Posts Tagged ‘Elder Scrolls’

SouthParkTheStickOfTruth

Let’s get two things out of the way straight off the bat. One; TSOT has some loading issues. I mean some serious loading issues. I don’t know why Obsidian find it so hard to ship a game before ironing all of the creases out of the finished product, but hey, that’s life. Now I don’t mean loading issues as in that the game is stuck on a loading screen for five minutes when you enter a shop. In that regard the game performs admirably. I mean that every time you move from one screen to another, or things get a bit hectic in battle, boy oh boy does this game lag and slow down to a near halt. An issue further exacerbated in a battle system that requires precise timing to pull off moves. Two; whoever was in charge of writing the magic tutorials in this game needs to be hung, drawn and quartered. Throughout your time in South Park you will be taught various magical fart techniques from different characters. Taught poorly I might add. As you mess up an instruction for the twentieth time only to have the npc chastise you and then explain to you again in a long vague manor makes for some incredibly frustrating moments.

PHEW! Glad I got that off my chest! Because here’s the thing, it might sound like I’m attacking TSOT, I’m not. I just needed to get those two niggles out of the way so we could focus on what makes The Stick Of Truth one of the funniest, well written and enjoyable licenced games of all time. Let’s begin shall we?

As I just said TSOT is one of, if not the, funniest game of all time. From the minute you start playing the game to the second you finish watching the credits scroll I guarantee you’ll be in hysterics. The game focuses around you, the new kid in town. After creating you’re character from a very generous character creation screen you are whisked away into Trey Parker and Matt Stones gloriously vulgar and satirical world. As the new kid in town it is your job to do what most new kids in town do. Go out and make friends. And it’s not too long after leaving the confines of your parents’ house you bump into Butters who in turn introduces you to everyone’s favourite fat ass Eric Cartman. It seems that all of the children of South Park are currently playing a Dungeons and Dragons style role playing game which has led to an all-out war over who controls the stick of truth and ultimately the universe.

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As expected, and in true South Park fashion, events quickly spiral out of control as the government, aliens, Nazi zombies and underpants gnomes get involved and swept away on the tide of beautiful ridiculousness. In a master stroke though, it never really leaves behind the fact that the events mostly play out in the background. Never losing sight that the children are just playing a game with each other. Having Matt and Trey write the story was perfect as you could probably easily cut all of the cinematics together and have one of the best seasons of South Park ever made.

The true star of the game is South Park itself. Apart from the occasional slowdown when transitioning from screen to screen it looks and feels exactly like an episode from the television series. From the jilted shuffling way everyone walks, right down to the camera angles and southern twangs on the guitar. Almost every building is open for exploration and literally stuffed to overflowing with references to past episodes. I’m not even kidding. I’m an avid South Park fan and have been since it started and I can’t think of a single character or item that isn’t represented or at least referenced in this game. One of the collectables in the game is the Wild Wacky Action Bike for crying out loud!

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The game doesn’t just draw on past glories to get laughs out of its audience however. It also does one of the best jobs of satirising modern videogame culture I’ve ever seen. From the constant Skyrim references that surround your characters ability to use fart magic, to a very memorable moment on a ufo collecting audio diaries that have been left by a disgruntled prisoner who just whines about the uselessness of audio diaries. It’s very fresh and very very funny. And then there’s Canada. Oh my days Canada! But I’ll let you discover that treat for yourself!

For anyone who played and loved Costume Quest then the battle system will feel like very familiar territory. Also not entirely different from the systems used in the various Mario rpg’s the fighting here is all down to your timing and reaction speed. Casting spells and attacking will require various waggles of the analogue sticks and button presses and defending yourself involves hitting the correct button when an enemy attacks you. It’s not perfect by any means as the response time can seem a bit out of sync and, as I mentioned, if the screen stutters when you’re at a key point in a qte that can sometimes mean a game over screen will shortly follow. Had it been in any other game I would probably be a bit harsher on it. However in a game where fights consist of things like Jimmy playing the ‘brown note’ causing enemies to soil themselves in diarrhoea and Kenny impaling himself by accident on his rainbow unicorn, it’s easy to forgive the game some of these things.

