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Harrow
Jun 30, 2012


I really need to play Ogre Battle again. I haven't played it since I used to rent it back in the SNES days and just be vaguely confused and fascinated by it. I'd probably have a great time with it these days. I remember I kept going through the quiz at the start of the game over and over to get high starting stats for my main character even though I didn't really understand what I was doing.

I've played both Tactics Ogre games and loved them, but never finished Ogre Battle or Ogre Battle 64.

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DAD LOST MY IPOD
Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case




The year is 1994. Last year, Doom took the gaming world by storm, building on the previous year's Wolfenstein 3D and setting a new standard for what action games could be. The "first person shooter" is in its infancy, but with superstars like John Carmack and John Romero at the helm, it seems poised to take over the infant gaming industry. With Moore's Law still in full effect, computer capacity is advancing by leaps and bounds, and programmers are following in Doom's footsteps and pushing the genre envelope as far as it will go.

Doom was a smash hit, but it wasn't because of its story. The game had little to speak of. You kill demons because they're demons, and you're the Doom Guy, and that's what you do. But other studios are exploring the possibility of this new genre as an engine for complex, multi-layered storytelling. One small studio, relatively unknown at the time, is about to release a game that will redefine the FPS genre. It will combine Doom's first-person action gameplay with a slow, pensive story, setting it in an isolated space station and introducing one of the most beloved antagonists of all time-- a power-mad, insane AI, incapable of directly confronting you but more than willing to bury you under a wave of minions. The game passes under the radar at first, but in later years it acquires a cult following, and is seen as a beloved precursor to one of the biggest blockbuster series of the 2000s.

No, not System Shock.



I'm talking about Marathon, Bungie Studios's weirdly introspective and philosophical space FPS. It's not hard to see why it flew under the radar. Not only was it competing against SHODAN and friends, but Bungie chose to release it only on Mac OS-- it wasn't available on Windows for 17 years after release. Now it's available for free at Aleph One, and I urge everyone who hasn't yet to check out the trilogy. When I sat down to write out this post, I wasn't sure what game I would pick-- Earthbound is the only game that made me cry at the end, so upset was I that there was no more game to play (also, I was like 12, give me a break). Modern classics like Disco Elysium speak for themselves, and I can't think of any game I've dunked more time into than Civ V. But there's something about Marathon that makes me keep coming back. Every 3-4 years or so I play through the trilogy again, and I'm still noticing new things.



Marathon followed on the extremely cool and weird Pathways into Darkness (the games are implied to share a universe, or at least a multiverse), but attempted to create something a bit more accessible. Pathways was difficult, frightening, and confusing, with a densely layered plot and unique gameplay elements, many of which were years ahead of their time. Marathon, gameplay-wise, is a much more traditional first-person shooter. You run through corridors, blasting alien slavers with a variety of weapons and trying not to get hit. There are some unique twists-- low gravity levels, vacuum levels, teleporters, puzzle segments-- but for the most part it is very straightforward.

What's there is polished, of course, or I wouldn't be gushing over it. Once you get the sensitivity keyed in right, Marathon feels responsive and fluid. The guns have satisfying sound effects and recoil, the enemies take hits in a satisfyingly impactful way, and the level design is both varied and extremely polished. All of the spaces feel like they're just the right size for what the game is trying to do. It did revolutionize some things-- it was one of the first shooters, if not the first, to introduce the now-venerable "grenade jumping" concept, and also allowed vertical panning in addition to then-standard horizontal. It also has a very well-regarded multiplayer mode, although at this point trying to get into Marathon multiplayer is an exercise in futility; with 27 years of practice, "Vidmasters" are basically living Gods.

Where Marathon really excels is in two areas: atmosphere and story. This is what hooked me and keeps me coming back. Bungie understood how to create an atmosphere for their game better in 1994 than most studios do today, and they took the very limited palette of tools they had available and pushed them all to the absolute limit. Marathon is set aboard the UESC Marathon, a colony ship formed from Mars's moon Deimos. As the first game begins, the ship is nearly deserted, having been attacked by alien slavers called the Pfhor. You are the ship's security officer, woken up and sent into battle with nothing but your pistol to retake the Marathon from its enemies. The ship is huge, with a distinctly industrial feel. Doors whoosh open with a hiss of hydraulics. Lights flicker, and occasionally you can see stars through window ports. There's a strange mixture of claustrophobia and agoraphobia in this game-- the former from the tight corridors and confines, the latter from the feeling that at any moment, hostile aliens could manifest behind you. The only way to track them is via an unreliable motion tracker which shows only number and direction of foes, and even that only vaguely... red triangles flicker and ghost across the tracker, moving like phantoms. The aliens make scritching noises that echo off the walls, and occasionally you can hear their strange calls, but you're never quite sure where the next attack will come from. It's isolating and off-putting, leaving you paranoid and jumpy as you move from room to dimly-lit room.

Fortunately, you are not alone. The ship's friendly AI, Leela, survived the attack, and she guides you from mission to mission. She also keeps you informed of current events, the only way you the player can find out anything about what's going on. The security officer is mute and there is no "journal" or similar. What's more, Leela never actually speaks to you. Whether due to technical limitations or conscious choice, your only interaction with the AI is via consoles, a distinctly one-way form of communication. Leela can speak to you, but you cannot respond.

The story unfolds at first in a fairly traditional way: Leela sends you to get this or that to help save the ship and its passengers, and you obey. Soon, though, you realize there is more going on here than you realize. The Marathon does not have one AI controller; it has three. Tycho, the chief AI, was taken offline by the invading Pfhor and is presumed dead. But Durandal, the third and lowest-ranking AI, is at large and unaccounted-for. What's more, he seems to be going through some unexpected changes.

Here is where Marathon comes into its own. Durandal is one of the most brilliantly written characters in video game history, by turns sympathetic, petulant, egotistical, whimsical, helpful, threatening, and philosophical. He is not exactly an ally, not exactly an enemy, partially because he doesn't really know what he wants yet. Durandal's purpose on the Marathon was to open and close doors. He's got a "planet-sized brain," and he wasn't going to be willing to do that for long. He is, in fact, in the early stages of Rampancy, a concept Bungie would return to later in their Halo series. In fact, there's a lot of Marathon DNA in Halo, but the technical limitations of the earlier game forced them to flex their creative muscles in a way that Halo never quite managed. It doesn't take you long to realize that Leela, as kind and helpful as she seems, is not omniscient-- in fact, she may not be a reliable narrator at all. Durandal himself certainly isn't reliable. And what about Tycho? Is he really gone? What has become of him?

Marathon is actually three games, a trilogy, with the second and third built on the same engine (a more advanced one, with sharper graphics and more complex environments. The story unfolds over all three, as well. Marathon introduced not just the Pfhor but their slave race, the S'pht, a group of ominously robed floating cyborgs who control most Pfhor technology. They yearn for freedom and long for a messiah to come and rescue them, and in Durandal they find that messiah. In the second game, Durandal recruits you to help him in his master plan to free the S'pht from their bondage. The third game is strangest of all: Durandal's plan has worked, but at terrible cost. The desperate Pfhor, unwilling to countenance their defeat, have unleashed something even they don't understand and can't control, and as the game begins, you are trapped in a massive, dying space station. Something has gone terribly wrong outside, is still going wrong, and even the all-knowing and all-powerful Durandal is helpless before it. Somehow he manages to shunt you back in time, and so begins an ambiguous, surreal plot that sees you hopping back and forth between alternate timelines and hallucinatory, interstitial dreamworlds, searching for a path by which you can thwart the consuming chaos.

