Sunday, 9 May 2010

Splintering my Fragile Dreams

I had hoped to be earlier with this post but... oh y'know, preparations for moving house, several deadlines, the baseball season or feeling burnt-out. They all conspired to keep me from being regular about anything.

So back to Fragile Dreams before I uncork Sam Fisher. There's no doubt I entertained this game a little too much during the first couple of hours and in my last post, mostly because it felt good to not play a shooter or a highly-involved RPG. The slow nature of Fragile Dreams was a welcome change of pace that papered over a number of bone-crunching flaws that eventually came to the surface after finishing all of its eight hours. Though I still like the setting and the melancholy atmosphere that pervades every part of the experience it just doesn't do enough with its premise and setting to make slogging through the combat worthwhile. It's a classic case of older game design ruining an idea that could've been something special. If it had followed (or led) Silent Hill Shattered Memories example by reducing the combat to just 'running for your damn life' then it would have made the needless backtracking feel a little less... well, needless.

When you have an awkward combat system and antiquated level design/direction then any story is caught up on those game-breaking barbs. I will say that Fragile Dreams had some beautiful moments in it. The entire level with Crow was fairly irritating but the underlying history of that character and the fact that he kisses the main character, on the lips, was a pretty special and hilarious moment.

My full review is on GamePeople along with my Heavy Rain and Final Fantasy XIII musings as well. I shall probably put up my full 1,500+ words review of FFXIII on the blog, uncut and unedited. Not because I think my greatest words were cut by the evil hand of the GamePeople overlord (though that is an awesome thought) but because it was one of the games I seemed to think the exact opposite to everyone else.

Moving on, I also burned through Splinter Cell Conviction for a mainstream review and ended up finding a few interesting points to put into a soulful gamer critique. It's biggest impact on me wasn’t the overall story which couldn't be more typical of an 24-style action-film if it tried, but the manner with which it depicted the killing of civilians. I think the visuals of this game aren't exactly stellar but the sound and incidental voice acting (in parts) is incredible (the enemies still sound like a self-parody). Hearing the sounds of scientists and workers being executed was harrowing and there are a couple of specific scenes I mention in my review that stood out especially.

I think this is Conviction's best part. It's not pleasant or fun, but the way it portrays violence, death and interrogations is incredibly brutal but understated enough to stay within the realm of reality. Understated is the wrong word but I find most videogames closer to comic books with their 'realistic' violence than successfully being edgy or dark. Conviction doesn't fall into that trap and made the slaughter of innocent civilians feel uncomfortable and nasty.

Another kind of slaughter - that of monsters - is what I have to look forward to next week as Monster Hunter Tri takes up residence in my Wii. I have to admit that I liked the PSP versions, purely as a dungeon crawling game and I'm interesting to see what the transition to the Wii does for the series. I doubt it'll be anything meaningful but if all else fails I have a copy of Toyko Beat Down that'll let me focus on the existentialism of being a hard-boiled cop in the Shibuya district. Or not.

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