Videogame Violence: From the Screen to Real Life

An argument as old as video games themselves and one that will continue until we are naught but dust. It’s my firm belief that so long as their are at least 2 people on the planet there will be arguments about 2 things. The portrayal of violence in video games and the real life implications this brings about and who gets to eat the last Rolo. For a blog first I have actually done some research into this and haven’t just assumed I was right and proceeded to spew words to that effect.

DISCLAIMER: Before I start in earnest I would like to make it known that I am not an expert in this field (or in any field for that matter), therefore anything of my beliefs or opinions on this matter are not to be taken as fact.

The subject on whether violent video games make people violent or not is no way near a new topic. It’s one that has been going on continuously, popping in and out of public interest with each school shooting, act of terrorism as well as other types of horrible tragedy. In fact if you expand the subject matter out to entertainment and literature the argument stretches back even further. In fact the US government passed The Federal Anti-Obscenity Act (Comstock Law) all the way back in 1873 to ban literature that contained “obscene,” “filthy,” or “inappropriate” material, so by the time video games came along the idea of banning things you didn’t like was well established.

Having looked into the subject I can’t help but be staggered by the number of acts of violence and horrific tragedies that have been blamed by violent video games in one way or another. I also can’t help but think that for every one of these incidents there are hundreds if not thousands more incidents that will never see print. Most of them going along the lines of person X liked doing activity Y before committing tragedy Z so Y must be the cause. There is a simplistic crooked logic behind this way of thinking and it scares me that people gravitate to it without question. I mean we could probably find a specific breakfast cereal that is preferred by murderers but that doesn’t mean Coco Pops make a person want to kill another person.

So why point the finger at video games? Personally I think it’s because they are an easy target. People enjoying a medium where you control a violent person committing violent acts then going out and committing violent acts themselves, simple right? However, like the rest of the world we live in the answer is never this simple. To say that stopping violent video games with stop these incidents is both short sighted and naive. There are too many variable to be able to point at one thing and go “There’s your problem” like a plumber fixing your pipes.

One incident that came up a lot in my research was that of the Columbine High School massacre. I’m sure you are all aware but to those that are not, the Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting in Colorado in April 1999 in which 2 student killed 13 students and staff as well as themselves and injured 24 others. It was well documented that the 2 students were fans of the video games Doom & Duke Nukem 3D, both of these games fall into the class of violent video games. So as you’d expect calls for banning these games and their ilk we made. In fact there was a lawsuit against the developers for causing the massacre as were the makers and distributors of the films Natural Born Killers & The Basketball Diaries, Marilyn Manson and 2 pornographic websites. All the suits were unsuccessful and the calls for banning violent video games were denied mainly because video games are protected under The First Amendment (right to freedom of speech).

On looking into the matter, there is certainly an argument to be made that video games in some way had a role in these events (It was believed by journals that the 2 Columbine shooters gained inspiration from Duke Nukem 3D to use pipe bombs during the massacre) but I do not believe that they were in any way, shape or form the cause of these incidents. I personally find video games to be a refuge, a port in the storm for when life gets hectic or when I’m not feeling all that great about things. They act as an escapism for me and I can imagine a lot of people too. A lot of the perpetrators I’ve looking into when researching this topic felt betrayed and let down by life and society so it only makes sense for them to find an escape from these feelings. Elements from these games will get woven into their acts and from that the blame is cast against them.*

These are some very extreme cases but what about everyday acts of aggression, can video games be blamed for lesser everyday violence? I personally think sometimes they can, however I also believe that the violence portrayed in violent video games is not the main culprit either. Looking back to when I was younger there were more than a few moments that I would become violent during playing video games (these acts never escalated beyond me punching pillows for throwing controllers at inanimate objects). This was because I would be frustrated at not being able to get past a certain point of a game. I’d be upset over my own inability to do something and being too immature to accept my own short comings I’d lash out.

To clarify, there is no one video game out there that can flick a so-called “Hulk switch” in any person that plays it and suddenly makes them more aggressive. Then again, I can’t say that it will never happen to someone. Yes, there will be people that will be influenced by violent games and think that copying them is cool. This tends to be seen in children and people who have lower levels of mental maturity. To prevent these influences and protect them is the reason why games have age classifications, it’s a flawed system (as it assumes people of the same age are all as mentally mature as each other) but they do act as guidelines at the very least.

