Deadshirt is Playing brings you a look at the best, newest, and strangest of what the wide world of video games has to offer. What are our staff and contributors playing this month, you ask?
Kyle is a Professional…
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
CD Projekt RED
It’s hard to express how much I loved The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in a little blurb, and even harder to express my love for the final game in the trilogy. It’s a massive game and I’ve only had a short amount of time to play it since it launched earlier this week. That said, the ten or so hours that I’ve put into it have been an incredible experience. Would you like to know why? Well, let me tell you!
The Witcher 3 finds our “hero” Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher (a mutant monster hunter jacked up on alchemy), searching for his sorceress ex and his former ward/adoptive daughter. There’s your logline and all you really need to know off the bat, as the game does a very good job of conveying the backstory of the novel series and later the video games to first time entrants into the universe of The Witcher. This is the first pillar of my why I love The Witcher 3 system for self-fulfillment. This game is gorgeously presented. The world feels lived-in, much more than a Bioware or Bethesda RPG, for instance. Those games always feel somewhat sterile to me, whereas The Witcher 3 is very much a living, breathing world full of characters with realistic personalities. Nearly everyone that you can interact with has something interesting to say, and the cinematography is really a leap forward for RPGs. Rarely will an interaction involve two characters standing still and monologuing at each other. This is the kind of attention to detail that I have been craving since I was a kid.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a game where the conversations compose the majority of the fun, the gameplay itself is also incredibly well realized. As you wander around the massive open world, you can play out the main storyline, but you can also stop and take up quests from locals and notice boards, find clues to unearthing treasures, and even accept contracts to hunt down huge and horribly detailed monsters (many of which are familiar to high fantasy settings, but horrifically interpreted through depictions in Eastern European folklore).
Some of the greatest moments that I’ve had in this game were in figuring out how to defeat important monsters. Let’s take an early encounter with a ghost called a “noonwraith” for instance: After accepting the contract to rid a well of this specter, you need to learn about it using Geralt’s heightened senses. After gathering clues, he determines what the creature is, and you are nudged towards the bestiary, the game’s compendium of monsters. Here, you find an entry detailing what a noonwraith is and how to defeat it. This involves using a specific spell to trap it, an alchemical oil to damage it, and performing steps to ease the tortured soul, allowing it to pass on from the world. It’s a system that’s not overly complex, but it provides an incredibly refreshing puzzle-like twist to fights that most games would just employ your reflexes or brute force to complete.
Granted, I have barely scratched the surface of a game that’s touted as lasting 25 hours minimum and 200 hours for a “full” playthrough, so it’s possible that some aspects of the game could become tedious or boring, but so far this game is not only an easy contender for Game of the Year in my book, but a fantastic sequel that ups the ante of the previous title while still remaining perfectly accessible for new players.
Yen is hoarding dresses…
Animal Crossing: Wild World
I had heard a lot about Animal Crossing: New Leaf when that came out, and was pleasantly surprised to see the ways in which your avatar could blur gender. Maybe that didn’t much extend past the fact that you could wear a dress on the boy model, but we’re still living in a time where small steps are big ones. Without a Gamecube, Wii, or 3DS though, I picked up the one Animal Crossing title available to me, looking to experience the series’ whimsy and crossing my fingers that I might still find the first inklings of acceptance—in a mainstream video game!—of nonbinary gender. Unfortunately, the 2005 title had a lot less to say than its 2013 descendant, but Wild World’s distinctly drawn definitions of gender still afforded me some insight.
I’m still figuring my way through all this new language myself, but I suppose that it’d be correct to consider me genderqueer. I think of myself more and more often as a girl while still identifying as a boy. So, what then did the stringently binary character creation of Wild World offer me? Well, as a slice-of-life game more focused on sprucing up a town than on the hero’s journey, Animal Crossing is actually the first game I’ve played where my choice of a female avatar actually meant something.
Given a choice, I’ll always play as a girl. My reasons for doing so are a lot more clear nowadays—I like thinking of myself as a girl a lot more than I do anything else—but I suppose I’ve always thought about how bored I am with stories of boys saving the world, and about how much I want to play the change I want to see. The key titles that come to mind are Mass Effect and the later Pokemon games. In these games, you can play as a girl, and I’d always choose to do so. Thing is, those narratives are often genderless experiences. Logistically, practically, they kind of have to be.
But…Animal Crossing! In a small world with no stakes, little bits of innocuous gendering would crop up regularly, and each moment had a resounding importance to me. My anthropomorphic animal neighbors called me cute more often than not (or, at least, it certainly seems like it). The only items of clothing available to me were dresses, or rather, the game’s default clothing textures applied to a simple, cartoony sundress shape. As it turns out, that was more than enough for me, and I found myself surprisingly emotional while expanding my collection of cute dresses—something that I yearn for in real life. Less positive, the taxi driver, Kapp’n, joked that I owed him a romantic dinner as soon as I declared myself a girl in response to his probing questions (which serve as an in-world framework for character creation). It was odd and uncomfortable, but part of the package, I suppose. For the first time in a digital world, I feel like a girl.
