Entries in story (5)


Dear Esther review - A mesmerizing journey

I crest the top of the hill slowly. A distant lighthouse comes into view, dirty white against a grey sky. Seagulls cry and a brisk wind disturbs the overgrown foliage on this forgotten path. The sun is slowly sinking behind the cliff, the last of its rays reflecting off of the water that spreads endlessly in every direction. A large radio tower, out of place amidst the remote desolation, beckons me with its soft pulsating light.

As I continue to make my way forward, always at a measured pace, I stop frequently to take in the incredible details of the landscape surrounding me. Never before have I encountered such an enchanting locale. Its sheer beauty is nothing less than stunning. Without saying a word it manages to be powerful and descriptive.

My journey tells me the story of a man who has long been lost.

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Review - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

The apocalypse is all the rage these days. Blown up, devastated, ruined, and post-nuclear worlds are as inescapable as the inevitable doom these glorious nightmare scenarios envision. It seems there’s something about imagining humanity’s demise that has captured our collective attention of late.

We’ve squeezed the apocalyptic fruit of so much juice that it seems to have nothing left to give. The apocalypse has become boring. How’s that for strange?

Enslaved manages to infuse this overdone concept with new life by abandoning the bland brown grit traditionally favored as the end of the world’s color of choice. Instead, it opts for a greener palette, one that sees nature as regaining its rightful control over the land after humanity has made itself scarce. 

While Enslaved dazzles with its unique setting, it decidedly lacks a historical focus. Those hoping to learn the details of this world’s downfall will be disappointed. Enslaved plants its foot firmly in its fictional present and you learn little more than vague hints of backstory throughout the course of the adventure.

The game finds its true strength in its characters. The world sometimes seems a confusing jumble of disparate elements, full of lush greenery and sentient robots alike, but the characters you encounter along the journey, while few in number, will quickly endear themselves to you. By the end of the game, you’re sure to care far more about the people than the land. 

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Uncharted 2: An Unfortunate Difficulty Curve

It’s only logical that, in a medium that prides itself upon interactivity and developing player skill, games would necessarily get harder as they go along, peaking in difficulty at the end of the game in the ultimate test of what the gamer has learned.

In the olden days this was less complicated. Beating a game was its own reward. There was no complicated story to worry about, only overcoming the series of obstacles and seeing the Game Over screen.

But now that games are starting to tentatively poke their feet in the water of competent storytelling, a new element is added to the mix. A vital part of proper storytelling, and a big reason why the interactive medium of gaming has so far sucked at telling good tales, is momentum. Interactivity screws with momentum. It’s a nightmare to maintain a compelling pace when the player has full control of what’s going on.

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Mass Effect: Gaming's Star Trek?

Just about every medium that tells a story seems to eventually develop universes - collections of lore and history originally attached to particular stories, but that stay relevant long after those initial tales are completed. The allure of the universe is stronger than any individual story told within it, so people come back time and time again, demanding new stories told within its confines.

Television gives us some of the most numerous and obvious examples. Star Trek, for instance, is a terrific analogue for what Mass Effect could be. Its universe has sustained multiple television series, books, movies, games, and more. While the original show that started it all still remains popular, clearly there is more draw here than just Kirk and his crew.

Another obvious example, this time from the world of film, is Star Wars. There should be no need to explain the importance of this one. It is one of the most influential story universes of all time. It strongly centers around the original movies which made it famous, but has produced countless examples of other forms of entertainment only related by the universe they share.

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Mass Effect 2: The Beginning of a Journey

I have previously confessed to having an unusually strong attachment to fictional characters that is both troublesome yet wonderful, depending on the situation.

Despite my overly sympathetic nature, few games manage to go beyond this superficial attachment and produce genuine affinity for the character.

Dragon Age, with its supremely personalized nature and ability to role play to a surprising-yet-still-limited degree, is one example. This helps explain my roller coaster of emotions toward the end of the game: I actually cared about the character I was guiding there.

It may not come as much of a surprise, then, to hear that the other example that springs readily to mind is another Bioware game: Mass Effect.

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