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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

So last night I was tired, but I had time while people were watching fireworks and I figured “You know? I think a good half hour of escapist narrative would be good now,” so I plopped down and loaded up the game.

And was greeted with what seemed like an eternity of QTEs. Which was very much NOT what I was in the mood for.

But hey! I’m in the CIA! Whoo hoo.

And while I was very grumpy about these QTEs while I was doing them, I must say it was a pretty cool tutorial. Having Jodi start out all weak and crappy (like me) and having her get better as I got better, interspersing the working out and all that, cool stuff. It was a very well designed tutorial. I just didn’t want to do it last night.

I am a tad worried that the controls seem a bit mushy. And I could NOT figure out that whole “hold the dots on the other dot to heal Jodi” deal. How can you see the dots? Whole screen was a sparkly mess.

Still, good level.

And then I decided to at least preview the next level. There Aiden was, on a train, so I said “Ok, I’ll screw around then quit and start here next time,” so I screwed around and tossed people’s backpacks and newspapers and shit, and woke Jodi up, and then another cutscene with cops and now I think it’s saved there with the cops and not on the train so my idle fucking around is now part of the story.

Which is art imitating life.

Feminina:

The CIA training bit was a little weird. So many QTEs! And for random things like “climb up with your left foot…now climb up with your right foot!”

You know, many games would have just had you move ‘forward’ and you would climb automatically, but whatever. You do you, Beyond Two Souls.

But all the running and falling down and then running slightly more effectively, etc., was a decent tutorial. And very cinematic. Training montage!

I KIND of like the combat mechanic, where you just move the stick the direction you want to go, but also I’m not very good at it. I’ve been trained by hundreds of other games to DO THINGS in combat, like push buttons, and so having to just move is weirdly disorienting for me. Nice of them to put everything in slow motion, but I still get it wrong a lot.

Holding the dots on the other dot is hard. Doing things with the dots is always a challenge, really. But don’t worry, you’ll have plenty more chances to try to make the dots do things!

HA! Your random screwing around is totally part of the story. But hey, that’s Aiden for you, right? He would definitely do that kind of thing.

Butch:

Yes! L1 to step! Weird! And I still can’t tell when to hold x or tap it.

And writing qtes? Doing math? Weird.

The weirdest was shooting. He was all “aim and shoot.” And you didn’t really have to aim, did you? What’s with that? In games, one aims. I spent forever trying to aim before saying fuck it and hitting r1.

Also, one had no prompt. I was hanging from monkey bars all “WHAT DO I DO????”

Was that international game design?

Anyway, did everything well enough to get three trophies. Even grumpy.

Waiting to get blood drawn. This week, man. Busy.

Feminina:

I STILL can never tell when to hold and when to tap. Basically, I do one and then if it flashes red at me and I have to start over, I try the other. That’s skilled, experienced game playing for you.

And yeah, the monkey bars! The dude is yelling at you “MOVE! MOVE!” and you’re thinking “I don’t know how!”

Intentional gameplay? Making you feel more like the character because she, also, doesn’t really know how to do this thing that’s being required? Or just a weird oversight? We don’t know! But it was kind of effective at creating that mood, so maybe we can give them credit there.

What do you want?! Stop yelling at me! I don’t know how to do this thing!

Butch:

I was pondering this as I was getting my blood drawn to ignore the fact I was getting my blood drawn (I, like you, am squeamish) and maybe it’s tap when it’s a circle and hold when it’s a square? Maybe? I dunno.

It did create a mood. But c’mon, she knows what monkey bars are. And he was misleading! He was all “Use your momentum to swing to the next bar!” So I was pushing the stick back and forth and stuff and nothing. Like, tutorials are supposed to TUTOR. Just saying.

But maybe that was the point.

I did get pretty ok at it. Three trophies and all.

This game does have some nice touches.

I have to say, so far, I’m pleasantly surprised. Liking it more than I thought I would.

