Why I Love: Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Rat rat rat rat rat rat rat

I’ll admit that I don’t know that much about Warhammer.  But I was craving co-op games and stumbled upon Warhammer Endtimes: Vermintide.  I got a close friend to play it with me, and then we got another person.  So there were three of us just playing this random weird game about killing rats in a cool fantasy setting.  It was good.  It was fun.  Still didn’t really get it, but whatever.

Then Vermintide 2 came out and then…for some reason we just got really hooked.  Actually, that’s not true.   There are good reasons why, and that’s the whole point of this article.  Sorry for being misleading there.

When making a game, you have to make sure it is fun at its core.  Unless you’re going for something artsy, you better have something truly enjoyable at the center of it all.  You need to make the game feel good to move and to do the actions you perform the most.  Mario’s jumping needs to feel good.  Celeste’s movement needs to feel right.  Miyamoto spent an hour just climbing trees during the prototype for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  The prototypes for Splatoon were just blocks of tofu shooting color at each other.  These are all Nintendo games and I am both sorry and not sorry for that.

So long as we can convey the game design using the prototype, most of the time the graphics can just be blocks.  It needs to be fun at its core.  So, what is Vermintide’s core?  First-person melee combat.  I know there are ranged weapons, and those are great too, but the melee combat is where it is at in this game.  

Each weapon type plays differently and they each have different sets of swings, chops, and stabs.  It’s fun mastering each one’s style and how to fight in frenetic combat.  When the game calls itself (well, it was called Endtimes, but I think it’s just called Vermintide now) Endtimes, it is not kidding.  There are tons and tons of rats and northlanders that are running at you.  Chopping with your axe and cutting through an enemy and then feeling your weapon get caught in the shoulder of the next is amazing.  Smacking a chunky chaos warrior and feeling your weapon get stuck in the armor.  Or swinging really wide with a sweeping weapon like a hammer and just smashing through four or more enemies at once.  These things are all part of the intense combat.  

But it’s not just slicing and dicing, just like its ancestor Left 4 Dead there are special enemies that fit really well because of their Warhammer background.  Aforementioned chaos warriors, assassin rats, ratling gunners, and more will keep you on your toes and force your team to work together. Bosses such as rat ogres will smash your party apart if you don’t work together and keep your wits about you.  

I’m not a person that really likes hyper violence.  Which is ironic because this game is exactly that.  And I do love the combat.  I feel like it’s the juxtaposition of us having to fight for our lives when the world is ending kind of situation that makes it not as disturbing to me.  I still feel bad about killing enemies sometimes.  Even chaos warriors.  Especially slave rats.  Especially when they burn to death.  Man, even blightstormers, which cast huge areas of effect storms that are annoying, I sometimes feel bad about killing.  Granted these people are pretty corrupt, but still…

The tension and relief design really feels like an epic fantasy adventure.  I feel like I’m in a war in the Lord of the Rings universe or something.  I don’t know of any game that does it better or comes close. Maybe Deep Rock Galactic.  But I think it’s the high amount of well designed, melee combat that really makes it great.  

While that’s all good, what makes the icing on the cake for Vermintide is how much the developers really care about their project.  Vermintide was a buggy game.  I’m not saying that it’s okay to release buggy games, but it says a lot when developers spend a lot of time actually fixing the bugs that plague their games.  There is constant progress on them fixing things, and you can actually feel the difference.  The disparity between the attitude of developers is sad.  I suppose it helps if the development studio is smaller.  It feels less like a boss saying, “Just deal with it.” and more like a friend that says, “I’m working on it.”  They feel so human.  And that’s good, both that they try and they’re clear they are doing so because they love their game, not just because people are complaining.  It means that when people aren’t complaining, they will continue to improve, and that is what really separates developers.

And that also leads me to the way they handle characters.  You can tell they love their characters.  Each character is so loveable and the way they interact with each other is entertaining.  Even now, after having played over 500 hours of the game, I’m not tired of any of the character’s lines.  I feel like they’re always adding new lines as well.  It’s something that I noticed the Path of Exile developers do.  It’s not always about adding giant blocks of content or fixing bugs.  Sometimes it’s about going back to old stuff and improving on it.  Without prompt from the players or anything.  It’s like going to an old painting and improving upon it.  It shows they really care about it.  Or they have extra time, heh.  But even then that means they’re still thinking in their extra time, what else can I do?  

