Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Played Lately: Phantasy Star Universe

  • Just now I had to stop myself from typing "Phantasy Star Online" for the title of this post. If you've played both of these games, I'm sure you'd understand why. Phantasy Star Universe is essentially PSO II but with a prettier name, a prettier look, a prettier single player mode, and the exact same gameplay that they launched with way back in the heyday of the Dreamcast.

  • Fun Fact: Phantasy Star Online was the game that influenced me to purchase a Dreamcast!

  • I've actually owned PSU since it came out on the Xbox 360, but it was never a game that stuck with me. The single player game is fun, if a little shallow. My difficulty with the game is in the online mode. I just can't bring myself to pay $10 a month to play an online game with no depth by myself. A $10 subscription that you can't cancel without calling someone to do so. How in the world does Microsoft not have online account maintenance options? Sad.

  • I see I've ranted there. Sorry. It really is a fun game in a sort of mindless way. There are many entertaining and colorful ways to cut through your enemies and earn new items and experience points. And it is all very pretty. Sometimes, that's all you really need from a game.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Random Shots: Vented Frustration As Greenhouse Contributor

  • Work. Was there ever a more fitting name for something? I hear people stay that you should love your work or that you should find a job you enjoy. But if I did that, would it still be work? Or would that fact that what I love is now work, would I cease to love it?

  • The elections just keep zooming along. The Republican side looks all zipped up at this point, so the Democrats have been where the fun is at now. It is interesting to see people starting to fall in line behind Barack Obama now that they have a presumptive opponent. It's kind of nice to have an election that's not just a referendum on the current administration.

  • I haven't been blogging much because I've been doing "other things." Like playing World of Warcraft with my brother. Like watching The Wire and Doctor Who. Like reading actual books like Snow Crash, Grave Peril, and now Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets.

  • That last bit was one of those weird ventings where one complains they have too much to do and not enough time to do them. If only my problem was always having too many choices.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Played Lately: Mass Effect

  • Played Lately might be a misnomer in this case. It's more like Played Somewhat Recently. However when discussing a game as great as Mass Effect, there is no difficulty recalling everything I enjoyed about it.

  • I don't often play video games to completion. Sometimes I get bored with a game that goes on and on for too long (for instance, the later Elder Scrolls games). Many times the difficulty of a game ramps up beyond the level of challenge and straight into stupidity. At this point I give up in frustration and never play again, even if I was enjoying myself up to that point. Mass Effect made none of those mistakes.

  • The game is set in a distant future wherein humanity has reached the stars only to discover they're the new kids on an already crowded block. Your character is a soldier under consideration to become the first human Specter, the super agents of the Systems Alliance. What starts as a simple shakedown mission turns into a fight to save all life in the galaxy.

  • I'm going to get all the bad stuff out of the way first. Yes, the hidden load times are pretty stupid since the Xbox 360 hard drive can't be counted on for caching. Yes, the inventory is a pretty outstanding mess. And yes, the exploration missions can be very, very repetative. (I got to the point where I'd crest a ridge, spot a flat open plain before me and my first thought was "Thresher Maw." And I was always right!) The effect of all these problems is to keep a great game from being an outstanding game.

  • Bioware gets a lot of deserved credit for the great stories they tell. Mass Effect has a genuinely involving story that exploits the sci-fi setting to the fullest. I even enjoyed the romantic subplot that I usually shy away from since I normally play female characters. I was so excited about the attention my Commander Shepard was receiving that I couldn't deny her a little happiness.

  • On the action front, this game does everything that I loved about Bioware's prior game, Jade Empire. The action was fast moving and involving while holding true to its role-playing game roots. And it made me feel like a bad ass, which is the whole reason I play these games. If I wanted to feel like a chump that tripped over his own feet, I'd just play Real Life(TM).

  • So I unreservedly recommend Mass Effect. If you like role-playing games and you like science fiction, you will very likely enjoy this game. If you don't, I don't want to know you.