Rip & Tear

Rip & Tear

In 2005, my father subscribed to a new Starhub internet plan. Starhub gave us an Xbox, our first console. It came with the Lord of The Rings: The Return Of The King game, since we were still on the high of that movie franchise. For the next three years, we bought Xbox games near Deepavali, before our Xbox eventually died. In 2006, we bought Doom 3.

It seems stupid now, but Doom 3 was quite a big deal for me at that time. It was the first mature rated game we bought. It was also an atmospheric horror shooter, that pushed the capabilities of the console and computers of that time. I remember that the Playstation 2 couldn’t accommodate the game, so it was more or less a Microsoft exclusive. The collector’s edition I bought also came with Doom 1 and Doom 2, which while influential, didn’t age well. The first two games were arcade shooters that emphasized fun. Doom 3 was all about shadows, ambiance and claustrophobia.

I was in secondary school at that time. The next ten years would be turbulent for me. I had to stop being carefree because people around me were being somber and nonchalant.

Soon after, I too succumbed.

It’s been a decade. We now have a PS4. The mood in the house has been relatively sour. My brothers aren’t speaking. One of my father’s best friends died a fortnight before Deepavali. My mother’s relatives are plagued by illnesses.

I decided to get the fourth Doom on impulse. We got our PS4 last Deepavali. I thought we could pick up the old tradition of buying games for the festive season again. Doom sold for S$29, secondhand.

I had watched videos of the gameplay and knew that the game was going to be radically different from Doom 3, but playing it was a whole other experience. The playable character literally destroys any device that offers contextual exposition (a huge “Fuck you” to the newly arisen trend of trite storytelling gimmicks in modern games). DOOM2016 disregards the third installment altogether and harks back to the arcade style of the original games. The character sprints throughout the game. There is no reloading. The monsters are agile- no slow hankering behemoths like Doom 3, even the Hellknight jumps around like an over-caffeinated wrestler. The playable character can physically mangle hellspawn with his bare arms if he reduces enough of their health, and it’s a sight to behold.

The fear has been inverted. Now I cruise through flesh and bones to the sounds of electronic pulses and 8 stringed guitars, and one wonders who the real hellspawn is.

I wonder if the game is a message to me from some higher power, but it does feel like some cloud has been lifted as I battle the last of my personal demons. I know I have a tendency to exaggerate (it’s in my heritage), but the hot blooded of my youth has been flooding back into my veins in the last few months. I’ve been behaving recklessly, as if to affirm whatever divine message was sent to me last month. Dreamy visions and reality seem to fuse, interchangeably. Old friends are coming back to my side (for which I will be grateful) while I shed the grey skin I’ve donned for the last few years.

I have never felt so alive.

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Crones Of Crookback Bog

Crones Of Crookback Bog

I rarely ever dwell in the stories of most games, since they are usually horribly written (unless you are Hidetaka Miyazaki). However, The Witcher 3 completely overwhelmed me with its plot mechanics; the story has multiple endings for various subplots that are chosen via dialogue options or your actions.

The last time I played a game with this much consequence was Fable, a long lost game that came out for the first XBOX, my first console and the only console I played on before my recent PS4.

I played Fallout 4 last year and though the game had multiple dialogue options, they ultimately had no real consequence (Far Harbor attempted to avoid that, but alas, one DLC does not change the whole game).

There are so many things the Polish developers got right about the game;

  • Rich, detailed characters. You could actually differentiate between them and your response towards them could alter entire villages much later in the gameplay. Having read little on the game, a lot of the consequences in later parts of the game shocked me.
  • The Eastern European influence is amazing. It isn’t just a half-assed gimmick to give the game its flavour, it revels in the culture and lore, from accents and food customs to the music and myths within the game. The Crones are influenced by The Baba Yaga of Slavic tradition, while also drawing from the three witches of Macbeth. Not to mention their fantastic design.
  • Multiple endings. Not one, not two, but a whole handful of them.
  • Crafting and looking for crafting materials actually matter, for once, in a game.
  • Preparing for enemies also matters for once.
  • The game has great throwback moments (that I understood after reading up on it Reddit). I thought they were smart, tongue-in-cheek and tastefully done.
  • I didn’t care much for Gwent in this first playthrough but will be sure to rectify it in my second. It’s a nice game within the game.
  • Geralt’s beard grows over the days in-game, and you have to actively keep shaving. That’s really fucking awesome.
  • The game generously rewards exploration, and you actually have an incentive to divert from the primary campaign. Plus, places of power are a nice touch to give you the edge in the game.
  • Witcher sense is a great mechanic for someone like me who can’t be bothered with checking for guides for every little puzzle I can’t solve on my own.

 

I do have some pet peeves with the game, namely the inability to lock on to bosses, the mostly redundant crossbow and the concept of levelled loot, sinced that means you only get good items the higher level you are (and hence giving you less incentive to fight exotic creatures above your level), but the game left me awed and more than satisfied (yeah fuck you, Fallout 4). Having only raved about Bloodborne and Dark Souls all this while, it’s finally nice to have a new game to obsess about. I will probably take a little break and try other games before returning for the DLCs.

I didn’t care too much about the bosses in the game, but the Crones were so well done, I keep playing their theme in my head.