Thursday, 7 August 2014

I bought a AAA game this year for a dollar in a Steam sale

It was this game.
Box art of the video game Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death.jpg(image shamelessly copied from Wikipedia)

Its regular price is somewhere between 5 and 10 dollars. Why would I say it's a AAA game then? Why, because it has all the trappings of one!
 - The gameplay is pretty much God of War
 - There's fancy explosions and terrain effects happening to make sections look like they have more action than they really do
 - It's published by Microsoft
 - According to Steam I spent 5 hours on the game, which is more than the average run of Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
 - Messages popping up all the goddamn time telling you exactly what to do
 - Quick Time Events!
 - A boss that was essentially one long string of quick time events!
 - EXP system that adds nothing to the game's learning curve
 - You get to hear the same five or so one-liners repeated ad nauseum!

God of War irritates me as a series. When I play a hack 'n slash game I like there to be a bit more substance to not just how I deal attacks, but how to defend as well. Itsuno's Devil May Cry games were big on funky tricks like exploiting the invulnerability jumps had in addition to the Royal Guard and clash systems. Bayonetta was big on letting you find your preferred ways to initiate Witch Time beyond mashing sidestep. Souls games and Monster Hunter set limits on rolling and blocking with stamina gauges, as well as enormous recovery times so you have to commit to decisions.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death. Far more than I had God of War 1-3. Why's that? There's a few reasons:
1) I spent a dollar on this game. In Australian prices, the AAA games cost about a hundred dollars at launch. I got the same gameplay experience for a literal hundredth of the price.
2) The cast. You are a black man who fights a chinese man to rescue your hispanic girlfriend, all with the help of Aku Aku. The plot is simple and dumb, but it manages to have more racial diversity in a more downplayed way than any super high budget game, and with no detriment to my male power fantasies to boot. Hell, the Chinese villain spends half his time talking like a British Bond villain anyhow. Take note of his delightfully rolled r sounds.
3) The obvious budget cuts at certain spots were endearing. The game clearly had either been rushed through production or just didn't have enough money to make every cutscene. Thus, half of them (including most of your powerup demonstrations) are instead series of still images vaguely illustrating uses for the ability. They'd have been less endearing if the music playing in each of them wasn't so melodramatic.
4) Minigames. This game had minigames pop up in the guise of challenges to gain extra EXP. At a couple of points however, they turned the game into a top-down shooter with enemy and bullet placements that felt like a Toaplan game. It was a cute touch that showed the devs still have some soul and like to make videogames.
5) The Credits were also a minigame. They were also far and away the hardest part of the entire game. Goddamn. You'll understand when you reach them.
6) At one point the camera freaked out, spun around and floated a million miles in the air. I had to restart back to the checkpoint (which meant I lost about a minute of game progress), but this impressed me for two reasons. First, it was the only bug I encountered the entire game. Second, when I saw that the wall I was climbing had absolutely zero data behind or above it I realised that the devs had the sense to only put in as many art assets in any location as was necessary. They kept things efficient, and the framerate never slowed down as a result. Stable framerate is one of my greatest priorities for the visuals of a videogame.

All in all, it's a fun game that I would pay full price for. I wouldn't say the same if it had been given the full AAA treatment and charged 100bux with store-specific preorder bonuses, Day 1 DLC and all the other junk that gets in the way of a videogame being a memorable and enjoyable standalone product. When was the last time a game pleasantly surprised you?

1 comment:

  1. God of War is annoying because Kratos ran out of things to be angry about by the second game, and there are now six games in the series.