All About DarkLink77
Welcome to the blog of the one, the only, DarkLink. This is where I lay down the truth, 100% of the time, every time. So pull up a chair, grab a drink and a sammich, and let's talk about games. Or anything, really. But mostly games.
Forget Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Marvel vs. Capcom, Darkstalkers, Blazblue, and everything else.
Guilty Gear is the king.
And now, finally, after ten years, it has returned.
Day fukkin' one, locked and loaded, pedal to the metal.
Thank you Arc Sys.
As always, your likes and comments are appreciated. For an amternate take, check out GUFUYourself's review, written by Champ, which I helped edit. It's a good read.
"Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt. That was the deal. I gambled, and now I owe money to men you don't want to be in debt to. I come here to pay it back."
That's the premise of Bioshock Infinite, summed up by protagonist Booker Dewitt. The deal he refers to is what sets the events of Bioshock Infinite in motion. The details, are by now, well known to you if you've spent any stretch of time following Infinite's protracted development. "The girl" is, of course, Elizabeth and the "here" is Columbia, a floating city founded upon religious principles, white supremacy, and the inherent greatness of America by a man named Zachary Hale Comstock, whom the people of Columbia hail as The Prophet.
It sounds like a deceptively simple request. Unfortunately for Booker, the people of Columbia believe that Elizabeth is the Lamb, Comstock's successor, who will cleanse the Sodom Below (a universal term applied by the people of Columbia to everywhere that is not Columbia, but mostly America itself) of evil. Further complicating matters, Comstock has forseen that a man from the Sodom Below, whom he calls the False Shepherd, will come to take Elizabeth away, and corrupt her in the process. To prevent this from happening, Elizabeth is locked in an ivory tower, and guarded by a mechanical monstrosity called the Songbird, until the time comes for her to fulfill her destiny.
It's a familiar set-up, isn't it? A hero, a girl, a protector, a man, and a city. There's always a man and a city. These are the constants of the Bioshock universe. Throw in some social commentary, and you have the formula for a Bioshock title. It's a formula Infinite revels in, and one the game's opening pays homage to, as Booker is rowed out to a lighthouse by a man and a woman the game does not initially deign to name. But there is one key difference between the two games, and one Infinite reveals to the player as soon as the game begins: something about all of this isn't right.
It's not a particularly subtle suggestion, the way Bioshock's opening moments cleverly hinted at the significance of "Would you kindly?" No, Infinite's is almost impossible to miss, and in hindsight, it's easy to see that the game's opening isn't designed for first-time players. It's designed for the player who is on his second, or third, or fourth play-through. If the kind of opening that tells you that there's something more behind the curtain, but gives you little context as to what that might mean.
And so, you forget about it. Your mind files it away as Booker ascends the lighthouse, and you see warnings plastered on the walls. "This is your last chance, DeWitt," they say. You forget as Booker rings the bells, and sits in a pod that rockets into the clouds, a scene that parallels the original game's reveal of Rapture.
"Hallelujah," a voice cries as Columbia comes into view for the first time, and you get that first, magnificent view of the city above the clouds. "Hallelujah."
The game continues at this pace for a while, allowing you to become acclimatized to the way things work in Columbia. It's a nice start, if a linear one, and it allows you to get used to the sights and sounds of the city before everything begins to spin out of control and the search for Elizabeth takes center stage.
And once things start spinning, they don't stop. Luckily, Booker is up to the challenge, and Infinite provides you with the standard Bioshock staples to combat any problems that might arise. Plasmids return as Vigors, and guns are plentiful and varied, though the game does limit you to two weapons at a time and a small amount of reserve ammo per weapon. These restrictions feel arbitrary, especially later in the game when enemies are both powerful and plentiful, and many combat arenas present situations when more options would have greatly benefited the game.
Infinite's combat is, however, superb. Guns feel powerful, shots have impact, and enemies react realistically to damage. And guns aren't the only solution to your problems. Ironically, outside of the two weapon limit, Infinite isn't afraid to give you options. The game supplies you with plenty of different Vigors of varying types, each with multiple effects. One allows you to possess machines, while another allows you to summon a murder of crows to distract enemies, and both Vigors and guns are upgradeable at the various Rapture-esque vending machines that are scattered around Columbia, provided you have the cash. Booker can also make use of the Sky-Hook, a rotating object worn over the hand which functions both as a melee weapon and allows access to Columbia's Sky-Lines, a rail system high in the sky that transports cargo and personnel around Columbia. Sky-Lines add an unprecedented amount of verticality, speed, and mobility to Infinite's combat, allowing you to rain death while zooming around at high (or low) speeds and to move seamlessly in across the battlefield at the press of a button. The Sky-Hook also opens any additional way to explore Columbia, and you'll have to keep that in mind if you want to acquire all of the game's many collectibles.
