Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Housekeeping (and more Dead Space)

I took some time this evening to clean up my game queues a bit. I need to get organized as I'm falling behind and 'tis the season for decent new releases...

Dead Space is getting most of my console gaming attention. I have 2 friends who are playing Warhammer (the MMO) with some regularity, so I want to keep active with that. My Facebook gaming has slacked off a bit, but I still feed my D&D:Tiny Adventures addiction, play Wordscraper and Scramble with a couple of dedicated friends, and achieve the top achievement (cyborg) on Word Challenge once a week so I can impress my friends.

I really want to dig back into Midnight Club: Los Angeles because I love the game and it was starting to get to the really fun parts (cooler special abilities; cooler ways to pimp my cars). But, I'm backlogged on games I need to play for research purposes:
  • No More Heroes, Alone in the Dark for a Wii game.
  • Fable 2, Fallout 3 for an RPG.
And then there's Gears of War 2, which I don't really care much about -- except for the fact that everyone I know is going to play MP, and I do enjoy going through the co-op campaign on "insane" with friends.

I'm having a feeling I'm going to need to give up on playing through more of Half-life 2 (episodes), the Portal DLC, and GTA IV (which I was really starting to like).

I still need to play Call of Duty 4 and I just updated my "on my radar" section by replacing NHL 2008 with NHL 2009. Woof.

As far as Dead Space goes, I'm definitely starting to enjoy it more and feel like finishing it. It took too long to really get into the game -- and it wasn't until I basically decided to specialize in two weapons and just power them up that combat became fun. The game really doesn't support experimentation with different weapons because you die too quickly before you can figure out how to use them. The game also doesn't support pick-up-and-play because the controller scheme is so hard to remember -- and there's no in-game controller screen to remind you. 

Although I do wonder whether my main motivation to complete the game right now is because I'm over the half way mark, I think that the environmental and combat puzzles have gotten interesting enough to keep going. I do like the world, even though I haven't really been following the story. The zero-g portions of the game are pretty interesting and fun. It feels like it captures what combat in a true 3-d space would be like without being unduly frustrating. 

I've also started having more fun with the "grav gun" which can be very rewarding both in terms of item acquisition (grabbing far away things) and combat (firing explosive tubes or sharp body parts at enemies).

I still feel that the econ and upgrade system is clunky. Moreover, the progression curve is unsatisfying because instead of being exposed to cool new items and upgrades as part of the adventure (e.g., 1 hour in have the pistol; 2 hours shotgun; 3 hours machine gun) I just end up unlocking the ability to purchase these weapons without really trying them out first and seeing them in their best light. When my choice is between the unknown (which, when I first try it I fail at miserably) and upgrading something I'm already familiar with, I tend to go with the familiar.

Unlike other games that structure the experience around the acquisition of a new item (give me a rock, then surround me with scissors) this game presumes that you can decide which weapon you need based on a vague 2 sentence description. Then, after you buy the weapon, you don't have much chance to use it in a carefree way. The game is stingy about ammo drops and there are no sandbox areas where enemies (and items / money) constantly respawn.

Games like Ratchet & Clank do a great job of layering on new gadgets and weapons as part of the core progression path. They are integrated into the story and into level and enemy design. There's an economy backend that supports upgrades and non-critical path items, but resources are so plentiful that you're not really screwed if you end up buying something you don't like.

I'm basically sticking with the pistol (Plasma Cutter) and shotgun (Force Beam) and upgrading them and my armor. I don't even think I use the alt-fire on my Force Beam (I can't even remember what it is). I noticed that one of the achievements is to complete the game with just the Plasma Cutter. I actually don't think it would be that hard to do so.

I'll keep plugging away and hopefully finish it this weekend.

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