The Games I’m Most Thankful For

Author: Nathan Doverspike

As Thanksgiving draws near, and we all make plans for how we want to spend this special time, whether it’s with friends, family, or a mixture of both, I can’t help but to think about the games that influenced me as a gamer. These games, some older, some newer, usually aren’t known for their outstanding graphics or mind-blowing plots, but they all have a special place in my gaming heart. Here are the games I am most thankful for (in no particular order).

tomb_raider_2_box

Lara in all her polygonal glory!

  1. Tomb Raider 2

Initial Release: October 31st, 1997

Developed by: Core Design

This was the first game I ever played on the Playstation One I got for Christmas as a young boy, and it left me in tears (mainly because I was so terrible at it and erased a save from before the main boss so I had to restart the whole game over again.). It taught me how banging my head against a puzzle in a game could be solved by jumping off your left foot while running instead of your right, and that sometimes you need to hop backwards twice to get a running jump-start across a gap. It also showed me how working together (with my dad) we were unstoppable in our quest to kill a giant golden dragon that was a total jerk and totally not fun to fight. It also solidified my enjoyment of third person shooters and puzzle games, while helping me spend quality time with my father. Tomb Raider 2 hasn’t aged as well as I would prefer, but I’ll always remember the great times I had playing it as a kid.

elder scrolls iv oblivion

Sometimes one screenshot is all you need to fall in love all over again.

2. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Initial Release: March 20th, 2006

Developed by: Bethesda

Oh boy. I could write a whole article about all of the wonderful things in this game: from the shrine of Sheogorath to the Shivering Isles, this game is near perfect. Sure, the framerate liked to tank every now and then, but the “took an arrow to the knee” guard more than made up for it. Plus the story in this game is arguably the best in an Elder Scrolls game to date, and I still prefer the leveling up system in this one to Skyrim (mainly because you could just grind it out in the arena and become way overpowered way too quickly). Did I mention Patrick Stewart is the voice of Uriel Septum VII, so that alone should be enough to go play this game! I first played it on a laptop that barely ran Windows XP, yet somehow I managed to beat the whole game on it, then beat it again when it released on Xbox 360, then again when the limited edition 5th anniversary steelbook came out. I couldn’t get enough of the MASSIVE open world, somewhat disturbing Dark Brotherhood quests, and overall freedom this game gives players. I love this game, and is one of my favorite RPG’s to this day.

neverwinter nights dragon

Did someone say, DRAGONS?

3. Neverwinter Nights

Initial Release: June 18th, 2002

Developed by: Bioware

Did someone say, RPG’s? That’s right, I played the OG Neverwinter Nights on PC when it came out. Not only that, I beat it AND all the expansions (except Kingsmaker because I didn’t care for that one at the time) and loved them. The Balder’s Gate style game play was fascinating to me, and I died plenty of times trying to disarm a trap only for it to go very badly and result with my character being poisoned right before a major battle. The ability to save anytime meant that I was free to experiment with my choices, and that no dice roll would set me back too far (except for when I delete my own save…because that’s always a good idea). While it might not have been AS influential as Oblivion or some of the others on this list, it definitely belongs on here. And if you like RPG’s like  Neverwinter Nights, I highly recommend Tyranny on PC. It’s like Neverwinter Nights, only you are the bad guy, and by bad guy I mean you can be a really bad guy, wink wink.

mass effect well bang ok

I mean…if you insist.

4. Mass Effect Trilogy

Initial Release: November 20th, 2007

Developed by: Bioware

You didn’t think I would leave my favorite Scifi video game series off this list, did you? Mass Effect 1 may have been rough around the edges at times, but its sequel improved on nearly everything and in my opinion is the best RPG I have every played. It had combat that made you feel powerful without feeling invincible, gave you some of the best characters and stories in an RPG ever, and choices that had a real impact. Unfortunately, it did have a sequel that was one of the worst RPGs I’ve ever played, which makes this series all the more important because of everything that it did right before it took a hard left turn into a pit filled with tears and turned into the largest dumpster fire known to man. Now all we need is a remake on current gen consoles and my life would be complete.

star-wars-knights-of-the-old-republic-concept-art.jpg.optimal

One of the best twists in a video to this day is in KOTOR.

5. Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR)

Initial Release: July 15th, 2003

Developed by: Bioware

You can’t have a list of things I am thankful for without having something related to Star Wars. Growing up watching the original trilogy re-released in theaters and on VHS (yes I am old, no I will not tell you my age) I adored the idea of an invisible living Force surrounding and living in everything and being able to be immersed in that universe. Then there’s laser swords, and who doesn’t think laser swords are cool? Bioware made that happen in 2005, with the release of critically acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic.  I played the hell out of this game on the original Xbox, as well as on PC after it released on Steam many years later. It’s also on iOS, if you want a portable version that I’ve heard runs surprisingly well. Anyway, all that feeds into what I love about KOTOR, and why it saddens me more and more that we will most likely never see a KOTOR 3 (thanks for that Electronic Farts…I mean Arts). Oh well, I still have my Steam version that runs at 60 fps and 1080p. That’s not so bad, right?

Honorable Mentions:

Sansretour Valley

Witcher 3 is a beauty to look at, even on a basic PS4.

6. Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Initial Release:

Developed by: CD Projekt Red

If you want to know my full thoughts on this game, check out a previous article on why I think this is one of the best RPGs in the last decade. Let’s just say the combat, story, beautiful world, and fascinating side quests mixed together for a beautifully crafted potion in this masterpiece of a video game.

DeadSpace_2_-_Dementia

Don’t think about the needle, don’t think about the needle.

7. Dead Space 2

Initial Release: January 25th, 2011

Developed by: Visceral Games

The best horror game I’ve ever played is Dead Space 2. It didn’t have as much of an emotional or gaming impact on my life as the others on this list, but it was still a phenomenal experience nonetheless. From the main character Isaac Clarke hallucinating from the trauma he experiences, to the well thought-out crafting system, all the way down to the design of the levels, everything fits perfectly together. After how great the first game was, it would have been easy to create a somewhat disappointing sequel. Instead, the now defunct Visceral Games (thanks for that too EA) made a compelling argument for their game as the best horror title ever. For that, I am truly thankful.

There are so many others I could list, but that’ll do for now. What games are you thankful for? Are there some you have a personal connection with? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Facing the Facts: I’m Done Completing Games I Don’t Enjoy Playing

Author: Nathan Doverspike

For nearly 18 years, I’ve been playing video games, from Tomb Raider 2 to Horizon Zero Dawn (go play it if you haven’t, it’s amazing) and loving my time with most of them.  Every once in awhile you come across a game that just doesn’t click for you, whether its the story, theme, gameplay, art style, or maybe something as simple as the music.  I used to do everything I could to push passed these obstacles, in the hopes that there would be some sort of payoff in the end; some feeling of satisfaction for continuing with a game that I didn’t necessarily enjoy.  One title, named Mass Effect Andromeda did just that; it broke me of this habit.  As the title of this article states, after playing Mass Effect Andromeda, I realized that I can no longer beat games that I get no enjoyment from playing.

Before I get into all the reason I refuse to beat games I don’t enjoy and the game that ultimately crushed my soul, I need to say this first.  I LOVE Mass Effect 1 through 3.  I was even alright with the original ending of Mass Effect 3 before they extended it with free DLC.  It had a conclusion, even if it felt like there wasn’t as many choices as there could have been.  It made sense, and that’s what I wanted.  I also adored the characters.  There’s a reason there is a giant piece of artwork featuring characters from Mass Effect in my living room.  The characters and their stories were the best part of the original trilogy, in my opinion.  That said, on to this albatross of a game.

There’s not enough space on this page to describe how frustrating that game was.  To start, the facial animations at launch (they released a patch  that fixed some of the issues) were not only atrocious, they were appalling to behold.  They were so gross, that I thought I was playing some terrible $1 Steam Greenlight game (RIP Steam Greenlight) that used Unity stock assests to make a quick buck or two.  Want to see how ugly they can be? You’ve been warned.

Mass Effect Andromeda Weirdest Face Ever

This is the first person I interacted with in the game. Little did I know, it didn’t get much prettier than that…face.  I think that’s a face?

