I generally don't like to post about OSC as I remember how that turned out the last time, but this seemed relevant to a lot of folks here: Orson Scott Card seems to be the one responsible for the story behind Firefall and is collaborating with his daughter on an accompanying Manga. I have a Rock Paper Shotgun mini-article on it, though that's from 2011. I couldn't find a presentable source from more recent times since that news seems to have happened before we got into the game. Given how many people here have expressed strong views on the man and how many like Firefall, I thought you deserved to know, if you don't already. And the reason I think this is news is I'm positive I'd have heard about it on Adversity.
Let me introduce you to Redshirt. It's a comedy strategy/life-sim that takes repeated parody shots at sci-fi tropes and pop culture, made by a dev team of one. Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a nice preview up, from which I will quote.
It begins with the promise of adventure, a dream harboured since childhood – epic occurrences of galactic scale require the attention of a Federation of cultures and you, YES YOU, are preparing to start a new job on board a super-advanced space station. Thrilling adventures surely await? Well, yes, sort of. Mostly you’ll be glued to your Spacebook account, attempting to win friends and promotions, so as to AVOID thrilling adventures. For a redshirt, the lowest of the low, fodder for flesh-eating beast, thrilling adventures are almost certain to end in the gut of a monster, or swirling between the stars, a handful of space-dust.
So, let's get this straight. You sign up with Starfleet for the promise of glory and adventure. You're assigned to a space station, and once you see your uniform you know it will end badly. Redshirts are Redshirts, after all. Your goal is to kiss enough ass befriending people on Spacebook that you're promoted into safer positions. Ridiculous.
The game is available as a pre-order for $19.99. Yeah, that's pretty steep for one of these showcases but the team behind it is really only one person. One person who clearly loves the same things many of you love. To me its worth supporting anyone who can make a truly funny parody game in 2013. Here, have a trailer:
US Gamer has an article that may interest a few here. It's called "Great PC Games to Play on Low-Spec Systems."
Below is a selection of popular and critically liked games that fit these criteria. Although their system requirements still vary (and are available on store pages), all of them should at least run on a system with a dual core processor, a basic dedicated graphics card (or a recent edition of Intel HD Graphics), and a couple gigs of RAM. If you're still not sure, the list details which ones have free demos.
I've been singing out several of the games on that list, like the almost perfect FTL. Check out the full list of 16 games at the link above.
Player's Choice is just what it sounds like - join us online on TS, and we'll select the game that we all have in common and feel like playing
Of course, should enough people chime in ahead of time, we'll post what the actual even is right here
Magrunner's been making the rounds in Steam for a while. At first I saw the premise and thought it would be garbage. I then, however, saw a tiny bit of "let's play" from some bloke with a thick Scottish accent who made the thing seem fun. Interesting and varied visuals, plenty of colourful characters, considerable lore and backstory and even the mechanics which I thought were a bad idea seemed plausible and creative. It was obvious from a mile away that Magrunner is an unabashed Portal clone and those usually suck: See Twin Sector. However, I've been wrong before, thinking Antichamber would suck and it ended up being... I don't want to say "good," but we'll go with "not that bad." Then there was QUBE and that was pretty good despite having no real story and the production values of what felt like one guy working on a laptop. So, eh. Why not? This game has every right to be good.
And then I actually played it... Yikes! Magrunner is not a "shit" game - there's entertainment value there, definitely. But it's a game which does every single thing wrong that's possible to get wrong. In this way, it's quite remarkable and an excellent case study in how NOT to make a game. It is, however, also immune to my usual review framework. Why? Well, the graphics are "the Unreal engine." Nothing more, nothing less, nothing to talk about. They look good, they're average, there's nothing remarkable about them. The characters seem many and varied but NONE of them matter but protagonist Dax (who's a blank slate) and radio companion Gamaji whose only role is to worry and be confused. Story exists but we'll get into that in a bit. The game's ENTIRE system of gameplay can be summed up in one sentence - you colour things so they either attract or repel each other. But we'll talk about that a bit more, as well.
No, what's remarkable about the game is that it has all the pieces there for... I don't want to say "greatness" but at the very least "memorable entertainment" and it does nothing with any of them. As such, let me tell you exactly how I feel this game fails.
