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Mike's Holiday Update

On 12/21/2014 at 09:03 PM by Michael117

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Seasons Greetings! The Holidays are upon us and your monarch returns to you bearing gifts! Corgis for all my loyal citizens! I was gone for such a long time because I decided to invade England and take all the queen's corgis. Then we left; that's all I really wanted. I probably could have asked the queen for some pups as a state gift, one royal to another, but raiding the countryside and eventually storming the capital is pretty much the same thing, right? Why am I asking you, of course I'm right.

We are long overdue for statecraft, so let's begin.

Games I bought or was given

Prince of Persia 2008 - Got this at the indie game store for $8. Still love this game.

Thief 2014 - Traded in enough games at the indie shop and used some credit to buy this.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - Received for my birthday

Dragon Age: Inquisition - Used some money I made from selling my textbooks to buy this.

Metro: Last Light - Grabbed this yesterday, it was on sale for $10 on Xbox Live.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown - $8, couldn't pass it up.

Games I've been playing

Dragon Age: Origins

Still doing my first playthrough. I'm not going to start Inquisition until I finish this. I've been to the Circle Tower, Redcliffe, Brecillian Forest, Denerim, and now I'm in Orzammar. The writing is still really good and all the companions are interesting.


Finished the dragon quest line and the Dark Brotherhood questline. Now I'm into the civil war quests. I'm level 58, have spent 300 hours with this character ever since I started back in 2012, and I think I want to start the whole game over.

All the things that are fun about Skyrim disappear when you get over level 50 and have your favorite skills mastered. I'm way too powerful, and I have no interesting perks left to aspire to. I was greedy when I started the game because I hunted down the prayer stones that accelerate your skill growth and make you level faster. I won't make that mistake again. Skyrim is at its best when it's a slow burn and you still need to craft your own equipment, conserve healing potions, scrounge for money and raw materials, and hunt animals for pelts.

Thief 2014

I've been enjoying this quite a bit. It's not nearly as good as Dishonored but it has a lot of charm of its own and is definitely worth playing for anybody who enjoyed Dishonored, or even if you enjoy the Thieves Guild quests from Elder Scrolls games. This is kind of like Thieves Guild: The Game.

The city that the game takes place in is semi-open-world like a mix between a giant Dishonored level and a small Assassin's Creed city. It's a dense city with a ton of nooks & crannies, verticality, and lots of buildings and apartments to break into. The mission design of the side quests and main quests are all surprisingly solid and varied.

The side quests can be quick 2 minute affairs where you get in and out of an apartment with loot, all the way up to 15+ minute affairs with more substantial level designs and guards to consider.

Main quests are pretty cool so far. Early on I did a mission in a brothel where I had at least three different ways to infiltrate the building, and once I got in I found out that they operate a machine that processes opium and creates a mist to make customers feel cozy. I sabotaged the machine and it produced enough mist to knock everybody out, and I robbed them all blind!

More recently I just finished a horror themed mission in an asylum that dramatically changed the tone and pace of the game. It wasn't an Outlast imitation either. I was actually scared and nervous the entire time because they paced the spooky moments really well, built a great atmosphere, and were very subtle. The asylum level comes out of nowhere, so you end up feeling scared because you don't know what you'll encounter.

Thief is a good game, Dishonored is a great game. I can understand why reviewers were lukewarm to Thief. I'd bet most of the people who reviewed it were most likely to have reviewed Dishonored as well. In that case it's easy to see Thief as the inferior game that it is. However, it will be at least another couple years before we see Dishonored 2, so you might as well play Thief. It's a good game, and it's in the bargain bin nowadays.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Call of Duty is super fun and relatively interesting again. CoD 4 was a revelation at the time, and every game since then has been riffs on the same thing, with the *biggest* changes coming in the form of indecipherable alterations to the minutia of upgrading and scorestreaks. Advanced Warfare changes the fundamentals of movement and speed in order to make it feel more fresh. Double jump, mid air dashes in any direction, more sci-fi weapons, smart grenades that hunt down enemies, grappling hooks, mechs, tanks that can strafe; there's a lot of fun things to do in the campaign.

