Civilization V (17 hrs) – I took advantage of the Steam Fall Sale to finally pick up the Gods and Kings expansion to Civ V. I have enjoyed founding my own religion, Otakuism. Religion plays a much more key role than they did in Civ IV. In the previous game, I would pretty much just found a religion because each city would pay me gold (with certain buildings or government choices) and I’d get a window into cities. In Civ V the religion plays like another level of policies. You get to choose a series of attributes for your religion such as temples giving you gold or faster territory expansion. It tends to make the expansion of religion to other cities and civs a much more important task than before. I’m still a little unsure of how cities pressure other cities to adopt religion because I seemed to have one city flipping even though I couldn’t see any reason for it. (Could have been another civ sending prophets my way) Spies are also added. The spy missions remind me of Assassin’s Creed:Brotherhood assassin missions. Unlike previous iterations of Civ, the spies aren’t on the map. You assign them to a city or city-state and then they either steal you tech (which may not be useful if you’re super advanced and/or playing normal or easier), rig elections in city states (gaining you influence), or protect your cities from being screwed over by other spies. I must admit that I haven’t done much investigating in the civclopedia, but I can’t really see how to generate more spies and so the whole system seems like a mini-game diversion. I continued my strategy of non-aggression unless another civ attacks me or denounces me. Then I drop my hammer on them and take over their capital city and, sometimes, eliminate them entirely. I like that the requirements on resources for building some units has been reconfigured. I usually ended up not using a lot of early-game siege weapons because iron tended to be too scarce. I think it’s a lot more balanced on which units need resources like oil, iron, and horses than before the expansion pack.
The Walking Dead (8 hrs) – If you have ever doubted that games can make you feel emotions that supercede those of movies and novels then you need to play The Walking Dead Season 1. I don’t have an affinity for zombie stories and I’d not yet read any of The Walking Dead when I first started playing this game. It’s OK – neither of those things are necessary. Just like the top notch comic it’s based on – zombies are peripheral to the story. They merely serve to give a reason why deciding who gets a candy bar is an important decision. The game, like the comic, is a character study. And if you enjoy dramas that revolve around character you must play this game. And if you somehow came across this blog post, but haven’t played this game yet, go play it and do not read any more because the rest of this is going to contain spoilers. (Also, don’t worry about the rest of this blog post. There isn’t anything ground-shaking in my descriptions of the remaining games)
OK, since the last time I wrote one of these I played The Walking Dead Season 1 Episodes 4 and 5. In episode 4 we finally reach the coast. It appears that someone is messing with us, probably the person talking to Clementine on the radio. This episode’s most emotional section was when you found a zombie kid in the attic. The kid had tried to wait out the zombie apocalypse and had starved up there. It was heartbreaking.
This episode also dealt with one of the scenarios I always hear people propose when faced with a zombie apocalypse. Just get rid of all the sick and lame people who are most likely to become zombies and/or cause zombies to catch up with you. When Lee finds a boat in the house where he and the others were taking refuge, they decide to go into this town to get the supplies they need to get the boat running. Yet when you finally break in, it turns out that the place is full of zombies. What happened? Well, they barricaded themselves in to protect themselves from the zombies. Then, because of their policies against children, one of the women gets driven crazy when she’s told she’ll need to have an abortion. She mortally wounds the doctor and he becomes zombie #0. To me it just underscores how all it takes is one person to unravel the best-constructed plans. In a way, there’s a bit of schadenfreude because they kicked out cancer patients and children. On the other hand, in a world where everyone who dies becomes a zombie – how do you protect yourself?
Of course, a huge theme of The Walking Dead is how a zombie apocalypse erodes the bright lines that divide good and evil. The elderly doctor with the cancer patients, who you helped, and how helped heal Omid, ends up stealing your boat in episode 5. Episode five is titled No Time Left and that expresses so much of what’s going on in this episode. At the end of episode four the writers really stuck it to us by having Lee bitten by a zombie. So we know Lee is going to turn at some time and the entirety of episode five has you wondering when you’re going to turn. There’s also no time left to save Clementine from whoever has kidnapped her.
It’s a short episode and the interesting thing is that pretty much all the craziness happens in the last fifth. Eventually I found myself fighting my way through a horde of zombies and, in a way, the writing here was truly brilliant because the only reason I’m able to take this risk to go save Clem is because I’m already a zombie. So I don’t care if I get bitten – I just need to get to her. I took a satisfaction in killing every zombie that I had not in any other part of the game. In other parts of the game, it was kinda gamey. I was shooting zombies who happened to appear out of nowhere. But this was Lee’s last stand. It was time to show these bastards while I still had some humanity left. There was a crunchiness to each fight that I just found satisfying and really upped the drama. And then the mood whiplash in going from there to a hotel and finding an empty room with Clem in the bathroom. The writing was among the best I’ve ever experienced.
When I finally met the guy and didn’t recognize him I was almost impatient to find out who the heck he was. And we arrived at the most awesome (in the original sense of the word) scene in the entire game. It resonated with me because it was essentially a version of the court scene in Chrono Trigger. The game’s been tracking everything you do and now you come to realize that EVERYTHING has consequences – even if it wasn’t apparent from the beginning.
Very early on – I think near the end of Episode 2 you come across an empty station wagon with a bunch of supplies in it. Mostly because Clem objected, I did not partake of the goods.
But everyone else pilfered from the car. Seemed like all the other abandoned vehicles in a zombie apocalypse. But it turned out to be the straw that broke this dude’s back. The chain of events set off by those actions on this guy is truly tragic. And then the writers upped the ante by revealing what was in the bag near him. That he had his wife’s head in a bowling bag and, because she was a zombie, she kept talking – helping his delusions that she was alive – oh man!
And then you have to use zombie blood on Clem to keep her from getting bitten as you leave town. And they did a perfect job with the animation and the voice acting. This girl has been through so much and now she has to be painted with zombie blood!
But the writers aren’t done toying with her young emotions yet! Because as you walk through town she finally learns the truth about her parents – she sees them as zombies!
And the writers aren’t done escalating yet! You pass out and Clem, trying so hard to save you, drags you both into a room and closes a door that can no longer be opened. She didn’t know it, but she’s sealed her fate. Man, I almost cried when Clem found out Lee was a zombie.
It was all the writers could to do try and break her. That final scene as I try and convince her to go onwards and to meet up with Omid and his girlfriend were heartbreaking.
And the credits going up and then seeing that apparently she didn’t find Omid. Man, I really did almost burst into tears.
Overall, the only thing I was surprised we never found out more about were the details of Lee’s crime. We knew a little, but then again, talking to my brother it’s possible that it’s just the dialog choices I picked that kept me from finding out more. I’d like to end with details of what I did with the characters and my choices.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t access my ep 5 choices and when I saved it while playing, it was missing the titles.
Team Fortress 2 (3 hrs) – played some new levels of Mann vs Machine. Realized that, more than any other game mode, without a good team dynamic (the word team IS in the game’s title) it’s next to impossible to win. Also played traditional modes.
PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX (2 hrs) – Fired this up and played my Playstation 3 for the first time in nearly a year. Still fun, but I am VERY rusty compared to before. I’d have to play for an entire weekend to think about beating my previous scores.
Luxor 5th Passage (30 min) – Also bought this game during the Steam sale. It’s the same as this other game I have on the PS3 with a different name. Fun in the same way all puzzle games are.