Tag Archives: RPG

Destiny’s Optimism Is Desperately Needed

If the majority of science-fiction is to be believed, the future isn’t all that great. While the circumstances are always different — evil mega corporations, alien invasions, depressing dystopias, war and pollution — science fiction has a history of making the future out to be mighty bleak. Authors, filmmakers, and game developers always count on humans to never learn from their mistakes. We will continue to kill our planet. We will continue to wage war against our fellow man. We will continue to fail.

Destiny, then, is a breathe of fresh air, but not necessarily from a gameplay perspective. It’s a shooter with RPG elements, a fun and addictive combination of gameplay that will no doubt keep players hooked for a long time. But that isn’t what has me excited for the game. What makes me excited and what I find so refreshing about Destiny can be described in one word — optimism.

It can be found everywhere in Destiny: from the game’s fictional past to the purpose of the Guardians, to the sun filled environments and the NPC dialogue. Humanity once lived in a golden age, where they expanded to the cosmos and unlocked the secrets of the universe thanks to help from the Traveler. Human life span tripled.  It was a time of miracles. This was a future where humanity lived up to it’s utmost potential and shined.

When players start their journey in Destiny that future is no longer the case. Humanity has been pinned down into one city, protected by the power of the traveler, and their cosmic civilization has crumbled. Darkness encroaches on all sides and it is unclear for how much longer the Traveler will be able to protect humanity.

Rather than wallow in the bleakness of the situation, Bungie takes a different approach to their new universe. The darkness can be fought back they say. Hope is not yet lost, and humanity can once again reach their potential and reclaim the civilization that was at once lost. Fight back the darkness. Unite.

That optimism is a far cry from the majority of other sci-fi shooters. The future presented by popular third person shooter Gears of War is about as bleak a future as you can get, with humans waging endless wars over limited resources only to be decimated by the monster like Locusts from deep beneath the earth. The world of Gears of War is brown and gray, filled with despair, hardship and a never ending sense of doom and pointlessness. None of the characters feel like there is much reason to continue fighting, other than to simply survive and keep their friends alive. Bungie’s own Halo series is a constant uphill struggle, with humanity at the brink and the Master Chief really being the only force strong enough to fight back against the seemingly unstoppable Covenant and the horrific Flood.

All three franchises — Halo, Gears of War, and Destiny — have a similar core theme of humanity being on the edge of destruction, but the way they go about presenting them are wildly different. Destiny is bright, vibrant, and filled with the hope that Earth’s heroes, the Guardians, can fight back the darkness and lift up humanity once again. That isn’t present in Halo, Gears of War, or most science fiction for that matter.

That’s because Destiny embraces an older idea of science fiction, one that isn’t about predicting one of humanity’s potential dark futures but about capturing that special kind of wonder that can only come from gazing up at the stars and wondering “What’s up there?” This kind of sci-fi is about exploring colorful alien worlds and discovering the mysteries of the universe. It’s about a humanity that isn’t grounded on Earth where it is destined to stagnate, but about a humanity finding it’s place in a wide universe filled with mystery, danger, and adventure.

It’s refreshing. In an industry where dark, gritty and hyper violent Mature rated games are far too often the norm, Destiny is a Teen rated game that can be played and enjoyed by nearly anybody. Destiny embraces optimism, the idea that humanity’s best days are not behind them but ahead, the idea that maybe we can overcome our faults and our challenges and rise to the occasion. Maybe, just maybe, we can take to the stars and carve out a new destiny for the human race rather than suffer the bleak one that so often is presented as our future. I don’t know about you, but I think the game industry could use a little more optimism.

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Is 2014 the Year of the RPG?

Dark Souls. Elder Scrolls. Dragon Age. And of course the new (and supremely awesome) kid on the block, the Witcher. What do these four sword and sorcery franchises have in common? They all have games coming out in 2014.

Let that sink in for a moment. The third Dragon Age, Inquisition, and the third Witcher game, Wild Hunt, are coming out in the same year. The sequel to Dark Souls, one of the most critically acclaimed games of 2011, is returning. And of course it is a huge occasion when any new Elder Scrolls game is released, even more so when it is in an MMO that lets players explore all of Tamriel for the first time in the franchise’s history.

