Just a couple of badasses

This is how you do it

DoubleBear Productions made an announcement that has my mouth watering. An RPG set during a zombie apocalypse. Here are some of the details straight from DoubleBear founder Brian Mitsoda:

-Set during the breakdown of society as emergence of zombies causes widespread panic and disorder.

-Slow, shambling zombies. Spreads like a virus/bite transmission. No, you are not a zombie, that would be stupid.

-Serious examination of a national crisis or natural disaster. Humans and a lack of order are a bigger threat than the undead. Think Hurricane Katrina, Children of Men, Dawn of the Dead NOT Resident Evil, Return of the Living Dead, zombie shooter-type games.

-Game is about survival. Scavenging resources, exploring the area, dealing with other survivors, and managing a “shelter” of sorts are the main focus of the game. More on this later.

-Game is open-ended. There are characters and events that could happen, but the story depends on where you go, what you do, and who you meet.  Of course, there’s a lot more to this and we’ll go into more details as time goes on.

Did he…did he name drop Children of Men? Shelter management? And did I mention this guy worked on Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines? If you can’t tell my excitement gauge is set firmly to “Giddy”. Expect me to post any updates about their game on this site. Because I think I’m in love.

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Dragon Age: Origins is the newest RPG from Bioware, makers of Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic. It’s their self titled “spiritual successor” to the beloved Baldur’s Gate, and it shows. I managed to get some hands on time with the Xbox 360 version at Comic Con and I enjoyed the time I spent with it. The character customization, the dialog, and the combat system all seemed up to par. I got some loot, which is always a video game favorite of mine. This all seems good, and it is. However, there’s just something about this game that nags at me in the back of my mind. The violence.

Here is the old logo when the game was known simply as Dragon Age:

Classy, right?

Classy, right?

And here is the logo when it became Dragon Age: Origins:

Not so much

Not so much

You’ll notice that someone wrote Origins in a blood smear beneath the original logo, and that Dragon Age became dingy and speckled with blood. But it doesn’t stop there, no sir!

Here’s the box art for the game:

I just want to rinse it off

I just want to rinse it off

That is a dragon shaped pool of blood. Even the EA logo is made out of blood.

This theme keeps going. While playing as my wood elf, I came upon some ancient ruins, and inside were some giant spiders. As soon as I killed one of the mangy beasts in hand to hand combat, my character was covered in gore from head to toe. It was especially bad when I went into a conversation with my elf buddy because it zoomed in on his blood covered face. You think these guys would bring a wet nap or something with them.

This is what I'm talking about

This is what I'm talking about

None of this makes me think this game is going to be less than fantastic. It just seems to me like Bioware knows that they already have the RPG fan in their pocket, and now they’re trying to appeal to the Halo crowd by making their game look as gritty and violent as possible. Honestly, it just feels a little weird to me. And in case you were wondering, I’ve never had a problem with violence in video games before.

Dragon Age: Origins is being released this fall on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, and is a serious conteneder for the game I buy next semester.

My bro!

My bro!

After last night’s session with Persona 4, I am about 7 and a half hours into the game and it keeps getting better. I now have free reign to go around and do what I want, which translates into how I’m going to spend my time after school and what I do before bed.

After school I have several options: I can explore the dungeon inside the TV world, hang out with my friends, or if it’s Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, practice with the soccer team.

Going inside the dungeon is always a fun test in endurance that reminds me a little bit of Etrian Odyssey. Both games have you exploring a multileveled dungeon with progressively harder enemies on each floor. Both games force you to decide how far you should go before turning around. Try to do too much and you’ll likely die. You need to know when it’s time to fight and when it’s time to leave. This brings me to the one little complaint I have with the game. The enemies are visible on the exploration screen and to initiate battle you need to hit them with your sword, or they can attack you. To get an advantage in battle you need to attack them from behind, so this usually involves me standing around for a minute or two while I wait for these things to turn around.

Hanging out with my friends or practicing with the soccer team both go hand in hand, in that they both involve me leveling up my social links. Social links represent the bonds of friendship I share with people and leveling them up strengthens my personas, demons that assist me in battle. I look forward to going to soccer practice and hanging out with Kou and Daisuke. They’re fun and interesting. On the way home from practice one day we stopped at a restaurant and had some ramen. =D

Other than side characters, I can also hang out with main characters, like my bro Yosuke. We went and got some steaks from this great little stand in the shopping district. Little chewy, but still pretty good. Even if some jerks were gossiping about how Yosuke’s parents are ruining Inaba by bringing Junes, the chain super store, into their town. Hey, I’m from the big city, I love hangin out at the Junes food court. Don’t let the haters get you down.

I freakin love Junes

I freakin love Junes

Before I go to bed there are at least two things I can do. First off, I can study to increase my knowledge. This is all I’ve done so far since no other option has been open to me. However, I bought a book at the book store after school and the next time I jump into Persona 4, I’m reading it before bed. It better be good because it cost me 1200 yen.

Persona 4 has its hooks in me. They created a living, breathing world with intersting characters that I actually care about. Don’t get me wrong, the RPG gameplay is fun, but man I want to hang out with Daisuke and Kou some more. Them some cool guys.

Just some cool guys and some noodles

Just a couple of cool guys and some noodles

[BEWARE, SPOILERS AHEAD]

Today, most role-playing games deal with heavy themes and main characters who have more problems than Windows Vista had on release (Zing!). Let’s look at a few examples.

