In the first chapter of The Order: 1886, Galahad — the player character — slowly walks through a beautiful and meticulously crafted environment. You can see smoke plumes billowing off nearby roofs and dried paint cracking under the sun. Galahad moves through an attic, complete with a beautiful white wooden horse and a plush 19th century couch stuffed in the corner; a mannequin stands in the corner wrapped in a corset and a mirror casually reflects the room.
I have spent a lot of time living from April 11th, 2011 to March 20th, 2012. I’ve lived it once, twice, three times. I’ve turned over the events in my head, and I’ve filled in the gaps. I’ve watched other people live that year, and I’ve read about other people living that year. I’ve thought about going back and living it again.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth thinks I should move on.
Dragon Age: Origins was one of the best RPGs of the last generation. Bioware looked back to its Baulder’s Gate roots and crafted a new world. Dragon Age 2 is often considered a misstep for the series, an incredibly rushed product that reuses environments too often and fails to consider the breadth and depth of the world. Dragon Age: Inquisition is a direct answer to the complaints of Dragon Age 2 meshed with some of the design sensibilities of Origins. Bioware excels at telling character-focused stories in rich and detailed worlds and Dragon Age: Inquisition is no different. It’s a game of immense scope that still manages to be incredibly engaging and personal.
Arno joins a cult where he witnesses a human sacrifice, he hunts down a giant, he solves murder mysteries because Paris’ local detective is too lazy. If this all sounds interesting, that is because it is pretty interesting — in concept. Instead, Arno simply hunts down Templars in the cult, finds and kills an enemy of the “heavy” type, and runs around eagle vision-ing his way to a culprit with no sense of mystery. Assassin’s Creed Unity is, above all else, boring.
It’s still a sad fact of the video game industry that most games based on pre-existing licenses are terrible. For every Batman: Arkham Asylum or South Park: The Stick Of Truth, you get a Robocop or a Rambo. That’s because, usually, developers of these licensed games are not given enough time or money to actually make a quality video game. So what happens when you give a pre-existing license to Platinum Games, a developer that’s notorious for making good games even with a short deadline and a low budget? Well…
Call of Duty: Ghosts was a boring, by-the-numbers game with a rote story and stifling multiplayer. It showed the fraying edges of a vast empire and a team seemingly fed up with making iteration after iteration of Call of Duty; but each year a new release must come. Sometimes those games are marginally fun or have interesting ideas with a stale framework, like Black Ops II. That story had multiple branching paths and the setting took us to the (near) future for the first time in the series history. But Black Ops II still didn’t manage to capture a better framework to challenge the concepts of the stagnating franchise. It was time for a new idea, something to liven up the series and introduce mechanics that change the basic Call of Duty formula, while keeping the structure intact. Sledgehammer Games, a new development studio for the franchise, has found that idea with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
Sunset Overdrive relishes the fact that it’s a video game. It feels like a complete shift from Fuse, Insomniac’s last game. At times it harkens back to their Ratchet & Clank days, but this is a much more mature and self-referential world. Sunset Overdrive has a decidedly punk rock, fuck-the-establishment vibe that never lets up. Sometimes that’s a good thing; sometimes Sunset Overdrive just needs to chill out, bro.