Thursday, September 22, 2016

Neo Fake-O

"Rock is deader than dead
Shock is all in your head"

Marilyn Manson - Rock is Dead

There are a lot of good old games out there. We play them, sometimes for nostalgia's sake but also because they date from a time when idiotically cheap, simplistic and repetitive gameplay was left more to the care of console manufacturers and PC games were the nerdy, more involved and thoughtful alternative. Making allowance for dated technology, more was often done with less in the '80s and '90s than you find now.

But that's making a great big stinkin' heap of allowance right there. Old titles were a chore to get running properly and even when they did, their technical limitations defined gameplay more than their actual, intended mechanics did. Case-in-point: Baldur's Gate 2.
That's me killing my arch-enemy Irenicus. Actually, that's me and my entire party sitting a screen and a half away, bored, while somewhere hidden in the fog of war my skeleton warrior beats Irenicus' brains out all by itself. It's a tough fight. I could go all-out sending my hasted meat shields in along with a horde of animals in hopes Irenicus won't decide to one-shot me with his stupidly overpowered death spells, all the while shearing off his magical defenses as I had prepared to do, being a mage myself. I was ready for an epic battle, a blazing torrent of apocalyptic magic flashing enchanted axes and guzzling potions by the barrel... but, I mean, why work up a sweat when Viconia can solo the fight with two casts of a third-level spell. Of course, this little cheat only works because as far as BG2's AI is concerned, out of sight is out of mind.

And speaking of sight:
Yes, that is actually a valid firing position with full line of sight as far as the Infinity Engine can discern. Jan's crossbow is apparently so high-tech as to shoot around corners... or through two meters of solid concrete. But hey, at least that's one less fight ruined by the moronic pathing algorithm. At least you can mostly tell what those shapes are, unlike... here:
I think I did five double-takes before figuring out what the hell kind of building I was looking at. I kept wondering how that tiny door could close such a wide entrance stretching nearly to the street corner. Then I thought it must be a ramp of sand leading inside. Or maybe it's just a solid wall or - oh shit, it's an awning! A tan colored awning against a two-dimensional backdrop of tan walls and tan ground and vaguely darker tan roof. I can't remember, was that shop's name "Koala Bear in a Sandstorm?"

Look, I'm just saying... technological advance is a positive thing.

Baldur's Gate 2 is actually pretty damn great. There were a lot of good ideas in old games, a lot of passion and creativity and dedication and complexity and challenge and atmosphere and depth and cleverness. Things you don't really get from today's mass-marketed lowest-common-denominator, Hollywoodized, MMO-tainted offerings. However, let's not get carried away with the nostalgia here. Keep the baby, throw out the bathwater. Screw this idiotic "neo-retro" hipster bullshit that's sprung up in recent years with platformers and adventure games and roguelikes. I want the drive for quality and advancement of the craft we used to see in pixelated '80s and '90s games... not the pixelation itself. Fuck your newly-antiquated technology or faux-faded trendiness.

I'm going to play Pillars of Eternity now. Then maybe Tides of Numenera. Then maybe see if Dragon Age 3 is as good as Origins was.
Then I'm going to pray the strategy genres attempt the same revival RPGs have.

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