Tim, no reading, there may be spoilers.
As for the rest of you, it’s been ample time for you all to have played, but as Tim recently played Arkham Asylum for the first time ever, it seems a good time to talk about the sequel. Arkham City is fodder for every gaming hall of fame going, a neat blend of sandbox with high quality story, stealth and action, puzzles and combat, and perhaps one of the best representations of Batman ever put to a screen of any size. Arkham City was also going to be the last ever appearance of Mark Hamill as the Joker, promising he’d only return if they ever animated The Killing Joke (they did, he did). (more…)
When The Dark Knight hit our cinema screens, it was somewhat of a revolution for superhero movies everywhere. It brought out that dark, gritty side that Batman has been needing on the big screen for some time. Jump forward a year to 2009, we ended up with Batman Arkham Asylum. This did for superhero video games what The Dark Knight did for superhero movies. But does the game hold up just as well in 2018, nearly a decade on from the games original release? I decided to finally pick the game up, after having it in my Steam account for many a year.
When you’re engrossed in a work of fiction, nothing is certain. From what direction the antagonists are going to take the story, to the sudden, tragic loss of a major character that you’re deeply invested in. Many of us have watched series, played games, or read books where a character is taken away from us just far too soon. We’re here to share with all of you our Top 10 Shocking Deaths in all forms of media.
Since the dominance of the sandbox, railroading gameplay through linear non-divergent story and specific plot paths has become something of a faux-pas in game design, and was never looked upon favourably in tabletop roleplaying. As a player you seek agency, and often that comes from such simple things as choosing which path to take to the same inevitable end, and not following the obvious trail of breadcrumbs laid out for you. These days we laud games for open worlds, multiple endings, and the ability to approach one problem a dozen ways, to play it your way.
All but gone are the days of the 3D platformer, and the rail shooter, technology and computing power has given us the power to create actual worlds and weave beautiful stories into them rather than just telling a story and dragging you by the nose along it.
But is it so bad a thing that we’re better off entirely being rid of it, and casting away the strictly linear narratives of old?
There are times when actually taking your players by the nose and dragging them to the plot is not necessarily an unforgivable act. Here are a couple of examples of uses for, and in defence of railroading your story.
Here’s a nice easy one to get this started off. When beginning a campaign, or game, or whatever interactive experience your trying to share, you’ll usually have a few fundamentals to share, basic bits of information to share that’ll allow the player to understand the experiences to follow. A little bit of railroading aids “showing not telling” like the opening test chambers of Portal encouraging thinking with portals. Obduction drives you down a path in pursuit of one of the world-shifting seeds, and leaves you in a small bubble that tells you everything you need to know about the transition mechanics you’ll be playing with.
It’s a form of tutorial, but done right it’s so subtle that you barely notice it every replay. We’re guided through set pieces that leave us without doubt about where we’re going or what we’re doing for the rest of the game.
There are occasions where your story takes a turn that irrevocably changes everything. No turning back, and no matter what you have done up to this point this moment was unavoidable. Moments like the time-shift in Guild Wars, where the entire “tutorial” felt like an open world in it’s own right, only for everything to change in a single moment. Transitioning from one Mass Effect or Witcher still leaves you with a short period in which games are identical, no matter the decisions you’ve made.
Now, actions and decisions made before this pivotal moment can alter the events that follow, but all paths lead here ultimately. Most games use this kind of narrative, the storyline quests that so often get ignored in pure sandboxes, but there are times where that epic moment changes everything to the point where there’s no going back or wandering off to finish that sidequest you’ve been ignoring.
I’ll skim over this because this one’s more of a cheap trick, somewhat less acceptable. False choices are the doors you walk up to that suddenly slam shut and lock you out, or those decisions that immediately kill you or end the game. Arkham City did that with Catwoman’s story at one stage, where she had the option to simply walk away with loot in pocket, but because the game needed you to save Batman the game simply ended there. Sorry guys, given a real choice I’d have taken the money and run.
A Good Story
Halflife, Telltale Games, Psychonauts, hell most games will railroad up to a point. When your story is good and worth telling there’s nothing wrong with taking agency from the players in terms of narrative direction. In the drive to create bigger and more incredible games let’s not lose sight of a good story and the ways in which we can tell them, putting the player into the hazard suit of a mute scientist as he weaves through supersoldiers and alien parasites to reach the incredible conclusion of his epic tale (that will have been stuck on a cliffhanger for ten years this October) or filling the boots of the intrepid archaeologist as she shoots her way through adventures far more thrilling than any actual archaeologist would ever encounter.