Vermintide is one of the few games where I’ve played up to the hardest (non-modded) difficulty.  I love Cataclysm difficulty because it’s so intense.  You have to perform your best.  I believe I mentioned this before when I was talking about playing to just focus on something.  It really brings me out of other mindsets and just lets me focus.  If I want to just not think about depressing things I can just hop on cataclysm with my friends.  

Which reminds me of one last thing.  This was added later in the game but the Chaos Wastes update added a roguelite campaign and that has just extended the life of the game by such a huge amount of time I really feel like the game could be endless at this point.  And I don’t mind that at all.  It’s one of those games where if they kept updating it for the next ten years I’d definitely be playing it for the next ten years.  

I didn’t say anything about the classes or the talents.  I like those too, but what I really love about Vermintide is how it mastered the core gameplay of intense co-op combat and how fun and loved the game is by the developers.  I love the characters so much and I will never not enjoy this game.  It’s that thing where I love games, I love when other people enjoy games, I love teaching people to play and enjoy games, and I love when people enjoy making games.  

And there are all these elements about that in this game.  However, there is one…caveat.  And that is that this is a co-op game, and people can make or break the experience.  I am very fortunate to have a group of three to play with (which is rarely the case in other games for me),  and they’re a great joy to play with.  I hope that if you try this game you have some friends or siblings or someone close to play with, because it’s so much better like that.  Maybe the game only feels so good because I have a good group.  That’s very possible.  I apologize if it doesn’t end up as fun as I’ve written due to social factors.

I still think that the game design and character designs are great.  And I still stand by it by putting Warhammer: Vermintide II: (Chaos Wastes) at #33 on the ULTRA.  Huh, I think that’s one of the highest ranking games I’ve written a Why I Love on the ULTRA.  I think I write less on the higher ranked games because it tends to be more sentimental, but I’m sure I will write about them eventually.
Thanks for reading, and I really hope you enjoy the Skulls event stuff going on today!  Be safe!  And happy gaming!

Elise

2021.

Note: This is a really long round up, just so you’re aware.

This year I decided to go with a theme on what games I will be playing from the backlog, and it was Assassin’s Creed. I’m not sure why I chose Assassin’s Creed because if you know me you know I am usually peeved with Ubisoft’s cookie cutter design. And of course, their little thing in the beginning that says their team is “diverse” seems like a cheap way to try not to take responsibility of the problems that are still going on over there.

Regardless of all that, the journey through all the main Assassin’s Creeds games was an interesting one, because I get to see what they improved on, as well as what they didn’t really learn from. Currently, the latest one I have completed is Assassin’s Creed Unity.

The Lows of Assassin’s Creed

One of the low points is something that I’m sure all Assassin’s Creed players know about, climbing, I am lucky in the reasoning that I am playing these games after many glitches have been fixed, so climbing was relatively unglitched, but the system of climbing itself is really frustrating. Always jumping where I don’t want to, or being unable to grab that darn ledge diagonally even though it is RIGHT THERE. Randomly climbing when I did not intend to do so, especially while I’m chasing someone or in the middle of a fight. Those kinds of things were quite irritating. This frustration was slightly ameliorated by the changed climb up or down prompts introduced in Unity.

Another bad thing is stealth. Ironically, this is a huge thing for Assassin’s Creed, but I mean the stealth play after you have been found. Good stealth games provide enjoyable gameplay after you’ve been spotted or recognized. Either that, or they might as well just straightway cut you off from the mission. This is not really something that Assassin’s Creed handles well (so far). Too many times if I get spotted, I can still go on, but instead of some cool escape, I am sent dozens of guards that overwhelm and I can only watch myself be slain. I can run and hide of course, but the climbing system frequently gets in the way a great escape. While there have been times that I was able to make a dazzling escape with my tools and climbing, they are far exceeded by the times I’ve been foiled by unwanted jumps, falls, or unusually sharp AI. I definitely make my own mistakes and they can be the reason for my demise, but it should be pretty obvious when I want to grab a ledge to my side, I want the ledge to my side, not the one below. I know you can grab it, Ezio, and that’s what makes it really frustrating.

