For much of gaming’s history, the first half of the year is a desolate wasteland, devoid of any notable new releases. However,it feels as if the winds have changed over the past few years: although there are still periods of feast and famine, we’re now getting bigger releases in the first months of the year.

Arguably the first big release of the year is Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition on PS4 and Xbox One. This is a remastered, redone, higher resolution version  of the same game that came out last March – one of my favourite of the year. It looks really good, and if you don’t have a high-powered PC (and certainly, if you haven’t played the game before), you’re probably interested in this remake.

Or maybe not. I mean, it IS the same game that came out less than a year ago, and it IS full price. Tomb Raider isn’t the first game to get this kind of treatment – Game of the Year editions have become pretty commonplace over the past few years. You’re almost guaranteed to see a “full package” version of a game that includes all of the DLC and bells and whistles. Granted, Tomb Raider is offering graphical changes for new systems vs. DLC packaged in, but the principle is the same: Square Enix is trying to get more cash for a pretty package.

How do you feel about “definitive” and “game of the year” editions of games?

Friday, 1:20 pm – matt

disappointing news coming from Toronto with Ricky’s decision to finish The Last Of Us on an easier game setting. 15 year old Ricky is screaming at you right now.

as a gamer who elects to play on the harder difficulty I have to say so am I… 🙂

Friday, 9:34 am – Ricky

That’s a great way to put it – I just want to enjoy the story, so I’ll put it on a level of difficulty that lets me do that. DX:HR was just more upfront about it, and I like that. Maybe I would’ve avoided some frustration and stop/start sessions in the early going if I’d set the difficulty more appropriately at the beginning.

I was listening to the Gamers With Jobs podcast this week, and their guest was the creator of Gridiron Solitaire. If you’ve ever played Fairway Solitaire, think of it like that, but with football instead of golf. If you’ve never played Fairway Solitaire, here’s the lowdown on Gridiron:

  • You’re a football coach!
  • On each offensive play, you call either Run or Pass – the defense (CPU) calls run or pass defense
  • You’re then dealt a set of cards that you have to match in sequential, mis-coloured pairs (bear with me) – So, if you have a red 3, you need either a black 2 or a black 4 to match with.
  • Once you make a match, you move the ball forward, and some time ticks off the clock
  • You can end the play at any time (generally when you run out of cards to match), but there’s also a Big Play button. The BPB can give you an extra card to play with, or it can trigger a random text event, like the play ends in a drop or fumble, or ends in a tackle.
  • Defense is largely played the same way – depending on your play calling, the other team starts off better or worse on the play, and your card matches reduce the yardage. You also have a limited number of Big Plays per half, based on home field advantage, weather, etc.

The creator, “Bill”, said on the podcast that he loves the randomness of the cards and matching mechanic – it simulates the feeling of “momentum” in football really well, without relying on AI. I’m inclined to agree, and I find that this randomness in the cards makes the strategic decisions – when to use the BPB, for example – even more important. I’ve only played a couple of games so far, including the tutorial, but it’s pretty quick to jump into and out of matches, so it might be perfect for the busy weeks I have ahead.

Thursday, 1:57 pm – Gavin

Sorry to hear you’re not enjoying TLOU as much as others, Ricky.  Tough break on stealth/cover not being implemented to your satisfaction.  Deus Ex: Human Revolution implements stealth and cover quite well for an action-oriented game.  I wouldn’t compare it to Splinter Cell if only because Splinter Cell games emphasize stealth and cover more so than most games.  They’re designed to be stealth games.

I hear you about dropping the difficulty level though.  In my history as a gamer, there have been very few games that I have willingly played on a higher difficulty level than easy.  To wit: Half-Life, Soldier of Fortune, Gears of War, and Mario Kart Wii and 7, because they are stupidly unbalanced.  When I was selecting the difficulty level for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, “easy” difficulty was branded “Tell me a story”.  I loved that and I went through it.  To that end, there were still plenty of areas that were challenging, even on easy difficulty.  The helicopter crash in Hengsha, when you have to try to save Faridah, was insanely difficult, even on easy level.  Good luck if you’re trying to do a pacifist run.

