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Jul 04 2008

Games that don’t suck

It’s been a while since I’ve played a game that’s really drawn me in.  For a while I played Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and, despite its endless content (with downloadable plugins and content created by the user community), sandbox world style gameplay, and certain absolutely brilliant modifications that alter even how the game engine itself works, I eventually lost interest.  It might have something to do with my being such a completist that I spent most of my time playing every single side quest and getting every single item and upgrade I could, ignoring the main plotline.  That’s probably my biggest problem with sandbox games — they don’t hold my attention for long enough for me to actually get around to completing the plot.  For instance, despite greatly enjoying the series, I’ve never completed a Grand Theft Auto game.

(way more below the fold…)

Recently, I played through Final Fantasy 12, and while it was certainly different from every other Final Fantasy game I’ve ever played, it was a really involving game — as long as some of the Massively Multiplayer RPG conventions that they borrowed don’t annoy you. It could be considered a semi-linear game with a lot of extras and sidequests once certain areas are opened up.  There are roughly twice as many bosses that are optional, than there are bosses between you and the end boss in the main plot.  But as things only open up to you as the plot progresses, you don’t have the full, open sandbox world until you’re one tick away from completing the game — at which point, generally, either I put off fighting the last boss until I’ve competed everything else there is, or I fight that boss and lose interest in the game immediately afterward.  With FF12, the latter.

So obviously I tend toward role playing games, mostly due to there being so much content, so much strategy, so much brainpower used.  I certainly prefer them to FPSs, though there are a few of those that are masterpieces in their own right.  The Half-Life franchise, for instance, is far and away more intelligent than a lot of other games I’ve played.  And Portal has my undying devotion, as I’ve pointed out in a previous post.

My latest dabblings with modern games are leaving a sour taste in my mouth, though.  I tried out SimCity Societies, and while I’m sure it has its own pros and cons, it’s a vastly different game from SimCity, and getting over that is a bit difficult for me.  I expected to put down some power generation, some water generation, zone a few areas and put down some roads — but what’s this, you have to pick every single building out yourself?  And, some buildings don’t use power, they use “creativity” or “authoritarianism”?  I have to build things like ice cream stands, and murals?  I’m sure the game would be fun, taken on its own, but it’s awfully jarring to have to fundamentally rethink how the whole SimCity franchise works.

Another game I tried for a while but ultimately wouldn’t buy, is Assassin’s Creed.  Beautiful game, a lot of thought went into the plot and all the little details, the controlls are really intuitive and easy to get used to, but the game consists of doing the same thing over and over again (spend fifteen minutes riding to a city, rescue citizen by killing a dozen guards, do a stupid footrace to collect flags, rescue another citizen, protect an informant who cowers at the first sign of trouble, pick an idiot’s pocket, find a vantage point to synchronize your map so you can find more citizens, informants, pickpocket marks and footrace challenges) until you finally get permission to go after your real assassination mark.  As much as I’d like to see how the framing story plays out, I just can’t bring myself to keep playing when very little about the game’s mechanics, or the challenges presented, ever changes.

The only game series that I’ve played recently and haven’t mentioned thus far, is probably my favorite.  The Sam and Max franchise held my interest beginning to end, owing mostly to it being an adventure game with some particularly insidious puzzles, and its sense of humour and pop culture references throughout.  Sam and Max deserves its own post, though, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

So, what games are you playing that don’t suck?

11 comments

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  1. 1
    clifton

    I’m sticking to sports games for the most part. I suffer from the same affliction regarding grand theft auto. Do you still watch wrestling? I’ve almost completely lost interest.

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    Nope. I think I’ve decided that sucks too. It wasn’t a meritocracy so the people who deserved to be pushed never got half a chance. And even the ones who deserved a chance, turned out to be roided out assholes who killed their families. Besides, the storylines were absolute shit after McMahon secured his monopoly. And I didn’t like what they were doing by desecrating ECW’s memory.

    I suppose the wrestling games were okay. Some of them better than others.

  3. 3
    Miranda

    Nathan sucked me into WOW, I love WOW, WOW keeps me entertained, though I admit, it probablly wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if there were not so many people I know that are actually playing it. Playing a preist (which I do almost exclusivley) isn’t as much fun without Nathan’s warrior there to stop the big nasty monsters from hitting me, when your a preist you tend to be crunchy and good with ketchup.

