This week it’d be careless of me to not join my fellow GFNer simpleek in celebrating all things Dragon Age! (Please do check out her great post on Dragon Age Keep.) I too have been looking forward to this game ever since it was first announced. And now begins the process of treading the Internet very lightly in the effort to avoid major spoilers about the game. And it is a process, let me tell you, because although our copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition is now resting comfortably in our household gaming stash, it’ll be several weeks before I really get to sink my teeth into it.
While out with friends the other night, a discussion about sharing arose. At first the topic centered around food and couples and the issue of “stealing” food from each other’s plates. The majority of folks (including my husband and I) couldn’t abide by the notion, saying that when each ordered a plate of food it was automatically implied that the individual meals would be consumed only by the person ordering. Food from one plate would only be shared at the expressed verbal request by the other party AND the food owner’s agreement to do so.
And then I proceeded to steal a french fry from my husband’s plate. Partially in jest. Partially because I wanted a french fry.
As the conversation progressed, the subject of sharing broadened to possessions, especially collections of collectible toys, comic books and video games. What were the boundaries to sharing (and by extension, borrowing and trading) then? With friends? With children (your own and others)? Each of us at the table admitted to having at least one thing/collection that we would not, under any circumstances, share with other people. My thing was video game controllers.
The other day I did an incredibly rare thing – I purchased a video game on a whim, without any forethought or questioning, without any rhyme or reason. In all my years of gaming, the act of purchasing a game has never been something I’ve taken lightly. I tend to play it close to the chest when buying games, preferring to stick with franchises I know and trust or games that I’ve thoroughly read up on and believe are worth my hard earned sixty dollars. But in the case of this very capricious choice, I went against my own rules and sensibilities.
No need to hold on to your butts here; the game I purchased wasn’t anything all that far-flung, just Final Fantasy XIII-2. Yep, that’s all, simply a Final Fantasy game. I turned on the Xbox, noticed its little sale ad on the homepage, and made the purchase. And I can’t explain why.
Though I’ve never watched FFXIII-2 in action, I’ve read plenty about it, and most everything made me want to stay far away from this most recent “Lightning” trilogy. Though I like the few FF games I’ve played well enough, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the series. I like turn-based combat fine, but my understanding was that the FFXIII games deviated from that norm in ways not terribly pleasant. TL;DR Final Fantasy XIII-2 was never on my radar. And yet here I am now the proud(?) owner of it, and I’m not holding out hope that I’ll actually have time to really sink my teeth into it in the near future.
I ask this purely out of curiosity. When I got into PC gaming, one of the biggest draws for me wasn’t so much the graphics power — it was the mouse and keyboard set-up!
My first attempt at playing with mouse and keyboard was the first Assassin’s Creed game. That was tricky. I felt like I was performing a masterpiece on the piano (and I didn’t get very far).
When I switched to shooters, I fell in love with the set-up and decided PC gaming was really for me. Using the mouse enhances your precision when aiming a firearm, and it feels incredibly natural to just point and shoot — the same thing you do every day on your computer when you click on something! Playing Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, and Borderlands 2 with the mouse and keyboard was really enjoyable.
Later, I even tackled DmC: Devil May Cry using mouse and keyboard, even though the series is really for PlayStation and a good old-fashioned controller. But using the keyboard not only to select a weapon, but also to click a specific move while holding it, was totally fine. DmC is a lot more challenging with the keyboard than Assassin’s Creed was, but by the time I got around to playing it, I was used to those PC controls and mastered them easily.
Now, I prefer mouse and keyboard for every game I play on the computer, no matter what the genre or gameplay style.
For the past week, I’ve been dipping into Bungie’s Destiny beta — just like the rest of the gaming world, it seems! Although I’ve only had time to play for about five hours so far, I’m already hooked and eager to see what else the game has to offer. Here are my thoughts so far…
New Science Fiction IP
As a huge science fiction fan, I’m always on the lookout for new sci-fi worlds to explore. That’s why I’ve been so eager to see what Destiny is like — it’s a brand new sci-fi IP!
If I had to compare Destiny to one other world, I would say it reminds me most of Star Wars — yet it’s totally unique. There’s some mystery to Destiny‘s world, and the presence of the Traveler — a massive sphere in the sky that enables people to colonize other planets in the solar system and equips some with special powers — reminds me of the “magic” of the Force.
Destiny has an intriguing science fantasy world that leaves a lot for players to explore and unravel. I’m very happy that it is a world with warmth, which makes me want to spend time there. There are some post-Apocalyptic landscapes, jumpships that add to the sci-fi flavor, plenty of tech, and some special powers that feel almost like magic. It’s a unique blend that I talk about a lot on my blog here.
Destiny lets you customize a character — an automatic win for the role-player in me. You can choose from one of three character classes and one of three races, each with male and female options. I chose to play as a female Exo warlock. The Exos are a robotic race, while the warlock class is the equivalent of the mage class in other games (or, like, an Adept in Mass Effect).