I rarely play games for the challenge associated with beating them.  That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a challenge – I don’t want my games to be a cakewalk and I think that an appropriate difficulty curve needs to be part of any single-player experience with a loss-state (some games, like The Walking Dead, are exempt by design).  But I’m not going to automatically set a game to be hard simply because setting it to easy would not be enjoyable.  Of course, I don’t want those options removed from games, because I know there are plenty of people who do play games for the challenge more than the overall experience.

matt, I would love to play “10 out of 10”!  That’s what the title of that game is, right?

Wednesday, 5:00 pm – matt

I cant tell if this batman game was a GOTY edition or not… anyone help me out?

iHuHRqnUubEgG

Wednesday, 8:40 am – Ricky

Great point on DX:HR:DC – I forgot that they reworked that game and integrated the DLC. That’s what I’d like to see from Game of the Year/compilation-type editions: Something new and different that (at least partially) justifies the new price tag.

I played a few more hours of The Last of Us on Monday night. My play clock now reads just over 11 hours, and I feel like I still have another little ways to go. I’ve decided that I really like the game:

  • The story is great – I’m engaged, and I can’t wait to see what happens next
  • The characters are very well voiced, well acted, well animated, well – you get it, Naughty Dog nailed Joel and Ellie, and all the secondary characters, too
  • The music is perfect, in that the game knows what to play and when, so it really sets the mood and tone for the current scene
  • The environment and the detail put into the game is brilliant – I can’t believe this is running on 7 year old hardware. I looks gorgeous.

I also really hate some things about the game:

  • The combat mechanics and controls stink. I just can’t seem to execute the moves I want, and combat seems frantic and random as to whether or not I survive. I’ve played a lot of 3rd person games, and as a result, I’ve come to expect a baseline for how they control and respond. This game misses the mark for me
  • The stealth and cover mechanics suck. Having played GTA 5 and Tomb Raider last year, I’ve seen some great approaches to stealth and cover. This game feels like it was designed to give you the option to be stealthy or not with any encounter, but they forgot to make the stealth option viable. Your only tools are crouching and using some heightened hearing. Based on what we’ve come to expect from hybrid stealth/action games (think Dishonored and Splinter Cell), Naughty Dog really dropped the ball on the mix in my opinion.

Unfortunately, my two negatives make it really tough for me to play through the game and get to enjoy all the positives. So, it’s with a slightly heavy heart that I must announce… That I’ve dropped the difficulty down from Normal to Easy. I plan to just decimate the enemies in this game, scavenge more than enough ammo and materials to equip a small army, and just blow through the shitty combat sequences so that I can continue to enjoy and take in the rest of the game.

That said, this week is slammed for me, so I likely won’t have another chance to play for a while. Still, I’ll looking forward to diving back into the game. For a while, I was really afraid that I’d never feel like that about TLOU, so it comes as a bit of a relief to write that out. As Jeff Cannata says, I love loving things, so I’m going to keep at it.

Monday, 11:45 am – Gavin

The fact that something may be a GOTY edition or whatever has rarely inspired me to buy a game.  I owned Left 4 Dead GOTY edition for the 360 and there was no difference between it and the regular version except that it came in a different case.  None of the additional levels were included.  The Deus Ex GOTY edition from 2001 was more or less the same game, just with a bit m0re dialogue.  Not worth paying the additional money for.

Meanwhile, Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Director’s Cut: Colon is effectively a GOTY edition, and that is a substantially different game insofar as graphics have been touched up, boss fights are corrected to match stealth approaches, and the principle DLC is included in chronological order in the game.

A GOTY edition will not inspire me to buy it, but it won’t turn me away either.  I think the bottom line is that the additional price needs to have equivalent additional value over what would most certainly be a cheaper version of the regular game.  Improved graphics alone won’t cut it for me.  Further, the cost for the GOTY edition should not exceed the current cost of the original game plus DLC.

