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?
Jake is aimless in Los Santos …
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V occupies a very odd spot in my heart. The series was one of those things I didn’t get to grow up with. I was young when GTA III dropped, and my mother was wise enough to keep me from getting my hands on it. Since then I’ve always felt like I was playing catch-up, which was a big part of my motivator for picking up V on day one. I finished the game quicker than I probably meant to, and I found myself emotionally affected enough that I banished it from myself that same November and didn’t really spend any time with it again until a couple weeks ago.
Perhaps it was because the game Trojan Horsed me so fucking hard. I played through GTA IV and all the episodes that came as DLC, and I really enjoyed them, specifically the complex characters and the often depressing nature of the writing and the world the characters occupied. I did not expect V to kick my heart’s ass even harder than Lost & Damned’s tale of wasted youth and codependency did. I was admittedly drawn very heavily into the world of the game, and found myself invested in the lives of the three oft-unlikeable sociopaths that were the protagonists.
There were a lot of scenes in the game that I found frighteningly well acted (a testament to the casting of three leads) and deeply emotionally unsatisfying, which was not something I had expected. Each of the three characters is an unrepentant murderer who spends the time they aren’t using to steal and kill to stew in regret and confusion. It wasn’t the sociopath dynamic that was so compelling, but the absolute misery in which they live. It was weird to see Michael trying to articulate his frustrations with his distant family to his uninterested therapist, but if felt bizarrely real. I got legit sad while Trevor growled out a bedtime story that was very clearly about how his mental instability kept him from becoming a military pilot when he was younger. Call me a dingus if you will, but I did.
What is weird is that the game is such a bizarre juxtaposition of well-thought out character relationships and writing with the hamfisted “satire” of the game’s world. It was really jarring to listen to Franklin talk at length about his desire to escape the circumstances of his upbringing right after a radio commercial used the word “tits” like six times. The Grand Theft Auto United States has always been far more foul and absurdly violent than our own, but there is a very visible disconnect between the often depressing and complicated beats of the narrative and the “Family Guy on Crack” elements of the world.
Now, playing the game after the conclusion of the story, there’s little for me to do but cruise around, customize cars, and stare at the ocean. Without the game’s narrative to propel me, I feel very lost, and sort of assaulted by what’s left, which is less satire and more pointing and laughing at the toxic elements of our culture in-between dick jokes and vehicular homicide.
Kyle is wishing that he’d stop pulling Ginyu…
Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle
Android / iOS
Okay, let me set the record straight. I’m not a huge Dragon Ball Z fan, despite talking about two separate games from the franchise up to this point. I was a gigantic fan as a kid, yes, but these days it’s more of just a thing I remember a decent amount about and will thus try a game taking place in that universe if I happen to hear good things. That said, there weren’t a lot of games that I wanted to play out by the time that I was writing this, as the summer drought was in full effect and this month’s installment just happened to land on the week before one of the first major games of the year are released. Also, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve sunken WAY too much time into this relatively simple mobile game.
By this point, most of us have probably gotten fairly deep into a mobile game for some period of time or another. For me this was the piece of garbage known as WWE Supercard. This burning pile of shit was basically a card game where you would collect cards with bad and often outdated pictures of wrestlers on them to pit against the decks of other players. This wasn’t handled in real-time like a fun card game, but rather like some kind of weird promotional product for a bigger game, in this case WWE 2K15. I say this because other players’ decks are automatically saved to the servers and controlled by the clueless AI that basically tosses cards out at random. This doesn’t really affect strategy however as the core of the game is, “have cards with the biggest numbers.” I ended up dumping way too much time into this game, mostly because I like collecting things.
Well, with Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle I get to collect things AND actually play a somewhat engaging “match 3-esque” game. This game works by having you create a team of six characters, each of which has a color type that beats another color in a rock, paper, scissors type way. Over time, these characters earn experience and grow stronger through battling or training (which involves feeding them special items and unwanted cards) and can even be “awakened,” which provides a major stat boost and increase in their rarity. The gameplay itself revolves around moving a game piece around a board, collecting items, and engaging in battles that involve matching up colorful “Ki Spheres” to increase the power of your fighters’ attacks. It’s all fairly simple and reminds me a lot of Puzzles & Dragons, but translated and explained a little better.
Much like Puzzles & Dragons, you earn a currency as you play called “dragon stones” that can either be spent to instantly heal your party or refill your stamina meter (the resource required to complete missions), or to summon new characters to add to your team. This is where the game really preys on my need to collect. When you spend your dragon stones, you’re essentially feeding a quarter into a capsule machine and hoping you get that super cool ultra rare character, but often you just end up pulling another fucking Captain Ginyu and realizing that you need to complete another five missions just to get a chance to probably be disappointed again. But at that moment when you do finally pull a really rare character, you feel so good about it! And that, readers is the chase that keeps me coming back day after day for those insidious daily rewards.
That’s us. What’re you playing? I mean, while you’re waiting for Metal Gear Solid V, anyway…