15 October 2014

Batman: Arkham Asylum (Game Review)

The Arkham series of Batman video games has been fairly popular, but I never really got around to looking into it, even though I do think of myself as a Batman fan (but then again, who doesn't)... However, when the first game in the series, Batman: Arkham Asylum (from 2009), was recently offered as a PlayStation Plus member download, I figured I might as well give it a shot.

The story begins with Batman delivering a recently captured Joker to Arkham Asylum. Lo and behold, Joker breaks free and begins taking over the facility. Naturally several classic Batman villains are released in the process, who Batman will have to deal with on his way to defeat Joker... Honestly, I found the story mediocre at best, a collection of Batman tropes to ferry you from level to level. And I wasn't hugely impressed by the dialogue and voice acting either, even though the game was written by Paul Dini—who worked on Batman: The Animated Series—and several original Batman: The Animated Series voice actors (most notably Mark Hamill as the Joker).

The actual gameplay, however, is somewhat more interesting. At its core it's nothing really original, deeply rooted in the 3rd person action-adventure genre. But there are many little features that make it fun to play. Naturally Batman has a variety of gadgets to help him, from batarangs and explosives to grappling guns. Which adds variety to the game, even though the controls for some of the gadgets felt unnecessarily clunky. Mobility plays a large role in the game, as Batman can grapple to high platforms to escape enemies and the like. An important element is also a special 'Detective Vision' mode that gives you additional information about your surroundings.

Combat is fairly straightforward and fluid. You gain experience that unlocks more powerful combo moves etc. Nothing really new there, but nothing wrong with it either. The regular combat sequences could feel a little repetitive, though (as did many of the boss fights), and some of the more interesting scenes were stealth oriented sequences where you have to pick off enemies one by one, using a variety of tactics, including sneaking behind them or dropping down from above.

I had no complaints about the look and feel of the game, aesthetically. It did feel... Batman-y enough. Interior level design, of course, can feel a little 'game-y' sometimes and not always exactly realistic. Not that that's much of a surprise. A particular pet peeve for me was the frequent use of gargoyles... on interior walls. Sure, they were quite practical as a gameplay element, but the point of real gargoyles was to funnel water from a roof so it doesn't run down walls. Not something you'd want inside a room...

The game didn't have a timer, as far as I could see, but the length felt fairly typical for this kind of game. For the obsessive completionist gamers there's a ton of secrets and collectible items scattered through the game, but, as usual, I couldn't really be bothered with that stuff...

In summary, Batman: Arkham Asylum was a reasonably fun little action-adventure game, but, despite some interesting features, didn't really stand out from other games in the genre, and felt like it had potential for more, in terms of narrative and gameplay variety. I don't really see myself replaying this game much, with so many other interesting games out there. But I could consider picking up the sequels, should I run into them at an affordable price...

23 September 2014

A Weekend With WoW

So, almost a decade after the game's release, I finally did it. I actually tried World of Warcraft.

I've been mildly curious about MMORPGs as a phenomenon for a long time. A few years ago I even tried playing a handful of free games, but all of those turned out to be either uninteresting to me or suffered from poor performance on my system at the time. But that was a long time ago, and, on a whim, just for kicks, one boring Friday night I decided to try if WoW would run on my current Debian laptop, using Wine. I figured what the hell, it's free up to level 20, I have nothing to lose. Perhaps a little to my surprise, it actually ran. Not at huge frame rates or on full graphical settings, of course, but smooth enough to be perfectly playable.

A few days later I reached the Starter Edition's level cap. Those 20 levels... actually succeed at giving new players a fairly decent glimpse of the variety and scope of WoW. There's a vast world to explore, a variety of different enemies and quests, and loot to pick up. You can do solo quests, or even try out instanced dungeons with a group.