Ubisoft tends to do this typical thing where they tell you to do something, and sometimes when you do it, you fail. If you display yourself as an open world, the player should be able to expect to make their own way around things. Another unfortunate happening is trying to do those things, and…being told you’ve failed. Chasing enemies, but not being able to cut them off by taking shortcuts in the open world city that you’ve become accustomed to because you know it better now, and then being desynchronized, which is pretty much failing the mission in the series, is not a very pretty thing to see all the time. (That…was a sentence.) It is common in Ubisoft open world games to fail because you’re trying to be creative in it and it is still a thing in Assassin’s Creed. Some of the newer Far Cry games are bit better at this though, but there are some definite and unique problems for those as well.

The friggin’ unconventional storyline. It’s possible to have a good, unconventional story, but I’ve found it to be way more bothersome here than needed. It was alright in the beginning, but it got more and more convoluted and flipped inside out on itself. It could’ve been a simpler thing about an eternal war between Templars and Assassins, but they bring up this semi-futuristic world and how it connects with that war and it gets so out of hand. The story about Templars vs. Assassins itself is quite alright, it’s just the weird disconnection every time you are removed from that that doesn’t feel okay. In Assassin’s Creed Unity, they kind of get out of your hair mostly in that, so that was nice.

“True ending” if you spend 1,000 of your life’s hours. These should not be a thing. There can be true endings by choosing different choices, but don’t make a true ending because you didn’t collect every speck of your parent’s dead ashes.

Menus in menus in menus. Map icons. Reward-based collectathons. Everywhere.

The Highs of Assassin’s Creed

Okay, let’s talk about the good stuff. Climbing. BUT ELISE– I know. I know what I said. I’m saying climbing again here because I think it’s rather impressive that they’ve been able to make a system that allows you to climb on pretty much every single ledge in the game. Even though it can be pretty wonky at times, we weren’t able to have something this versatile until The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m sure a random reader could point out another as well, but they’re still pretty scarce. So, I still commend them on this.

Your tools and abilities are pretty fun. I like using firecracker distractions and smoke bombs. All the classic sneaky stuff all play out pretty well. Ranged weapons are mostly okay. Most of them are super satisfying, but they’re fairly limited because we should be using melee like an honorary assassin. (I mean, it’s not really like that, but still.)

I do like being able to visit different time periods and locations. If you’re like me, history becomes very muddled about 100 AD to 1800 AD. Playing through all the different times in between those two ages helped me learn a lot. I know some of the stuff is in just for gameplay or aesthetics, but it also raised interest in those time periods for researching myself: something that is highly valued here at Game Praisers.

Ship sailing. There are only two Assassin’s Creed games that have won any sort of personal awards for me. The first Assassin’s Creed earned an Honorable Mention because of it’s breakthrough and impact it made. The second Honorable Mention is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The ship sailing gameplay is actually really fun. It was quite refreshing to go through and sometimes that’s all I really wanted to do. This makes sense, as Ubisoft is supposedly also making Skull & Bones, which is Assassin’s Creed but mostly, if not all, sailing. I mean, if they ever finish that. Assassin’s Creed Rogue also was a sailing game in a similar vein, but I liked Black Flag more overall concerning story and characters. Also, by the time I finished Rogue I was pretty seasick. Still fun though.

In conclusion, this journey has been great to see how a company has and has not changed over time, and I think there is value in being able to see that. However, I would not personally recommend doing this unless you actually, really, really want to do this. I like doing stuff like this, and I would not want anyone to do this out of obligation or anything. I will continue my journey through Assassin’s Creed next year simply because I tend not to quit on my plans.


But that’s not all I played this year. I played filler games to make sure I didn’t die of monotony.

Time for the list of games that deserve mention, in order of when I completed them.

Crysis: Warhead and Crysis 2

More Crysis! These two games were really enjoyable, but I really loved Crysis: Warhead because it was literally more of the first game. The new weapons introduced were really fun. Crysis 2 was also pretty good, but it for all the changes it made, it didn’t feel super amazing. It’s still a good game though that is fun. Crysis: Warhead earns an Honorable Mention.

Yoshi’s New Island

The underrated Yoshi game. I love the visuals, but I can understand where the low ratings are coming from. It all feels very simple, but what I love is that it still carries the Yoshi’s Island feeling from the SNES. This game earns an Honorable Mention. Admittedly it’s because of more of an emotional thing.

Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2

It took me this long to get to Halo. This is what happens when you like too wide of a net of things in life. Both of these games get an Honorable Mention. The first game gets it because of the cultural wave it brought with it. I remember people downloading the demo on school computers and playing them secretly, or even not secretly with the teachers. Honestly though, it doesn’t hold up well, especially the campaign.

Halo 2 was where multiplayer got really crazy and I remember all those LAN parties. Oof. That was insane, but the campaign is much better and more interesting. It feels more than a thing attached because they wanted a platform for multiplayer. This game gets the Honorable Mention also because it’s better overall as a game, not just emotinally.

Celeste 2 and RAYKA

Two really tiny games that came out this year. Both of them great in their concepts. Celeste 2 is a mini Celeste game just like the original started. Who knows…maybe something will come of this. Just kidding, I think they’re working on other stuff right now. But just as enjoyable as the other Celeste games. RAYKA is one of those concepts that only work because it’s a small studio and has very little red tape in the way. It’s a first person shooter that kind of reminds me of Game Boy Advance style FPS games. However, there’s not too much I should give away because that’s part of the fun of it.

You can play Celeste 2 here and RAYKA here. UNFORTUNATELY, because of something…in the game, there are spoilers for all the fun right at the page for RAYKA. But… ..oh well. They both receive Honorable Mentions, but nothing more because, like a certain frog, they’re too darn short.

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

…I already wrote an entire article about it. It’s a lot to explain, but in the end, great game. Not overrated. Some games deserve the praise and this is one of them. This game made the 12 Bests list and is currently #89 on the ULTRA.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

I have a fear of finishing series. If I get to the last one I have, or that is released, I hesitate to play them. But I finally got off my butt and played the last Deus Ex game that is available at the moment. This is the Game of the Year for me. I feel like it improved nearly everything that needed to be improved. Just when it felt like it might get tedious, it moved on. Great pacing, atmosphere, everything. Also Adam’s voice is still so great. The small, but hand-crafted and concentrated, open world feels really great and not too overwhelming. This game now sits at #5 on the ULTRA. Also…finally a Deus Ex game I feel like is better than the very first one in the series, nostalgia goggles and all.

Mortal Kombat X

A fighting game that doesn’t beat me to death on “medium” difficult. But enough to have fun and get better at. This is such a good game and I can see why people loved it when it came out. This is especially significant after Mortal Kombat (2011). This game is #169 on the ULTRA.

Quantum Break and Control

These games. I love them so much. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve been following Remedy since Max Payne now and I’ve seen their growth. I love the cinematic feel in Quantum Break. I love the Shawn Ashmore and the other actors. This is one of the few pieces of media that I think handles time travel really well. In fact, I use this game as an example of an ideal time travel design for story. This is #81 on the ULTRA.

Control. I am so biased. I can’t rate this game properly. I started playing this game during a difficult time in my life and it helped me a lot. I love the environment style and the lore. I melt at everything in this. The only thing that got to me is the Alerts. I thought there were like, side quests, but they’re just extra stuff to do if you want to kill things for rewards. So I got overwhelmed by them until I realized they weren’t side quests. The shooting feels great, movement feels great, characters super awesome. I sound like a kid. I’d go into more depth with these games that are on the ULTRA, but they deserve an article themselves, so I won’t go any further. Control is #6 on the ULTRA. I know the ULTRA is supposed to include emotional bias, but Deus Ex still comes out on top.

Hyper Light Drifter

This game is so cute, especially because it does the ol’ show, don’t tell. For the entire game. I absolutely enjoyed learning to navigate a dangerous and relentless world that is so beautifully designed. I found it a little difficult to be motivated to get all the secrets, but there are many and I think it’s cool that they are there. What really drove me to play this game a lot was the boss fights. I loved them so much. They were so much fun and really well designed. #168 on the ULTRA.

Risk of Rain 2

Risk of Rain, but it’s 3D. That’s…that’s literally it. #160 on the ULTRA. Still has that same, “It’s time for you to get owned and die in 0.5 seconds.” kind of thing. Still has that same fun too though.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

It’s rare to have a unique open world take, and this game is one of those. I really like the characters and the monster designs. Hunting feels great. It still has some older style open world designs where you’re chasing icons, but I am really overwhelmed by how well they implemented and handled this post-apocalyptic robot arc. #79 on the ULTRA.