Also, it's no longer a brown desert shooter, and it's not a one-note campaign with an incomprehensible story. You don't follow a handful of characters anymore, just one. You don't just walk into a room and get stuck behind chest-high cover anymore either. If you feel like you're getting stuck you can zip right off to wherever you feel, but enemies will do the same, so the AI is more fun to fight than before.

Their choice to hire Kevin Spacey as the central character seemed like a well-trodden gimmick, but Spacey did fantastic work and they did a stunning job capturing his performance. Advanced Warfare might be the best motion capture I've ever seen in a game. Better than Halo 4, Beyond Two Souls, and LA Noir. In those games the facial animation was fantastic but it tended to stand out compared to the less impressive full-body animation, NPCs, and overall quality. The motion capture in Advanced Warfare is spot on in every cutscene, for every single character. It's a beautiful looking game and the amount of high quality production work is impressive. The three year development time paid off there for sure.

The story is satisfying to follow, it progresses in a summer action thriller fashion, it has a few satisfying ways to subvert your expectations, and wraps up nicely without overstaying its welcome or leaving loose ends. It's crazy to say all that, remember we are talking about Call of Duty? There are times where the writing is too on the nose, but Spacey elevates the material to be much better than it deserves to be. The pace is much better this time around as well, and the variety of gameplay is wider than I thought it would be. I may review it once I have enough time spent in multiplayer and co-op, but it's already a pretty good game.

The movement mechanics deviate significantly from every other CoD, and it's fun, so if the next game comes out and you can't do all this great futuristic mobility stuff I probably won't want to play whatever the next game is. Have fun trying to reconcile that, Activision. I don't know what they do next.

Metro: Last Light

This is the game I started most recently. It's really good so far. Lots of atmosphere, and a little bit of stealth. Stealth games are my bread and butter so I'll play up the stealth aspects of any game to my heart's content.


I finished the semester with A's in all my classes. The game of Hang-Man I built turned out fine. All the mechanics were functional and it was cleaned up and documented. I'm not an artist so I wish I could have found ways to make it more attractive to look at but that's a lot tougher than coding. Coding is fun so far. Seeing things be broken awful messes and then finding ways to make them work is nice. Making things look attractive and user friendly is a whole different set of skills I have to work on, that's the hardest part. Next semester starts January 12th and I'l be taking a full load of credits with Computer Science in C++, Chemistry, and Trigonometry.

What's next on the horizon?

This is the last update of 2014! You'll hear from me again sometime in January when I've played more games and spent a little time in the new classes. I like what Alex (Alex-C25) is doing with his "most memorable games he played this year" lists so I might do something similar to that. I didn't play enough new games to do a 2014 GOTY list, but I could do something like Alex is doing. Until then I'll see you around the site and comment on your stuff everybody! I'll leave you with a couple songs. Something low-key and relaxing, since I just did a huge blog with mostly over the top power metal.



Super Step Contributing Writer

12/21/2014 at 09:45 PM

Oh wow ... that In Flames on piano sounds awesome! Reminds me of the first time I heard "Bloody Tears" on piano, but it's also a faster and more technically impressive song than that (though I may still prefer "Bloody Tears" melodically). 

That new CoD looks like a game I'd love to play and I don't often say that about CoD titles. Love how they have gone with a clean, futuristic look over brown desert, as you said. 

High fives on all As! 


12/22/2014 at 07:20 PM

Thanks Joe! I like finding piano or classical guitar versions of the more melodic metal songs, and even 8-bit versions of that kind of stuff. There's so many people on youtube doing 8-Bit metal stuff it's ridiculous.

The new CoD is really enjoyable. Over the years things got really stale and I always felt slow and limited. Anytime you simply came across a building you knew it was going to be a pain to navigate. You saw a ladder or a staircase and said, "I've done this a million times and its always sucked." In the new game you can double jump to the top of the building in a heartbeat, or jump up into the air and dash forward through a window, etc. If you're in that building and somebody tosses a grenade you can dash right out a window and get out of there like a bandit lol. Staircases are mostly around just for show now, and you have very few things slowing down the pace of combat and the agency of the player.

Modern shooters are going backwards in time and becoming more like the fast gamey PC shooters of yore, and it's a pretty fun trend so far.


12/21/2014 at 09:47 PM

I have the first Thief on Steam, so if I finish that one i'll get the reboot. I quite like that you decided to give it a chance and find the positive on it.

