Marcus Fenix doesn’t come across as a particularly complex character. His bombastic attitude and beefy proportions complement the type of game he inhabits. He is, however, an imposing character and the Gears of War series stands as one of the giants of this console generation. The games symbolizes important trends of the last few years, offering a look at conventions that shaped the medium as well as glimpses of what the future might hold. Certainly, Gears‘s successes are impressive and their characters have become iconic, but Gears of War 3 has revealed a deeper metaphorical layer underneath its characters’ bravado. As important as Marcus and the rest of his crew were, their uncertain future acts as an allegory of the Gears series and its uncertain future.
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Y’know, I was terribly amused by the parody of the long term grind (that which is necessitated by the turn-based role playing game genre in general) in Half-Minute Hero. Half-Minute Hero more or less does what it suggests by boiling the time consuming “play” of that genre into the shortest character development of a role playing hero possible.
Gone, in that game, is the necessity for spending hours just killing, killing, killing in order to get strong enough to advance the plot by beating the next big boss in a dungeon. Indeed, while I whiled away many an hour playing JRPGs as a kid and as a teenager, these were not games that required much skill or even intellectual acumen. Winning a battle required pressing a button in a menu to “Attack” and then healing once in awhile if a member of your party was in the danger zone in terms of their hit points. All the “skill” required by a boatload of turn-based RPGs is simply just persistence (and that’s really a character trait, not a skill, right?).
This is partly why I tend to avoid turn-based RPGs these days—as my own “persistence” has evolved into simple “impatience” as I have aged alongside the genre.
Which is why League of Legends is so very tantalizing and so very compelling when played in short RPG-lite bursts.
So, our Moving Pixels podcast crew spent a couple of weeks playing in fits and starts (well, because that’s the way you have to play social games) the beta version of Sid Meier’s CivWorld.
The game seems an effort to capture a narrower audience of Facebook gamers, a more hardcore crowd, or possibly to introduce casual players to the Civilization universe. We consider the game’s success at doing so and whether or not social games can legitimately appeal to a hardcore audience.
I hadn’t played Deus Ex: Human Revolution for weeks. Considering how much the central narrative revolves around mystery, conspiracy, and corporate intrigue, I resigned myself to suffering through a couple clueless hours before the plot sunk in again. But as the game loaded, I was presented with a pleasant surprise: written recap that I hadn’t really noticed before. The surprise isn’t so much the existence of a recap, but rather how effective yet unobtrusive it manages to be.
Warning: This article contains significant spoilers for Gears of War 3.
Deified heroes and proud warriors flood the shooter genre. The soldiers of Call of Duty, quite literally answering destiny’s call to fight for freedom, wage a relatively justified battle across the franchise’s many theaters of war. Master Chief (and all the Spartans of Halo for that matter) have become god-like. Their trials and exploits have become legend in their expansive worlds. As players, we vainglorious actors are rewarded with praise through achievements and rewards. It comes as a surprise then when Gears of War 3, the finale to one of the biggest shooter franchises on the market, ignores the trend. While Marcus Fenix and the team do share in macho gloating, the cast of Gears of War 3 share more in common with the ragged and exhausted soldiers of Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers. There is no glory for gears, no triumphant chorus to proclaim their deeds, and no exultation at all for a war well fought. In Gears 3, the series’s iconic gritty brown-grey aesthetic finally couples with narrative and gameplay to actually tell a truly melancholy and sobering war story.