Civilization V ( 20 hrs):
Dido tried to be opportunistic and attack me while I was at war with the Celts. Now she is facing my wrath. I will not stop until she has been wiped off the map.
Left a contingent behind to make sure the Celts don’t get cute.
About to pay back this city state for attacking me on behalf of Dido.
My most peaceful game thus far. Maybe because of my Great Wall? My borders continue to advance so quickly that my territory spans beyond the Great Wall.
A Brave New World….
I got the latest expansion pack for Christmas and Dave started a new game.
I am doing early exploration of the terrain. Scouting for other civs and for city locations.
Who wouldn’t want to join my awesome civ?
My beautiful capital city. Not much else has happened yet.
Tiny Mesa Civ
I started a new game that has just the three of us competing. After the pounding I’ve taken in the Lefties game, I was curious what would happen if the three of us faced each other without any AIs in the game.
Appropriately, each of us has a civ with a powerful early game unit. Should be the most fun and maybe the first game to end.
If it turns out that I am where I think I am, this is going to be a very interesting game.
Analogue: A Hate Story ( 4 hrs): SPOILERS BELOW!
I bought this game on a whim during a Valentine’s Day sale. I’d heard a lot about the creator and the price was right for something I had no idea whether or not I’d like. It’s now in contention for my Game of the Year. The night after I started this game I spent nearly every waking moment of the night obsessed with this game. I’ve read a lot about people wondering about the future of fiction now that we have e-readers. Clearly the traditional authors haven’t been spending much time with those creating video games because I think this game shows at least one way in which storytelling can evolve in the future. Sure, it’s not the best way to tell all stories, but for a certain segment of stories that revolve around the reader learning about the world and the characters from a state of mystery, I think it works rather well.
The game also contains a conceit right at home with the science fiction short stories I listen to via Clarkesworld or Escape Pod. A generation ship that was supposed to found some colonies was lost hundreds of years ago. Recently someone spotted it and the player is asked to go to the ship and retrieve any data they can from the ship’s records so that their distant relatives on Earth can find out what happened. The player connects to the ship’s Unix-like terminal and eventually launches a GUI to help them go through the ship’s records. The ship contains a helpful AI, named Hyune-ae, who helps to comment on what you’re reading. At first it just seems like a story of mundane fighting among nobles, especially nobles jealous of The Pale Bride who has become the Emperor’s consort because his first wife cannot give him a son.
I love how the horror unfolds little by little and the final twist is gut wrenching. First you learn that The Pale Bride is a girl who had been put into cryogenic sleep in the hope that there would be a cure for her disease in the future. The first bit of tragedy is that somehow things have degraded in the future. People have a lot less scientific knowledge and the society is also backwards compared to where the girl is from (which seems to share our values). Then you find out the AI and the girl are the same – or rather that she uploaded her memories into the AI.
Then a point is reached where it appears there is nothing else to do. So I activated the other AI, Mute. I thought it was neat how you go through all the records with both Hyun-ae and Mute. Mute was the ship’s security AI and she shares that society’s values. So she has nearly the opposite reaction to each of records than Hyun-ae did. Then comes the huge shocker – although she’d been increasingly antagonistic about Hyuna, she tells you to ask Hyuna-ae why she killed everyone on the ship. I’d seen some of the other plot twists (although not many of them) coming, but this one just made my jaw drop. Not only because of how cute and polite Hyun-ae had been, but because the story had treated her as a nearly helpless victim the entire time.
At this point Christine Love showed off her sense of drama and storytelling by suddenly having the ship have issues with the core. The game leaves you and Hyun-ae scrambling with a timer to try and fix the core. So the question and answer the you want most is delayed while you try and keep the ship and your answers (and work) from exploding.
After that you find out why she killed everyone. It was one of the most horrible things I’d experienced in fiction and I actually found myself thinking, for a second, of committing genocide against the society that would think it’s OK to do this to her. Of course, afterwards I realized it was still wrong, but Christine Love left me with so much whiplash that it was then tough to choose not to take Hyun-ae with me when the game suddenly became a slight dating sim. (Which it had kinda been the entire time)
The Korean culture was so integral to understanding the game, that I thought for sure that Christine Love was Korean. However, from what I can tell from my Googling, she isn’t. She’s just incredibly well read in Korean culture. Lack of Korean culture knowledge was not a barrier, but I think I could have enjoyed it more as a Korean or Koreaphile.
