2011: To all the Games I Loved Last Year

When I’m not wasting my time writing this blog or watching television, I’m usually working. When I’m not doing any of these things, I’m probably playing video games. Since I’ve got thisthing in my head to write about my favorite things of last year, and it is ever so easier than finding something else to write about, I’m going to write about my favorite games of 2011.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

I pretty much spent a couple of hours each night during the summer playing this strange mix of traditional RPG, dungeon crawler, monster trainer, and social simulator. By the time I finished the long, complicated storyline, I pretty much felt like I had spent the entire summer with my fictional friends in Inaba.

Persona 4 has a very traditional storyline too, with lots of twists, turns and character development. It is essentially a murder mystery, with the protagonist and his allies trying to stop a murderer who kills by putting his victims in a strange television dimension; a dimension filled with strange creatures only they seem to have the power to enter.  I know I spent over 100 hours on this baby, between the core story, and my OCD need to finish all the damn, repetitive fetch quests. I may have racked up a few hours falling asleep in front of the game a few times too.

I accidentally left the game on for a whole day too.

As for the game play, the combination of game types meshes surprisingly well together (as they did in the other Persona games). Much of the game involves going into randomly generated dungeons to rescue people in the television world. The characters use special powers via “personas”; the facets of personality that come to being in times of need. These personas become stronger as your social bonds with other characters become stronger. Most characters have a core persona, but the main protagonist has access to many; found in battles or created by combing other personas.

It is a pretty traditional RPG, so it is long winded and very difficult at times. It also has a lot of social elements, like test taking, field trips, and just hanging out with the other cast members. You can actually learn a bit about Japanese culture in the game. If this sounds like fun, then maybe Persona 4 (or the others) would be good for you.

Skyrim

The dragon in the room, so to speak, Skyrim is where a lot of the wee-hours of the night have gone since last November. No less than an epic adventure, Skyrim is basically a go anywhere, do anything exploration game with a bit of a storyline to get you started.

Skyrim is the kind of game you can play forever. You will probably never do everything unless you invest a lot of time into it. A lot. After the storyline, there are a zillion groups to join, some of which are in opposition to others. If you want to see what happens with the other faction, you better start another character. You probably will anyway, because once you’ve played through as a dragon bone-clad juggernaut, you’ll probably want to see what it is like roasting your enemies as a mage. Or maybe you want to be a sneak-thief stabbing people in the back. Or maybe you want to be a dragon bone-clad juggernaut who sneaks around shooting lighting from his a**. You can do it in Skyrim.

What most impresses me, though, is how real the world is. Pick up a book. Read a legend. You can probably find where it took place and the tomb of the hero it was about. They’ll try to kill you, of course. Some bullsh*t rumor you heard. It’s probably a quest. Do it.

The only complaint I have with this game is that the dragons seem to be too easy to kill. Maybe I’m just that good. Maybe focusing on only several types of combat skills instead of trying to branch out made me an unstoppable killer. The super-wizard I just died three times fighting didn’t think so, so it must be the dragons. Make them harder, please.

Mass Effect

It took me forever, but I finally tried the original Mass Effect. I liked it a lot. I think it did a good job of putting the RPG genera in space. The storywas super-cool. I love the idea of the Reavers. The combat was pretty great too, though the talent “tree” system was a lot of numbers and boring percentages. Yawn.

You could also do quite a bit of exploration in Mass Effect. I’m sure it would have been great. I would have probably liked it I had actually done some exploration instead of just main-lining the story. I didn’t’ have much time. I wanted to get to Mass Effect 2, and Skyrim was coming.

I got to the cinematic opening of Mass Effect 2. Oh well.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is going down. They’ve been spitting content patches out like crazy, and Blizzard will soon be giving people the stupid pandas they’ve been crying for. They also made raids noob-friendly.  I can stand in the corner during a raid-finder 25-man, not do anything, and get end-tier raid loot.

Sad.

I’ve been losing my interest in WoW for a while now. I don’t like the loot grinding. I don’t really get a sense of satisfaction from running the same dungeons over and over for gear. Getting gear really isn’t that exciting either, especially when it is so easy now. Maybe that is my problem because I skipped the Firelands completely and need to catch up on gear. Gear. Gear gear gear gear gear.

Boy, does that word sound funny now.

So why do I still play it? I still get satisfaction from doing things when it is a challenge. I enjoyed doing the original Cataclysm raids with my guild. It was hard. We never finished because people started to drop out, but that was part of the challenge. I also look forward to doing the Dragon Soul raid with the guild; the real raid, not the pussy raid-finder sh*t.

Mainly though, I play because I like the people in my guild. I like to talk to them. I’ve never met them, but I have more in common with them, I think, than most people I know in real life now. I now know why my brother spent so much time doing nothing in WoW when he played. He was just “hanging out”. That’s what I do these days. Hang out with people who think my ability to mimic the sound of a girl being molested by tentacles is a great talent.

Team Fortress 2

Loved the original to death. The second one is a lot of fun and has a lot of flavor to it, for a shooting game. As a shooting game, it gets repetitive, but there is this certain drive to be better; to kill more people next time. It keeps you playing.

I also played it because the guys from my WoW guild were playing it, because they, too, were sick of WoW.

Just kidding. I just got a semi whenever I saw the name “Wingboner” pop up whenever I killed anybody.

League of Legends

As much as I hate repetitive grinding, you’d think League of Legends wouldn’t be for me. However, I love the game. It is never the same, even though you are doing the same things over and over. The big difference here, is you are always playing against dynamic opponents (other people), and you can’t turn your brain off and hit two buttons.Victory, and a disproportionate kill to death ratio, only comes from being a good player.

I also love the depth of League of Legends. On the surface, it is as simple as attack/defend. Kill minions and enemy champions. Buy items. Take down their structures. However, it soon becomes a game of testing the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents. Are they being aggressive? Are they playing defensively. What is their team make-up? Do they have a tank character? Are they focused on magic or physical damage? What items are they buying that might nullify the items you’re buying. What items are you buying that might nullify what they’re buying?

There are a million champions to choose from too, keeping things fresh; and only a few are available each week (unless you buy them). Each has their own ability set and impact on the game. Most of these champions behave differently based on the items they buy too. Not to mention talent tree mysteries that give incremental bonuses to everything from attack speed to mana regeneration,  as well as runes that add additional bonuses to characters from the start of the game.

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