Far Cry 4 is Getting Weird on Me

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I picked up Far Cry 4 from Amazon for about sixteen bucks.  I actually bought the disk.  It seems that lately I’ve been buying the download more and more often.  I didn’t even think I would like the game.  I’ve never been a huge fan of first person shooters but the huge expanse of Far Cry 4 (FC4 for the rest of this article) has kept my motion sickness at a minimum.

Things I like:  I think my favorite thing to do is hop onto the little one-man helicopter (although I discovered you can carry a rider when I played co-op online) and fly all around the land of Kyrat.  I like searching for treasure and the helicopter is the way to do it.  Another thing I enjoy about the game is the stealth.  It takes me back to my love of Sniper 3 except it is in first person.  I enjoy sneaking around and taking down enemies without raising an alert.  I am not always successful in preventing the alarm but I am either able to overcome or I perish.  If I die during a mission, the game is very generous with checkpoints.

Things I don’t like: As the title of the blog entry suggests, the game is getting weird on me.  The country of Kryat is a mystical land and has a religion similar to Hinduism.  Although the culture is fascinating, my character had to “worship” at a holy shrine.  I know I am not really the person in the game – I’m just me, but the game really pushed right to the edge about what is acceptable to me as a Christian to do.  You know, that whole “no other gods before me” thing from Exodus.  And now, later in the game I have come across two characters named Yogi and Reggie.  They openly smoke pot and initially my character refused the drug when it was offered.  However, when I played last night, my character accepted and went on a “drug trip”.  The colors of the game changed.  The music changed.  People changed into rhinos right before my eyes!  My character was terrified and ran through the terrain trying to escape real and imaginary enemies.  The last thing I want to bring up was the mystical trip to Shangri-La.  It was an interesting section as far as game play.  I had a tiger that I was able to use to attack enemies.  But the enemies were strange demon characters and I somehow was able to restore order to Shangri-La by ringing a few bells.  If only evil could be overcome so easily!

I’m going to keep playing for a while, but I may not stay with it if the game keeps weirding it up!

I’ve Been Sniped!

Every so often in life, the unexpected happens.  Sometimes good – sometimes not so good.  The tale I have to tell is about a certain video game that I was not expecting to like.  I’ve come to realize that I have become something of an Xbox fan boy lately.  (My friends at Theology Gaming University group on Facebook have commented that it may be because Xbox games have more of a western “flavor” as opposed to the Japanese designed PlayStation.). Because I am a member of Xbox Live Gold, I receive “free” games every month.  Last month the free game on the Xbox 360 was something called Sniper Elite 2.

Sniper Elite 2 in action

Sniper Elite 2 in action

I downloaded it and played through the entire game.  I could not stop thinking about and playing the game!  I played it through on Easy mode and then started to go through it again on a harder level.  I never do things like that!

Here’s why I like this game:

  • I can take my time
  • The game is as stressful as I allow it to be
  • Super slow motion bullet time
  • Super X-Ray vision effects

When I take my time and set up the right shot, the game rewards me by going into slow motion.  I watch the bullet spiral through the air.

This image brought to you by the new CAPTURE feature on Xbox One

This image brought to you by the new CAPTURE feature on Xbox One

Then as the bullet gets to the target, the game shows an X-Ray of where EXACTLY he has been hit.  Bones break and organs are destroyed.  Kind of disgusting but it appeals to the little boy in me that loves gross things!

As a result of the free Sniper Elite 2, I immediately got excited about playing Sniper Elite 3 on the Xbox One.  Fortunately Sniper Elite 3 Ultimate Edition recently was released and I purchased it on Amazon.

Me and a friend playing co-op.  This poor guy perished standing up!

Me and a friend playing co-op. This poor guy perished standing up!

Also, I discovered that there is a version of Sniper Elite 2 for the Nintendo Wii U for sale on Amazon and I picked it up for less than $15.

A handy map on the Wii U gamepad

A handy map on the Wii U gamepad

So I have a lot of sniping  to do.  This is a great game series!

Shadows of Mordor – A Really Dark Game

I'm not very much fun

I’m not very much fun

I’ve played Shadows of Mordor for an hour and a half on my XBox One and so far it has not appealed to me.  I would love to be convinced otherwise.  I love Middle Earth.  I love Tolkien.  I dislike this game.  Why?