Feminina:

I don’t know how many trophies I got for that sequence, if any. Maybe none, I didn’t notice them pop up, but then, half the time I don’t just because I’m not paying attention to the top of the screen. (‘Or any other part of the screen,’ you might here interject, given my frequent failure to have noticed some important detail you want to discuss. But hey, the games get played somehow.)

It does have some nice moments–there are things I quite like about it. I’m enjoying it. There are some other aspects that feel a bit underdone, but I cut slack…it’s a little game doing something different, and that won’t always be knockout awesome, but is certainly, in this case, worth the playing time.

Butch:

They DING you know. But that’s sound. Never mind.

Hey, you notice things just fine when it’s just you playing. You’ve gotten used to your Divinity induced blindness.

And well…hang on. This raises an interesting question: Is it a little game?

Yes, it certainly feels like life is strange. Story, choices, not a lot of whiz bang action, that sort of thing. But they broke the bank to get Ellen Page and William Dafoe and live cap everything in the whole game (that’s a lot of Ellen Page!) and all that shit. It certainly had a budget behind it. This isn’t some Divinity/Life is Strange/Gone Home thing that was made by, like, five people on a shoestring. Budget/Tech/scale wise, this is legit AAA.

So does it deserve the slack that we would give a little indie studio?

Feminina:

Nah, I’ve never been that good at noticing trophies, even before Divinity. They ding, which is sound so clearly I ignore it, and they pop up in the top of the screen where I usually notice them, just as they’re disappearing. “Wait, I got a trophy for what now?”

Not that I’m complaining–I don’t WANT them to show up right in the middle of the screen with a big flashing arrow on them or anything. I don’t care that much. They’ve just always been something that I miss half the time, except on the rare occasions that I’m trophy-hunting and actively paying attention.

And…interesting question. It FEELS like an indie, but of course you’re right, all that starpower can’t have been cheap. Although maybe they spent their entire budget on Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, and the rest of the game was farmed out to a tiny studio with five people. Not that the game is badly done, or buggy, or in any way suggestive of a low budget, really…it plays very smoothly, if with some odd mechanics as we’ve discussed, and the faces are obviously superbly captured (and really, as I’ve continued playing, I don’t find them creepy-looking–I feel they manage to steer pretty clear of the uncanny valley through keeping it just obvious enough that it’s an artificial image that your brain doesn’t think it’s trying NOT to look artificial, and recoil in horror at how it misses…if that makes sense).

I guess it’s just the slightly unusual choices of mechanics, plus the things they have you doing with those mechanics (climbing one step at a time, say), that makes it feel indie. When really, rather than being necessarily indie, those are just DIFFERENT choices than most big games make.

Hm. I guess I still cut some slack for trying to do different things.

Butch:

Totally agree that it feels indie. It’s like a AAA indie game. Which I’m not saying as criticism.

I think it may speak to AAA games that we feel that “creative” and “different” are somehow NOT AAA. And that may well be a criticism of AAA. Certainly is.

And maybe one of the reasons we like Sony. This was a Sony exclusive. So was Horizon (which was a creative risk), and Death Stranding (see E3 posts for discussion of weirdness). They’re willing to take some risks in the AAA space.

Feminina:

Well…I guess it can be a criticism, but I think that’s just a natural feature of the market. A Big game wants a big audience, and so in order to draw the largest possible audience you need to be first comprehensible to the largest number of people so they can even play it, and then engaging for the largest number of people so they care enough about it to play it, talk about it, and buy more of your games in the future. Which all tends to mean using mechanics that are similar to mechanics lots of people will already know, and telling stories with broad, basic outlines that will hit the notes of ‘big important story’ for lots of people. (Save the world! Again!)

And it’s a criticism to say (fairly) that as a result those games tend to tread the same ground over and over, and to avoid wildy new, creative, different things, but also, we enjoy those games ourselves if they’re well done, and we eagerly buy and play them, so they’re doing something people (us included) like, and pursuing a perfectly reasonable strategy.