Robyn is Borne of Blood…
I loaded into Bloodborne, took a deep breath, and tried to punch a giant wolf to death with my bare hands. For an hour.
Anyone who is familiar with the “Souls Series” knows of its reputation for punishing difficulty. Those who have played would argue that the games aren’t necessarily DIFFICULT, but they are fair. I have played both Dark Souls 1 and 2, finished neither. All of this lead me to think it was possible that Bloodborne expected me to punch this wolf to death. As it turned out, this was just a vehicle in the tutorial to have the player die and revive in the Hunter’s Dream—Bloodborne’s hub (or you can beat it to death for no reward). In the Hunter’s Dream, the player is given some tutorial messages that also allow them to pick a weapon and teleport to areas they have unlocked. It is expected that the player will attempt to fight this wolf, die, go to the hub world, get their weapon, teleport back, and easily avenge their death. Sadly, my actions were unexpected. Ignoring the ghostly tutorial messages (scrolls held by skeletons that rise out of the ground), I assumed that they were the usual Souls fare, telling me how to run, fight, etc. Eventually, after googling, I got my weapon and was on my way. This is Bloodborne.
When I play video games, my motto is “the best offense is a good offense.” I am not a fan of blocking, or shields, or backing down. This did not serve to be a great strategy in the previous games, but is greatly incentivized in Bloodborne. When you take damage in the game, you get a fighting-game style health reduction, and have the ability to gain that lost life back by attacking those who have wronged you within a window of time. You are rewarded for relentless assault and judicious dodges.
If you get stuck in the main story, the game offers two other paths to follow: Chalice Dungeons and Root Chalice Dungeons. I have only just started these, but they are generated dungeons that you can play with friends. Chalice Dungeons are the same for everyone, but locked for multiplayer games (you have to summon or be summoned), and Root Chalice Dungeons are generated just for you. They can hold amazing loot (reddit has lists and lists of Root Chalice Dungeons that have spawned awesome stuff).
I have not beaten Bloodborne, but i enjoy it through it’s triumphs and frustrations. I could go on and on, but these are the things I would have liked to know going into the game. I recommend it whether you have played Dark Souls or not.
Matt is Keeping All the Records and Checking Them Twice…
Final Fantasy Record Keeper
iOS / Android
Let’s just be honest and play our cards face up, Final Fantasy has had a bad decade. Final Fantasy XII and XIII are among the least loved of the core franchise despite the former actually being a fairly interesting installment to the storied franchise. Final Fantasy XIV suffered from a horrendous launch that required a major overhaul in order to be playable, let alone good.
Final Fantasy’s foray onto mobile devices hasn’t fared much better. The ports have replaced much of the beloved art, stealing nostalgia from people who crave it. Final Fantasy All the Bravest was basically trying to sell you that hoarded nostalgia, shoehorned into a really unfun, unintuitive game. Record Keeper takes the nostalgia of ATB and removes all the negative elements, replacing them with a fun, well-designed game worthy of some your time.
The idea of Record Keeper is that you’re a student in the Hall of Records, where portraits of all the biggest Final Fantasy moments are kept. However, as is tradition, some shadowy event threatens all of that and it’s up to our intrepid hero, Tyro. Tyro must go into the paintings, recreate the moments, and save the Hall. Along the way, Tyro can recruit famous Final Fantasy characters from throughout the series. Not only are characters such as Cloud, Cecil, and Terra available, but classic Jobs are available too. This makes the game both highly expansive and highly customizable.
The Synergy system is yet another interesting wrinkle to the gameplay. Each weapon, piece of armor, and relic in Record Keeper is tied to a certain classic Final Fantasy title. For example, the Mythril Sword is tied to Final Fantasy IV, so when it is used in the world of FFIV, its stats are higher. This also applies to characters; using Terra, Celes, and Cyan against the Phantom Train? They get a stat boost! This allows you to bring weaker characters along to get them some levels without worrying that they’ll be entirely unable to pull their weight.
Finally, the game is free to play, but it isn’t pay to win. I have been playing both the Japanese version and the North American version and haven’t had to spend any money at all. I can see myself spending money in the future because I’m a firm believer in supporting the developers who make great games, but not spending money has not negatively affected my experience at all and I play at least twice a day.
I could tell you about the crafting system, the special events, the grading system and several other things, but if I haven’t sold you by now, there’s no hope.
That’s what we’ve been playing this month—we’ll be back in four weeks with another installment of Deadshirt is Playing.