I still feel “unmotivated”. I’m caught up in all the little quests now, certainly, but I feel no overall drive pushing me forward through the story. And, at this point, I have no idea what my ultimate motivation is. I understand I will learn this as I play. I hear the last 5-10 hours really tie everything together. But at this point it feels like: make money, invest money to join caravan, make more money… retire? I know there’s more than that, but that’s how I feel now. And, as someone who doesn’t care much about money, in real life or in games, I’m a little wanting for something more meaningful.

Last comment, in DA:O I primarily used one character. When I got to the late stages and had to play with a group that didn’t feature my hero, I struggled. I had played a mage all game long, and this group had only warriors and rogues. I didn’t know how to use them effectively. I’m finding that happening here as well. When Hawke happens to die (rarely — maybe twice so far), and I get jumped over to a warrior or mage — I have this desire to set the controller down and watch. Unfortunately, the AI says to me, “Oh! Let me disable myself so you can play this new character” — leaving me to fend for myself. Sure, I could play around with the others and figure it out, but I am not interested nor encouraged. For people like me, I think the solution is to have a mini-tutorial early on where you play all three character types and can get used to them. This won’t be an issue when I re-play the game, but for those of us on our first playthrough, or those of us who only intend to play once, it’s a problem.

Anyway, I’m at level 9 and 12 hours in. My companions are occasionally spouting off one-liners to let me know that I should hit the Deep Road expedition. Soon! I still have bunches of quests to wrap up. 🙂

DA2: First Impressions

I’m lagging on adding my Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood reviews; I usually post while playing, but here I’m done and haven’t posted. Don’t take that to mean I didn’t love the game. I absolutely loved it. I finished with around 28 hours of play, and that got me to 60% done with “everything”. I re-built Rome to 100%, went through the Subject 16 storyline, and completed all of the critical path and side plot quests. I also completed the training challenges and found the modern day artifacts. All that’s left to do, really, is remove the Borgia flags from Rome, maybe finish a few shop quests — but I think I will pass on that.

So while I do intend to add at least one more post on AC: Brotherhood — first, there’s Dragon Age II. I recently got my copy and played for almost four hours today. Here are my initial reactions:

Combat:

I played the demo three or four times so my reaction today isn’t as jarring as it would have been otherwise. To be honest, I don’t really think combat is all that different in DA2 from Dragon Age: Origins. I’d say the only differences are that it feels faster, the animations are more diverse, there are more things to do during the fight, and you get to press the [A] button over and over. I don’t see the point in making the player press [A], but the rest of the changes are fine with me and represent a better overall experience from DA:O. I could compare the game to Arkham Asylum or Brotherhood, but that’s not what DA is about. I anticipated spending more time staring at cool-down timers, but so far I haven’t. Then again, I’m a dual-wielding rogue with only one cool-down power, backstab. This is a comment I may have to revisit in a later post.

The system of combat aside, the biggest change in the flow of combat is that it usually occurs in rounds. You see monsters up ahead and you charge to fight them, but then mid-combat more pop up behind you — or all around you. Like ME2, DA2 seems to be moving more in the direction of taking you out of your comfort zone and forcing you to make decisions on the fly. I liked it in ME2 and I’m liking it here.

Story:

(spoilers?) So far, the story is that my guy Hawke, and family, are fleeing the dark spawn. We decided to hide out in the coastal city, Kirkwall. Getting in to Kirkwall meant a year’s worth of indentured servitude for me and sis. Once in, we discovered that uncle gave up our estate to cover a gambling debt. Oh, and Flemeth asked us to deliver an amulet — which I just finished putting to rest on an altar. I’m generally OK with the story so far. It’s a personal story, which is nice, and it’s a simple, easy-to-follow story, which I appreciate. My biggest criticism of the story is how quickly it jumps and how much I don’t get to experience.

When we started the journey, the game’s narrator mentioned that we boarded a ship and endured some tough times, but we were so happy when we finally saw land! And, as indentured servants, me and sis worked really hard in the seedy underbelly — doing those things we did. After regaining our freedom, we even bumped into a guy who wanted to chat about “those things we did.” I hear a lot of people complaining that DA2 has a slow start. I’m guessing this kind of stuff is part of the reason.

Motivation:

The big thing is always motivation. The player should be motivated to progress the story, because he cares about the events or because he wants to see what’s next or because he wants to kill stuff. There has to be some reason. So far, I feel like a back-seat driver. I’m not so much curious about what happens next. I have nothing “to do” in the sense of “goals”. My character seems to want to make money. That’s something. I suppose my motivation to continue playing is that it’s fun so far — I enjoy gaining levels and upgrading gear — and I hear the game gets really exciting after the first 8-10 hours or so. But, story wise, I don’t think there have been any real hooks yet.

Volume:

The music and VO are pretty soft out of combat. And booming in combat. I have to resist the urge to crank the volume when I’m exploring and muting the volume during fights. That aside, I’m finding that I’m listening to the VO a lot more than I have in the past. I think that’s a testament to better flow (fewer long-winded monologues), and quality voicing.