Your positive opinion on the newest CoD is kind of a stark contrast after seeing this review. It isn't a negative review, but one that sees the campaign as dissapointing and lacking what's been hyped, but the multiplayer being where the promised mechanics really work. In any case, I would be interested in what you'll say once you review the game and why did you like the campaign.


12/22/2014 at 07:36 PM

Definitely play the original Thief, I think you'll find stuff to appreciate in there. That review you linked was a pretty good one, if a bit nit picky. He made a lot of valid points about the design of encounters and how it's not a huge departure for CoD mission design, but he kind of got to the point where he was nit picking every aspect to death. If we want to we can dissect every good game out there to the point where it feels like a terrible game with a million flaws. Because every game does have plenty of flaws. I can tear Half Life 2, Bioshock Infinite, Dark Souls, and Portal to pieces for all the design flaws and failures they have, but I don't usually enjoy doing that. I enjoy those games a lot and I like to have a more positive slant to reviews.

One of the things that would color my review would be the fact that I always skip a few CoD games since they're so similar. The last one I played was MW3, and it sounds like he's played them all. If I played all of them I'd probably be a little burnt out, and less forgiving to the game.

At any rate I full heartedly agree with him that it's obvious that Activision is trying to get creative with CoD finally and that's a good thing. And like with all the other games the multiplayer is certainly where the mechanics are going to shine. The campaign simply takes you on a tightly scripted story driven adventure with missions designed to emphasize certain mechanics and gameplay variances from level to level, and in the case of Advanced Warfare the adventure they've constructed this time around is really fun and I can tell they took their time with it. They told a story they wanted to tell, built levels they wanted to build, and took you on a pretty satisfying rollercoaster.


12/22/2014 at 03:23 AM

Thieves Guild: The Game. Oh man, I had such trouble with the theives guild quests in Oblivion. Still, I'd like to shoot some water arrows at candle flames.


12/22/2014 at 07:42 PM

Thieves Guild quests in Skyrim were definitley better than in Oblivion, and Thief is better than both of them combined, but what I meant by the statement was that playing Thief is like the Thieves Guild because you're a thief and not an assassin or a warrior. You can still kill people in Thief if you really work at it, but it's not fun, and I don't think it's meant to be fun. Garrette is super fragile, he only has a blunt club and a bow, and in most cases getting spotted and chased down by guards will get you dead. It's fundamentally different than Dishonored in that way because you won't be getting into fast paced sword fights, summoning rat swarms to devour people, or sneaking up to stab them in the back. Thief is all about stealing and stealth.


12/23/2014 at 01:58 AM

That's cool. I'm usually terrible at that stuff because I get impatient, but I like to try a stealth game from time to time, just to see if I've changed.


12/22/2014 at 12:12 PM

I love Thief, I refuse to give it away. It's still in my ps4 game library. I enjoyed the characters and the story. Im doubting we will get a sequel to it but I'd definitely support for one. I was kind of hopeing Dishonored 2 was on the way but I think your right that we are definitely gonna be waiting. 


12/22/2014 at 07:48 PM

I'm glad you liked Thief too Nicole Smile

Last year Bethesda said that Dishonored 2 was in development, so if they really rush it (which I hope they won't), maybe it could come late 2015? My bet is that it'll be out sometime 2016. At any rate I bet we could see something from it at E3 this year which could be neat.

I'm not actually sure what I want from Dishonored 2, but I'm pretty open minded. As long as they have good level design, multiple ways to solve main missions, and lots of fun skills/powers to mess around with like last time I'll be excited.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

12/22/2014 at 07:29 PM

I used to love Thief back in the day.  I used to love hiding bodies.  There had never been anything like that before!

I haven't played Dishonored, but I really want to.  It seems like it is cool.  

Happy Holidays!  Take care of yourself for the rest of the year!


12/22/2014 at 07:51 PM

Thanks, Happy Holidays Matt!

You should grab the GOTY edition of Dishonored. It's genuinely a fantastic game. It brought that whole genre foward and modernized it in a variety of ways, almost all of which were successful and made for a super interesting game. Great level design, lots of systems to interact with, lots of player agency. And lamps powered by whale oil, it had those. 5 stars just for that alone Smile

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