As a science fiction story, the only thing I felt was unexplained was getting her memories into the computer. And even that didn’t really come into play until Mute criticized her at one point and said that the AI was just a construct, not really her.
During the Mute section of gameplay there was a lesbian relationship and part of the reason was just to have Mute criticize it. But part of it was to show the beauty of the relationship in a world that tolerated men sleeping around, but wasn’t open to women being sexual in almost any way, especially as lovers with each other. It was refreshing to see another point of view in games. Not only was it great for this one to have a strong female protagonist, but to also have gay characters, but not done in a preachy way, was very neat.
I’ll mention in the Hate Plus review why I actually ended up going back and replaying for the different endings: Hyuna-ae, Mute, Harem. Until I got to hate plus, I didn’t see a point in playing multiple endings. I’m just not that much of a completionist and I don’t have lots of free time.
Hate Plus (8 hrs): SPOILERS BELOW!
Hate Plus is a bit of a play on words because not only is it more information about the world of Analogue: A Hate Story, it also uses New Game Plus conventions of loading a save from the previous game to inform this game of your relationship to the main character. (Go to load to do this – not new game, I didn’t do it at first)
Christine Love creates a reason for replay by having different reactions from Mute and Hyun-ae as we’d seen before. In fact, while I didn’t really have any interest in replaying Analogue for the different ending achievements, Hate Plus, having Mute as the central character gives a compelling reason to replay Analogue, ending up with Mute in order to play through Hate Plus with Mute. Love doesn’t disappoint as you IMMEDIATELY get logs from when Mute first wakes up in the Analogue world, filling in some of the history you didn’t have before – which is a large part of the point of Hate Plus.
As I mention in the preceding paragraph, Hate Plus is a prequel to Analogue. That immediately makes it simultaneously extremely interesting and slightly deflating in that you know how things will end up. My first play-through was Hyun-ae and it was interesting to see how seemingly unimportant small changes led to the vastly different world in Analog. This game focuses a lot more on regular folks who go through the transition period and come out the other side chewed up by the machinations. Unlike the following generations, they didn’t grow up in this new world, so they have a hard time going from a world that appears to have freedoms similar to modern-day America to the world in the first game. We also see the minutes of the meetings of the noble families who control the ship.
It was actually quite depressing to see how, just like today’s politicians, by vying for power and trying to play to their bases, they end up screwing over society. Little changes here and there end up with society less educated to the point where they can’t even read hangol anymore in the world of Analog. I see so many parallels in what’s going on now with anti-science politicians and it worries me. At least we’re not on a generation ship – there are still other countries that may not be self-sabotaging the way we are.
The game has the conceit that the player’s ship doesn’t have enough power to go through all the records in a row. You can only do a few per day. It’s pretty awesome that the game actually makes me wait 12 hours between days to force me to wait and decompress on the info I learned. In practice that led to me waiting until the following day, just like my character in the game.
This game upped the ante on the gay relationships quite a bit, but while the other game was about how it was forbidden and, in some ways, seen as “cute” by one of the husbands, this game was about how the changes in society lead to the destruction of relatively amazing relationships.
While both games follow multiple characters with a very nice ensemble feel, each has a slightly more main character; Hyun-ae in the first game and Mute in the second game. However, put together it’s almost like the Star Wars Trilogy and then prequels. Mute, like Darth Vader, is a jerk the first time you meet her. After seeing how she ended up that way, you have a completely different understanding of the character. Although, unlike Star Wars, Hate Plus does not suck.
I played the game as Mute and ended up with her committing suicide over how she betrayed her lieutenant. I haven’t yet had time to play the harem game so I don’t know what the effect of having both Hyun-ae and Mute in the computer will be, but I’m excited to see if I learn new information.
Both of these games together are so amazing they may as well be Christine Love’s magnum opus. But, sadly, she’s only making one more game in this style. I respect her desire to branch out and create other types of games, but I am sad that I will only get to play one more of her amazing narratives.