Exploration:

I think I remember playing DA:O around the same time period as AC2. Now I’m playing the follow-ups to each in the same time period. The problem is that exploration is such a focus in AC — and so very, very well done. And in DA2 it’s disappointing. I hate saying that but walking into Kirkwall isn’t impressive; it’s a series of small maps (oftentimes, indoors or out, you’re exploring “hallways”) with a few stationary, repeating-animation shop owners and no crowds. In Brotherhood, Rome feels lived in. I believe it. I loved that city and level design. It created such amazing levels of immersion. You may say this criticism is unfair, and I almost feel it is myself, but my understanding is that I’ll spend much of my time in DA2 navigating the city of Kirkwall. Even a “2D” version (that is, the removal of parkour) of Brotherhood’s Rome would have been pretty awesome — and beaten the pants off of what I’ve seen of Kirkwall. Note to BioWare: that’s your goal for next time.

Equipment:

Money, for one, seems to be coming much faster than it did in DA:O. For a character so worried about making money, I seem to be doing a very good job of it so far. I had heard that BioWare auto-sent items to junk so you knew it was safe to sell. Yes, it takes away some of the realism, but I don’t think it in any way detracts from the game. We’re supposed to be focused on the story, not sorting through our inventory to figure out which items need to be saved for gifts or potions, and which can get us money. Right?

Party Members:

I… generally like the people in my group. Right now I have Aveline, Bethany, Varric, and Merrill. Bethany is my sister, and doesn’t stand out very much one way or the other. Aveline I like because I need a warrior, but I haven’t spoken much with her. I did go out of my way to re-recruit her after she disappeared from my party (I must have missed the line where she said she was leaving me, thankfully she came back). Varric seems to be potentially amusing but hasn’t said much yet, either. And Merrill is too nervous for her own good.

And… ?

That’s all for now. I’ll write more later. Oh wait, you want a summary opinion? OK. I’m enjoying it. I am. It’s taking me a little time to get my mind off Brotherhood and back into a DA state of being, but it is happening. DA2 feels a lot like DA:O to me. Little changes here and there — kind of like the jump from ME1 to ME2. BioWare is figuring out and refining their formula, while at the same time trying to keep the foundation feeling settled. I sometimes worry about the direction their RPGs are moving. I also worry at times that they’re not moving enough. It’s a fine line. But for now, for me, I’m liking DA2 and I’m looking forward to putting some more hours into the game.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Post 01

There are a few new features that improve the Assassin’s Creed in the franchise’s latest iteration, Brotherhood. For this post, I’ll talk about “Kill Streaks”.

When I first heard someone reference kill streaks, I assumed it was some scoring mechanism. I’d kill a bunch of people and, like a first-person shooter, the game would exult in my devastation. Turns out, that is not the case at all. A kill streak is a game-play mechanic, a way of, if done properly, chaining attacks together that makes combat pretty exciting, fast-paced, and makes Ezio look very lethal — which he should be by this point in his career.

Figuring out how to perform the kill streak was the hardest part for me, even though it’s really simple (I just wasn’t getting the idea of which buttons to press when). Once I got the basics, I received a lot of enjoyment out of mastering the system.

It starts out with you and some combat participants. Usually, someone nearby attacks you. You counter their attack and kill them in the process. But, really, you don’t need to start the sequence with a counter. I believe any killing animation will do.

While your assassination animation is playing, press the left analogue stick toward your next target and press the attack button. I usually spam the button in order to make certain the next chain is properly triggered. How often or when you press the button doesn’t matter. It’s very simple. And as soon as you kill off that first guy, Ezio immediately leaps at your selected target and kills him outright. No need to wait around for the next opening or attack to counter.

Reading this, you might wonder “is it dumbed down?” No, not at all. Instead, it creates fluidity in combat. As I wrote, you’re spending less time sitting around waiting for someone to attack you and more time killing — you know, the fun stuff.

“Does it take all the challenge out of the game,” might be your next question. No, because, like Batman’s Arkham Asylum, there’s a rhythm to it all and it requires you to keep an eye out on the battlefield around you.

Like Arkham Asylum, your next target should be the guy about to attack you. If you attack someone else, then while you’re trying to kill your target — you’re exposed to attack from someone else. If you are hit or grabbed (yes, the game now features grabs — opponents can grab you and leave you open to hits from their allies), the kill streak ends. The kill streak can also end if you aren’t close enough to a target and have to take time to move toward them. Again, you want to be aware of your surroundings and positioning. There are times where you attack the wrong person. The animation starts and someone else lunges at you. As long as you’re quick with the counter-attack, you can usually turn their attack into another kill and keep the kill-streak mode going.

OK, maybe I should not have said “no” to the challenge question. The game is a little easier. But it’s also much less frustrating. And I think that matches your character’s skill as an assassin.

Thankfully, there’s a practice arena in the animus to let you perfect the system. They give you some baddies and a time limit and give you some scoring goals as a target. I think the top goal is 300 or 400 points — which I managed to double when I was first getting into the system. I’ll have to try it again.

I love the iteration on their combat system. I originally found the AC combat system to be good, but not nearly as good as Arkham Asylum’s. I feel like kill streaks definitely borrows on the greatness of Arkham Asylum and I’m no longer unfavorably comparing AC against it.

Next time, I’m going to comment on their new assassin’s guild questing system.

