There are two types of difficult games in my opinion, games that are hard because of challenging the player with specific mechanics and games that are hard because of imbalanced decisions, Shiren The Wanderer (or STW) for the Nintendo Wii sticks with the former. A sequel in a sense to the Nintendo DS game, STW is our second taste of the series that was once a Japanese exclusive.

For those that missed the first one, the Shiren series is from the rogue like sub genre of RPGS. These are titles that have a huge difficulty curve made up by very explicit game mechanics and randomize dungeons; lots and lots of randomize dungeons. You will die in STW and most often it will probably be your fault. The variety of ways to fail in Shiren is staggering, you can have your weapons weaken, permanently destroyed, experience levels lost, beaten up by a shopkeeper among many other ways. To say that these games are not made for novice gamers is an understatement, as death takes away all those sweet items you have accumulated over your play through. The designers at Chunsoft have realized that not a lot of people like getting killed repeatedly and have made several changes to the formula.

First is now being able to select the difficulty level, players have the choice between easy where you will not lose items on death and normal or the manly way (or foolhardy way) where death takes away everything. Also for the most part you will keep your experience level after death unlike Shiren DS where you will go back to level one. The three biggest changes to the formula that may upset veterans of the series are boss fights, multiple dungeons and allies. In the DS Shiren title the main quest was a nonstop romp through several areas ending with the boss at the end. The final enemy is the only enemy considered a boss fight in the game. In STW the game is made up of numerous dungeons that can be selected from the map. Each dungeon is self contained with its own enemies, possible items to find and a boss at the end. This both increases the play time in STW and breaks up the main quest into bite sized areas.

First I want to talk about the dungeons; this style was used in the Izuma series (rogue like on the DS). To be honest I prefer this way to one long dungeon as it allows the designers to be more creative in the dungeon styles and gives the player a greater sense of accomplishment and allows them to see their progress. However one complaint I do have is the fact that items seem to be set on a dungeon by dungeon basis. One of the selling points of Shiren DS was the fact that you could find anything at anytime. You could stumble on a powerful weapon on the first map of the game or nothing; it gave the game a greater sense of excitement. In STW the only way you are going to find the good stuff is to survive long enough to reach the later dungeons.

Moving on boss fights mark the end of every dungeon, a unique foe is waiting for you and other then being immune to certain items each fight plays out differently. I enjoyed the boss fights as a challenge waiting for you. Since you are going to have to fight them after braving through their dungeon, you’ll have to balance out being prepared for both the normal enemies you’ll face and the final fight at the end. I cannot talk about any of the boss fights for obvious spoiler reasons. Fortunately you will not have to go alone.

Joining Shiren on his journey are two allies who will follow him into the dungeons. You can either take full control over them or set up AI commands. During boss fights having backup is invaluable either as a second attacker or dedicated healer. My complaint about them is that there isn’t a happy medium between AI control and full control in my opinion. No matter how much I tweaked their behavior the AI would do something stupid like waste an important item on something meaningless. The alternative is to neuter their commands but then you risk that one time that you do need them to use an item and they won’t. Still when the chips are down and you are knee deep in monsters; it’s good to have a helping hand.

While making several changes to the formula STW does keep the variety of items and monsters seen in Shiren DS. Like Shiren DS, each type of enemy is distinguished by species and rank, species is their form and rank is their color. If an enemy kills another enemy in any way they will rank up, higher ranks increase stats and can also give enemies unique abilities. One enemy at rank 4 or 5 can hit twice for about 120 points of health in one turn. The designers were smart and for the main quest you won’t have to worry about the strongest monsters at their highest ranks.

Which at last leads me to talk about the post game, another staple of Shiren is the massive post game content. The main quest is basically schoolwork and the post game is the final exam. Once (or if) you managed to beat the game you’ll unlock a brand new quest taking place after the game ends. Here’ll you’ll have access to a variety of dungeons and fights with unique rules to them. The post game is also where you’ll fight enemies that were deemed to annoying to deal with in the main quest. Some dungeons have you start out back at square one when you enter them and others allow you to take your equipment with you. I have a design problem with the latter that isn’t so much a knock against Shiren but a knock against the genre.

