I spent a week fighting off what I understand to be the flu, and then another couple of days tangling with a separate, stomach virus of some kind. It’s a miserable way to spend a couple of weeks, and my writing here suffered (as did my dissertation and professional obligations), but my farm in Stardew Valley thrives from all the attention I’ve been giving it. (I’ve also been playing Factorio and Undertale, more on those soon.)
In playing the game a lot more, I’ve begun to see more of the blemishes and cracks that come with a single-dev title. Given my prior, glowing adoration of it, I feel it’s only fair to air out some of the hitches in the experience. Nothing I’m going to say here should detract from the understanding that Stardew Valley is a gloriously delightful title, mind you, but there’s lessons to be learned here as well.
Continue reading Stardew Valley: Good As Chicken Noodle Soup
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
In my last piece I confronted Fallout 4’s unfortunate bout of sexism. Part of why this is so problematic has to do with how Bethesda billed the piece as, essentially, a ‘gender aware’ game. Part of why this is so problematic is about how incredibly easy it would have been for them to avoid that gaffe. There are so many other ways Bethesda could have handled character creation and prologue that DON’T make the egregious error of stripping a female main character of the soldier’s identity. I’m not a published fiction author or game dev, but I can write three superior openings, in one sitting, in a couple of hours in front of my desktop machine at home. Continue reading Fallout 4: How She Should’ve Been A Soldier
I enjoyed parts of Fallout 4. I live in the Boston area, so playing on my home turf was a uniquely relatable experience. I enjoyed the witty, sassy, snarky one-liners from my companions. The shootout in Concord is probably some of the best storytelling, pacing and quest design in a Bethesda title. I loved the little touches, Fenway Park’s wall being kept green out of respect, the use of the old-school MTA logo, and so on. There’s a lot of great stuff in Fallout 4.
Unfortunately, the whole package is decidedly lacklustre. There’s a real danger that the runaway success of Fallout 4 will convince Bethesda that they did a good thing here, but Fallout 4 sold on the quality reputation of the past two titles and their DLC. Fallout 4 is a huge let-down, and I’m hoping they take a serious look at what went wrong with this game.
Continue reading Fallout 4: Great ideas, by themselves, do not great games make.