Red Dead Redemption: Post 01

I played a few hours of RDR (Red Dead Redemption) at Lisa’s house so this isn’t a true “first impressions” post. But considering the size of the game and the relatively few hours I’ve had with the game so far, I’d safely consider this an “early impressions” post. Without further ado, here are a few random thoughts on the game so far:

  • I love horse-back riding. That isn’t surprising, but it is comforting. And what I mean is that I loved driving around town in GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas. But I the new vehicle physics threw me off in GTA IV and I found myself cabbing it as often as possible. Thankfully, RDR is a return to form and I once again enjoy traveling about the country-side. Yes, there is a quick-travel option but I would rather make the trek.

I love the setting. I don’t have a thing for cowboys or the Wild West, but it really works here.

Let me put it this way.  In GTA, you have to make an effort to suspend your disbelief when you’re clearing out a den of drug-dealers and you’re wondering why the police don’t handle it, etc. But in the Wild West, when you find out some criminals on the outskirts of town are kidnapping towns folk, and there’s only one sheriff, I don’t think twice about going in with a rifle and a posse, trying to rescue people.

Additionally, I love seeing America in this youthful stage. No roads. No cars. Small towns. Complete wilderness right outside of town. No one regulating behavior. Every time you are traveling down a path and see someone on the horizon, you wonder if there is going to be bloodshed.

Graphically speaking, I love the setting. The first time I hit the wilderness, I was in awe. I find that amusing since you’d think a game like GTA IV would be more impressive with its big city feel. But I love seeing the desert on full display. When you see mountains far off on the horizon and realize you can go there, it makes you feel like you can go anywhere and do anything. Plus, I love seeing all the stars at night. Maybe it isn’t the most realistic depiction of the heavens, but I appreciate sitting at a camp fire and enjoying the view.

Combat is also enjoyable. Squeezing [LT] causes your reticule to lock on any nearby targets. The target follows them for a second before stopping. The end result is a system that is newbie friendly, accommodates for the weakness of an analog stick for control, and still requires a little skill.

There are a few issues. Sometimes you’re on horse back and trying to target someone who rips past you. You spin the camera trying to keep up with them but now they’ve circled back and are heading the other way. As a result, you look like an idiot and never get the pointer close enough to activate the auto-targeting.

Compensating for that, dead-eye mode is another perk that makes things a little easier. In dead-eye mode, time slows down for a few seconds and allows you to make quick work of a lot of foes. I’ve only used it a few times and there have been hiccups as I figure it out. For example, sometimes I accidentally end up shooting one target two or three times when once was enough. Or I can’t remember how to activate it. Or I don’t know how much time is left until I can activate it again. Or I activate it and accidentally leave the mode when there were more targets available. But I get the feeling that once I use it a few more times I’ll lean on it much more heavily for those critical times.

  • Breaking in horses is one of those activities that either make you feel like you don’t have enough fingers or that the developers didn’t do a good enough job of mapping the controller. You need to ready your lasso by pressing [LT]. Simultaneously, you need to move [RS] to aim the lasso and [LS] to steer your horse. You need to tap or hold [A] to control your horse’s speed. You need to press [RT] to throw your lasso. And you need to hold [RB] to maintain your grip on a successfully-lassoed horse. It can be a bit much. To be fair, as much as I feel overwhelmed by this, I haven’t had much trouble successfully doing it.

The missions and story have been enjoyable so far. Everything I’m doing is geared toward getting immersed into the land and it’s working. I’m learning a bit about my character (apparently, the feds have sent me out west, away from my kid and wife, to track down an old gang-mate who is causing problems; I’m guessing this is part of some plea-bargain deal on my character’s part), I’m getting into the rancher lifestyle, and I’m figuring out what life was like in the Old West. Examples of missions include such tasks as getting cows back to the ranch in the middle of a storm and getting a snake-oil salesman back to town in a horse-drawn carriage while being chased by thugs.

I also have to add that the GTA series mixes movie-like portrayals and humor, but GTA IV felt a bit more absurd to me. GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas had something of an intelligent subtlety to their, for example, radio commentary belittling conservatives or politically-correct actions, but GTA IV took it to a ridiculous extreme where the subtlety was lost and the criticisms were outright and unfair. So far, I see none of that in RDR. There have been a few interesting commentaries on the strong points of libertarianism in reference to the government sending me to assassinate a problem as opposed to allowing society to handle its own problems. Maybe it doesn’t have the same humor that the aforementioned GTA titles have, but it’s a welcome relief to GTA IV’s effort.

As I said, I’m not very far into the game. I’m still in New Austin and I understand there are at least three other major locations to which I’ll later travel. And I’ve also read each location has about 20 main missions and I doubt I’ve done more than half. But I have spent a lot of time helping people, exploring, picking flowers (…), collecting bounties, and, thanks to Candice taking over for stretches, winning at horse shoes. And so far, I am enjoying this much more than I ever enjoyed GTA IV. Again, these games are supposed to be about driving and shooting. With GTA IV, I felt half of that equation was broken. With RDR, I think the train is back on the tracks. I’m looking forward to seeing how the game continues.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Before getting distracted by Alpha Protocol, I played through the Prince of Persia: the Forgotten Sands.

As far as my interest in the franchise, I loved the Sands of Time (and beat it at least three times) but only somewhat enjoyed Warrior Within (I probably would have liked Warrior Within more had the ending not soured the experience for me). I missed the Two Thrones (one day I may catch up with it, but, based on Warrior Within, I may not) but played the awful Prince of Persia (2008). That game soured me on the franchise and I assumed the developers had no interest in creating a game with content more similar to the Sands of Time — that is, more thoughtful puzzles and less “press B to proceed through level.”

