It’s an that time of year: There are so many games and so many new systems to play with. We’ve got a lot to talk about, but alas, there’s nothing new on the horizon. It’s not always about the new and shiny though, so I don’t mean to frame this as a bad thing, it’s just… a thing. Looking forward, 2014 will be the first full year where we’ll have access to all of the new and old consoles. Still, I’m looking forward to playing what I have on hand!

Whatcha been playin’?

Thursday, 11:26 am – Gavin

Got my 3DS XL in the mail last night.  Didn’t get to play around with it too much beyond just seeing how it felt, but it feels generally well-crafted.  Looking at the screen size, I’m not certain I could have gone smaller than this.  It’s just such a good size and it doesn’t feel cramped, which is something I’m sure I would have dealt with if I bought the 3DS or 2DS.

Having never held a 3DS before, I didn’t know what to expect with the analogue stick.  It feels really weird, as “stick” isn’t really the right word.  It’s different from the Vita, or the conventional consoles, which have an actual protruding stick and roll on their own axes.  This stick doesn’t protrude – it feels more like a spring-loaded disk that is pushed in the direction you want it to go.  It still feels remarkably similar to a conventional analogue stick despite having a fundamentally different construction.

The lid snaps into place with a minor “click” sound, and I can tell right away that that is the weak point in this device’s construction.  The hinge has always been the weak point in the (X)DS’s construction, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it doesn’t feel solid.  It may be perfectly fine and will last forever as long as you’re not a psycho with it, but I will still be deliberately careful with it.  It only opens into one locked position, presumably for the stereoscopic 3D effect, but the ramifications of that are that once it’s locked into place, additional force pushing back on the top screen will strain the hinge’s structural integrity.  Obvious stuff, but something of which I’ll be mindful.

Shoulder buttons are much smaller than I expected – I guess I’m just used to the bumpers on the conventional 360 controller and Wii U game pad.  However, your fingers just sort of naturally fall to them.

As an aesthetic device, there is no metric by which this thing looks better than the Vita, which is a gorgeous piece of tech.  However, hinge aside (and there is of course the possibility that I’m worry about nothing with that), it does feel solid, no creaking or worrisome seams or anything, and the toggles and switches all feel substantial enough that they won’t be worry.  The buttons are smaller than on the game pad but that’s to be expected too.  Looking forward to giving it a go soon – waiting for a 3DS game sale before I go nuts, and I’m awaiting Splinter Cell 3DS in the mail.

Wednesday, 3:42 pm – Gavin

Speaking of games award shows, I don’t know why it slipped my mind, but the BAFTAs do have a games awards section, and it is significantly more logical and dignified than the VGX awards.  Here are the 2013 nominees and winners, and I have a difficult time disagreeing: http://awards.bafta.org/award/2013/games.

Wednesday, 1:46 pm – Gavin

Wednesday, 12:43 pm – matt

I feel its a reflection of our society in general, and the pitfalls that can occur when deciding to blindly follow a given person or entity.

the character begins his quest in what appears to be a chicken coop, clearly a trait one shouldn’t have as a leader is being a chicken. sadly all too many leaders have this quality and even sadder I guess for the sprites that follow. as the character gains more followers we see messages scattered throughout warning of the dangers of being a sheep like “no escape”, yet they continue trucking on regardless, no clue of where they are going – or where they have come from… venturing through bars, jails and other settings we see how focused our characters are on their master and completing their tasks, paying little or no attention to their surroundings. oh my god he’s turning them into a cult!

in the end the final boss isn’t a boss at all, but some crummy two-timing crook who hired the guitar player to lure hapless victims to his lair and decided in the end to f-over the guitar slinger also rather than paying him.

typical.

Wednesday, 11:18 am – Ricky

What I gathered was, the player character started to play a song on their guitar. They then walked through the world, and various NPC characters grabbed their instruments and followed along pied piper style. Then they get to some… bad guys house? And he took the whole crew down with a trap door.

Or I don’t know, this game is bonkers. Same difference.

Wednesday, 11:05 am – Gavin

Seriously.

Tuesday, 10:20 am – Ricky

Gavin and I discussed this pretty extensively on Monday morning, so I won’t dive too much deeper into my thoughts on the VGX. Suffice it to say, I agree with Gavin and Albert: They’re pretty useless, and we deserve better.

Btw, this Starbound game? I wants it. This video is evidence that every game should be a musical.

Tuesday, 9:00 am – Gavin

I’m excited for ACIV on the Wii U, acknowledging that it likely doesn’t bring much different to the table.  Every game play video I’ve seen so far shows it to be a beautiful game.  The only comparison for “realistic” games that I have is Call of Duty: Ghosts, which looks like butt, so I’m sure it will be well worth exploring.  I’m a bit too wrapped up in Super Mario 3D World right now, and I’m still loving every second of its immaculate level design.  As I’ve said previously, it gets more and more enjoyable the more people you have playing it, so I hope to get some quality multiplayer time in soon.

I also bit the bullet and bought a 3DS XL.  I’m expecting it to get delivered today.  $160 at Wal-Mart, figured that 20% off was as good as I would reasonably expect.  It’s unlikely that it would go on any spectacular special for Boxing Day here in Canada (that said, watch every bundle drop to $150 now).  I ordered Splinter Cell 3DS last night from Amazon, and will most definitely be picking up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds as soon as possible.  I need it in and around my brainspace.