The trick about Shiren is that your actual level doesn’t have as great of an effect on your performance compared to your gear. Your level has a small affect on your damage output and mainly determines your total health. Having a huge health bar is important but your gear is what determines if you live or die. The problem is that to even stand a ghost of a chance in the post game dungeons you’ll have to grind for healing items and the necessary items to boost your equipment. My beef with this is using the concepts of “potential energy” and “kinetic energy”, potential is the time you spend grinding out what you need to survive. Kinetic is the time actually spend in the dungeon you are trying to clear. you can easily spend several hours repeating dungeons to spend maybe an hour or so in the actual dungeon you are trying to complete. If you fail you’ll lose your gear and have to repeat the process over again. Granted playing on easy mode removes this restriction but for a game like Shiren you lose half the experience of the game. Imagine if Demon’s Souls for the PS3 had no penalty for death, you would have a completely different experience in that case.

I have been playing very cautiously hoarding items and have gear boosted, not to their limits of course but still enough to get by. I have a feeling that if I die and lose everything that would mark the end of the post game for me for now. The problem with Shiren is the same problem that I have with Demon’s Souls; there is no real motivation for me to go beyond the main quest. I’m not going to unlock some new secret mode for beating Shiren’s 1000 floor dungeon (yes you read that right) and the reward of a notch on my belt only satisfies me with games that have skill based progression. Does that make Shiren’s post game wrong? Of course not and for the hardcore fans of the series they will put the time and dedication into the game. However for someone like me who likes to switch from game to game I think my time is about up with STW. I find it interesting how the loot based reward system of Shiren doesn’t enthrall me like it did with Diablo 2 and I have a theory why.

In Diablo 2 loot is the reward, it is the reason why you play on higher difficulty levels, the reason why people did Baal runs and simply the reason to play Diablo 2. In Shiren and other rogue likes loot is the means to an end, you’re not collecting loot as a reward but simply as the tools you need to cross the finish line. Whether you cross it unscathed or down to your last life point it doesn’t matter, either you win or lose.

The beauty of STW’s design and the reason to play the game is figuring out the rules of the world and how to use and subvert them to win. There is a certain sense of satisfaction when you finally have the materials needed to fashion that ultimate blade you wanted or surviving a tough fight. For fans of the series or genre, STW is a must buy and thanks to the easy mode it makes STW accessible to newcomers as well. At around 36 hours in I think I’m close to shelving STW for now. While the 1000 floor dungeon is out of my reach I do feel the urge to at least get through the 100 floor challenge.

Josh

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Whenever we talk about games we can give a rough estimate to how complex the game is and how well certain types of gamers can learn it. It is far easier to learn Civilization 4 than it is to learn Dominions 3 for example, but there is another element of complexity that I want to talk about: game mechanics. When you play a game even if you understand it you can play the game at different levels of understanding. Many games that have multi system mechanics allow the player to pick and choose what to focus on and grow at their own rate, or a game that gives everything to the player at once but allows the player to learn as they go. In essence two different players can play the same game differently depending on the mechanics they want to focus on. For this entry I’m going to explain this concept and to start with here are the 3 broad categories I’ve come up with:

Basic: You’re playing the game using the main system and that’s it. No tweaks or ancillary stuff, a brute force method of playing really. For some games this is the easiest way to get through the main part of the game, for some it is the hardest.

Moderate: Now you’re starting to thumb through those other systems, spending time outside of the main system to improve characters or see what all that other stuff is about. You are starting to see how the various subsystems connect and make use of them. You’ve found certain tricks in the systems or game mechanics that have worked their way into your routine. For most players this is where they end up eventually.