Like the original game, Bioshock Infinite features audio diaries recorded called voxophones that significantly expand on the game's plot, and essentially offer a finer understanding of both the story and the characters themselves. New to Infinite however, are infusions, which will allow you to upgrade your health, shield, or salts bar, as well as gear, which can be equipped in up to four slots and allows you to modify everything from weapon properties to the way your abilities function on Sky-Lines.
If all of this sounds like it's a lot to take, that's because it is. Infinite knows this, and the game continues the introduction's slow burn for some time, slowly introducing mechanic after mechanic and building Columbia as a world, until you finally meet the girl. Much has been said about the AI behind Elizabeth, but all the talk of Irrational's programming prowess can't do the character justice. Elizabeth is expertly written and phenomenally acted by Courtney Draper, and she will earn a place in your heart very quickly. Once you meet her, the thought of being parted from her company becomes painful. Elizabeth reacts realistically to events around her. If you're wandering around a crowded area, she might sit on a chair or talk to a nearby vendor. Other times, she'll examine pieces if the environment, pointing out interesting objects as she goes, and in some instances, she'll just lean against a safety railing, and take in the beauty of the city. Elizabeth the heart and soul of Bioshock Infinite, and you'll wonder how the game's admittedly masterful opening sequence ever managed without her.
However, Elizabeth isn't just a wonderful companion to explore Columbia with, and there is a lot to explore, despite the relative linearity of the game. She also provides new gameplay mechanics. Out of combat, she'll help you find money and items such as lock picks, which you can use to have her open doors and safes, should you have the required amount. But it's in combat that she really shines. Elizabeth has the ability to open "tears," which are essentially windows into other worlds. This ability allows Elizabeth to pull guns, health, mechanical companions, freight hooks for you to hang from with your Sky-Hook, and even cover into the world for you to use. In addition, she'll also supply Booker with salts, which are consumed when you use Vigors, as well as health and ammunition.
It would be easy for Elizabeth to completely steal the show in Infinite, given your reliance on her abilities as a player and how well the team at Irrational constructed the character. Fortunately, they've constructed another who is equally compelling in protagonist Booker DeWitt, voiced by the incredibly talented and increasingly prolific Troy Baker. The former-Pinkerton-turned-Private-Detective-trying-to-escape-his-past is an absolutely fascinating character, and easily one of the best protagonists to ever grace the medium. However, it's the way these characters play off of one another and the world and characters they encounter that elevates them to a whole other level, and watching their relationship evolve over the course of the game is one of Infinite's true joys.
Over the course of their journey together, Booker and Elizabeth begin to unravel the mysteries of Columbia and Elizabeth herself. Who is she, really? Why can she do the things she does? What exactly is she doing? What are the consequences? Bioshock Infinite asks these questions and more as it masterfully spins its yarn, all the while dealing with very real social issues such as racism, class divisions, the extent to which religion should be allowed to influence a government, and the idea of American exceptionalism itself. As the narrative unfolds, Booker and Elizabeth are drawn deeper and deeper into the conflict between Comstock and the Vox Populi, and soon, it becomes clear that events are far more complex than they appear. The amount of environmental storytelling present in Bioshock Infinite means that Columbia is just as much of a character as Booker, Elizabeth, or Comstock, and as the foundations of Columbia unravel around you, the world changes to reflect the growing intensity of the city's ongoing civil war. In the end, events build to an unpredictable and magnificent climax that will haunt your thoughts long after the credits finish rolling, and make you want to revisit the game again just to appreciate how well the game foreshadows and builds to its inevitable conclusion.