Fallout: New Vegas

More Fallout. People say it’s so different from Fallout 3, but if we are to be honest with ourselves, it’s not. It’s more of the same gameplay wise. Story-wise it’s pretty stretched like the old cRPG days, and I think that is something people LOVE. And it’s definitely a good thing too. I think it does indeed improve on all things of its predecessor and deserves all that love the fans give it. However… it is so. insanely. GLITCHY. I’ve played glitchy Fallout and Elder Scrolls games, but nothing as bad as this. I don’t play with mods because it is the developer’s responsibility, not the fans, to fix all this stuff. The fans do great things for games like this, but really, the developer needs to be responsible. Save losses, game crashes, load glitches, movement glitches, all amounted to a game I could only put on Honorable Mentions because it is just that frustrating. The players should not have to suffer such annoyances that debilitate such a great game.

But in the end I will still respect that gameplay and recommend to anyone who loves these kinds of open world games.


There were a few other games that I played that did not earn any awards at all, most of them consisting of Assassin’s Creed. But…that was the year’s round up. I finished a good amount of games this year because I was a little more motivated. And of course, I am still playing Genshin Impact, because I love that game to death. Ironically, or perhaps unironically, it brought out both the best and the ugliest side of gamers the world has to see. I’ve seen such great support, and such great racism and colonist behavior, but in the end, it’s been great.

Was 2021 good? Does it deserve and Honorable Mention?

No. It is you who deserves it. You made it through this ridiculous year. I seriously can’t believe we had to go through another year of this, and it will likely last until at least 2023. In fact, you deserve to be on the top 12 for surviving this darn stuff. As gamers we have been through a lot, but even after all the hate and stuff, I commend the community for being decent during this difficult time and understanding how difficult it is to live life and make games during this time. Perhaps it’s because we’re all suffering and not just the developers that brings about this sympathy (or empathy) in the community. Although things seem frightening for game developers at this time, I feel like there is a lot more support for better work environments for women and minority groups in all of the industry.

Regardless, you did it, player! I hope you were able to enjoy a good amount of gaming this year and wish you fortune and good luck next year. Whatever your endeavors may be, even if they’re not gaming related, I hope you have the strength to carry on.

Elise

What Makes an ULTRA Game?

What are the determinant factors that trend on the Ultimate Loosely-Thought Ranked Analysis?  

I believe there are two main factors.  Is the game entertaining?  Games are entertainment after all.  Does the game provide a good gameplay loop?  How does it handle design and difficulty curve?  Does it provide more artificial difficulty or natural difficulty?  How is the game feel?  Is it just fun to play?  Is it just…fun?

Games that have a greater focus on entertainment are things like DOOM, Dungeon Siege, Megaman 2, Star Fox 64, and Super Mario Bros.  The stories are not really a huuuge part of the game. The story is a platform for the action to take place.  There’s nothing wrong with a game that focuses just on the fun!  You don’t need to be a tea-sipping fancypants to know good games.

The other factor is whether or not it is inspirational.  Do they have good stories and characters?  Is the world built and designed well?  How well is the player’s emotion directed?  What innovations are there?  These are games like Final Fantasy VI, What Remains of Edith Finch, Baldur’s Gate, Genshin Impact’s character arc quests, and Psychonauts.  Characters don’t need to be super deep.  They can just be fun, have great synergies, or present the world in a way that makes you think about life.  Stories don’t need to be entirely plothole clean.  You gotta use your imagination too!  

I am a little biased because I tend to lean towards more story-telling, world-building, inspirational games.  That’s just who I am, but all gamers are different!  And that’s okay!  There’s also a third mini-factor that I also recognize: the history and context of the game.  What did the developers have to go through to make this?  What was development culture like?  How have they approached this game in the franchise as compared to the past?  What artifacts and history lie beyond the game?  Game history is important.  I love art history, and I think video game history is just as important.

Something that I’ve noticed as we get near the top of the ULTRA is that the games start to converge on both ideas of entertainment and inspiration.  The top ones are usually brilliant at being both.  These are things like Dishonored 2, Celeste, Bioshock, Guild Wars 2, Starcraft, and Hollow Knight.  

