The Single Player Saga

Contrary to popular belief, online gaming did not begin with the Dreamcast, nor was it first popularized by the XBox 360. In the looming shadow of the 1990’s games industry, PC users enjoyed the world of online gaming when Prodigy and AOL CDs were a thing. These days, players wouldn’t need to look very hard if they wanted to play with other people, and developers go out of their way to make this connection. Yet, while the world scrambles to connect every living gamer on the planet, there are still games that explore the single player saga. I played some games last weekend that made me think of just that.

Leave me alone!

Alien: Isolation is a game I recently started playing that could only be possible as a single player experience. The player takes the roll of Ripley, an engineer that is stranded on the space station Sevastopol, with an Alien monster that hunts everyone inside, but unlike the plot of all three Dead Space games, there is only one monster roaming these halls. The rest of the danger comes from people dealing with small scale societal breakdown. Outsiders are dangerous, whether they be Alien, android, or human. Isolation becomes a desperate search comfort that only servers to let the player stew in a moody atmosphere of horror and solitude. Most of the time, you end up scaring yourself:

I Feel So Alone…

While some games are meant to be played alone, others simply offer a single player mode as an option. As Nuna, you traverse the wilderness of the arctic searching for the origin of a never ending blizzard with a spirit fox that saves you from a polar bear. At first, the fox’s company filled a void of emptiness that can only be felt when one runs from a relentless polar bear looking to fatten up for the winter.  Yet, as Nuna continued her journey to the right, the fox’s utility became more scarce and the switching became more difficult. As soon as the climax of the game finishes for the start of the fourth act, I soon realized that these puzzles were made for two people in mind.

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Hitting the polar bear with a rock only makes him madder.

I eventually finished the last 5% of the game with the help of another player, as the puzzles required more of a tighter execution than actual problem solving ability. Never Alone taught me two things about game design were once a part of my gamer sensibilities.

  1. When a game gives you the option to play it as a single player experience, you might want to grab a friend, as you can miss the entire point of playing the game.
  2. When a puzzle seems unsolvable, maybe it’s a bug.

I Don’t Want to be Alone

Skyrim rounds out this list in a way where the player is given a huge world to interact with. Immersive is one of the frequent words thrown around when describing this game, and I’m no different. I made a really cool lizard man named Pajamicus, whom people seem to treat as normally as anyone else. Since Pajamicus didn’t come with a backstory I made one up for him instead.

“Pajamicus was an unassuming Argonian looking for work in the next town, but was taken prisoner by a wandering military guard. Mistaking him for an enemy spy, the militants sent him to execution till a dragon attacked the camp. Taking the opportunity to flee, Pajamicus wanders the world of Skyrim, hoping to forge a new dawn.”

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It’s wearing clothes! Aww it thinks it’s people.

With only 3 hours into the game, I found myself ignoring the first quest altogether to see if this game fit the mold of Bethesda’s Fallout. Sure enough, I was able to stumble a random town, pick up a few quests, and explore a dungeons all with their own independent plot points to drive exploration. In terms of the single player experience, it’s one of the games where I’d wish I could share with a friends. Can’t wait to dive back in.

Blog / Library / General Updates

Completion:

  • Never Alone

Games Started

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Alien: Isolation

Finally got to live stream some Alien: Isoloation, and worked with Lightworks on some video editing. I think I need a little more practice, but the software is working great. A large part of me is falling into all that Division hype train that’s floating around the internet. The more I learn about it, the more I just want to invest. As usual though, I’m waiting for that almighty Steam sale to break my constitution and add itself to the pile of shame.

As for streaming, I’m thinking of making my Alien Isolation play through a completely recorded experience. I feel that maybe something episodic would be better. If you’re interested in the raw footage, it can be found HERE.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult this post was for me to write, so I’ll just leave you all with this one last appendices before I wrap it up: One week’s 24 hour on-call does not help the production of writing!

Next Time: Further Journeys Into Skyrim.

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Next time, on Play All the Games…

“… PaJamieez completes the entirety of Alan Wake and knocks another game off his list. But even as another weight is loosed from his shoulders, other worlds wait on the horizon. Before the he embarks on his next journey, PaJamieez contemplates his latest trial…”

You’d Love This Game, You’re a Writer

Friends have told me to play Alan Wake because I’m a writer. Joke’s on them; I’m only a writer when someone pays me for my work. So when I started playing Alan Wake, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to identify with this character, and I was mostly right. The New York apartment, the critical success, the blowing off of loved ones to get a written piece done- the life of Alan Wake is something I couldn’t identify with. No, Alan Wake the writer wasn’t as relatable as Alan Wake the man. His insecurities were my own, and when those insecurities manifested later in the game- let’s just say I’d be lying if a few of those one liners hit a little close to home.