So those would be some of the pros of the game. The cons, however... Yes, the world is vast with a multitude of different environments, and there are tons of quests. However, a lot of that world is, to be honest, a little on the bland side, not exactly teeming with detail. (Well, the game is ten years old, after all...) And while there is some variety, a lot of those quests are hopelessly repetitive. Go here, kill X creatures, report back... The controls also seem a little awkward and I don't think I've still quite gotten used to them. (Perhaps this is partly due to my mostly console background—playing third person games with a mouse feels weird. And speaking of which, boy has my hand been hurting, I'm so not used to using a mouse these days...)

So my feelings about WoW are somewhat mixed. It feels like a world with a lot of potential, but on the other hand it could obviously be much more interesting. Still, just exploring the world and doing quests has been pretty entertaining for these past few days.

Then there's of course the social aspect of the game, which is a whole other story. And one I can't really comment on much. I only did one instanced dungeon before hitting the level cap, and it was fun, but kind of a hectic blur, and I didn't really interact with the other players at all. (I know some of my friends have played WoW in the past, but I'm not sure any are currently active, and I doubt they'd be on the same server anyway—I just picked the first one the game recommended for me, out of quite a few).

So the big question is: is it worth paying a monthly fee for? Right now, sure, I could see myself paying for one month and trying out the game a little longer. When you think about it, a month's subscription isn't a whole lot of money, if you actually play the game on a fairly regular basis. Compare it to, for instance, buying a new single player game. It'll likely cost more, and mostly I don't play a game like that after I beat it, which rarely takes much more than a month, often considerably less. But would I be interested in WoW in the long term? That... I'm a little sceptical of. I've never really played a single game for extended periods in the past. I'm always moving on to new experiences. Ideally I think it would be something to occasionally kill a little time with. But paying a not insignificant monthly fee for something like that just doesn't seem like a viable option.

One more observation, relating to a theme in recent blog posts: this game could really use a manual. If one is provided anywhere with the download or in-game, I haven't found it. And the guide at Battle.net isn't nearly as helpful as the one for Diablo III was. It doesn't really go into the basic controls and mechanics at all...

EDIT: Well, I actually found a downloadable PDF manual, in the account section of Battle.net under my WoW details. Wish someone had pointed that out earlier... Mind you, the file is very unoptimised for computer screens and quite hard to read...

I guess that wraps up my admittedly brief experience (so far) with one of the world's most famous games, so I'll just leave you with this: for the Horde!

16 September 2014

A Moment of Nostalgia with Heroes of Might and Magic III

I recently bought a copy of Heroes of Might and Magic III (1999) when it was on sale at Good Old Games. I was a little surprised to find it works almost flawlessly on my GNU/Linux machine using Wine. (I also installed an unofficial HD mod to make it run in bigger resolutions.)

Back in the 90s, I had a copy of Heroes of Might and Magic II. I recall it was probably one of the first games I bought after my family got a new Pentium computer. It was a cool fantasy strategy game, with pretty graphics and great music. Right up my proverbial alley at the time. Before that I'd been playing Master of Magic a little, but Heroes' more polished, modern aesthetics, and perhaps also the slightly more streamlined mechanics, quickly won me over.

But I was never very good at it, or should I rather say not patient enough. I never got very far in the campaign, mostly playing single scenarios on easy difficulty settings and sometimes hot-seat multiplayer with friends. (I never was very patient with games back then—I hardly ever 'beat' games until a little later when I got into more story-driven stuff, like JRPGs...) Even so, I might go as far as saying that Heroes II is the game I remember most fondly from the 90s (together with TIE Fighter).

So, I started up Heroes III, and I felt right at home. Even though I didn't play it back in the day, the game's similar enough to it's predecessor to feel instantly familiar and intuitive. I still love the aesthetics and feel of the game, so many years later. I started up a scenario, played it for several hours... and then I drifted off to other things and haven't been back since. Yup, that sounds very familiar as well.

It's a problem I've had with many classic games, and perhaps particularly strategy games. There would be a ton of content to play through in Heroes III (the GOG version includes the two expansions as well). But alas, it seems more like an itch that needs occasionally scratching than something I'd be really motivated to stick with. (I'd still heartily recommend it to fans of classic strategy games, though. Even when not on sale, the game's only ten bucks at GOG.com, which seems like a bargain.)

