Over the past decade I’ve lost count of the number of RPGs I’ve played, both from western and Japanese developers. I’ve saved countless worlds and faced down a myriad of gods, and though my love for the genre has not changed, there is one aspect of these titles I’ve come to loathe: romance. Continue reading Seething Hatred – Videogame Romances
E3 Highlights (For me)
A few hours delayed but I had to sort my ideas about this year’s E3 and catch a few more videos, demos and other bits of news. Then I had to make up my mind on which I thought were the best and which ones I really didn’t care about, and boy there’s a lot I don’t give a damn about.
Starting with the now tired notion of “who won E3?” Which is rather pointless, to be honest.
But let’s not get into that, and focus on the really important thing about E3, the games! Continue reading E3 Highlights (For me)
Dropping the Pen – The Storytelling Flaws of Jade Empire
I recently finished Jade Empire, one of the Bioware’s many big scale RPGs. It’s set in a fictionalised version of China, with rampaging spirits, demons and assassins. After going through it on a complete Let’s Play, I found my opinions of the game changing. As I took the nostalgia goggles off and saw the game for what it really was, I kept finding more flaws in it, more issues that annoyed me. Some were mechanical, such as the ridiculous amount of unnecessary and functionally identical marital arts style—with the odd nonsensical monster transformation style—and the combat system that never lets you create a single combo as your strikes push enemies beyond your reach.
But the one thing I have the most issues with is the storytelling, the writing in Jade Empire. I know it’s one of Bioware’s early RPGs, but it came after Knights of the Old Republic, a game that while still having its clumsy moments has tight writing overall. So I can’t just wave these issues away because of Jade Empire’s age. Continue reading Dropping the Pen – The Storytelling Flaws of Jade Empire
The Road So Far – Jade Empire
Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are gone. Lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more…
Someday I’ll turn these articles into awesome highlight videos with that song playing in the background, similar to Supernatural season finales. But as my editing skills more than suck, I’ll just write it all down.
A couple of weeks ago I resumed the Let’s Play of Jade Empire I’d started months ago. I picked the game up right where I left it, after the destruction of the Two Rivers School, hot on the trail for Master Li and Death’s Hand, the Emperor’s main enforcer and the leader of the Lotus Assassins. First I hit Tien’s Landing and took care of a lover’s quarrel between a man and an old friend, then went on to get our passage to the Imperial Capital. This I did by cleansing a forest from corruption, meeting a minor Deity and her Elephant-man bodyguard, beating down an entire Pirate clan and fighting our way through hundreds of spirits and assassins. You know, the usual stuff.
At the Capital, there were lots of things to do, but only did the Black Leopard school, finding a surprisingly charismatic and not totally demented evil teacher in there. If you see the video, you’ll notice my surprise when that happens, as just then I was commenting on how all evil guys in this game were totally predictable.
This week you’ll see more of the Imperial Capital, including a cameo from a certain very famous member of Monty Python. It’ll be a blast.
I’ve had a few things I’ve liked so far, and others I’m not a fan of, and you can consider The Road so Far a mini-review that I’ll build on over the course of this Let’s Play:
- It looks beautiful, even for its time. The settlements have tons of details, particularly the Imperial City with its gardens and fountains, and the waterways coursing along the streets. I love how ghosts look, how you can see through them, the ‘veins’ in them.
- It has an interesting cosmology that combines primordial spirits, the balance of the universe and the Chinese Pantheon, The Celestial Bureaucracy aka Tai Di.
- The over-the-top names for everyone, from Sagacious Zu to Sun Li The Glorious Strategist. It reminds me a lot Legend of the Five Rings.
- The women in this game have no self-respect, no self-esteem and no self-anything. They all instantly fawn over a pretty word. Dawn Star is the worst, she has no notion of self-worth beyond what you tell her and she even says so. It’s painful to say the least.
- I know that writing cryptic characters is difficult, but there is a very definite line between cryptic and obtuse. Most major characters in Jade Empire are just obtuse, refusing to give any information. It’s not even thinly veiled, or with any misdirection. It’s fairly obvious what they mean if you just pay attention.
- There are dozens of martial arts styles…and most of them are useless. From the transformations—that don’t make much sense—to the couple dozen hidden styles and scroll-fetch-quest ones, you’ll probably ignore most of them and just upgrade the core two skills: Leaping Tiger and your weapon of choice.
- Combat is a constant catch-up thing. Every combo pushes your opponents out of your reach, breaking up your rhythm and the flow of battle and forcing you to get close to them again.
- A follow-up, combat is shallow. You can beat every enemy by just mashing buttons. Dodging is almost pointless and I only use it to get behind enemies, not that it has any effect on them, they turn around immediately.
As the Let’s Play continues, I’m sure I’ll think of more good and bad things about it, or change my mind about a few of them.
If you haven’t seen any episodes, check out the videos on this post and don’t forget to keep an eye out for The Mental Attic’s YouTube channel, for new episodes at 9:30am GMT, Mondays to Fridays!
Dropping The Pen – The Storytelling Flaws of Mass Effect 3
When people think of storytelling and Mass Effect 3, they immediately think of the highly controversial ending, where all your choices up to that point boil down to a three-door scenario: control, destruction and fusion. The endings themselves aren’t bad but they commit the serious crime of wrestling control away from you, making all your choices be in vain.
But we’re not here to talk about the endings because to be fair, that subject’s been beaten so much it’s no longer a dead horse, it’s an undead one. Instead what I’d like to focus on are the other often-ignored shortcomings in Mass Effect’s writing, be it general storytelling or characterisation. There are good things as well and I’ll make sure to mention them, of course. Continue reading Dropping The Pen – The Storytelling Flaws of Mass Effect 3
The Preorder Nightmare
Last week Ubisoft reported that Watch_Dogs had broken the record for most preorders, a week before its actual release this Tuesday. That simple statement somehow made the hype for the game even crazier, most likely leading to even more preorders. Continue reading The Preorder Nightmare