Banning violent video games will never stop acts of violence, we are not suddenly going to ascend to a utopian society by banning violent video games. The only true cures are education, reform, understanding, tolerance and acceptance. Then again as flawed beings I don’t think we will ever reach such a high moral plain as a species so I guess we are doomed to suffer until the end of our days. I do hope that I am wrong about this but I suppose only time will tell.

*I would like to make it clear that I certainly DO NOT sympathise with the perpetrators of these acts. It is my view that the reasons I mentioned are never justification for acts of violence, cruelty, injury or death. I also do not condone any actions undertaken or any actions similar in relation to this.

BONUS CONTENT: Ludo-Narrative Dissonance: Saying One Thing, Doing Another

Lets start with a definition for those who aren’t aware. Ludo-Narrative Dissonance was coined by the game designer Clint Hocking in a blog post in 2007. The term is used to describe the difference between the narrative told by a games story and the narrative of it’s gameplay. In his post Hocking singled out Bioshock where he explained that the narrated story demands the player be selfless but all the while the gameplay mechanics enforce a selfishness and the pursuit of power.

This was something I was thinking about as I wrote up my review for The Last of Us Part II. How Ellie would stab, shoot and blow up several people just so she could kill one person for killing another. Any kind of self-reflection would tell her that if it wasn’t for the camera crew following her around she would be the bad guy in this story. Abby by contrast is on a mission to kill someone who slaughtered her father as well as many others and succeeds in doing so without anyone else dying. This in contrast to the Ludo-Narrative consistency of the first game was one of the few things that rubbed me the wrong way about the game.

Another example that comes to me is that of the Tomb Raider remake. Again this was a game that I thoroughly enjoyed and had it not been for The Last of Us would have been my Game of the Year. There was a moment in the game where Lara kills her first person. You can see the terror in her and see the very moment that a piece of her soul breaks. This as a scene in isolation really brought depth to Lara’s character, However from that point on she starts gunning, stabbing, exploding people like it’s going out of fashion rendering her early breakdown almost meaningless.

The use of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance isn’t always something to avoid and if used properly can be a powerful story telling tool. To illustrate this lets look at Spec Ops: The Line where the use of ludo-narrative dissonance was a conscious choice. The actions of Walker are seen as a horrible warning to enforce the games message of “War is bad and you should feel ashamed for enjoying this game”. The game uses the hypocrisy of the playable character to reinforce the message of the story. This is how the Ludo-Narrative Dissonance differs from that in Spec Ops then it does in both The Last of Us Part II & Tomb Raider. Ellie & Lara never get that revelation that what they are doing is a bad thing, Walker on the other hand gets to the end of the game and it’s brought to light everything he’s done in the game and he realises his actions cannot be justified.

So to sum everything up, if your game is show signs of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance you can do one of 2 things. 1) Fix the inconsistencies by either adjusting the narrative or gameplay elements so that both elements go hand in hand; or 2) Highlight these difference in such a way that the contract makes the player question their in game choices and actions. The latter is more difficult to pull of but if managed successfully can make for a deeper gaming experience and give the player something to ponder once the gaming is done.

Final Fantasy XV (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

As I write this it is currently coming up to Christmas and with needing to buy presents for everyone as well as earning just enough to stay poor, the flood of new games has crawled to a stand still. As such I am catching up on the backlog of games I have played that I can review, putting them in reserve for a later date. This time around another Final Fantasy in the form of number 15.

“Not so Final” Fantasy XV takes place in the world of Eos, you play Noctus, Prince of Lucis whom at the onset of the game is traveling to Tenebrae for his arranged marriage with Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. This being a condition of Lucis armistice with the Niflheim Empire. Accompanying Noctus on his journey is his royal guard and bestest-best buddies. As expected inn true Final Fantasy style not everything goes as smoothly as planned. Whist away from the capital the armistice signing is ambushed and Noctus’ father, the King is killed. It is then up to Noctus to gather the royal arms of past Lucis kings and take back his home & kingdom.

