Friday, April 19, 2013

DMC Reboot - Growing Pains

DMC Reboot – Growing Pains

Like all adventures, the further you go, the darker it gets. Same goes for this series, no matter where you go, or make a move the story shifts in all sorts of directions. But the biggest change is the composure, character designs, and limbo itself.

1) Did DMC need to rebooted? Honestly, I think it was fine the way it was. Developer: Ninja Theory does redeem itself by keeping what made the series work, somewhat intact. But it tosses in content that really wasn’t needed. A bit more garish words in the script, it wasn’t that way before. Plus its all edgy, having to be break away from the norm. DMC itself was unlike any other game before. New DMC tries to adapt by becoming a next generation platformer.

2) Since when do we need to glide? Turns out Dante is part webslinger (wait I meant flyer) glider?
It is a neat feature with this new Dante, in the past you had to be in DT mode just to evade your pursuers or environment. Now it’s a part of Rebellion’s techniques that enable him to do so. Or is it?

3) Another upgrade is the vast amount of enemies you encounter. What drives them? Humanity. If there is fear, angst, anger, power, greed, these monsters emerge from all sides. In the past it was more driven by what was locked away. Seems more apparent that those same foes have taken root everywhere.
Is it subliminal? Hmm, there are deep themes hidden throughout. But at least its an opinion of how things are out there.

4) No one puts Baby in a corner – Um, yeah seems that some areas become enclosures. May test patience, but once you get through. Oh and by the way, some segments where you can’t get more health. I am not sure how that makes sense. Bug? Hmm.

Overall, it’s a fun mixture of ideas. But it just feels like it wants to be a different game. I can’t quite put it altogether, it is DMC by name but it is quite different than its namesake

DMC Reboot Review

DMC – Reboot
Publisher - Capcom
Developer – Ninja Theory

Long time no see Dante:
Welcome to a new reiteration of a classic series. Classic you ask? Why yes dear friend, Dante’s adventure began on the PS2 as a mock up of Resident Evil. After 2 (the non renowned sequel) shifted gears becoming more platform curved, 3 accomplish with more zany and crazy. (In addition to being difficult after Normal!) Then came 4, a pseudo sequel, Dante took a backseat, with Nero as the lead.

Okay history lesson done:
So for you longtime DMC fans, you are in for quite a treat. Although its not quite the same DMC we remember, it still keeps a few factors in mind. 1) Platforms are your friend, 2)Gravity is not, 3)There are plenty of baddies to take down, 4) Storywise – 50/50, 5) Music: retains a few hymms of the past, but its scream rock + electronica.

Newbies: Welcome welcome, newbies can also enjoy this crazy series. So the lowdown, Dante (good guy), mean monsters (bad guys), add Rebellion (the fun loving sword) mix two Ebony and Ivory’s (Dante’s trademark handguns). Kat is your guide through limbo (and a helpful lady I must add). Vergil (well can’t spoil his origin). And the Order, a mysterious organization that keeps eyes on what’s going in  the world.

Rinse and Repeat:
Key notes that I do like: Rebellion (shapeshifter) I am surprised that they could pull it off. Although it’s a given as an excuse to cut down collecting items. But it does add a mixture of styles to Rebellion’s repertoire throughout this new series. In the past the Rebellion could channel its true form (spoiler). But here due to Dante’s ability of revisiting key fragments of his past, the sword has gained a totally new identity.

When it comes to the play and fighting style, it really takes some getting used to. It is loose, rigid, but it is easy to get the hang of the combat style. Although its more berserk than being in control, I am sure it changes the more you progress. I admit it is pretty easy when it comes to the controls.

Collecting stuff? I tell you it is both bizarre and a bit simplified. No longer do you need to hunt them down. Each cascade of enemies holds key orbs that you may need. With better attack points, the more you obtain from kicking butt. Bosses are something else, challenging and come in Godzilla size.

Level designs: From limbo within a carnival, to visiting Dante’s old home, and beyond. Each mission takes place in various environments, but what makes each diverse is that they break down. With more terrain covered, the level itself will shatter, forcing Dante to use his newfound gear to traverse this new territory. It feels weird at first, just watching everything break down, but it becomes second nature after awhile. It does add a unique touch to the fact that the “real world” and “limbo” are becoming one.

In addition there are key areas in the environment that become part of your mission. From freeing lost souls, to redeeming actual keys from being held from Dante. Included by finding parts of different structures to make whole, giving a much needed boost to the hunter.

Afterthoughts from a few missions:
I actually don’t mind the changes to the series. It feels weird at first, as if they’re trying to outdo what DMC1 & 3 took the series to its limits. But I do give them credit for giving it a fresh take. Redesign of Dante’s signature look may make some fans shake their heads. But hey, he’s supposed to be a young fella and troublemaker. As an origin tale, I am on the 50/50 side of things. I like it, but I am not crazy about it altogether. It is fun and engaging, but it doesn’t really make me want more out if it. Plus learning that some features were missing, after others played the extra challenge modes. (even Bloody Palace! is downloadable content.

