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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor content spoilers and general mechanics/mood discussion of Rise of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

And so today I DO have a laptop and not much to say. Decked the halls instead of doing much of anything else. Didn’t play, but I can vouch that Christmas Monkey is slightly less upsetting when viewed with season appropriate room decor.

To distract me from such things, I turn towards the holidays.

So here we are, starting to idly wonder if this game is getting close to the end (you’ve probably finished it. Haven’t you? You have). We have Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, then Xmas happens and you go west, and then we ponder what to do until Robot Dinosaurs.

I’m still chewing on the Witness, sure. But I also have these kids, so, for them, and, thus, for me, I get The Last Guardian, the rest of King’s Quest and Stardew Valley. You should totally do the first two. And, you know, Xmas.

You getting any good game stuff for/from anyone?

Feminina:

I have not finished–I’m still only at 77% or something. I did play, though, and had a thought: how do we feel about stuff happening in the story that Lara isn’t present for?

There was a scene between Konstantin and Ana when Lara wasn’t around, back in the part that we’ve both played, and I thought it was a bit odd, but then (minor spoiler) there was another such scene that I just played, and…I just don’t know if I like it.

I mean, it adds to our understanding of the story, so that’s good. I like story. BUT…Lara is our POV character, and jumping away from her to show us stuff that she has no way of seeing/hearing, thus putting us in the position of knowing things she has no way of knowing, feels awkward to me, from a narrative standpoint.

It’s not story-breaking information in the sense that we’re now going to be able to act on knowledge Lara doesn’t have about a clever trap, or anything, so it kind of doesn’t even matter: so we know a bit more about the relationship between these two, why not?–but it feels out of place. I don’t know that I like it.

Butch:

Oh, so I’m not at the endgame? Seriously.

I have that problem in any type of first person medium. It IS awkward. And I think it’s something games especially will have to deal with. It’s the only genre I can think of where the person hearing the story (you) is the same as the main character. It DOES make it hard to flesh things out.

I think one of the many reasons DA2 is so underrated was the way they handled that. By having Varric tell the story, he could tell Cassandra (and you) things Hawke couldn’t have known.

That said, I can’t tell what’s worse: Having cutscenes like that where the PC is nowhere around, or twisting yourself in pretzels contriving ways to get around it. Take UC4 (which I now forgive for being Chloeless). It seemed that Raef and Nadine ALWAYS waited to say anything until they were by a crack in a wall and had a slight feeling people were on the other side of that crack. I mean, ok, now we can say “See? Drake was THERE!” We can say that while rolling our eyes so hard we may hurt ourselves. Part of me says that if you’re gonna do the whole exposition out of place thing, just do it, dammit.

Feminina:

It’s true, the silly contortions you have to go through to have the main character be ‘there’ and able to overhear things is also somewhat narrative-breaking. The eye-rolling alone skews the whole plot!

I guess I just wonder why they bother. We’ve already got the contrivance of everyone leaving documents lying around everywhere that reveal their deepest thoughts, and the contrivance of Lara happening to be in exactly the right place at the right time to overhear SOME things.

Why add the contrivance/odd dose of reality that is “oh, actually you’re not REALLY Lara you’re just a detached observer who PRETENDS to be Lara for most of the game, enjoy this scene she would never have witnessed!”

Just maintain some internal consistency, however implausible, that’s what I prefer. But I do get your argument that given a big enough pile of implausibility, just breaking internal consistency and giving you the other point of view can come as almost a relief. I think I would be more inclined to agree if we didn’t still have all the other implausibility to somehow suspend disbelief on.

Pick an approach, basically.

I was also doing a little swimming and recalled that I never responded to your remarks about the rebreather and how even though you hate swimming, taking the risk out of it with said rebreather feels a little off. Like, why bother? If there’s not some added risk, it’s just another environment.

I think maybe they really really wanted to have a specific fight scene that they had, and that motivated the entire thing? Because it’s quite true, without the risk of drowning and the need to keep looking out for air, underwater is pretty much just another environment to wander through at your leisure.

This almost comes down to the same complaint as above: pick an approach! Is water dangerous or not? Don’t go changing the rules on us!

Although I personally am much more forgiving of the rebreather because whatever, it’s consistent with the accumulation of gadgets and it makes my life easier. I mean, the rope ascender makes climbing a rope just another environment to charge through without pausing because there’s nothing interesting in it. Gadgets, man.

Still, I see your point.

Butch:

Indeed, we did roll our eyes at such contortions in UC4 at the time.

“Pick an approach” is something games very often fail to do. I think that, too, is a gamey thing. I mean, you never say that movies fail to do that. You’ve never read a book that switches from third to first person halfway through. I mean, on one hand, games are so great cuz there are no set rules yet. That said, the lack of set rules often leads to odd decisions like this that wouldn’t happen if there were set rules. Still, I’d rather have free wheeling art that fails sometimes than predictable.

And OK about the rebreather, except the rope thingy is there for speed and convenience. The rebreather takes a peril and just scraps it.