Yup, that’s how my failed journey through the boring and uneventful game called Mass Effect Andromeda began. With that face staring at me.  Ok, so the combat was satisfying and the skill tree allowed for a bevy of customization.  But in a game that resembled Dragon Age Inquisition more than the original Mass Effect trilogy, I didn’t enjoy the exploration, party members (there were only six, SIX), or the bland/terrible story they tried to tell.  I loved the premise: you are sent on a 600 year journey to find another galaxy to colonize in case the Milky Way is destroyed by the Reapers.  Cool right?  It is, until some of the worst writing in video games is on full blast right from the start and all the characters look like they are from some alpha version of the game.  It felt unfinished.  By all means, it was.

I spent over THIRTY FIVE hours on this turd.  I did everything I could to enjoy it.  I would play podcasts while playing so I had something interesting to listen to (the dialogue is embarrassing except for maybe Drack and Jaal).  That only helped so much, until I realized I wasn’t even having fun exploring the FIVE planets. Yeah, you have the pleasure of exploring FIVE planets the WHOLE GAME.  Even Dragon Age 2 had more locations to explore, and they even recycled a lot of them to pad the time it takes to beat the game.

I ended my playthrough after reaching the third planet.  It was a giant ice location full of sadness and emptiness. Wait, that’s what I was feeling while I was playing this.  Sorry about that. I meant to say it was full of empty space and sparse enemy encounters, sprinkled in a few giant towers that you need to scan (that part sucked too) and a ton of fetch quests that amounted to getting some experience and nothing satisfying.  I couldn’t take the punishment anymore, so I traded in Mass Effect Andromeda and used the money to wipe my tears away.

As we come to the end of my sad tale, I want to make it clear that I am totally cool with anyone liking this game.  I just found it unbearable for the reasons listed above, but everyone is more than welcome to have their own opinions and likes/dislikes.  I want to hear from YOU!  Are there any games that you just couldn’t finish?  Why? Was it because of the gameplay, story, or something else entirely?

 

 

 

Why It’s Ok To Be Afraid of Change In Real Life and In Video Games

mass-effect-2-characters-wallpaper-3.jpgAuthor: Nathan Doverspike

As I search for the right words, the best way to say what’s on my mind, one phrase keeps coming to mind: everything happens for a reason.  While cliché and overused, it rings true for me, and I hope you as well.  Friends come and go, jobs are earned and lost, and money is always finite.  But that phrase, everything happens for a reason, is helping me cope with being afraid of change.

Change always seems to happen when it is the most inconvenient in life.  Whether it is a new job, moving to a new town, starting a family, making new friends, change always likes to butt in and threaten the comfort of routine you’ve seemed to surround yourself with.  It is comfortable to stay at the same job, comfortable to live at the same place for a long time, and comfortable to be content with the same friends and not branch out to find potentially new and exciting guys and gals.  Change is scary, and that’s totally ok.

Just like real life, change in your favorite game can be scary too.  Some games, like Mass Effect 2, do a phenomenal job of implementing necessary changes to an already fantastic series.  With characters like Mordin, Grunt, Zaeed, and Legion they took an already great cast from the first game and really ramp it up.  Unique loyalty missions, the ability to scan planets for resources instead of landing on each one (personally I liked that but it took way too much time), the occasional button prompt for either a “good” or “bad” reaction during dialogue, and the best ending mission for a video game I have ever experienced, it serves as a prime example for change resulting in positive outcome.

That isn’t to say that change always results in something turning out better than before.  Resident Evil 6 is one of my least favorite video games.  EVER.  I truly despise that game.  It changed so many things that made Resident Evil 4 unique, like well-developed characters, decent voice action throughout, a fantastic story, beautiful environments, satisfying weapons, pretty much everything was streamlined and watered down.  Resident Evil 6 was way more action than 4 (like literally all action), and I believe it suffered from a story standpoint.  Resident Evil 6 didn’t just give players three separate campaigns, it game players three excruciatingly poor campaigns with bad boss designs and some abysmal weapons.  Don’t forget that the U.I. was disgustingly ugly and the inventory management sucked too.  Last thing, the ending boss of the Leon campaign made me rage quit that nonsense, and I never went back.  In other words, change isn’t ALWAYS good.

