A Year in Gaming Part 2
I started 2015 playing RPGs. Despite becoming bored with Dragon Age: Inquisition and its ponderous storyline, I still found this particular genre engaging. January and February are often slows months in my line of work, so it’s a good time of year to immerse oneself in games of this type. I played through both Arcania : Gothic 4 and Rise of the Argonauts and found them both to be enjoyable. Neither of these titles was revolutionary, being mainly “business as usual” RPGs. However both were bought as part of gaming bundles and the discounted price does have an impact upon my gaming expectations. For what they were, I enjoyed them.
During the course of the year I strayed from my using game choices on two occasions and both proved to be good decisions. Hand of Fate is an action role-playing video game with roguelike and deck-building elements. I usually never touch deck based games but the fact that each hand of cards plays out in third person action combat intrigued me. Furthermore the creators Defiant Development have continually patched and added free DLC to the game over the course of the year. The other title that was a departure from my usual purchasing habits was The 39 Steps, which is a digital adaptation of John Buchan’s classic story. The interactive narrative that allows you to engage with the world around you and discover the story is imaginative and creative. I hope that Scottish developer The Story Mechanics do more famous novels in this idiom.
As I stated in my previous post about my gaming experiences of 2015, that I’ve changed my stance on the MMO genre. I have continued to play through content updates for LOTRO and am overall pleased that such material is still being produced. However the latest update set in Minas Tirith is of varying quality and for ever good and engaging quest line, there is also an arbitrary or frankly disappointing one. I have never been a fan of the Epic Battles but the two new ones set upon the walls of Minas Tirith are extremely underwhelming. As ever the NPCs do most of the fighting and I found my involvement relegated to cutting grappling hooks from the walls. Navigating around the wall and city circle below is confusing and frustrating. Update 17 is also somewhat unstable and I have had more crashes to desktop over the last month than I’ve had in the game for the last few years.
Star Trek Online proved to be far more engaging in 2015 than in previous years. The Delta Recruitment event was a great way to encourage players back to the game and to reward levelling. I enjoyed my experience so much I bought a discount lifetime subscription. Like LOTRO, STO benefits from a great IP and they really do utilise it well. Cast members from the show continue to voice characters that they’ve played and the standard of writing is consistently high. STO is also the only game in which I’ll grind through seasonal festivals as Cryptic are one of the few developers that giveaway decent loot, rather generic cosmetic items. I have earned two Tier 6 ships over the course of the year, both of which are worth £20 each.
I tried Marvel Heroes this summer after hearing positive feedback about the game from several friends. I must admit the game does provide a great way to scratch that pew pew itch and the barrier to entry is low. You can roll an alt and be playing within minutes of downloading the client. It’s also one of those titles where there’s always something going on or something to work towards. However because I don’t have any major ties to the source IP, I decided not to make this one of my primary gaming titles. I was hoping that the Heart of Thorns expansion for Guild Wars 2 would fill that role. Sadly the new landmass and class were not to my liking and ArenaNet are simply taking the game in a direction I’m not happy with. So Guild Wars 2 was finally uninstalled from my PC where it’s been since the games launch in August 2012.
It is customary to list ones favourite games at this time of the year or pick a specific title that is worthy of praise. For me that has to be The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. The fact that I played over three hundred hours between October and November indicates how compelling I found it. The open world is magnificent, rich with detail and a dynamic weather system. The game mechanics are sufficiently varied to be engaging without being too complex. You can play tactically relying upon your spells or focus on potions and support items if you please. Naturally if you prefer a more hands on approach you can go full out DPS. But the games crowning glory is its narrative and the sense that your decisions really do have an impact upon the world. I cannot remember the last time I played such a gripping story and cared this much about the central characters. The story telling in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is adult and complex. This is not a binary world with clear cut consequences.
2015 has seen a reduction in my overall gaming per se. My free time has fresh demands upon it and coupled with my changing relationship to both fandom and the wider gaming community, I don’t feel disposed towards playing as much. The close of the year has seen me dabble with the cell phone controlled RPG, Eon Altar and that has been a positive experience so far. I also bought GTA V at a discounted price so have explored that open world in recent weeks. At present I do not have any major titles in mind to purchase in 2016. I suspect that the next twelve months will more than likely follow the same path as the last, with regard to game releases and my attitude towards them. I suspect if gaming wants to vie for my attention in 2016, it will have to pull something quite special out of the bag.