The character creator itself gives plenty of attractive options without going so far as to allow customized noses and jaw lines and all that. You choose your gender, one of several face shape options, your skin color, eye color, hair, and tattoos or headwear. Those are the main choices, and they’re all designed to give you a unique, good-looking character with minimal fuss. I played around with the engine creating characters for a while before finally settling on my Exo!
Toned-Down MMO Style
When it comes to games, I like to immerse myself in the single-player experience. The biggest issue for me is that the “gaming” aspect of playing with other people is very distracting from the role-playing and worldbuilding. That’s why I don’t typically play MMOs.
Destiny offers an experience that feels MMO-ish without overloading you. Some parts you play solo. Other times, you’ll be able automatically grouped with a couple of other players — but the game doesn’t shout this at you. Instead, you’ll just spot the other players hanging around the area with you while you do your thing. And having a limited number of people with you means you won’t bump into others all the time or feel the crush of the MMO crowd. Of course, you can choose to play with others during these times, too — I just haven’t yet.
I appreciate that the MMO experience is toned down, but I’m still not a fan. It breaks the immersion to see other players’ usernames floating above their characters’ heads, and it’s distracting to see other players jumping around the Tower and approaching quest givers alongside me. However, I’m sure I’ll get used to it, and so far, Destiny has been enjoyable (and totally possible) to play solo.
There’s a problem for me as a sci-fi video game fan: Most sci-fi games are shooters, and I’m terrible at shooters. I just don’t like them all that much. I find it much more engaging to try out different kinds of weapons, such as the daggers, bows, and battle axes in fantasy games — or better yet, throw some magic around. There’s nothing I like more than freezing an archdemon in Dragon Age. It is awesome. And that’s why I enjoy Mass Effect so much. It’s a perfect blend of science fiction polish and special powers (tech powers and “biotic” powers).
The good news is that Destiny offers fantasy-style character classes while still letting you hold a rifle. You can hunker down and shoot in a typical FPS style or play to your more unique skillset. Titans are heavy armor and weapon specialists, Hunters take advantage of speed and stealth, and Warlocks channel energy from the Traveler to cast special (almost magical) powers. The diversity of these classes offers something for everyone, and I can tell I’m going to enjoy the Warlocks’ “magic.”
Last Thoughts. . .
All of these elements create a very unique game, but it’s nothing if it doesn’t have the right energy. You might mix all of these features together and come out with a game that feels cold or methodical or slow — but Destiny feels right. You launch your jumpship from one location to another to take on missions in order, with the Tower always available to you if you need to grab supplies or upgrades in between. Having a little companion in my “Ghost” — a floating AI — is a perfect, personable touch. And even though it’s very early in the game, I already feel a sense of exploration as I land on these wasteland planets and start scavenging for supplies, fighting menacing enemies everywhere I go.
I have a feeling playing the full game is going to be a blast.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been tearing through the first season of Lost Girl, an urban fantasy television show originally airing on Showcase. That’s the Canadian channel that airs one of my favorite sci-fi shows, Continuum — so I was excited to see how Lost Girl played after I heard good things about it.
If you haven’t seen the show, here’s the gist: a woman named Bo, who has spent her life waking up to dead lovers, finds out that she’s actually a succubus — a supernatural being who feeds on chi. In other words, when she gets “hungry,” it means she’s horny — and when she sleeps with someone, she drains them of their life energy. But finding out who she is means meeting a whole world of other supernatural beings, called Fae. And she gets into all kinds of adventures as she tries to figure out who her parents are, where she comes from, and how she can use her powers to help humans rather than hurt them.
I kind of love the show. It reminds me of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars in the sense that it’s a show with female leads who are bold and smart and witty. The show revolves around Bo and her human sidekick, Kenzi, running their own investigative services for people dealing with potentially supernatural problems. It’s fun to watch a duo of women instead of the typical male “buddy” cop show. And like Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, their gender is really beside the point in their episodic dramas.
But seeing Bo run around kicking ass and seducing people to get information out of them — sometimes with a single touch — I started thinking how fun it would be not only to watch it all, but to play it. In a video game.
The power to seduce is often seen as an “evil” power in fantasy stories and comics, and it comes with strong sexist tones. Male heroes like Thor and Batman are faced with seductresses who nearly turn them evil or make complete idiots out of them — all because men are supposedly putty in the hands of a beautiful woman, and a beautiful woman can use the power of sex to manipulate men. I personally hate that trope.
Fortunately, Lost Girl turns that upside down. The main attraction of the show is the fact that protagonist Bo is a succubus trying to use her power for good. Not all succubi she encounters are like her — using seduction for selfish purposes is a lot easier and potentially more fun — but Bo has a good heart and hates hurting people.
