Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

Almost out of my system

Posted by joeabbott on January 9, 2011

I recently completed playing a game that I thoroughly enjoyed, and yet, I thought I had spent way too much time playing it. In a year in which I’d done very little woodworking or hiking (for, what I think are, legitimate reasons), I played a hella lotta games.

But, with my recent completion of Fallout: New Vegas, I have a new lease on life and I’m ready to start my next project: building a set of bookshelves for the front room. But, there’s something still tugging at me that says, “games are fun … talk more games!”. And so, for now … one last post.

I had entertained writing about how I approached playing through Fallout: New Vegas on Hardcore mode. It was more planning than I’ve done for any other game and I made some good decisions and really enjoyed the result. But, if I’m going to write just one last post, I wanted to summarize …

My Year in Games

imageI’ve enjoyed gaming for a long time but have never been an uber-gamer. I will, however, get a game and play the daylights out of it. Finding out everything about it is part of the fun for me, and I can actually justify the price! Even though I borrow, get games at discount, and almost always wait until the games have been out a good long while (and so are cheaper); I have a hard time paying money on something “just for fun”.

But, somehow, I’ve managed to play a large number of games this year.

Using TrueAchievements as my guide, I’m able to see what achievements I’ve earned and, therefore, know what game I’ve been playing! So, ready yourself for a year of video gaming and sloth as we look at my year in games!

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel

imageI ended 2009 playing this game and stopped early in 2010, vowing to go back and finish it; I wasn’t done “finding out everything about it”. But, I’m slowly accepting that I won’t be back. There’s still a chance, but I have too many other games on my plate to revisit a game I’ve already completed. But look at me, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I bought Sacred 2: Fallen Angel off eBay, something I rarely do, but the game caught my eye so I waited for someone to sell their old copy cheap. And so, about a year after it was released, I found someone to see me the game for $20 … the price I can justify for most games.

Few of my friends had played it or were interested … Sacred 2 just didn’t seem to have a lot of hype around it. But, RPGs are enjoyable distractions for me. While I say that it hadn’t generated a lot of hype, that’s purely among my friends. Judging from the Sacred 2 wiki, there’s a huge following for this series. But, back to me.

The game is an RPG, “you’re a lone hero who must save the world”, and features a top-down view of your character running about the world doing your deeds, exploring and discovering. I played this almost exclusively through about mid-February and had completed the “good” campaign. I had restarted it and was playing through as an “evil” character but I was hoping to accomplish the Dedicated achievement (not exploring more than 20% of the map), when the “evil mage” character that I had created was under-powered to beat one of the game bosses. I either had to power him up (without exploring more of the map than I had) or restart with a character who would be strong enough to bee-line to the boss. Alas, I pretty much just stopped because Mass Effect 2 had been released.

But there were other diversions before that.

1 vs. 100 and Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle-earth 2

imageI’m combining these two because, all told, I probably spent 5 hours collectively playing these games.

1 vs. 100 was a delightful trivia game that pitted you against anyone else who had logged in. It was played over the Xbox Live network and I was very late getting to the party. But I loved it.

And so, I played for 3-4 nights (I was never sure when it was on and really couldn’t be troubled to schedule in game time … it just happens!) but I picked up 9 of the 12 achievements and was ready to get the last three. And then the season ended and, amid quite a lot of fan complaint, Microsoft canceled the series without much explanation.

Too bad, it was a fun game. But I had enough time to dip my toes into another game …

imageOK, I’m a Tolkien nut from way back. I’m absolutely irresponsible about it, too. But, I’m OK with that. I used to collect but then I thought, “to what end?” and I stopped. But I still read the books, watch the movies, and collect this and that.

Sometime I’ll do a piece on my Lord of the Rings stuff. And it’s good stuff.

But, onto the game Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth 2. It was a title that tried to bring RTS gaming (Real-time Strategy) to the Xbox and, while moderately successful, it wasn’t a huge seller. The game came out in the middle of 2006 and, in February last year, I picked up a used copy from Blockbuster Video or maybe Gamestop or someplace like that. I think I paid $10.

Anyhow, I’d already played that game on the PC but thought I’d enjoy some RTS on the Xbox and win some achievements while doing it!

Sadly, I inserted the disk, played enough to get a single achievement, and put the game aside for “later” when I had more time.

And there it sits.

Mass Effect 2

imageThis is the big daddy. I started playing on March 18 and finished playing on May 28 and I never looked at it again. Why? Because I borrowed the game from a friend and I finally finished Insanity play-through on May 28. I then returned it.

This is another RPG but rather than the usual milieu of some ersatz middle ages knights and mages sort of game, this is a futuristic “spaceman” game. And boy is it good.

I finished my first play-through on March 20, 12 days after I was loaned the game, and then I played it another 2 months getting the rest of the achievements.

The game has a lot of depth, has built a rich, realistic world, and gives you a lot of options and choices as you rummage through it.

Oh, and, yes, you do save the world.

Darksiders

imageAbout this time a friend of mine loaned me three games: Darksiders, Bayonetta, and The Saboteur. I objected, saying I would take too long, but I didn’t object enough to not keep them and take them home. I’m still playing The Saboteur (more on that later) but returned Bayonetta as “not my cup of tea”. As such, there won’t be more on that game later.

But, Darksiders.

I can’t say I loved it but I sure played a lot of it! Again, it’s an RPG and I spent a lot of time exploring the worlds, accomplishing quests, and racking up too many hours with this title.