Advanced:With a firm understanding of the mechanics and systems you are now knee deep in stats and altering your character (or characters) for optimal efficiency. Yes this is the level of play where min/maxing comes in. It’s no longer about just getting through each part of the game; it’s about getting through each part of the game the best way possible. You know how to use most if not all the tools available to your advantage. Most often you will not reach this point on your own during your first play through without help from a strategy guide. You know the ins and outs of the game play and can safely say that you have either master it or come close to. This plateau is usually reserved for the hard core fans of the game.

Now a few points I would like to discuss regarding this categorization:

1. It is not wrong/bad to be playing at anything below advance play. In fact the game’s main story or play through should be possible to win by playing the game at its basic level. Now we are not getting into the realm of difficulty during this discussion.

2. The complexity of the game has no bearing on these three groupings. A game as complex as Solium Infernum has mechanics that can be described as “basic” and even a game like Super Mario Bros has a mechanic in the advanced section. When I talk about these three groupings, the mechanics are relative to each other in their respective games.

Just to prove it here is in my opinion how this grouping works for Super Mario Bros:

Basic: Running to the right and jumping to reach the end.

Moderate: Using power ups and finding invisible blocks to find secret areas.

Advanced: Maximizing jump distance by getting a small running start even on one block wide platforms, also learning the art of making one block wide platform jumps.

Genres like shooters and plat formers make it hard to differentiate between the three as their systems are so interconnected to each other. There is one genre though that is set up so beautifully for this kind of talk: the Strategy Role Playing Game or SRPG.

The SRPG, a crazy concoction of strategy titles and JRPGs give players unit by unit control like in a strategy title and backs it up with managing equipment and stats of a RPG. Recently I started playing Valkyria Chronicles for the PS3 which is a great example but I’m not far enough in to start analyzing it however I do have one of the best SRPGS to talk about. Disegea: Hour of Darkness for the Ps2 was Nippon Ichi’s first smash hit in the US. Disegea was excellently designed in my opinion and is the best example I can talk about for this entry. What made Disegea so fascinating is all the systems the player can muck around in besides the main one of squad based combat. Here are in no particular order the other systems you can play with:

1. Geo Panel system: Colored tiles can have unique affects depending on special shapes that can be placed on them. Also clearing the entire map of colored squares can give you a huge item bonus.

2. Dark Assembly: You can attempt to pass laws that can affect the game, anything from unlocking new bonus stages to making enemies tougher. There is even a law to increase the experience enemies will give by 3 times for the next map. You can also bribe officials to vote for you and if the law fails you can fight the vetoing senators to overturn them.

3. Item World: Every item in the game (and I do mean EVERY) has a randomize dungeon inside of it. These dungeons are the perfect way to level up your characters, practice the geo panel system and recover specialists. Creatures who once found can be moved to other items to provide a variety of bonuses. Also each floor of the dungeon you clean out will improve the stats of the item, turning bad-ass weapons into godly weapons.

4. Character growth: you can transmigrate your army into either more powerful versions of their class or into other classes. Changing classes allow them to learn skills usually unavailable to them and improving their version will give them higher stats. A good upgrade can see a level 1 character with as much power as a level 50 character.

5. Power level: this section is reserve for the advance play as you learn the most efficient way to power level as there are a lot of levels to up in Disegea.

The beauty of Disegea is that the game comes right out and tells you that you don’t need to do everything mention to beat the game. They are there however if you want to get deeper into the mechanics or to take a break from the main game. Going back to my categories, basic is just getting through the game with a few required romps into the item world. Moderate is picking a few of those systems to play with and advance is going right down the list using them all to your advantage. Granted the post game features require a mastery of these systems but that is why they are there, to test the gamer into utilizing all the features of the game. The kicker is that for those that from the beginning use these systems, they will absolutely break the main game in theirfavor which the designers are fully aware of. Disegea is an example of where this works, but it’s time to look at the other end of the spectrum.