Final Fantasy XV was one I was quite excited about since it’s days as FF Versus XIII. It seemed like it was going to be a darker, more serious game than FFXIII. Although I was right on the money with this it still falls short of some of the other games in the series. One of my main grips with the game is the combat, when I say that don’t get me wrong, the change to a real time more fast pace combat style is defiantly a step in the right direction but in doing so they over simplified it. I managed to get through a fair portion of the game by only using attack and dodge, I didn’t bother with any of the magic crafting and barely used any of my team mates abilities. The game also suffers from an ailment I like to call “Fahrenheit Syndrome”, the main symptom of which is the game shitting it self halfway. In the case of Final Fantasy XV the game goes from having such an open expansive world to being coming a completely closed off corridor-fest. Although the game does have an expansive lore (e.g. The Astrals), it’s very much unexplored by the party during the events of the game, only accessible by reading books found in the game. This isn’t helped by the fact that later on the lore becomes a pivotal to the plot and unless you’ve been reading and learning along the way the meaning behind a lot of the happenings seems very nonsensical.

Now that I’ve gotten that over with lets get on to the better points of the game. To start with despite the group having as much character depth as a puddle on the pavement, there does seem to be a great chemistry between the 4 four of them. Their varying personalities makes each character unique and makes for excellent banter between them. Gladiolus is the stoic protector of the group, Ignis is the tactician and brains of the operation, Prompto is the ‘happy-go-lucky’ one & Noctis is a whiny bitch. The character design outside of the main party as well is worth a shout out too, each character feeling very unique with their own distinct personalities and quirks. The Kingdom of Lucis in which the majority of the game is beautifully varied, from the deserts of Leide, to the plains of Duscae to the rocky mountains of Cleigne. This sense of open luscious scenery however disappears once to leave Lucis, past this point the vast majority of the world is closed off to the player. I personally love a game where I can explore the world, finding new and interesting places (which is why games like The Elders Scrolls & The Witcher resonate with me so well), this longing to travel was sated for the first half of the game, be it with great annoyance as when I first played the game as off-roading wasn’t unlocked at that point. Upon leaving Altissia there was no more opportunities to explore despite being in a whole new land which judging by the map must be at least 50% bigger than Lucis being stuck to see the arid wastes, luscious green mountain ranges and icy vallys as the pass by through a train window.

A lot of my complaints about the game (besides the final third of the story) comes from material that seems to be missing from the core game. Depth of character for instance, each of Noctus’ companions motivations never get any deeper than “Because he’s my prince” & “Noctus is an entitled asshole”. I believe that the reason this game suffers is due to the developers desire to create the Final Fantasy XV Universe without creating a series of games. This means a lot of the material would be taken from the main game is taken and re-deployed in other media. Going back to the character depth, a lot of the characters background and motivations are found in the Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV anime and in the DLC packs. This waters down the main game and ruins it’s overall appeal as a single unit, it’s like being making an extremely weak glass of Ribena then have them hide the rest of the cordial in an abandoned library on a completely different plain of reality. From a marketing perspective I get it, “If you want the whole FFXV experience you must play all the games, read all the books, watch all the TV series, eat all the branded yogurts etc.”. This train of though breaks down when the core game (the gooey caramel centre to the whole story) doesn’t interest me enough to want to go beyond the core game. This was the same story with FFXIII. Final Fantasy X on the other hand was a game that stood up on it’s own but was enhanced by the introduction of X-2. The difference here was Square-Enix went into both XIII & XV wanting to create a universe with several elements or using several different mediums, but with FFX the aim was to create the game, it was only after the game was complete and on shelves did they start on FFX-2. Although this meant longer production times and costs but meant that the end products were better for it. This can be seen by calls for fans for X-3 18 years after the originals release, while nobody is asking for another FFXIII game.

BONUS CONTENT: 5 Cult Games Worth Playing

We all get that once and a while. We find a gem of a game that we think is absolutely brilliant only for it not to get the recognition it deserves among the wider audience, be it due to mainstream critics who have missed the point of the game or the narrow demographic of the game itself. These are 5 games that I believe never got the credit they deserved, in no particular order.