It is without a doubt a great time to be an RPG fan. But let’s say, just for fun, you can only embark on one epic quest in 2014. Which will it be? Let’s break down what each game brings to the table.

Dark Souls II

Few games captured the interest of hardcore gamers in recent years like Dark Souls. With it’s refusal to hold player’s hands and it’s bone crushing difficulty, Dark Souls really showed there is a huge number of gamers who hate themselves. Which brings us to Dark Souls II. From what I can tell it will be very similar to the first Dark Souls, though larger in scope and with an easier starting zone to ease newcomers into the painful ways of the game.

Potential Pitfalls: Might be easier than the first Dark Souls, not on next-gen systems (booo)

This might be your pick if: you enjoy pain and suffering, you love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with getting knocked down only to get up once again.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

While other franchise’s on this list are trying to replicate the past, Witcher 3 is plowing forward, with the third and final entry in the series going full open-world. The game will conclude the story line of the monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia on his quest to find his long, lost love Yenneffer. He will probably kill a lot of people/monsters along the way. Geralt’s trademark moral ambiguity will be returning, and developer CDProjekt Red promises meaningful choices and consequences. This is also probably not only the best looking game on this list, but the best looking next-generation title I’ve seen so far. That alone might be reason enough to give it a play.

Potential Pitfalls: the game looks so good you might not be able to play other games without thinking they look like crap. The difficulty, much like Witcher 2, could be too much for some. Oh who am I kidding, this game looks freaking amazing.

This might be your pick if: You loved Witcher 2, you enjoy open world games, like choices that aren’t just “light side or dark.”

Dragon Age: Inquisition

After a disappointing second entry in the franchise, developer Bioware has a lot to prove with the first (and maybe last) next-gen Dragon Age. Players can once again choose their race as they take on the role of the Inquisitor and begin to rebuild an ancient order, brokering deals between various warring factions to defeat the army of demons that are pouring forth from the Fade, also known as Dragon Age’s version of the spirit world. If that storyline sounds familiar, well, that’s probably because it is almost identical to the “rebuild Grey Wardens, unite Ferelden, defeat Darkspawn,” plot of Origins. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bioware looks like they have taken criticism of Dragon Age II to heart and are bringing the series back to it’s roots, but I have a nagging feeling it might have a “been there, done that” feeling to it.

Potential Pitfalls: Being a prettier version of Dragon Age: Origins (maybe that isn’t a bad thing?)

This might be your pick if: You loved Dragon Age: Origins, you hated Dragon Age II, aren’t cool enough to buy Witcher 3.

Elder Scrolls Online

Not only for the first time will gamers be able to explore all of everybody’s favorite fantasy playground, Tamriel, in one game, but thanks to Elder Scrolls Online, they will be able to do it with friends. Or enemies. Or both. Gameplay looks to be a mixture of Skyrim with more traditional MMO elements such as ability bars and classes, which could be interesting. Graphically Tamriel, from the deserts of Hammerfell to the snowy peaks of Skyrim, has never looked better. Throw in some intriguing pvp dynamics where actual players through their conquests can become the Emperor of the continent and Elder Scrolls Online is looking to be the next great MMO.

Potential Pitfalls: A $15 subscription fee. Really? We still are doing that? Also how the MMO mechanics in a traditionally single player game will work out is still up in the air.

This might be your pick if: you loved Skyrim, you want to rule a virtual country, enjoy social interaction.

As for me, if I absolutely had to only pick one, it would be Witcher 3 without hesitation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of every franchise featured here. I love Dragon Age: Origins, I love me a good challenge and I played 80+ hours of Skyrim just like the next guy. But after playing Witcher 2, I just can’t shake the feeling that Wild Hunt is going to be incredible. The Witcher universe and characters are just too captivating for me to pass up. Combine that with great gameplay, unbelievable graphics and meaningful choices and you have what very likely could end up being my game of 2014.

Regardless of which game is more up your alley, RPG fans of all shapes, sizes, and preferences have a lot to look forward in the coming months, so be sure to keep those swords sharp and your wits even sharper.

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