Posts Tagged ‘Final Fantasy’

5 games I’m thankful to have played

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

It seems only fitting that some sort of “Things I’m grateful for” list come up the eve before you, your family, and your friends all attempt to see if it is possible to overdose on tryptophan… and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to just follow that trend. So here it is, the “Five Games I’m Thankful For” list in no particular order. Don’t be surprised that not all of them are video games.

I'll never understand why they thought playing D&D was a gateway to devil worship...

Dungeons and Dragons: No, not the MMO, you little whippersnappers. I’m talking the old school pen and paper, first edition rules, wild-boars-eat-your-first-level-character’s-face D&D. While my parents were concerned that I wasn’t getting enough sun and perhaps too much Devil worshipping when I played, I can honestly say that without this game I may not have ever come out of my shy shell or explored the world inside my imagination. In short, one game served to shape who I am today and inspired a love of gaming in me.

In my memories, those misspent weekends where my character ran around in a make believe world were glorious things. We adventured, we plundered, we lived entire live in those precious few nights. Our characters fought, loved, and died on those weekends and in my mind, those stories are as vivid as true memories. In reality, they were caffeine and junk food fueled nerd fests where odd things began to happen as the weekend wore on and the sleep deprivation began to manifest. The only true magic was our imaginations and I mourn the loss of those more innocent days.

In a world where everyone is trying to see who can make the next big money making MMO and pixels have replaced the images our mind’s eye produces, it seems tragic to me that so many kids will never experience the true meaning of the letters RPG even as they play the latest MMORPG.

Final Fantasy: Way back in the day of the original NES console, before there were motion controls and fancy ergonomic controllers, there was a common misconception that video games were all about blasting aliens and eating mushrooms. There had been a ton of RPG games on the computers of the time but it was Final Fantasy that showed that an epic story could be told, successfully, on the smaller consoles.

It spanned a world and let you speak to the inhabitants of each of the cities you came across. Suddenly it wasn’t so silly to think that a story couldn’t be told in a game that didn’t involve killing giant spiked turtles while trying to rescue a princess. You actually found yourself caring about the characters and trying to get them the best gear you could find. By the time every thing was said and done, you saved a world and kicked evil squarely and firmly in the ass.

While others would argue there were a slew of games that birthed the console RPG, this is the one that did it for me. My fascination with storylines grew with each entry into the franchise until they started getting so weird on me that I couldn’t keep up with who was a former bad guy and who was some dream of a dead race. And even then, I find myself going back and playing earlier entries in the franchise. Some might call it nostalgia but I think the stories are just that good.

Magic the Gathering: For the longest time, Collectible Card Games were for kids and any adults who thought to compete in them were often suspected to be either immature or potential pedophiles. It wasn’t until Magic the Gathering hit the scene that I ever considered playing one. When I finally broke down and joined my friends in what I considered a waste of money, I was hooked from the first time I drew a card.

If you ever saw this card in person, we're betting you lost.

There was something about the game that made me want to experiment with different cards, trying to find that perfect mixture of offense and defense. I looked at friends’ cards, bought booster packs, tuned and retuned my deck, and even went to tournaments to see how my deck stacked up against other players. The aspect of RPG was unmistakable within the game and I’d freak out the people who had purely mechanical playing styles by naming my creatures and gesturing arcanely when I threw down a spell card. Fortunately, I stopped short of wearing a robe and calling myself Gandalf or something.

The game gave me an appreciation for what could be done with a small amount of ingenuity and what essentially constituted a modified deck of playing cards. I spent hours at a time going through my collection of cards and seeing what I could come up with and every now and again, I’d actually socialize with other players to trade cards and discuss strategies. While I enjoyed winning, it was more about the friendly competition and the relationships that could arise than the actual game itself. After all, sitting down across the table from complete strangers can be intimidating when role-playing but the cards just seemed to remove that angst from the effort.

Ultima IV: I doubt many people still remember the Ultima franchise. There was a brief resurgence some years ago but it faded from memory once again. A top down RPG created by the infamous Lord British, you controlled a party of eight heroes who ventured forth to fight an ancient evil and, yeah, save the world.

It was my first experience with the franchise and one that definitely left an impression. At the very beginning of the game, you answered a series of questions that determined what class/character you began as. It was the first time, at least for me, to see such a feature implemented and I was honestly and truly impressed with the implementation.

My friends and I would spend our lunch times discussing what we had discovered and what we had done the night before. We lacked the actual instructions to the game and so everything we garnered from one another’s experience made us want to explore the world even more. It was a single player game that turned into a group effort and was the first game where I truly felt a sense of accomplishment when I beat it.

