November 6th, 2009

My Cup Runneth Over by Flickr user kmevansI commonly experience flashes of euphoria for which I have no account. What I’ve felt over the last several weeks, however, is something different. It’s a sustained state of contentment — something that I can account for. It’s a feeling of fullness, and it’s because of video games.

I am full because of Brutal Legend. This game was almost perfect, from its story, its humor, and Jack Black’s performance, to its RTS and driving systems, and even its side missions — but I did say almost. The rate at which new Solos unlocked disappointed me; I think it was poor design to have four at the beginning, four at the end, but none in the middle. Still, I loved this game. I bought it on release day, and I finished all the missions by the end of the next. I never do that.

I am full because of Defense Grid: The Awakening. Tower Defense is a genre that gets a lot of flack — and it’s true, there are a lot of bad games out there — but if there’s a game that the skeptics should play, it’s Defense Grid. Its difficulty curve is fair, and its challenge modes suit it for repeat play. It even has character, an uncharacteristic attribute for a Tower Defense game that isn’t based on a license.

This is what madness looks like.
I am full because of Osmos. Although my affair with Osmos was a troubled one, it started strong. I loved the Ambient levels as well as most of the Sentient levels, but the Force levels were a source of frustration. Eventually, this brick wall of content bested me. Still, Osmos afforded me several hours of chilled-out bliss before I began cursing its name and dumping its clothes out the window.

I am full because of League of Legends. I played Eul’s version of Defense of the Ancients regularly during its infancy, and I continued playing through DotA All Stars, but I stopped shortly after Icefrog took over the project from Guinsoo. Now an entire genre has spawned from DotA, and I would be a fool to ignore it. In spite of being an old school DotA player, I’ve tried to come to League of Legends with minimal expectations — it has exceeded these. For having over 40 heroes and a persistent skill system, the game is balanced and competitive. Matchmaking can be annoying when queuing as an arranged team, but this can be abated simply by being a better team.

This is the Button of The Year.I am full because of Torchlight. It’s an Action RPG whose small innovations help it to shine in a genre plagued by rote derivations. Its ingenious feature contributions include automatically picking up gold by running over it, fishing, and toggling the display of names of items on the ground — these amaze me. They make Torchlight a joy.

Finally, I am full because of Dragon Age: Origins. I’ve not been occupied solely by the video game, but also by the second prequel novel, Dragon Age: The Calling. The Calling’s story begins fourteen years after the epilogue of The Stolen Throne, and it introduces us to the Grey Wardens as King Maric guides a group of them through the Deep Roads. As The Calling tells us of the Grey Wardens and their function, the social standing of mages and elves, and the nature of the Fade and of the darkspawn, it’s more of a direct primer for the video game than its predecessor. At least, I think it is.

I named him Ralph.As of writing this, I’ve played about four hours of Dragon Age: Origins. I’ve completed the Human Noble Origin as a Rogue Archer, and I’ve explored some of the Korcari Wilds on my quest to begin The Joining. This is not far into the game, but I’m already relating it to what I’ve read in the books. I know why Cailan is the way he is; I know Duncan’s history; I know what The Joining entails, and what it means for those who take it; most of all, I know what kind of man Teyrn Loghain is. But I’ve thought to myself, are these insights spoiling the game for me? If I had been given them out of context by some third party, I would say yes, but these are from books — books written by the same author who wrote the video game’s story. No, I think these insights are enriching my experience. They’re giving it deeper meaning — crediting this, I am full.

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