Knights in the Nightmare for the Nintendo DS should have been a game play dream for me. The game has multiple, multiple systems to delve into. Game play that I haven’t seen before in a game: it is a SRPG mixed with an arcade shooter. It features over 100 tutorial screens to show you everything about the game. So why haven’t I managed to get through more than 7 maps of the game?

Going back to Disegea, the game was designed around having all these systems in place and allowing the player the choice to use them. In KiN every system is so intertwine with each other that you need to understand the majority of them to have a shot. The game also makes no concessions about what is important or not, hitting the player over the head with numerous systems. Here is a quick example; every class in the game has a different attack range, which depending on the setting of the world will be different. Only two classes can actually pick up and move themselves while fighting but each time you use someone or attack with them, their Soul level decreases. Once it runs out they are permanently gone from the game. You can raise their level up to give them a small increase or fuse two characters together to transfer soul points.

That whole description is something that you need to understand from the start or you will back yourself into a corner later on. The best part, there are still numerous systems to talk about which I still don’t know all the tricks of the game and I actually read all 100 + tutorial screens. Somewhere hidden in KiN is an amazing game that probably could have won a few game of the year awards, but to actually play the game well I think someone needs to make a 4 week course for this. I’m honestly shocked that Double Jump Books never made a guide for this, although it wouldn’t be a guide so much as it would be a tome of knowledge.

“Easy to learn, difficult to master” is a mantra of many of the best games out there. By breaking down your game systems in to skill levels you can tailor the experience to give players a way to improve and award those that stick with it, without punishing the newcomers of your game.

Josh

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Last week Star Trek Online was released to the public and thanks to someone having a buddy pass I was able to get in on the action. STO is the first MMO I’ve played since World of Warcraft several years ago. For this entry I’m going give my impressions of the MMO. I do have a few points to keep in mind:

1. This is based off the first 28 levels of the game with the level cap at 50. At this point I feel that I’ve sampled the majority of the game’s systems unless something big changes within the next few levels.

2. I did not sample any of the PVP mechanics.

3. I am not a trekkie; I have watched some of the series and have a basic understanding of the universe.

STO takes place in the Star Trek Universe (duh) in a time where Klingons are fighting the Federation and what not. At the start you can choose to play as a few of the popular ST species or create your own alien similar to City of Heroes which is no surprise as the game was made by Cryptic studios. Sadly the variety seen in costume options doesn’t seem to be present here. After designing your character you choose their career path: Tactical, Science and Engineering, this determines your focus and what kits you’ll be able to use in ground combat (more on that later).

After that it’s time for a tutorial and then your career in the Alpha Quadrant. STO does several things to smooth out the wrinkles in MMO games, one is that you can get and turn in quests from your communicator instead of flying back to a star base. While you will have to go home to buy new equipment, you can sell anything you want from your inventory although with a small cut in the profit. There is also no death penalty which I know has rubbed a few people the wrong way. Strange as it sounds coming from someone who loved Demon’s Souls I found the lack of a penalty fitting here, it gives me a chance to try new weapons and abilities without the threat of punishment on failure. Missions are done in solar systems or otherwise called instances and it is here where you’ll see the best that STO has to offer, space combat.

To put it simply this is where you will get your money’s worth with STO. Ships in STO have 4 shields each one on a different side and hull strength shared across all sides. When a shield hits 0 the hull will be exposed for that side, hitting that side with weapons will do damage directly to the hull, when the hull reaches 0 the ship goes boom. Energy weapons are designed to do more damage to shields and less to hull, while torpedoes do insane damage to the hull but even one point of shield will mitigate the majority of the damage. Combat plays out with you trying to focus on one part of the enemy ship trying to take down the shield long enough to bombard it with torpedoes , of course while the enemy is trying to do that to you. Yet there is much more to talk about with space combat, first we have energy flow. Energy can be put into 4 parts of your ship:

1.Weapons that affects energy weapon damage.

