Two games you must play (even if you hate them)

2009 was a pretty solid year for games and I played alot of them. But when I look back, two really stand out. The strange thing is, even though I count these as my favorite games of the year, their were times I hated them.

Brütal Legend – Greatness overpowers Grievances.

Rob Halford, as he always dreamed to be.

General Lionwhyte flew off with his big, blond, feathered hair flapping like a eagle. His captain stupid hat, flare-infested jean jacket and pink eyeshadow in tow. His suitably ridiculous, lipsticked, headbanging minions gathered to block the way to victory in the Sanctuary of Sin. With health low, razor girls demolished, Eddie Riggs slings his guitar one last time to claim a Merch Booth. DAMN! BROKEN STRINGS AGAIN! He watches Lionwhyte’s ear splitting rebel yell cut down the last Roadie. Eddie rises up with demonic wings, to gather what is left of his fragmented army. He swings wildly and I curse the controller in my hands. JANKY ASS FLY CONTROLS! I see the downward spiral, scaly wings enveloping him, as if it could protect the well placed spear from a Headsplitter .

My day long roller coaster ride with Tim Schafer’s latest was over, I turned off my 360 determined to Gamefly it back for something better. Problem was this world stuck with me through a dream- filled night. The next morning I turned it back on, set it to gentle, and finished the story. Was I crazy, that I was finding stage battling fun now? I dropped the envelope in the mailbox that Monday and dang if I didn’t feel some regret. About a week later I bought the game on the PS3, replayed it again, set about exploring the world completely and got into the multiplayer. Something I rarely do.

Set in a fantasy heavy metal world you have dreamed from metal album covers, you play as the behind-the-scenes hero roadie, Eddie Riggs equipped with a large battle axe and electric guitar. You are sent there to help the people rise up and overcome enslavement by demons.The game plays as a action game, with open-world driving and light strategy battling.

First of all, the soundtrack kicks major ass and will contend, is the greatest game soundtrack ever assembled. 107 full heavy metal tracks are included with this game and can be accessed and played through the in-game car, the Deuce. You can find them listed in categories like Bay Area Thrash Metal, Norwegian Goth and Epic Fantasy Metal in a playlist. Compare this to any full music games like RockBand (58 songs) or heavy metal compilations and this is a outstanding value by itself.

These guys killed my heavy metal buzz

I was not even into metal when starting this game. I veered away from it in the late eighties during the glam metal phase, an era that gets poked fun at in the game. I don’t know how they did it, but I doubt you’ll see this amount of music in a game again. It really says something, that I picked up Motörhead, Man of War and Black Sabbath albums in appreciation.

It’s the Schaferesque humor and story that holds this game together. The casting is a top notch ode to medal, with the likes of Ozzy Ozzborne, Lemmy Kilmister, Rob Halford and others filling the supporting roles. The main roles are pulled off with gusto with Tim Curry voicing baddy Doviculus with dripping, baritone evilness and, of course, Jack Black as Eddie. He pulls it off with a more subdued and steady performance then his own over the top Tenacious D persona. I really got a kick out of how he lived the role, with talk show appearances, gameshow award pranks and plenty of funny videos to check out online. It’s a shame something as inspired, as every aspect of this project, didn’t sell more copies

Now the main bone of contention with most, is the stage battles. These play out like any strategy game were you build troops and attack the opposing army till you take down the others base (or stage in this case). The difference is you fight right along the troops like an action game, can create combos for more powerful attacks, ride in your deuce, and summon powers through guitar solos. Turns out I was playing these sections the wrong way, something creator Tim Schefer felt he needed to address after it release and early criticism. Although this may come off as some excuse, I totally buy it. I have tried and never finished many real time strategy (RTS) games in the past because they became too tough to manage and frankly no fun. This game has changed that. You have the thrill of charging an army, without the multitasking and resource building. Don’t overthink, just stay in the action, perform some double teams with your factions and chop some heads off. Although it still will take some time to get use to it, this is strategy done fun.

Brütal Legend is also littered with lots of incidental dialogue, humor, surprises, secrets and plain, old-fashioned exploration. Driving, it opens up and you get a feel for the scale of this creation – and the breadth of the gameplay variety on offer. There is just something compelling about this world and things that inhabit it. In the end, it’s being in a upgraded Deuce, listening to tunes and just mucking about in this bizarre place that gets me pumped on this game.

