Welcome! This area of my site is dedicated to my observances in all things related to video games.
As is common, here are some reviews.
In what I like to call “Designer Notes”, you will find me looking at one element of video games. This is usually a mechanic or element of world building that I reflect upon.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Perfect Character Guide – A labor of love in every sense. In my time with Oblivion on the 360, I managed to hone a method of maxing out character stats. This is probably the first dive I made into a games’ system.
“What’s your angle?”, you may ask. What do I bring to the table conversation of video games online that is unique? In my background I have been an actor and theater technician. In my venues I have been responsible for world building. Characters, costumes, sets, lighting and sound schemes. It is an art. I view the making of video games in a similar fashion. Being someone who now wishes to make one of many games I draw heavily on these skills. Moreover, I enjoy games. I understand the commitment to a craft that is only one portion of of a wider whole. I want to enjoy the games that I play. I am biased to see the good. But I am realistic in what is not.
On a personal side, these are my notes from the games that I play. The elements worth remembering. The reasons why I play these games, and why I think you should too, if they are a medium of your choice. And if they aren’t, I want you to see what people get from games today. I hope that these will help other writers and actors, and anyone else who is a creative type.
If you came here from Steam, you’ll see more than a TL;DR summary of each game. I can speak at length, and as this is my site I do just that. As most reviews benefit from a scoring system of some variety, I have crafted my own. I like simplicity, but I value nuance. For my system it runs from 0-10, with 10 being the highest.
I am certain that there will be titles that come along that will blow me away, jaded as I may be from a lifetime of gaming. On the one hand, I do hope this is rare as not to dilute my assessments in whole. On the other… I’d really love to be swamped with such titles.
e.g. – Bastion. I bought it on sale, and finished it in a sitting. I went back and looked at what I paid for it and felt /horrible/. I wanted to spend more on the game. But there was no DLC. Since then I have bought copies of the game no less than twice as gifts, once for myself on PC, and the Bastion Soundtrack was proudly my first iTunes purchase. I feel so positively strongly about Bastion that I have bought every Supergiant Games title I have seen since then on the merits of Bastion alone.
A simple 10, all things considered, is something that I feel that my time was well spent on. I know that people have wildly varying tastes. If I give something a 10, it comes with my personal recommendation.
e.g. – Saints Row series, namely The Third, IV, and Gat Out of Hell.
Good to Excellent
I like to think that I will wind up ranking most of what I play here. In most cases I can see the effort that goes into a work, and as long as the end result is palatable I am willing to overlook flaws for the sake of the whole.
e.g. – Nearly any Bethesda AAA RPG in recent memory before they iron out all the wrinkles.
Not “Bad” but “Interesting”
Some people appreciate B Movies. Others, a pulpy narrative. I can appreciate games that, while not perhaps what many would look for, have resounding redeeming merit. These are often games that would likely come from smaller or first time creators. Admittedly, it is inside the realm of what I think I could produce on my first showing. I will be honest and give credit where it is earned.
e.g. – Nihilumbra. It is WONDERFUL game. The story is poignant, the music rich, the world interesting. Limiting it to a 6 is hurtful to me, as it could easily hold a debate at an 8. However, it is a PC only title near as I know, and requires a keyboard and mouse. These elements may limit the potential audience and turn some off completely.
Not my bag, may be yours
I am not prone to out and out dislike. I try to keep in mind the effort that went into games. As I hold game making as a collective art form, I understand that I just do not “get” every piece produced. I will voice my opinions. But as with all things I will list the merits that I see. Converse to the other side of the scale, I look at the whole but cannot overlook the flaws.
e.g. – The Legend of Dragoon. I know… an old game. Even when it was a brand new game I did not find it compelling. The characters felt two dimensional, the music was not memorable, the combat system was unique which is not odd for RPGs. The joy the nuance provide wore off when I had to manually enter the combos the whole game. Coming on four discs you would actually have to switch to earlier discs to return to earlier towns. Most aggrivating to me is that the internal logic of the world was not adhered to. But I know people that LOVE this game. So I will admit that it is liked, just NOT by me.