11 September 2014

Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition (Game Review)

Blizzard's Diablo and Diablo II are among those classic computer games I never played. Thus I was only vaguely aware of the hype surrounding Diablo III when it was finally released a couple years ago, and the maybe somewhat lukewarm reception it had. But when the expansion, Reaper of Souls, was released earlier this year, and people were saying how it improved the game, coinciding with when I was getting into watching more gaming streams and thus exposed to a wider range of games, my curiosity grew.

When the expansion was released for consoles recently, bundled together with the main game as the Ultimate Evil Edition, I decided it was time to finally check out the series and bought the PS3 version. (It's also out for PS4, but I don't have one yet...)

I'm sure many people reading this will already be aware of the Diablo series, but for anyone who's not, the games are isometric hack-and-slash style action RPGs, with a focus on randomly generated content and loot. The story is set in a dark fantasy world called Sanctuary, and deals primarily with the war between angels and demons, with the player taking the part of a human hero going up against the demon lords, particularly their leader, the titular Diablo. Diablo III takes place 20 years after the previous game. Diablo has supposedly been vanquished, but the remaining demon lords are again spreading evil in Sanctuary. You set out to investigate a mysterious falling star and the dead rising from the graves...

The gameplay itself is quite simple, on the surface. Basically you hit buttons until the monsters die. The console version, out of necessity, has vastly different controls than the PC version. Where the PC games have always been heavily mouse oriented, the console version plays more like a standard third person action game (you use the left stick to move, buttons to attack etc). The menus and inventory management were also completely overhauled to work better with controllers.

Despite the simple premise, Diablo III has a surprising amount of depth, for a hack-and-slash game. You can pick one of six different classes, each with unique abilities, which are unlocked as you level up. Most of the locations you explore are random generated. Each time you start up the game they change, so you'll never have the exact same experience twice, even if you go back to locations you've visited before. Difficulty seemed something of a mixed bag. I played much of the main game on the maximum allowed difficulty, and didn't die once, which was a little surprising. After beating the main game (i.e. up to Act IV) you unlock higher difficulties. Playing the expansion content on the next higher setting seemed more suitable for me, except now some of the bosses felt a little too hard, and I ended up lowering difficulty for them... But at least you can change the difficulty at any time, which is good.

The game's reasonably long, too. (As far as I can tell, there's no timer in the game that would tell me how long it took to beat it, which is a shame. I find that kind of information interesting.) It doesn't end with beating the campaign, either. After that you unlock 'Adventure Mode', which lets you freely travel the word hunting down randomly generated 'bounties', and exploring randomly generated dungeons. Character level is capped at 70, but after that you can continue to improve your character by gaining 'paragon levels'. I'm not quite that far yet, so I can't really comment on what that entails.

And then there's the loot. Dropped by enemies and discovered in chests, or bought from merchants, or crafted by a blacksmith... So much loot, most of which is also random generated, so you'll find an endless number of equipment with different combinations of magical properties. There are several levels of rarity in items. Though, honestly, this seems a little unnecessary. Not long into the game it became obvious that 'rare' (and above) items were much better than more common items, and plentiful enough to simply not bother with picking anything else up (except occasionally to salvage for crafting materials).

The game looks very nice, even on the PS3, which probably has lower resolution than the PS4 or higher end PCs (I noticed some occasional slight slowdown too, but nothing that really detracted from the experience). There are lots of different environments, and tons of cool monsters. The music, on the other hand, was... well, background music. It's well enough done and suits the atmosphere of the game, but not exactly what I'd call memorable.

Another aspect the Diablo series is famous for is the multiplayer. You can team up with up to three other players for co-operative play. In the console version you can even play local multiplayer. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but I'm sure it, together with the randomly generated content, greatly increases the game's replay value. (As far as I know cross-platform online play isn't available, and for local multiplayer I assume each player needs a local username and save file, which slightly limits the potential. But it's still a cool thing.)