The best way to deal with change in any situation is to keep an open mind and remain positive.  Even though Resident Evil 6 was damn near a disaster of a video game, that didn’t damper my excitement for a return to roots entry in Resident Evil 7 (see my review here).  Even unfortunate and upsetting events can lead to positive situations later in life.  The result won’t be immediate, but a positive attitude can turn a turd of a game like Duke Nukem Forever into something less awful (I think).  It’s normal to be afraid of change; just remember that everything happens for a reason.

Why I Love RPG’s and The Games That Stole My Heart

reckoning_screenshotAuthor: Nathan Doverspike

Before the Mass Effect Trilogy ultimately stole my RPG loving heart, I couldn’t get enough of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  The characters were memorable, wielding colorful lightsabers able to cut down alien scum was a blast, and the stories that game told still inspire me to write to this day.  And that doesn’t even cover the AMAZING score the two Knights of the Old Republic games nail to really complete the authentic Star Wars experience they so satisfyingly knock out of the park.  If you haven’t yet noticed, this whole article is dedicated to my love and infatuation with Role Playing Games, more commonly referred to as some of the most amazing video games ever to grace this galaxy.

Fantastic writing is needed to really immerse the player in the world and convince them to become invested in the game.  Games such as Mass Effect 2, Knights of the Old Republic, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning are prime examples of excellent writing.  Knights of the Old Republic introduces players to arguably the most badass character in the entire Star Wars Universe, Darth Revan.  Darth Revan can be evil, force choking his victims at will, but also has that pull to the light side that Star Wars Episode VII presents with Kylo Ren (who is now canon in the official Star Wars lore).  Knights of the Old Republic 2 is always amazing with the inclusion of Kreia, who isn’t who she appears to be throughout the whole game (only click the link if you don’t care about SPOILERS).  That twist is one of the best, right up there with Darth Revan’s reveal in the first game.

Those games are fantastic, but what is even more impressive is the galaxy and lore created for the Mass Effect Trilogy.  Commander Shepard is tasked with creating an elite group of aliens to defeat the impending doom the galaxy faces.  Every 50,000 years a galaxy destroying force descends upon them to wipe them out and restart the galaxy.  The player’s task: by any means necessary stop the galactic apocalypse.  Your choices, both good and evil, have real consequences.  Certain characters will leave your party permanently if you make decisions they strongly oppose.  Likewise, you can earn their trust, and they will battle even harder for you in the fight to end all fights.  One such fight, labeled the Impossible Mission, is one of the best experiences I have ever had and occurs at the end of Mass Effect 2.  Seriously people, please play at least Mass Effect 2 if you love RPG’s.  It has everything, amazing soundtrack, interesting characters, heart wrenching stories, exciting and fast pasted combat, and naked aliens!

The last example of why RGP’s are amazing is a slightly flawed but still awesome experience.  Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was well received, but like most games with a huge budget and not as much marketing, it failed to cover the costs it required and thus will most likely never see a sequel.  Well, that and 38 Studios, the developer, unfortunately went bankrupt in 2012 after they were unable to pay back the state of Rhode Island the $1.125 million loan they owed.  Regardless, that game is massive offering hundreds of quests, dozens of unique weapons to find, and R.A. Salvatore as the lead writer for the game.  Tthat alone is enough to check it out in my opinion! (Did I mention there is a Chicken Overlord easter egg, because that is pretty rad.)

All the games listed above bring something unique to the table and remind me why I love games so much.  To me, RPG’s have that special extra bits of lore; that link (see what I did there) of personal attachment to your character since you get to make the decisions for them.  They are your gateway into these massive and wonderful worlds created by some of the most brilliant writers and artists in the video games business.  In all the examples above, the combat goes above and beyond to create a memorable experience for the player, especially Knights of the Old Republic’s ending.  RPG’s give you a world outside of your own to experience, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Let me know in the comments what are your favorite RPG’s and if you think there are some that I should definitely play!