Demon’s Souls-

This cover is fitting

The filthy man cackled at me cross-legged on his mat, well sheltered from the crashing boulders. I look to see two translucent ghostly forms run off the brick terrace in a seemingly senseless death. WHAT ARE THEY AFTER? IS THEIR SOMETHING DOWN THERE? I sigh and turn around to the entrance of Stonefang Mine. MY DEATH WILL BE NO MORE HEROIC. It has been a full month of futility in this god forsaken place. I time a quick sprint for the entrance to the mine. The glowing eyes struggling to drop boulders from the parapet above. I’m in this dark, dank place again. Their blank glowing eyes reminisce of the Murlocks from the HG Wells classic , they mine the rock taking no notice of me. I can take out two from behind before they are aware and amble towards me. They get in a few good punches but these first lizardmen stand little chance with full iron armor and a long sword to plunge into their doughy bodies. I make my way to the corridor with my shield raised. The wolves will be coming. I switch to my long dagger and hear yelps as I take down three in quick succession as they leap into my love knife. I take some green crescent herb to heal my wounds and head to the next big room. Their are more of them now. I strafe, pounce and know them well. They go down, one by one. As I slash at the last standing, my sword breaks. DAMN IT! I’VE COME TOO FAR, TOO MANY TIMES. I switch to my mail breaker as the Jester laughs and flings fireballs in my direction. I sprint towards him and stab. I miss and the fire takes me down fast. I HAVE TO LEAVE THIS PLACE, FIND ANOTHER WAY! I must go back to the beginning and start over. Maybe I can visit the Red Dragon’s roost, get that shield from a fallen soldier and somehow escape. Maybe their is something better down those corridors I was avoiding.

Demon’s Souls is in many ways the game I was always looking for. Growing up, I was always intrigued with fantasy worlds but could never get into the countless RPG games out there. As a gamer, I demand decent gameplay and those games never came close to single button jump perfection of a Mario game. These RPG games usually have boring cut scenes, a tome of uninteresting text and a nightmare of menus to navigate. This game does away with all of that, but best of all it has gameplay that is immediate, responsive and diverse.

From the moment you step into this world, you’ll find it is dripping with atmosphere. No story is really needed, the world speaks it to you. The action comes quick and is ruthless. the game’s buttons are simply mapped with dodge, blocks, parries and attacks. Which are easy to use, yet require precision to be effective. Their is no pausing in this game. You need to switch items and use equipment when it is safe and when you turn a corner, you have to be ready.

On top of a fighting system that is excellent in it’s simplicity, is a great diversity of weapons and spells you can equip your character with. All these items have unique feel and it plays very differently depending on what you utilize. You can wield a two handed broadsword and master the parry and repost or learn the shield and spear. You can be light and fast with a dagger and crossbow, or have full armor, be slow but powerful. You can be a magic user and have no weapons at all! This may seem familiar, but I have not seen a action game executed in a dungeon crawler in a long time.

Their is also a unique online component. Other players can leave messages for you that can help or hinder you. You can decide with a vote if the message remains for others. Bloodstains litter the field where players have died in battle. By touching it you can see their last minutes in a ghostly form and suss out what may await you. The world has a dark or light tendency depending on the day and what other players are doing. Lastly you can summon another player in soul form to help you or they may appear in your world to hinder you. Their is no lobby, chat or hold up – this online world just exists in a solitary, single-player game.

This game is hard and unforgiving. You gain souls as you kill creatures, which act as the only currency in the game. If you die you lose all of them. You have one chance to make it back were you died (with less health) to regain those souls. If you parish they are gone forever. You need to be careful and take each battle seriously and that adds a lot of intensity to the proceedings.

In the five months, I have only seen half of one world and very little of another. Only two of the big monsters have fallen to my sword, of the many that exist. I have gone months without getting anywhere. I agonize and despite all, this game draws me in for another go. I think because the stakes are so high, the success and failures are that much more emotional and every moment more intense. It may sound crazy but at least GameSpot agrees with me. This is the only game I have, that I could see myself still playing many years from now.

Demon’s Souls and Brütal Legend share two commonalities. They both have the year’s most creative worlds that have sucked me in. Although their may be technically better and well rounded games in 2009. These are the two that have stuck with me, after those others have faded.


One Response to Two games you must play (even if you hate them)

  1. Pingback: Gaming — Year in review « Off Stony Point

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