Phil Savage: Opening the Gates
I don't think a Baldur's Gate expansion is a 'low', necessarily, but it is... well, it's weird. It's one thing to enhance a 16-year-old game. It's another thing to add some new characters and quests for that enhancement. It's a whole other thing—different to those first two things—to announce a full expansion for that package. I don't really get it.
Why BG1, for one thing? Yes, it's still great—and Beamdog's Enhanced Edition was fine—but two was superior in almost every way. Specifically in the way that it shunted you further along the D&D power curve, giving you much needed extra utility with wizards. Hopefully it'll be good, and I can use the presence of a big, quality RPG expansion to quell the confusion I'm currently feeling.
Chris Livingston: I am terrible at refunds
We all know Valve recently began allowing refunds of Steam purchases, and we all know how necessary (and years overdue) this change to their policy was. It’s basic customer protection: if you don’t like a game, and if you’ve played fewer than two hours and purchased it fewer than two weeks ago, you can acquire a no-hassle refund.
I think this is all good, but I’ve begun to notice the effect it’s having on me and my habits, and I think it might be a negative one. I’ve bought a number of games over the past month, and if I haven’t liked them I’ve returned them. The issue, for me, is that I’ve been returning them perhaps a bit too quickly. “Oh, I don’t like that feature.” Refund. “The four minutes I’ve played haven’t been the best time I’ve ever had.” Refund. “That opening logo lingered a bit too long for my tastes.” Refund.
That’s obviously an exaggeration, but I think the ability to get a refund is resulting in my not giving games much of a chance, or at least not as much of a chance as I used to. Granted, I’m buying and trying more games than I would otherwise, which feels like a net positive. The fact that I’m returning a game if something rubs me the wrong way my first time trying it, though, doesn’t seem like a good thing. As a wise dandruff shampoo commercial once taught me, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” But I think I need to allow that first impression a bit more time to impress me than I have been.
James Davenport: Tell a new tale
This was technically last week, but holiday weekend in the States and all—Minecraft Adventure Mode, Telltale’s episodic expression of the omnipotent block-building game,received its first trailer at Minecon.
Once upon a time, I was one of Telltale’s most loyal bannermen. PAX ‘09, I orbited their booth, attended their panels, and bought all the Bone games on compact disc because I like having objects that take up space I’ll never use. But now, even though Telltale has found success in their formula and writing, I’m not sure if I give a damn about making dialogue choices and dodging objects between hitchy jump cuts anymore.
If Minecraft: Adventure Mode has anything going for it beyond the writing and casting, it’s that the game already looks like garbage, so it’ll nest nicely in Telltale’s stinkier, older, more garbage-y engine. Phew. Hyperbole? I’m not sure anymore. Rather than get excited about Telltale working on new properties, I’m nervous. They took Game of Throne’s harsh realism and, due to their engine’s age, made it look like someone spilled water over a troubled kindergartener's painting. How am I supposed to involve myself with a serious narrative if I can’t even take how it looks seriously? If I can expect to repeat the same interactions every two months or so? I find myself nervous instead of excited for new property announcements.
The success of Tales from the Borderlands only bolsters my complaints. In it, Telltale jabs fun at their own formula, riffing on narrative ‘choice’ and QTEs. If they’re satirizing themselves, I can only hope change is imminent. But today, I won’t worry about hoping, I’ll just wait and see. I am grumpy. Harumph.
Andy Kelly: Survivor series
This week I’ve played three incredibly similar Early Access survival sandbox games, and I’ve had enough. Yet these are some of the most popular games on Steam. People just really love waking up on beaches, hitting trees, and then being killed by other players, I guess. I’ve played DayZ for over 200 hours and I love The Long Dark, but my affection for these games is dwindling rapidly. It was a genre I always wanted to exist, but its sudden popularity is a curse, because now you can’t move on Early Access for survival games. The biggest problem is that very few have original ideas, and I no longer find the concept of merely surviving that interesting. I’m interested to see what Dean Hall’s new sci-fi game is like, though. I think the genre has a lot of potential, despite its gene pool becoming increasingly crowded.
Samuel Roberts: Inquisition, halt!
This week I picked up on some old news via some current news: Dragon Age: Inquisition’s future DLC will only come to PC and current generation consoles, rather than older platforms. In Phil’s story on this I learned that BioWare was restricted by having to make the game for PS3 and 360 too—less enemies on screen was the cited example. Inquisition is a brilliant game in and of itself, but I can’t help but wonder what differences that could’ve made across the board if BioWare was able to make an RPG without being restricted by old tech. I guess we’ll find out with Mass Effect: Andromeda. On the plus side, too, maybe this means the next Inquisition expansion will be the grandest yet.
Tyler Wilde: A jug ‘o nog
Evan said something that made me laugh this week: "It depletes my mineral and vitamin stores to look directly at the phrase 'the Juggernog Edition'" It really does feel uncomfortable to look at. Just pronounce it a few times. Juggernog. Juggernog. Ugh. I hate egg nog. Now you've got me thinking about jugs of the crap.
The Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Juggernog Edition, by the way, comes with a functional minifridge. For your Dew, I presume. And this Fallout-looking fridge (Perk-a-Cola? That's a Call of Duty thing?) is just what I was talking about earlier this week: Call of Duty has no identity. Usually people buy collector’s editions because they want to collect stuff—figurines of their favorite characters, maybe—but I don’t have a favorite Call of Duty anything anymore. It’s like buying a fridge and a game comes with it. Er, it is that.
I’m not mad about it. Sell all the fridges you want. I still like Call of Duty (it's so passé to hate on Call of Duty, isn't it?), I just have no enthusiasm for it. It’s so content being an ‘entertainment product’ that, even if I think the multiplayer might be fun this year, or I might enjoy the new Zombies mode, I’ve started to think of it as an appliance. Maybe it’ll be a good fridge, but it’s still a fridge.