For all of these successes, however, Bioshock Infinite is not without its failures. Like the two weapon limit, the inclusion of gear feels arbitrary, and the system restricts you more than it should. Certain sections of the game feel drawn out to maximize gameplay, and a few plot points just feel out of place in the world Infinite creates, while others are only explained sufficiently through voxophones the player may not find. The much promoted Songbird is almost painfully underused, and a noticeable number of the game's major characters feel underdeveloped. For all of Irrational's efforts, and they are considerable, Comstock never escapes from the shadow of Andrew Ryan, and Columbia never comes together as a world the way that Rapture did so many years ago.
In the end, though, Infinite's successes are so great that its failures feel minute in comparison. In many ways, the game is a victim of Irrational's previous successes. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but something this ambitious rarely is. Infinite is, like its predecessor, a game that matters. It's a game that has something to say, about the medium, and about us. It's a game that will be remembered years from now, in the rare way that few games are. It's a game that you'll remember long after you play it, one that sinks its hooks in and never lets go. In many ways, Bioshock Infinite is a lot like Columbia, viewed for the first time in that pod, its magnificent shining towers coming over the horizon, a city we have never been to, yet know intimately. Brilliant, but flawed. Imperfect, but unforgettable.
This review went up on GUFUYourself a while ago (go visit it!), but I decided to post it here as well since Journey was one of my favorite games of last year. In fact, it was probably my second favorite title last year, second only to Spec Ops: The Line. I had a nice blog cooking up on that subject, but GameSpot lost it, unfortunately. However, if you guys want to see it, I'd be more than happy to reconstruct it. Since I've decided to get back into writing game reviews and blogs and such, I thought I'd post it.
With that said, here's the review itself. I'd appreciate your comments and likes:
I remember the first time I saw my co-op partner. I was in a large, circular ravine, trying to rebuild a shattered bridge by collecting pieces of cloth that would span the gaps.
I had just collected one of the pieces of cloth, and turned to see what affect that would have on the status of my bridge. It was coming along nicely; the cloth I'd collected had just repaired the second piece of the bridge, creating a flowing red path to the next section. Then, something caught my eye: another adventurer, clad in a red shawl like mine, flying high on his scarf. Until that point I'd been alone, guiding my red-robed wanderer through the sands, exploring the remnants of a civilization forgotten long before my character shook the dust of his (or her, it's impossible to tell) robe, and began hiking towards the mountain in the distance. But here was another person, who was drawn to the strange mountain in the distance the same way I was. He must have seen me at relatively the same time, because I saw him alter his trajectory in mid-air, and angle himself towards me. We met somewhere in the middle of the sands.
There was so much I wanted to ask my newfound friend. Had he played Journey before, or was it his first time? What did he think of the game? What was his name? But I couldn't ask him any of those questions, because the co-op and communication in Journey is restricted. I didn't ask him to join my game, and he certainly didn't ask to join mine. There's no way to invite your friends, and neither he nor I could see one another's PSN IDs. In the same way, there's no way to talk to your partner, at least in the traditional sense. The only means of communication the game offers you is a small chirp, activated by pressing the circle button. Holding the button down "charges" the chirp, until your character practically jumps for joy, shouting at the top of their lungs, and the sand around you ripples in response. In addition, the chirp also serves to power up your partner's jump, which is the only other mechanic in the game besides your character's ability to walk.
At first, this may seem like an arbitrary restriction on the part of thatgamecompany, but it fits with the rest of rest of Journey's design. It's a simple and elegant game that polishes the few mechanics it has to perfection, and then invites you to use the mechanics it does have to explore the world it lays before you. Despite the limitations in communication forced upon us, my partner and I got along swimmingly as we stuck our noses into every corner of the game that we could, finding bits of cloth to jump from, little murals revealing bits of the game's backstory, and most importantly, the collectible glyphs that extend your character's scarf, and give you more air time whenever you jump. We even figured out how to communicate on a basic level.
If it seems like I'm spending a lot of time on Journey's co-operative mode, it's because of how essential it is to the game. Journey did something I never thought a video game could do: it made me care about my co-op partner, and not because my success was linked to his. There is no failure state in Journey. You can't die. The game will never get too hard, and it will never stop you from progressing. The only way to "lose" is to stop playing. Instead, the biggest tragedy is losing part of your scarf, and in turn, part of your ability to jump. Losing a piece your scarf is emotionally crushing. After all, it's a visual representation of how far you've come over the course of the game. However, it's far worse to watch it happen to your co-op partner and realize how powerless you are to help them. You can't defend yourself in Journey. You simply try to get through the things the game throws at you while maintaining as much of what you've gained as possible.