Reason #1: This is a really dark game.  I shouldn’t be surprised because the title makes it clear, but Mordor is not a setting that I enjoy.  There is no sun.  There are orcs and goblins all over the place.  There are humans who are bound in slavery.  I would much rather be sitting on a bench in the shire with pipeweed in my bowl.

Reason #2: This is a really hard game.  I don’t feel like there is a learning curve.  The only games I can think to compare it to are Demon Souls and Dark Souls – but those games were at least rewarding in their own way.  In Shadows of Mordor, I find myself failing again and again, but I’m not learning anything from it.

Reason #3: I don’t enjoy the controls.  Maybe I have played too much of the Assassin’s Creed series but I keep holding down the right trigger to run and climb.  In Mordor, it makes me sneak slowly.  The A button is the run button.  I am still getting used to the combat but it is just not enjoyable to me.  I have been told the combat is similar to the Batman games – but I never played any of those.

Reason #4: Stealth.  I am on one of the first missions and I have to be stealthy.  If I alert the guards they raise the alarm and the mission is over.  I don’t even really know how to do a stealth kill move.  I think it is right trigger – X.

Reason #5: I’m not sure how this really fits into the Tolkien worldview.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy always has a glimmer of hope, “That there is good in the world and it’s worth fighting for.”  In this game, I’m some guy who is a ranger.  His name is not memorable.  He is somewhere between life and death (since Tolkien was Catholic this part may actually fit in as a kind of purgatory) and revenge seems to be his motive so far.

So please.  All of you out there who may love this game.  Help me find something to love in it.  I want to like it because…Tolkien….

Halo 4 has me too stressed out man!

I'm Master Chief.  I don't even eat or go to the bathroom

I’m Master Chief. I don’t even eat or go to the bathroom

It feels like I’m crawling through Halo 4.  Right when I was almost finished with level 8, my wife popped her head into the game room to tell me she was home.  I was so focused on the game that I nearly jumped out of my chair and hit my head on the ceiling!

Is the game a hard game?  I guess it depends on what kinds of game you like.  I usually play a game in order to relax.  So far, playing the role of Master Chief definitely keeps me on my toes.  It’s not enough to be running around shooting space aliens like the covenant, I also have to face these “anti-matter” type foes.   Then,  since I am the “Master”, I also can drive any vehicle, walker, or spacecraft in the repertoire.  I was flying some kind of spacecraft when my wife surprised me.  I was shooting at turrets and squeezing through tight spaces.  Dying again and again – because I stink.

I may have had the shakes – but at least I wasn’t seasick!

Honestly, I have been enjoying the game and part of me is sad that it will be coming to a close.  At least until Halo 5 comes out…

I going to try to beat the game tonight

LATER .  .  .

Note:  YES!   Finally complete at 10:59 pm!  Master Chief is headed to bed at last.

VGT – Grieving Over A Lost Brother

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

Brothers.  I have two of them and they are both older than I am.  There is a certain bond that brothers share.  Perhaps it comes from years of making each other miserable.  When we were young, we fought often as brothers – but when the time came we would join together to face any crisis.  Today as adults, we enjoy going on adventures that include golfing, skiing, and mountain biking.  We love to sit around a fire and talk about days gone by.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

I first heard about the game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons when I was on a Theology Gaming podcast with my friend M. Joshua Cauller who has a great website called Love Subverts.  He talked about the unique control scheme for the game in which each brother is controlled by an analog joystick.  The game is designed for a single player to control both individuals on the screen.  The game is available on several platforms including Steam for $14.99.  However, this past week I turned on my PS3 and discovered that the game was a “free” download for PlayStation Plus members.  Since Josh made me curious, I downloaded the game and after a short download time (It wasn’t very large compared to the file size of other modern games) I was soon playing the game.

Death is immediately an important aspect of this game.  At the beginning of the story I discover a boy at the grave of his mother.   He mourns her loss and blames himself for her death.  If that isn’t depressing enough, I quickly discover that the father of the two brothers has become sick.  They take him to the doctor who informs them that there is no hope unless they get some sort of magical elixir from a tree of life located far away.  The two brothers set off to find the cure that will hopefully save their father’s life.