However, now that I’ve played the Forgotten Sands I can say that my faith in the franchise is restored. Not that I give scores, but comparatively speaking I’d put the original Prince of Persia (I played it in 1992, but it was first released in 1989) and the Sands of Time at the top of the mountain. The Forgotten Sands would be about three-quarters of the way, maybe a little higher, up toward the peak.

What did I like?

  • It was much closer to the Sands of Time in terms of puzzle-based platformer action. When you enter a new area you have to look around, figure out where you want to end up and then follow along backward from there to try to figure out how to get there. The Sands of Time relished in challenging the player to unlock the route. The Forgotten Sands makes it slightly easier to figure out where you need to go, but slightly harder to get there because manual dexterity is much higher in demand (there are many sequences where you must manage the coordination to jump through a water fall, freeze the water immediately after you pass through so that you can land on another waterfall, run up the waterfall, jump back through the prior waterfall by unfreezing and then freezing it again, and so forth). I’m more a fan of the prior, but I did really enjoy the latter — albeit with some “occasional” frustration-based profanity. And speaking of puzzles, there were more puzzles in this one than in the Sands of Time — and I was glad for that.
  • I know we’re talking about a game where you can run up walls and chop up the undead, but the bits in PoP (2008) where you were flying or doing crazy double-jumps by swinging from your partner irked me. The Forgotten Sands moves the franchise back a step or two closer toward reality. A step or two, people. You’re still fighting the undead and running up walls and, now, freezing water falls, but it’s at a level of realism I like for the franchise.
  • As you progress through the game, you gain levels in a way that is similar to RPGs. Each time you gain a level you earn a point which you can use to unlock or improve your abilities. You could focus on the strength of your sword or your overall health or a power derived from the elements (fire, water, earth, and air). I thought this, along with the return of the old-familiar power of turning back time, was a great inclusion.
  • I don’t often make much more than a passing comment on the graphics of any given game, so I won’t go on with this point, but it did look really nice. A lot of the scenes reminded me of the Sands of Time — but to a much higher degree of fidelity, like going from VHS to DVD (despite not liking Pop (2008), I’d say, graphically speaking, that title would carry the Blu-ray comparison). And the ending, where you’re kinda/sorta surfing along chunks of stone that are being carried by a sand storm? Pretty impressive. Speaking of engine comparisons between the two titles, I think the camera also struck me as a good bit better than the camera in the Sands of Time as well.
  • A lot of games with in-game collectibles toss a bazillion items into the world and it becomes a huge grind to find them all — a grind usually not worth pushing through. The Forgotten Sands did a good job of tipping you off that a sarcophagus was nearby, and only gave you about 21 or so to bother with, and as a result I enjoyed trying to collect them all — which I did, though acquiring the last few presented quite the challenge. You earned a good bit of experience by following through with the challenging, which also made it worth the effort.
  • Finally, I enjoyed the two bonus challenges. I played through each of them after beating the game and found they elevated my skill with the game to a new level. In fact, I got so hooked on them that I had originally intended to load them up just to see what they offered, but ended up playing through the two challenges many times over the course of a couple hours.

What didn’t I like?

  • There isn’t a lot I didn’t like with the Forgotten Sands, and there’s nothing I outright hated. Instead, this is more a list of things that could have been better.
  • The fights against very large creatures frustrating. It was difficult to consistently strike my targets’ legs while dodging their attacks. Additionally, they spin on an axis and push you to the side as they spin. Sometimes you get stuck between their legs (which makes the fight easier since they can’t hit you). It did not feel as refined as many of the other elements in the game. The good news is that there weren’t a lot of these sequences and you could power through them without too much bother.
  • The combat system is only fair. It’s slightly better than the Sands of Time which, when I first played it, I thought was really good — but many games have improved combat since then and besides, as I’ve said before, I’m now forever spoiled by the superior Batman: Arkham Asylum.
  • The game is short, maybe in the 10 hour range. Personally, I can definitely get behind a short game that’s well-designed and free of time-wasting filler as the Forgotten Sands is. But paying $60 bucks for a game, as many do, may leave one feeling ripped off. Fortunately, the game has been out a while so if you’re going to play it based on this write-up I doubt you’ll be spending more than half of the original $60.

One last comment, I read through several reviews and many of them said they liked the game but felt like it was too much of a rehash of the Sands of Time. After subjecting myself to Prince of Persia (2008), I have to say that an updated rehash of the Sands of Time is not a bad thing — especially if that’s the biggest criticism with the title.

Alpha Protocol: Post 03

I started re-playing Alpha Protocol (apprehensively, at first, but I’m getting more hooked as I go) and it’s given me a few (honestly, just a few. It’s a short post — for me — this time around) new insights I wanted to jot down. Here are some thoughts based off of the first half (made it to the hub, completed Taipei, am now in Rome) of my second play-through.

