Finding Surprises

Given my limited time schedule, I find that I really need to dabble in a whole lot of video games before I find something that catches my eye. I’m not sure if I would call this problematic or not, but I feel I must commit to a title I enjoy within an hour or so; if the game can’t capture my attention in exactly one hour, how much hope do you think exists for the latter parts of the game? Obviously, this doesn’t apply to grand strategy games and the like, but once you’ve played enough action games in your life, it’s easy to figure out whether or not you should actually play it.

Enter the three examples of my week. On the recommendation of…a lot of people, I tried to start Remember Me. The premise, at least, sounds fresh and exciting: Nilin, your main character, is a memory hunter working for an underground resistance called the Errorists. Not surprisingly, she has AMNESIA (most over-used trope ever), but at least it makes sense here. In this world, people can be stripped of their memories like a commodity, specifically by a mega-corporation called, originally, Memorize. She escapes with the help of a guy name Edge (SO EDGY), and I guess they take down this evil corporation that take people’s memories for…some reason?

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Blah blah combat stuff.

I honestly couldn’t tell you much beyond that, because I stopped playing the game approximately 35 minutes into the experience. Once I realized that I was dealing with a combination of Tomb Raider exploration, Arkham Asylum combat (with a worse camera to boot), and lots of exposition, my brain droned out fairly quickly. Even on the highest difficulty level, and dying a few times, I just didn’t feel the urge to do this, again, with a camera that didn’t like me and some REALLY slow attack animations. Ryse did this well; Remember Me does not. I appreciate the ideas everything, slathered lovingly onto Neo-Paris (an interesting setting, to say the least), but it completely failed to captivate me. Sure, it’s surprising and weird on the surface, but there’s not much to this experience unless the story grabs you.

I next jumped to Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, since Square-Enix finally decided to put their games on sale so I can play them. Type-0’s strange history means we get a strange HD update. Primarily, this is Final Fantasy XII with a combat-action focus, real-time dodging, and tons (and tons (AND TONS)) of motion blur. Most of the game takes place in linear “missions”, where you slay any and everything with the 14 members of Class 0, who seems to be (at least at this point) magic users unrestricted by the typical boundaries of this universe. It’s a bit of an alternative idea of Final Fantasy XIII, with L’Cie and fal’Cie once again playing prominent roles; at the same time, the theme of “war sucks” pervades this M-rated title, and the exposition reveals things slowly enough that it feels measured and thoughtful.

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And also a lot of fighting.

The question you might be asking is: should I be playing this? And the answer, probably, is yes, Zachery Oliver does want to play more than 69 minutes of this game. Unfortunately, a Final Fantasy game by default represents a time commitment, and I honestly don’t want to start something unless I have a good block of time to really savor and enjoy it. Thankfully, since Type-0 derives from a PSP title, a lot of the game comes in bite-sized chunks, but that doesn’t mean cutscenes aplenty don’t also appear with relative frequency. Chalk up yet another title I stopped playing, for whatever reason, but not for lack of trying; this seems like a natural evolution of Crisis Core, without the weird slot machine thing, and that’s a good thing!

And then we arrive at Azure Striker Gunvolt. From IntiCreates, the developers of the Mega Man Zero series, comes a game…that is both a lot like those games (that is, fast-paced and with an extensive combat system for an action platformer) and NOT like those games. Both emphasize speedy running, shooting, and chopping, but Gunvolt goes into an entirely different direction. You “tag” enemies with your main shot, and then activate your Volt  powers (not sure if they are even called this) to destroy them; depending on your gun, which determines the number of times you can tag enemies (single and multiple), and your Volt power, you can destroy enemies quite quickly. It’s a really interesting mechanics controlled by an energy bar which you can automatically refill by double-tapping down.

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Man, this game is really fast, but not when I describe it in text.

It definitely hits the “Mega Man” vibe in just about every way, but seems fundamentally different enough to stand on its own. I like that they’ve taken the basic mechanics into a completely new direction, for sure, and based on the 32 minutes I’ve played so far, I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy and finish this one. It was surprising to find a similar game experience in a completely new dimension, but it works!

BUT, that’s not even what I really played. No, friends, I played Heroes of the Storm, because…I don’t know why. I just wanted to play it a little bit, and I ended up playing it a lot. My thoughts on the game still stand, but I like learning more and more about the game with each match; the daily quests are just a nice supplement to jumping into a 10-20 minute game, completely focused on the task at hand, and then dropping it for a while. I’m surprised that I can simply jump back into this game, but that’s video games for you: some skills never leave!

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The skill of clicking a lot.

I can’t call this anything more than a stream-of-consciousness thought process about what I happen to play. Most of these decisions come down more to feelings about the first hour than any sort of in-depth review, because only a few games are ever really worth your time. Millions and millions of video games exist, but only a few of them really resonate with us at any particular point in time. That quest can be pretty grueling, I gotta say, but sometimes you find surprises along the way (for me, it was Dark Souls).

I guess we’re all looking for that moment where something completely unexpected happens, and we fall in love with a video game we never really played before. In the same way we and the disciples encounter Christ in the midst of the mundane, so too do we look for that moment that utterly astounds us. I think this might explain why I keep playing video games far beyond what a reasonable person should: sometimes, that one pick is worth all the effort of sorting through the world’s stock of video game titles. Whether perusing the titles at your disposal or simply finding fish, God can be found in some surprising places.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but [b]I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ [c]feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were [d]James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

Luke 5

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.