I feel that going into much more detail about what you do and who you meet would spoil some of the surprises that are in store for you, so I think I shall start winding my review down here. One last thing I will mention is the controversy over the censorship in certain scenes of the game. I caved in and paid the extra money to get the American version as I wanted to experience the game in its purest form. I have no personal experience over how the game is affected by taking these moments out. However after talking to a colleague of mine who is playing the UK copy, he said that the ufo scene (the first heavily censored one in the game) ended up feeling disjointed and broken. He is still enjoying the game though so I guess the only real question you need to ask yourself is how much does it mean to you to play the game without the little snippets breaking the immersion for you.

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And so we come to an end of the review. I loved this game. It is definitely not a perfect game and like I said, it has its fair share of frustrations. With that being said I have never laughed out loud so much and so often at a game, or dare I say it, an episode of South Park, as I did whilst playing TSOT. It is a game that will constantly have your jaw on the floor as you move from one outrageous task to the next. And to be honest, any game where I can go into work the next day and casually say that I fought a load of aborted, Nazi, zombie, baby foetuses last night, is a game that I’m proud to have in my collection.

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By now most of you will have squeezed every little bit of life out of Bethesda’s recent gem, Fallout 3. You will have repaired some broken steel, reached level 30 and seen most of what the Capitol Waste has to offer.

However, in the year’s to come when you will be dusting off your 360 and feeling the need to play some classic western RPG’s, will it be this game or Bethesda’s other epic, Oblivion, that you will want to be visiting first? Well this article intends to look at the pros and cons of each one and find out which truly is the better game.

Firstly a look at the presentation of the two games. There is no doubt that when Oblivion was released in Europe way back in spring 2007 it was a stunningly gorgeous game. For gamers who were too young to remember what it was like to step out onto Hyrule Field for the first time must surely have felt the same exhilarating rush of excitement when taking their first timid steps from the dank imperial prison in to Cyrodiil proper. And those first few magical moments really do sum up the aesthetical look Bethesda wanted to achieve with their first foray into the current generation of gaming. Beauty. Everything from the snow swept mountains of Bruma down to the haunting marshlands of Bravil, Oblivion feels like a renaissance painting come to life.

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However, technology has inevitably moved on and Oblivion is starting to show its age. Especially when stood next to what came out of Bethesda’s treasure chest just over a year later in the winter of 2008. Their first attempt at an already established, respected and classic PC franchise, Fallout 3. And boy, the colour pallet could not be more different. Gone were the bright vistas that made up the enchanting world of Cyrodiil. In the world of the waste vibrant green fields and lush forests were replace by derelict shells of builds and crumbling, redundant landmarks. Those wanting to explore Fallouts equivalent of the eerily lit Ayleid ruins had to do, instead, with dark, gloomy, labyrinthine sewer and subway systems. Having said that, you can’t make a game based in a world recovering from nuclear war and have it looking like Eternal Sonata. The illusion that Bethesda would be trying to make, and the world they would be trying to suck you into would irrevocably be shattered. This being said, the emerald pastures of Oblivion are slightly more appealing, and the world itself feels a bit more varied and more of a pleasure to walk through. Maybe Bethesda were too successful in trying to create a desolate abandoned landscape in Fallout and as a result made the player feel a bit too alone and isolated?

As mentioned before, technology has moved on and it’s undeniable that the landscapes and character models in Fallout 3 are a lot more realistic and fleshed out than the almost mannequin-like NPC’s in Oblivion. Furthermore there are a lot less glitches and texture pop ups occurring as you make your way through the Capitol Waste.

Now to look at the gameplay itself in these mammoth titles. Both games are very similar on many levels. Both are generally played from the first person perspective. Quests and character interaction are mostly picked up and achieved through the same processes. However, there is one area in their gameplay where these two titles differ greatly, and that is in the combat. For a game that was toted by non-believers as ‘just Oblivion but with guns’, Fallout 3’s fighting system could not be more different.

First though to talk about what happens when you get your hands dirty in Oblivion. Combat flows in a pretty formulaic fashion. Pulling back on the left trigger blocks with your shield or equipped weapon, and pulling back on the right attacks with whatever spell or weapon you have primed. Simple huh? Well that’s pretty much it, different spells and abilities add a certain layer of depth and strategy, but all in all it’s a bit of a hack and slash affair.

Now considering Fallout 3’s arsenal consists mainly of guns, and that it’s played in first person, you would expect, and it would be fair to assume, that this would play out like a standard FPS. It can indeed be played this way, but that would be missing the point entirely and wouldn’t be taking advantage of the innovative V.A.T.S system.

