This ability to win battles but lose the war, especially on the higher difficulties where the combat quickly becomes very unforgiving, creates tension for every decision you make, really nailing the sense that you’re managing a war effort. Combined with permanent death for your soldiers and you have a game weightier than a lead lined coffin and more engaging than a shotgun wedding.
At some point, perhaps in the middle of a gun battle against bandits protected by shields reinforced with angry midgets or while firing your talking sniper rifle that guilt-trips you whenever you fell any of your disposable foes out for your equally disposable head, you realize that sanity was thankfully left off of the “things to include in our game” checklist. Every other mission presents you with a ridiculous goal or scenario of utter parody – a favorite being a mission to shoot an evil sheriff without killing her deputy – and if you tried counting the myriad pop-culture references and shout outs in the quest text, throw away lines of dialogue, and background art alone, you’d end up with a number higher than the national debt.
The premise itself is sinister; an elusive entity called the Leviathan proves all too tempting a lure for Commander Shepard, who believes that whatever it is, it can help the galaxy triumph in the war over the Reapers. To go into more detail would give away too much about the Leviathan’s nature; suffice to say this DLC ramps up the creep factor and provides a chilling entry to the Mass Effect canon.
What makes video games brutal is often their most basic premise. If you think too long and too hard about exactly what it is you’re doing, a creeping sensation starts to prickle the back of your mind. If you put yourself in the shoes of your avatar, would you be so gung-ho, would you even be capable of walking out of the front door?
A few nights ago, I finished Mass Effect 3. As the credits scrolled I again sat silent in the dark, dumbstruck by what I had beheld. Not out of the bittersweet satisfaction that comes with the conclusion to any story, but in the confusion and anger that occurs when you’ve witnessed a crime you could do nothing to stop.
Skyrim is the name of cold, northern regions of a continent called Tamriel, on a planet called Nirn; a magical land home to elves, orcs, skeleton warriors right out of a Harryhausen film, and more than enough prophecy and legend than you can shake a Tolkien at. If that level of fantasy geekery gives you acne and a dateless Saturday night just thinking about it, Skyrim is definitely not going to be your cup of mead.
So why would anyone submit themselves to such a nightmarish test of their sanity, and drain time into such a bleak and foreboding world? Especially since the “story” is pretty much a series of footnotes to make the world come to life, the plot is a joke and the ending recalls Ghouls and Ghosts levels of “totally not worth it”? Because while it may be one of the most nightmarishly crafted experiences in gaming that you will encounter, it’s also one of the most amazingly executed. The world is truly breathtaking, and the combat is beyond superb with surprising depth while maintaining functional simplicity.
At the end of the day and the game, the gestalt of Deus Ex: Human Revolution still works. All of the individual parts, while disparate in nature and wildly varying in quality, come together to create an experience far greater than any individual aspect. In fact, I’m going to reveal the biggest reason for this viewpoint: I can’t put this game down.
Do you like fantasy? As in the elves and dwarves and sword and sorcery ilk? No? Well then here’s my shortest review ever: Dragon Age 2 is not for you. The end. If however, you’re like myself and you spent plenty a weekend around a table with friends rolling dice and trying to stab kobolds in the back with your half-elf rogue, or even if you just thought the action scenes of The Lord of the Rings were pretty cool, then read on.
Even ignoring the jokes, DeathSpank is a delightful videogame. The environments are memorable and distinctive, even as they ape familiar territory from other, arguably grander games.