In Borderlands you played as a true mercenary, someone with no home and no central base of operations. You were a traveler. As such, I loved the lack of any big storage container. The game forced you to keep only the things you could carry; everything else must either be sold or dropped. This worked well with the setting and even more so with gameplay, since the whole point of loot is that it gets replaced. But people complained and Gearbox added a storage vault in the game’a Moxxi’s Underdome DLC. The vault didn’t ruin anything, but it did undermine my role as a mercenary traveler.
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Borderlands heavily hyped itself as a shooter-RPG hybrid. I still remember that first tagline: “The shooter and the RPG had a baby.” Since I played the first game as a mostly solo experience, I was able to take my time and embrace this mixing of genres. Boderlands 2 provoked a kind of zeitgeist among my friends when it came out; nearly everyone on my Friends List was playing it nearly every day. So this time I was able to play the four player co-op from the beginning and experience a side of Borderlands that I hadn’t seen.
At the risk of sounding misanthropic: I hated it. In my experience, groups of two or more tended to play Borderlands 2 as a shooter, while I still wanted to play it as an RPG. Suddenly the contrasts between these genres became obvious and detrimental. Borderlands 2 was no longer a shooter-RPG hybrid, but a shooter impeding on my RPG.
On Wednesday, fellow PopMatters writer G. Christopher Williams wrote about remembering to save often in Dishonored, a post that seemed oddly prescient considering my own experience with XCOM: Enemy Unknown (“Remember to Save Often”: The Meta-Game Tactics of Dishonored, PopMatters, 7 November 2012).
When beginning a new game of Enemy Unknown you’re asked to pick between four difficulties: Easy, Normal, Classic, or Impossible, but this list doesn’t do the game justice. Its difficulty is actually more varied than just those four general categories. The real difficulty level constantly fluctuates depending on how much time the player wants to invest in “save-scumming,” the process of saving and reloading constantly to ensure things go your way.
October may be officially over, but this is still the week of Halloween. That’s enough of an excuse for me to squeeze in one more horror related post about Lone Survivor (as if I needed an excuse) because if any game deserves a second, deeper look, it’s Lone Survivor.
This post contains spoilers for Lone Survivor
As I wrote before, Lone Survivor is a psychological survival-horror game mixed with a survival simulator. It mixes these genres on a mechanical and a thematic level.
Lone Survivor is a compact, hardcore survival-horror game. Clocking in at around 4-5 hours in length, it’s long enough to effectively squeeze as much horror as possible out of its little world, but also short enough that it never becomes tedious or repetitive. It’s filled with frightening imagery, half of which might just exist in my head, since the great pixel art leaves a lot to the imagination.
// Notes from the Road
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