Now, I've listed a lot of positive things about Diablo III Ultimate Evil Edition. I certainly had fun playing it on my first playthrough, and I'm still having fun checking out Adventure Mode. But when it comes down to it, the core gameplay is quite repetitive, and the story is hardly very deep or original. While in theory it's one of those games you could keep playing indefinitely, how long it can keep me interested after 'beating' it once is a question I can't answer yet. (My past experience with games with a lot of 'post-game' content doesn't exactly speak for me sticking with it. Always moving on to new experiences...)

One last complaint  I have (which I touched upon in an earlier blog post) is that the game came with virtually no manual, beyond a simple controller diagram. It turns out there's a game guide on Blizzard's Battle.net website, which answered some of the questions I had. But this guide was not mentioned anywhere in the packaging, as far as I could see...

2 September 2014

The Forgotten Art of the Video Game Manual

Blizzard's Diablo is one of those classic game franchises I never played. So, now that the expansion for Diablo III is out for consoles as well, and conveniently bundled with the main game as the 'Ultimate Evil Edition', I finally decided to pick up the PS3 version and give it a try. But I've barely started the game, so I'm not actually here to talk about it yet, but rather a related observation.

So I bought Diablo III, and opened up the box to check out the manual: a single folded sheet, featuring only a controller diagram and the usual warnings and customer service numbers.

Out of curiosity, I checked out the manual for Diablo II (2000) online. It's almost 100 pages long.

Another example. Some years ago I picked up a cheap second hand copy of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for PS3 ('Game of the Year Edition', 2007). Its manual is over 50 pages, which is actually fairly impressive for a PS3 game. A little later I bought the then brand new Skyrim (2011): a 'quick start' guide a couple pages long. (In multiple languages—this was the Nordic version, I don't know if UK/US versions differ.)

The trend is obvious. The video game manual is a dying breed. There are many reasons for this, of course. Designing and printing manuals is an additional expense. Online distribution of games is growing. Many games these days have extensive tutorial sections and in-game reference guides.

But there's a certain feeling when you open your brand new game and flip through the manual for the first time that an in-game tutorial can't replace. At best, manuals of the past have been much more than just about teaching you the controls. They could immerse you in the world of the game, expand the experience, get you hooked even before you start the game...

And all that aside, there are still games even in this streamlined, hold-you-by-the-hand age complex enough to benefit from a detailed reference guide. (Dark Souls springs to mind...)

I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule, game publishers still making decent manuals. But for the most part the manual seems to be a thing of the past, and I'm not very hopeful of seeing a resurrection. Which is a shame.

28 August 2014

Brief Procastinatory Ramblings on Learning Dota and Stuff

Hello blog. What have you been up to? Not much, I see. Well, maybe I'll just scribble down a little something, just in way of procrastination...

So in my last post I mentioned trying out a little Dota 2. I've been playing a little more over the past week. I'm not sure how worthwhile it is actually writing about it with still so little experience under my belt, but whatever...

I have now completed the tutorials and practice battles in the game's training section, except for the last one, which is matches with other real players. And I really don't want to do that. Even if some people playing in those matches may well be as inexperienced as me, I am well aware of how bad I am at this game and I have zero confidence in my ability to compete against other humans.

I'm not sure I'd be willing to try that even if the MOBA community didn't have a reputation of being very harsh towards noobs. But of course it does. When you read about MOBAs, the one thing you always run into—in addition to how they're challenging but rewarding games, of course—is how unwelcoming and aggressive the community can be. Which is a shame.

It's funny, really. For a long, long time I simply wasn't interested in online games, favouring engaging single player experiences. And that's obviously just fine. But various factors lately have, just slightly, piqued my interest; like getting into following gamers on Twitch and social networks, esports becoming more mainstream etc.—overall exposing me to a wider range of gaming. And just when I'm maybe opening up slightly to these different parts of the hobby and to gaming as a more communal thing, I begin to discover that some parts of the gaming community can actually be rather shitty... Not that I have experienced anything very negative first hand—since, as said, I have hardly ever played online games and also the communities I have had touch with are pretty much composed of actually decent people—but it seems like these days you're constantly hearing stories about harassment and abuse... Actually, come to think of it, no, that's not actually funny at all.