As disheartening as losing your scarf is, however, losing contact with your co-op partner is worse. It might mean losing them forever, or having them replaced with another player. In the latter case, you'd never even know it happened. Yet, the idea of losing my co-op partner was incredibly stressful. Every time he disappeared from my view, I would stop what I was doing and try to find him. Strangely enough, he did the same thing. There was no gameplay incentive for us to do this. I could have finished the game by myself. He could have, too. But that wasn't enough for either of us. I wanted to finish the game with the same partner I'd had since the beginning. We'd taken this trip together. We'd watched each other succeed and fail. We'd shared triumphs and defeats. We'd each led the other to hidden secrets within the game. This story belonged to both of us, and seeing it through alone would have defeated the purpose.
Yes, Journey does have a story, and make no mistake, it goes far beyond the game's initial suggestion that you climb that mountain in the distance. It's played out through mostly silent, beautifully directed cutscenes at the end of certain gameplay segments. It's hard to describe what it's about without spoiling anything, so I'll simply say that the beginning is the end is the beginning, and leave it at that. And, of course, every story beat, and every part of the game, for that matter, are supplemented by Austin Wintory's masterful score.
It might be easy to say that Journey succeeds because it is more than the sum of its parts, but it wouldn't be accurate. Journey is the sum of its parts. It can be nothing else. It's a rare kind of game: the kind where every element is crafted to further one singular purpose. It's the kind of game that wants to offer you an experience, one best enjoyed with a stranger. And you will remember those experiences.
One particular moment stands out for me. My partner and I were moving through some ruins. It looked to be a structure of some sort that had fallen over onto its side. The sun was low in the sky, casting a bright orange glow over the world. We came to the end of the structure, and gazed out the opening on the right side. The world sloped down gracefully below us, into a ravine, the sand a sparkling orange under the light of the sun. We'd surfed the sands briefly before, but nothing like this. I gave a quick chirp, which had become code for "Ready?" In response, my partner leaped off. I followed after him, my character moving effortlessly down the shinning mountain of sand, my eyes searching for my companion. I looked and looked, but I couldn't find him. Just as I was about to give up hope, something caught my eye. A robed figure, like mine, further down the mountain. I sped up. He must have been looking for me as well, because he slowed down. We caught up with one another on the edge of the next platform, another twisting river of sand spread out below us. This time, he gave the first chirp, an apology and a question all in one. I gave a quick chirp, then leapt and sped off into the sands, wondering if he'd be able to catch up. Then suddenly, he was past me, and slowed himself. I caught up, and we raced down the sands, through the arches and the ruins, over the remains of a city the world had forgotten. Together.
Journey is adept at creating moments like that. It's a game that provides equal parts tragedy and victory, joy and sorrow. For all its mastery, however, the genius of Journey is that you will not remember it for the moments it builds for you. You will remember it for the moments you and your co-op partner build for yourselves. You will remember how those moments made you feel long after the credits roll, and that is Journey's triumph.
My Recent Reviews
May 20, 2013 7:49 am GMTDarkLink77 posted a new blog entry entitled The Greatest 2D Fighting Game Series of All Time Returns.
May 1, 2013 8:55 pm GMTDarkLink77 gave Armored Core 2 a score of 8.0
Apr 28, 2013 6:38 am GMTDarkLink77 gave The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series a score of 9.0
Apr 28, 2013 6:37 am GMTDarkLink77 gave Dead Space 3 a score of 7.5
Apr 28, 2013 6:37 am GMTDarkLink77 began Following Dead Space 3
Apr 28, 2013 6:37 am GMTDarkLink77 added Dead Space 3 to their owned game list
Apr 28, 2013 4:39 am GMTDarkLink77 posted in the topic Nintendo Setting Trends Again: 2K To Skip E3 on the System Wars board
Apr 26, 2013 6:39 am GMTDarkLink77 reviewed BioShock Infinite and gave it a score of 9.5
Apr 25, 2013 11:42 pm GMTDarkLink77 posted a new blog entry entitled Of Possible Futures: Bioshock Infinite Review
Apr 22, 2013 8:25 am GMTDarkLink77 added The Darkness to their wish list
Established Jul 7, 2011