If you've seen much about Magrunner, you'll have seen it described as "technology meets Cthulhu." I read this as a clever metaphor, describing a story about technology gone awry and/or possibly serving as the front for some kind of nightmarish alien or supernatural threat. It turns out I was reading it far too liberally because it's literally Cthulhu. Not something like Cthulhu, not an eldritch horror, it's literally H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu in a relatively modern-day setting. You don't go even half an hour in this game before you hear "ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" played over the radio.
The game has no build-up to this, it's not hinted at in any way. It just... Happens. And after that, you're playing Call of Cthulhu. The entire rest of the fictional world is summed up in Gamaji's opening narration, about how Kram Grukesberg united the world in his LifeNET and then created magnetic technology with which to explore space and collected "magrunners" to compete and qualify for the programme and blah blah blah. None of this matters in the slightest. It's said at the start, then dropped and never mentioned again. This isn't "technology meets Cthulhu," this is JUST "Call of Cthulhu."
And that alone would be OK - Call of Cthulhu is a world-famous story and concept... Except the game does nothing with THAT, either. Bang! Cthuloid monsters! Nightmares! Twisted reality! Cool, right? Well, get ready to wallow in that one single theme for the next six or so hours with no variation, no expansion, no interesting events. I admit - I'm not in the slightest knowledgeable about Cthulhu, but that's the game's chance to win me over. Show me some of the source material's power. Scare me, intrigue me, challenge me. Nope. It's just jump scares in the dark and scripted sequences, and it's always the same thing - it seems like something will happen and then it doesn't, all to the sound of "ominous music" which starts feeling like the sound of my alarm clock after a while.
Which brings us to:
2. This isn't scary
Like, at all. The game does some feeble attempts to frighten you by playing loud noises and turning out the lights and barraging you with a constant low hum set to "scary" music that starts to sound like background noise before long, but it doesn't work. The reason for why it doesn't work is actually shockingly simple - you can't die. Well, you can, but this is a puzzle game. You have no weapons, no ability to fight back, so you know you're never going to be put in a position to do so. And even if you weren't so genre savvy, all it takes is even rudimentary cognitive learning skills to realise that all the game's scares are cosmetic. You never get hurt, you never suffer, you can't make a wrong choice. And even if you did die via environment hazard or one of a small handful of other ways, checkpoints are frequent and instant.
Magrunner is as scary as someone walking behind you and making scary ghost sounds. It might startle you the first few times, but by the 50th time you just want him to shut up already. And on the VERY few occasions where things CAN kill you - which is turrets in about three places and monsters in maybe two - the visual effect for this is so low-hey I died a few times without realising I was taking damage. All of them are slow, lumbering, stupid and actually not very dangerous, all of their animations are ugly and spastic and they're as easy to defeat as climbing a ledge because they can't climb. Seriously.
Nothing ever goes wrong. Your lift crashes? You're just fine. You get sucked into another dimension? You come out OK. Hell, the first time you see monsters one is eating a person. You faint, wake up, everything's fine. Why? The whole point is that you hold the key that bars Great Cthulhu. The whole point of the bad guy is to kill you so he can open the gate. That's what the monsters want. And yet what happens when the monster sees you? It walks away, apparently. How can I be scared?
3. The story and characters are pointless
As I said, this is a very fleshed-out world. It's the future, and a single corporation owns the future's version of the Internet - the LifeNET. Like in Remember Me, everyone is hooked up to the LifeNET directly through neural interfaces, and society has become docile, surrendering privacy and personal freedom for online security and goodies. The Grukesberg corporation that owns this has used the money to create a space exploration programme powered by Kram Grukesberg's own magnetic technology - MagTech. A 500 000 square foot training facility is constructed to filter out the best of the best for this programme, right over the San Andreas "rift" (fault?). Your protagonist - Dax - is one of seven finalists who will compete in athletics, science and problem-solving. A world-famous reporter is on-site to comment on the proceedings. There are seeds for the decadence of society, such as unnecessarily elaborate clothes, causal racism and class disparity.
And do you know what it all amounts to? Diddly squat. Half an hour into the game everything goes to literal hell and all of the game's previously established world-building is flushed down the toilet. The reporter? Almost doesn't show up. Kram Grukesberg? Has maybe five lines. The other six contestants that you see in the opening narration? You know, the ones with cool looks, interesting designs, apparently edgy personalities? You never meet any of them. You never meet another person in the entire game, save for I think two or three mangled corpses. All of this set-up which could have made for a captivatingly interesting game is brushed aside because Cthulhu. Never you mind that Cthulhu himself isn't actually all that interesting, it's what you DO with him that counts. And the context of a fleshed-out world with colourful characters would have added so much more depth.