One of the issues she faces early on is learning to control her power. She’s used to draining human men and women completely, leaving them dead in bed beside her. Now that she knows she is a succubus, her goal is to learn to control her hunger and take only the energy she needs. She might leave her lovers weak and tired, but at least they’ll still be breathing in the morning.
All of this would be excellent in a video game. First off, the video game could have all kinds of sex appeal, with certain characters available for seduction if the protagonist needs to “drain” information from them — or just create a himbo or something. I could see some players choosing a more “evil” play style that involves leaving bodies everywhere, while other players limit their feeding and use their wits to ask the right questions early on. This type of power would definitely lend itself to a new, creative type of thinking as players try to progress the plot.
The trick for the game developers would be in keeping the game classy. I’m not opposed to the game having a whole lot of sex scenes — that’s half the fun if you’re playing a succubus video game — but the game would feel cheap if players could just run around using powers to create their own porn game. It would help if the game limited how far random seductions can go, with several cinematic sex scenes built in that are actually integral to the plot, optional side quests, or part of a romantic storyline.
Another aspect of Lost Girl that would make a great video game is the divide between Light Fae and Dark Fae. These are two clans that live by very strict rules; they take care of their own, and they don’t cross into each other’s territory whenever they want. If a Light Fae kills a Dark Fae (or vice versa), you can bet it will be problem for the whole community — and depending on who is involved, it might even be considered a declaration of war.
When Bo is “discovered” as a succubus, she first has to pass trials to show that she is worthy of being accepted into one of the two clans. But when she passes these trials, she refuses to choose a side, instead aligning herself with the humans. This makes her a free agent in the Fae world, capable of associating freely with both but having no real protection from either side if something happens to her. Being neutral makes her homeless, at least as far as the Fae are concerned.
The alignment instantly made me think of a video game and how fun it would be to choose sides at the start of the story. Playing as a neutral protagonist would be fun, but I would especially love the replay value in choosing between the two paths and having different stories, follower characters, or side quests based on your decision.
Supernatural mysteries never get old. I’m a big fan of the Lost Girl mythology so far, which features some interesting types of Fae not often depicted in other urban fantasy/supernatural stories. And having Bo and Kenzi working as detectives in this world of weirdos — some of them terrifying — is a blast.
We already have a lot of supernatural mysteries out there. I saw several on the bookshelves earlier today, and they’re what make Fables so fun to read and The Wolf Among Us so fun to play. But each one I read or watch or play has its own flavor, and a succubus video game would already feel refreshing for having a unique female protagonist. Throw in some little-seen supernatural characters involved in some hair-raising unsolved crimes, and you’d have a pretty amazing game. I’d definitely waste a few weeks on it. =)
Video games have all kinds of effects on me. Some help me unwind at the end of the day; others totally stress me out. Some are easy, while others are so difficult I end up rage quitting. But this is why I love games — there are so many different genres, I always manage to find a game that suits my mood.
Weekend Morning Games
Specifically, I have weekend morning games. These are extremely special to me, because they are easy to play. Sometimes that’s exactly what I want. My favorites for weekend mornings are the episodic TellTale games, such as The Wolf Among Us, and dating sims. Immersing myself in the dramatic world of Fables or just goofing around with Chrono Days — that’s how I like to burn a morning while I have a pastry and some coffee on the couch.
Games With Rewarding Combat
I also have games that require quick skills and concentration, and I love those for how rewarding it is to get them right. It’s all about the gameplay style — and for me, that’s hack and slash combat. I like beat ’em up combat as well — it’s so similar — but hack and slash is my favorite because it feels much faster paced and looks so glamorous.
Devil May Cry is my favorite here. The series offers a challenging combat style, but it’s the only one that I have had so much fun with, I actually replay missions over and over to improve my score. And then I go on to play the more challenging modes you unlock after beating the game once. I may not be the most skilled player, but it’s a gameplay style I find really rewarding to practice. That’s why Devil May Cry has become my go-to series for when I feel energetic about my gaming.
When I’m Stressed or Tired…
When I’m feeling stressed or tired, indie games are a much better fit. I love playing little offbeat platformers or just burning up toys in Little Inferno. The less skill required, the better — I’m more interested in an unusual atmosphere that sparks my imagination. It’s actually been a while since I dug into these types of games, partly because my PC burned out on me. (I used to get all my indie games on Steam…) I will have to remedy that soon!
And then there are the games I like to play when I really want to game: RPGs and adventure games. They’re my favorites for their immersive worlds, epic storytelling, and compelling characters.These are my go-to games when I have lots of time to immerse myself in another world. I find myself replaying my favorites over and over — games like Mass Effect and Skyrim. I can’t get enough of those, and I have to admit, I’m pretty particular about them. While I have enjoyed exploring the rich worlds of Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, GTA V, and Tales of Xillia, at the end of the day, I have only a handful of absolute favorite RPGs and adventure games that I just can’t get out of my head. Those are the games that really make me a gamer, and without them, I probably wouldn’t have the job that I have now or be blogging here today!