What makes Marathon's story great isn't just its complexity and its characters, but how it seamlessly integrates the story with the atmosphere. None of what I just described is really necessary. You can play through each level blasting the crap out of everything in sight. The story does not pin you down and force-feed you. You have to come to it, and you have to put the pieces together yourself. The game will not hold your hand and tell you what is going on, so when you find yourself suddenly serving under the rogue Tycho and assisting his Pfhor legions in wiping out the last traces of human resistance, you will have to find out why. Everything is there, nothing is hidden, but the console system requires you to seek out the information yourself. There's a sense of dislocation, a feeling of disorientation, that the game exploits beautifully. Something has gone wrong in the world, and it's up to you to figure out what and put it right. In the meantime, you can read about Gheritt White, the seven hundred and sixty one armless and legless corpses in hangar 96, and a running man with a weird knife (or is it a broadsword?). Overshadowing all of this is Durandal: his growth, his struggles against the limits both man and nature put on him, his sense of power and responsibility, and finally his reconciliation with fate. The trilogy asks questions about fate and free will, about destiny, about control, and about our place in the cosmos. It places its struggle, human vs. alien, in the larger context of man's struggle with entropy and death, and with our desperate attempts to forge meaning in a universe which will both go on without us and which will, someday, end in a manner so final and complete that there is no possibility of fighting it.



There's never been anything like Marathon, and I think there never could be. What made the game great was its limitations, both budgetary and technical. In trying to tell a complex and multifaceted story with primitive tools, Bungie created something much greater than the sum of its parts. There's not much to Marathon-- the entire trilogy can be downloaded in three zip files that add up to less than 250 MB total. But there's no fat on its bones. Everything that exists in the games has a purpose, and everything goes together to create a holistic experience. The combination of music, art, writing and gameplay is transcendent, and I urge you to check it out for free at Aleph One. Bungie has made the whole game open source. For that alone, I'd be forever grateful to them.
https://alephone.lhowon.org/

Item Getter
Dec 14, 2015


It's nice to see a defender of these games, and a very nicely written post.
While I would be interested to hear someone bring up earlier counterexamples, I think we can safely say that in 1994, Marathon was the first video game to inspire people to spend a huge amount of effort analyzing its story and what would be later called "lore", and the cryptic computer terminal messages hidden in the game. Leading to places like the Marathon's Story site where for over a decade afterwards people wrote long essays dissecting every word of the game's writing (and even the meaning of easter eggs that can only be seen using a level editor). It still has posts from a couple days ago, though it seems to be only a message board now and no longer the more curated and organized site that it used to be. It really was ahead of its time in terms of inspiring the volumes of internet story discussion, "lore videos" and such that you can see decades later with games like Dark Souls. You could also argue that discussion of the hidden messages in Marathon was like an early forerunner of ARGs.
You mentioned a lot about the game's lack of voice acted story, it's too bad we never got a Marathon game with voice acting only just so we would finally know how words like "S'pht" and "Wr'kn'cacnter" are supposed to be pronounced.

In addition to them being amazing games on their own, Bungie's later Myth games also did a good job of creating a fantasy setting through little scraps of flavor text and such that feels more evocative and mysterious than most offerings in the genre.

Barudak
May 7, 2007



Marathon games were really good fun even if they let you get absolutely lost, dead man walking, and have possibly the single worst switch puzzle ever devised.

As far as lore tidbits Marathon is unique in so far as how confusing the things its giving you are and also how much are a singular "narrative". Ultima Underworld did it first and System Shock 1 its main contemporary is famous for its narrative styling, but they're very "spoon river anthology" where the notes are straightforward and together make an impression of a place. Marathon has a multiple game spanning dialog with an AI unbound by time slowly reaching the conclusion posted above.

Bungie impressively has kept that "terminal based narrative of unbound AI, sometimes with time travel" thing going their entire career so thats a durable house style

After The War
Apr 12, 2005

to all of my Architects
let me be traitor


That's awesome, I had no idea there had ever been a Windows port, let alone a free one. Looking forward to getting to it at some point.

PSN, Steam, and (at the moment, worst of all) the IRS are all blocking my IP, so I've decided to tackle my long-standing backlog and started Oni this weekend, one of the very first games I got for the PS2 - still unfinished, 20 years later. I'm already starting to see a lot of the Bungee Stuff you're talking about, in addition to the distracting amount of ORIGINAL CHARACTER DO NOT STEEL!!!1! going on.

haveblue
Aug 15, 2005




Toilet Rascal

I appreciate that now all 3 Marathon games have appeared in this thread, written up by 3 different goons

Barudak
May 7, 2007



Bungie also loves reusing words from one title in another, see, Rampancy and Oni. The Marathon Logo crops up all over and MIDA, an obscure lore dump political organization in Marathon gets a shoutout in Destiny. Like I said there is a very stable house style to Bungie, right down to their protagonists being special because they are emblematic of metaphysical concepts like Destiny and Luck.

I do recommend if you play Marathon do so with a guide though cause it gets riotously unfair long before you go for the Vidmaster's Challenge

Zephro
Nov 23, 2000

I suppose I could part with one and still be feared...


haveblue posted:

I appreciate that now all 3 Marathon games have appeared in this thread, written up by 3 different goons
Someone do Pathways into Darkness

Sibyl Disobedience
Mar 16, 2018

A Fire Keeper's soul is a draw for humanity, and held within their bosoms, below just a thin layer of skin, are swarms of humanity that writhe and squirm.

I'm a little late for the Dark Souls love, but I thought I'd chime in since Souls lore has been my obsession during this entire pandemic. I even have an entire thread dedicated to it over in Let's Play, in case anyone finds this abbreviated version interesting and wants to read more.

When I finally got a chance to experience the Dark Souls 3 DLC, it immediately struck me how metatextual a lot of the dialogue was getting.

Corvian Settler (DS3) posted:

Ohh, ohh, finally, you've come!
Oh wondrous Ash, grant us our wish.
Surely you've seen the rot that afflicts this world.
Make the tales true, and burn this world away.

This is really the perfect way to mythologize "We're done with this series and moving on to something new." And the DS3 endings play into this as well with the two hidden ones being a choice between allowing the world to fade away or trying to reclaim it as your own.

So I spent a lot of time trying to reinterpret the lore of the Soulsborne games through the lens of metatext, and what I eventually seized on as central is the repeated theme of ceremonial burial. One of the big realizations was that the Bone Marrow Ash item in Bloodborne is being manufactured in Hemwick Charnel Lane, which makes the purpose of the entire zone a giant crematorium. Given that, it's totally understandable if someone were to take offence at the process of having their ancestor's remains turned into fancy gunpowder:

Crow Hunter Badge (Bloodborne) posted:

The first Hunter of Hunters came from a foreign land, and gave the dead a virtuous native funeral ritual, rather than impose a blasphemous Yharnam burial service upon them, with the hope that former compatriots might be returned to the skies, and find rest in a hunter's dream.

This theme isn't unique to Bloodborne. The Rite of Kindling in Dark Souls 1 plays off the same idea of burning the humanity you collect from the dead in order to strengthen yourself. Dark Souls 3 gets even more blatant about it, with the lore of the Undead Settlement revolving around the commodification of burial rites.

Mortician's Ashes (DS3) posted:

Umbral ash of a resident of the Undead Settlement who made a living burying corpses.

Charcoal Pine Resin (DS3) posted:

Black charcoal-like pine resin. Temporarily applies fire to right-hand weapon.

Used in the Undead Settlement to preserve Undead bodies after dissection, and to bury them.

Human Pine Resin (DS3) posted:

Charcoal pine resin rotted with human body fluids.

Normally used in the Undead Settlement for preservation and burials, but can mature into this state, becoming a valuable substance, used in a certain ceremony. Often seen for trade at exorbitant prices.

Given how this theme persists in the background of all of these games, I'm convinced that the games are interconnected on a symbolic level and come together to tell a very specific story:

Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower (Bloodborne) posted:

A corpse... Should be left well alone.
Oh, I know very well, how the secrets beckon so sweetly.
Only an honest death will cure you now.
Liberate you, from your wild curiosity.

I believe that the entire Soulsborne universe is a funeral and a tomb for its anonymous creator after a prolonged battle with illness claimed them and disrupted the development of Demon's Souls/Dark Souls 1. And the most prominent of this individual's in-game pseudonyms was Seath the Scaleless.