Nope, just Cthulhu. And not even all that much of him.There's one monster which shows up in jump scares 90% of the game, and then another which has maybe three appearances, there's a silhouette of Great Cthulhu himself in the distance in a few places and that's it. The rest is running around a broken-down old facility - a very samey-looking facility, might I add, and riding the same god damn elevator and going precisely nowhere fast. There's no proper storytelling, no characters, barely any plot, no Cthulhu, no monsters, no interesting events. Just six hours of filler. Enjoy!
4. The gameplay sucks
A game can work even if its characters, plot, setting, story and theme are garbage - and these are - if it still has interesting gameplay. Consider Portal itself: That game had no real story, all of one character and all of one goal. And yet it's a cult classic because of its innovative, mind-bending gameplay. Hell, QUBE has no story or setting or characters of any kind and that's still a good buy. Well, Magrunner isn't like any of the above. In fact, it's gameplay is actually quite terrible, possibly the worst part of it.
You tag objects as either red or green. Objects of the same colour attract each other, objects of different colours repel each other. This works on cubes usually used as projectiles and keys, platforms which float along predetermined axes and... That's actually it. Cubes and platforms, and a whole game made around them. At first it seems like despite the very limited interactivity of your powers to "magnetise" things, there are many clever ways to solve puzzles. Indeed, the first few levels are very creative. But you'll realise, and very quickly, that the first half hour has about 90% of the game's unique elements and the rest of the game until you get the electric dog will be all the same. And even with that very little changes. There's no improvisation, no puzzle-solving. You just have to figure out how the developers intended for you to solve the puzzle and do that.
This is why Portal succeeded and most of its clones fail - because Portal didn't have very many "set" puzzles. It gave you a ridiculously powerful tool and then gave you unfair puzzles to solve with it however you could. Because interaction in Magrunner is so limited, there's no experimentation. The only thing that produces a result of ANY kind is the thing you need to solve the puzzle, so you could just keep guessing and eventually guess right. And even when you're doing everything correctly, the game is still "fiddly" and might refuse to solve puzzles for you if parts don't align just right. Which they won't, because there's so much slack in the physics system, so many puzzles you'll end up solving by really cheap, cheesy ways.
It's just not fun. And when the rest of the game isn't fun, what else is there?
Right now, Magrunner is available via Steam for 20 Euro, and it just isn't worth that. It's not worth buying for the Cthulhu elements, it's not worth buying for the character, plot or setting, it's not worth buying for the graphics and it's definitely not worth buying for the puzzles. If you feel that despite its flaws, Magrunner is still worth getting for how many different concepts it tries to integrate, then I couldn't fault you for it. But this really isn't a good game. There's entertainment to be had from it, but it's no fun to play after a while.
I didn't finish it, myself. I got to within a few levels from the end where a fucking fiddly awkward puzzle came up that I couldn't be arsed to solve. I realised that I wasn't being entertained, I didn't feel fairly challenged, I wasn't scared or satisfied. I was just muscling through the fucking thing just to get it over with. And that's not worth paying money for.
Remember Me (yes, that's what the game is called) is a game which makes me sit down, take a long, hard look at my life and start asking questions. Sadly, I don't think they are the questions the game wanted me to ask. Remember Me meant to have me ask questions like "Who am I, really?" "What is a soul?" "Should one try to forget pain?" and so on. Instead, the question it most makes me ask is "Why am I still playing games?" Why, indeed, did I even start playing games to begin with? They're no fun any more. They actually hurt, and not for being deep and dramatic. They make my brain hurt like a night of TmZ crossed with Fox News. Weren't they supposed to be fun? I'm sure I had fun at one point, didn't I?
This... Isn't going to be a proper review, lest it devolve into a string of "this is terrible" appended to all manner of game categories. Instead, apropos of the game, it's going to be a trip down my mind as I experienced Remember Me, while I try and edit the pain out of my memory and hopefully replace it with rainbows and unicorns. Or maybe me smashing my hand with a hammer for eight hours, anything is better than... Than THIS.
