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A Critical Look at the New Strider

Thank you Genzoman for this amazing piece of art!

Thank you Genzoman for this amazing piece of art!

So let me lead first and foremost by saying that if last year was the year of HD remakes, I am completely and totally okay with this year being the year of reboots and re-imaginings. Vector Man, Streets of Rage, where you at???

Ah, but I digress. So, we’ve got a new Strider coming, it’ll be here early 2014. How do we feel about that? I’ll say I’m past cautiously optimistic to, we’ll say…hopeful desire.

See, I think that reviewing for so long has kinda ruined a lot of games for me. In a lot of ways, I lack the capacity to get excited about new games the way most people do. Most people can look at a flashy trailer or a bunch of screens and get hyped; I’m immediately picking the material apart and searching for every flaw. Most people play a game and go “Man, I really enjoyed this part of this great game!” Whereas I play the same game and go “Everything from here to here was very poorly designed and the clunky mechanics and flawed collision detection made it even worse.”

I have the life sucked out of most gaming experiences for me, so that you don’t have to! Yay!

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I’m gonna digress here one more time real quick like and tell you a short story (yes, I can tell those!) I’ve been playing a lot of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die with my little brother lately. For those of you who have no idea what this majestic game is, on consoles you’ll know it as Dark Souls + Artorias of the Abyss, or That Game That Feeds Off Of Your Pain and Fears. Like most any hardcore rogue-like, if you work out the mechanics you can get by…until a small army pins your whimpering avatar into a corner and knifes her to death and you feel absolutely awful or some guy slams a club into her ribcage and while she’s trying to remember which end goes up some other guy kicks her off a mountain and that was the second time you died without reaching your marker so you lost all your experience points…

So we were playing a week or two back, and I got stuck in Blight Town. I’d never gotten that far before (I’m pretty tardy to the party due to desktop issues and a previous lack of a good desktop work space), and I was hating every minute of it. No, it wasn’t the giant bugs that vomit fire, or the skinless dogs that vomit fire, or the mosquitoes that vomit blood, or the giant naked obese guys with the hammers and the boulders, or the strange race of alligator men with battle axes, or any of the various other ways to be killed.

No, my worst enemies were the Art Team and the Game Engine. For much of Blight Town, Dark Souls, a game with worse “jump” mechanics than Zelda (which actually has a pretty good jump system in later games) suddenly thought it was a platformer. What’s more, the camera wouldn’t stop swiveling dramatically away while I was trying to walk up narrow platforms over sheer drops, leading to my death, everything looks the same so I kept getting lost when we got separated, leading to my aggravation and I would routinely get hit and then stuck to a wall, literally, so I got killed.

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Let’s see, what else? I fell through the floor and died on more than one occasion. At least four times the game glitched and I fell and died. Then, there were numerous jumping sequences in a game that has no jump button (you have to run and hit dodge and hope your avatar feels like hurling themselves forward. Pro tip: it helps if you’re naked, running from hydras is easier naked too) and those only ended well half the time. Though, to be fair I think at that point my hero was like “Y’know what? I don’t want to do this anymore. Falling off a cliff seems like a decent way to go all things considered.”

(I barely resisted making a “Power” joke here. Don’t judge me; I just got back into Saints Row the Third)

Lastly, my brother and I lost about an hour and a half of our play time together because I couldn’t get out of this one giant tree because there were a bunch of invisible walls that kept appearing. I couldn’t take the paths that I was supposed to in order to leave, had to try and jump over or around them, died a lot, and had to restart the game four or five times to leave.

All of this was to say that yes, Dark Souls is an extraordinary game, one that many would rate an eight or nine or possibly even a ten. In my heart of hearts I want to rate it a fifteen and bake it a strawberry shortcake (I make bomb strawberry shortcakes), but this is the part where I go out of my way to be unbiased when I review. I would honestly give the game a 7, and I feel that’s a little generous. Maybe a 7.5, because I really want to rate it highly, but, 7 feels more appropriate.

There’s loads more reasons why I’d rate it so “low”, but this isn’t a Dark Souls review. What it was, however, was a lot of words to say that I want to go “NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW STRIDER YEEEEEEEEEEEAH!!!” but I can’t. Not really.

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The year is yet young, not even here yet really, so who knows what we’ll get as a finished product. The Strider fan in me is going “Yay!?”, while the reviewer in me is going “You’ve got my curiosity.”

“Has Xeawn become a cold hearted cynic in the month he was away?!?!”

No, but I’ve been here before. I was here with Shinobi, I was here with Bionic Commando, I was here with many games old and new many times over the years. What I can say is the combat seems fast paced, even though the traversal appears to be strangely dissonant and jarring with its lack of speed.

The graphics are really pretty, which helps, but, y’know, pretty graphics a good game do not make. The platforming looks solid though, and the combat is certainly Strider, though I feel that may be a bit of a misstep. The whole “re-imagining” thing gives you the chance to change, build upon and improve. I would’ve like the footage to show some manner of stealth kill, for example.

“IT’S STRIDER YOU IDIOT IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE STEALTHY GAW!!!”

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Cool your jets man! I was playing Strider back when it was a weirdly wonderful PS1 game that no one knew what to do with! And when it was an even more weird Genesis/Arcade Game that left me wondering why that ninja hated Russia so dang much.

I’m not expecting stealth sequences. By the contrary, every time I play a game that has been fifteen hours of action and they suddenly want me to go stealth I kinda want to punch whoever made that call. Generally, the game and by default the engine wasn’t built with stealth in mind, and the entire experience suffers for it. No, what I do mean however is that some manner of stylish, fierce stab up through the back and out the chest would’ve looked really cool and been quite welcome, that’s all.

“BUT THEY MIGHT ADD IT LATER THIS IS JUST BETA FOOTAGE YOU IGNORANT–”

SETTLE YOURSELF WAIF! This is my job. This is what I do. I pick games apart so you have realistic expectations when you go in. Trust me, no one wants this game to be amazing more than I do (I will someday soon have Strider tattooed on my calf, or at least his kanji), but I also want to make sure y’all don’t get your hopes up and then watch them burn!

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So, the only other thing I was like “Oooh…please, please fix this before launch…” was the lack of any means to defend yourself. I know, Strider historically has never blocked or countered, but watching that boss fight near the end was painful.

Wanna know a magic shattering secret? Almost every time a game is shown off to the press, the show offer is playing with cheats on that make him or her invincible and never run out of mana or whatever the crap they use for skills in that game. Also, they show off the games on computers whenever they get the chance to make them look prettier.

I know, now I’m just being mean.

Anyways, that guy would’ve died so many times without infinite health! The finished product drastically needs a dodge, block or counter attack added to it.

Aside from that, the game looks pretty, it certainly is Strider, and the heart and soul appear to remain intact. I’m looking forward to it to be honest, just realistically. Overall, I think it’ll be a lot of fun, I just don’t believe it looks like THIS IS THE GAME YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR material just yet. Oh, and one more thing…

“I DENOUNCE YOUR SOUL!”

“Feh. Nothing stops me.”

Okay seriously, can we please keep the guy who writes for Resident Evil away from this project? Thanks.

I love how he almost looks like "What, sword? Me? Naw man, that was totally some either guy in purple pajamas jackin' up your stuff, honest!"

I love how he almost looks like “What, sword? Me? Naw man, that was totally some either guy in purple pajamas jackin’ up your stuff, honest!”

Strider is due out early 2014 for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. Maybe Sony will get their poop together and make sure it happens for the vitAH HA HA HA HA I can’t even say that with a straight face.

At least we’ll have Dragon’s Crown in a few weeks. Xeawn, out!

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