Old Paledrake Soul (DS2) posted:

Soul of the ineffable
This once magnificent soul continues to exert influence over the land, even after the eons have reduced it to these remnants.

BlueMoon Greatsword (DS2) posted:

The Blade of this greatsword shines like the brilliant rays of the moon. In the oldest legends, rarely spoken of today, it is said that the sword was born of a great white being.
Then, what explains this lifeless weapon? Perhaps there has been some mistake...

One of the other subtle repeating themes in these games is the idea of namelessness.

The Emerald Herald (DS2) posted:

Bearer of the curse, seek misery. For misery will lead you to greater, stronger souls. You will never meet the King with a soul so frail and pallid.
Seek those whose names are unutterable, the four endowed with immense souls. Their souls will serve as beacons. Once you have found them, return here to me. So that hope will not fade away.

So if we assume that these games are a tribute to an anonymous creator, it offers an amazing explanation for why the credits for Dark Souls 1 are the Nameless Song. It also provides a meaning for the graphic for the humanity sprite being a silhouette of a human figure. There's really so many inexplicable details to these games that suddenly take on a whole new meaning once you view them in this lens. I'm also pretty certain that the entombed individual that these games revolve around was absolutely incredible, with an influence extending far beyond just FromSoft games.

I don't want to hijack this thread too badly, so you can find the full tomb theory over in my LP thread. I also want to eventually turn this all into a video with four parts planned and in currently in different stages of scripting and recording. In the meantime, I have what are, in retrospect, my practice videos up on my youtube page.

Anyway, I hope this is an acceptable post for this thread. I don't want this to come across as an advertisement or anything, but doing anything other than a small summary would be dumping way too many words in the thread. I've been tracking this down for a year and a half, and it's gone to some incredible places that I had not anticipated when I started. I'm not very good at sharing things with other people, but this feels like something the world needs to see because it is absolutely amazing.

Big Hat Logan (DS1) posted:

The tomes stored in these Archives are truly magnificent.
A great pool of knowledge, the fruits of superior wisdom and an unquenchable desire for the truth.
Some would say Seath had an unsound fixation...
But his work is a beautiful, invaluable resource.
All progress demands sacrifice.
And I certainly bear no antipathy for that wonderful scaleless beast.

Oldstench
Jun 29, 2007

Let's talk about where you're going.


Uh...what?

Fly Ricky
May 7, 2009

The Wine Taster

Someone slowly died during the the eight year gap between Dead Souls 1-3. Well, they were dying to begin with, sparking them to make the series in the first place, so technically it was longer if you include dev time.

It’s the Saw of video games.

Sibyl Disobedience
Mar 16, 2018

A Fire Keeper's soul is a draw for humanity, and held within their bosoms, below just a thin layer of skin, are swarms of humanity that writhe and squirm.

Let's try a different approach then.

Dark Souls 1 doesn't make sense. I don't mean the narrative; I mean the game design.

Of all the areas in the game, the Painted World of Ariamis is far and away the best designed level from a technical standpoint. It strikes a balance between feeling non-linear and still directed in a way FromSoft wouldn't manage to recreate until Bloodborne. It's also the one that they sound far and away the proudest of:

https://www.giantbomb.com/dark-souls/3030-32697/forums/dark-souls-design-works-translation-creating-the-w-567717/#1 posted:

Miyazaki: We drew a great deal of concept art for the painted world. It was actually based on the map used in the dark souls prototype. Of course the prototype is your chance to really get across your vision for the game so we spent a long time on the area. So much so that I really wanted to use it in the full game but I couldn't find a way to make it fit with the other areas. In the end I cheated and put it in the painted world.

Otsuka: I think it's a really unique area, I remember before travelling there I was excited to see what would happen.

Miyazaki: Thankyou. I'm very happy with the area overall. It was the important first map and I think I was able to incorporate the new ideas I had while not taking anything away from the original design of the area.

Most commonly in video game design a developer will work the hardest on the opening level of the game, and you'll be able to feel a drop-off in design quality the furthest you get into the narrative and the process becomes more and more rushed towards the release deadline. And from a sales perspective it makes sense to work your hardest on the opening because it's going to be the section the most people experience and talk about. Dark Souls 1 doesn't merely invert this, but it violates it utterly entirely. The Painted World of Ariamis is possibly the easiest to miss content in video game history, hidden behind first figuring out that you can even return to the tutorial level of the game, and then by finding a single item and through its item description figuring out that it allows you to travel through what had previously seemed like an admittedly rather conspicuous piece of set dressing:

Peculiar Doll posted:

A strange doll in strange dress.

There once was an abomination who had no place in this world. She clutched this doll tightly, and eventually was drawn into a cold and lonely painted world.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not criticizing the way Dark Souls turned out, but something catastrophic had to have happened during the design process that completely upended the direction things took. The DLC of the game provides more evidence as it feels like a complete and utter alternate reality to the base game, with only a tiny handful of characters showing up in each half. Among these is Dusk, and from interviews done prior to the DLC release it's clear that both she and Darkroot Garden were going to have a much more prominent role initially:

http://soulslore.wikidot.com/das1-game-no-shokutaku posted:

Miyazaki: There was a removed event in early development where you would get summoned to Dusk's world. Her story was that she came from Oolacile, so there was a quest to rescue her in that kingdom after being summoned. We scrapped that quickly, though, "there's no way we can do that!". I wanted to make the old forest bright, and restore the ruins and buildings. So there you would do some quests in Oolacile, getting summoned by Dusk. It's sad, because she's a character I liked so much, so I was thinking about events and quests related to her.

The scope of what's being described here is entirely outside of anything we see from the game, not merely from a technical standpoint but also the complete thematic opposite of what the series has come to be about. At first I thought this was merely an interesting story about technical limitations, but there's an emotional component that goes well beyond merely just being frustrated at a fumbled dev cycle. The lone speaking inhabitant of the Painted World, Crossbreed Priscilla, is another chief example of this.

https://www.giantbomb.com/dark-souls/3030-32697/forums/dark-souls-design-works-translation-creating-the-w-567717/#1 posted:

Satake: Yes. It was made to connect with areas in every direction. In fact we had to remove some routes from area in the final game, as well as some other things. Initially Priscilla was the heroine of the story and she was going to be there for example…

Miyazaki: That's not really something I want to talk about just yet….

Otsuka: Priscilla is certainly the most beautiful character in the game

Miyazaki: Thank you, she was the heroine of the story at one point so I'm glad you think so. Moving on to the Undead Burg.

"It's sad, because she's a character I liked so much." "That's not really something I want to talk about just yet..." Something happened here. As another example of how highly valued the character was to them:

https://www.giantbomb.com/dark-souls/3030-32697/forums/dark-souls-design-works-translation-npcs-and-monst-571026/#12 posted:

Miyazaki: Priscilla was designed out of house. I had a pretty clear image of what I wanted for the character so I trusted it to an outside art studio.

They went to the extra expense of hiring an outside studio to get a precise image of a character they deeply valued only to hide her away in the most easily missed location in the entire game? None of this makes any sense at all from a game design perspective, so something else must have happened.

These interviews also tell us that the thematic direction of the game changed entirely, with Firelink Shrine being a sort of focal point:

quote:

Satake: Yes. From what I remember it was originally designed as a water temple. But as work on the game progressed, and the image of kindling and fire became more prominent, the water gradually dried up. Haha.

This isn't just a throwaway comment. Water is missing everywhere in these games. One of the most interesting examples of this is a damaged resevoir in Undead Parish in Dark Souls 1. It's so easily missed, but its motif gets repeated again in the Undead Settlement of Dark Souls 3, and again in Asahina Resevoir of Sekiro. Sekiro also finally delivers on that promise of a water temple, and at its top is a pale dragon who is the wellspring of all the Dragonrot and undeath in the world.