I think video games can be such an inspiration and entertaining thing at the same time.  I feel the same for films.  Artistic vision backed up with great cinematography makes amazing films.

I just wanted to let you have a little more insight into the way that video games are seen in my mind.  Although I’d like to believe I have a lot of insight on video games, as it has been a focus and study of my life, this list is definitely not going to be 100% solid for other people.  That’s why we like different games. 

What are some foci that represent what you like in a game?  
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time! 

– Elise

Why I Love: Mega Man 2

Mega Struggle

…Why do I love Mega Man 2?  I looked back on this as it is number 130 on my loose list.  If you look at Mega Man 2, it has a lot of unnaturally rising difficulties.  Sometimes, you can’t even call it rising difficulty because it’s just straight up hard from the very beginning.  A few things are not very respectful of your time either.  I mean, I am very grateful for the E-cans and codes, because in Mega Man 1 you had neither of them.  If you died trying to figure out a level or a boss, you are also expending your time.  Now Elise, you mean you got experience right?  Yes, but we get literally nothing but that, and it’s difficult to find the game respectful of your time when it throws all that out the window because you had to try and figure out something that wants specific solutions.  Or glitchy ones.

So why do I even like this game?  Your top tier platformer gamers will be fine, but I would say the average gamer would have a hard time with game, this series even. So why do we like this kind of game that punishes us so severely for trying to figure out a design the developers do not explain?  Isn’t it partly the responsibility of the designer to make sure cheap shots like this don’t happen?  

Why do we like being punished so much!?  It’s not that we like being punished.  It is that we like climbing something rather difficult.  Although I personally DO enjoy the struggle of climbing a mountain, sometimes it is difficult to see that in game design.  The difficulty of designing a game like Mega Man 2 is that you are risking the retention of your player.  There are moments in this game where you may drop on one-hit kill spikes because you do not have insanely fast reaction times that are not normal for a human being.  UNLESS.  Unless you die to find out first.  Which again, is you spending your time to pay for something that blindsided you.

I guess we want the fight.  We want the fight of knowing that the designer is against us.  It is those games that have enough design in them to not push us over the edge.  Or games where the punishment is the sole deliberation of the designers in games like I Wanna Be the Guy.  They make it pretty obvious in that game that it is being unfair on purpose because that’s the point.  That game is a game where designs don’t matter as much.  The game will blindside you at almost every turn and in the end, the skill is some platforming, but it is mostly you remembering where the enemy will come from.

But Mega Man 2 is still on my top list.  I mean, this is the tops list.  It is some people’s favorite game ever.  Maybe it’s the exception that this game is old.  OR MAYBE.  Maybe it is mercy.

I mean, graphics act a little smoother.  The soundtrack is even better than the last one.  Lot’s of things are great.  But I think it is the added level of mercy in the game that makes it even better.  The game doesn’t reconcile with you by making the game easier than the last one.  It is still brutal, but there are always moments of mercy.  A tiny bit of health here.  A tiny bit of ammo there.  E-cans that fill your life to full can be used in times of desperation.

Climbing up a mountain without food or supplies is incredibly difficult, but so is climbing the mountain with supplies.  The difference is one is survival and feels unfair, and the other is a challenge.  That is what makes Mega Man so fun.  That is what makes Dark Souls so fun.  They crush us, give us some water, and then send us out to be crushed again.  Because of the bits of mercy here and there, it still feels like a game.  It still feels like a challenge, and just like a challenge, when we overcome it we look back and say, “Wow.  I made it.  I really did it,” and not, “Ugh, I’m finally done with that. Let’s get out of here.”

Ironically, the artificial difficulty in these games is balanced by the complete opposite of what these games feel like: sanctuary.  And I guess that’s why I love Mega Man 2 so much.  Also the soundtrack.  Listen to that thing if you can.  I love it.  I mean, play the game if you can as well.  The collection is available on Steam.  

This is the Ultimate Loosely-Thought Ranked Analysis, and this was Mega Man 2 at number 130.  I’ll see you next time!

Why I Love: The Stanley Parable

You Read This Article

Okay, how do I say this?  I guess I could just say it like this: The Stanley Parable is a first person adventure game, and I very, VERY, highly suggest you play it before you read this article.


You can go grab it here, where it is, as of this article, at $15 USD base price.  You’ll want to play it multiple times.  There is also a demo available on the page, if you want to do that.