Years later, I found a copy of the game and loaded it up in an emulator but with the ease of which things could be discovered on the Internet, it was difficult to recapture that sense of awe and exploration I had felt when I travelled that world with my friends. It did, however, instill a desire in me to explore every nook and cranny of the game worlds I would play in till this very day.

Doom: I couldn’t even tell you what game began the First Person Shooter genre but I can tell you that this was the first one for me. I can’t say without it that I wouldn’t have gotten into the genre but without it, I doubt I would have the fondness that I do for the FPS today. Blasting my way through demons and floating eyeballs, I was hooked from the first moment I fired my virtual weapon.

If you didn't play it when it first came out, you wouldn't understand.

It was the first twitch based game I really got into and would remain on my list of favorites for a very long time. It may also have been the first game that made me jump when something came around the corner after me and even in all of its pixelated glory, I wanted more of it.

As the game matured into the horror shooter it has become and the graphics became more and more realistic, it is probably the one game that led me to explore other genres. Without it, I may have become an RPG snob and never experienced games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Doom was ahead of its time and I sincerely believe that the FPS category would never have gotten off the ground when it did without it.

This is by no means a complete list but I think that each of the games I listed have shaped the type of gamer I am. I prefer RPGs but I would never turn my nose up at a good shooter or horror survival game. These five games shaped my gaming career and to this day continue to do so.

So be thankful for the games you’ve played and how far we’ve come in the gaming world. Enjoy your Thanksgiving with your family and friends and relish those turkey fueled naps. The BG crew will return after the long weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

End of Line – Gritskrieg

PAX Prime: The overview

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

BG Crew with Pax Gamette Lhars Steck, Ross Steck and Rob Welkner of Coin-Op TV.

Well, the Reckon Crew made it back to Texas in more or less one piece but thanks to a bout of “Nerd Flu” (for which I am totally blaming Rob Welkner) I’ve been a bit out of it since getting back on Lone Star soil. But never fear, dear readers, because we have returned with news of the sights we’ve seen and games we’ve played. Over the course of the next few days, we’ll be posting up interviews and previews.

Before we begin those, however, I thought we’d do a quick list of things that really caught our eye or caught us off guard. PAX Prime was an overwhelming amount of gaming goodness with some very nice surprises and a few major disappointments. Below you’ll find the quick and dirty version of what we found to be the best… and the worst.

Biggest PAX Prime Surprise: Duke Nukem Forever. Seriously. Even the guys from Penny Arcade didn’t know this one was going to be there and after 13 years of false starts, screen shots, reported delays, and the rumor that the game was total vaporware, Take Two Games and Gearbox caught the entire convention off guard with their Duke Nukem booth. As I walked by the sign on day one, I thought someone was out of their mind to play a joke like that but the whole thing was on the up and up and the demo was playable. Throw in the fact that the wait was almost two hours to get in for the demo and no one from Take Two/Gearbox was mangled by anyone and that tells me it was legit. There was so much we were scheduled for that we didn’t get the chance to check it out but everyone was raving about it so we’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

Tron Evolution The Game - Photo By Mitch Ahrens

Biggest PAX Prime Letdown: I’m a Final Fantasy fan so I was really looking forward to the playable demo of Final Fantasy XIV. The problem here was that even though I was prepared for the inevitable fact that it was going to be another MMO version of the franchise, I had hoped for some improvements over the last MMO entry. I was disappointed. I’m certain there will be some “polishing” before it is released but it was hard not to get the “been there, done that” feeling from the demo. I wasn’t a fan of Final Fantasy XI and it doesn’t appear much has changed from that rendition. Unless there’s a major overhaul before the release, I’m going to be giving this one a pass.

Game from PAX Prime most likely to be enjoyed by the Reckon Crew while drinking: This one was an easy choice. Slam Bolt Scrappers from Fire Hose Games is one of the most chaotic (and enjoyable) games we sampled at PAX. Scrappers is a mashup of strategy and brawling with a touch of Tetris thrown in for flavor. With a multiplayer versus mode as well as a co-op mode, Slam Bolt Scrappers may find its way into our drinking games soon after its launch at the beginning of next year.

Best PAX Prime After Party: Hands down, the guys from EVE Online have the market cornered on After Parties. Last year they went all out but this year they managed to top even that epic party. There were fire twirlers and eaters along with cute girls dressed up in leather and lace dancing the night away. Of course, all this awesome comes with a price and that price, when figuring in the open bar, is the largest collection of “white boy” dances you can imagine. Aside from the horror of watching some of the most uncoordinated drunkards across the world congregated in one place dancing off-rhythm, CCP Games knows how to throw a mixer and may very well hold a special place in the Reckon Crew’s hearts for a long time to come.