Spec Ops: The Line:

This was a game that surprised me in a very good way. I originally went into it expecting a traditional modern 3rd person shooter, never to give the game a second thought after putting it do. Instead I’m still talking about it 8 years after it’s release. It’s story is nothing short of sublime and has yet to be topped by any shooter since. It’s obvious playing the game that the developers went into this game with a message to say, that war is not as black and white as previous games make it out to be. The game was let down a bit by it’s generic 3rd person gameplay style and it’s needlessly added bland multiplayer game but the strength of this game and one that gives it it’s cult following is it’s ability to put the gun in our hands then hold up the mirror to show us that there are no heroes in this story, just a different shade of grey.

Valkyria Chronicles:

Valkyria Chronicles was one of the first games I’d reviewed and it is one that has stuck with me since. The art style, the soundtrack, the gameplay, the story, there wasn’t all that many aspect of the game I didn’t enjoy. The lack of auto-save and the overabundance of unskipable cut scenes being the main two I can think of. Despite it’s mainly positive reviews the game never got the sales figures befitting of said reviews. I personally feel that this was because Sega didn’t have much faith in the game to be a success. With little to no marketing and being released within days of Fallout 3 and other major AAA titles doomed the game to be overlooked which given the quality of the game is more than a little unfair.

9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors:

I spoke about this briefly in my Zero Escape trilogy review. The game itself felt a little stop-start and the gameplay felt very one dimensional, but the solid story, well rounded characters and the fun and interesting puzzles kept the game from becoming stale. Since it’s initial release on the DS, the game has now been released on PS4 & PC making more accessible to new players.

Hogs of War:

If you can find a copy of this game I strongly suggest you play it. If I were to describe it in a couple of words it would be “absolutely nuts”. The voice acting as well as the voice over from the dearly departed Rik Mayall are absolutely side-splitting and adds to it’s endearing antics. The game is over 20 years old and sadly it shows it, feeling particularly out dated when compared to games from the time.

Grim Fandango:

I’m finding it hard to find the words to accurately describe Grim Fandango. It was a brilliant written, brilliantly executed story wrapped up in moments of drama and ludicrousness. Despite critical acclaim and a number of awards the game’s sales suffered due to the rise in popularity of more action based games at it’s time of release. This shift in the market meant that adventure games such as Grim Fandango & Monkey Island wouldn’t get the popularity I felt they deserved. A re-mastered version was released a few years ago to bring the experience to a new generation of gamers.

Game Awards 2020

Finally, even though there were times that 2020 felt like it was going to be with us forever, welcome to 2021. As is customary for every new year, we look back at the year that has come and gone. We take account of the highs, the lows and some of the more interesting moments that defined the year. So without further or do lets get the show started.

Worst game of the year:

I was originally going to put Fall Guys in here but to be fair that would have been a bit harsh. I may have hated the futility of the reward system, but the core gameplay was actually quite fun. There was no game I played from this year that was an absolute stinker which meant I had to go with which game I enjoyed the least. I chose this because what I felt it represented. I said in my review of it that it was nothing more than a nostalgia based cash-grab with as little effort as possible and for this it deserves to be shamed. Bad EA!! Naughty!!

Patreon game of the year:

This award was open to all of my Patreon members to vote for the game of 2020 they thought was the best and with a grand total of 1 vote cast we have a winner. Despite the story doing a lot of dicking around this was how I saw a Final Fantasy VII remake being done. I’m just hoping that in the second part the story can be a bit more focused on the task at hand.

Indie game of the year:

I was originally going to give the award to Endzone, but after playing Hades I couldn’t not give it the award. The gameplay was well defined, the art style captivating and most importantly it was fun to play. Well done SuperGiant.

Honourable mentions go out to Endzone: A World Apart & Vigil: The Longest Night

the one that got away award:

Half-Life Alyx

This award is given to the game I most wanted to review but for one reason or another (usually financial) I never managed to review. The Half-Life series is one that has just done it for me, so learning that the next instalment was a VR exclusively was both exciting and upsetting in equal measures as there was no way I could justify spending hundreds of pounds just so I could play it. Maybe this time next year someone will be paying me to play games and tell people what I think… maybe.

game of the year:

I really enjoyed The Last of Us Part II. It was much improved from the first game and that was great in it’s own right too. The characters were deep and very well rounded. The environments and rendering are some of the best I’ve seen on the PS4. The mechanics and gameplay were tight, felt solid and tied together nicely. This also nicely makes The Last of Us Part II the first sequel of a previous Game of the Year to win Game of the Year. Congratulations Naughty Dog, It’s not likely for lightning to strike twice in the same place. If you manage it a third time I’m going to call shenanigans.

BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at Resident Evil (PC, PSone)

.This week I thought I’d us this time to take you on a trip down memory lane, back to where my love for games really took hold. A time when there were no Caramel Freddos, instead there was the Taz. A simpler time, a time when I could spend every single spare moment playing video games and nobody would moan. One such game from that period, Resident Evil.

Resident Evil begins with an elite tasks force of the Racoon City Police Department known as the Special Tactics And Rescue Service (STARS). After a series of cannibalistic murders take place in the nearby Arklay Mountains. Initially Alpha team are sent in to investigate. The story then starts with Bravo team being sent in to find Alpha team and help in the investigation. Upon finding the remains of Alpha team’s helicopter the team is attacked by vicious undead dogs, their pilot flees leaving the rest of the team behind. The remaining members retreat to a near by mansion not knowing that this is where it all began.

First and foremost, I’m going to put it out there that Resident Evil has not aged well. It’s story and dialogue resembles that of a Z-movie and graphically is almost unplayable, but for it’s day the graphics were top of the class and it’s dialogue was… still really cheesy (which is also how I like my Jill Sandwiches). However; The one thing that it did do very well and still does is create atmosphere. This is achieved by the harrowing soundtrack and gameplay. This made it just as enjoyable for anyone watching the game as those playing the game. I’ve mentioned in my previous Resident Evil reviews that the less you see of an enemy the scarier it is, the anticipation of an enemy is the scariest part and Resident Evil does that really well, with periods of quiet between each zombie encounter, as a new player not knowing if an enemy is going to be waiting around the next corner can be pants wettingly terrifying. This was an aspect that made Mr X from RE2 far scarier than Nemesis in RE3.

Resident Evil was the defining moment for the Survival Horror genre. It certainly wasn’t the first given that ‘Sweet Home’ and ‘Alone in the Dark’ are both classed as Survival Horror games and were released in 1989 & 1992 respectively. Resident Evil just took what came before it and did it better than anyone else, carving the rules of the genre into stone. The feelings of isolation and powerlessness, limiting recourses and in doing so forcing the player to make judgement calls such as “Can I spare this ammo in taking down this zombie or should I try to avoid them?”. This de-emphasises combat in favour of strategy and thinking around a problem rather than running in guns blazing like most shooters before it.

To round everything off, Resident Evil was a Concorde moment for the genre, nothing would be the same again after it. It’s just a pity that the series itself couldn’t build upon the genre that it had so truly defined. Each subsequent sequel loosing a little more of the ambiance and the player feeling a little less hopeless as the games go on until we got to the monstrosity that was Resident Evil 6. Although the remakes of both Resident Evil & Resident Evil 2 have told me that Capcom still have it in them to deliver survival horror as it should be, only to have the Resident Evil 3 remake remind me that a leopard never changes it’s spots.

Zero Escape Trilogy (Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Virtue’s Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma) (DS, 3DS, PC, PS4, PSVITA)

OK, This weeks review is one purely for self-indulgence. This was a series that I enjoyed playing back in 2018 and is one I believe has been somewhat overlooked by a lot of people. So with that in mind let me set the record straight.

The Zero Escape series consists of 3 games. The first is Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors in which 9 people are kidnapped & held hostage by an unknown figure calling himself ‘Zero’ aboard an ocean liner. It’s here he forces the hostages to participate in “The Nonary Games” where they must solve a number of puzzle rooms in order to reach door no. 9 in 9 hrs otherwise the ship will sink. The second game, Virtue’s Last Reward is of a similar style, 9 more people are kidnapped by ‘Zero Sr.’ and is set inside a warehouse facility where the only way out is to complete in another “Nonary Games” which involves more puzzle rooms but differentiating from the first games by having players participate in what’s called “the Ambidex Game” which is a series of prisoner dilemma scenarios where players get or loose points depending on their answer. The first person/s to 9 points can escape trapping those who do not in the facility forever. Any player who accumulates negative points is killed. The third game, Zero Time Dilemma takes place when a DCom (Dwelling for Experimental Cohabitation of Mars) experiment is hijacked by masked individual calling himself ‘Zero’, the 9 individuals are separated into teams of 3 who are forced into a death game where the only way to leave is to gain 6 passwords and open the exit. A password is revealed each time a player dies.