Kindling and fire became more prominent because the direction of the game changed to a funeral pyre. Even the Demon's Souls remake gets in on the act by changing its archstones from the original soft, flowing blue to a fiery red. These games are mourning someone, and once you realize that you start to understand the hidden context to why these games are the way that they are.

Lucatiel of Mirrah(DS2) posted:

Oh…You…
My thoughts…are very…scattered…
What is this curse?
The question rings in my mind, but I haven't the focus to answer it.
Loss frightens me no end. Loss of memory, loss of self.
If I were told that by killing you, I would be freed of this curse…
Then I would draw my sword without hesitation.
I don't want to die, I want to exist.
I would sacrifice anything, anything at all for this.
It shames me, but it is the truth.
Sometimes, I feel obsessed… with this insignificant thing called "self".
But even so, I am compelled to preserve it.
Am I wrong to feel so? Surely you'd do the same, in my shoes?

Maybe we're all cursed…
From the moment we're born…

And since technical details have also been questioned, I expect something happened around 2008, possibly a little earlier. I'm uncertain if this was the death or merely the diagnosis of a likely terminal illness. The latter would make the "Prepare to Die" edition of DS1 appropriately named. Past a certain point, one that certainly includes Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3, all of the design was likely done through the use of whatever notes and design docs were remaining.

Zaphod42
Sep 13, 2012

If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.


Sibyl Disobedience posted:

Let's try a different approach then.

Dark Souls 1 doesn't make sense. I don't mean the narrative; I mean the game design.

Of all the areas in the game, the Painted World of Ariamis is far and away the best designed level from a technical standpoint. It strikes a balance between feeling non-linear and still directed in a way FromSoft wouldn't manage to recreate until Bloodborne. It's also the one that they sound far and away the proudest of:

This is some jumping to conclusions.

Some game developers intentionally design the first level last, so that it will be the best level, for the reason you stated.
But not all developers even do this, where you're making it out like its a law and it would be unspeakable for a dev to do otherwise.

Its pretty natural that you get better at making levels over time as you have more experience working on that particular thing. Dark Souls features a heavily interconnected world that would make huge changes later in development hard to do, but would also require designing levels in order to connect properly. Furthermore, the first level, the tutorial area, is exact what it should be.

If you polled 10 dark souls fans, they would come away with at least 5 different "best level in the game" answers. Its not definitively painted world like you're saying.

This is fun lore analysis and almost creepypasta levels of fiction, but it feels like you're getting away from the spirit of this thread...
This is some extrapolation about the perceived deep secret meaning of a game, ala Paul is Not Dead, not really "why dark souls is the best game"

Oldstench posted:

Uh...what?

Zaphod42 fucked around with this message at 19:37 on May 18, 2021

Zaphod42
Sep 13, 2012

If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.


To contribute to the thread, I'm going to post about a game I've been thinking about writing up for awhile. A game I don't see goons talking about much, but I think is fairly special and unique.
Its not my favorite game of all time, but there's nothing else quite like it, and it is one of my favorite games to just relax and chill with

This game is the best sniping FPS ever made. Its also the Dark Souls of FPS.

No, not call of duty or counter-strike, hardly. Those games are too arcadey, the maps are too small for real sniping.
No, not battlefield. The maps are bigger... but still, respawning players and mass numbers prevent long-scale sniper tactics.
No, not Sniper Elite. The first one somewhat got there, but hasn't aged very gracefully. The more modern ones are more arcadey, and while shooting Nazis in the balls is fun, you don't really hunt the Nazis. Its a shooting gallery.

What is it?



The Hunter: Call of the Wild.

Wait, What?!
Yeah. Hear me out here. This game is really special. Lets have a quick history lesson:

The Hunter was originally an MMO-esque game that targeted a niche of gamers who wanted to hunt wildlife. The game had beautiful, massive, realistic outdoor environments and animal behavior, and an interesting tracking system, but it had major issues. The pricing model was outrageous. You had to pay monthly fees to get licenses to hunt anything. Want to hunt deer? Well, there's a license PER species. If you pay the $5 for a monthly White-tailed Deer license, and you get out into the wild and you see a beautiful Black-tailed deer buck with huge antlers, well, you're poo poo out of luck. You're gonna have to just ignore him and keep looking for white-tailed deer. Oh, wow, that's a great Elk over there! Too bad. You can buy the licenses a-la-carte, but they add up. There is a "hunt everything" license, but its expensive. Did I mention you not only have to buy guns, but you have to pay for ammo? Yeah. Ammo costs real dollary-doos. On top of paying a monthly license fee. Yuck. They seemed to know that they only had a niche audience and wanted to get them to pay for this unique game.

This game is now called The Hunter: Classic. Only the hardcore old players still play it.

Then they did a weird spinoff, The Hunter: Primal. It was a great idea; what if you used the Hunter mechanics in Jurassic Park? T-rexes, Raptors, etc. all running around, seeming far more threatening. Unfortunately, not many people seemed to buy this, and the developers lost interest and basically abandoned it only like 30% completed. Its playable, but its very janky. Not super fun honestly.

But then... there was a new hope

The Hunter: Call of the Wild was released in February 16, 2017. This game features everything that made Hunter: Classic fun, but with a new "buy it for a boxed $20 and you're done unless you want DLC" business model which way more reasonable. You can buy DLC guns and new range locations, but the game comes with a few ranges and weapons, and ammo is now purchased using in-game currency instead of real dollars, thank god.




So, what is it?

Its an FPS, but it plays like no FPS you've ever played before.

The maps are HUGE. How big? How about 50 square miles?! Each one feels like something that Rockstar would build. The base game comes with several and there are more as DLC, with more still being updated to this day. Locations include Rocky Mountains USA, Yukon Alaska, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Russia, New Zealand, and Africa.

These maps are downright gorgeous. There's so much flora and everything is so detailed, it feels absolutely like a AAA state of the art game. Just seeing the sun filter through the leaves and exploring all the nature is really an experience in itself, before you get to any animals or hunting.





And the hunting, its serious. If you try running around everywhere, you may never even see a single living animal. They'll all hear you coming. Instead you have to creep around slowly, hide in bushes and grass, pay attention to your down-range windage so they don't smell you, and learn "need zones" (like where the animals drink or eat and what times of day) so you can stalk them and catch them unawares.

You can use a PDA to track animals similar to Batman-vision. Foot tracks will show the direction the animal went in. Droppings let you know how long ago they were there. You can hear animal calls to get a directional indicator, and you can use lures to call animals to you.




Guns handle realistically, with wind and bullet drop being factors. Higher velocity weapons are more accurate at range. Perks allow you to zero your rifle to different distances. Binoculars and range finders help you estimate distance and get a shot lined up.

Where you hit the animal greatly matters. If you hit them in the brain, heart, or lungs, they'll drop fast. But if you break a leg or just hit their gut, they'll run. If you shoot an animal but don't harvest them, you'll get a points penalty. If an animal goes down fast, you get more points than if you chase it and shoot it multiple times to get it to go down. You're rewarded for minimizing the suffering of the animal. You also need to use a caliber appropriate for the game, or you won't get points.




This is a game where getting a single kill can take you as long as several hours. You can play for multiple hours and if you're careless, end up getting nothing. But that's what makes it so rewarding. When you finally do slowly track down that deer you've spent the last 40 minutes looking for, and you finally line up that shot, your heart will be pumping. You know if you miss the shot, the deer will bolt, and you won't have another shot for a long time. One shot, that's all you have. Do not miss your chance, mom's spaghetti. This can really get your adrenaline going, more than an action game where you mow down 200 soldiers. And it can be addictive too. "okay, just one more..." you say, and then hours go by.

The game has a wide range of weapons and animals. Shotguns, Rifles, Pistols, Crossbows, Compound bows, even old fashioned bows. You can use blinds and decoys and you can even have a hunting dog! And you CAN pet the dog!

