Category Archives: Opinions

Bethesda Have Proven to be the Masters of the Mass Appeal, Grand Scale RPG

I remember in the summer of 2002 playing Morrowind on a friend’s Xbox. Never having had access to a computer powerful enough for true PC gaming prior, this was my first real taste of the type of “hardcore” RPG experience I had heard others speak of.

Morrowind was a truly incredible game of its time, especially when weighed against other console offerings. Beyond some fairly impressive visuals, it yielded no easy rewards for the player. Instead you had to delve into gameplay that featured  ambiguous directions, long periods of nothingness, a complicated (often broken) combat system and a lot of text reading to find that Morrowind is in fact one of the most thorough games ever made.

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Arkham Knight’s PC Version is Officially the Year’s Biggest Joke

I’ll be honest. I used to consider myself a crafty consumer that was above being screwed over by a video game purchase. I told myself I knew the rules (stay away from EA games, buy nothing that isn’t released to press beforehand, stay away from day one releases, etc.), and even thought that, by and large, gamers were well into “shame on me” territory when they got burnt by the same tale of woe.

Yet somehow, I still managed to convince myself that Arkham Knight for the PC would be a good purchase.

Sure, I saw the red flags. Many people did prior to release.  The thing of it was, though, is that I was such a fan of what Rocksteady had done with the Arkham franchise, and was blinded by the near universal praise the console versions were receiving, that the allure of the game began to outshine those crimson warnings.

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Why Rocket League Needs to Signal the Return of the Non-Traditional Sports Game

As the recent abomination of film and humanity at large Pixels has proven, gamers are still subject to a number of negative stereotypes among the public at large. No matter how popular video game culture (or for that matter, “geek” or “nerd” culture) may get, it seems there is always going to be a sect of people who will picture your average gamer as a pasty basement dweller afraid of interactions with the opposite sex.

To be honest, considering that it’s impossible to achieve universal love regardless of the type of person you are, dwelling on these perceptions ultimately seems kind of petty. However, there are some perceptions about gamers at large that I feel remain prevalent enough to cause harm to truly advancing game design.

Among those stereotypes, one of the most baffling is the seeming perception that gamers don’t like sports.

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What’s Missing From Video Game Delays? Honesty

As rumors begin to circulate that the now infamous Batman: Arkham Knight PC release’s various shortcomings may have all been known by publisher WB well before the game’s release, the situation is quickly evolving from a debacle, to a joke.

That’s the way I’ve chosen to start looking at it anyway. As someone who made the questionable decision to pre-order the game for a discount, and can still only play it at a performance level just below functional, I’ve elected to forgo anger and disappointment and instead embrace the pure comedic absurdity of the situation.

This does make me worry about my mental trajectory taking the same path as the Joker’s, but I digress.


But just because I’ve chosen to joke about Arkham Knight’s PC release more than I rant about it, doesn’t mean that I’m not still angry. I’m angry at the money I spent on the game, the growing culture of these types of releases and the fact that what should be celebrated as one of the great gaming franchise of all time now has this black mark on its legacy.

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Flawed Masterpieces: Dark Souls

Welcome to Flawed Masterpieces. A series designed to look at the weaknesses of gaming’s greatest titles, and remind us all that the past was not perfect.

Dark Souls is a great game. Actually, as the title of this article suggests, it is a masterpiece.

I’ve only thought of Dark Souls more recently with the release of Bloodborne, which has reignited my love of the Souls franchise like a freshly kindled bonfire in the hopeless night.

Yet as much as I love Dark Souls (I once wrote it ruined me for other games, and stand by that statement in many ways) it is not a perfect game. Some of its flaws didn’t become evident the first time through, nor the second or even the third. But as I go through what will be my fifth playthrough of From Software’s great contribution to gaming, I have found there are things about Dark Souls which do hinder the game. Some of these hindrances are small. Others…well to be honest some of them continue to impact the franchise to this day.

So with respects to my fellow Dark Souls travelers, I present the biggest flaws of Dark Souls.

The Magic System


Magic in Dark Souls was intentionally dialed back from its Demon Souls counterpart, on the grounds that the old magic system made certain parts of the experience meant to be challenging in a specific way, far too easy to get around.

That’s fine, but the problem became that making a pure magic character in Dark Souls is a huge chore. Even assuming you have a slight indication of where to go and how to manage your path to pure sorcery (which, as I’ll be discussing later, is a big assumption) you’ll find your ability to manage the early game on your limited spell repertoire alone to be nigh impossible. Even the act of casting a spells will require some online fact checking for many new players.

Eventually, you can get a handle on how the process works, but this doesn’t mean the game makes this class pursuit any easier. Compared to regular weapons, truly useful spells are incredibly difficult to locate even for the more thorough players, and Dark Souls system of granting you a limited number of casts per bonfire visit means that at some point you will have to devote resources to an alternate form of combat.

I’m sure that this is where some Dark Souls players who went through the entire game with nothing but spells will tell me I’m crazy, and that devoted magic builds are incredibly powerful late game, but the fact remains that Dark Souls treatment of magic throws every possible hurdle at the player who wishes to use it as a primary resource.