I consider myself a world-builder first and foremost, so I’ll advocate for the ability to wander aimlessly around the whole world and delve its deepest corners and unveil every shred of lore, even if I have to sit and spend time that should be shooting down killer robots reading books on killer robot maintenance. But sometimes when a moment needs to be shared, or an idea is so stunning that it simply must be seen, there’s nothing wrong with putting the plot on tracks and asking everyone to enjoy the ride for a while.
Black Friday celebrates the end of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, an American holiday that – like so much of America’s culture – has made it’s way to the UK because of how staggeringly profitable it is, but I’ll come down from my political high horse before I get the urge to ride into the sunset yelling Viva la Revolucion!
Alongside some pretty huge deals on great titles, Steam are also running their own award ceremony as voted for by the gamers. So while you pick up a stack of games for a fiver, take some time to nominate some of your favourite titles and get another pointless badge for doing so. Why not? It’s nice to give back occasionally. Here’s my picks for the categories: (more…)
Towers define a skyline, they change the cities that they occupy because they quite literally stand out. Because of that they also tend to help define games, they can be focal in stories, a more literal climax in climactic moments, or they could be simple but iconic background detail.
A tower is a symbol, a statement, and a genre of game in its’ own right. So join us as we take this opportunity to appreciate their place in gaming.
Welcome to our next Top 10 post, where Joel and myself have gotten together to splice up a sweet little list for you all.
Today, we thought we’d think about the Top 10 Crazies in Gaming… Now, a crazy is someone who isn’t exactly all there. They might find some odd things amusing, or they might not think normally. They might like to inflict pain and suffering but most importantly: They’re crazy and you’ll know it.
So join us in our journey through the madness that is the Top 10 Crazies in Gaming!
The Top 10
10) Achenar – Myst
One of the imprisoned sons of Atrus from the Myst series. Sirrus and Achenar carved a trail of destruction through the worlds their father created; Sirrus out of greed and self obsession, but Achenar seems only to want to destroy. Through exploration of the Ages you encounter evidence of his lunacy, an obsession with torture, animal trapping, fixation on blood and death.
Achenar’s insanity is uncovered through exploration, and by talking to his giggling face through a portal to his prison-world. He is a dangerous madman, and kicks off our list at number ten.
9) Kefka Palazzo – Final Fantasy VI
If the picture above doesn’t symbolise just how insane Kefka is, his ever haunting laugh will certainly be testament to this jesters insanity.
Kefka cracks out with dark jokes, relishes in the pain and suffering of others and has absolutely no regard for human life. He lacks self-control and he hates everything in the world: Only enjoying death, pain and suffering.
What a psychopath!
8) Alice Liddell – American McGee’s Alice franchise
Being treated for insanity and catatonia, Alice was beginning to lose her grip on reality. Her only possession is a stuffed white rabbit, which happens to be the creature that calls her back into the Wonderland that she used to explore so long ago.
Unfortunately for her, this Wonderland has changed thanks to her mind. With the corrupt Queen of Hearts now in control, can Alice actually battle her sanity and the Queen of Hearts in an attempt to win back the Wonderland?
Possibly, but she’ll still be in Rutledge asylum afterwards.
7) Max – Sam & Max franchise
Max, the lovable little bunny to the right of the duo above us is a rather impulsive bunny. Although he is generally in control of his actions, he’s very impulsive and he’s not afraid to say and do whatever his mind tells him.
Ultimately, the better judgement always wins, however his lunacy also makes him a volatile poker player. Be warned, else you might get fleeced by the bunny with no true long-term plan.
6) Dr. N. Gin – Crash Bandicoot franchise
Dr. N. Gin replaced Dr. N. Brio in Crash Bandicoot 2. N. Gin noticeably has a large missile protruding from his skull. That can’t be comfortable and indeed it is the cause of several of his massive migraines.
Dr. N. Gin is a genius, but having made that live nuclear missile turn into a kind of life support machine… Um, you’d better believe you need to be insane to pull off something like that! Especially when your emotions sets that thing back off!