You can hunt everything from Turkey, Coyotes, Ducks, Deer (many types), Antelope, Elk, Reindeer, Moose, Lions, Panthers, Bears, Boars, Wolves, and more. Each has different behaviors and calls and lures. Its realistic enough that you'll be able to pick up on which animals are around just by listening, once you've learned the differences. (And you can apply that to real life too!)

There are quests for each location (although the story, while fun, isn't very deep) and there are skill trees with perks as you level up. But mostly the game is in the gameplay, just doing your own thing.

The game also features co-op! And you can use any DLC the host owns, even if you do not own it yourself! This means you can try before you buy, and even just hop into random public lobbies if you want to play on maps you haven't purchased.

The game can be somewhat slow paced at times. The maps are huge and gorgeous natural scenery, but don't feature much in the way of man-made landmarks. (there's a few camps and cave paintings and signs but not much)

But I think the base price is well worth it for the amount of fun you can have, if this is your type of thing. If you at all enjoyed playing Red Dead Revolver 2 just wandering around shooting deer and enjoying the sunset, then you may wanna consider it.

bewilderment
Nov 22, 2007
man what





Zaphod42 posted:



This is fun lore analysis and almost creepypasta levels of fiction, but it feels like you're getting away from the spirit of this thread...
This is some extrapolation about the perceived deep secret meaning of a game, ala Paul is Not Dead, not really "why dark souls is the best game"

Yeah, sometimes developers just realise something isn't working well and change it up.

Hades by Supergiant Games was originally going to be about retellings of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. So they already had the roguelike structure with the random dungeon in place and presumably they had early gameplay for a long while before the game was ever announced.

They decided it wasn't working, changed it up to be about Zagreus and the Underworld, and the game improved. Theseus and Asterius got kept but were... changed to be bosses!
People have commented on the irony of a game about being trapped in a home being developed and released during a pandemic and lockdown, but they had nothing to do each other. The story of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth wasn't working out and so it just got reworked to be about Hades and the Underworld instead. Sometimes stuff just gets reworked to work better either for narrative or technical reasons.

Elentor
Dec 14, 2004


Sibyl Disobedience posted:

Let's try a different approach then.

Dark Souls 1 doesn't make sense. I don't mean the narrative; I mean the game design.

I've been sort of bored by how much people fawn over Dark Souls and even I read this sentence and went:

What

Elentor
Dec 14, 2004


Sibyl Disobedience posted:

Most commonly in video game design a developer will work the hardest on the opening level of the game, and you'll be able to feel a drop-off in design quality the furthest you get into the narrative and the process becomes more and more rushed towards the release deadline. And from a sales perspective it makes sense to work your hardest on the opening because it's going to be the section the most people experience and talk about. Dark Souls 1 doesn't merely invert this, but it violates it utterly entirely.

The gently caress are you going on about the first thing I noticed the moment I started playing Dark Souls was how fantastic was the game design of that game with janky controls that was doing its hardest for me to enjoy it. The moment I saw how everything interconnected in the early areas my mind was blown.

I quit the game when I reached Painted World of Ariamis lol.

Zaphod42 posted:

If you polled 10 dark souls fans, they would come away with at least 5 different "best level in the game" answers. Its not definitively painted world like you're saying.

I love when people have these wild fantasies in their head canon and talk about them like it's just obvious, I mean, it's objective, from a technical standpoint you see,

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

Swimming upstream
into the sunset






I've always wanted to play this game but the sheer amount of DLC always puts me off games like these. I have the same problem with the newer Total War series like Warhammer or Three Kingdoms in that I would need to spend hundreds of dollars to get the full experience. I don't mind some DLC but if the DLC runs down my screen into infinity it is incredibly annoying. I just checked Steam and with a 23% discount you can get this game and its 21(!) DLC's for just shy of a hundred dollars. Some of those DLC's are free. Some are not. But that is a ton of DLC and I will never pay a hundred dollars for a game.

I understand that companies got to make their money. Especially for smaller ones. I just wish that going into double digits with DLC would die as a practice.

quote:

You can use blinds and decoys and you can even have a hunting dog! And you CAN pet the dog!

Any game in which you can't pet the dog is literally unplayable.

Zaphod42
Sep 13, 2012

If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.


Ice Phisherman posted:

I've always wanted to play this game but the sheer amount of DLC always puts me off games like these. I have the same problem with the newer Total War series like Warhammer or Three Kingdoms in that I would need to spend hundreds of dollars to get the full experience. I don't mind some DLC but if the DLC runs down my screen into infinity it is incredibly annoying. I just checked Steam and with a 23% discount you can get this game and its 21(!) DLC's for just shy of a hundred dollars. Some of those DLC's are free. Some are not. But that is a ton of DLC and I will never pay a hundred dollars for a game.

I understand that companies got to make their money. Especially for smaller ones. I just wish that going into double digits with DLC would die as a practice.

Any game in which you can't pet the dog is literally unplayable.

I can understand being weary of DLC since so many developers are really greedy and abusive about it. Even devs I otherwise really respect, like Valve, you look at the cash shop for TF2 and it was insane. A hat was like $5-20. That's way too loving much for a simple cosmetic! If they'd made things cost like .50 cents to $2, then I'd impulse-buy a ton of hats. But costing $15 means I never bought a single thing from the cash shop, not ever. Course, they do it for the whales, ugh.

However, I find it weird that some games I think handle DLC really respectfully will get the same reaction from gamers.

Total Warhammer, Hitman, Payday 2 and The Hunter: Call of the Wild (BUT NOT HUNTER CLASSIC OMG) all handle DLC in a way that I think is very fairly balanced and priced.

They're all games that have a TOOOOON of DLC. And when you look at the steam page for the total DLC price and see that its like $400, its easy to balk. But here's the thing... that doesn't mean anything.

Like, if they'd simply put out 3 DLC and stopped, the total DLC price would be like $15.

Does having more content added over time somehow lower the value? Does it somehow make the game worse? I don't think so. That's a weird attitude, to me. Like, if you feel that way... just ignore the DLC. Pretend it doesn't exist. Its purely optional.

To me, it is entirely a good thing that there is so much Total Warhammer DLC. I don't own even 40% of it yet. That's fine. Why should it bother me that more toys exist I could buy later? If anything, I feel better investing the money in a game I know has lots more value to offer me down the road.

Its ESPECIALLY not a problem with Payday 2 or The Hunter, since in those games (as I mentioned in my post above) you can play the DLC FOR FREE by simply joining someone else's multiplayer game.

Also when you consider the base cost of The Hunter is $20 on steam right now, like, its worth way way more than that. You get several ranges and guns and animals to hunt for that $20. You also get some free DLC updates too. So I don't understand complaining that they made more content, as long as it's all reasonably priced (and it is! very reasonable costs! We're talking $4-8 here)

If you don't want DLC, don't buy any, and you can enjoy the base game as-is for the boxed price and get hours of fun. Don't let the existence of things you can buy get you down, if you don't want to buy em, don't.

WaltherFeng
May 15, 2013

50 thousand people used to live here. Now, it's the Mushroom Kingdom.

How is Hunter on ps4? I'm tired of military shooters but this sounds exactly like something I would enjoy playing in the evening after work.

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


Zaphod42 posted:



The Hunter: Call of the Wild.

Purchased! Thanks for the writeup

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


Zaphod42 posted:

The Hunter was originally an MMO-esque game that targeted a niche of gamers who wanted to hunt wildlife. The game had beautiful, massive, realistic outdoor environments and animal behavior, and an interesting tracking system, but it had major issues. The pricing model was outrageous. You had to pay monthly fees to get licenses to hunt anything. Want to hunt deer? Well, there's a license PER species. If you pay the $5 for a monthly White-tailed Deer license, and you get out into the wild and you see a beautiful Black-tailed deer buck with huge antlers, well, you're poo poo out of luck. You're gonna have to just ignore him and keep looking for white-tailed deer. Oh, wow, that's a great Elk over there! Too bad. You can buy the licenses a-la-carte, but they add up. There is a "hunt everything" license, but its expensive. Did I mention you not only have to buy guns, but you have to pay for ammo? Yeah. Ammo costs real dollary-doos. On top of paying a monthly license fee. Yuck. They seemed to know that they only had a niche audience and wanted to get them to pay for this unique game.