Lost Odyssey:

Look at me brood

Look at me brood

The main character, Kaim, is an immortal. He is cursed to wander the earth forever, unable to die. Everyone he ever becomes attached to he loses. At one point he is reunited with his daughter, who he thought had died. Shortly thereafter, she proceeds to die in his arms. Depressing! Lost Odyssey also deals with the theme of identity because, surprise, surprise, the main character has amnesia and slowly pieces together the memories of his incredibly long life. Hint: They’re not happy memories.

Fianl Fantasy VII:

Amnesia is cool

Amnesia is cool

This is Cloud Strife. He’s another depressing hero with amnesia. He joins the army, but instead of becoming a super commando like he always dreamed, he fails and becomes an anonymous grunt. On a mission to his home town, his hero, Sephiroth, goes crazy and burns the town to the ground and kills everyone, including Cloud’s mother. On top of all this an evil corporation is sucking the very life out of the planet, slowly killing it. The worst part is that Sephiroth also straight up murders one of Cloud’s best friends/love interests.  Good times, right?

Eternal Sonata:

He's not taking a nap

He's not taking a nap

Meet Frédéric Chopin (yes, the Polish composer). He’s dying. This entire game takes place inside his head. The game world is some fever dream he is having on his death bed. It gets mad points for having an original set up, but it’s still depressing. None of the characters exist. They’re all figments of Chopin’s imagination. When he fianlly passes away in the real world at the end of the game, they cease to exist. Starting to see what I’m getting at?

The Wticher:

Bad ass

Bad ass

Hey, look, another brooding hero with amnesia. I wonder if he has a tortured past. You bet he does! Kidnapped as a child, and raised to slay monsters, Geralt doesn’t lead a happy life. People hate him because he’s different. Everything in his world is a shade of gray, with no clear cut right or wrong choice. “Hmmm should I murder the witch, or the corrupt towns people who hired me to murder the witch.” Keep on truckin Geralt. I’m sure things will turn out ok eventually (That’s a lie. I’m lying).

Don’t even get me started on Dragon Age: Origins and it’s “new shit” (Seriously, look at their advertising campaign). No one is happy when an evil army called the Blight rises up and starts stabbing every thing that moves right in the face. While I have only seen videos of it, the dark fantasy setting does not lead me to believe the main group of characters will be walking around in bright sunny fields while laughing about how care free they are.

So what’s up with all these games being so serious and depressing? Where are all the bright and hopeful RPGs? You know, the ones where the main character smiles at least once.

For one thing, most role-playing games are epic in scope and story. To be epic, there needs to be bad stuff going down. This bad stuff usually threatens the world in one way or another, and the end of the world is a pretty serious topic. As  a result adult themes are injected into the game to help make it more believable, and the main characters usually suffer as a result. If saving the world were fun, everyone would do it, right? Surprisingly, saving the world can be a good time.

Look how happy and pixelated he is

Peace yo

Ness is the hero in Earthbound. He fights off an alien invasion while going on a crazy adventure with his friends. His weapons include baseball bats and yo-yos. Best of all, he hasn’t forgotten about everything that has happened in his life before the game began. He’s just a kid having fun.

While I think Earthbound is one of the best examples of a “happy” RPG, it certainly isn’t the only one. Shiren the Wander is all about Shiren and his ferret questing to get to the top of Table Mountain. The game is hard as hell, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just a fun adventure. The Disgaea series are a bunch of silly strategy RPGs filled to the brim with humor and murderous  exploding penguins.

Then there’s Pokemon, another game about being a kid and going on adventures. It also happens to be one of the best selling RPG series of all time. And lets not foget how adorable some of these things are.

Look how freakin adorable I am

Look how freakin adorable I am

Role-playing games don’t need to be super serious and dark to be good. Unfortunately, most games in the industry tend to be grim and gritty, and RPGs are following that trend. Lets try not to forget that a bright and fun adventure can be just as good as its more “maturely themed” brethren.

DSv4

The Shin Megami Tensei games are a long running series of RPGs akin to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and yesterday I took the plunge by buying my first one. Devil Survivor for the Nintendo DS is about a bunch of hip young Japanese youth trapped in Tokyo by a military quarantine during a demon invasion. When I first read that description I was sold on the story instantly. I’m a sucker for military quarantines, what can I say, and after the first hour I have not been disappointed.

Initial Impressions:

My character, Robert McKool (that’s right), and his friends have spent their time trying to find an escape out of the demon infested metropolis. It’s a nice change of pace from an amnesic youth who goes on to save the world.No world saving here. This game is all about survival and sacrifice on a personal level.

The game play also breaks conventions a bit by blending sRPG and jRPG mechanics. Battles play out on a grid, like in an sRPG, but when you attack an enemy it goes into a standard battle screen like you would expect from Dragon Quest. It spices up the formula and it’s fun. Your characters don’t do the bulk of the fighting either. Instead you rely on forging pacts with demons and making them fight for you. It’s just another cool little twist that adds a bit of that “gotta catch em all!” feeling.

So far I am enjoying Devil Survivor a lot. It manages to stand out as an RPG on a system that is positively drowning in them with a great story and fun  game play. Look for my full review in the near future.