Brink is a sorely misunderstood game with a tragically limited scope. At the development team’s heart lies a deep nostalgia for the team-based shooters from a decade ago. It shouldn’t have been such a surprise that they produced a game with decade-old gameplay. Unfortunately, because pre-release marketing heavily emphasized the game’s parkour-based movement model, Brink’s determinedly retro gameplay came as a complete shock to many purchasers. The tragic surprise is that Brink adds parkour to the old shooter formula without considering the ways in which it could fundamentally revolutionize the genre. Instead, Brink’s map design relegates the parkour mechanics to little more than a graphical gimmick for barring certain class configurations from certain corridors.
The game mechanics still range from lackluster to outright busted. Every mechanic is noticeably improved compared to the release version, but there's still absolutely no reason to play Elemental rather than, say, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic (which is now available from gog.com). In fact, Age of Wonders' mechanics are still at least an order of magnitude better than Elemental's mechanics.
So I still can't recommend Elemental. The progress is truly astounding - I've literally never seen a company put so much effort into post-release support - but the game still isn't good yet. I have more confidence than ever that Elemental will become good at some point in the future, but that point has not yet arrived. My advice ultimately remains the same: don't buy Elemental, but do to keep an eye on it's progress.
- Current Mood: sick
I began in the space before space, the time before time. There was not even a void, nor even a “was.” There was no here or there, no then or now – until, of course, there was!
Then followed an infinite pattern of existence. What wonders were produced, from the immutable to the growing, from the tiny to the gargantuan, from the simple to the complex! Yet I saw it all and deemed it lacking.
So I speak to you now – you who are neither the first nor the last, neither the greatest nor the smallest, neither the simplest nor the most elaborate – to ask one ultimate riddle: “Who am I?”
- Current Mood: tired
Civilization 5 marks a couple of huge strides forward for the series, but such progress highlights the fundamental weaknesses of the genre. It's a game about planning and nation-building in a way that previous Civ games never managed. The strides made in this edition are superb, but cannot overcome the fact that Civilization is simply not the type of game that the subject matter requires. It should be a multiplayer game, but it's not designed as one.
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Civilization 5 could optionally be pre-ordered (for an extra amount) as a "deluxe" version that added the Babylonians as a playable Civ. However, it turns out that deluxe version saves are completely incompatible with basic versions of Civ - even if the game was originally created by a basic version, and even if Babylon isn't in the game at all. Nor can a deluxe version be run as a normal version of the game -deluxe owners are stuck generating incompatible saves.
That may not sound like a major issue at first, but the Civ community has a huge tradition of "succession games" where players take turns playing the same game, discussing strategies and learning as a community. In that context, this sort of technical mistake - assuming that it really is a mistake and not some idiotic attempt at stealth-DRM for the deluxe content - is ridiculous and unacceptable. The stealth-DRM accusation sounds insane, yet takes on a certain air of conspiracy-theory-plausibility given that people have looked at the save file data and concluded that the deluxe version saves games entirely differently than the basic version does. That simply shouldn't happen, given that the devs ought to know about a tradition spanning over a decade of Civilization gaming (in which many former devs of Civ games participated).
Odds are that this is just a dumb bug that'll get fixed. That doesn't stop the facepalming.
- Current Mood: shocked
I have a few musings on the Civilization series and it's relation to realistic shooters like the Stalker series. There's a key contrast that illustrates why I'm drawn to the latter, even though I can enjoy the former. Civilization games are about ideas; Stalker games are about concepts. That distinction doesn't exactly come up in common conversation, but it's an important one; please permit me to illustrate.
Consider the player's role, or avatar, within the game world. Civilization doesn't give you a character to play - while the Civ series now assigns different historical leaders to different nations, we know very well that any of those individuals teleporting through time and space to 4000 BC and then surviving for another 5000 years is laughable. It's impossible to take the player's role as immortal Ghandi, Darius, or Washington seriously (though, side note, a 4X game based on Highlander could be awesome). The player isn't any single human being - if anything, the player is placed in the role of nationalism itself, the idea animating a succession of leaders throughout history. Ultimately the player's avatar is an idea, merely an abstracted collection of information reified by the game's structure into a natural or universal fact. This bit of stealth ideology is my single biggest beef with the Civ series, because reifing ideas is a incredibly bad move (it's easily within the top two ultimate causes of violence and suffering throughout human history). Only Alpha Centauri, my favorite of the Civ-alikes, partially avoided that structural blunder by divorcing itself from historical characters and technology, allowing it to consciously focus on the individual leaders and their effects as characters.
Stalker, on the other hand, gives the player a clear, embodied avatar. The player is put into the role of Major Degtyarev, a human being. He has a goal assigned by outside forces (including ideas like nationalism, given his position), but there is (almost) no intermediate cushion of abstraction between the player and the game world. We are human. The avatar is human. Instead of concentrating on abstractions, we concentrate on how a human interacts with the world. Specifically, we concentrate on the concepts that form our limited sensory grasp of those objects. It's still a collection of digital abstractions, being a game, but it's trying to simulate concepts (a necessarily-limited grasp of physical reality) rather than ideas (abstractions). Stalker is about dealing with cold hard reality, even though it's own particular reality is fantastical.
From the perspective of a Political Science student sick and tired of how ideas get horribly used and abused every day in the form of ideology, Stalker's realistic perspective on the world is actually vastly more encouraging than the idealism of Civilization. Fatally flawed optimism is far more depressing than grounded pessimism.
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- Current Mood: melancholy