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Tycho / on Wed, Nov 8 2006 at 12:38 am

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Hijinks Ensue

I’ve been wondering what would happen to Gears of War once people could actually play it.  Would it survive the transition from the realm of eternal potential into our genuine world, where things are saddled with, well, reality?  What if it’s only a great game, well executed, but does not usher in an age of prosperity and consequence-free sexual abandon?

It was featured on MTV.  It has been played in graveyards.  Large advertisements flicker in the margin of the sites you read.  It is now the inspiration for a new sitcom. It has been omnipresent.  I’ve tried not to contribute to the din, but you already know we were impressed by it.  It was very good when we played it months ago, and it has only improved in the intervening period. I’m actually more curious what you think.

After being made to endure Gabriel’s extended mediations on the topic, his eyes dewy with the zeal of a fresh convert, I began my own journey into XII duly chastised.  And not just by him, but by (I believe) every English speaking gaming enthusiast, as well as several who did not Speak English, in addition to those who made only Dog Sounds or produced Words Of Their Own Invention.

There is a Pavlovian element to Final Fantasy that I have done my best to resist, so that when I see a chocobo I try not to roll from the couch to the floor, my body bent in pleasure.  But it would be churlish to deny the game’s visceral appeal - it’s very…  multi-disciplinary.  There is craftsmanship - for example, the plot is actually something I would read on its own.  I would describe the writing that communicates this plot as "stellar."  Excellent voice acting then delivers this script in a way that creates authentic characters.  These well acted, well written characters are designed beautifully, and thair actions are accompanied by a moving score.  They occupy a world whose architectural and political aspirations draw from subject matter much farther afield than the series’ usual fare.  This is the real deal: and the construction is that of a historical tragedy, so dread accompanies me wherever I go. 

I do not like playing the game.  Concerns we had about the combat system are largely irrelevant - let me come to you as your humble but imperfect servant, in a spirit of utter contrition.  During any battle worthy of the name, no automated Gambit will be sufficient and you will play it exactly as you would have before.  Gambits are more than acceptable for the many, many, many perfectly meaningless combats you will face Final Fantasy XII.  Though it’s appreciated, the meaningless combat to which this genre is addicted shouldn’t be automated - rather, engaging combat should be the norm.  Grandia, Valkyrie Profile, and Shadow Hearts all attempt this, even when they fail elsewhere.  But, I digress.

I understand why someone would like it, as I said, its manufacture is impeccable - but it is inextricable from a game I am having a hard time enjoying.  I keep looking for the one you are all telling me about, and I haven’t found it yet.  In the past, I’ve choked down stories I didn’t delight in to gain access to gameplay that I liked - I’m sure I could do the opposite, as well.  But not when I have a stack of games nearly a foot high making more immediate appeals.

We’re now accepting applicants for the Penny Arcade Scholarship.  All the information is on the page, but if your goal is to enter the electronic gaming industry in any capacity, this is something we would like to help you accomplish.

(CW)TB out. 

  it was a helpless thing


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