At first I played the games in the wrong order. I started with the 3rd one then a year later learnt of the existence of the other 2 upon their release on PS4. With that I made sure to play them through then replay the 3rd one. The gameplay is fairly similar throughout the 3 games, they are separated into 2 main segments. The first is where the story is driven forward by using story boards in the first 2 games and as full 3d cut scenes in the 3rd. These sections are broken up by escape room like puzzles which must be solved in order to progress the story. Jumping between these segments doesn’t do well for the pacing of the games but the story is gripping enough that it allows for some leeway in this department.

Speaking of the story, all 3 stories are based heavily around both scientific and philosophical ideas, some of the more heavily present themes are that of morphogenetic fields (telepathy-type interconnectivity between persons) and the Many-worlds interpretation (where each decision made splits the time line depending on our choices). The games (especially in the 3rd instalment) allow the player access to the entire timeline of the game allowing you to jump back to decisions in the game and change the outcome. In some cases when you jump back the character can do what’s called a “Spacetime Human Internal Fluctuating Transfer” (or SHIFT for short). This will transfer the consciousness of a character from one timeline to another opening up more of the game and allowing from the better endings. As you can imagine once you throw both the shifting and the other scientific and philosophical concepts into the mix the story can become very jumbled and out of place, especially if you are playing through the timelines out of order (which will be almost everyone who’s not using a guide).

If you can follow the story then you are in for a great time, the story has some absolute gripping moments. One that comes to mind is when one character is trying to kill another one with a chainsaw whilst they try to fend them off with a fire axe. Another is where one player is locked in a chair with a revolver to their head and another is inside an incinerator about to turn on. The only way to save them is for a 3rd player to pull the trigger on the revolver in which there are 3 bullets and 3 empty chambers. It’s Saw-esque moral choice dilemmas like these that push the human condition to it’s extreme limits that get me very excited indeed.

Overall if you don’t mind a bit of bad voice dubbing and the stop-start story telling then the games are defiantly worth a play. The third one is defiantly the strongest of the 3 but also the hardest to follow. That being said the first one I would say was the weaker of the 3 but the easiest to follow so makes for a good introduction to the series and knowing that the following games will only get better. Anybody who loves a good gripping story should defiantly check them out. I would also say that if you are going to play them, play them in order. You’ll know after the first one if the series is right for you and you will loose a lot of background knowledge in the later games if you don’t play the ones before.

BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at Final Fantasy X (PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, PSVITA, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

With the release of the new Final Fantasy XVI trailer I can’t help but think about the series as a whole as well as my favourites of the series. I struggle to pick which is my favourite, that would be like picking a favourite child. I would never be happy carving a hierarchy into stone, solemnly decreeing that this is the definitive order and so shall it be for all time. I would probably make my list out of water as like water my opinions are fluid, constantly shifting from outside influences. Sure some titles will remain in familiar territory. Using the Premier League as a metaphor, FFXIII will always fall around the back of the pack and fight against relegation, FFXV despite soiling it’s underpants in the final third does enough to hover around mid-table with the likes of FFV, FFXII & FFIX, although the latter 2 do make it high enough now and again that they could qualify for the Europa League and the top spot is usually fought over by FFVII, FFVIII & todays subject matter FFX.

Final Fantasy X tells the story of Tidus (whom I always pronounced as Tie-dus, it was years later when I watched a making of documentary that it was pronounced Tee-dus), a young blitzball player from the large city of Zanarkand. His home is attacked by the gargantuan being known as Sin. After the attack, Tidus finds himself lost hundreds of miles from home. A chance encounter with the summoner Yuna and her guardians finds Tidus a way home.

