Currently Gaming

I find myself in the ‘predicament’ where I am playing way too many different games right now. On the down side, sometimes it’s hard to decide which game to play. On the up side, I have plenty of variety and if I’m not in the mood for one game, I have several others to choose from. I’m finding that I am increasingly drawn toward games with story, a far cry from the days of Pong and Super Mario Brothers. The reviews below are only partial reviews, since every single one is a game in progress currently.

Advent Rising for Xbox “Advent Rising”:http://www.adventtrilogy.com is the first in a trilogy under development. The game developers signed SF&F author Orson Scott Card onto the project to help develop both the story and the dialogue, and you can certainly see his imprint in various places (e.g. FTL(faster-than-light) communication, the ansible).

The storyline itself is captivating. Humanity is on the brink of total annihilation. A race of aliens who call themselves the Seekers have travelled the universe under the guise of peace in search of all human colonies. The Seekers see themselves as the most advanced race in the universe, and they want to keep it that way. However, certain religious prophecies have spoken of another race, humans, that will rise to a higher evolutionary plane, taking their place at the pinnacle of the evolutionary ladder. So, the Seekers are systematically hunting down and destroying all humans they find.

In Advent Rising you play the part of Gideon Wyeth, a human pilot who is fated to become the first human to trascend, acquiring the power to ultimately rid the universe of the Seeker pestilence. You fight with him through many battles and revel in the acquisition of new strength and power. ((Gideon acquires powers like Lift, Aeon Pulse, Surge, and Negate)) The story drives forward at a breakneck pace, leaving hardly enough time to catch your breath. It is a pleasure to play a game that has a great plot. The dialogue and voiceacting is excellent. Gideon even has the ability to fire at two targets at once, if you switch back and forth between very quickly.

There are, however, a handful of downsides to the game. Some of the forward movement in the story, particularly at the beginning, is a little bit rushed. It is almost as if the writers simply want to get you to ‘the good stuff’ and so hurry past some of the key development points. The mechanics are also a little bit clunky, with the auto-targetting system forcing to look somewhere that may not be in the direction you want to go. ((Though, once you get used to the system, it gets much easier to handle.)) Advent Rising also attempts to follow in “Halo’s”:http://www.bungie.net footsteps by rendering the gameplay and cutscene graphics as you go. This sometimes causes the game to slow down and stutter, an annoyance at the least and a fatal hindrace at the worst.

On a scale of 5, I give the story a 4.5 and the gameplay mechanics a 3.5. If you love science fiction and video games, I recommend it.

Burnout 3 Ok, so I don’t go exclusively for the story-driven video games. Sometimes it’s just fun to get a fast-paced game to play purely for the fun of it. In “Burnout 3”:http://www.ea.com/official/burnout/burnout3/us/home.jsp your only mission is to win as many races as possible and take out as many opponents as you can. The more gold medals you win, the more cars you earn. Races span the USA, Europe, and the Far East.

The more opponents you crash, the more cars you earn. The more points you acquire, the more cars you earn. Get the picture? It’s high-speed, high-action, and high-intensity paired with a diverse soundtrack. As the driver you get to race everything from coupes to muscle cars to circuit racers to semi trucks. If you want quick, mindless action that tests your reflexes, then Burnout 3 is the game for you.

On a scale of 5, I rate Burnout 3 as a solid 4.5 for both fun and mechanics.

Kingdom Hearts A video game that features “Disney”:http://disney.go.com/home/today/index.html characters. A kids’ game, you think, right? Not so. “Kingdom Hearts”:http://www.kingdom-hearts.com/language.html has quickly become one of my favorite games.

Someone is unlocking the doors between worlds, causing each world to blink out of existence, one by one. It is up to Sora, as the wielder of the Keyblade, to figure out why as he searches for his friends Riku and Kairi. He teams up with Donald and Goofy as they search through numerous worlds to solve these riddles, meeting dozens of familiar Disney faces along the way. The voiceactors feature many of the same people who were cast in the original films.

The mechanics of the game are very simple to learn and use, and the story so far has been first-rate. Sora has been exiled from his island home and thrust into the heart of the action as the Keyblade has chosen him to be its master. Now, Sora must track down the keyholds on each world and lock them to prevent their total destruction. He makes many friends and enemies along the way to discovering the secrets of these strange circumstances.

Disney and Squaresoft have created a believeable world where Disney and Final Fantasy characters can co-exist. I am looking forward to seeing how this chapter ends and where Kingdom Hearts 2 (scheduled for distribution at the end of this month) picks up.

On a scale of 5, I rate the story a 5 and the mechanics a 4.5.

The Legend of Dragoon This is a bit of a blast from the past. “The Legend of Dragoon”:http://www.rpgdreamer.com/lod/ is one of my favorite PSOne games. It was developed by the same people who brought us the Final Fantasy series. The story follows Dart as he strives to save the world from ultimate destruction. Along the way, he discovers his fate to become one of the legendary Dragoon, humans chosen to wield the power of the dragon in the fight against evil. He pairs up with six others, all who become Dragoon along the way, and together they move inexorably toward the final confrontation.

One of the things that I most love about this game is the ability affect the battle _during_ the actual attack sequences. Dragoon is built around the turn-based style of gameplay that the Final Fantasy series is famous for. Your character comes up, you select the action for him (or her) to perform, and then sit back and watch as the character carries out that action. In Dragoon, you take an active part in helping reinforce each of your characters attacks by helping them complete their ‘Additions’. Each successful completion boosts the strength of the attack and unlocks more powerful additions.

The Legend of Dragoon is a strong game with a great story. The dialogue is a little stilted, as is typical of any Japanese game that has been translated into English. However, I think you will find that you can overlook the awkwardness and see a terrific game with an exciting story to drive it.

On a scale of 5, I rate the story at 4.5 and the mechanics at 4.5.

I have two other games currently in progress, “Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando”:http://www.us.playstation.com/content/ogs/scus-97268/site/ and “Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory”:http://www.splintercell.com, but I think I’ll call it quits here for now. I’ll likely review these two at a later date, after I have gotten a little further through them.

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