Star Wars 1313
One of the amazing things about Star Wars is how absolutely gigantic its universe is when considering the movies, books, comics, video games, and beyond. In this enormous galaxy, despite the plethora of larger than life heroes and villains, it has always been those that sit somewhere in the morally ambiguous gray, the bounty hunters, that have interested me the most. Instead of putting players in the shoes of a mighty Jedi or Sith, Star Wars 1313 is instead dropping players down below the surface of Coruscant to the underground slum unluckily named Level 1313. Level 1313 is everything that the shimmering futuristic cities of the planet’s surface aren’t. It is packed with buildings sticking out not only of the ground, but also dropping down from the ceiling. It’s dark, dirty, and filled with exactly the kind of people (well, people-ish things) that you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark dirty crowded project. Luckily you are one of them, so you should fit right in.
In my eyes it’s the new setting and character type that has been underrepresented in Star Wars titles of late that has me the most excited, but the game could prove to be a huge visual milestone as well. A little company called Industrial Light and Magic, which has been behind the special effects of all the Star Wars movies, is directly involved in both the art direction and visual effects of the game. Everything looks remarkably “Star Wars” despite being so different in tone from the films. Facial expressions and body language are also stunning in what footage has been released so far, surpassing anything I’ve ever seen in a game. There are a cornucopia of questions still to be answered, but if nothing else the teaming of Hollywood special effects teams with video game developers could be the start of a growing (and visually promising) trend.
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DayZ: Stand Alone
I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time playing the Arma: II mod DayZ. For those that don’t know, DayZ throws players into a huge open zombie-filled map with nothing but a few basic supplies (and no weapons). From there the only challenge is to survive. There are no missions, no objectives, no teams, no nothing. Instead, using the military-sim engine of the Arma series, the game creates the most realistic zombie apocalypse I have ever played through. So realistic, in fact, that dying means staying dead and losing all progress with your character. I’ve invested dozens of hours into characters, building supplies of weapons and medical supplies, only to be betrayed by players I thought I could trust and lose everything. That might sound like it would kill the fun, but it actually makes everything more rewarding.
The only problem is that it takes more work than some gamers are comfortable with or able to do. DayZ can’t just be bought from Best Buy or Steam like most games. Being a mod, it requires purchasing Arma II: Combined Ops, downloading the mod, and downloading a client to find matches. The standalone version aims to not only streamline the acquisition process, but will also include new types of zombies, better looking building models, more items, and more. Hopefully DayZ can avoid being dragged down by the horrible release antics of the similarly titled and themed The War Z which bombed not too long ago, a concern that DayZ creator dean Hall has been quite vocal about.
The original BioShock is a testament to the ability of video games to truly drag a player into a marvelous and strange world. The game was a huge success, and is atop many people’s “Best of the Generation” lists in large part to the horrifying, beautiful, haunting underwater city of Rapture. The game’s first sequel by the original developer Irrational Games is ditching the claustrophobic setting under the sea in favor of Columbia, a fantastical floating city in the sky embodying an idealized version of the American dream. Unfortunately, same as Rapture, everything is not as perfect as it was meant to be.
Just as with Star Wars 1313 above, it’s the game’s unique and exciting setting that has me the most entranced. Sure the story of Booker DeWitt trying to rescue the slightly-psychic Elizabeth from the floating city caught in a struggle between two groups called the Founders and the Vox Populi will most likely be as well thought out and deep as the one in BioShock, but I’m more excited at the philosophical statements that the city itself looks to be making. In Columbia, heroes of American history are elevated to virtually religious status. The ideals that most Americans hold on to as true and pure are escalated to dangerous heights. Machines are entrusted with almost everything, and propaganda is everywhere. These are all issues that area perhaps even more applicable in today’s world than in the early 1900s setting of the game, and I’m hopeful about what the minds at Irrational can do with them.
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South Park: The Stick of Truth
Normally I don’t get very excited about licensed games. They normally fall short of average for any number of reasons. South Park: The Stick of Truth, however, has me extremely excited. I think South Park is a great source for a game. It’s got a well-developed setting, memorable characters, and an unique art style. Thankfully all of these are being incorporated into the game. First, and perhaps most importantly, series creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone will be both writing the story and dialogue as well as personally voicing the characters themselves (as they do for the show). Hopefully this means that the game will retain both the spot on humor and allegorical social commentary that has made the series such a success.
Also, and I’m not sure how since it’s normally a problem with cartoon-to-game transfers, the game looks almost exactly like a South Park episode. The art style, characters, and signature movement style are all great, which does wonders for the feel or the world. Last, though no less awesome, is that the game is actually being handled by an experienced and respected developer in Obsidian Entertainment. Between their experience and talent, together with the direct involvement of Parker and Stone, I think that this could turn out to be an unexpectedly deep and polished RPG experience.
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Read part 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the series.