What is "Remember Me?"
Remember Me is the story of a cyberpunk future Europe where very unconvincing socio-political disasters threw the continent into civil unrest and open warfare. After the turmoil, the shining city of Neo-Paris was rebuilt greater and grander than ever before on the back of a brand new technology - the ability to record people's memories, remove them from their heads, give them new memories and alter the existing ones. So, basically every Cyberpunk future ever, specifically those from Johnny Mnemonic and Total Recall. We play as Nillin, a revolutionary and and "memory hunter" who has the ability to "remix" people's memories and change what they remember of their lives. She is also an "Erronist," which is interchangeable with "terrorist" and "revolutionary" as the plot's whim demands and means that's she's an enemy of the state. She is guided by Edge (sadly, not from WWE) as she tries to take down the Parisian corporation which controls all of the world's (the city's? it's not made clear) memory transplant technology. And she starts the game suffering completely pointless amnesia.
Mechanically, Remember Me is an action fighting game crossed with a Tomb Raider style "climber." And it does both very, very poorly. Fighting is based around an uninspired system that purports to let you design your own combos, but with animations stilted and samey and button presses locked down, all that really changes is the stats. Climbing is even worse, always following a set path indicated by arrows and allowing Nillin to climb only a very select few ledges of the zillions that look climbable. All of this is rendered in pretty unimpressive graphics with some of the worst animations I've seen since Tomb Raider Underworld.
As a game, Remember Me is very, very poor, but that's easy enough to tell from, like, five minutes of gameplay. As a story, it's serviceable for its setup, but said setup is completely wasted as it's almost never used but in history articles, themselves being the sort of biassed and childish interpretation of global events that pissed me off to no end in Hostile Waters. The entire thing falls flat on its face once you realise that the entire game is a walking, flashing-picture metaphor for the game's central message. What is that message? Well, without giving you any spoilers, let's go into...
In how many ways can "Remember Me" fail?
The game falls flat on its face right out the gate by starting the protagonist off with complete amnesia. As plot devices go, amnesia is probably the most trite and overused cliché short of having a story with a good guy and a bad guy. And it would be excusable if there were at least any point to any of the memory loss, but narratively speaking, there isn't. Nillin starts off with many questions that don't impact anything and at every turn finds answers that don't answer anything. She supposedly goes through character development, but she really doesn't, not in practice. The story tells us that she did by giving her part of her memory back, but this changes nothing in the end. The amnesia angle is cliché AND pointless at the same time.
The game fails utterly on the concept of character development. There is next to none for Nillin. She spends half the game trying to figure out who she is and, once she does, she becomes a mouthpiece for the game's very heavy-handed moral stance on the nature of memory and dealing with crises. Edge, her constant radio companion, undergoes no character development at all right up until the very end where the completely anti-climactic but also completely mandatory twist takes place, and even then it doesn't amount to much but an M. Night Shyamalan "wat a tweest." More than that, legitimate character development is trampled underneath "an iron rod" as the game's shoddy translation chooses to parse the common phrase. There is a legitimate moral dilemma in Nillin whether it's OK to hurt so many innocent people in the name of "revolution" or if she's "losing her soul," but all that gets washed away with some hogwash moral posturing.
Speaking of which, the morality in this game is all sorts of fucked up, and dives head first into "ends justify the means" territory... When that's the very ideology it seems to be trying to discredit. Let me explain. Mid-way through the game, Nillin drops the line "I want to shatter their false utopia," implying that people are better off being torn apart by mutated monsters - and I mean that literally - than living in blissful unawareness having surrendered their bad memories. Yeah, if they can't man up and face their pain, they deserve to die. Edge, similarly, urges Nillin to "Crush her errant beliefs," implying that it's OK to root around in someone's brain and change their memories to turn them to your cause and change their minds. So it's OK to brainwash people when it's for "la resistance" but it's not OK when the corporations' doing it despite them giving people much better lives? Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. It's not "real" if you're using fake memories to make yourself happy. What was I thinking. Of course I'd be happy to have a crazy woman kick down my door and shove her hand into my spine instead of feeling happy. Being dead is the ultimate happiness.
