Tag Archives: Quick Game Impressions

Persona 3: Wowie

So I have been in a bit of a gaming rut. I am stuck in AC2, and I really had the need for something low key gameplay-wise. Something new. Or old. Or whatever. Just something that didn’t test the boundaries of my twitch reflexes on a few hours of sleep. That was when I thought of handheld games… cause handheld games NEVER have anything more than turn based strategy (she said ironically holding her PSP and God of War: Chains of Olympus). I happened to be in an EB, and saw Persona 3.

Persona 3 is by Atlus and I loves me some Atlus. This game is an odd combo of your typical turn based JRPG. Your character is a typical high school student: you know, the kind that has a busy social calendar by day and fights demons at night? That kind. What makes the gameplay interesting is it’s a JRPG combined with a social simulator. One of the many ways to power up your summons is to strengthen social links: friendships you create and maintain during your daytime life as a regular high school student. 

If at the outset someone would have said that it’s a social simulator on the one hand and a JRPG on the other, I would have thought that the social sim would have been the worst part of the game. I am happy to say otherwise. This aspect of Persona 3 can be a lesson in game theory. You only have a certain number of actions that you can take in this part of the game, undertaking any action advances the clock and calendar and you only have one in game year to complete the game. There seems to be too many social links, I don’t think it’s really possible to max out them all. This pressure fits in nicely with the narrative. Will you go to volleyball or attend student’s council? Walk home with a friend or go to your part time job? Will you study for your mid-terms or get a much needed decent night’s sleep. It’s actually fairly intense, and makes you feel like the student who is just taking on too many priorities.

The relationships that you form also provide layering to the narrative; the summons (personas) that live inside of you are strengthened by relationships with others. It seems as though your persona colours your own personality. For example, your volleyball team mate is too intense for the rest of the team. they want to go on dates, she wants to hit spikes. The social links that you create with her strengthen The Chariot summons: the most powerful of the personas. Her intensity is due to her inner persona. The story that is told while ranking up in the social links are well done. We see high school students who are all at odds with themselves and they all feel out of place with their classmates and with the school. It does bring back memories of high school, all that drama and awkwardness.

The other thing that I note with this game is it has a really, really odd ERSB “feel”. It’s rated M, yet it;s very high school. Supposedly you can have sex as part of the storyline, but that’s only after maxing out a certain social link and it’s blacked out. Also the way in which you summon a persona is by basically pointing a gun to your head and pulling the trigger. Shards of blue ice fly out like blood. Oh, I mean they call the gun an “evoker” and say that it’s not a gun… but it’s a gun. This is the first time I have seen something rated M for what so far seems like an art direction decision. I am not complaining, not at all. It does look fantastic and it does highlight the intensity of what you are doing. You aren’t fighting baddies by waving a magic wand. No, no, no. You have to shoot yourself in the HEAD.

It’s also odd in that parts of the game seem “rated T”. For instance one of the battle cries a guy says “Come here you son of a…” instead “Come here you son of a bitch.” It’s just weird.  I am not convinced that the translation was really done properly. One guy talks about his drunk father and he says that his father used to spank him, when I *think* he should say his father beat him. It’s an important difference, one is a form of discipline (no matter what you think of spanking) the other really is child abuse.

Anyway: so far, it’s one kick ass little (actually, really big) game. Highly recommended.

How about you guys? Have you been surprised by an aspect of a game that you weren’t sure you would enjoy, but it turned out to be the best part of the game?

S.P.E.C.I.A.L: Fallout New Vegas!

Can’t talk: Fallout: New Vegas.

Okay… I’ll take a few minutes from skulking around the Mojave Wasteland to give a few thoughts on the game.

First: this is more than a re-skinning of Fallout 3. There is a new skill: survival; and this new skill highlights the main difference in the feel of the game. Fallout 3 you were in a city. Yes, a broken battered city but it had an urban feel. This game is much more rural, even though there is more infrastructure.

In Fallout 3, when you picked up clutter, it really was clutter. You could sell it or find someone who would give you caps for the clutter in some sort of side quest, but it was mostly worthless stuff. In this game any piece of junk you find can be converted into something better. That something better might be simple “Gecko on a Stick” but there is that scavenger feel. I pick up something and I really don’t want to get rid of it. Resources are so scarce that everything has a value and everything can be used.

The other difference is in you faction alliances. In Fallout 3, your Karma determined how people reacted to you. In this game, people are more out for their own interests. I don’t care if you are the devil incarnate: if you are saving *my* town from other baddies, you are fine by me. Again, this brings a more complicated feel to the game. More “everyone is out for themselves.”

As for my character, I decided to go with a more Role Play feel as opposed to a min.max. In other words I am playing what feels right, not what makes logical sense. Truthfully, I think games are becoming so complex, playing a true min/max character is becoming more and more difficult. In order to really make the optimal character, you have to plan so far out ahead, choose perks that compliment each other without knowing how they work and so on that it seems like WAY too much work.