Kinda irks me that stuff that made us longtime fans love the series. Makes us divided because we can’t actually unlock the in-game content that we’ve grown accustom to. I feel bad for everyone buying this title expecting it to be like the quadrilogy. The heart of the series is there, it just has a different beat of its own.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tomb Raider - From Fantasy to Reality

Tomb Raider – Fantasy to Reality

From the original adventures, until Underworld. Lara was trying to wrap up her life, past and present. However, from all she gained, she lost many more things. Underworld found itself closing a huge chapter in the series, where it all began, it all will end. Looking at the reboot chapter, it is altogether a different Lara we’re accustomed to, fresh faced adventurer, college grad, and unaware of what lies ahead.

Part I – Fantasy
The TR series always lent itself towards real world locations, these would take part in fantastic quests of finding treasures that were integral to the story. Like real life, a lot of lost memories lie deep within places left forgotten for many years, some for centuries. Plus the past games relied heavily with the ongoing story, not about where she came from or how she got there. But she was a woman on a mission, to resolve her past for a future.

Compared to the new Lara, it is apparent that her family is still with her. Although it may be explained later the consequences of her journey may bring her back a different person altogether.

Part 2 – Reality
By far the biggest difference with past TR adventures is the advent of action. It was more direct, and with the camera a great distance away. It is implied that she fought to stay alive, although the newer TR pushes things up a notch. Delivering a more aggressive character, relying heavily on her use of the environment and weaponry. This is where the two differ, many critics panned it down for being overkill in the action sequences. There is very little breathing room, with the “others” becoming more hostile the further Lara explores.

Covering different countries is what past TR was all about. With newer TR, her first adventure takes place on a vast island lost to time itself. Long ago it was a place of worship, and tranquility. Until outsiders made it their home, abusing the land for their own devices.

Part 3 – The Divide
Five years left many fans wondering where the series would go next. With the reboot taking fans on a new adventure, some feel resolve, while others find themselves wondering why it needed “change”. From explorer to ultra violent, to some it lost its inertia for taking what made spelunking into unknown territories and having to fight off predators. To tell the truth, I think the series needed some breathing room, with so many action and adventure titles out there.

Replaying the past series, it feels like a different game. It still compels you to take “leaps of faith”, yet also taking a chance by making a decision of going left or right. Depending on where you go, there are many hidden secrets. What is really unique is how the new TR represents the tombs as catacombs. However the expanse that covers the hidden places, they are no longer vast as they used to be. The “lost island” is close enough a representation of Dracula’s Castle (*reference to Castlevania), or Planet Zebes (*Metroid). Or the “island of time” in Prince of Persia (Warrior Within), which also took that series to darker territory. Although the new TR is an origin tale, it definitely lays markers on what it wants to become. Not just another TR by title alone, but a series that can be taken seriously, and its fans have known that since day one.

Part 4 – Survival
By far the biggest change is the lack of a health bar. In the past we had to rely on key markers of Lara’s health. Depending on actions, the bar would reflect how much further she could go. Now it depends on how damage she takes, if Lara begins to hold her side or is about to pass out. Does she regenerate health? I don’t believe so, it was given in Underworld that she had the ability. With new TR, its more of a stability mechanism story wise, where she may be able to stand just awhile longer.

Another key design change is hunting for food. If in dire need to replenish her health, Lara may opt to hunt local wildlife to sustain her energy. With her bow or ax, she makes a choice by way of the player on what to do. Interesting note, she even resonates a “survival instinct” that keys onto objects nearby or her environment. (close knit to a type of “Spidey Sense”)

Within new TR, it expands on finding the history behind the island itself. From the dwellers of the lost crew, to the believers, many paths co-inside with one another. Finding documents that hint of their journey, to the foundation of the leader of these “outsiders”. As it turns out maybe it was Lara’s destiny and her team to wind up in this place.

Where could Lara’s next expedition go next? Depending on how well the new TR does, there may be many more adventures to be explored.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Tomb Raider 2013 - Treasures

Tomb Raider – Finding What Was Once Lost

It is now April 2013, years ago I remember when Toby Gard promised he would never focus on humanity vs violence. It was his “Achilles heel” with the original TR back in the day. I kept up with forums all over, seeing what other gamers perspectives were towards the new redesign of the series. It was then I read what my friend Meagan Marie said about Lara’s new adventure. What captured my attention most is that it was someone I knew taking the helm of representing a treasure in storytelling. My heart just skipped a beat, a lot like BT’s “Movement in Still Life”.

With the inevitable change of control, Crystal Dynamics was actually a part of Square-Enix. Many community members from both sides were horrified, and others were excited. Usually partnerships are never reckoned with fervor. It felt a lot like that regeneration within the series Doctor Who. We know its coming, but we don’t know what to expect when the character finds out his identity is a fresh face, ready to face anything in his way.

I can’t believe it was so many years ago, I read in an EGM that Megan went from being graphic designer, editor, to the new TR team’s liason or PR (I like the credit team liason a bit more, its down to earth, which is who she is.) But Lara? Hmm, no one’s ever dared to rewrite her entire origin story. So a compromise is made, and a certain fantasy author becomes the voice, and they soon represent to the media, and gaming community that it’s a whole new world.