Next Time on Alan Wake…

Never the less, Alan Wake’s character development is an engaging balance of failure through successes.  Sometimes, in between the running, puzzle solving, and fighting for your life, the player gets a glimpse into his relationship between his wife and his best friend. Alan’s always trying to do the right thing, but sometimes it comes at the expense of others. Alan Wake (the game) always knows that there’s time for drama, but it isn’t afraid to express its comedic moments along side its mysteries. Some would say that the game is actually a parody of prime time television shows like Twin Peaks. If the Night Springs collectible story items didn’t give it away, the game’s pacing surely makes that impression known.

The narrative moves like a television mini series. Each chapter begins with a “Last time, on Alan wake” montage, and ends with a different 90’s inspired band playing out the credits. Those end cards are a really great change of pace from all the nonstop action of games like Tomb Raider, as I felt there was never a good time to just take a break since the sense of urgency was constant. Alan Wake however, gives the player time to think about the last chapter. Truth be told, I welcomed it.

Night Springs and Things

The weird stuff really comes out in the DLC and expansion, both of which take place after Alan Wake (the game) ends. If you haven’t played Alan Wake by now. Spoiler Alert: Alan survives Bright Falls. The downloadable DLC covers this journey as two additional episodes and the game starts getting weird. I mean REALLY weird:

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It’s the new Final Fantasy Summon: Sputnik

The DLC offers a great back drop for the expansion and even cleans up some loose ends of the plot, while introducing newer plot lines, including the inevitable introduction of Mr. Scratch, the psychopathic manifestation of people’s public perception of Alan Wake, twisted into reality with by the power of Calderon Lake. In fact, American Nightmare is all about the hunt for Mr. Scratch, as you try to break out of his Groundhog’s Day like trap.

While American Nightmare’s story is certainly a protraction of the first game, it can certainly stand alone. The introduction gives enough context for it to exist in its own vacuum. The expansion offers a tightening up of the combat system, which was a bit clunky in the original, is now on par with Resident Evil 4. I know it’s a bold statement that is likely to draw ire,  but the combat was so satisfying, I didn’t mind diving into the arcade mode; a big deal when you’re trying to get to the next game. Each weapon feels weighty, and effective; even enemies that were designed to be bullet sponges took just enough effort to be satisfying. Dodging is tighter, the flash light doesn’t take long to recharge, and new types of enemy are thrown at you.

Overall, the experience of playing Alan Wake was pretty satisfying. It was my second, third-person-action-adventure game that I played within a month’s time, and was a good follow up from Tomb Raider. It definitely sets me up for the change in pace my next game is going to be.

Blog / Library / General Updates

Completion:

  • Alan Wake
  • Alan Wake DLC
  • Alan Wake: American Nightmare

Acquired:

  • Gigantic (beta)

Hey Guys! Thanks for following me along my Steam journey, I’ve been having a great time exploring the games in my Steam Library. (It gives me something to write home abouIt’s honestly a great change of pace since I got off my Guild Wars 2 addiction. t.) I basically get to play games and make stuff at the same time. Speaking of which, I started messing around with video capturing and editing software. I downloaded Lightworks over the weekend and recorded some Alan Wake game play. I’ll post it on youtube when I have edited to be as hilarious as possible.

The Steam Library didn’t get updated: (Thank goodness) but I did manage to get into the Gigantic beta. I don’t know what I can talk about regarding that game’s NDA, but I can probably tell you that the installation requires Microsoft/Xbox account. You should already have one if you’ve ever been on Xbox Live, but for those that don’t, you will have to add another password to  your key ring. I played the intro and man, it’s pretty neat. I’m still fighting with the controls though, since I usually play my PC games with one of these.

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If this stock image looks good, rest assured it looks like that in-game. (On PC, YMMV)

Over all, I think I’m hitting a groove. I still get my day to day activities done (Make dinner, clean the apartment, laundry.) and I’ve started going to the gym again. Though, my social life has taken a large hit. All for the sake of progress!

Next Week: Alien: Isolation