Chatting it up with the Devs from Fallen Earth.

Best PAX WTF Moment: We drink. Seriously, I mean that. When we imbibe, people who try to keep up with us often end up hiding from us. We’re also good at getting into places we’re not meant to be when we’ve been drinking. So there was a moment when we realized at one party that we had made a beeline for the VIP area, made it in, and proceeded to get sloshed off the free booze. It was only after about an hour that we realized where we were and there was a look that passed between the Reckon Crew with no one daring to ask how we had ended up where we were. There was a loudly proclaimed “WTF?” once we had left which lead to laughter… Shenanigans continued.

Best PAX “Where the hell have I been?” moment: Nestled amongst one of the noisiest corners of PAX Prime was the developers of a little gem called “Fallen Earth”. Admittedly, we’d heard of the game early last year but we’d failed to follow up on it and we’d not really thought of it since then. Sitting down with one of the crew from Icarus Studios LLC, we were introduced to one of the most lovingly crafter MMOs I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. Set in a post apocalyptic world, this game has some of the features I’ve always wanted to see in an MMO. There’s also a real passion among its developers to create a unique world for players to wander about in. We’ll be running an interview with one of the game’s developers and we’re already chomping at the bit to review the game. More to come on this in the near future.

Biggest PAX Fan “Boi” moment: To say the Reckon Crew is a bunch of Star Wars fans is an understatement. We’re absolutely certain that we collectively know more about the Star Wars universe than some of the writers who have worked with George Lucas on the EU books. So it was with a very critical eye that we approached the Bioware booth and proceeded to get our fill of the playable demo. The graphics were gorgeous, the actions and skills were smoothly animated, and there may or may not have been a moment when I loudly made the sound of a young girl presented with a birthday present of a real live unicorn. Those of you who are as critical of Star Wars’ games as we may rejoice should the final product be anything like what we witnessed at PAX.

There it is in the briefest of glimpses into our experience of PAX Prime. As I stated earlier, we will be presenting much more from our visit to the Mecca of gaming conventions as well as introducing our official PAX Gamette in the coming days… so sty tuned.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

All photos by Mitch Ahrens 2010.

The Top 5 Games Gritskrieg shouldn’t be allowed to play… Ever.

Monday, August 31st, 2009

It’s an understatement to say that I love games. It would be more to the point to say that I *live* games. I love the storylines, the graphics, the gameplay and each game comes with its own unique “flavor” which may or may not keep me coming back for more. And then there are those games which appeal to some portion of my psyche and latch onto me, refusing to release me from its diabolical grip. These are the games I love to play but shouldn’t be allowed to play.

The list below comprises some of the most insidious games I’ve played in the recent past. Each one has its own draw and while I am not telling anyone to avoid these games, I am advising caution… Because if you’re anything like me, they’ll consume large portions of your free time without you realizing it until you glance up at the clock and realize you’ve been playing for the last four hours straight. Which may explain why your bladder is hurting and you’re starving.

When I play these games, I find myself bargaining with the clock. I only need three hours of sleep, right? I can catch a later movie. My friends won’t be that mad if I show up a little late. I can always get a haircut tomorrow. And that’s why I avoid some games like the plague. Not because I don’t like them but because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that once I play that first little bit, I’m going to be in for the long haul.

So, for better or worse, here is my list of five games which I should not be allowed to play in reverse order.

What do you do after you collect all the bobbleheads in Fallout 3?

What do you do after you collect all the bobbleheads in Fallout 3?

#5 Fallout 3 – I’ve beat this game. I’ve bought and played through every expansion. I’ve even collected every single bobblehead. There shouldn’t be anything left to do and yet somehow, magically, I find things to do. Most recently I have begun decorating my home in the Wastelands. And no, I don’t mean buying one of the schemes. I’m talking about wandering the wastes looking for things that will look good on my bookshelf. I have become a post-apocalyptic interior designer. I find something I like, I take it home, I drop it from my inventory and then meticulously place it somewhere in my home. And because I have to have things set up a certain way, I may decide I need another of whatever it is I just used in my home and so back out into the wastelands I go. And every time I head out for more decorations, I find another portion of the map I haven’t fully explored, another quest I haven’t done, another *something* to keep me playing “just another 30 minutes”. (more…)