Switching gears, after Ricky set up Steam Family Sharing on my PC this weekend, I played The Stanley Parable for a few hours.  I laughed, I cried, I deviated from the Stanley Parable Adventure Line, I did it all.  For those who aren’t familiar with TSP, it’s a game that tells a very interesting story about narrative design in games.  To quote friend of the podcast Ash, it’s a game designed for game designers.  It’s all about the consequences of choice in games (the abstract concept of choice, not specific choices) and manifests itself in some fascinating ways.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that it’s a very funny game with fabulous voice acting from the narrator – everything good you’ve heard about the narrator is true – and terrific writing to match it.  The narrator is as integral a part of the game as GlaDOS is to Portal, and is comparably effective, which is high praise.

That said, I feel like I didn’t manage my expectations going into this, because I expected to be blown away and I wasn’t.  I had fun, it provoked thought, I laughed out loud several times, but it did wear thin on me after a while, just shy of three hours.  I got the point the game was trying to make and I felt as though I didn’t need to go any further into it.  I want to preserve the memories that I have of it.  The story goes crazy at times, to places you legitimately wouldn’t expect, and it’s always full of surprises.  It’s worth the experience, even if I didn’t give it all that much time.  For the record, I played it longer than I played Gone Home, a similar type of minimalist-gameplay experience, and I adored Gone Home.

To that end, I liked Gone Home more than The Stanley Parable.  I think that TSP is a smarter game in that it conveys a particularly interesting point in an earnest, yet appropriately subtle fashion.  However, Gone Home had a level of characterization that is simply impossible in TSP due to the nature of the game.  There’s an actual story, not a parable (yes, TSP is true to its name) and the environment is more interactive via set-pieces rather than simply choosing door #1 or door #2.  I feel like I would have appreciated TSP more if I designed games for a living.  Meanwhile, Gone Home resonated on deeper levels for me.

If you enjoyed the kind of humour you got from GlaDOS, you’ll enjoy the narrator in TSP.  It’s considerably less malicious, but the humour does get quite dark at times, very sardonic and sarcastic.

Next up, back to Splinter Cell: Blacklist as I continue to forge through that beast.  Third campaign mission down, and it was a doozy.  Each mission appears to be broken into three segments, wherein you get a chance to breathe and restock your items (at my selected difficult level, anyway).  The first two (and all of the Kobin missions) all followed the same sort of flow, but the third campaign mission kicked it up a notch.  You reach the final segment, and you have to perform a few activities within a set amount of time in a new environment wherein you haven’t engaged any of the many enemies – if you’ve played a Splinter Cell game before, you know that this is very stressful situation.  It was refreshing, but I suppose I did play the missions a little out of order, going through the optional missions first.  My biggest complaint is that the mission ended as soon as I performed the final activity – I did not need to extract despite still being in danger, as I was being chased down by some enemies I’d alerted.  It was a little disconcerting and counter to the flow of the series, wherein you always have to engage in some sort of extraction process.  I hope it’s not par for the course from here on in.

Monday, 8:10 am – Ricky

SO MUCH OLLIOLLI.

It’s pretty much all I played all weekend, just hanging out on my couch at home in between chores or while “watching TV” with the wife. I’ve 5-starred each level in the first three areas, but the fourth area will definitely present a bigger challenge, as will all of the “pro” challenges for each level.

Speaking of, I’ve been doing the daily challenge as well: You can practice the daily level as many times as you like, but you get only one shot to pile through it and set your high-score for the day. It’s a great way to introduce additional content and keep people coming back to your game every day.

So tonight I’m planning to make another attempt at playing The Last of Us. Things didn’t really pan out the last time I tried – I worked late, and by the time I was home and settled, I had zero interest in playing games. It happens from time to time, but here’s hoping I can make some more progress in matt and Albert’s game of the year tonight.

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