I caught the VGX awards and it was the most cringe-worthy awards show I’ve ever seen and only reflected poorly on the industry as a whole.  I’m happy for any recognition that developers can get, but the VGX awards made no sense – there was no consistency in how nominations were handed out.  Take, for example, PC Game of the Year, which went to Gone Home.  Now, I have absolutely no issues with this, because Gone Home was goddamn spectacular and only gets better the more I think about it.  I didn’t play The Stanley Parable or Papers, Please, but I understand them to be great games as well.  But what are the criteria for nominating PC Game of the Year if you also include Battlefield 4?  Was BF4 that good a PC experience that it should be nominated as well?  What about Tomb Raider or Bioshock?  Both available on PC, both nominated for GOTY.  If BF4 is a better PC experience than them, then why wasn’t it nominated for GOTY?  Albert, I would note that Rome: Total War II likely wasn’t nominated because of how heinously buggy it was upon release, to the point that it was effectively unplayable.  It only became playable through frequent patching.  Even if it becomes a great game after that, I say that you can’t reward that lack of QC testing.  Sim City could have been a great game after patching, but you still need to acknowledge how badly it was screwed up from the start.

Same thing with Xbox Game of the Year.  It went to Brothers, but GTA V, Bioshock Infinite, and Tomb Raider were also nominated.  GOTY went to GTA V, but Brothers won Best Xbox game.  If Brothers was a better game than GTA V on the Xbox, why wasn’t it nominated for GOTY?  The Last of Us won Best Playstation Game over GTA V, but somehow GTA V wins best game of the year, despite not being the best game on either platform.  How is that even remotely logical?

Plus, let’s not overlook the ridiculousness that is Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon being named Best DLC despite the fact that it isn’t DLC at all, and the fact that there is a category called “Most anticipated game”.  Might as well throw an Oscar out there for Best Trailer.  Seriously, games industry?  You can do better.

Monday, 1:47 pm – Albert

AC4 seems like fun – and after some discussions with some friends – and reading many forums, I feel that since I’ve come this far with the series i’m going to play catch up. Revelations, then AC3, THEN AC4. To be honest by the time I get there i’ll get a nice discounted price for it.

Speaking of the GOTY discussions, the VGX results were —

Overall Game of the Year: Grand Theft Auto V

Best PC game: Gone Home [Albert Edit: What about Company of Heroes 2, Europa Universalis IV, Rome: Total War II?]

Best Nintendo game: Super Mario 3D World

Best Xbox game: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Best PlayStation game: The Last of Us

Best Handheld game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Best Indie game: Gone Home

Best Casual Game: Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Best Action/Adventure: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Best Sports game: NBA 2K14

Best Mobile Game: Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time

Best Shooter: BioShock Infinite

Best Driving Game: Forza Motorsport 5

Best RPG: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Best Fighting Game: Injustice: Gods Among Us

Best DLC: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Best Voice Actor: Troy Baker as Joel (Last of Us)

Best Voice Actress: Ashley Johnson as Ellie (Last of Us)

Studio of the Year: Naughty Dog

Character of the year: The Lutece Twins (Bioshock Infinite)

Best soundtrack: GTAV

Best Song in a game: “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” (BioShock Infinite)

Most Anticipated game: Titanfall

What do you guys think of award shows? I am torn where I would love to have the creators of games to have recognition but i’m not sure how they would create an award show that ganders any respect rather then be known as a “nerd fest”. I believe video games are a great entertainment medium but they are no where nearly as prestigious as movies or TV shows. What is funny is the video below…

Monday, 8:00 am – Ricky

This was a “real, adult responsibilities”-type weekend, so I really didn’t have much time to play games. I did get some more time in with Assassin’s Creed 4, but more with the mobile companion app than the actual game. It’s a great little piece of software: I can sit on my couch and access the pirate fleet minigame, sending my ships into battle and trading goods for cash that I can use later in the game. I can even help people on my friends list with their fleet missions. It’s an easy 10-15 minute experience, and since the missions take place in real-time, I can set-up my ships and leave the app alone for a few hours to do other things. This morning, I logged in for an hour of game-time before work, and felt pretty rich when I picked up my app-produced gold! I’m really looking forward to seeing how games like The Division implement real-time, in-game experiences with the companion app.

The game itself is still a blast, but I’m ready to focus on the story now. So far, I’ve been going through each island I’ve landed on in great detail, syncing with every viewpoint and finding all of it’s secrets. I’ve even been hunting animals so I can craft new equipment for my character à la Far Cry 3. Once I’m done with the island and its mission, I take my pirate ship – The Jackdaw – back out to sea, where I terrorize British and Spanish ships, plundering their resources (cloth, wood, metal, etc.) to help improve my ship.

The game is so much more accessible than Assassin’s Creed 3. In 3, I never once did a “homefront” mission, where you’d improve your home and surrounding village, which is comparable to raiding ships and upgrading The Jackdaw. I also never recruited my full “brotherhood” of assassin’s – which I zoned in on in Assassin’s Creed 2: Brotherhood – and that’s comparable to capturing enemy ships and building my fleet in AC4. In AC3, both of these activities were tedious, unnecessary, and often just plain old boring. Conversely, I’ve been ignoring most of the AC4’s missions in favour of exploring and expanding, which is how I played AC2: Brotherhood. The fact that AC4 “gets it” in this fashion has cemented it’s place in my mind as one of the top two games in this franchise. It’s still on it’s way to being number 1, but I need to spend more time with the story – both with pirates and in the modern day.

All that said, this week I’m planning a trip back to The Last of Us, so hoping to plug away at that some more on Wednesday. I’ll report back Thursday at the latest with more impressions. Hopefully we can also organize some GOTY chats too before the year is out!

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