Last week, Albert gifted me a copy of a game called RUNNING WITH RIFLES. Written like that. On Steam. It’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t even cast a second glance at if it wasn’t in the “popular” section of the front page. And it’s a ton of fun. 

It’s a mash-up of a tactical, top-down shooter and an RPG. It’s basically Battlefield, but with brighter and more cartoony artwork, and there’s nothing else out there quite like it. It’s amazing that we’re at this stage in the “lifecycle” of our hobby, and we’re still seeing new games like this. Evolution, refinements, innovation: I’m super grateful for all of them.

What other new approaches to games have amazed you lately?

Friday, 9:14 am – Gavin

So, 29 years after its initial release, I finally beat the original Legend of Zelda yesterday.  It felt wrong not having played it, being such a big fan of the later entries, so I bought it for the 3DS.

I feel like a demon saying this, but I probably could have gone without playing it, to be honest.  I respect that it is the genesis of one of the most beloved series of all time, but it’s just vastly inferior to A Link to the Past in every way.  I understand that its inferiority can be chalked up to the  technical limitations of the NES/Famicom, but that’s only an explanation, not an excuse.  My review is going to sound very harsh, but that’s because I have the vastly superior LTTP to compare it to.  This isn’t like the difference between Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario World, wherein you can at least tell that you’re in a different area of the map by the colour of the level.  There are hard-and-fast differences between TLOZ and LTTP that render TLOZ obsolete in my gaming world.

Colour palettes on the NES were much more washed out than on the SNES, so it’s hard for some things to stand out, especially for games that were originally released in 1986.  As such, the environments really start to run together after a while.  You can navigate your way around the overworld, but only really by memory.  The map is just a grey rectangle with a coloured pixel to signify your location relative to the borders of the overworld.

There’s a lot of video game logic at play.  Rooms and dungeons are obscure and hidden, and there’s no indication as to where to go next.  If the environments were at least unique-looking, this wouldn’t be a huge problem, but it’s mostly brown and beige, with green trees thrown in for a few screens.

The game is brutally unforgiving as well.  Hit detection can sometimes be weak, and strike speed is glacial.  You can often end up in sequences where the first enemy hits you, and then because of that, you’re knocked backwards into a second enemy, and then a third enemy hits you with an arrow from behind, etc.  This gets especially bad in the later levels when you’ve got enemies who take up two hearts with every single hit, and enemies with frustratingly good AI that you can’t attack from the front.

Lots of things are hidden well – almost too well.  A very necessary upgrade is the blue ring, which reduces your damage taken by half.  It’s hidden underneath a stone guard that comes alive (and turns into an enemy) when you touch it, in one particular screen.  There are many screens with guards hiding rooms like this, and there are 128 screens in total.

The game has fast travel in a few spots (uncover secret stairs in one place, end up at the secret stairs in another place), but the fast travel is inconvenient and unpredictable.  It will send you to a fixed point on the map (one of the other fast-travel locations), but the order of those options at a fast-travel area is without logic, so you need some trial-and-error to end up where you want.

Dungeons are bland.  I know that this is a harsh criticism of what is, admittedly, an enormous game.  Something has to give based on the technology, and while I think that there are many faults with TLOZ, I would say the least inspiring part of the game is the dungeon design. Plenty of the dungeons are frustrating mazes with very difficult enemy sequences and no proper flow.  There are maps, but the maps are often highly inaccurate (you can end up in rooms that don’t appear on the map, the maps don’t show you where stairs are, the map doesn’t show that you can access some rooms that you actually can, etc).  There’s still merit in retrieving the map, but it’s not as helpful as it should be.  If you clear out a frustrating enemy room, but have to come back there again because you entered that room too early or didn’t have any bombs to break through the wall, it’s disheartening.

To that end, the game requires that you bomb walls, but there’s no indication as to what walls can be bombed and what can’t, so you’re frequently using a lot of bombs.  To the game’s credit, it does supply you with a relatively decent number of bombs, for the most part (unlike hearts, which the game is stingier with than any other game I’ve seen with health items), but it’s still possible to be in a situation where you need to hunt for bombs.  Later dungeons require a significant amount of wall-bombing.

I needed the use of save-states to beat this game.  I didn’t have the patience for repeated dying and restarting, especially if you die after using up your health potion.  Health potions can be repurchased at one of the seven stores in the overworld, but good luck finding one!  Many of them are hidden underneath statues or behind walls that need to be bombed, but there’s no indication that they can be bombed.

This is a game that essentially requires the player to create or acquire a physical map with which to follow along/trace progress.  In that this was an eShop title, I didn’t have access to that, to a manual, etc.  Perhaps I did myself a disservice by playing the game this way, because it felt like a chore to get through.   I had the same problem with this as I did with Metroid.  Same basic gameplay, but rendered utterly obsolete by later entries in the series that I’ll never need to play it again.

I know I’m being extremely harsh on what is commonly accepted to be a classic.  It’s entirely unfair that I’m comparing it to LTTP given the differences in hardware and capabilities.  I imagine that if you played this in 1986 or 1987, it would blow your mind with how large it was.  The problem is that I didn’t.  Clearly TLOZ had flaws, and it’s apparent that LTTP exposed them.

Wednesday, 9:37 am – Gavin

Well, you know exactly what this post is going to be about.

NEW DEUS EX GAME INCOMING.

Square Enix has been running an ARG over the past few days under the hashtag “#cantkillprogress”, which is very Deus Ex-ish.  The official announcement comes at 12:00EST today, but enough details have already been leaked:

Title: “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided”
Protagonist: Adam Jensen (Elias Toufexis is back)
Setting: post-Human Revolution, one location is Czech Republic
None of the DEHR endings are canon, and certain characters whose survival is dependent upon the players actions in DEHR are confirmed not to return (otherwise too much retconning)

I am uncomfortably excited about this.  The original and Human Revolution were two of the best games I’ve played in the past 20 years.  It’s dropping for Xbox One, PS4, and PC, I’m guessing holiday 2016 (note: if I am wrong, I do not intend to update this post, so don’t bother bringing it to my attention).  If my laptop can’t handle it, then I’ll almost certainly acquire a new console just for this.  That’s how much I loved Human Revolution and the extent to which I am willing to give the franchise the benefit of the doubt.

Tuesday, 6:02 pm – Albert

I’m back! I went quiet on “I LOVE NINTENDO” posts because… well. It’s obvious. I’m not even slightly interested in owning a console whether it is a Wii U, PS4, Xbone. PC Master race 4 lyfe.

Running with Rifles seems like an amazing game which is why I bought 4 of them with 1 more to give out! Let me know and it is yours! I was surprised that I have not seen another RWR type game before as well. I played about an hour of it with Preezie and I cannot wait to play with even more people. It actually requires a lot of finesse and skill rather then running around shooting randomly.

I suppose with my recent playing of Simciti.. City Skylines that I am just amazed that sometimes a new approach to an old  (or traditional) medium makes me happy that I have a hobby that always reiterates and evolves. I believe the best example for me would be XCOM: Enemy Unknown. This was based on classic game and while I feel the atmosphere is still there it has evolved into an even better game.

Btw. Preloading of GTA V on PC starts today. Heists bitches. I preordered. Just to make Ricky buy his 5th copy.

Monday, 7:49 am – Ricky

Long weekend: Done. Five day week: Engaged.

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