But back to the peril: swimming bits PRE rebreather were both tense and had some puzzlely elements. “Where’s the light? QUICK find it! Hurry hurry hurry!” Now it’s just lazily “Oh, this way? No…oh..whatever…”

This game (gonna harsh on it again) seems to be doing weird things re scaling difficulty. I mean, most every game increases the scope and power of your gear as you go, but this is usually to give you a) some variety and b) an ADDED challenge/wrinkle of getting to pick how to approach a fight/puzzle. Do I sit here and snipe for a while or pick the shotgun and charge? I’m low on rifle bullets, do I use them or try to make do with the pistol? Etc. Multiply that times 100 for RPGs like The Witcher. Also, gear upgrades are usually accompanied by upgrades in enemies. You stopped seeing drowners so much after you got that griffin armor. Here, gear seems to just make killing the same dudes easier, and gizmos just take whole gameplay elements out. The game is getting less complex and easier. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

Feminina:

That’s an interesting point about how we don’t complain about this sort of viewpoint switching with movies and books. I think this is mostly true, because you’re right that movies and books have mostly settled on conventions that structure stories in ways that avoid these issues…it’s not entirely true, because I’ve certainly read books where I thought “wait a sec, what is this chapter from some omniscient narrator doing here in what has been a limited third person?” So it happens, and we notice it when it happens, but it’s perhaps true that it doesn’t happen as often because this sort of inconsistency maybe tends to get ironed out in the editing process in a way that doesn’t necessarily happen in games because the “pick an approach” rule hasn’t been as firmly established as “the right way to do story” that way it has in books.

Movies…hm. I’m sure there are movies that mostly follow one character around and only show us what he/she sees, but then inexplicably leap to a broad view that the character has no way of seeing, and I’m sure if I noticed this I would object to it in principle the way I’m objecting to it in this game, but I can’t think of a specific instance. Perhaps it’s just not as noticeable (to me) because I’m not as accustomed to playing a movie in my own head the way I read a book in my own head, so the disconnect isn’t as jarring?

While with a game, the visual aspect is like a movie, but the way we’re asked to identify with and “be” a single character is more like a book, so I noticed it?

I dunno. And you’re right, of course, that we’d rather see interesting experiments than every game following the same hallowed path of “the right way to do it.” Although I don’t know that the general ‘pick an approach’ rule has ruined literature, or prevented authors from breaking the ‘rule’ if they choose, so I’ll only let them off the hook so much. And that much is basically “I see your narrative inconsistency, and it bugs me, but whatever, I’m still playing your game and it’s not as if this is going to keep me from playing the next one.”

A minor annoyance, really, but I notice, and I nitpick. It’s what we do.

Butch:

Well, that and books tend to be written by one person, who, one would think, has a set idea as to how it’s going to go. Games, AAA games anyway, are made by BIG teams over long periods of time, so things can get lost.

And not just BE a single character, but control said character. I mean, we very literally control how our characters look at the world. WHERE they look. Where they go. What they do. Sometimes, what they say. So when we’re actively choosing what to see, what to focus on, and then BOOM, we are getting this weird thing, it’s jarring. In a movie, sure, there’s weird perspective changes, but none of the perspectives were one we were choosing ourselves.

We nitpick because we care.

I like this game. I do. I feel I’m spending a great deal of time harshing this game, and I like this game. I have to find something nice to say, soon.

Feminina:

We like the running and climbing. The action. Although your point about the game getting easier as we go…I’ve just had some fights that seemed like maybe they should be pretty big fights, and I just hacked the hell out of people and it wasn’t even that big a deal.

Didn’t even remember to explode anything (I never remember to trigger the explosives), completely failed to sneak, but it was just not that big a deal.

Hm.

However!–I do enjoy the running and climbing, there are some lovely environments, the story is fine if not particularly complex…and there’s supernatural! (You know, maybe.) I think I’m not LOVING this game with the fiery passion I feel for a Dragon Age Origins, but it’s perfectly solid and serviceable and I’m enjoying it. More than AC Black Flag. As much as the Uncharted series it so resembles.

Butch:

I feel the same way about the fights. Which, on one hand, I kinda like. I mean, we bitch all the time about how repeatedly dying late in games (I’m not almost done, am I?) breaks momentum, and lordy knows I am NOT repeatedly dying. But then again….here we are a notch UP on difficulty, getting late, and we’re just cruising. If it’s TOO easy, it runs the risk of just having fights because video game.

So far, I’m ok because, despite the not dying, the fights FEEL tense. I ran out of leaves in my last fight, and that was rather harrowing. So I haven’t felt like “Oh, ho hum, whatever” in a fight yet…. but still. There’s a ways to go.

We, once again, agree overall on this game. I think I liked UC4 more. This is on par with the other UCs, though, and I liked them. They had Chloe.

Feminina:

Well, you’re not NOT almost done. I mean, you’re closer to the end than to the beginning. I think. I haven’t gotten to the end myself, but I have the feeling it must be out there somewhere in this region I’m currently exploring.

While you’re still in…the flooded…place? Or not yet? Which is a region or so away from me right now.

Butch:

I just snagged the mystical D20. I’m about to go into the observatory. I was confused because I was at 51% but the load screen was all “At last….we’re here….” which was endgamey.

But after “This ends….NOW!” you have to question Lara’s sense of time.

Of course I’m closer to the end. 51%. Ha.

Her sense of time is about as good as my game planning clock.

Feminina:

Ah, the mystical D20! That’s right, we talked about that fight before you get that. Exciting!

Yeah, now you have to use the mystical D20, and…stuff happens…there’s some fighting…and so it goes. 51%. This ends NOW!!!!!

Or, you know, later. Much later.

Maybe this game is about unfounded optimism. We’ve talked about belief already: maybe the belief that you’re ALMOST there is part of that. It keeps you going, and even when it turns out you were totally wrong, well, you’re farther along by now than you were when you first said that!

Faith: needed encouragement to persevere in difficult times, or filthy lie?

Butch:

HA! We’re sharing in her unfounded optimism. Almost there dad….

Watch: The Platinum in this game is “Only 17 more trophies to go….”

I am glad that it doesn’t end at 59%. I’d’ve been pissed. And robot dinosaurs is still a ways away.

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