But let's get back to Dota. Because, possible community issues aside, it is actually an interesting and entertaining game. Or at least has been so far. And I can see it will require a lot of practise. I honestly don't know at this time whether I'll have the motivation and patience to stick with it. It's quite similar to my relationship with fighting games, really. I find them cool and fascinating, but I'm terrible at them and lack the patience to really practice.

I'm slightly surprised I didn't lose any of the training section battles. But I think the game was rigged in my favour. It was obvious that the bots on my side were vastly more efficient than the enemy bots. I expect when I get into the 'proper' bot battles, which is probably the next step for me, my side will lose, even on easier settings. Because, all other things being equal, I still suck.

[EDIT: OK, so I actually played one bot match soon after writing this with the bots set to 'easy', and... the result was very much the same as the matches in the training section—i.e. I sucked but my team still dominated. So I guess I'd need to play on a higher difficulty for the teams to actually be equal...]

20 August 2014

On Things Steamy, Esportsy, and Never Wanting to Be a Lumberjack-y

I haven't been blogging much this summer. Sorry about that. Just not a whole lot going on in my life to blog about. I spent a few weeks in the countryside recently, much of which I spent cutting up firewood with a chainsaw. Turns out using a chainsaw isn't as cool as it might sound, but actual hard work. Especially when you're doing it several hours each day in the middle of Finland's longest heat wave in 40 years... Let me tell you, I was not built for manual labour...

So let us talk about geekier topics instead. I've written in the past about how I'm a dedicated GNU/Linux user and how this isn't exactly ideal for gaming on the PC, and about the (relatively few) games I've actually played on my computer. Of course the situation has slowly been improving. A major contributor to this is Valve's decision to bring Steam to GNU/Linux. I stayed away from Steam for a long while (partly because, in addition to running GNU/Linux, my laptop isn't exactly great and I've had a lot of issues with graphics drivers), but I finally took the plunge and installed it.

Steam's GNU/Linux support is still far from perfect, I'm afraid. The release is tailored for Ubuntu, for one thing, which has caused some compatibility problems with the Debian testing release I currently use. Getting it to run required a little trickery, like removing outdated libraries bundled with it in favour of actually working versions in my OS. But lo and behold, I did eventually manage to get it to run.

The main reason I decided to try Steam was that I have a whole bunch of games I've gotten from the Humble Indie Bundles, most of which are redeemable on Steam. I figured Steam might make installing and managing these games simpler. I installed a few of these games before I went on my trip... but of course I never had the time or energy to play anything after all the woodcutting. But I've finally been playing around a little over the past few days. I've played a little Legend of Grimrock, which seems pretty fun in an oldschool, nostalgic way—harking back to classic dungeon crawlers like Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder (the latter of which, if I recall correctly, might have been the first PC game I ever bought, back when I got my first PC in the 90s).

Perhaps more surprisingly (to myself at least) I've also been playing a little Dota 2. Just tutorial matches against bots, of course. I doubt I'll ever have the skills or confidence to actually play with other humans... I suck so bad at it. I'm still completely lost with all the powers and items and whatnot. But I find the basic premise of these kind of games interesting and I figured I might as well try to learn some of the very basics. And I spent a fair amount of time watching The International (not least because it happened to coincide with my woodcutting 'holiday' and I had little energy to do anything more productive), which I guess instilled a little interest in me.

Plus Dota 2 is free. Which is cool. I'm actually quite surprised it even runs on my laptop. Though of course I have graphics settings almost at minimum...

I'm not going to go any deeper into these games at this point, since I haven't actually played that much of them yet. There's a bunch of other games I now own on Steam I'd like to try some day as well. But can't play everything at once, alas...