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So, this game is one of those games that really reaches out as to what a video game can be like.  It does this without trying too hard.  There are games that want to have such a unique idea that they find one, but then they keep pushing it to the point where it is not really a good game.  Or they keep trying to shove new ideas in until the game is a mess.  It’s okay to have a lot of cool ideas in your game, but don’t force it.  It has to fit.

The Stanley Parable does not do that.  This is a game where you play as a man named Stanley.  Stanley works in an office, and one day his computer screen does not show its usual display and so Stanley must look for his higher ups to find out what’s going on.

However, what makes this game unique is that there is a narrator telling you what to do.  Now obviously you are Stanley, and you as the player are free to do what you wish.  That disjointed collaboration between you and the narrator is what makes this game so special.  Let me emphasize this as well: this does not just make it unique, it makes it fun as well.

A lot of games trying to be unique tend to leave behind the fact that games are meant to be fun or perhaps inspiring in some way, whether that is artistically or philosophically.  The experience that is played on in skits by comedy groups becomes something you get to play!  You decide whether or not you want to follow the narrative.  It also really helps that the narrator’s voice actor is absolutely wonderful.

This game sits at number 131 of the Ultra Loosely Thought Ranked Analysis.  

I mean, that’s it really.  This whole game revolves around this interaction with the narrator and I cannot say much more.  If the silliness of this premise is not intriguing, then maybe this isn’t the game for you.  However, as a game and experience I think it is something most people should play to see what it’s all about.  Play the demo at least.  It’s not my choice to make.  I’m just saying things.  It’s up to you.  In a way, we’re already playing the game right now, because I am telling you what to do, and you don’t have to do it.  For once in a video game, you don’t have to do what it says.


So…  what do you choose?

Why I Love: Metroid

Vania Begins

I would say I really started playing video games with the SNES and early PC games like DOOM.  I never really got into what Metroid was until Metroid Prime, and even more so with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.  It wasn’t until after that I actually went back and played Metroid on the NES.  During that time I took a step back to play other NES games as well and, I have to say, I missed a lot of good stuff.

Before Metroidvania games became more commonplace as it is today, I didn’t…play any.  I played Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, but only for like ten minutes.  So that doesn’t count.  Metroid and Castlevania are the main ancestors of the genre, and that is why we are here today.  I wanted to know what this genre was really about.  And it is about a guided open world. 

Metroid is a game with a large, 2D world to traverse.  You play as Samus Aran, the bounty hunter, who is sent by the Galactic Federation to stop evil people from creating a bioweapon using metroids, those jellyfish looking things you see in relation to the series.  The main thing about exploring the planet Zebes is that you cannot explore all of it at once.  There are always limitations, some ability, some knowledge, or some event that prevents you from exploring everything, and that is the biggest thing about metroidvanias that make them the genre they are.

Different items like suits or weapons open new places where you’re allowed to go, and they also open new locations in old spots.  In a sense, every time you get something new, you unlock content for what’s ahead, as well as everything you’ve done in the past as well.  I think that is one of the big appeals for the genre.  Your character’s growth is shown by what you’re allowed to explore.  You genuinely feel stronger and better.  This isn’t because it’s the only thing placed in front of you either.  It’s not like, “Hey, with this ice pick, you can now climb ice walls,” and then they place an ice wall like, in the next room.  It is more like getting an ice pick and recognizing the fact I can go all the back to the beginning because it’s one huge level.  All those ice walls I saw before are now applicable.  (Ice Pick is not an item in the game.)

This means there are only so many things you can do before you’re forced to move on or to discover the next thing for advancing the story.  This is the genius thing about metroidvania games, and in this case Metroid.  You do have a choice to do what you want, but the game can still guide you to progression.  If you feel too weak, you’re not going to go grind.  You are going to go and explore.  The replacement of redundant grinding with exploration is what makes metroidvania games so satisfying.  If you are those of the adventurous nature and would do this regardless of your character’s strength, then your exploring will be rewarded!  So there is a good funneling of gameplay loops for either situation. 

This does create an issue of backtracking, and each game and gamer has their own way of handling that.  It’s a matter of shortcuts, transports, or fast traveling.  Sometimes it’s up to you to decide when to go backtrack as well.

