One-Sided Interaction: The Undead made me feel alive again

Once again, ya’ll, I think I’m in love.

I’ve been souring on games for some time now, and it’s been leaving me feeling rather desolate. Almost inconsolable. This hobby has been one of the key passions in my life for a long, long time, and to see it go mainstream has been painful, to say the least. My frustration was that many gamers felt that there was some big payoff once the normies legimitized gaming as something ‘normal,’ whereas I’ve seen what happens when the normies get involved. Marketing steps in, takes control, and makes sure that everything is watered down and game designs are built out according to aggregate scores and all kinds of shit. It’s just bad stuff. By making sure that evertone is included, systems and concepts must be streamlined, and everything must be reduced to the lowest common denominator. By appealing to everyone, you truly reach no one.

And then I rediscovered adventure games over the weekend. It was almost accidental, and yet, my soul was saved.

I guess I’m just kind of an impossible, twisted human being. I’m not terribly interested in (most of) the generic, huge AAA titles like Call of Duty or Mario or Assassin’s Creed, but nor am I at all interested in the overly simple, 2D platformer, twitch-based indie titles, either. I like story. I like immersion. I like cripplingly complex systems. I don’t like gimmicks, nor do I engage with titles that have had focus-testing drive design decisions.

I think the last time I really sat down with an adventure game was when the first Hero’s Quest came out (it’s now known as ‘Quest For Glory.’) I loved that game. I picked it up because it looked kind of like an RPG, but not like Ultima, so I was curious, and my curiosity was well-rewarded. I think maybe I never moved forward with the series or genre because I discovered girls shortly thereafter, and got distracted from games for a few years (I basically missed almost all of the 16-bit era because I was busy trying to be a teenage Don Juan).

So, there I was, Saturday night. I’d gotten the sign-off from the trophy wife to stay up late and game. I cycled through Steam, Origin, my GOG games, and just couldn’t settle on anything. I fired up Dragon Age: Origins (PC) for a bit.

As a side note, any time I’m playing Dragon Age: Origins, I’m in kind of a funk with gaming in general. DAO is one of my ‘comfort games.’ I love it dearly, and can play it any time withot reservation. The world and dialogue is so deep, it’s easy to just lose myself in talking to NPCs. Oh, and the combat. I love the combat in that. And the characters. Oh, don’t forget all the lore. And there’s just so much to do. I could go on and on. But I won’t. Back to the point.

So, after setting some Genlocks and Hurlocks on fire for a while, I decided I really wanted to make progress through something new. I eyeballed Gemini Rue and Resonance for a bit, before remembering, suddenly, that I’d never even touched Telltale’s The Walking Dead game. I glanced at the trophy wife, trying to gauge her potential responsiveness to what would happen if I tried to make sex at her, and decided that I’d just play a littel Walking Dead, then solicit her for affection in a bit. She’s a voracious reader, so I figured I had some time.

Five hours later, it was 3AM, and I had finished the first two episodes of The Walking Dead (there are three more forthcoming.) I sat there, stunned, unable to fully absorb the journey I’d just taken. It was incredible. I’d not been so fully absorbed in the world of a game like that since … since … maybe Dragon Age: Origins?

The game is just really well-balanced. It’s an adventure game, for sure. Much of the interface is hovering your mouse over an object or person and selecting an action. Movement is via WASD. The action sequences are QTE. And the story is straight-up gripping. And the choices can be BRUTAL.

In the hours following my conclusion of the first two episodes, whenever I thought back to the game, the memories were of being there, not of playing the game. It was that immersive and compelling.

What helped tremendously, too, was the art style. They did a fantastic job of placing it in a comic book without the world and characters coming off as caricatures. It was really interesting at which to look, but it was also believable that these were real people when they emoted.

If you’ve read or watched The Walking Dead, you will gobble this up and love it. If you’ve not, you will gobble this up and love it. It’s really great storytelling and the ‘play’ aspect is plenty engaging, especially when you must solve a mystery through investigation. This is the best game I’ve played this year so far. I think. I say that rather flippantly, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been this stoked about a game.

Oh, and I loved the stat breakdown at the end. You get to compare your choices with the percentages of other players. I was surprised to see how disappointeingly average I was in most of my choices. I guess I play ultra light-side.

So, once I finished the first two episodes in five hours, I wanted more. I started to research other adventure games. I’ll snag some of the Sam and Max games, for sure, but I also started to discover a whole indie scene built aroud adventure games. I realized I already owned a few, from Wadjeteye Games, called Resonance and Gemini Rue. This then led to me look at the Adventure Game Studio tool, which then led me to this whole indie adventure game scene. Fantastic! There is so much out there, and I can’t wait to explore. I guess I always knew there was a rabid indie adventure game scene, but somehow, I guess I just ignored it. I feel kinda like the guy who’s talking up a new local music scene or something, but DAMN. There’s a lot here and I’m going to dig and dig. Comment if you have any recommendations.

I snagged Blackwell Unbound on Steam, which is a prequel to the Blackwell series, and I’m going to dig into that this week. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m really excited to explore this genre more, and it feels so great to have found something new in a medium that I really, really already love.

Oh, and for those keeping score at home, I did end up making sex at the trophy wife the next night.

By the way …

I’m also excited about digging into the Adventure Game Studio. I’m a writer, and have been learning to code, so this looks great for a project that I and some others have been assembling. Check it out and make a game!

Nintendo Power is shuttering its doors. I’ve not read the mag in probably 20 years, but that still made me a little sad. That was a cornerstone of my childhood. I really hope someone does a nice feature on it. I’d love to read that. What? Don’t look at ME!

Guild Wars 2 launches this weekend. I can’t wait. Once I have the character created, I will be glad to finally announce my brilliantly filthy character name, because I’m so proud of it and don’t want anyone to steal it. Really, it’s awesome. Oh, and the game is great, too. One of the best betas I’ve ever been on.

I also signed up to test The Witcher 2 mod tools. I hope that pans out. I’d love to get my hands dirty in that thing.

Yeah, we’re cranking up to that time of the year. I got Guild Wars 2, Borderlands 2, Forza Horizon, and Dishonored in my scope. I’ll probably add a couple more over the next couple months, though I can’t imagine what. Everything else good got pushed to next year.

As always, thanks for reading!

-Blaine

Buy my book!

The Filthy Writer: Self-Indulgence Manifested(personal blog)

Untitled Gaming (gaming blog)

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