Our Week in Games Week 4
The Olympics is ending today and the football season is about to kick-off once more, I don’t know who is actually looking forward to the football now, it has become relegated so with the Olympics. I have had a busy week full of job applications and have barely looked at my stack of games. The above image is from something Nick has been working on for four years, and with that I will leave the rest of the words for today to the rest of the team.
Liberi Fatali, Battle at the Big Bridge, Terra’s Theme, Zanarkand. If none of these words mean anything to you then it’s probable that the next two paragraphs and the game I’ve been playing this week, the fiendishly difficult to spell Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, will also mean little.
The success of the Final Fantasy series has always been intrinsically tied to its music. Every powerful scene had a soundtrack that heightened its emotional effect and elevated it to a new level; just imagine Aerith’s death without its orchestral accompaniment. Nobuo Uematsu’s (the composer for the soundtracks of Final Fantasy I through XI) music not only stands as some of the best in videogames but is also great in its own right, a fact that was demonstrated this year when the aforementioned Aerith’s Theme was voted to number 16 in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame.
Though it is just a simple rhythm game for the 3DS, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy manages to bring back the emotion and nostalgia of the series’ 20 year history. Just hearing Blue Fields brought the hundreds of hours I’ve spent playing Final Fantasy VIII back with a clarity that I didn’t know was possible. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a testament, a homage, a love-story not only to one of the finest videogame series and its music, but to the power of music as a whole. It’s also a greatly saddening game, a requiem to a series that no longer has its great composer and is dying a slow death. Final Fantasy may no longer be what it once was but Theathrhythm can make you remember its glory.
I’d heard about Hero Academy in passing, from friends of mine who already play it on iOS. And by “heard about in passing” I mean to say that for a while it was a constant topic of conversation and some of them actively mocked the fact that it wasn’t available on PC. Except now it’s on Steam, courtesy of Robot Entertainment (also known for the Orcs Must Die franchise) and they will feel my cross-platform wrath.
Hero Academy harkens back to the good old days of play-by-email games, a grid based strategy title that allows you to play multiple matches at once, progressing them whenever you’ve got the opportunity. You have a 5-action allowance each turn, and the objective is to wipe out the enemy team or destroy all their victory crystals. It’s intuitive, easy to learn, and from my experience thoroughly enjoyable.
Haven’t played it with those friends, yet. They won’t take their turns. They’re undoubtedly too scared to face me; although I’m not sure if that’s whether they know I’ll best them, or because they know I’ll whine about it if they wipe the floor with me.
This version comes with two teams unlocked, the Council and the Steam-exclusive Team Fortress 2 faction, and making additional teams available (and there are currently five in total, including the original pair) involves you matching that initial investment. I’m not sure if I’ll grab those, but right now I’m content to beat up complete strangers in random matches. And then die horribly in rematches. Uh, assuming they ever take their damn turn.
My favourite genre has always been the point and click adventure. To this day, I’ve yet to find anything to rival the sheer story-telling ability of the humble point and click. No other genre covers quite the range of emotions encompassing the slapstick comedy of Sam and Max Hit the Road to the emotional rollercoaster of the Dig.
But just how difficult is it to make an adventure game, anyway? It’s just a load of combining inventory items followed by a load of dialogue, surely?
So, one day I decided to put my money where my mouth is. Using Chris Jones’ Adventure Game Studio – a flexible tool used in the creation of classic adventures like Gemini Rue and Resonance – I would create a masterpiece. Without any sort of plan, concept, or even an overall direction I wanted to go in, I set out to create an adventure to rival anything Lucasarts could bring to the table.
Doctor Who: The Abysmal Sea was started long before the BBC even pondered making a Doctor Who adventure game. It’s followed me from computer to computer, sitting on my desktop and staring me in the face, day after day, daring me to finish it. It’s been through several iterations, a number of different titles, and been completely erased from existence at least twice. After work on it slowed to a crawl, I employed my good friend Rob as Chief Development Officer. Every morning, he would provide encouragement by yelling ‘Make the game!’ ‘have you made the game yet?!’ and ‘why are you here and not working on the game?!’
And yet here I am, four years later and it’s still not done. This week I’ve done nothing but pour my blood and soul into it, yet still it wants more. More puzzles, more graphics, more dialogue, always more. Finish me. Finish me. The chanting never ceases.
One day I will finish you.
Just not today.
There’s nothing quite like blowing up a line of cars all stuck behind the helicopter you conveniently parked across the busiest street in the city. Or perhaps, racing some incredibly fast and good looking cars through said city, whilst trying to avoid police attention, buildings and the debris of the cars you blew up just a few minutes ago. That’s why every once in a while I return to Grand Theft Auto IV to complete some more achievements and spend some time mindlessly annihilating everything that moves. This week I’ve been engrossed in the two DLC packs, The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and Damned.
There’s not all that much I’m going to say about The Lost and Damned. If you’re a GTA IV fan this is more standard content that you will enjoy, but it has a few bad points. I found riding bikes all the time to be pretty frustrating and more often than not would swap my bike out for a car when I had the chance. The story is also pretty short and not all that engaging.
The Ballad of Gay Tony, by far the better of the two DLC packs, is another story all together. It reminds me of what made me love GTA back in the day. Outrageous fun, crazy characters and a main protagonist and story that really make you want to play on. I would go as far as to say that if they had beefed out the characters and storyline into a full release, I might have even enjoyed it more than the main game.
For starters it’s pretty long as far as DLC goes these days, well worth the 1200 MS points you need to purchase it and if you can get it cheap on disc, or in a sale like I did then you can’t fail to be satisfied. Secondly everything is OTT in an extremely fun and explosive way. This is where in my opinion, Rockstar really shines. The characters make you squirm, shock you, and make you laugh. This in turn makes the story far more engaging than the realistic gritty feel you get from the main game. Thirdly, if you have played the main game then you’re in for a treat. The storylines from TBoGT and the main GTA IV plot actually cross over in a few places and you find yourself playing the other side of the story. Roman visit’s the clubs you own. Niko is seen on the street and there are numerous mentions and apperances of the mysterious diamonds.
To be honest, I don’t buy a lot of DLC as it mostly seems overpriced and pointless. But I’m glad I took the chance with this one, probably the best DLC I’ve ever played.