Titles that, having played them, cause me to lament at my lost time. That, when asked if it was a good game and if it was worth playing that my response was “Just… No.” Again, a mirror to the other side. I hope there are few of these as not to dilute my assessments. Moreover, I pray they are rare because I have precious little time as it is.
e.g. – Final Fantasy XIII series. I played XIII fully, and ward people away. I played XIII-2 fully, and vehemently tell people not to play it. The story was a major flip-off to every player, and I can appreciate an unfavorable ending. Not this one. Lightning Returns is a rare game that I did not complete. I realized too late that I would likely need a guide to complete it properly. That chaffed enough that I put it down and never picked it back up.
Aside from a straight score, here is what else you can expect to see in many of my reviews. They will not all be the same, as not all games are the same, but I will consistently provide these elements.
Bias points – I am willing to admit when my own opinions shade my thoughts. If I think something biases me one way or another I will say so and admit to that. Bastion is a solid 8. I do not want to ruin the experience by being over enthusiastic so I temper my expression so you can come to an unbiased judgement. But I will sit on it being THAT good. On the opposite end is the Final Fantasy XIII series really THAT bad? No. Probably not. But after going through most of the series I am loathe to purchase them again even though it will nag at a completionists’ compulsion I have.
Story – I am very anti-spoiler, but that makes talking about a game difficult. If the game or content I am speaking about is less than six months old I will avoid details. But, as I will be playing catch up for awhile, I feel less inclined to be tight lipped.
Music – This was a backbone of my games growing up. As the spectacle of games has increased, I have found a lot of music to simply fade into the background. As much as I enjoyed Oblivion and Skyrim, I am hard pressed to clearly remember songs from them individually even with as much I have played them.
Visuals – I am not someone who is obsessed with graphical fidelity and ensuring that everything runs a 60 FPS. For instance, I am presently looking forward to Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age on PC, though it hasn’t been announced yet. (I’ll change that last sentence when I get my hands on it.) If I was playing the original, I would gauge the visuals in comparison for that time. I will gauge the visuals of the re-release against other games like it (other Final Fantasy re-releases) and against it’s older self. Similarly, as pointed out on a Youtube channel I watch, Nintendo’s games tend to age well. They are not concerned as much with cutting edge, photo-realistic graphic fidelity. They make worlds that are pleasing to look at and vibrant in their own ways. This appeals more to my aesthetic than anything else.
Mechanics – How a game handles is of exceeding importance to me. These can actually say a lot about a character if done well. Clunky controls in, say, a God of War or comparable title wouldn’t fly. But in a horror/suspense game, they can add to the tension. Do you remember the first Mass Effect? I found it jarring when beginning to use a sniper rifle. Shepherd, an elite soldier, couldn’t hold it straight. This was particularly infuriating when my enemies had no problems with theirs at any range. This will also deal with leveling schemes and other such facets.
PC Replay – Years ago I was gearing up and trimming fat to travel abroad. In this, I decided to compile all my gaming into a computer rather than having a separate console. Those plans have changed (though I still aspire to them), and so has the computer I have used. Finally being able to run all the games that I bought to replace what my console held is going to let me review some games publically for the first time, and revisit others that I had originally written. As the lions’ share of these are 360 era games, or have sequels in the modern one, spoilers will likely abound in these. I’ll likely include this as a tag.
On the replay list…
Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition
Final Fantasy X/X-2
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Legacy of Kain: Defiance
Mark of the Ninja
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Saints Row: The Third
Saints Row IV
Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell
Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain
Darksiders (Warmastered Edition)
Darksiders II (Deathinitive Edition)
Dust: An Elysian Tale
Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy IX
The Last Remnant
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Final Fantasy XI
Saints Row 2
And that’s my list. The games that I gave examples of in my scoring will be getting treatments first. Thanks for reading all this way. I look forward to this page getting shorter as I write and link more to be read.
*Games marked as such are from an older era before I revamped my site as I do occasionally. They will be edited in time, or integrated into a new version after a replay.