And that’s what really bothers me about the process. Not that magic isn’t viable or entertaining, but that for a game already so focused on making things as difficult as possible, the heavy restrictions placed on such a primary mechanic  simply feel arbitrary.



I don’t mean this entrant to be as controversial as it will inevitably be, but I am of the camp that says Blighttown is an uninspired misery.

Let’s start with something everyone can probably agree on. Blighttown’s framerate, especially pre-patch, is a joke. It’s so bad in crucial moments, that the conspiracy theory that it was intentionally implemented into the level to add to the general misery doesn’t actually sound that unreasonable.

Beyond that, the entire basis behind Blighttown seems to have been to throw the most miserable aspects of the game at the wall to see what sticks. That means curses, unavoidable enemies at the bottom of ladders, leaps of faith courtesy of awkward platforming, unreasonable distances between bonfires, annoying enemies and poison around every corner.

Some of these can be countered through shortcuts and the right combination of inventory, but in true Dark Souls fashion it’s going to be very likely you won’t have acquired much of it by the time you get to Blighttown. That means you’re in for multiple, miserable attempts through the long way around.

And that sucks. Dark Souls is at its best when it’s difficult, but fair and Blighttown eschews that notion in favor of introducing the kind of annoyingly overwhelming (and wholly unenjoyable) level of frustration non-Dark Souls fans have come to unfairly associate the series with. On my multiple playthroughs of the game, it is always the one area I roll my eyes at, even with the shortcuts.

Surviving Blighttown has created a brotherhood among Dark Souls players, due to that overwhelming feeling of satisfaction that comes with besting it. However, that doesn’t make it a good level. Just an epic pain in the ass.

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Amidst Concerns, There is Hope to Be Found in Nintendo’s New YouTube Policy

Earlier this year I managed to upset a few people by suggesting that Nintendo was making an error by not even bothering to acknowledge the Twitch Plays Pokemon phenomenon. I believe the phrase “click-bait” was tossed around.

Despite some of the more enthusiastic claims to the contrary, it wasn’t my intention to insult Nintendo or its fanbase to any serious degree. It’s just that as a fan of Nintendo who happens to live in the modern world, it became frustrating to see another instance of them falling so far behind the times, in terms of adapting to, and even taken advantage of, modern internet gaming culture culture.

Nintendo’s going through some rough times at the moment, that admittedly have very little to do with whether or not they gave Twitter shout-outs to Twitch. But for a company with a history of sticking to their ways to a fault, it was disheartening to think that they were not learning from the past, and were very much willing to repeat it.

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Just As It Should, Unreal Tournament Now Belongs to the Fans

Like the ending to a good Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, sometimes its satisfying to see it all come together.

In a previous post, I mentioned that not enough was being done to cherish the games and franchises of days gone past, and ensure that they have a healthy presence in the future. In another word related doo-hicky about Unreal Tournament 2004, I also lamented the notions  from developer Epic that suggested we would not be seeing another Unreal Tournament game anytime soon.

In both instances, it was troubling to realize that no matter how beloved, influential, successful, and full of potential a gaming series may be, ultimately its place in the future is not certain.

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Five Game Franchises That Need to Raise The Difficulty

The world needs easy games. They’re enjoyable, they don’t ask for much and they sometimes are necessary to help certain titles get across the level of entertainment that the developers are aiming for.

I know this, and I still hate them. When I play a game, I want that controller to be the connection between myself, and the gates of hell. I want a game to beat me down, so I can smile even broader when I best it. To me, there is no such thing as too tough.

Somewhere between personal preference and logic, I’ve come to the conclusion that while there does indeed have to be easy games, not every game that is easy necessarily needs to remain so. In fact, there are some entire series even that would benefit if some accessibility was traded in for a little challenge.

Assassin’s Creed


This is tricky, as part of the fun of the Assassin’s Creed series comes from the way it allows you to pull of such incredible feats with relative ease. Yet after six main games, and a host of mobile spin-offs, many fans have had the chance to get well acquainted with the mechanics of the series, to the point that many of the supposed obstacles in the single player campaign, are instead becoming obligations.

In fact, the Assassin’s Creed franchise suffers so greatly from a lack of challenge, that even the most minor bumps in difficulty would aid it greatly. This is especially true of the series’ “Block-block-counter” combat system, but could just as easily apply to the assassinations themselves, where a little more required intelligence, and creative freedom on the player’s part would in no way be unwelcome.

Assassin’s Creed IV proved there is still plenty of creativity left in the franchise, but the series would reach its full potential faster if it starts asking a little more out of the player.

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Bear Simulator Kickstarter Page is Filled With Red Flags

Yesterday, I mentioned the story of Bear Simulator and it’s highly unlikely rise to funded status on Kickstarter. At the time I felt it prudent to avoid personal comments regarding the matter as much as possible, as I felt many of my observations were  largely grounded in a fundamental misunderstanding of the appeal of this style of game.

However, after looking over the Kickstarter page more intently, and other relevant materials, I was stunned by the amount of warning signs to be found. The Bear Simulator Kickstarter page is a treasure trove of red flags that should make even the most enthusiastic of gamers raise serious doubts regarding the project.