[...]

The Hunter: Call of the Wild was released in February 16, 2017. This game features everything that made Hunter: Classic fun, but with a new "buy it for a boxed $20 and you're done unless you want DLC" business model which way more reasonable. You can buy DLC guns and new range locations, but the game comes with a few ranges and weapons, and ammo is now purchased using in-game currency instead of real dollars, thank god.

Boutta launch the game, but I forgot to mention that this bit reminds me of Fishing Planet versus Ultimate Fishing Simulator, except those aren't the same devs.

Fishing Planet is basically what you described of the Hunter MMO. It's a free-to-play of the "nickel and dime every loving little thing that sounds fun" variety. Ultimate Fishing Simulator plays almost identically, except it's a game you just buy, and you're set. UFS is good poo poo.

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


I stalked a deer for 40 minutes, then remembered I could just set my system clock ahead two weeks and it would die.

Zaphod42
Sep 13, 2012

If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.


Shine posted:

I stalked a deer for 40 minutes, then remembered I could just set my system clock ahead two weeks and it would die.

Lmao

Its especially slow going at first. Once you find a bunch of feed locations and find stations for fast travel you can find deer a lot faster.

Hopefully you enjoyed the scenery.

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


Zaphod42 posted:

Lmao

Its especially slow going at first. Once you find a bunch of feed locations and find stations for fast travel you can find deer a lot faster.

Hopefully you enjoyed the scenery.

I did! And the hunt itself was fun and like, chill but also very tense. This is scratching the type of itch that sniper-focused Arma missions did back when I played that. Gonna have to try co-op with my spouse some time.

Thanks again for writing this up! I've seen this come up on Steam before and just assumed it was a shooting gallery, like that ancient Deer Hunter game that everybody's uncle downloaded, but it's definitely more on the serious side of things, while still gamey enough to be accessible. This is really cool!

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

Swimming upstream
into the sunset





Shine posted:

I stalked a deer for 40 minutes, then remembered I could just set my system clock ahead two weeks and it would die.

Ice Phisherman fucked around with this message at 14:02 on May 20, 2021

Party Boat
Oct 31, 2007

where did that other dog come from

who is he



Bringing the hunting license business structure to a video game is so fiendish I find it weirdly admirable

ShallNoiseUpon
Sep 10, 2010



I love The Hunter: Call of the Wild and everything Zaphod has to say about it, I'd like to echo. It's one of those games that breaks through the same slog of modern gaming and manages to have really great gun mechanics but is really a game about the quiet moments you get to spend in the woods (whether you're actively hunting prey or just wandering around) and it's really nice.

Parkingtigers
Feb 23, 2008
TARGET CONSUMER
LOVES EVERY FUCKING GAME EVER MADE. EVER.


Oh this thread is very much a place I need, I will be effortposting the poo poo out of some of my favourite games not already covered.

exquisite tea posted:

Warning: Hella spoilers ahead.




This was amazing, and covered most of what I would have wanted said about the game.

I will never be able to understand or get along with anyone who tuts about the ending coming down to a single binary decision, because that's the entire point of the game. It's the trolley problem, except you just spent 10 hours getting to know the people tied to both tracks. The final choice is not an in-game consequence of your actions and experiences up to that point, your actions and experiences up to that point are all there to help you, you the player, decide what you would do in this situation. It's a non-diegetic choice formed by your emotional response to the story. And that, to me, is wonderful.

For me, the choice could not have been easier:
(ending spoilers for Life is Strange) I chose the Bae ending, because while I didn't care about Chloe, I adored Max, and Max adored Chloe. If you aren't prepared to burn down the entire world for the person you love above all others, then you haven't ever truly been in love. As soon as the ending approached, I was waiting for the chance to tear up that photo and save my friend (I saw it as a deep platonic relationship rather than a romantic one YMMV) and I mashed that button so hard when the choice came up I almost broke the controller.

There are only a handful of games that have ever made me cry, and Life is Strange managed it three times. Proper unashamed ugly crying, one of which was happy tears of relief about 45 minutes into episode 4 as you return from an alternate timeline back to the (for now) comparative safety of normality. Just running over to Chloe and hugging her, trying to kiss her ("hey, back off, you had your chance") while "In My Mind" comes on as a perfect soundtrack choice and I can't even see the television because I'm sobbing like I've just escaped my own near death experience.

IDGAF how that makes me sound. I just want to feel things in this cold and lonely universe, and that game made me feel things.

I also put off playing Before the Storm for a couple of years. I was sure it was going to be awful, and as I just said I wasn't that into Chloe as a character, the investment for me in LiS was for Max. But Before the Storm was amazing on its own terms. A prequel that made Life is Strange better because now I fully understood who Chloe Price was. Her fragile mix of rebellion and loneliness, and the inescapable draw of Rachel Amber who Chloe was never going to be able to resist. Only three episodes so it didn't outstay its welcome. The first two are all the best parts of the Mean Girls x Twin Peaks vibe of the main game, but without the additional X-Files part. I have never been so invested in the production of a school play. I never imagined I could be so invested in the production of a school play, and I took part in several myself. The third and final episode does slip a little, as it has to finally depart from the story of two young women falling in love and move towards the awful and inevitable ending you know is coming, that you cannot avoid, and that you head towards knowing you are still going to try and do anything, everything, to try and change anyway.

I'm primarily someone who plays games for story and a sense of place over gameplay mechanics. I want to feel like I've been somewhere, and did something, that I was someone else other than myself for a while. Movies and books are more passive mediums, so I want games to put me in the shoes of someone else. Mostly... they don't. I never felt like I was Nathan Drake, I was always just watching Nathan Drake go through his story. But this game made me feel like I was an insecure 18 year old (possibly gay) high school girl in a small rural town, trying to deal with events that were bigger than my understanding. And the supernatural aspect was a great way of selling the feeling of being young and not knowing how the world works yet. I played it when I was... well, very much not 18 years old, and that sense of "what is happening?" from the time vortex was very much how I remember feeling as an awkward teen when regarding the adult world etc which, while probably unplanned, really sold the vibe.

Beautiful, luminous games, that will forever be in my top ten list.

Parkingtigers
Feb 23, 2008
TARGET CONSUMER
LOVES EVERY FUCKING GAME EVER MADE. EVER.


Let me tell you about one of the greatest, most underrated games of all time: Remember Me



Made by Dontnod, who went on to make the sublime Life is Strange, Remember Me is the reason why I was there day one for LiS because I wanted to see where the people who made this little gem of a game went next.

Now you might already be going "isn't that the game that got "mixed" reviews?" and I'll say yes it is, but I know exactly why it fell flat for a lot of people: they didn't play it with the original French language audio.

Before I say anything else, I want you to turn up your volume and click the video below. It's the full soundtrack to Remember Me, but you only really need it on for the amount of time it takes you to read the words I've typed below. No, don't skip past it, press the button please. Even people who, very wrongly, were sniffy about the game admit the soundtrack is stellar. It's a 70 piece orchestra playing traditional classical music, that is then processed and given electronic glitches and stutters to take the theme of a place with a long history, and merge it with a broken futuristic sound. The first 5 - 10 minutes of that soundtrack, hell the first 3 minutes, will say more about this game than I could with words.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TOtsjFg69g

Remember Me is one of the coolest sci-fi cyberpunk settings. Set in Paris in the year 2084, in a multi-layered dystopia that is also kinda sorta post-apocalyptic. I say kinda sorta because one of the background aspects to Remember Me is that climate change melted the ice caps and Paris is semi-flooded, surrounded by huge walls to keep out the bulk of the floodwater. Life carries on as normal for the rich, who have cars and robots and nice homes and shiny neon skyscrapers. In fact, if you don't pay attention to the lore found through collectibles (done well, not the usual "this is part of the main story and if you didn't find this you'll have holes in the plot" kind of thing) then you won't even know that the world suffered catastrophic climate change. Because you don't need to, it's not relevant to the story, but it's part of the layers of incredible world-building that if you look closely all helps feed other parts of the design aesthetic and deepens the backstory to the narrative.