  • In the first post, I mentioned that it sucks how you have to pick your skills before you know which skills are useful. In the second post, I wrote that Alpha Protocol lets you re-specialize your character after you finish the opening chapter — but I said without notification that I would get this opportunity, I didn’t experiment enough and could not take advantage of the moment. Now, in this third post, I’m here to admit the game does indeed inform you that you’ll get to re-spec after you finish your first mission. It’s a quick line and it’s more subtle than it needs to be, but there you go.
  • I also mentioned that stealth is a “win game” skill, and separately mentioned that I was better, untrained, with the assault rifle than with the SMG — a weapon I had a lot of training in. In my second play-through, I decided to forgo stealth and load my skill points into the assault rifle. And? I am an absolute murderer. If my spy holds steady for 1.5 seconds, his attack is automatically a critical hit. Even better, aim at the head and people are dying from a single shot. And when the room is filled with baddies, I activate the snap-to-target power that auto-aims for me. I like playing the stealth guy, but kicking the door down, smiling for the security cameras to set off the alarms, and then mowing down everyone who shows up to respond is a lot of fun, too.
  • I’ve been experimenting with making people hate me. So far, Mina Tang is the only one with whom I’ve actually pulled this off. She was easy to get to hate me. I went through a hotel and killed security guards (civilians). Each point you gain or lose in the game is like rare gold, but during this mission there are dozens of guards and each one you kill loses you one point. Insane, but effective for my purposes. No one else hates me, but a lot of people mildly dislike me or are neutral toward me. Making a few people hate me is a real challenge. Side note, my conversations with Mina Tang so far seem unaffected by her outright-hatred toward me; she still helps me on missions and acts concerned for my well being, sounds friendly, etc.
  • I mentioned that I’ve put no points into stealth on this go-around. It shows. I sneak/crouch into a warehouse and people on the far end are already shooting at me. I am assuming my spy has a boom box strapped to his back. I’ve also put no points into any of the hacking mini-games. They’re all still easy, though I did flub one — which is more than I flubbed on the first play-through.
  • A repercussion of the killing/being-hated-by play-through is that I’m killing off the good weapon providers — that is, I showed mercy in each of the boss fights the first time and was rewarded with access to their munitions; this time, it’s instant execution. For a stretch of my play-through, my store was empty (aside from ammunition). Losing out on better weapons is something, but I was hoping for differences with the game’s missions. In fact, as an example of how little has changed, in one encounter on my first play-through I opted to disable a bug to gain a friendship; my handler was disappointed at the loss of data but hoped it would all work out. This time I kept the bug in place and pissed off the new guy; my handler was disappointed at the loss of the contact but hoped it would all work out. The following sequences played out very similarly, if not identically, each time.

I’ll end it here by saying that the fun level is high and I’m enjoying the second play-through — perhaps more than the first. I feel very confident with my skills against the game’s challenges and am enjoying the different approach, even if I am a little worried about the eventual battle with coke-head Brayko. Not sure if there will be another review after this one; I have probably written everything that needs to be written (and then some). I guess we’ll see. 🙂

Alpha Protocol: Post 02

Normally I write a few posts as I go through a game. That way there’s a better sense of the progression of my opinion on a game. Unfortunately, while I did get my initial reactions down, I didn’t write any additional posts on Alpha Protocol while playing — and now I’ve finished the game. Alas, I will do my best to re-create some of the thoughts I had while playing.

But before I do that, I’ll start with the verdict: good, solid game. I had fun with it.

I went into the experience a bit cautiously. I knew it was to be a buggy, unpolished affair. But buggy enough to override my enjoyment? Some reviews I read said “I love Obsidian’s games, warts and all, but Alpha Protocol is a bust.” Others went more in the “this game is great, and could have been brilliant with some more QA time” direction. My opinion falls in the middle.

I didn’t feel there was anything uniquely “Obsidian” about the game. KotOR II, to name a few examples, had a new system for the henchman dynamic, added a crafting system, took the story in a new direction, added realistic depth to many of the characters, and hinted at an ending that, if only in the scripting notes, reached quite high. NWN 2, Mask of the Betrayer, and Storm of Zehir each added fun or compelling gameplay elements — such as the suppression of the inner demon in MotB or the overland map/trading of SoZ. Alpha Protocol? It really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. But again, it does bring a fun spy romp in a much neglected (in RPGs) setting (modern day).

Let’s dig into some of the finer points. I’ll start with a few comments on combat.

  • Konstantin Brayko. If you’ve played the game, then you know he is the showcase for awful, awful game balancing. This is a guy you can sneak up behind, part his hair, press your SMG firmly against his scalp, and unload two or three clips into his brain — only to sigh in frustration as he snorts some coke, spins around, and knifes you to death. Much of the game was balanced toward “not too difficult, you’ll probably need to re-load a few times here or there”, but there were definitely problem areas that were either incredibly easy or incredibly difficult. Brayko is the one thing in this game that makes me second-guess my desire to play the game a second time.
  • As a side note, the Brayko encounter really makes you re-think the concept of stat-based gameplay in a realistic world. Most people, in the real world, get shot once or twice and are dead; it warps your brain a little in Alpha Protocol when you routinely empty a clip, or two, into a guy’s chest before he dies — thanks to endurance (hit points), damage reduction, and damage rates for weapons. I think, were I the designer, I’d have spent a lot of time debating this and leaned toward different ways to balance the game, i.e. more weak opponents instead of fewer opponents with lots of health.
  • Last point about this: I think I also would have been happier if damage reduction were less powerful. When you unload a few head shots on a guy and he’s blasted to the ground, it’s disconcerting to see him get back up completely unscathed.

Which skills to choose?

