A month ago if you’d said to me, “Will, what you need is a jRPG/Dating Sim/Farming game,” I would’ve asked you how much you’ve had to drink. Then a friend sent me the game as a gift on Steam. The next half a week is little more than a frenzied blur of planting crops, fishing my head off, and desperately trying to remember the upcoming birthdays of virtual friends – all while keeping track of upgrade schedules and the ever-growing list of morning chores my farm was accruing.
Stardew Valley’s genius isn’t merely the way it delivers a broad array of gameplay that offers to scratch any number of itches one might have. Rather, Eric Barone’s ability to pack so many different threads into a game – and make them all behave well together – truly shines by cramming over two dozen charming, human stories into the same box. Continue reading Stardew Valley: Stories With A Human Touch
Telltale Games has apparently (I just discovered them three months ago.) made a name for themselves publishing something akin to a new generation of what (I’m dating myself here) folks my age grew up knowing as Choose Your Own Adventure books. I gather I’m late to the party, but Wolf Among Us is my discovery of this genre of video gaming: the player-steered, adaptive story. The writing in Wolf Among Us is so tight, the characters such perfect twists on the fairy tales they’re based on, that what blemishes do exist are swiftly forgotten as we’re carried along.
In The Wolf Among Us you play as the Big Bad Wolf, noir detective. Fairy tale characters have come out of whatever stories they lived in and moved to New York City. Everyone hates you, because everyone hates wolves in fairy tales, but you’re Big and Bad and this is how you’re expected to keep the peace as Sheriff. Then, as things do in Noir, it starts getting bad, and true-to-genre, it starts with the death of a woman. Continue reading The Wolf Among Us: Player Choice Enshrined
I talked before about how game mechanics need to support the themes of the game, the same as story, visuals, and all the other pieces do. When I heard you could build settlements in Fallout 4, I was very excited. Fallout games of yore featured settlements that had cropped up, towns made of junk that became important oases for travelers and merchant caravans in an otherwise desolate waste full of violence and danger. Being able to take a hand in building one? That’s a genuinely new gameplay experience, and an entirely new role never before seen in a Fallout game. The potential to explore the same themes from a fresh perspective is incredible.
When I first started working with Sturges to improve Sanctuary? I was, again, super stoked. I spent about an hour running around on my own initiative, clearing debris. Then all my work was swiftly undone by a crash. That’s right: I was so excited by the possibilities that I’d forgotten to nervously quicksave every few minutes, even though I was playing a Bethesda game in launch-condition. The potential for town building was that amazing, that engaging.
Continue reading Fallout 4: Town Building Should’ve Been Awesome
I talked last time about theme and how the various mechanics in the game need to support the same themes that are being driven by the visuals, story, and other parts of the game. Now I’ll discuss five specific mechanics in Fallout 4 and how I feel they do or do not get this job done.
Continue reading Fallout 4: Theme vs. Mechanics (Part 2)
Mechanics and theme are two parts of a game that need to work together, along with others, to give us a coherent experience. In addition, we approach subsequent titles in a franchise with certain expectations based on prior titles. In this two-parter, I’m going to dig into Fallout 4, which I previously reviewed as a decidedly inferior Fallout title, and discuss the mechanics of the game and how they contribute to the game’s thematic elements (or detract therefrom).
We know, before we start playing Fallout 4, that it’s going to look a lot like Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 3 broke the mold for Fallout games, but it was also the first title in the series from the new IP owner, Bethesda, so making a splash like that isn’t uncalled for. But this is Bethesda’s third go at the Fallout IP, and let’s face it, Bethesda is known for making one type of game. A lot of people like to call Bethesda’s handling of the Fallout universe “Oblivion/Skyrim with guns.” Yes, they’re busting Bethesda’s chops a bit when they say it, but it’s also said with a fair bit of affection. Oblivion and Skyrim are solid, well-loved games.
Continue reading Fallout 4: Theme vs. Mechanics (Part 1)