Archive for March, 2012
Quickly, what Proteus reveals is that the typical application of anxiety = game play is false. This is ambiance as game play, a way out of the consistent need to drop us into combat. Proteus isn’t just anti-combat, it opens up games to the idea of exploration as a goal. Gears of Wars or Pac-man are all based off the idea of challenge, Proteus is not so much a challenge, it invites you to relax. The game is pretty, but the thing is there’s a logic there, the game makes sense, and mystery is consistent. Proteus is a game of exploration, but it blew my mind wide open to the idea of games that evade the usual stress tests of gaming. This isn’t a hard game, its simply enjoyable, but there’s a lot there and so many mechanics evolving in the game that add wonder or narrative to the world. It gave me A LOT of ideas so to what to do in games, and it made me aware of how tired I am of the consistent stress test of gaming. Proteus strives to make every choice in exploration more enjoyable, to lay out a new mechanic that makes the games that much deeper and mysterious. It’s a case of narrative that in turn lets you contribute to the soundtrack that in turn alters gameplay. I haven’t nailed it, but the game is like ambient music, not so much about tempo or anger or aggression but unfolding, Proteus reveals the rock roots of the modern game, it makes so much of what passes as game play seem jammed into a punk 2 chord riff, in other words it’s kinda like Yanni in the middle of a hair rock convention and you can be sure most game designers don’t think of themselves as Van Halen. It invites games to let down their hair and find something else to do aside from killing. It’s a masterpiece, and in a canon of game design it’s a narrative well worth enshrining.
By now, if you’re familiar with games, you’ve probably heard of the Assassin’s Creed games.
Each game takes place in the present, and a subject, Miles Desmond, is hooked up to a machine
and forced to replay “genetic memories” of his ancestors. Miles belongs to a smallish order called Assassins.
the Assassin’s are in eternal peril from Templars, an order that usually represents reigning hegemons in a particular period.
In the third game, Brotherhood, the Templars were the Borgia.
The Borgia kinda worked as villians because they’re part of the Papacy and you know the church.
If you haven’t played the latest game Revelations, the video below contains a lot of spoiler and most of the ending
however it also contains the Assassin’s Creed:
Nothing is true, Everything is permitted
As Ezio explains, “To say nothing is true is to realize the foundations of society are fragile and that we must be the shepherds of our civilization. To say that everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions we must live with the consequences of our actions.”
I know, what a great reading. Ezio has taken in essence the void Nietzsche found after religion and expanded it into a creed which has a surface of nihilism but a consequence of liberation.
And that’s what the game really is: consummate deconstructionists battling the hegemonic forces of stabilizing truth, the ethics of today moving back and rewriting the past. And that’s the greatest anachronism of the game who, in an era before even mass literacy or numeracy, would have had the imagination to form an entire order around an ethics that precludes religion? It’s like an Übermensch got a time machine and gets to go back and rewrite the past, battling all those institutions that wrote certainty into being in the first place. Assassin’s Creed is pop post-modernism at its most cringe inducing (you actually get to base jump with Niccolò Machiavelli in one of the games), but it shows how far the morals of Nietzsche have come, that we would want to rewrite the past and find in it anti-heroes worthy of today.
That said, Revelations as a game isn’t terribly exciting. AC2 introduced us to our beloved protagonist, Brotherhood brought of his greatest triumph, Revelations is merely a closing note and one not very satisfying. The game introduces us to a group of Turkish Assassins only to have them disappear a few minutes later. While the Sultanate storyline is interesting (and has a few good twists) it lacks the frantic twists and consequences of Brotherhood. Revelations also promised us that: Revelations. Instead it delivers a few optional side quests exploring Desmond’s memories and a so-so tale of Ezio’s exploits in Costantinople, it also provides us with Ezio’s greatest moment of infamy: he sets fire to a weapon’s cache in Cappadocia only to escape as the civilivians choke to death on their fumes. After this it becomes hard to believe in Ezio’s quest as much, the Sultan simply wants to use the templars to bring peace to a divided Turkey. Revelations takes an anti-hero and makes him a hero only to have him slaughter innocents. The story line suffers a little do to this scene.
The game additionally suffers from a dearth of new mechanics. The hook blade is introduced and as zip lines, two useful additions to Ezio’s arsenal, but hardly game changing. Bombs are useful, but rarely necessary. The game in other hands plays remarkably similar to the last 3 games… which in turn played a little to similar to each other to begin with. Rome was a pleasure to clamber around, Istanbul is exotic, but feels small in juxtaposition and is broken into districts to boot. What the game really fails at though is delivering on the cliffhanger of the last game. We don’t learn why the apple made Desmond do what he did, we don’t learn much about subject 16 ( although you can pay for dlc to do so), and all the energy in the last game’s finale is dissipated so Ezio can finally find a wife basically. That’s what the game really is: Ezio gets a wife and a very charming one at that. It lets us know that the beloved Assassin made it out ok.
The game contains small optional Desmond sequences in which you play in future person. These sequences didn’t get very good reviews, but I actually really enjoyed them. They might be the only really original thing about the game. Desmond is given two blocks which he can spawn to navigated various data scapes. As you progress this becomes harder because the computer has flow, currents push and pull you, and security programs zap your blocks away, in order words you have to think to get through it. It’s not quite portal, but honestly I enjoyed these sequences more than Portal 2 or many of the games that have cloned or copied its fps puzzler elements. While I still wish the Desmond sequences had provided some fractured visuals or navigating the emotional landscape of his adolescence in more than abstract visuals it was an enjoyable experience all the same. The same can’t be said for Ezio’s last days which bored me, but thankfully I beat the game in a couple of days.
A couple notes on Rage. One I picked it back up and really enjoyed it. The melee segments are immaculate, ID really knows how to produce a variety of enemies with good abilities. The mutants are also scary and ammo is scarce enough and your mortality real enough that I actually worry about each bend. the stort hasn’t picked up and could have been dispensed with, but the game over all is actually quite fun once you get used to it. Each clan is a different challenge, each weapon needs ammo, and the weapons are quite good too. I usually run out of pistol ammo before I beat a level and die at least once. That’s more than I can say for a lot of FPSs out there.
The Next Big Thing:
Pendulu is a Spanish developer that has been doing point and click games in the vein of Grim Fandango for awhile now. The Next Big Thing is a great game, but one that really drives home the bigotry of its characters. Our intrepid male reporter is a misogynist, despairs hanging out with minorities, and the female lead is at times… “disquieting”. Over all though, these fine folks know how to tell a story, even if it’s heavily invested in the gender wars.
To the Moon:
I did not expect this one to draw me in, but unlike almost every other game on the market, this one actually got me to play it for 59 minutes before the demo expired. To the Moon is a story, less a game and much more a story, told in retro snes style graphics that borrows from square. It’s a story about a magical device not unlike that found in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’ll leave it at that, it’s to memorynauts that must travel back in memories and raise an astronaut one little trinket at a time. The demo is here. I recommend you check it out.