The game really made you invest in and bond with the characters which makes the stories twist and the end that much more heart wrenching. As previously mentioned the world was also full, vibrant and rich, oozing with culture and lore. This is even before I mention blitzball which I spent more time playing than I care to remember. I would have loved blitzball to have been release as a FIFA-like spin off. Graphically too, FFX was a huge step up from the previous console generation and truly showed off the capabilities of the PS2 at the time.

Final Fantasy X may be a game that fights for the top spot but that doesn’t mean that it is without it’s flaws. It was the first Final Fantasy to ditch the world map for a series of smaller locations which made the world feel small and far too linear, not to the extent that XIII did but it was still an unwelcome change to the series. Also the sphere grid levelling system meant that because everyone can learn every skill & ability each character looses their unique feel in battle later in the game, with Overdrives and Yuna’s summon ability the only unique abilities left. This is not to mention some of the cringe worthy dialogue (The laughing scene in particular).

From the outset you can tell that Final Fantasy X is a very different breed from the Final Fantasy games that came before it. The use of voice overs, mo-cap & skeletal animation & 3D backgrounds being the most noticeable. This huge evolutionary leap is due in part to the series’ jump from the Playstation to the Playstation 2. The massive increase in hardware capability gave Square that unrestricted creative freedom to take the series away from the tried and tested Final Fantasy model. Although this does mean a few classic flavours of the series get left out in the cold, this however is the price of progress and whether you like it or not it’s happening. I brought up this same point in my Final Fantasy XIII review all those years ago and although I am for the evolution of the series and it’s modernising to introduce new players to the franchise I still yearn for some of the classic characteristics to come creeping back in, mainly a full explore-able world. We’ve not had one of them since FFIX. Imagine if Final Fantasy XVI comes with a modern fully rendered 3d world to get lost in, full of secret locations and optional cities and towns? If it does I think I will genuinely loose my shit.

Holidays 2020

There is no new post today as I imagine you all have better things to do than to read this. So go back to enjoying your holiday as much as you can and I’ll see you all on Monday for my usual bonus piece.

BONUS CONTENT: Dungeons and Dragons and My New Perspective on Baldur’s Gate 2.

Despite the disadvantages that a global pandemic has on interacting with new people, I have been getting into Dungeons & Dragons. I have played a few sessions, even playing as Dungeon Master on some occasions and I have revelled in the experience, but what was I to do in the periods between? This is what drove me to revisiting Baldur’s Gate 2.

Baldur’s Gate 2 starts with the hero of the pervious game and a few companions captured by the elven mage Jon Irenicus in order to use his powers as a Bhaalspawn (A child of the God of Murder) for his own evil deeds. The player and his party must escape from Irenicus’s clutches and stop his horrible doings. Although between these two point a vast amount or very little can happen depending on the players actions.

I’ve never played the first Baldur’s Gate, opting to jump straight into the second instalment. I believe I first played Baldur’s Gate 2 in 2008/9 and I must admit I struggled in getting to grasps with the games lore and mechanics since I came in all fresh faced and bushy tailed. Although now coming back to it after a few D&D sessions I have a much clearer picture of the world and it’s workings (I originally didn’t get what the whole d4, d6, etc. thing was, I do now). To be fair I have been playing the Enhanced Edition recently which does have a few extra bits but for the most part it’s the same game.

My time learning how to play D&D has been a revelation in regards to my experience with Baldur’s Gate 2. The extra background knowledge meant I could properly tweak each party member to use specific gear and properly strategies combat so was no longer relying on blind luck and determination to get me through the game, this in term gave me a greater respect and appreciation of the game which is more than deserving of the critical acclaim it got at release all those years ago. The world is massive with so many side quests to do and different people to meet. The story is a true epic and with the Enhanced Editions graphical upgrade it doesn’t feel all that old despite turning 20 this year.

I’d defiantly call it a must play for any D&D or Western RPG fan, although since it has been out for the last 20 years I can imagine all D&D & Western RPG fans have already played it. It certainly makes me more excited about Baldur’s Gate 3 which has been on Early Access on Steam for a while now but at £50 for a game that’s not complete yet, it’s still a bit rich for my blood.