In it, you’re one of the three horsemen, War, to be precise. You’ve been stripped of your powers and made to walk an Earth that’s been devastated and occupied by demons; your task: find out who destroyed the Earth (they’ve framed you!).

And so I played a lot, getting 34 of the 43 achievements but I played it on “easy” mode and enjoyed it for that.

Alan Wake

imageAlan Wake looks fun and creates a great mood and won a ton of awards for the clever story and bringing a psychological thriller to a video game … but it didn’t hook me.

I got the game for cheap at the company store and wanted to love it like everyone else, but it wasn’t my sort of game. I guess I don’t like spooky movies\games\whatever.

I played the game all of two sessions: one on May 31 and again on June 1.

I plan to get back to it and enjoy the rest of the story but, for now, I’ve completed 11 of the 67 achievements and I only feel badly for not playing because Suzy was watching me and she was interested in the story.

Borderlands

imageOMG!

Borderlands is not my sort of game but I loved it! While it is an RPG-esque sort of game, the focus is on gunplay and getting guns and shooting creatures and finding more guns and is really more of a FPS (First Person Shooter).

But what a heap of fun!

I don’t know if it was the story, the art (it’s very “comic book style”), or the guns … but I had a hoot!

While I only played it roughly a month, I was on that console a lot with this game. A lot. Yeah, a lot.

I almost thought about buying it (guess what: a friend had loaned it to me) but I have too many other distractions to get to (and get back to).

Essentially, you’re on a distant planet that has a hidden treasure trove that you need to find. So you run around zapping people and creatures with all manner of guns. The game has a random generation process so that no two play-throughs will give you the same weapons. I read there are a potential 17 million variations on the weapons.

It’s fun. A heap of fun.

Crackdown 2 and Puzzle Quest 2

imageI’m grouping these together as I played Crackdown 2 very little (having won just 9 of 70 achievements), and I’m still playing Puzzle Quest 2 albeit very slowly. And yet I started these about the same time.

I got Crackdown 2 from the company store when it came out because: I could get it cheap, I loved the original Crackdown, and a friend of mine wanted company while waiting in the line. Playing the second version is a lot like playing the first version. Which is good but I’d already done that.

I was having a hard time enjoying the story and found that I was just running around like a nut trying to get all the “orbs” that float about the city. As a matter of fact, I only played it one day.

imageAs for Puzzle Quest 2 (PQ2), I got it mainly for Suzy, who I thought would love it. She really enjoyed PQ1 but she didn’t like the changes they made to the second game. And so I play it.

I got this as a download and so that’s its saving grace: when I’m tired of playing whatever is in the CD caddy, I can just pull up PQ2, play a bit, and then go away.

What I hate about PQ2 is that there are so darned many fights!! Yeah, I know that’s the point, but trying to navigate the halls of the dungeon and you’re constantly in one “match three” puzzle after another!

I think I’m looking for too much of a story here, but it does get tedious. I can play all night and really not feel like I’ve progressed.

Assassin’s Creed 2

imageOh, yes … another loaned game, another chunk of my life missing.

I played AC1 and enjoyed it; playing AC2 was like getting to the real game after playing a demo. The video was fluid, the story was compelling, and you had a big world to explore.

I started playing on July 25 and had this game in my console until September 23, and in those two months I got all 50 achievements. Lovely.

In the game you control an Assassin, a man of an ancient order trying to thwart bad people from … you got it … taking over the world! The story is layered such that it intertwines historical 15th century Italy with modern day events.

But, at the heart of game play you’re an agile and dexterous assassin able to effortlessly climb buildings, kill from the shadows, balance on impossibly precarious beams, rafters, and church tops, and then leap hundreds of feet to land unharmed in a bale of hay.

It’s loads of good stuff.

The Saboteur

imageA friend loaned me The Saboteur game and I should feel guilty for not returning it to him yet. Really guilty, actually.

The game is set in Nazi-occupied France and the scenes are all black, white, and shades of grey. As the protagonist, Sean Devlin, it’s up to you to perform acts of sabotage against the Germans to free France. And, as you do so, color returns to the world and takes on a golden glow: when you enter a “freed” area, it’s green and gold and light; when you enter one still under the jack book of the Nazis, it’s drab and raining.

While I had a lot of fun, climbing buildings, sniping bad guys from the shadows, and blowing up the Nazi war machine, the gameplay did get a little monotonous. One of the achievements is to complete 239 “ambient freeplays” in one area of the game; another is to complete “333 ambient freeplays”. And yet another asks for 212 “ambient freeplays”. An “ambient freeplay” is assassinating a Nazi general or blowing up an enemy searchlight\radar installation\etc.

It gets a bit repetitive. For those three achievements alone, you’re sabotaging 784 things. Wow.

But, as I like climbing, jumping, and sneaking about, this game still holds some appeal. I’ve put it on hold while I’d tackled Fallout: New Vegas but, now that that’s over, I will get back to freeing occupied France!

What’s next?

And that’s it. What’s next for me is to go back and spend much smaller parts of my days and nights picking up achievements and completing the games I’ve started. I’m interested in playing Crackdown 2 with my brother-in-law Steve as a co-op mission. Should be fun. Or, I could complete Sacred 2 on the “dark campaign”. Or I could see how Alan Wake ends.

I actually have more options than I have time. But that’s a good position to be in.

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