Top 5 Favourite Characters of All Time

Characters can often make or break the game. In the same way that I find it baffling when devs say that story doesn’t matter, I find it hard to wrap my idea that some people don’t think characters matter, because for me at least, they’re almost always one of the most important elements in any game. Whether your character is well-developed and full of personality like Geralt of Rivia or a vessel in which to place yourself like Gordon Freeman from the Half Life series or a little of both, one thing’s for sure – who they are matters. It’s the person whose eyes you’ll be seeing through (for first person povs) or whose perspective you’ll be viewing the world through (for third person) and personally, there’s nothing worse than an irritating or lacklustre main character. I don’t think that simply because the character doesn’t talk or the game doesn’t go into detail about their past, that automatically means the character’s uninteresting. Gordon Freeman might a silent protagonist, but rather than being boring he’s actually the more mysterious for it. You gain snippets of insight into who he is from how his long-time friends and acquaintances interact with him and what they say about him. Also, being able to put yourself in his shoes makes the game all the more immersive.

The same can be said for all the other characters in a game. A game with mediocre gameplay can be livened up with some interesting characters, whereas an otherwise excellent game with dull generic characters won’t really stick with me. Of course, I don’t mean to say that character development matters for every game, but even games like DotA 2 can be made better with interesting looking characters. So, here’s a list of my personal top 5 favourite characters of all time. These are characters that were invaluable in making the game a memorable experience in some way.

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My favourite games of all time or games you should play before you kick the bucket!

UPDATE: I promised to expand this list to include my top ten favourite games quite a while ago (back when this blog was still brand spanking new), so here’s me finally getting around to doing it! This one is going to be a little more difficult than the last one, because once we’re out of the top 5 I can think of a ridiculous number of games I love for many different reasons and in many different ways, but I’d said I’d do it goddamit, so I will!

I’ll mark the titles of the new additions with the word ‘new’, because as you’ll soon discover I’ve actually replaced one of my previous top 5 games with a new one, so it won’t be as straightforward as simply adding entries 6-10. Let me just say now, it might surprise you which game got forced out of my top 5 and which one replaced it!

As I haven’t done anything like this yet and this is still a fairly new blog, I thought it might be nice to write down a list of my all-time favourite games both to introduce myself a bit more and to recommend a few games to you guys as well. Keep in mind that I’m not necessarily saying these are objectively-speaking the ‘best games ever’ even within their respective genres, so if you think any of them are a load of rubbish, that’s absolutely fine! These are just games that captivated me in some way and brought me immense personal enjoyment. I think whether you like a game or not is mostly a subjective experience. I’m not suggesting that a game can’t be judged only on its technical merit. I’m merely saying that enjoyment and preference, the things that are probably most important to your average gamer simply can’t be quantified in any meaningful way. For instance, I can’t deny that the first Uncharted and LA Noire were technically superb games that made great strides in animation, but they just didn’t have that extra quality that makes a game pop to me. There are lots of people, however, that would probably strongly disagree with my opinion of Uncharted and I completely respect that. There are even some games that I spent a lot of time on, like World of Warcraft, but looking back on, although the game brought me a great deal of immediate pleasure, I can’t say it’s a game that brought me much lasting enjoyment.  I think the best reviews of games that I’ve read are the ones that try to weave those two elements: personal experience and objective judgment, together rather than attempt to ignore or deny the existence of your personal feelings. Although, this piece might be leaning more towards the ‘personal’ side than usual, that’s the kind of style that I’ll be trying to bring my blog and I hope it’s one you enjoy!

Last thing I’ll say on my choice of games is that it was a lot harder than I thought it would be to list only a few of my top games. There are lots of games I really liked, but just didn’t make the final cut. Why didn’t these games make the list? Sometimes, like the games I mentioned above, despite being decent in quality and fairly fun, they simply didn’t fulfill that core need that I have, that all gamers have. You know, that part of you that is only satisfied by playing a really good game that works for you. Clearly that core need is different, whether it’s a desire for an excellent narrative or just a need for escapism and I think it’s what makes you pick this game rather than that one. Of course, there are some I love to bits, but just didn’t quite make the top 5 like the original Fable, or the first Halo, Goldeneye or Unreal Tournament. You can probably see a bit of a trend here, I love RPGs, first-person shooters and and open-world games, although as I’ve mentioned before I’m open to playing anything really.

I’m sticking to the best of the best for me, but I may add to this as I find new games that I think are worthy of ‘the list’ and maybe add on a few more if I get the time. Also, as these are not full reviews of the game, they’re probably less detailed than you might expect if you’ve read any of my other pieces as I really just wanted to write down some of my personal thoughts and feelings on them. If there are any games on there that you haven’t played before, I’d really suggest you give it a shot and see if you can’t get the same kind of pleasure I got out of it.

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Open ended games: Yay or nay?

BioShockInfinite 2013-04-09 21-19-58-89

NOTE: First off, what do I mean by open ended games? Like with my open world games article, I’m using the term ‘open ended’ very loosely here to mean any game, book, movie, etc… that leaves some of the main issues unresolved or open to interpretation by its end and not necessarily something as completely open to different readings as say Inception is. Of course, that means that I’ll have to discuss the endings to a few games, but only in so far as to say they’re open-ended and in what way. I definitely don’t want to spoil anything for you guys, so rest assured that’s about as detailed as I’m going to make my descriptions of any endings.

