57 – KOTOR, Pt 1

Knights of the Old Republic is proving to be a little difficult to love. Largely this is the result of bugginess: For whatever reason, the game doesn’t play nicely on modern systems, and it doesn’t have the advantage of ten years of patches like Bloodlines did. It took three separate configuration sessions to figure out how to get the game running in fullscreen mode. (Which is a necessity for me: I don’t know how people play games in windowed mode without inadvertently clicking outside the window into other applications every 30 seconds, and that’s not even taking into consideration that the edges of my desktop background–a picture of Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and RuPaul holding a crying Francis Bean–poke through, utterly ruining any immersion the game has.)

But KOTOR is having some of the same issues that the first Mass Effect had for me, which is that after a really exciting initial mission, you’re umped into a boring planet and doing some beginner, kind of uninteresting quests. I’m an unusual-planets and weird alien species guy. When I think of Star Wars, I think about Dagobah and Endor and the Cantina and all of that; KOTOR, after a well-done tutorial sequence where you’re on a ship that’s being attacked–after, essentially, a recreation of the opening scene from the original Star Wars–you’re placed on a sprawling city planet. I know that Bioware loves it some cities. I’m assured that if I ever make it to the part of Baldur’s Gate where I make it to Baldur’s Gate, I’ll enjoy myself there. I appreciated the idea of what they were trying to do with Kirkwall in Dragon Age II. But Taris–the main city where you find yourself at the beginning of KOTOR–is one of those Star Wars-y cities with all white, clinical walls, and it’s, frankly, not much to look at. There’s an Undercity where the poor live, forever blocked from seeing the sun–but a series of graphical glitches make that area difficult to navigate (and kinda crashy), and, frankly, Final Fantasy VII did the atmosphere of that concept a lot better.

It might partially be coming off of Bloodlines, I’ll admit that. Bloodlines was only a year after KOTOR–they’re more or less contemporaries. I enjoyed exploring its hubs in a way that I am not enjoying Taris.

Well I am sticking with it, if only for Bioware’s reputation and the fact that I’m enjoying it enough–after all, Jade Empire had an extremely dull opening sequence that I played through twice and abandoned before finally muscling through and finding it was an absolutely wonderful game. The storyline is good so far–it is, in its way, fulfilling that little-boy need to pretend to be a Jedi from time to time. I know the major Twist to the game, and it’s nice seeing the foreshadowing starting from pretty much the beginning. I don’t love the character development system–there are too few skills and I am unclear how I should be diversifying them–I’m frankly using the Autolevel option for my other party members because I don’t quite care enough to think about how I want to build them. Combat is decent–and yet so far I haven’t noticed any better results from manually controlling my characters as opposed to letting the AI take over.

I mean, the game needs to open up, and I’m closing in on the end of this first planet. Give me someplace more rural and adventuresome next, and I think it’ll be enjoyable. I hear you get to go to the Wookkiee planet, and I’m cool with that. It’s just the kind of game I’ve been playing for 5 hours and am still kind of waiting for it to start, and that’s, obviously, Bad. The slow boil doesn’t always work.

 

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21 – I have beaten Wizardry 6

Unlike most games, Wizardry 6 has left me with several souvenirs. This is the main one:

Two boxes of colored pencils and about 85 sheets of graph paper died to make this map.

Two boxes of colored pencils and about 85 sheets of graph paper died to make this map.

The other thing that the game left behind is a clear file, used for importing into Wizardry 7. I’m a little plebe of a console gamer; clear files are somewhat new to me. The only series I’ve tracked a character through has been Mass Effect, and god damn did I love shepherding Shepard and his crew across the galaxy. One of the biggest complaints about the series was that many people felt their favorite characters didn’t get enough of a resolution. What do you expect–you put a bunch of human faces on the galaxy and make me love every single one of them, I’m going to want every one of them to get happy endings. We want our loved ones to die peaceful in their beds after having lived a long and fulfilling life.

I mentioned I spent a few minutes with the character creator in 6, attempted to play, and found myself lost and disgusted only to return hooked the next day. In between, I gave 7, with a new party, a brief try. Wizardry 6 has three separate endings, each of which determines your starting position and introduction to Wizardry 7; a fourth beginning is available for completely new players, so I’ve seen that.

Well, there are six characters in my party. Three are godlike: Frunk’s an evasive tank, Drudie’s got every spellbook with points in the hundreds, and Urghula does insta-kill crits every two or three attacks. The other three…Yagharek has high defense but no real attacking strength, Belinda’s initial usefulness as a Bard began to wane and she’s now a weak spellcaster, and Gurgur started off as a thief in a series where that’s one of the least useful classes.

But Wizardry 7 will be a fresh start for them! They’ll be on a completely new planet, with a completely new quest. They could be anything. Gurgur could become a Psion. Yagharek could become a Lord. Belinda could stop dying every five minutes.

I don’t think I feel like waiting. I think I’m going to start it right away.

2

I’ve lent my friend my copy of Bioshock Infinite. He loved Bioshock, which was his gateway from jocky shooters to games like Fallout 3, which was his gateway to games like Skyrim; I’m thinking Mass Effect is the next logical step for him. He was disappointed by the initial stages: Infinite, he said, is kind of ugly, and the story isn’t nearly as compelling from the get-go as Bioshock was. I can’t disagree with him.

“I got a little farther in Bioshock last night,” he tells me. “I just met Elizabeth.”

“And how are you liking Elizabeth?” I ask. My opinion of her is not very gracious: She’s a slightly-better-written-and-animated CG robot than the other CG robots are. Did I mention that one of my theories about Infinite was that Elizabeth was the only human and that the citizens of Columbia were all robots or holograms or something, explaining why they only spouted one line or sang one song and then remained silent and dead-eyed at you until you shot at them. Now THAT would have been a twist–even though Elizabeth doesn’t act fully human, she’s so much moreso than the rest of the NPCs that one could extrapolate, but alas, it’s just poor writing, a game whose characters’ personalities fall squarely in an uncanny valley–everything’s realistic enough that their glassy stares become extremely disconcerting.

“Elizabeth is…something, all right,” he says. He shrugs.

“She’s a fucking Disney princess,” his girlfriend says.

“Yeah, a lot of people were saying that, I think that was the Penny Arcade strip on it,” I say.

“She was watching me play and it was the part where we were on the docks…”

“The dancing scene?”

“Yeah!” his girlfriend says. “I was watching him and I was like, what the fuck is this?”

“It’s kind of a stupid game,” he says. “I mean I’ll play it, of course, but I think I’m gonna play Bioshock again cause it’s making me miss that game.”

I am finding, more and more, that Bioshock Infinite reminds me of that old saw about being shocked about President Nixon’s election, given that Pauline Kael or Susan Sontag or Joan Didion or whomever hadn’t met a single person who voted for him. For all of the perfect 10s that the game has received, I don’t really know anybody who wholly liked it.