The first part of the game is basically a tutorial in which you learn how to control each of the brothers as they make their way through the hometown.  From what I understand, this was also the demo release of the game.  I encourage you to try this game – even if you played the demo of this game and were disappointed.  This starting level does not reflect the quality of the game as it goes forward!

Brother helping brother

Brother helping brother

The adventures continues as they climb up the mountain with the help of a troll-like creature.  They venture into some caves and caverns.  While inside, they rescue a female troll who turns out to be a spouse of the troll to helped the boys earlier.  It was touching to see the two creatures reunite and embrace one another.

There are giants in the land

There are giants in the land

After the caverns, they find themselves in a land of giants.  They explore a huge room in an enormous castle.  They find a captured griffon-like creature in a cage sitting on a giant desk and set it free.   The griffon flies them from the castle to the next stage of the story – the aftermath of a huge battlefield of fallen giants.  I found this part of the game particularly unique and interesting.  Also, it is important to note that by this point in the game I was completely comfortable with the controls of the game.  I was able to move the older brother with the left joystick and the younger brother with the right joystick almost in perfect harmony with one another.  I was climbing, jumping, and swinging with relative ease.

Griffon ride

Griffon ride

The final stages of the game contain some spoilers SO PLEASE STOP READING IF YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE THIS GAME FOR YOURSELF.

However…

I was so affected by the story that I must write about it.  The two boys rescue a young woman who leads them on an escape route through freezing water and slippery ice floes.  It is clear that the older brother and the girl are attracted to each other.  They flirt and even kiss one another.  Then she leads them into a cavern and what a surprise!  She morphs into a deadly Spider Queen.  I hate it when that happens!  The two brothers work together to destroy her – but in the process the older brother is bitten and his life is in peril.  They see the tree of life in the distance and slowly make their way to the base of the tree.  The younger brother goes on alone to the top of the tree and fills his canteen with the sap of the tree.  He makes his way down and tries to give his brother the cure but it is too late.  His brother dies in his arms.

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What happens next is what really had an effect on me.  You see, I had been playing the whole game getting used to the controls.  But now there was no brother to control with the left joystick.  He was gone.  He was dead and never coming back.  The younger brother had to dig the grave, put his brother in it, and then bury him.  This gave me a unique feeling of grief.  I have experienced grief and it is remarkably similar.  The person that you are so used to being with is suddenly gone.  It isn’t fair and the suffering is intense.  Just that lone left analog joystick gave me all those feelings.

Finally home

Finally home

The younger brother makes his way home quickly with the help of the Griffin-like creature.  He arrives close to his home but has to swim across a body of water.  In the past, he had to rely on his older brother to swim but now his brother is gone.  However, he summons up the strength and the only way he gets across is when I press the older brother’s action button.  Finally, He makes his way up the path and collapses at the doorway of the doctor’s house.  The doctor administers the elixir, and his father recovers.  So the journey comes to an end with the father saved but a brother lost.  There is a feeling of success but also an intense loneliness.  The game ends with an emotional cut-scene of the father and the remaining son standing at a pair of gravestones.  The father begins to cry and the credits roll.

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A father, son, and two gravestones

Playing through this game was a worthwhile experience.  It had a similar feel of games such as Ico or Shadow of the Colossus.  The controls were hard to get used to – but that actually became an essential part of the game.  I would play through the game again just to wander through that battlefield of slain giants.  This game gets a Video Game Theology score of 8 out of 10.

VGT – A Second Great Awakening

My son and I have different opinions about the recent remake of Wind Waker.  In fact let me add a text conversation that I had with him when I told him that I was pre-ordering the game:

Conversation

He was referring to the bloom and flare effect that have been added because of the new high definition.  But let me give my own opinion and my own impressions of the game.  Many players were excited about the prospect of being able to play Wind Waker in high definition.  I was not necessarily one of those people.  I believe that the original Gamecube version was the closest thing to a perfect game that I would ever want to play.  Sure, there are complaints about the lengthy sailing times and the quest for Triforce pieces scattered about the map.  There is also the process of earning Rupees and buying maps from Tingle.  But the overall experience is just so immersive that it is still an amazing experience on the Gamecube.  I love the original.   I miss the Tingle Tuner!