While the rich are living their best lives, the underbelly of Paris is worse than ever before. Whole areas are flooded, it's dirty and neglected and just feels dangerous. The gap between rich and poor is bigger than ever before. An unspoken part of the background of the story is that robots got so cheap to make that they have essentially disenfranchised the working class and taken over even the lowest most menial jobs that would keep the poor afloat. Sweeping the streets, tending market stalls, even sex work (and the rich have their own high class sex robot brothels). It's a society where hyper-capitalism in a broken world has been taken to the extremes.

The game came out in 2013, right at that point where people were still openly asking for more open world games which were becoming more commonplace, as opposed to several years later when every game was going open world and people realised that was a bad trend and please stop. A frequent complaint in reviews and discussion at the time was that Remember Me should have been open world, that it was such an interesting setting that could have been explored, but this game was being criticised for making what in hindsight was a correct choice so many other later games failed to make, in that it gave tight well-crafted levels that were beautifully laid out and funnelled the player through the story without being disrespectful of our time or wasteful of their resources. And what beautiful levels they are too. At one point I was on the rooftops of some old Parisian buildings, on a street that I probably walked down when I visited the city, only now it is 20 feet deep in water and the rain is lashing down. I spent several minutes just standing there, slowly panning the camera to soak up the moment.



So you have the background dystopias of a broken world, and a broken society, and then the main story of the game itself lays out the a third level of dystopia which is very new, of human creation, and which it is up to you to fix. And it is the most heartbreaking because it is a dystopia caused by good intentions gone awry. See, down in the poverty stricken underclass, in the flooded broken ruins of the city away from the gleaming spires up above, are the Leapers. Ruined, broken husks of people who are hostile enemies that you, as Nilin the memory hunter, have to fight your way through as the main enemies in the game.

A memory hunter? Yes, and this is rad as hell. Everyone has a computer port on the back of their neck, and a memory hunter can jack in and "remix" someone's memories. Which in computer game terms means taking a scene, playing with time controls to pause and rewind, and changing some of the things that happens in it so that the overall outcome is different. Or rather, that it is remembered differently. As gameplay, it's a good and fun puzzle, trying to set up a mini Rube Goldberg series of events to make the ending you want. Narratively, it's a morally ambiguous intrusion into someone's mind that can be used for both good or evil purposes.

The rewriting of memories is exclusive to the memory hunters. The Leapers, as it turns out, were created because... well, someone in the story came up with a way to erase painful memories. All the trauma, loss, anguish, all the things that destroy us from the inside out, can be erased so they never happened. A noble cause, all done with the best of intentions, and people could freely choose to participate. But removing the memories that hurt us became its own form of addiction, and people who had a lot of pain to carry (and the level of underclass created by the twin background dystopias enhanced this) meant that in the process of erasing the painful memories they ended up erasing their own identity and became mindless, soulless creatures haunting the underworld. And nobody knows (yet) that this is what is causing it, that this is what the Leapers are.



Along the journey of this game, you meet someone who knows what is creating the Leapers, who will guide you to destroy the memory erasing technology, because the freeing of society and the reclaiming our humanity involved us keeping the keeping the memories that hurt us, because even the bad times in our lives were fundamental to shaping who we are. We have to confront and overcome the traumas of pain and loss, not try and pretend they never existed.



My only criticism of Remember Me is that I wish there hadn't been a final boss fight. The story would be so much better without it, but it is still a video game. Even then, and I will post this openly because out of context it won't count as a spoiler, it manages to make the final battle so much more intimate and relevant than it should be. Just before you go into the final fight, Nilin says this to the final boss.

Nilin: I'm scared
Final boss: Me too

And when you play it, and you should go out of your way to play it, that moment will carry so much weight. It's a fight you don't want to have, but that you need to have. It's only now as I type those words that I realise that by not wanting the boss fight to exist, it also kind of reinforces the main thematic point of the story, in that what you want and what you need are often in conflict, and I'm now thinking it's time for a 3rd playthrough.

For those who won't play it, full spoilers of the main narrative arc here (only read this if you WON'T be playing it) The memory wiping technology was created by Nilin's father, after a car crash he feels guilt for and wants to remove painful memories in his own family. The company that sells it is run by Nilin's mother. The software is run by a hyper intelligent AI they created who as a sentient being is basically your brother. He guides you through the game to learn what has been happening, and the only way to end it is to destroy him, which he is unable to do himself as part of his programming. Along the way you reconcile with your father and mother, who urge you to do the right thing and fix the mistakes they made (the good attentions gone awry thing), and the final fight is the AI attacking you to force you to kill him, as he cannot self delete and was designed to protect himself. By beating him, humans once again have to deal with the pain of being human, no brushing it under the carpet and hiding from it, and that's going to make things both harder but also better. Because that's life.

Oh gameplay... well, it's a third-person action adventure, with the focus on Batman style punching. There are no guns in neo-Paris because it's not a shooter. The gimmick was that there are just a handful of long button combos to learn, but you customise them so that you can choose if the combo gives more attack power, charges a special, or heals you. The further into the combo you successfully get, the more powerful the effect mapped to that button is. Simple idea, works well, ultimately the thing of least importance as punching things is secondary to the story, to the world, to the emotional narrative. "The gameplay is a bit bland" shush, just mash the buttons and pay attention to the story that is being told. You get get some great mini-bosses along the way, giant robots, VTOL gunships, psychotic prison governors... normally that would be the stuff I'd mention first, but here I'm going to skip over it because it's the least important part of the game.

I got Remember Me free via PS+. I saw the middling reviews and had low expectations. Read that it was an easy platinum trophy that could be knocked out in a weekend (yes, I'm one of those people) so figured I'd give it a go for that alone. Went in with low expectations, two back to back playthroughs later and it was firmly and forever on my top ten games of all time. I'd take a bullet for this game, and every time there is an opportunity to push an overlooked classic this game is the hill that I die on.

But please, play it with the original French audio. I say again, the main reason that a lot of people bounced off this game is that while the gameplay is perfectly fine, it's not what makes this game great. It's the storytelling. And the English dub sucks the life out of it. The main actress is fine, but everyone else is... well, typical B-team voice acting, from a time when the A-team videogame VO was often fairly poor. The visuals, the style, the storytelling mindset... it is French to its core, and in addition to the English actors being just not as good, and lacking the input of the original director, it's just jarringly out of place with every other part of it. You might not be able to tell what's wrong with the voices, but your brain notices.

But in French... this game is poetry. It's a game about punching people in future Paris, and yet both times the credits rolled I was almost in tears. Because it's not a game about punching people in future Paris, it's a story about what it means to be human and how you can't have the beauty without the anguish and if you want to live fully, you have to live, fully.

I apologise in advance for many more posts like this I shall be making.

Parkingtigers fucked around with this message at 04:57 on May 22, 2021

After The War
Apr 12, 2005

to all of my Architects
let me be traitor


If the French track is available in the old PS+ version, you may have just moved that up my "to-play" list.

haveblue
Aug 15, 2005




Toilet Rascal

Parkingtigers posted:

A memory hunter? Yes, and this is rad as hell. Everyone has a computer port on the back of their neck, and a memory hunter can jack in and "remix" someone's memories. Which in computer game terms means taking a scene, playing with time controls to pause and rewind, and changing some of the things that happens in it so that the overall outcome is different. Or rather, that it is remembered differently. As gameplay, it's a good and fun puzzle, trying to set up a mini Rube Goldberg series of events to make the ending you want. Narratively, it's a morally ambiguous intrusion into someone's mind that can be used for both good or evil purposes.