But anyway: my character is a bit of a 98lb weakling. High Agility (9), Intelligence (8), and Luck (7). Perception is at a 6, Strength, Endurance, Charisma are at a 4. Initial perks: Guns, Sneak, Repair. This girl is gonna sneak up and get ya before you even know I’m there. Or so the thinking goes. As for perks I took the Wild Wasteland, which is basically a bunch of easter eggs. Why not have fun with the game, right? This is also a Vegas game: so you NEED to have Luck and silly things are supposed to happen. I also took Intensive Training (for another SPECIAL point), Small Frame: the one that boosts agility but makes it easier to loose limbs, and Swift Learner.

I am interested in the Survivalist skill. I think it’s going to be very useful, but I didn’t initially tag it as one of my main 3.

How are you fining the game so far? What build did you go with and what are your initial impressions?

Do you Trust Advance Multi-Player Reviews?

Halo reach

Well, see the problem with multiplayer advance reviews is.. umm.. see... you just aren't enough of a jerk. (image courtesy of IGN)

In case you have been living under a rock: Halo Reach has dropped and the reviews are kinda sorta positive. Like mind-blowing, bust-a-nut positive. But does that mean you actually trust these advance reviews?

This is not a slam against the game reviewers or their sites. These are presumably honest men and women who are big enough to get advance copies of the game. This means that they have proven themselves, and that means that they are generally not cheaters.

We should also take reviews for what they are: one person’s opinion at one point in time. The “one point in time” thing is what concerns me. AND as I mentioned, the fact that these people who are reviewing, are NOT the type to be cheaters.

When reviewing an advance copy, the reviewer is in a rare situation. She or he is playing multi-player with a very select group: in this case a group of pro reviewers. It’s almost like playing a custom game with friends: you play with you know, and these people all have the same goal: in this case to kick the tires and see what the game can do.

The problem comes once we compare this scenario to real life. Once the game hits the tray, it’s thousands, if not millions of games being played that first week. It’s the mass of cheaters who are really good at finding, and exploiting weaknesses in the game. It’s the sheer number of hours being put into the game from so many different  shows us where the problems are in-game.

The advance review of multiplayer will tell us some things about the game, but it can’t tell us if the true multiplayer experience is one worth having. In short: it’s not the expertise of the reviewer that will tell us the worth of multiplayer, it is the drooling masses that will expose the problems.

Quick Game Impressions – BarStar for the iPhone

I’m a sucker for local talent. I like Canadians and I like people who feel genuine passion about their product.

So when someone named, @barstar tweeted me, saying that if I liked Plants vs. Zombies (I do), I should try BarStar, my interest was slightly piqued. When I found out that they work practically down the street from me, well I decided to give them a shot. Why not? What have I got to lose? Let’s help that Ottawa  job market one app at a time. So a week later, I downloaded BarStar for the iPhone.

BarStar - Featuring Chase in red; Artie is behind the bar.

Bottom line: It’s a great little app.

BarStar a time management game. In this case, our heroine, Chase is a waitress at a bar that she and her brother, Artie have inherited. Chase has to check IDs, take orders, show people where the bathroom is, take in cash and a myriad of other tasks. Artie has to mix drinks, as well as pour wine and beer. And you only have a certain amount of time to do all of this AND make a certain amount of money. Give someone a wrong drink: it’s game over. Take too long, customers leave the bar.

Over the days and weeks, you can earn enough money to purchase upgrades to your bar. A bouncer will check ID for you. A DJ will keep the dance floor hopping. You can magically make Artie and Chase perform their tasks faster. And so on and so on.

The controls are very simple, intuitive and responsive. Press where you want to go, drag your finger to the selection. Done.  The screen for the iPhone does not show the entire bar, but this adds to the difficulty. You have to keep scanning left and right to make sure a customer in the corner isn’t getting mad. The difficulty ramps up nicely, some levels have quirks, and force you to play the game differently.

It’s fun, it’s cute and it also has that pick up and go-ness that is important in a handheld game. I can play a level in a few minutes while I’m waiting in a line up or whatever. There is a mix of long-term strategy (what upgrades do I purchase?) and simple “in-the-now” gameplay.

I also like Chase as a visual character. She is beautiful without being exploited. She’s also the brains behind the operation. Artie is also decently portrayed. He’s a bit geeky, but not as annoying as I feared. My only criticism is that I can’t necessarily replay a previous level. That is merely my game play preference.  But hey, it’s an iPhone app, its meant to be fun: it is. If that is the only criticism I have: so be it.

I say, if you are looking for a pick up and play game on the iPhone and you have already downloaded the usual suspects, give BarStar a try, and let me know what you think!