  • In my first post, I mentioned that I hate making a character in an RPG only to later find out that the build I created is useless for the adventure. Shortly after making that post, I came to a point in the game (I suppose it was in the vicinity of the conclusion-of-the-prologue or the first mission) where I was allowed to completely re-make my character. Awesome! More games should do this. The bad news is that I was not anticipating this moment, and so I never experimented with skills in the prior area. As a result, my option was “play the same generally-feeble character you’ve used so far” or “try something random and new”. It would have been a total success had the game tipped me off that I’d have this option later on.
  • I went for a random, new approach and hit the jackpot on one of my three skill masteries. Stealth is almost literally a “win game” option. There are very few instances where stealth doesn’t work, and many, many instances where stealth allows you to clear a room of enemies with no risk. My other two skills were a minor hit — sabotage wasn’t an awful choice — and a miss — I did worse with my nearly maxed-out SMG than I did using an untrained shotgun or assault rifle. Even untrained martial arts were more effective. I’d like to have seen the weapons get a bit more balancing, and either make stealth a little less awesome or place more electronic devices that see through stealth.
  • Speaking of stealth, I think I had 24 seconds per use where I could travel unfettered and instantly kill as many people as I could reach before the timer ran out. The only downside was the 90-second cool down before you could use the ability again. Cool downs like these aren’t balancing factors, though, and I wish designers would realize this. All the cool down does is encourage you to put the controller down for 90 seconds and wait for the ability to recharge. If you want to use the cool down mechanic, you have to pair it with a hard limitation — i.e. there is a 90-second cool down and the ability can only be used once per encounter. But really, anything that encourages people to put the controller down is bad.
  • I plan to re-play the game and would like to try a completely new character, but there aren’t alternatives. Most games of this type have at least three or four routes through an encounter, if not more: fighting, hacking, stealth, or talking. In Alpha Protocol, there is stealth (fast, no risk) and fighting (slow, risky). True, there is a hacking route, but everyone has access to that — same with conversation. In other words, re-play does not come from how you craft your character (to be fair, there does appear to be a decent amount of re-play based on how you handle people and some situations).
  • I know Obsidian didn’t want to implement a conversation skill because then you stop thinking during conversations and always pick the one “right” option. But they could have at least required you to pop a few points into hacking before you could do any hacking. Then there would have been at least one other route.

Seeing the sights.

  • The game features a fairly standard BioWare-style layout. You progress in a linear fashion through a few checkpoints, you come to an open hub where you have three locations you can do in any order, and then you have a linear finale. I like that well enough, though I was particularly excited by the hub options: Moscow, Rome, and Taipei. Very diverse locations. Unfortunately, in the game, the only real difference is how the safe house for each area looks. Aside from that, I had no realization of which city I was in and all the missions bled into an indistinguishable mess. I’m not saying the missions were poor. I’m saying Rome may as well have been Moscow, which may as well have been Taipei, which may as well have been the finale location. But that’s how it plays out when you spend every mission running through warehouses and offices. I’m not going to complain about this too much, though. I know Obsidian struggles with scope and they definitely made the right, safe choice.

Talking to people is hard.

  • I struggled with the dialogue system. There are moments when the time passes too quickly to make a decision. For example, you’re speaking with someone when you see the options “yes” and “no” appear. Which to choose? The timer is ticking away, but the person is making statements and hasn’t even hinted at a question yet. Then, as the ticker is expiring, they ask you if you want to go for a drink. Oops, too late. You said “no”.
  • Or (to make up an example) the person asks if you’d like to go for a drink and your options are “sex”, “drunk”, and “hotel room”. Without any context, you have no idea what is going to happen by picking one of these options. You pick “drunk” because the character to whom you are speaking hates aggressive flirtation and “drunk” sounds the least perverted. But that makes your character say “I want to get you drunk and take advantage of you” and now that person is looking at you with disgust. Meanwhile, the other two options led to “I’m always up for a drink with the fairer sex” and “Maybe some other time, I think I’m going to relax in my hotel room.”
  • Maybe this speaks poorly of me, but near the end of the game I had two options during one dialogue: “Heck” and “wait”. I kept wondering to what line “Heck” would lead. Would I start cussing up a gosh-golly storm? It was only after the conversation when I realized it would have been a signal to a guy named Heck standing nearby. In another encounter the word “Dossier” popped up in the actions section, but I had no clue how information from the dossier would impact the scene. This is the perfect example of why the ME2 triggers-during-dialogue system is such an improvement.
  • The game provides a lot of information about characters. The idea is that the information is there to help you manipulate people to either like you or dislike you. I read it all but found most of the information unnecessary. Characters were somewhat simplistic and you learned to go with the flow. If a guy was excitedly rambling about torturing someone, then go along with it and you’ll be buddies before long.
  • On the other hand, I had trouble with some people and picking the right responses. I’d gain a too-hard-to-come by point (representing how well they liked me), and then another, but then quickly lose it right back. (And don’t get me started about the time where I was pinned down by guards and I shot one to save my life — only to be notified that one of my trusted friends was losing respect for me as quickly as I was losing health.)
  • I will say this: now that I know how the game plays, managing a second play-through will be much easier. I plan to deliberately make people hate me to see how that affects thing.