5) Harley Quinn – Arkham franchise (Arkham City)
Coming in at number five on our list is the Joker’s lunatic devotee! Why her and not the Joker? Because in spite of Heath Ledger’s famous “Dog chasing cars” speech, the Joker is possessed of a single minded focus. His girlfriend on the other hand is a scatter-brained, mallet-wielding anarchy machine, dangerous enough when following the directions of her precious Mr J, but without him she’s a freewheeling hate-monger.
Quinn is subject of her very own DLC in Batman Arkham City, where players can see the damage a woman scorned can do!
4) Pokey Minch – Mother franchise
From the start, Pokey is manipulative and yet he only gets his way through lying.
He lies his way to get to become the high priest of a cult (No, really…) He then lies his way to becoming a business consultant for a mayor (No… Really..!) Then he uses his accumulated wealth to buy himself a helicopter and basically dares you to follow him to what’s effectively the ultimate evil.
Throughout the game, he becomes more and more power mad, driven by his own greed and desire for power.
After all is said and done, he ends Earthbound (the 2nd game in the Mother franchise) by leaving you a message: “Come and get me, loser! Spankety spankety spankety!”” What a nut-job! He only gets worse in Mother 3, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.
3) Krieg – Borderlands 2
The conductor of the poop train comes in at number three. Borderlands’ “Psycho” playable character charges through the world smashing skulls and salting wounds and setting himself on fire! No really, he sets himself on fire. He has a skill tree devoted to it. And suicide as a tactical decision. Just, grenades everywhere. You can voluntarily take friendly fire just so you can suicide bomb your enemies.
Kept in check by the sane voice in his head that stops him from killing the “good guys” Krieg is one long maniacal-laugh riot!
Don’t believe how crazy Krieg is? Check out the Borderlands 2 Wiki page, which has all of his quotes. We were laughing through his quotes!
2) Sheogorath – The Elder Scrolls franchise
The lavishly dressed Sheogorath is perhaps the epitome of a mad man. In fact, that makes sense as he is the Daedric Prince of Madness. With his trademack Wabbajack, an item that issues a random effect.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he literally lives in a place called the Shivering Isles, which is also known as “Asylum” to some people and even “the Madhouse”. People go mad there and Sheogorath dresses for the occasion to meet those who would enter his realm. He even had a whole expansion dedicated to his isles in Oblivion (and it was totally worth it!)
1) Pyro – Team Fortress 2
Happiness, loveliness, rainbows and puppies. That’s what goes through the mind of the psychopath Pyro from Valve’s Team Fortress 2. Whilst s/he is running around shooting people with what s/he believes is a pretty bubble launcher; the world around it burns.
Pyro is insane to the membrane, remember this as when you hear the sounds of fire and smell burning flesh, Pyro thinks it’s making the world a better place.
Sometimes, some crazies in gaming are worth mentioning, even though they didn’t quite make the cut to be truly considered the most insane… But hey, these guys are pretty insane in their own right, so why not kick back and rest assured that these guys aren’t real:
Trust me – It’s safer this way.
Ghetsis – Pokemon Black & White
Power is something that is best left out of some peoples hands and Ghetsis is one of these people. The true brain behind Team Plasma, he led N down a wrong path. N believed everything Team Plasma were doing was for the best interests in his friends, the Pokemon, but he was wrong. Ghetsis is one of these rare geniuses who you fear, simply for knowing he’s around.
From the smart advisor for N, to the insane mastermind behind one of the most evil turns in Pokemons history, Ghetsis is to be feared… And we love to hate him for it.
Crazy Dave – Plants vs Zombies
He wears a cooking pot on his head. He speaks in absolute gibberish and he is basically a prophet. That’s right, you heard it here folks: Crazy Dave, the man who drools, wears a cooking pot on his head and speaks in a gibberish language is a prophet. He believed the zombies were coming – and he was right! He also sold you those damn handy plants. Just… Where did he get them from in the first place?
And that’s the end of our Top 10 crazies in gaming. Please be sure to stay tuned for more Top 10 posts, of which Joel and I will be working on together again.
What did you think of our modest list? Do you have some more crazies in gaming that deserve a mention? Let us know and tell us how wrong we are in the comments below, as we’d love to see what you’d suggest deserved a spot on our Top 10 crazies in gaming list.