2. Shields which determine your shield regeneration rate.

3. Speed which increases your speed of course.

4. Finally, Auxiliary which determines turning radius and increases the power of certain abilities.

You can choose from one of 4 presets for how energy is diverted or you can adjust them to your liking. Different enemies may respond better to stronger phaser fire then special effects or you may need to keep your shields up when fighting multiple enemies. Weapons also come with firing arcs and can be placed on either the front or aft of your ship. With a wide enough arc you can fire weapons from both ends with careful turning. Next up we have bridge officers or Bos who act as your skills during the fight.

Bos fall into the same three careers as your player; each Bo has 8 skills available for them. Four for ground and four for space combat, they each start out at ensign rank. This means they only have access to the first tier of skills; you can put exp into them to enhance their skills decreasing their recharge time. Whatever your rank is you may promote Bos to one rank below yours, each rank they go up unlocks another tier of skills. It’s not enough to have a high rank Bo; your ship must also have the console to support them. When you upgrade your ship to the next tier you can choose from a ship based on one of the three careers. Each ship has additional consoles of that respective career type allowing you to assign more Bos and therefore have more skills available. For example the tier 3 science ship has one lieutenant commander science console, meaning that one of my science Bos can man that and use 3 of their 4 available space skills. This gives the player the ability to customize their tactics based on what Bos and their respective skills they choose.

Personally I love the space combat system as it alleviates one of the main problems I have with MMOs, that combat boils down to time and gear ; not player interaction. It will be interesting to see how diverse tactics will be discovered with Bo skill combos. Now when you are not blasting enemies in the vacuum of space you’ll be doing it on the ground which is where STO stumbles.

Ground combat is a click fest that the designers tried to elevate with a few tricks. You have 2 health bars one for shields and one for your actual health, like with ship battles normally your shields have to be knocked out before you take actual damage. If you are not teamed up your BOs fill in as your party and they do a reasonably good job providing cover. Every weapon in the game has a secondary attack that can either cause an expose or an exploit affect. Expose attacks have a chance to leave the enemy highly susceptible to an exploit attack which in this state can sometimes kill in one hit. Most of the time however you are going to be pressing the #1 key on your keyboard slowly ticking away at the enemy’s health and just wait until they get shield restore powers. You can equip kits onto your character to give you special powers; you can only choose kits based on your profession. This part of the game is unfortunately the most repetitive and makes me hunger for the ship combat.

Before I go into what doesn’t work let’s get back to what does, personalization. STO allows you to personalize a lot of the experience in the game, you can create your own alien, uniform for your character and your BOs, your ship and finally weapon load outs for everyone. This gives you a greater connection to the character compared to other MMOs. If anything, Cryptic took what it learned from COH with how much people like personalizing and ran with it here. Now it’s time to talk about what doesn’t work and sadly I have a lot to work with.

First is the lack of refinement which comes from any new MMO launch. There have been connection issues, mission bugs and such. However that lack is also present in the game systems. The crafting system right now is you taking random objects to a store and trading them in, obviously not in the same league as WoW’s system. The game attempts to give the player “exploration missions” where you don’t have to fight anyone. Unfortunately this amounts to just clicking on X amount of objects or talking to someone. One mission was just me running back and forth about 10 feet talking to two different people. For those looking for missions that work your mind and not your fingers, there aren’t any. Earlier I talked about personalization which STO is full of, however it lacks customization for your character.

For those that played WoW you should know about the talent trees, 3 different groups of skills each class could focus on. Each talent would tweak your character in a certain way and you could go for maxing out one tree completely or picking and choosing across the board. As I mentioned in STO you have three different careers to choose from, however other then kit access they have no other affect on game play from what I could see. When you unlock the next tier of ships you can choose any one, so a science officer can use an engineer ship. The talent tree in STO is big and everyone can pick from any skill on there, however none of it is unique to careers. On one hand you can argue it allows you to pick anything you want, the problem is that you don’t want to pick everything. Skills that enhance engineer powers won’t do much for someone who is focusing on science BOs. The skills you can choose from in STO don’t carry the same weight as the ones my BOs have, in fact I feel like more of a red shirt then the nameless crew members aboard my ship. I wish that each career had a skill section unique to them. This part seems to be more of an afterthought in affecting the game play as your BOs skills are more game changing then your own.

