Tuesday, January 19, 2016

In the absence of long rpgs

For a second I thought that Telltale might become my new Bioware now that I don't have patience for 50+ hour videogames. Bioware has been that company which makes me buy a new console and always has me anticipating and following the progress of their upcoming releases. And then has me playing their games, and replaying them, and always loving them. I don't think there are any other companies out there which I've had this relationship with for the past 5-10 years. I used to love the Metal Gear Solids, and I used to play every new Castlevania and Silent Hill game, but there has not been anything quite like Bioware, meaning a company which makes a very specific type of game that isn't part of the same video game franchise/series and makes that type of game consistently awesome. For a while there was Cave and their shmups, but mostly it was their back catalogue that I explored, and by the time their games started reaching the Western hemipshere once again my interest in arcade shmups was already waning. And there was Nintendo and their trinity of Zelda, Mario and Metroid games. Of these, I'm mostly into Mario today, which I wouldn't have guessed ten years ago, but that's a franchise. There's all these indie developers whose upcoming projects I've been looking forward to (Aaron R. Reed, Jake Elliot, Terry Cavanagh, Jason Rohrer, etc). But none of these is Bioware. And then there is Telltale. But Telltale is not Bioware either.

Bioware for me has been about immersing myself in something for an extended period of time. It's been both about the hype before a game release, about playing the game with millions of other people, and then being part of the gaming communities collective memory. It's been about comparing their new game to their old ones, tracking the progress of their conversation systems and contextualizing their games in the video game industry as a whole. It's been about finding these types of charts endearing. It's been about always getting to know interesting characters in interesting settings, and about doing cool missions with these characters. It's really not the same thing in Telltales games. In my playthrough of Tales Of Borderlands, I got the opportunity to talk to the supporting characters by approaching them on my own maybe once or twice per episode. There were a lot of other conversations (seeing as the game consists primarily of these), but mostly in-action, as part of the plot development. One might see this as a strength and proof of good writing. But it's not the same thing as kicking back with your squadron in your spaceship, extensively getting filled in on their backstory and what problems they might have had with each-other while you were out doing something else. It's not the same as taking in what a character is asking of you in your own pace, then deciding how to answer, approaching the problem at hand. It's not the same as exploring a world and its characters in that RPG and Bioware specific fashion.

So I mourn the fact that I don't have the same relationship to Bioware as I used to have, and that there doesn't seem to me anything close resembling a replacement. jRPGs just never worked for me in the same manner, and I even tried replaying both Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII just last weekend. I got five hours into FF7 and three hours into FF8, and this when playing without random encounters! No, I'll just have to remember those games through their soundtracks, because by God is the writing in them so bad that I honestly think many teenagers could come up with something better. And newer jRPGs, well, you know, they haven't gotten much better, and they sure as hell haven't become much shorter. And I guess that's part of the problem, that the open-world trend has taken over both the new Dragon Age/Metal Gear Solid games and the upcoming Zelda (although in the context of the Zelda franchise I'm actually intrigued).

But, you know, I did play Pillars of Eternity last year. It was awesome, even though it wasn't Bioware. And this year the new Planescape is coming out. Perhaps it's not so bad after all, it's just me being nostalgic as always. And then there is always Mass Effect: Andromeda. If they make just enough changes and don't make it too much of an open world game, I might give it a spin, and I might even get hyped before release. Well, if I get a PS4 that is, but I still don't know any other game which might convince me of doing so more than Bioware's upcoming one.

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