3 July 2014

What Kind of Creature Am I? (Album Review)

It's not very often these days that I encounter a new band or artist that I get really excited about. But Australian prog band Toehider is proving to be one of those.

I first heard of the band when frontman Michael Mills was featured on Ayreon's latest album, The Theory of Everything. I didn't look into it too deeply then, but sometime later the man behind Ayreon, Arjen Lucassen, posted a link to a crowdfunding campaign for the new Toehider album, What Kind of Creature Am I? I thought it looked interesting, and the cost for the CD wasn't too high, so I decided to take a chance, even though I wasn't at all familiar with their music.

The album isn't officially slated for release until next week, I believe, but backers got a link to download the album last week, and today I discovered the CD in my postbox. I have listened to the album several times now, and... yes, I'm quite enjoying it.

I often talk about how much I appreciate albums as physical, aesthetic objects, and this one is no exception. The artwork by Andrew Saltmarsh is delightful. The liner notes are quite hilarious (another thing that adds value to owning the physical version). My one complaint is that the font in the booklet is quite small and hard to read. (Alas, this is a far too common problem in CD booklets.)

While Toehider has additional members for live performance, almost everything on the album is done by the quite talented multi-instrumentalist Michael Mills (which makes the music all the more impressive). Best I can describe Toehider's music is as prog rock. The songs display a wide range of styles and influences, with intricate, skilful arrangements, often complex (as prog tends to be), but still frequently quite catchy as well...

There are obvious Queen influences in several songs. There are heavier guitar parts, at times venturing close to metal (though much of the music is fairly cheery), as well as softer, more folky sequences (parts of the epic 12 minute track 'Meet the Sloth', for instance, remind me greatly of Jethro Tull).

Mills is a quite competent singer, as well, with a remarkable vocal range. The lyrics are frequently surreal, fantastic, even whimsical, though occasionally veering into darker, more personal territory.

I will probably have to try to get my hands on Toehider's earlier works eventually, although that may take a while. Meanwhile, I'll just go on listening to What Kind of Creature Am I?

22 June 2014

One Solstice Night, Pt 5

So, as my followers could conceivably know, for the past few years I have stayed up till dawn on the night of the summer solstice, the shortest night of the year, and blog my activities during that night. The actual moment of the solstice (astronomically speaking) was at 1:46 p.m. my time, so I guess tonight is the closest to it.

This year is a little different from my previous solstice nights, though, because, as it happens, the solstice this year happens to coincide with the awesome Mario Marathon for Child's Play Charity, which (as my followers again may be aware of) I follow every year with an almost religious fervour. So my night isn't going to be a whole lot different from the rest of my weekend. But I'll try to write up some of the highlights, anyway. (I also don't have any booze, like I usually do, largely because the stores have been closed for the last couple days due to the Midsummer holiday...)

22:51 - Sunset. The MM crew has now been playing for almost 29 hours and they've raised over $26,000 for charity. Pretty cool. They're currently playing Super Mario Bros. 2. That's one of my favourite games from the good old NES days, and (iirc) the only Mario game I actually beat (without Game Genie codes) back in those days. (Before this they played Super Mario Galaxy, which is probably my favourite modern Mario game...)

23:00 - A couple words about my marathon watching set up. I went all out this year, hooking up my laptop to my 40" TV so I can watch the stream way bigger than I ever have before, and I can have my laptop next to me for chatting in the marathon's IRC channel (and, you know, writing this blog and stuff). It's pretty cool. Don't know why I haven't done this before. Just laziness, I guess (and of course I didn't have a TV this size in previous years).

23:25 - And they just beat SMB2! I think this was the fastest playthrough yet this marathon, faster than SMB1 even. Next up is Super Mario Sunshine for the GameCube, which should be a much longer game... Not one I've played, not likely in the foreseeable future, but Mario is Mario...

00:00 - Midnight calls for a midnight snack. Gonna make me some nachos! Well, I call them nachos, but it's pretty much the simplest version I can imagine. Basically I just put slices of cheese on top of tortilla chips and toss them in the microwave. Well, I've got some salsa for dipping, too. Fancy.