It's this whole "You shouldn't remember your pain! Pain is part of who we are!" bullshit - and that's a quote - that just makes me mad in so many different ways. Yes, I'm sure people with PTSD and legitimate psychological disorders caused by stress would love to just man up and face that pain. Yeah, who'd want to help them forget and lead a normal life, no. They don't deserve to be happy. They haven't earned it. Now, I get that it breeds a culture of decadence when you can just whisk your bad memories away, but let me break something to you, game - PEOPLE ALREADY DO THAT! When I've had a crappy day and I come home beat, I turn on a game or just sit down to watch TV so I can forget about the rotten day I just had. If I don't, then the REST of my day will also be crappy and tomorrow will be that much worse for it. I don't WANT to remember it, and you can go stick your head in a sheep if you're going to chastise me for it.
And the hypocrisy here is breath-taking. Nillin ends up destroying these "false memories" and preaching about how bad they are... When she used false memories that she implanted into people, ruining their lives, messing with their heads and - yes - killing them... To get here. A major plot point is her changing a man's memory and accidentally driving him to take his own life. Oops! And the reason that's not a spoiler is it has no effect on the plot, it's not connected to anything, it's never brought up again and the moral question it raises is just skipped over entirely. The segment in question could disappear from the game in its entirety and nothing of substance would be lost. All we get out of it is Nillin wonders if it's right to mess with people's heads for 30 seconds, then proceeds to mess with people's heads to get her way. Character progression? What's that?
But this game gets on my nerves for more than simple ideology. The story is just so poorly told. As I said, the whole angle about Nillin's amnesia is completely pointless, but you don't realise just HOW pointless until you realise memories can be given back to a person, in full, at no cost. So really, the only thing the amnesia does is it delays a few plot points so some filler can take place. That common thread of having a character redefine himself having lost his memories? Not used here, because Nillin isn't given that chance. At no point is "new Nillin" allowed to think for herself. Half the game she's led by the nose, and then she just slips back into her old memories and that previous half may as well not have happened. Why even include that?
The whole world is full of funky names, too. There's Remembrance, there's Neuropolis and on and on and on. It's like the old sci-fi comics where everything had "space" appended to it. Oh, I just got out of the brain prison. Now I must find Tim Headache who works at the Leaking Brain. It's like if you took the naming convention of Johnny Menmonic himself and applied it to every damn concept in the world. Apparently by the timeframe of the game, brain-transfer technology grew so omni-present that everything was named and designed around it. Oh, and we have walking talking thinking autonomous robots capable of carrying out complex tasks, instant-heal medical stations on every street corner, infinite-bandwidth wireless communication and energy generated from rain hitting the roofs of buildings, but does any of THAT have any real presence in the world? Nope, everything's brain-themed. It's like the company from Christopher Walken's Brainstorm made a theme park...
Let's get back to combat, too. The game purports to let you choose your own combos, but it gives you a grand total of four pre-set combos with "empty" slots for each attack. Defeating a number of enemies unlocks new attacks that you can slot into the appropriate places, changing what each hit does. You also have a couple of ranged attacks an a number of super attacks, and that would be swell and all... Except it's button-mashing. That's all it is. You mash buttons, people fall down. Occasionally you dodge. And when combat throws 20 people at you at a time with one throwing a punch every nanosecond, it becomes a huge cluster-hug. And it's all spastic and ugly and unintuitive and you have no real way to target your attacks short of swivelling the camera slowly and crossing your fingers.
Same with climbing. When climbing, the game plays itself. You're punching buttons, sure, but you can only ever go in the direction the game wants you to go. Pushing anything but in the right direction results in you making no progress. It's a quick-time event in all but needing to be quick. And again, climbing is awkward, stilted and poorly animated, with Nilling jumping from ledge to ledge as though an invisible hand grabs her by the scruff of the neck and carries her. There's no momentum behind her actions, no force behind her jumps, no grace.
Speaking of no grace, this 70-pound nothing skin and bones woman routinely manages to punch the lights out of men three times her size wearing heavy armour. I would understand it if she had super powers, like enhanced strength maybe, but she doesn't. The implication is she's very good at martial arts, but how good do you have to be to punch a guy wearing steel fucking plate? With no grappling or acrobatic attacks, it basically feels like that scene from Best of the Best where Jean-Claud Van Damme kicks a palm tree until it snaps in half. Every combat situation comes down to wailing on a guy's face like you're hammering a nail and that's it.
