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.
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.
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.
In Ridley Scott’s Alien, about half of the movie is spent going through the mundane lives of the Nostromo crew. You don’t see the titular alien, but you know it’s coming — the movie is called Alien, after all. The tension builds and builds, giving you glimpses and teases of what is to come, but always holding back for the big reveal later on. In James Cameron’s Aliens, the same rules apply. But this time the xenomorphs are on full alert and barrage the marines every chance they get. Alien: Isolation, from Creative Assembly, captures that same sense of dread and tension building from Alien and the relentless assault of Aliens. It is a terrific horror game that starts off too slowly before becoming one of the most terrifying video games I have ever played.
Ashgam the Ruinous raised his sword above his head as I laid on my knees before him. He wore a large steel helmet with four horns protruding out the sides. We fought for only a few moments before he took me down — I was filled with rage. Ashgam froze for a moment and lowered his sword before looming over my head and saying, “Too easy,” before sauntering away as his minions finished me off. Next time I would have my revenge.
All of the pieces are there to make Destiny a great game. The world is gorgeous, with some of the best art and design in a game to date. The combat is fun and fluid with weighty weapons and clever abilities. The music is beautiful and the sound design screams perfection. Yet Bungie doesn’t do enough to tie together all of Destiny’s fragments, leaving behind a hollow husk of what might have been.
“There are plenty of targets worthy of a bullet; men who need to die. Time for find more work.”
The final lines of Rebellion’s newest release resemble an apt view of the game as a whole. It is a power fantasy of the highest order; a hyper violent, marginally fun trek through orange and brown landscapes of Africa, looking for Nazis to kill. There are plenty of targets for you to shoot; plenty of men who die by your hand. But, Sniper Elite 3 is a one-note gimmick that will leave you longing for different work.
War never changes, especially in video games. Countless number of games set you in the heat of battle, gunning down hundreds of enemies with reckless abandon. We never understand the pathos of those stories; we never hear of their struggles; all we ever see are moments plucked from action movies. Valiant Hearts: The Great War tells a touching story of a handful of soldiers in the midst of World War I — it’s just a shame this story needs to be a video game too.