There are some games that are expanded, are highlighted because of their proximity to other games. When I played Borderlands, is was not long after I’d play Two Worlds Two, a catastrophic failure of a game. As a result, Borderlands was that much more enjoyable. The Secret World, too, was improved by my time in WoW; if I wasn’t familiar with the difficulty of old MMOs, I might have, like many others did, dismiss it as “too hard.”
There are, though, games that are ruined by other games, as my time in SW:tOR was paled somewhat by my experience with WoW (with their custserv, too, but that’s an old story. Stubborn’s still on Dromund Kaas). Still, I “enjoyed” Star Wars for what it was, another tab-target MMO. Bioshock Infinite, though, wasn’t as lucky. I have no doubt that my recent experience with the Stanley Parable ruined Bioshock for me.
For one, Bioshock’s extremely “on rails.” There’s a very limited amount of exploration you can do, but for the most part, it’s directly linear with very few alternate paths one can take. Compared even to Dishonored, another recent “fps” game (quotes there because it’s hard to smash some titles into categories like that), Bioshock’s extremely limited. The Stanley Parable’s purpose is to get you thinking outside of the rails, and to somewhat make fun of you and of the concept of free will in a computer game. By unfortunate coincidence (spoilers ahead), Bioshock Infinite is also about the lack of free will. The ending of the game, in fact, is about a 30 minute narrative where you can do nothing except exactly what you’re told. There’s a very poor illusion of choice there, as you’re offered different paths to take in one of the final climatic moments, but all paths lead to the same place. In fact, you’re told at one point that you can wait as long as you want to do something, but you will eventually do it. I almost turned the game off then just to prove it wrong; it’s precisely what the Stanley Parable was making fun of: you’re not playing the game any more, you’re just being led by the nose.
I don’t think I would have liked the end of Bioshock Infinite regardless of The Stanley Parable, but that it was so precisely what TSP was ridiculing really spoiled it further for me. The game itself was okay, if you like that sort of on-rails shooter. The art and design were absolutely ingenious, and while the overarching narrative of the ending was lousy, I liked the overall story and one small scene at the end; the one in which the true danger of the game is dispatched. It had a nice circularity to it, a connectedness with what came before that satisfies the Composition Professor in me who teaches his students to end where they began.
But overall, it wasn’t that great of a package. I paid 10 bucks for it and got about 11 hours out of it; that’s a fine “Ed Value,” but I was left unsatisfied at the end of it and with zero desire to replay (which, to be fair, is pretty usual).
I’ve moved on from there to Ironclad: Tactics, which so far I’m really enjoying. It’s in a similar vein to Card Hunter, but I like the design a bit better; there’s only one deck, and there’s only 20 cards in it, so there’s a lot less randomization for things to go wrong like there is in Card Hunter. The design, too, is extremely limited; cards can come from up to six “factions,” like U.S. Army, Experimental, Native American, and so forth, and you can easily have 4 or more different cards within that faction, but you can only use 2 factions in each deck. As a result, the deck design is much tighter and there’s a lot of options for replayability, which, in this game, intrigues me, as there’s rewards for completing “challenges” on each board, such as scoring points using a cow. That’s right. A cow. Each challenge requires you to rethink your approach to the board and thus redesign your deck.
So I’ll report more on that later, and I already scooped some titles from the Winter Sale on Steam, so I’ll have more fodder to choose from. I hope you find a title you like, too, this winter season.
Stubborn (and deck building)