And why doesn't anyone in the future use guns? Time after time after fucking time, the supposedly elite police forces, currently fighting an invasion of vicious monsters who snap people's necks like they're popping bubble-wrap, come out armed with riot batons. We know guns exist in this world because we've seen them, but nobody ever uses guns. Oni had a similar problem of armed thugs not being armed, but at least that did very often have armed thugs who needed to be disarmed. Here the cops are apparently unarmed and wearing armour made of shag carpets. And that's still better than Nillin, who's dressed in a sweater, jeans tucked into thigh-high high-heel boots (*eyeloll*) and fingerless gloves. At least the cops use weapons of some sort, be they very rudimentary melee weapons. She doesn't even pick up a pipe or a knife or anything. Nope, bare-handed haymakers to the face of enemies wearing armoured riot helmets works great, I guess.
This whole thing feels like someone started making a game with grand plans for an expansive saga, then ran out of money mid-way through and decided "Fuck it, she gets her memories back! Just let me soapbox from here on out! Please!" Ugh... Nothing pisses me off more than a game preaching at me and wagging its finger in my general direction. Especially when I disagree with its hammer-to-the-head message on a fundamental level. I know I complained about The Swapper a lot for similar reasons, but at least The Swapper was harmless. It asked very deep questions but never provided meaningful answers. Its attempt to do so were so inept they at least left the door open for re-interpretation. Remember Me will drill its central message into your head so often and so hard that it leaves no room for errant thought. Just what it argues AGAINST.
The entire world construct leaves me baffled, really. Here is Neo-Paris, a perfect utopia of the future where most people are happy, rich and catered to, where the streets are clean and safe and where everyone is living well. Grr! Hate! This horrible tyranny must fall! Destroy the utopia! Wake them up! They deserve to die for wanting to forget their pain! In the words of Hans Gruber, "I must have missed 60 minutes." When did people being happy become a bad thing? Is this another heavy-handed "freedom at any cost" message where "freedom" is conveniently never defined yet treated as some kind of unambiguous perfect holy grail? Because that's no less an unrealistic utopia, you know. I get wanting to break one false utopia, but why when all you're replacing it with is another false utopia? Or worse, a dystopia.
I guess it's convenient that games like these never actually deal with the consequences of their stories. Yay! We brought down the system! Neo-Paris was a perfect city and now it's a war-torn hellhole! Yay! Everyone's free! Roll credits! Yeah, go ahead and roll credits before the Fallout epilogue tells us how the Parisians fell to crime and disease and Neo-Paris was abandoned to mutants and vagrants. Roll credits before the consequences of your actions actually reveal themselves to be far worse than what you were actually combating.
Maybe I'm biassed. I've never been a fan of no-explanation "freedom" just because that's far easier to yell than it is to actually build for. "Freedom" is easy to use as a slogan when you don't stop to think about what it actually means. Freedom from what? Freedom to do what? Yeah, if you ask me, I'd trade away freedom for security and happiness because if I can do what I want, it doesn't interest me that I can't do what I didn't want to do in the first place and wouldn't have tried doing anyway. But again, that's just my opinion. Which is fortunate, because Remember Me utterly disregards, disputes and eventually demonises that opinion. What, I would rather be happy than free! Die to monsters, you privileged self-entitled prick!
The game seems to imply that if people lost their painful memories, it would drive them mad... Despite it actually never presenting any evidence to support this. More than that, it presents plenty of evidence to discount this angle because nearly everyone is happy before Nillin starts wrecking the place, and nearly nobody is happy after she's done. OK, sure, slums still exist and there are people living in squalor, but the rebuilding of Neo-Paris is an ongoing process. Yes, there are the poor and downtrodden but those will always exist. In fact, by destroying the city's entire support infrastructure, Nillin has ensure that EVERYONE will become poor and downtrodden, and that criminals will go unpunished. Nice job breaking it, hero.
Finally, the "bad guys." For the first half, the game dicks us around moral quandaries about whether it's OK to root around inside people's heads... And then make the people whose heads we're supposed to be rooting around cartoonishly evil, or at least into raging cockheads. There's the prison guard who routinely beats prisoners into a pulp for fun and is ever-so-excited about "cavity searches" (hint: he rapes people and then erases their memory), there's the eeevil doctor who wants to meld everyone's minds into a single entity and control them with his own, there's the businesswoman who cheers on the chaos and destruction because they'll end up selling so many more happy memories... So it's bad to meddle in people's minds, unless they're cartoonishly evil? Then it's OK? Double standard, much?