Finally playing a few hours into the new TR, I feel close knit, and sometimes astonished that the story pulls you in, never wanting to let go. It becomes are part of your dreams, as if you want to explore every turn, wondering what’s on the other side. But like all things, there are limitations, some areas can and can’t be crossed. What does irk me, is crossing the line between running and gunning, to also taking a stand against an island full of cultists. At first its about Lara venturing out within uncharted territory, only to find out that her team is no longer alone. But the deeper the grip it becomes on her, it feels like this island is taking place within Konami’s ™ Silent Hill series.

Silent Hill is a sleepy town, lost in fog full of mysteries and lost souls. Where lost dwellers find out their true selves, and the missing part of their life may take theirs. Although TR takes place on a lost island filled with misfits, it actually gets darker seeing how Lara’s personality also begins to change. Beginning to hate herself, and no longer wanting to fight but just get home.
But there is a downside, in the past Toby Gard never favored violence. Like other games taking on a mature state, TR has become a bloody action adventure tale. Sometimes I honestly felt a bit frustrated, where some places you just want to explore and be left alone. Only to hear the sounds of voices, trampling the earth with gunfire, and you have to defend yourself. I forget that this is not the same TR I got into years ago. I understand defiance within storytelling, BBC’s ™ Doctor Who also keeps that design in mind. The Doctor: a traveler only wanting to learn from others, sometimes winds up trapped having to fight others to stay alive.

Reading various gaming forums, not all gamers were happy. Some even put up key words that would make anyone blush. When storytelling has to change with the times, it always meets challenges. I think the developers always took that to heart, knowing that it won’t be everyone’s remarkable chapter in entertainment. But does it cross a line?

Barriers are often crossed with our imagination; Lara Croft is a fictional character that could be anyone in real life. Man or woman, teen or adult, gay or straight. I have been reading Russell T. Davies book about his years with the Doctor Who series. Within the book, it covers discussions of being a storyteller and what obstacles he faces every day. Sharing his ups and downs with very few friends, just to continue exploring what else his mind is capable of. I think that is what Jodi Picoult also had to face with writing the script for TR, it takes a character out of her natural element, only to find out who she has to potential of becoming to be, a human or warrior.

Oddly enough I just popped in Ke$ha’s album in my player, Warrior. Humble theme, but the album is just amazing. Thought it would be fitting to mention within my last paragraph above.

Back on track, this new TR should make people think A) “what if I was here?” , B)“what could I do?” C)“would I run or fight?” Taking the helm of a fictional character and making her feel like a real person. Pain, anguish, fright, or excitement. I even feel bad when I make a bad decision, although I played my rented copy of the game on a 9” mini screen. It still gave me a connection, an emotion of regret for turning left, instead of right. It is truly how a game is meant to be felt with its audience.

I wrote this entry because I could only fit so many words with a review. I have been a TR fan since the beginning and cannot wait to see where these new adventures may go next.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tomb Raider 2013

Tomb Raider
Square Enix + Crystal Dynamics

New beginnings:
This new version of Lara Croft is a fresh faced young lady. From college to adventurer, she joins an expedition in the far side of Asia. Long lost to others, it is a wandering island where no one has foot on. But the truth is, there are more explorers that don’t belong within these new spelunkers.

Learning your surroundings: On this new island, Lara finds herself lost and unaware of her surroundings at first. Once you become accustom to the in-game settings, Lara becomes easy to maneuver, and she gains speed and endurance while moving about. Reacquainting with your allies, you’ll go through mini-missions and expeditions. But are they on your side?

Got Skills?: Gaining a mix of weaponry, and needed items for our distant adventurer. Lara gains XP by going through trials, mini-missions, and finding lost relics. These skills will help Lara in her quest to put the pieces together behind this strange island, and its secrets.

Adventure or action?: Throughout Lara’s quest, there are a variety of QTE’s (the classic gaming technique that requires correct timing to gain a successful move). By far the biggest difference in this new chapter with the gaming icon, it is more action oriented. But its not for everyone, some may be dismayed towards Lara’s newfound tactics. Unlike the past games, it is a more open world, danger at every turn. Where it is all up to Lara to take her stand, protecting herself against various perils, or foes that want to do her harm.

**Taking notes from Nintendo™ Metroid franchise, and Capcom TM Resident Evil series. Metroid was more about exploration, and finding catacombs hidden within unknown expanses. But that design changed when it came to 3D, it actually took on the mold of Tomb Raider. Exploring vast monuments and excavating lost relics. With Resident Evil, it was more of survival, item caching, and trying to get through tons of obstacles to make it to the end. In its present form, it has now become an action/ adventure / shooter. Like these two franchises, Tomb Raider has gained acclaim and disdain for its recent upgrades.

Drama in the tale: Early on, there is a scene where Lara is up against a male protagonist that wants something in return. Its up to you to get it out of there alive, but there is a consequence. Lara actually feels everything from your reactions (and her own).