Aaah.  Sailing is relaxing

Aaah. Sailing is relaxing

All that said, there are many elements of this new release did I like and appreciate.  It looks good.  I like being able to play in 16 X 9 widescreen and I don’t remember the Gamecube being able to display certain games widescreen.  Those extra inches of screen real estate make a difference.  The new version of the game also has a much easier inventory system.  It takes advantage of the touch screen controller and you only have to “drag and drop” your items to a button assignment.  But the best feature of the new game is the ability to play the game on the Wii U game controller.

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With just a push a button I can take the game play from my television screen and put it right into the palm of my hand.  I have to admit that Wind Waker looks and feels great as a handheld game.  The screen is bright and clear.  A set of headphones and I’m playing Wind Waker in my own little world.  The music is just as good as I remember it – although I can not tell if the new soundtrack is any different from the old.

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There are some elements however that I did not enjoy very much.  The first of which is the boomerang control.  I’m sure that I can turn this feature off but the gyro feature for aiming with the boomerang I found to be very cumbersome.  At times I was spinning in circles trying to aim.  Very awkward.  Interestingly enough, that same gyro feature did not bother me when aiming with the bow.  I think it is because I tend to aim for a precise spot with the bow and I’m aiming for a wider area of several targets with the boomerang.  Otherwise, the control scheme is excellent and works well with the new controller.

So, Wind Waker looks great, plays great, sounds great, and therefore IS great.  I have enjoyed experiencing the game in a new way.  It makes me want to play Twilight Princess in HD.  That would be awesome.  Should you buy the game?  If you have never played it before – absolutely yes.  You will not regret experiencing this chapter of the Zelda series.  If you have played it before on the Gamecube  – you may not want to re-buy it.  I have no regrets, plus I have a bit of a soft spot for HD remakes (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Bionic Commando, Duck Tales).

VGT – Candy Crush Saga is Evil

Want to play?  It will only cost you 99 cents....

Want to play? It will only cost you 99 cents….

I kept receiving so many invitations from Facebook friends to play the game Candy Crush Saga that two days ago I finally decided to download it onto my phone.   At first I was enjoying it.  The gameplay was your typical match three puzzle game.  It reminded me of the flash game Around the World in Eighty Days that my mother enjoys playing so much.  There are levels in which you have to remove the jelly (do a match in a square more than once) and there are levels in which you need to drop ingredients down to the bottom.

Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga

This is the point where Candy Crush starts to get devious.  The game is free to play, but relies heavily on a micro economy structure.  In other words, if you want to progress in this game you have one of two options: you can either spend money one dollar at a time or you can send help requests to your friends on Facebook.  While I acknowledge that there is some genius in this design, this is a different system then I have ever experienced with a free game.  For most free games, the free version limits the levels or features.  But if you buy the  game you get all of the features.  However, with candy crush you cannot buy the whole game (at least not that I am aware of).  You can only have it fed to you bit by bit.  Just like with real candy, you can start to get sick of it.

I work at a drug and alcohol treatment center and although I am not a counselor I have heard many times how addiction works.  It starts small and grows until it has taken over your life.  The principle is called the Jellinek Curve.  The image below will be hard to read so you may want to click on the picture to see it better.  Eventually it leads to “hitting rock bottom” and making a conscious commitment to recovery.

The Jellinek Curve

The Jellinek Curve

As I was playing candy crush, I really wanted to progress in the game, so I paid 99 cents to extend the my turns on the current puzzle and get three lollipop hits.  I found out that these extra features quickly dissipated and by the time I was on the next puzzle level I was facing the same situation again.  I received another offer and lure to continue the game by either paying money or irritating people I know and love.

At least for 99 cents I can eat this candy

At least for 99 cents I can eat this candy

I finally had enough.  This morning I uninstalled the game from my phone and I have accepted the fact that I will never learn how the game ends.  I am comfortable with my decision.  How do you feel about games that rely on microtransactions?  Do you have an example of another game that works much the same way that candy crush works?  I am curious to learn more about this system.  Does it really work? Are there other people like me that finally say enough?