It’s interesting, because when I was doing my research for this article, I realised that there aren’t a ton of open-ended games out there. The main three that I’ll be discussing are BioShock Infinite, Mass Effect 3 and Far Cry 3. There are others, but honestly, not many. I didn’t find this hugely surprising considering the reaction from the gaming community to many of the games that have left questions for players at its conclusion. All three of those games I just mentioned seemed to generate a lot of anger (not necessarily a majority in every case, but enough) about the open-ended nature of the game. With any games of this nature, there often seems to be a significant portion of fans who write off the experience simply because they wanted something more definitive or because still have many unanswered questions about motive, theme or just what happens afterwards. In the most extreme cases, it seems some people think that just because they didn’t understand the ending, it must make no sense at all. I don’t necessarily blame fans who think this way, because the history of games has done little to dissuade them from this line of thinking. Games on the whole have been uncomplicated pieces of entertainment about heroes and villains and end either tragically or happily, but at the very least definitely end. I’m not saying that all the open-ended games I’ll be discussing have amazing or even good conclusions or that all games should end that way. My thoughts on this matter are simply that this is another instance where I feel developers are hampered from being creative by the expectations of the gaming community and that to grow and mature as an art form there needs to be more games that aren’t afraid to leave much to the imagination.

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Can games be too open world?

Note: I’m using ‘open world’ in a very broad sense and discuss games that are not really open world at all (like Mass Effect and LA Noire) and are merely non-linear or offer a degree of exploration. The reason for this is that my main focus here is to look at why these elements are becoming so popular in the games industry over strict linearity, so the distinction between true open world games and those with open world elements isn’t particularly important for my purposes.

If you follow my blog at all, you probably know that I love me some of that open world action. In the last decade in particular, the number of open world games has been on the rise and some of them have been incredible. However, it does seem that more and more these days, developers are turning to an open world or sandbox structure and though I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s become the norm, it’s certainly getting that way. Consider how many recent AAA titles in the past few years have been open world games. There’s Red Dead Redemption, any of the GTA games, Skyrim, the new Tomb Raider and Far Cry 3 to name just a few. Old franchises that weren’t previously open world have switched over to this structure. Sequels of franchises that were previously open world in a more limited sense have been lauded as bigger and better with each new sequel, like Assassin’s Creed. Developers have bragged about the size of the maps as if that somehow means the game is now better. To many, it seems that having increasingly expansive worlds has somehow become linked with quality and innovation in a game. My question is, can the narrative or any other element of a game suffer from, in essence, being too open world and expansive? The short answer is, in my opinion, a resounding yes. To be clear, my point isn’t that developers should stop making open world games or that they shouldn’t keep trying to push the limits of how expansive a game can be, because if done well, these types of games often are innovative, entertaining, immersive, creative and can enhance both story and gameplay. If done incorrectly however, the results can be at best boring and at worst game-breaking. To that end, I do think that developers need to be a little more cautious in deciding whether a game should be open world or not as it doesn’t necessarily mean it will automatically make it a better game and that they should also be careful in balancing that openness with other elements that they think are important. 

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Far Cry 3: A Confession

I have a confession to make. I didn’t want to like Far Cry 3. At first it started growing on me like some sort unasked-for fungus and then unexpectedly, one day I began to LOVE it. At some point, I will probably write up a more detailed analysis of the plot (it will be extremely spoiler-ific), because much as I disliked the way the writer Jeffrey Yohalem explained his perspective on and intentions with the game and much as I felt that he didn’t make his point as well as he’d thought, personally I do think Far Cry 3 has meaning beyond what a lot of people give it credit for. It at least got me thinking and it seems there are other people out there who feel the same way. If you haven’t heard about all the controversy surrounding the game, there were a lot of gamers out there who felt that the plot was stupid, full of holes and blatantly racist. Taken at face value, that’s certainly what it seems like. There were others who saw what Yohalem says he was trying to do in creating a meta-commentary on the games industry and its use of certain tropes in games. Then there were the critics who were like me and really believe in the vision he was trying to create and saw the over-exaggerated or nonsensical elements of the plot as largely intended and were there to get you to think and to not take things at face-value. Don’t get me wrong, I was in the second camp before, so I completely see where people are coming from in their criticisms and I’m not denying that there is a feeling of Ubisoft Montreal wanting to have their cake and eat it too. However, many elements of the plot really spoke to me on a personal level and from my perspective, it was clear it was intended to. One thing that critics have often agreed on, however, with this game is that as open world first-person shooters go, this one is pretty damn fun. To be honest, fun doesn’t even really cover it. For me, this game was exhilarating, heart-pumping, trippy and explosion-filled. Also, it was certainly insane in more ways than one. I wouldn’t recommend anyone touch my Xbox controller, because I’m pretty sure my palms sweated through the whole game. I pretty much gave up trying to wipe it off after a while. There’s an unneeded disgusting fact for you. You’re welcome.

FC5

Weeee! Ziplines are an awesome way to get back down to ground level.

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Far Cry review… coming soon!

This, as you can probably tell from the title, is not a Far Cry review. I’ve almost, but not quite finished it yet. I know, I know, today’s the day I usually post something, but since I’m having my very first guest post on my blog next week, I really wanted to put out my Far Cry review this week, so I don’t forget all the things I wanted to write about it when I get my next chance in 2 weeks time. Yes, I love Far Cry 3 that much that I feel like I have to write this week’s blog post on it, rather than just writing about something else today. Also, once I get that review written, I can update my favourite game list, because I’m already pretty sure that Far Cry is going to have to be added to it (unless something drastic happens in the end portion of the game). Basically, there’ll be no post today (although the next Minecraft video will be out later as usual), but I will definitely get that review out this Wednesday or Saturday to coincide with the videos. Anyway, have a good Monday guys and check back for that Far Cry review!