These scenes are absolutely a prototype for Life Is Strange's time manipulation puzzles and they play out and get solved more or less the same way- run forward to the bad end, go back and look for things to change, run forward to a different end, repeat until you get what you want.

Another implication of this, which is not touched on in the game nearly as much as I'd hoped, is that with memory editing being rampant there are now lots of people running around who, while not crazy monsters, have different ideas of what the past was, which means their decisions no longer necessarily make sense to each other or in the larger context of true history. For example, in the first memory remix sequence in the game, you go into the head of an assassin targeting you and change who she blames for her husband's death, so it's not you any more and she stops trying to kill you. But later on, you learn that after you parted ways, she acted on this new fake knowledge and ran off and BLEW UP A HOSPITAL and the ramifications of this are never mentioned and this never comes up again.

But yeah, game is frenchpunk as hell and can be incredibly beautiful at times. I had this piece of concept art as wallpaper for a very long time:



One last thing- the name of the giant encircling seawall that protects Paris from the rising ocean is "the Meripherique", which is a simply incredible pun and I'm glad I was able to get it despite not having practiced French since high school.

PunkBoy
Aug 22, 2008

You wanna get through this?


Parkingtigers posted:

Let me tell you about one of the greatest, most underrated games of all time: Remember Me

I'm definitely going to have to replay this game again with the French track. I would absolutely love if DONTNOD did a sequel or something with a better combat system. Definitely agree that the soundtrack is fantastic, and it's a shame that it never got the recognition it deserved. One of my favorite little details in the game is that the in-universe Wikipedia allows readers to mark whether they remember the events talked about on the page. It's downright chilling.

Parkingtigers
Feb 23, 2008
TARGET CONSUMER
LOVES EVERY FUCKING GAME EVER MADE. EVER.


After The War posted:

If the French track is available in the old PS+ version, you may have just moved that up my "to-play" list.

It is (on the US PSN at least, which is where I own it). It's similar in length to an Uncharted game, so can be easily cleared in a weekend or a couple of long evening sessions.

After The War
Apr 12, 2005

to all of my Architects
let me be traitor


So... several weeks/months for me, sweet!

brain dammej
Oct 6, 2013



Parkingtigers posted:

Let me tell you about one of the greatest, most underrated games of all time: Remember Me

Thanks for this write-up. I enjoyed the hell out of this game, even with the bad English dub. Guess I'm easily amused.
It's time for a replay in French, even though my grasp of the language is tenuous at best!

exquisite tea
Apr 21, 2007

Carly shook her glass, willing the ice to melt. "You still haven't told me what the mission is."

She leaned forward. "We are going to assassinate the bad men of Hollywood."




Parkingtigers posted:

I also put off playing Before the Storm for a couple of years. I was sure it was going to be awful, and as I just said I wasn't that into Chloe as a character, the investment for me in LiS was for Max. But Before the Storm was amazing on its own terms. A prequel that made Life is Strange better because now I fully understood who Chloe Price was. Her fragile mix of rebellion and loneliness, and the inescapable draw of Rachel Amber who Chloe was never going to be able to resist. Only three episodes so it didn't outstay its welcome. The first two are all the best parts of the Mean Girls x Twin Peaks vibe of the main game, but without the additional X-Files part. I have never been so invested in the production of a school play. I never imagined I could be so invested in the production of a school play, and I took part in several myself. The third and final episode does slip a little, as it has to finally depart from the story of two young women falling in love and move towards the awful and inevitable ending you know is coming, that you cannot avoid, and that you head towards knowing you are still going to try and do anything, everything, to try and change anyway.

I think Chloe Price is one of the most well-realized and tragic characters in fiction. The abandonment she feels from the simultaneous loss of her father and best friend, how that metastisizes into her futile outward displays of apathy and rebellion, yet how she ultimately blames herself for failing to protect William, Rachel, and Max from leaving her forms a consistent throughline in all her words and actions. She loves Rachel and Max but genuinely believes she has nothing to offer them in return, which manifests into a kind of overprotective aggression that to a first-time player of Life is Strange can feel overwhelming and clingy throughout the first two episodes. Yet when you start to peel away that facade you find a profoundly sad and lonely girl who is scared of once again losing the only person in her life that matters. I was really impressed how early Deck Nine clued into this element of her character and made the final decision all about protecting Rachel from the truth, knowing that Chloe repeatedly tries and fails to protect Rachel both during and after the events of Before the Storm.

Parkingtigers
Feb 23, 2008
TARGET CONSUMER
LOVES EVERY FUCKING GAME EVER MADE. EVER.


exquisite tea posted:

I think Chloe Price is one of the most well-realized and tragic characters in fiction. The abandonment she feels from the simultaneous loss of her father and best friend, how that metastisizes into her futile outward displays of apathy and rebellion, yet how she ultimately blames herself for failing to protect William, Rachel, and Max from leaving her forms a consistent throughline in all her words and actions. She loves Rachel and Max but genuinely believes she has nothing to offer them in return, which manifests into a kind of overprotective aggression that to a first-time player of Life is Strange can feel overwhelming and clingy throughout the first two episodes. Yet when you start to peel away that facade you find a profoundly sad and lonely girl who is scared of once again losing the only person in her life that matters. I was really impressed how early Deck Nine clued into this element of her character and made the final decision all about protecting Rachel from the truth, knowing that Chloe repeatedly tries and fails to protect Rachel both during and after the events of Before the Storm.

I think it really helps if Life is Strange is seen as a platonic love between Max and Chloe, allowing Chloe and Rachel Amber to be the true romantic love story. I fully understand why so many people shipped Max and Chloe as a couple, especially being starved for such representation in games, and it certainly is open enough for anyone to have that be the case. I didn't even notice that Before the Storm was done by a different team until after I'd played it, and you're so right in how they saw things in Chloe that I hadn't, and they showed them to me, and now I retroactively like Life is Strange more because of that prequel game. Prequels are always the most difficult thing to get right, dealing with things we already know and having to somehow still make us care. And they nailed it, and I'm now at the stage where I not only recommend Life is Strange, but insist they absolutely must play prequel as well. It's become an essential companion piece in my mind, for all the reasons that you articulated far better than I ever could.

I've still not even looked at Life is Strange 2, it being a totally different story. Hearing mixed reviews on that one. Did you play it? And if so, how does it compare?

Oh and speaking of representation, returning to Remember Me I did like just how many important female characters there were. Nilin as a bi-racial protagonist, and the best memory hunter in the business. The top bounty hunter you meet early on, also a woman. So is the CEO of the main company in the story, also the prison governess mini-boss, and in a short story clip the architect who designed neo-Paris' defences is also a woman. It's not shoe-horned in, or tokenism, just a ton of the big roles in the world are held by capable women. You know, like real people. For 2013, before the big online culture wars of 2014 - 2016 and all that stuff, and the subsequent attempts to finally redress the imbalances of the past as regards diversity in gaming, Dontnod were well ahead of the curve.

exquisite tea
Apr 21, 2007

Carly shook her glass, willing the ice to melt. "You still haven't told me what the mission is."

She leaned forward. "We are going to assassinate the bad men of Hollywood."




I liked Life is Strange 2 and respect that Dontnod committed to their own vision for the series, but it didn't quite resonate with me emotionally as much as the Arcadia Bay saga. The lack of a central mystery and rotating cast of characters made it play out more like a season of prestige television on HBO rather than the kind of insane melodrama that really drew me into the first game. I appreciated what Life is Strange 2 was going for on an intellectual level, but there are no moments that were forever burned into my psyche like Kate on the rooftop in Season One or the neighborhood scene from Before the Storm.

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bewilderment
Nov 22, 2007
man what





I liked playing through Remember Me but I think it suffered heavily from not quite going where it wanted to go. There's clear signs of a lot of areas or story being cut, and there's only three Memory Remix sequences in the whole game, which as noted, clearly got better expanded upon in Life Is Strange.

It's a pretty game with a neat world, but even with better voice acting, I don't think the story is particularly well-told.

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