In summary…it takes all kinds. I want Big games, AND I want smaller, creative, different games. I want games I can play for 110 hours, AND I want small games I can play for a few weeks and have done with.

And sometimes there will be combinations of the two, Big and Different, and sometimes those will be awesome, but the potential for misjudging a large general audience’s willingness to learn weird new mechanics, or ability to connect with a weird story or style, means it probably won’t happen terribly often because the risk is too big.

Regardless, overall it’s a very good time to be playing games.

Butch:

True. I am likely being cruel. It’s been too long since we played a good ol’ big AAA thing. I am becoming overly erudite.

Can’t argue with it being a good time in games. And, if E3 was to be believed, it’s likely to get even better.

At least we know our blog will carry on and on and on.

Feminina:

Yeah! Stop being such a snob, man!

Games just want to please you (and a few million other people), and here you are being all mean about it!

Ha. Obviously, I’m all in favor of continuing to criticize games for whatever strikes us as worthy. I just wanted to note that we can criticize all we want, and the criticisms will be valid (obviously, if we’re making them, because we certainly would never complain about anything just for the hell of it)…but I think for certain issues, there is just never going to be a satisfactory answer.

We can point out that a certain lack of creativity is a common feature of Big Games, and that will be very true, but it will also probably never NOT be true, given what Big Games are.

Whereas if we point out a certain overwhelming lack of male nudity in Big Games, there’s always the possibility that at some point in the future this problem could actually be addressed. This is the hope to which I cling.

Butch:

Sorry, man. Sour grapes. I just wanna play!

But true. What would we do if games were perfect?

There’d be nudity in general. And dress balls. Dress balls followed by nudity would be grand.

What?

Feminina:

I didn’t say anything! You’re right! You’re absolutely right!

Fancy dress balls followed by nudity would be just fine. Fancy dress balls leading to fancy dress heists leading to nudity and group hugs?

Now we’re talking.

Um…I don’t specifically need the group hugs to be naked. I can take or leave orgies.

I just meant there should be group hugs in there somewhere. They could also come before the nudity, either way is fine with me.

Butch:

Man, these days it’s Friday derailment every day, ain’t it? We got behind there, with Divinity. Lost time and all that.

And we’re brain fried cuz end of year. At least I am.

And I’m down seven vials of blood, here!

SEVEN!

Feminina:

Seven!? What is that doctor doing, secretly raising a vampire in the back room?

Mark my words. It’s a vampire.

Butch:

Nah, it’s to make sure that a) I have the right amount of medicine in my system and b) that said medicine isn’t making everything stop working. There’s a lot of medicine and a lot of everything.

It sucks.

But, gotta say, given our affinity for booze, it’s nice to have that regular affirmation that the liver’s doing ok. Bottoms up!

Feminina:

YES! Liver function acceptable! Time to drink! Some more.

Butch:

It’s really the only one I care about.

“Well, based on your levels, we really should-“
“How’s the liver?”
“What? I was talking about your levels which are kinda important.”
“The liver. How’s the liver?”
“You do know I’m a neurologist.”
“Whatever. Liver. Focus, doc.”

Feminina:

“CAN I DRINK?! Tell me now!!!!”

“Well…yes, sure. Also your brain is–”

“Great thanks bye.”

Butch:

That’s pretty much my approach to my own medical care.

And I’m fine!

Right. Right?

Feminina:

Well, are you still drinking and playing games? (At least when scheduling allows.)

YES!

You’re fine.

Absolutely fine.

Butch:

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And oh did I link you this?

https://kotaku.com/cyberpunk-2077-is-a-violent-impressive-blend-of-deus-e-1826807140

Want. So very much want.

And you get your MALE NUDITY!

Feminina:

YES!

Just like I said: some complaints CAN be addressed. My dream lives!

They need to do better than the Witcher 3. Raise the bar, people!

Butch:

See? CDPR will deliver us.