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    I played WoW for a while. Was a troll mage, and a gnome rogue. It honestly didn’t hold my interest. It’s just another MMO, filled with idiots, and way more “work” than “fun”, what with grinding for items, grinding for experience, grinding for honour once you hit level 60. Played Lord of the Rings Online as well, for a while, having gotten sucked in by Jodi, her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend all playing at the same time. It was fun for a while, but suffered from the same flaws as all other MMOs — the goal isn’t to keep you playing because it’s fun, it’s to keep you playing as long as possible so you keep paying monthly. There’s no real sense of completion with it either, which I often have to have to feel like I’m accomplishing something with a game.

  5. 5
    Miranda

    It is fun when you have someone to play with. If I had to play by myself and only have to deal with the arseholes that populate the game I wouldn’t play WOW much either, but I play with Nathan and that is always fun :)

    Oh, one of my fave PS2 game series is the Sly Cooper series, a little cartoony but very fun.

  6. 6
    Jason Thibeault

    I haven’t ever played the Sly Cooper games, but I’ve played the Jak and Daxter games, which were pretty good and came out at around the same time. For some reason, I always think of Sly Cooper, Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank as being pretty similar, just because they all had ad buys on TV at around the same time frame, and they all ended with that PS2 “shwoop” noise.

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    Aww, I loved Jak and Daxter lol I wish they had continued with more games. I didn’t find Ratchet and Clank quite as interesting in terms of the storyline, but the sheep-o-nator gun was entertaining enough to keep me playing for awhile haha
    Hmmmm….. I’m not sure I’m qualified to say I really like Half Life too because I’ve only ever really watched you play it, but that’s ok, I like to play the part of the co-pilot ;)
    I always enjoyed the Myst series, particularly because I also read the books, but I think I became a bit over saturated by games that were just like them that I played while waiting for other Myst’s to come out. One day I’ll pick up those last two in the series that you bought for me though :)
    I’ve always been a Bond fan, but mostly only for the multiplayer levels, and of course once you play those over and over you kind of figure out all the hiding spots and it stops being fun. Teri, Nicole and I used to spend hours playing TWINE though… ahh good times haha.
    It feels like there’s some game that’s missing that I should be mentioning but I can’t quite figure it out. Oh well, I guess that’s it for now. :)

  8. 8
    Me

    Call of Duty for the PC. Yes I know it’s nothing but shooting things. But that’s not the appeal of it. They are games I can startup, play one quick level for some relaxation and then shut em down. Or sometimes when I am feeling like an asshole I like to see how long I can shoot my own side before the computer kicks me out of the game. This takes skill because you can’t just walk up to one of your own players and shoot them. You have to do it from a position where it seems accidental. I prefer games that allow you to play for 15 minutes or 4 hours, depending on your mood. I don’t play online games for the same reason I don’t partake in team sports. Too many others taking things personally. It’s just a game and is supposed to be for my amusement.

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh “Bob”. Racking up friendly frags on purpose. So true to character! When I want a 15-minute game, I’ll turn to most anything from Popcap Games. Bookworm springs immediately to mind.

    I’m sure you probably want to say something about Syberia or The Longest Journey or some other adventure game, Jodi. Or maybe Sam and Max. :)

  10. 10
    Jason Thibeault

    lol, I like listening to you play Sam and Max, but I don’t really want to play it myself. The Longest Journey was pretty cool, although the fact that they had a second Longest Journey doesn’t exactly make sense ha.
    Syberia was better the first time I played it.
    I really enjoyed HeadHunter on the dreamcast, and there was something similar, with monsters and what not Blue something I think. Oh and Dino Crisis was pretty cool too. All of those were kind of Resident Evil-esque survival. Scary stuff but ok to play in daylight with lots of other people :|
    One day I’ll rent Siren for you and you can play it while I’m not in the house lol

  11. 11
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh I forgot to say, I used to like playing with the Age of Empires game builder for the same reasons that ‘Bob’ mentioned above ;) Whenever I needed some stress relief I would load up the game, create a simple flat map, give myself the max 150 units of cavalry and give the other guys 10 little pikemen. Then I would start the game and go mow them down :D Ha, it always made me feel better.

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