Wiping my mind of "Remember Me"
This game hurts. It was supposed to be good, there was that whole controversy where the game's publishers wouldn't release it with a female protagonist and on and on... This was supposed to be good, and yet it ends up pretentious, poorly-written and sloppy. The game's entire story is nothing more than an essay on how memory forms the individual, and if you remove that... What you're left with is a very shoddy, ugly, stilted knockoff of Uncharted. And this thing demands full price. No. No, it's not worth full price. It's not even worth it at a discount. I wouldn't play this game for free.
But the real truth of the matter is that it took me a good hour to write this because I'm already forgetting the game. It's such a miasma of pretentious twaddle and aggravating fights with so little substance to it that I can take away that it's already turning into white noise in my head. It hurt me, but it's also easy to forget, and forget it I intend to do. I advise you to do the same. Forget you even heard about that game and save your money for something more worthwhile. Like maybe lighting cigars with.
Having completed Carrier Command: Gaea Mission, I did as I said and went back to try 2001's Hostile Waters: Anteus Rising. And it turned out to be one of "these" games. You know, the kind of game you always remember very fondly but you never finished and you're not quite sure why. And then you play it and realise both why you abandoned the game and why you don't remember the reason - because it's never one single thing. The game isn't bugged, it isn't horrible, there isn't some godawful mission. Instead, the problem is that the game... Just isn't that much fun. It's a chore to play and - having grown up as a person and as a writer - it's beginning to insult my intelligence.
I'm not going to do a full review, though. There really is no point in doing that for a 12-year-old game. You CAN still run it and it works just fine on modern hardware, but you're not going to want to. It's too old, it's too ugly and... Quite frankly, it just isn't any good. And here's my epiphany as to why: Unlike Carrier Command, Hostile Waters is a strategy an RTS. It's not a bog-standard one like C&C or StarCraft, but it's a strategy pretending to something that it's not. After having played Carrier Command, I finally realise where the border lies. And it lies in a few places.
1. The Anteus - the titular carrier - never moves. Ever. It has dropped anchor just off shore (and I mean 100 yards off shore) and the only thing it can do is act as a Command Centre or a Town Hall or a factory or any of a number of production buildings you can think of. Vehicles only ever come out of it, or go to it to be disassembled. You can't move it, it doesn't carry units, its position is entirely irrelevant and the only use you have for its guns is as an on-demand artillery piece. This is an RTS with one building, and that's it.
2. This game is about resource harvesting. You need a harvester, you need to babysit where it can find resources to harvest, guard it so it doesn't get killed and this way gain the "money" you need to build units. It's mostly automated, but it's every strategy game ever made. It's basically no different from a Tiberium Harvester substitute from any C&C game or a very large SCV, or like a Peon. It's RTS busywork that's completely absent from Carrier Command.
3. The carrier doesn't "carry" anything. Vehicles can't dock with the carrier in any way but to be disassembled and literally destroyed for resources. You don't keep any units you've made for the next level so there's no incentive to protect them. You don't keep any resources you've made so there's no incentive to stockpile. It never feels like you're piloting a vessel with an ever-expanding arsenal because you start every mission with a pre-determined amount of money and no vehicles.
4. The game requires the worst of RTS multi-tasking. Because you're always scrounging for resources, you're having to secure locations on the map constantly and enemy units are attacking you constantly and you can even build stationary towers... It never feels like you're bringing a force from island to island. It feels like you're playing Kingdom Under Fire or - god help you - Ground Control. Actually... That's almost exactly what the game feels like - a maritime version of Ground Control.
5. The ability to control units directly is all but useless. This will sound weird of me, but having shit AI and crap path-finding actually made me feel like my presence was required. Units in Hostile Waters are so aggressively efficient in everything if you put the right pilots in the right seats that... The AI actually does better than I do. The game has such an amazing indirect controls system that I'm barely even required, and with the ability to pause the action give order queues 10 deep just makes it play even more like an RTS. That, and manual control is just god-awful without the ability to rebind keys and with the generally lacklustre combat in this game. Say what you will about Carrier Command, but at least there manual control felt like an actual half-way decent game, whereas here it's just token.