The Missions

  • There are several instances in the game where you’re forced to make a decision: save the girl you like or save a bunch of random people you don’t know. But make sure you pay extra close attention to which direction you need to go for each option, because that information is not repeated. I missed it the first time, then stood there trying to figure it out as the VO kept telling me to make my choice and the journal only said that I could save one or the other but not both.
  • Most missions are largely the same. Fun, yes. But uninspired. Start in location. Proceed to location. Shoot everyone who pops up along the way. Or sneak up on them and choke them out. Before ME2, I would not have thought twice about that. Now I think twice about it but because I enjoy the game, ultimately, I don’t really care.

The Bugs

  • Was it a buggy game? Yes. Was it badly buggy? No. Not at all. I had no serious issues. Yes, there were balance issues. Yes, not everything was intuitive. Yes, there were graphical glitches, awkward animations, and the save-game checkpoint system was less than ideal.
  • But when I think buggy game — buggy to the point that I don’t want to play the game — I think crashing, slow downs, sluggish controls, consistently broken AI, missions that can’t be completed, etc. And Alpha Protocol is not that kind of buggy.

Overall, I’d love to see patches and DLC and sequels for Alpha Protocol. I think it could work its way into a top-quality franchise with time. But will it ever make it? I think I remember hearing that DLC and patches were already out of the question. I’m not going to hold my breath for a sequel — but I will happily play it if it ever arrives.

Alpha Protocol: Post 01

Since finishing Mass Effect 2, I finished Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands and have been powering my way through Super Mario Galaxy 2. I also started up Alpha Protocol. I plan to write a single post referencing my thoughts on PoP, but before I get there here are my first thoughts on the Alpha Protocol tutorial in my traditional stream of consciousness style — based on about two hours of play. *spoilers for the first two-hours of the game beyond this point*

  • Ah, character creation. The moment when the game asks you to pick skills before letting you know what the obstacles will be. Here, I’m offered the chance to gain skill with a weapon. I get that there’s a supposed stylistic choice between, say, sniper rifles and assault rifles and martial arts. Rifles work from a distance, fists work from up close. And assaults rifles let you run-and-gun at in-between distances. Assuming I’ve played a game like this before, I should know which style I prefer — even if I don’t know what’s best for this game. But what are the differences, in regard to play style, between shot guns and pistols and assault rifles? And what about the other options? How important is toughness or stealth? What about sabotage? Are there a lot of instances for me to use a tech ability in this game? As can be said of every RPG, it’d be nice if we could at least try out the options before we’re forced to decide. Anyway, to get things rolling I pick shot gun and put all my available points into it.

  • On-screen instructions tell me to press [A] to pick up the fire extinguisher to break out of the opening room, but it looks like an [R] to me. I squeeze [RT] a few times before realizing it’s just a tricky font and that they want me to press [A].
  • A thug attacks me after my escape from the lab but I don’t notice any instructions on how to fight back. I try the usual [A] and [X] and [LT]/[RT] before discovering that the [B] button is used for attacks. I manage to survive a bit of a beat down. It’d have been nice had the game paused and told me what to do before the fight.
  • Everyone is skating (“skating” is when the character’s walk animation is out of sync with its movement speed, so the feet slide against the ground). The animation is jerky. The camera is jerky. This is definitely not Unreal3/ME2. For the record, I’m noticing it now but I fully expect that in 20 minutes, through to the end of the game, I’ll never again notice it or think about it. It’s not that important to me, but I think it’s worth noting.
  • Targeting with a gun is like aiming in a FPS (first-person shooter). That is, there’s a reticule on-screen and you move it with the left analog stick. I love FPS-style when I have a mouse to control the reticule. And I don’t mind it when the reticule moves smoothly and comes with targeting assistance (snapping to a target, larger bounding boxes). But in Alpha Protocol, the reticule moves very quickly and is a bit jerky even on low sensitivity. Compounding things, I move my reticule to someone’s upper forehead, shoot, and they don’t seem to take a hit. But I have it a little left of their leg, and they take a hit.

  • Yes, I died during the tutorial. Fear my elite skills. The game told me to sneak up on a guy and take him out with [B]. In most tutorials where you are assigned a specific action like this, the game doesn’t throw you a curve. In this one, however, I got to within 30 feet of the guy and he spun around and opened fire — alerting another nearby guard who also opened fire. I died before I could close the distance to the first guy. After the reload, I stuck to cover and moved more slowly. I took out the first guy without him spotting me, but his friend immediately opened fire again. I hid behind cover and took him out as he approached. Not quite stealthy like, I assume, the game was hoping I’d be. But it got me past the encounter.
  • Here’s another thought from the “all RPGs do this” category: everyone is running around with guns except for me. I take someone out and look down at his body and see him holding a gun. Too bad I can’t take it from him.
  • I sneak into an office and see a guy at a computer. He spins around as I get close. I hit him a few times and he pops up on top of the computer — out of my reach. He hits me a few times and I can’t do anything about it. I back up and, thankfully, he falls back to the ground. I finish him off. That’s two RPGs in a row (ME2, AP) where someone got stuck standing on a computer. Why not put an invisible wall around the computer and similar placeables that stretches up 100 feet?