1:00 - Should be about as dark as it gets around now. Been a pretty rainy week, but apparently the skies have cleared up just in time for tonight. And the skies are a nice shade of blue, fading to almost gold on the horizon... Yup, that's midnight at midsummer here in Finland...

1:20 - Ah, good old blindfold mode, always good fun to watch.

1:40 - Hah, wouldn't be Mario Marathon without the eventual technical difficulties. Apparently the website is down. Stream still works fine, luckily, 'cause it's through Twitch.tv. Of course the stream is a lot more quiet when people are fixated on fixing issues...

3:10 - I probably shouldn't be having more nachos at this time, but maybe just a little... Hope I won't regret it soon when I'm actually trying to sleep...

3:55 - Sunrise. Which means I should be heading to bed. Fun enough night, just a bummer about Mario Marathon's server issues. Tomorrow will be... pretty much the same as tonight! Hopefully the issues get sorted out soon and the rest of the marathon will be a huge success!

22 May 2014

BioShock Infinite

BioShock's one of those game series that's been sort of on my radar for a long time, but, perhaps mostly because I've never been a particularly passionate FPS fan, I never got around to buying them. However, I recently joined PlayStation Plus and one of the free member games at the time was BioShock Infinite, so of course I decided to download it and give it a try.

Infinite is the third game in the series, but it's a more or less independent story set in a new location, so I didn't have too many qualms about not having played the first two. Booker DeWitt is a private investigator living in 1912, who, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, ends up in a floating city called Columbia, looking for a girl called Elizabeth. Of course things soon get crazy. Or crazier, I should say. Columbia turns out to be a religious white supremacist community on the verge of rebellion. Mix in supernatural powers, strange quantum technology that keeps the city in the sky, alternate realities, mechanical creatures and whatnot, and you've got a pretty cool, original environment and interesting story.

Quirky vintage environments have of course been a defining feature of the BioShock franchise from the start. I really enjoyed the look and atmosphere of this game. Radios and gramophones play music in the style of the period and the aesthetic in general is not quite like any other game I've played. For much of the game you travel with Elizabeth, which, from a story point of view, added opportunities for dialogue, something that normally isn't perhaps the strongest point in FPSs. The storytelling in general was pretty good, although it did feel like there was the occasional unnecessary MacGuffin used to add more action sequences that didn't quite fit in the otherwise original and high quality design of the game...

Gameplay-wise, BioShock Infinite plays much like any FPS. It does have some slight RPG elements mixed in too, though. You gain a variety of different supernatural powers you can use. There's a lot of loot lying around for you to gather and you can buy upgrades for your weapons and powers. There are also sequences with little fighting, some exploration to do and a few sidequests as well (though honestly I didn't find the sidequests particularly interesting or rewarding). All in all, it plays pretty smooth and fun.

The amount of choice in weapons and powers is good, I guess, but honestly the game didn't really give much incentive to experiment with them. You're limited to carrying two weapons, and although there's plenty lying around that you can pick up, I rarely felt comfortable switching away from the familiar weapons I'd been using from early on and had spent resources upgrading...

I've always considered myself pretty bad at action games and often pick easier difficulty settings when available. But I decided to go with the default setting this time, and... honestly, I don't know if I've actually improved over the years or whether this game was on the easy side, but I found most of the game not very hard at all. Dying wasn't really a problem, as enemies you've killed stay dead. Really only the final battle caused me any trouble, largely because it had a different type of objective from most battles (protecting a target, rather than just killing things). But I still had fun playing, though, and that's what counts, of course.

I also had some complaints about the save system. Namely, the lack of one. The game only saved at particular checkpoints, and should you have to quit at any other point, you'd have to start again from the last checkpoint...

So yeah, overall, while not perhaps exactly perfect, I quite enjoyed the game. Once experienced, though, I don't really see myself replaying this in the foreseeable future. I guess I should eventually check out the other two games. But it's not a terribly high priority, got plenty of games to play as it is...