So yeah... The big problem with Hostile Waters and the reason I can never seem to finish it is it plays too much like a conventional RTS (a genre I've simply never enjoyed) and does far too little with its unique setting to be of any note. Direct control of vehicles is no fun, the RTS-like controls are tight but also clunky, the graphics are ass by this point and the story... Yeah, let's talk about the story.
Hostile Waters: Anteus Rising insults my intelligence. This game has an agenda, and it pushes it down your throat so hard you can barely yell "Nazi!" before actual literal Nazi show up. Here's how the game presents its setting in 2032: The world is perfect. End scene. No, really. There is no war, machines exist that can create anything you want and they're available to anyone at any time for a wish of any size because they're on fucking street corners, the air is filled by aerosolised drugs that cure all diseases and make everyone immortal, buildings don't pollute and actually clear pollution, there's literal limitless energy, it's the kind of utopia that even idealists would probably scoff at. But do you know what caused it?
"The world became sane." I 2012, the craze over the end of the world made everyone take stock of their lives, thus making the world "sane." And by "sane" they mean people abandoned all sense of national identity, all sense of personal interest or desire and they began trying to work together to build a better world. You know, because nationalism is insane. Because self-interest is evil. Well golly-gosh, if only those mean other people would just stop being so mean and selfish and disrespectful then we could cure death! You hear me, insane people? Building a perfect world doesn't require money or technology or labour or any kind of effort. All it requires is that you violate everything you believe in and subscribe to an ideology even I would call ridiculously bleeding heart. As a result of this perfect world where all warfare and crime has been eradicated... Because difference of opinion doesn't exist in the hive mind of the future. Thus all weapons of any kind have been destroyed, ala Demolition Man.
But who would want to destroys such a *spit* "perfect" world? Why, a cadre of cartoonishly villainous cardboard cutout parodies that I suspect might have been intended to be real people. They have a scene where they sit around a table discussing their evil plans. The camera pans and you see a guy in a Nazi uniform speaking in an awful German accent. To his right is a spitting image of Fidel Castro. To his right is a former Soviet general, to his right is a fat Chinese-looking lady in a grey military uniform. And so on and so forth. These are the worst stereotypes I've ever seen, pulled from some hippy's nightmare of right-wing politics gone wild. These "dinosaurs" as the game calls them were and are the only source of the world's problems. Strife, famine, disease, political and ethnic pressure, it's all because of this rainbow of lookalikes of dictators from history.
And then they start talking... We can't take over the world! If this were the old days, we would just control resources. But we can't, because there are free replicators on every street and free energy! The horror of it all! We must destroy this infrastructure, we must make people miserable! We must reintroduce money! Labour for money, money for food! That's how we control them! Because there's no control, the species is doomed! Evilnessnessness! Yeah, the game goes there - "money is evil." The game's actual protagonists muse about how much damage money has done to the world and how happy everyone is to have money gone. Assholes, "money" is a convenience equivalent goods. It means you don't have to arrange a chain of exchange to trade what you produce for what you need. Even by this world's rules this is insulting to my brain.
The whole game feels like an open letter to the player, telling you how great it would be if we all got along. Fuck you. Rage Games, because I don't want to get along with you. A world where everyone suddenly suffers a stroke and "gets along" is unrealistic and to call me "insane" for not believing in it is hypocrisy of the highest order. You don't solve all the world's problems by stomping on the free will of people to be assholes, because people will ALWAYS be assholes. We enjoy being assholes. A perfect world would let us be assholes in a constructive way, rather than being labelled as "mean." Or else you build a world that's just waiting for Simon Phoenix to rip it a new ass. Only unlike the Demolition Man, Hostile Waters doesn't ridicule its ultra-pacifist future, but rather glorifies it and demonises anyone who disagrees.
I don't remember being this pissed off at the game the last few times I played it, but this time I wanted to shut it down two missions in. Maybe my tastes have changed, or maybe I had to see that movie of all the world's flags burning a few times to realise the horrible, horrible connotation that that kind of "unity" actually has.
So yeah - nearly pure strategy with a central message that makes me want to steal candy from babies and then smash it over their heads. Suffice it to say that playing that was NOT a good decision, since I'm usually not THAT mean a person.