Considering that Bear Simulator is already funded, and that I have absolutely no control on how people spend their money, these thoughts may be a little superfluous. If there is still anyone considering supporting this project, though, I had to share some of the most glaring signs of a potential Kickstarter scam there are to be found on the Bear Simulator project page.

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Changing of the Guard: Five Old Developers (and Their Modern Spiritual Successors)

Developers come and go. Such is the gaming business, such is life.

But sometimes, it can feel like the developers that have gone, never should have went. The video game industry is constantly changing and, as a result, even the greatest of developers can fall by the wayside, or otherwise lose the touch that made them standout.

It’s easy to mourn those developers gone by, but if you look closely enough you’ll find that for every developer that falls, another twenty rise that were clearly influenced by them. In some rare cases, you even get a developer who feels like the direct descendant of greats gone past.

So before you find yourself longing for those great developers of the past, be sure to check out some of these new comers who so often feel like the spiritual successor to those legends.



In my mind, there are few greater compliments you can pay to a developer than to compare them to Treasure.

Treasure‘s games were almost always of the highest quality, but what always impressed me about them was how unique they were. The studio rarely made the same kind of game twice, yet they maintained a standard of excellence throughout all their endeavors that made it so you always knew you were playing a Treasure game, based off the personal experience alone.

Vlambeer may be young, but they’re already exhibiting that same quality. They have this incredible ability to absolutely nail a fundamental game concept, then infuse it with so much charm, that the title becomes an immediately noteworthy experience, without real equal. Many have tried to copy Vlambeer’s efforts (the amazing Vlambeer Clone Tycoon emphasizes this), but it’s impossible to replicate the studio’s personality.

While Treasure still does make an occasional development appearance, if you want to re-live the feeling of playing something made by the legendary studio in their prime, without dipping into nostalgia, play anything made by Vlambeer.

Id Software/Flying Wild Hog


I feel like I’m going to regret not putting this in all caps, or meme form, but let me start this comparison by saying that Flying Wild Hog has not made anything on the level of Doom or Wolfenstein yet.

Rather this comparison stems from the similarity in style between the two studios. Id Studios used to be the undisputed champions of balls out first-person-shooters, that seemingly never aimed to be historically significant, but ended up being so due to how tightly structured, and just plain fun, those games were.

Flying Wild Hog‘s history may be limited to a remake and a so-so original effort, but even from that small sampling, it’s obvious that they’ve got an uncommon understanding for how old school FPS games worked. Their games retain the formula, and feel of those 90′s shooters, but also account for the innovations made in the genre since then, resulting in something both unique and familiar.

While Flying Wild Hog is still a breakthrough hit away from being truly on the map, I feel that they are a couple years away from being one of the premiere names in high quality shooters.

Sierra Entertainment/Telltale Studios


Telltale are often compared to LucusArts, but I feel they share more similarities with Sierra Entertainment, the makers of King’s Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Gabriel Knight and others.

The biggest reason for this, is the way both companies maintained several major franchises, and spent most of their time developing those worlds further, while perfecting the gameplay formula they revolved around, as opposed to pursuing entirely new endeavors.

That may sound like a knock, but it’s really far from it. Sierra got to a point where their adventure game formula was down pat, and it allowed them to devote their efforts instead to exploring trickier domains, such as writing original plots, or crafting memorable characters.

The same could be said of Telltale. While Sierra eventually got away from adventure games, I’ll always remember them for those series, regardless of how good their other games may be. I feel the story of Telltale will largely be the same.

Bullfrog Productions/Simogo


In truth, there is no historical equivalent for Simogo. Their games defy classification, and even at their worst are never anything less than intriguing.  Unfortunately, because they’re primarily a mobile developer, you may not be aware of them.

In a way, they remind me of Bullfrog Productions.

Bullfrog were ambitious to say the least. A couple of sequels aside, their games routinely revolved around a concept that was never thought of before. What’s amazing about that is the final product rarely felt experimental, and instead was usually a confident embodiment of even the most outlandish ideas.

Bullfrog never seemed interested in re-treading the same design ground, and neither does Simogo. If you’re a fan of outside the box gaming, you have to be paying attention to them right now.

Rare Ltd./Platinum Games


It amazes me to think that there will be a generation of gamers who don’t know how great Rare was. The studio’s story may inevitably be whittled down to their status as a $375 million failure (which is, in and of itself, debatable), but there was a time when the Rare logo was synonymous with greatness.

Rare made games that required a concentrated effort to not fall in love with, and they did it across a variety of genres.

Platinum Games may not inspire the same awe the Rare name once did, but believe me when I say they’re getting there. Comprised largely of former members of Clover Studio (makers of Viewtiful Joe and Okami), Platinum have that Rare quality (no pun intended) of making games with qualities so obvious, that only the most scrupulous of nitpicking reveals their faults.

That’s not to say they’re perfect games, they’re often far from it, but each Platinum Games title is an experience that often goes beyond the traditional ways we judge and analyze games. That’s what made Rare so great, and that’s what makes Platinum worthy of the comparison.