I can understand why they did this, to have the player focus less on their character and more on their Bos and their ship, but as of right now it seems like a half-ass implementation of the system. The whole point of the system right now is to pour your skill points into it as a condition to move up in ranking to get a new ship.

The game for the most part is pretty easy to solo with exception of fleet actions (raids). For the majority of the game I was fighting +3 enemies and winning this is also a trend I noticed in games from Cryptic. First things start out too easy then they take a nose dive then they get balanced somewhere in between. I would be happy if they toughen up the ship fights to give me a chance to see if my Bo selection really works.

I haven’t experience it yet but impressions from the top say that as of right now there isn’t much to do at the higher levels, a problem returning from CoH. Of course there has already been promise of a content patch coming so hopefully this problem will go away soon. Leveling in STO is pretty quick, as mention in 10 days I managed to go up 28 levels, now I was playing the game exclusively instead of my usual trend of switching between different games however. This leads me to my verdict.

Overall being my first MMO in awhile I enjoyed STO, ship combat has just the right amount of complexity and I feel is the strongest element of the game. However the game lacks the variety of things to do. After ten days of playing I’m feeling the tug away to other games but I’m going to keep my eye on the game over the next few months. Right now I give STO either a C+ or B – , the game is rough but there is a lot of potential if Cryptic can get it right.

Before I sign off one final detail on the issue of micro transactions to give everyone a heads up, STO has a monthly fee as well as allowing players to buy special things using “Cryptic Points”. CP can only be acquired by spending actual cash for them. As of right now the only things available are 2 different alien species that you can use to make Federation characters but I’m betting we’ll see more in the future. As of this point while I’m somewhat dishearten with this system I’ll accept it as long as the changes are purely for aesthetics. I will question this if they start adding in unique gear that can only be acquired this way.

Josh, captain of the U.S.S. Insomnia , the U.S.S. Poe and the U.S.S. Jung.

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With the release of Bioshock 2 and the unending praise from most reviewers, memories came back of me playing the first one… and despising it. I remember calling it the most overrated game I’ve ever played and I may have challenged Ken Levine to fisticuffs. So I decided to reinstall Bioshock thanks to steam and see if time heals all wounds. Now my temperament has cooled since then but I still don’t see the beauty of Rapture.

At this point I’m going to safely assume you know what Bioshock is or have read one of the many, many reviews this week on the sequel. The biggest positive that I’ve read is that it is more of the same, which to me makes me back away further from it. When I first started this blog I went on a rant nailing all the problems I had with it, now that I’m older and less mentally balanced I can sum of my problems with Bioshock with several main points.

1. (Lack of) The weight of the world on your shoulders:
In my entry on shooter mechanics I talked about the element of “feel” missing from most shooters. Bioshock in my opinion doesn’t have feel both literately and figuratively in the game. First literal, when I talked about how much I loved Stalker SoC, one of my main reasons was how each weapon felt and handled differently. There was a certain sense of weight using the shotgun compared to the machine gun. In Bioshock every weapon feels the same, shooting someone in the face with a pistol gets the same response as the shotgun. I feel detached in the sense from the fighting especially with close ranged weapons. When I smack someone in the face with a wrench it just seems lackluster to me. Even the Plasmids lack this, yes I’m choosing between burning, freezing and electrocuting someone, but when all the response I get is a quick flick of the wrist what is the point? When I set something on fire I want a mini explosion with objects nearby affected.