The V.A.T.S system, for those who haven’t experienced it yet, is an ingenious blend of the Fallout combat of old and the limb targeting of unsung Ps1 classic Vagrant Story. Merely tapping the right bumper pauses the combat and lets you queue up attacks at the cost of combat points and then lets you watch your choices unfold in a glorious ballet of violence all presented in cinematic slow motion. Now you would think this slows down the pace of the game and detract from the overall experience, however, enemies are easier and quicker to dispatch of than those in Oblivion so Fallout’s combat still retains quite a fast pace. Out of the two, Oblivions fighting style can seem a bit mundane and old fashioned, especially as it hasn’t really changed since the early Elder Scrolls days. Whereas Fallouts fighting is fast paced, new, exciting and drenched in plenty of blood and guts. What’s not to love?

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So, that’s graphics, gameplay and presentation done and dusted. But just how pleasing are these two titles on the old eardrums? Well this is a bit of a no brainer. From the moment Oblivions title screen appears the game starts to serenade you with a deep orchestral beat before letting the brass out and hitting you with what can only be described as epic music of Hollywood proportions. Seriously, from when you start the game right through until when you’re finished you could be listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. It’s that good!

Unfortunately Fallouts score is a bit quiet and reserved and seems to take a backseat when travelling with the big O. that’s not to say there aren’t moments when the sound doesn’t shine. One notable example is when first emerging from Vault 101, and your eyes just start recovering from the glare of the sunlight and start adjusting to the world around you. A short rising from some string instruments accompanies this scene. It is short and subtle but it does send goose bumps down your spine and it’s just as effective as Oblivion at conveying mood and atmosphere to the player.

Finally, what good is an RPG when, after you have saved the world, there isn’t a truckload of extras and side quests to keep you coming back for more? Answer? Not very. Thankfully both games offer DLC and sidequests. But the real question is which DLC is worth your money and what sidequests are worth perusing?

Unfortunately again for Fallout there isn’t much on offer in any of these areas. But let’s break it down. Sidequest wise Oblivion is miles ahead of Fallout. For example in Oblivion there are many groups to work for, including the Fighters and Mage guilds, not to mention the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves guild. All of which come with their own slew of quests, missions and achievements which all help integrate the player in this fictional world and increase the games longevity. There is nothing quite to this scale on Fallout. Not counting Broken Steel, it wouldn’t have hurt to include Brotherhood of Steel missions in the original game. Or given the player the opportunity to do missions for the Enclave. Bethesda could have easily included groups or guilds similar to those seen in Oblivion yet chose not to and that seems like a wasted opportunity.

As far as other sidequests go, about 40 hours into Fallout and you will probably be struggling to find NPC’s to give you anything to do. That’s not to say there aren’t sidequests in the game. Just not half as much as there should be. Whereas in contrast to this, 90 hours into Oblivion, chances are you will still have a heap of stuff to do in your active quests tab.

Now for the downloadable content. Yet again Oblivion is on the ball in this area, having a substantial catalogue of things to purchase on live and dwarfing that of Fallout 3. However that’s not to say that everything to buy for Oblivion will be worthwhile. Paying for some chain mail for your horse is entirely pointless, but the choice is at least there for those who want it. Oblivion also offers The Shivering Isles, an expansion pack that consists of a whole new continent to explore, a main quest and plenty of side missions thrown into the mix as well. Also there is Knights of the Nine, a massive quest of epic proportions.

Fallout only has three items to download. The first two Bethesda unleashed, Operation Anchorage and the Pitt, are both enjoyable romps and add some much needed variety and spice to the game but both can be completed in about 2 hours each. The final part, Broken Steel, should really have been included in the original game as it ups the level cap to 30 but more importantly concludes the main story. In a way it feels like you have to buy the last half of a movie you bought months ago.

So in conclusion which game prevails and which game is the one you will be ready to jump back into in years to come? As discussed both games share a lot of similarities, yet it’s the slight differences in style and substance that set them massively apart. Of course it all comes down to personal choice, but in this writers opinion with Oblivion, you get more bang for your buck. Cyrodiil is a much more interesting world to explore and you will never be at a loss for something to do. If Bethesda had incorporated everything from Oblivion plus all their new ideas and poured them into Fallout it would have been absolutely amazing. However it ended up being just very very good. In some ways it feels like Bethesda took one step forward and two steps back.

So there you have it. Now if you will excuse me. I’m going to escape from prison with Patrick Stewart, team up with Sean Bean and save an empire!