Proper gameplay loops should be fun or rewarding in all parts of the loop and I think Metroid does a wonderful job at that.  Being an awesome bounty hunter woman is definitely a plus as well.

Metroid is at number 132 on the ULTRA.  Things have shifted around the ULTRA since we last wrote anything.  That is my fault, because we haven’t…written much.  Thank you for reading this though!  We’ll see you next time!

Why I Love: Iji

Rise of Indie

I’m going to skip a bunch of games to talk about this game, and then we’ll head back up to where we were before.

I grew up playing indie games.  I remember playing Jumper and Jumper 2 by what is now Matt Makes Games.  I remember scouring the internet for Mario-clones and playing bullet hell games like rRootage and Tumiki fighters.  I remember being hyped for Jumper: Redux because it had multiplayer.  I was curious how big indie games were going to get.  Well, as we know now, they’re everywhere, but I really feel like there was that second surge of indies that, for me, started with An Untitled Story (also Matt Makes Games) and Iji.

Iji is a free, side-scrolling shooter made by Daniel Remar.  The protagonist Iji is a young woman on Earth where an alien invasion is taking place.  She is turned into a cyborg to give humanity a fighting chance against the aliens.  However, as you go through the game you learn more about the aliens.  You decide how to approach the invasion.  It’s up to you to bring peace or death.

Iji proved so many things to the indie world.  It proved there were great stories and lore in indie games.  It also showed a great system with the level up of skills that affects the way that you play through the game.  You can choose between two different weapon technologies (or really, both if you want).  There are exciting secrets that you can find if you were cheeky enough.  And, there is also a bit of a “choices matter” element to it as well.

I also love that it is kind of a balance between classic side-scrolling shooter and metroidvania.  Your choices for your skills can determine if you can reach specific places.  Hm.  I guess that is just like a normal game these days like Dishonored or something, but still.  It’s really well done.  I’ve never had problems with glitches.  It’s fun discovering different weapons and enemies.  The world felt very new because this deep world wasn’t as common in the indie world back then.

Let’s be honest, a lot of indie games back in the days didn’t have super amazing graphics.  I think that never having the most amazing computer until later in my life taught me that graphics don’t matter that much.  They are always icing on the cake, and a cake without icing can be very delicious.  Having the option of icing and what you can do with it has the potential of deliciousness though.  

Indie games and growing up with games on the SNES also taught me one more thing: how graphics can represent things.  These days graphics try to be real.  They try to literally be the thing that they are supposed to be, but back in the days you had to create a representation.  The graphics had to make you feel like it was the thing without completely looking like it.  And limited graphics really weeds out those who can’t do it.  Iji does whatever it needs to make it feel like what it needs to show.  I don’t need perfectly detailed Tasen aliens to know what they look like, because Daniel already got the feeling down and that is a beautiful thing.

Also, the music.  The music is amazing.  The entire soundtrack is so strong.  The very first sector’s song, Kinda Green, nails that perfect feeling of waking up in a changed world with changed abilities.  The beginning is soft, with a repeating background and a soft melody.  After two minutes, the music kicks it up with an electric guitar, but it’s still not too intense.  It’s still a slower melody.  The music feels just as apprehensive as Iji’s attempt to approach this new life, but she’s now on her feet and she knows she has to move on.  The soundtrack’s increasing intensity keeps up with Iji’s emotional ride as she has to go through the story and as you go through the game.

The sounds are all fantastic as well.  The different weapons and their crazy effects feel bright and new.  The small particles of debris and rockets flying around.  Every sound just brings more environment to what is now Earth under fire.  I also absolutely love the short lines Iji says as well.  It helps her feel alive, human, and malleable.

Iji is #55 on the ULTRA list.  There are a few indie games that are higher on the list, but Iji is such an amazing game I still recommend to anyone looking for something to play.  I am a very emotional person, and so stories and characters are always a strong point for me.  I also loved that the protagonist is a female who isn’t sexualized or has some sort of romance.  She just is.  

Iji is also very high on the list because I feel like it opened so many doors to understanding video games and that is very important to me.  It accomplished so much and did so much for me as a gamer and I can only show thanks for it.  Just like with films, I feel like the ones that help us become better people or better at understanding people tend to resonate the most with me, and Iji has done that.


If you want to play iji go to Remar’s site here!

We’ll see you next time on ULTRA!