Next is the feel of the story or lack of in Bioshock. The game tries to be serious with the little sister choice but still your decisions don’t carry any weight other than a few additional powers. If you break down the choice it is short term benefit versus long term but when both have the same results they lose their meaning. This also is a complaint I have about the plasmids, as their life altering change doesn’t mean much in the game. I hate the use of a “mana” bar in Bioshock as a limiter of power. What would have given greater meaning to the world was if the plasmids were one way doors. Imagine if every plasmid in the game had two different paths to them, once you choose one the other becomes completely inaccessible to you for the game. Also once you have gotten it you can use it whenever you want, no need to refill on eve. That would change Bioshock drastically as now every choice has an important affect on the game play.

“An interface only a mother could love”

The interface in Bioshock just killed me in terms of how hard it was to effectively fight with weapons and plasmids. With the variety of plasmids it should have been much easier to create attack combos then it is. The part that annoys me was that a game came out awhile ago with a similar two weapon system mechanic and made it work and that game was Clive Barker’s Undying. In the game you had two different groups of weapons to use, one were the various firearms (both natural and supernatural) and second were the arcane spells you can learn, you can stop the game to select what you want at anytime or use the keys to quick select. The only effective ways that I can think of to manage dual system combat is that there has to be a pause or slowdown, or allow me to select equipment from both systems at the same time. Bioshock tries to make do with the pause menu which does help things but it still doesn’t match Undying for one simple reason. In Undying, you could control both types of weapons at the same time, if I wanted to light someone on fire then quickly follow up with a shotgun blast I could. In Bioshock however both types of weapons are separate from each other I can’t just quickly go from shotgun to incinerate or vice versa. I either have to use the pause menu to select what I want one at a time or mouse wheel my way through the selection while whatever I’m fighting has a few seconds to bash me.

Now you can argue that I could set up my combos beforehand but in a game about a variety of ways to fight it should be simpler to set up my load out. At this point I could go into rant mode again about a better interface system but I think you have my point already. Chances are you know what my final point is as you probably have heard it from just about every hardcore gamer by now.

“No feet in the grave”

Death or lack thereof in Bioshock is my final complaint, for those that didn’t play Bioshock there are “vita-chambers” littered throughout the levels. Whenever you die you will spawn back there with less than full health and eve and can continue from right there. The world doesn’t reset and you can go right back to whatever you were doing. The problem that I have with this kind of system is that gives the designers Carte Blanche on not balancing out the fights. Big Daddies will squash you in about 2 hits in melee on hard and there aren’t many defenses at close range. There are several sections in Bioshock that has you dealing with attacks from odd angles, like a turret you won’t see until you’ve being blasted by it. Now I know what everyone is going to say now “but they patched in the ability to turn off vita-chambers why don’t you play it like that?” the problem is that the game was designed with vita-chambers in mind.

Sure I can turn off vita-chambers and run through the game on hard; I’m going to beat my head against the wall at the same parts except this time I won’t have the luxury of being able to push through it. I never liked games where the designer expects you to play the game with one arm behind your back to make it challenging. Imagine if a Tennis player decided that the game was too easy and from now on they would play with a fly swatter. Sure it is going to be harder to play but the rest of the Tennis world still follows the rules of playing with a racket. It is going to be hard but would it be any fun?

I did just ran through the first few sections of the game without vita-chambers being on. The thing about Bioshock is that none of the regular fights are truly difficult except for the Big Daddies and that is because the game was built with unlimited lives in mind. I don’t find it fun to put my hand behind my back and fight something that can kill me in two hits. Now unlike my last rant I do have some kind words for the game even after this whole entry.

Eventually on my play-through things did start to click a little bit, I’ve learned to rely on the shift menu to make any weapon choices so that I can quickly go back and forth. The world itself is still the biggest strength in the game in my opinion; I love the setting, the character designs and the concept. I still have my Big Daddy figurine on top of my dresser. Unfortunately settings and art aren’t enough to make me wow at a game. At this point I’ll probably wait for the sequel to be in the bargain bin before getting it and don’t worry I’m very patient, I didn’t play Mass Effect 1 until about 2 months ago when it was on sale.

Josh.

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