  • Continuing that thought, I beat up the aforementioned guy-at-a-computer and there’s not a lot of room for him to fall so he does this awkward bend-in-half collapse. I don’t think yoga masters could have bent like he did. And just a few kills later, I spot someone else perform a similarly-bizarre death sprawl. This game could probably use a few animation limits/tweaks with their rag doll system.
  • How many times does an alarm activate and then get shut off before people ignore the shut-off? OK, OK — that’s another one to throw at just about any RPG with an alarm system. Actually, any *game* with an alarm system, RPG or not. But I find humor in mentioning it.
  • So far I’m finding combat more difficult than ME2, but I think it has more to do with my manual-aiming control than the AI or anything of that nature. The feedback also seems poor (I hit a guy with a few tranquilizer darts but he seems fine. I’m not sure if he’s got a lot of health or if I’m missing) but I’m thinking it might be because I don’t know the cues yet.
  • The alarm system mini-game is very easy but looking at a screen filled with swirls and such make my eyes glaze over. The following screen shot is for the PC version. I believe on the Xbox version, the puzzle is full-screen.

  • I found a guy running in place, stuck against a ladder. I watched him for a bit then hit him in the chest with a tranquilizer dart to see if his path finding was broken or if he was truly stuck. He kept running, so I figured he was stuck and put another couple of darts into him to put him out of his misery.
  • The story so far… A plane crashes, thanks to a missile that splits up into smaller missiles — each striking the plane. I wake up in a lab and must beat up guards to escape. Near the supposed exit, I’m told that this has been a test that all their agent recruits go through. I wonder how they extracted me from an exploding plane, and if that didn’t seem entirely too risky a manner to procure an agent. I’m later told the plane crash took place in the Middle East and it’s my mission to investigate. If that’s the case, then how did I get here and why don’t I remember arriving?
  • There’s a mini game for computer hacking that looks like a word-find puzzle — except that almost every square is rapidly cycling through bunches of letters and numbers. It took me a while to realize I’m looking for a string of six characters that aren’t moving (surprisingly difficult to notice considering everything is moving but them). It also took me a while to realize I controlled the left and right sequences separately; I kept targeting the right code with the left analog stick and then pressing the [RT] to select it (which returned an error). I admit the game told me that information, but I was still trying to grasp the concept of the puzzle when that information was revealed.

  • Appearance customization is limited, but I’m not disappointed and I like that I have a reasonably attractive character that I can’t mess up, like other games with their more extensive customization systems. Plus, it really allows for an “iconic” appearance that still has your flavor.
  • I’m in a room practicing using grenades. During the sequence I’m given a ricochet challenge. The game tells me to bank the grenade off the wall at the target, but I have no clue where the target is. The only interface information I see is pinpointing a location very near to where I stand. I assume it’s where I need to be to initiate the challenge (which is right), but I’m at a loss as to the target’s location and so I grenade myself. At least I didn’t die.
  • Later, I’m told hostiles are en route and I should set a trap with mines. Where are the mines in my inventory? I seem to only have grenades. Where are the guards coming from? Are they coming all at once or do I need to work my way through a level? How long do I have? What. I drop a few grenades near a door and run into a room. Three guards run in through the aforementioned door, uninjured. I beat two up before dying under heavy fire. I’m then rewarded with $20 grand and told I did well. I’d try again but there’s no option.
  • During the stealth challenge, I see a guard walking away from me. I crouch and sneak up behind him, but he spots me well in advance and gets a few shots off before I take him out. Am I doing something wrong?
  • Continuing on through the stealth sequence, I come to a zip line. There’s a guard below, looking up at me. I have no idea if I should risk the zip line or not. He runs for the alarm while I zip down overhead. I think it’d be cool if I could drop down on this guy but that doesn’t appear to be an option. He triggers the alarm, I beat him up, and then I disable the alarm. That seems like the incorrect sequence for a stealth challenge.

  • I’m graded each time I finish a challenge. At first I have no clue what the range is but I think it’s a typical 100-scale test. I ace the stealth test (???) with an 80-something. But my shooting test scores me a 51. I re-try it, taking extra effort to not miss and feel confident about my effort. Every time I hit [RT], something is dropped. I get a lower score.
  • It looks like I’ve finished the opening because a guy has been talking to me for the longest while and he won’t shut up. I’d tell him to shut up but RPGs have me well-trained to know that the longer he speaks, the more likely I am to be rewarded. He tells me that I can tell him to shut up, and he tells me how it can be useful to tell people to shut up, but I keep him talking and notice new rewards (like perks) popping up on the interface. I doubt if I’d be rewarded for telling him to shut up, being as that he’s the tutorial guy right now, but I suppose I should check that on a subsequent play through of the opening. Assuming I’m not rewarded, telling me I can skip dialogue while rewarding me for not skipping dialogue is mixed feedback to the player.
  • A few times, my player response pops up as “yes” or “no” while he’s talking. My timer is running low and he still hasn’t asked me a question. Finally he spits out the question and I’m left with about one full second to decide. It seems like there could have been a little extra time there. It’s not helpful to give the player his options early without also showing him the context.

  • We jump to a new location and the game saves en route. The guy starts yammering on again and I’ve decided that since the game just saved, I can reload later on to get this mission briefing. So I tell him to shut up so I can go to the menu and select “quit” but the games saves anew. Drats. Have I lost my mission briefing lessons? I guess it doesn’t matter if I’m going to re-play the opening.
  • Like usual, my observation may sound generally negative but I’m enjoying the game — especially since I’ve read, frequently, that the game picks up once you’re several hours in. It’s very similar in play style to Mass Effect: run down a hallway shooting things and using cover, hack some stuff along the way, and then chat up your friends for a while before repeating. I’m looking forward to putting some more time into it.