The Walking Dead (7 hrs) – I had no reason to play this game. I like point and click adventure games, but I don’t read The Walking Dead or watch the TV show. I don’t really care much for zombie games although I’m not opposed to them. But the same was on sale during the Steam Summer Sale and Dan bought it for me. This is a really, really good game. While you can probably really appreciate it if you’re a fan of the comic or TV show, I’m enjoying it without the need to know anything about what happens in that fiction. I think is easily accomplished because the game serves as a prequel to the comic (and, by extension, loosely a prequel to the tv show as well). So I don’t need to really know anything or have unnecessary character exposition to set up the world. You’re playing as the zombie apocalypse happens.
I’ve played through the first two episodes as that’s all that’s available so far. Although I logged 7 hours with the game (~3 hrs per episode), some of that is from leaving the game on when I had to leave it between save points and some of it is from me making sure I spoke with everyone rather than plowing through the game. You should expect each episode to take about 2 hours. I think the reason the game is working so well for me is that it is very well written. Many games of the past decade have you make decisions that affect the game. Sometimes it’s cosmetic and sometimes it’s done well. I think The Walking Dead falls into the camp of games that do it quite well. Not only do your decision lead to characters dying, but your decisions carry through in ways that affect the group. Anyone who’s ever seen a zombie apocalypse movie knows that a key part of the narrative is the tension of the group dynamic. Everything’s going to hell and you’re in a group with strangers. Everyone has their own reasons to act the way they’re acting and trust or not trust others. And the writers have structured nearly every decision you have to make to piss off at least one group at the expense of another. Pretty much the first decision I made in the game has been thrown in my face by a certain character at least five times across both episodes.
A common problem in the older point and click adventures of the 1980s and 90s is that they often featured nonsensical puzzles that were nigh impossible to figure out without a strategy guide. (Some game franchises and companies were better or worse about these things) The Walking Dead is more like (in the words of my wife) a Choose-Your-Own Adventure book. While there’s always been a certain element of that in any point and click adventure game, this one really feels that way. There are only a couple puzzles and for the most part you’re just moving along the narrative. I agree with the Giant Bomb guys that, at times, even the ability to move your character around in 3D space seems superfluous.
One final thing I love about the game – at the end it tells you how the choices you made compare with the choices of the wider community. I think it’s neat to see where you lied and others didn’t or where you killed this guy and others killed the same person.
I think the greatest praise for this series is that I didn’t even want to play it and now I can’t wait for episode three to come out in August. (Also it makes me want to check out their Back to the Future Game even more than I wanted to before)
Saints Row: The Third (16 hrs) – This is an …. interesting game. The only reason I wanted it was because of the high praise that the Giant Bomb guys heaped upon it. They were shocked because the first two games in this Grand Theft Auto (ripoff? parody? take your pick) series were juvenile to the point where it just wasn’t even fun for anyone older than 12 years old. I remember them talking about a part where you had to spray the town with poo coming out of a firehose. This one, on the other hand, while still being silly, was actually good. So I figured I’d give it a shot.
I think the best description for this game is to imagine the kind of game that Guy Ritchie would make and then Americanize it so that it has a heavy focus on consumerism and you’d have a pretty good idea of the type of game this is. If that last sentence sounded like nonsense let me describe things a little more plainly. You are a member of a notorious gang that has become so famous (from the exploits of the last two games) that there is a movie based on your gang, there is an energy drink that bares the gang’s endorsement, you have a gigantic building where you live that has a sign on the outside (in other words, it’s not like the cops can’t find you), and when you rob a bank early in the game, the tellers ask you for your autograph. The game is a gangster fantasy where your character can get into gunfights with SWAT teams and win. Your character can take so many bullets before death that you just have to pretend in the fiction that those bullets are all missing him like he’s some kind of James Bond character.
Now, couched in all that frippery, there’s actually a pretty classic story. Other gangs have grown jealous of your gang’s prosperity and have banded together to rob you of your riches. So, like the first Assassin’s Creed – you start off the game on top of the world and then have to earn your way back up to the top.
The game is like Assassin’s Creed in another way. It has the same mechanic that was found in AC II and beyond of earning money by controlling property in the game. This may have first featured in Grand Theft Auto – I have no idea – I’ve never played any of those games. I imagine given enough play time it could also end up being as game-breaking as it was in Assassin’s Creed where you could end up with infinite money and the ability to buy everything else – including more property to make even more money.
Since I bought the game around 6 months or so after it had already come out, I was able to buy the DLC at the same time. So the game is truly open world. Once I finished the first mission I was able to select from four different missions for my second mission where it appears that when the game first came out I would have only had one mission – a more of a tutorializing mission that teaches you about upgrading your cars. I like that and, to a great degree it’s what I liked about Assassin’s Creed II and beyond. You have the larger goal of getting back on top of things, but you can do whatever else you want on your way there.
Speaking of tutorials, I think it’s the one place where Saints Row The Third doesn’t quite match up to most of the modern games I’ve played. I think the game would have benefitted from a combat scenario that introduced you to the buttons and concepts a little more gradually.
Interestingly, because of the way the game models the world you can end up with some pretty interesting gameplay moments that didn’t happen in the old original Nintendo days. There’s one mission that I had to play twice because I died midway through it. Someone drives up and you jump in his car to start the mission. When he first arrived, there was a mess of cars out there from when I had crash-arrived. When I replayed the mission those cars weren’t there – that wasn’t part of the save state – but another car happened to have been randomly generated crossing the intersection as his car came and so he ended up crashing into that car and making it hard for my character to get into his car as the door was blocked. (I had to smash my way in)
I think Saints Row the Third is probably a game I could lose myself in. The loose narrative (at least at this point) works in my favor over a heavily storied game like Mass Effect. I prefer the games like Mass Effect but when I can only play once a week or once every other week because of the baby or house chores, I can end up coming back to the game and not really caring about the characters anymore. The Saints are drawn in such broad strokes that I don’t see it as really being an issue. Of course, as happened to some with Skyrim, I could end up going off on so many tangents that I end up getting tired of the game before I move the story forward. I guess we’ll have to see what ends up happening as I go forward.
Team Fortress 2 (<1 hr)- powered it up to play a couple games in the new level that debuted with the Pyro stuff. Still tons of fun. I’ll be back to it long after I’m done with the other games on this list.
Greed Corp (<1 hr) -Dan finally got the game and I was able to play around with him. He did really awesome for someone who’d never even played it single-player
Peggle Deluxe (<1 hr) – went back into the game I refer to as reverse-breakout to try and beat some challenges. Really wish there were some associated achievements
Solitaire (Windows) (<1hr) – needed to kill about 5 minutes before feeding the baby so this was the only game I could be sure to finish in that amount of time.