Welcome to the latest installment of Blog Banter, the monthly blogging extravaganza created by bs angel and coordinated by Game Couch. Blog Banter involves our cozy community of enthusiastic gaming bloggers, a common topic, and a week to post articles pertaining to said topic. The results are quite entertaining and can range from deep insight to ROFLMAO. Any questions about Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!
Are there any video games that possess a timeless appeal? Games that, despite constant advances in technology, retain a game engine or narrative that will forever be relevant. If so, why?
When it came time to write this article, only two games came to mind: Baldur’s Gate II and Deus Ex. Both of these games have been good friends over the years, games that I’ve picked up and played and put away countless times. These games are both brilliant, but they are both brilliant in different ways. Whereas BG II captivates me with its overly intricate plot and deep tactical play, Deus Ex allows me to customize my character in very interesting ways, ways that BG II never comes close to touching.
In turn, both games have their shortcomings: both games are buggy as hell, even after years of patches. Deus Ex is poorly, maybe even terribly acted (especially the infamous Denton brothers), strangely paced, and (from time to time), badly designed. There are whole tech and skill trees that must be avoided like the plague (Environmental training? Really?), whereas some absolutely must be invested in. The enemy AI is offensively moronic, enabling my favorite “attack, hide for 5 minutes, pop back out and attack” tactic.
BG II suffers from some of these problems, as well as a set of its own. The plot, which I love, in all of its geekery, asks us to care for causes and characters unworthy of the game’s ambitions. I know that Minsk and Imoen are classic characters, but they are not attractive, on any level, not compared to characters that one meets in Deus Ex, or Mass Effect. BG II is more about camp, revenge and epic adventure than it is about strong emotion. It’s like saying that Dragonlance is moving (and I love Dragonlance, in my way), when you could be reading His Dark Materials. Melodrama is seen as a substitute for depth of feeling or emotions that I can relate to on any level. When Aerie and Jan start blabbering, I’m fondly amused, but in no way caught up in their banter.
So, the next time I open up BG II, I wonder what my reasons will be? Often, it’s the urge to complete my favorite parts of the game with a slightly different character, because, honestly, you never play the game any differently, as Deus Ex, Mass Effect, or any other number of games force you to do. These two games are fun, interesting, and indicative of directions that the industry in general still needs to be moving in. I’ve yet to play a game, even a Bioware game, that gives me the same feeling of camaraderie delivered by rolling through a dungeon with my favorite evil-aligned team.
Likewise, I still haven’t found a game that makes me want to try all of its skills and tech-trees, not like Deus Ex does. So often, I’ll fire up another game (like Bioshock, say), and convince myself that this time, I’ll power up my Bumble Bee and Whirlwind attacks, for real. But I don’t, because the game is the same, despite how the combat might play out differently. In Deus Ex, if I hacked the right doors, I could read a missive from one NSF terrorist to another, expressing worry for her friends.
I’m not going to go play these games now (to be honest, I just got over a BG II binge), but I’ll say this: games need Deus Ex’s complexity and depth of experience, just as they need BG II’s effortless scope and character interaction. I can’t remember a game with “branching paths” or gameplay options that “change the storyline” that can even compare to Deus Ex. Likewise, Mass Effect’s characters, as amazing as they are, seem to live in a vacuum. I get the feeling that when it’s dinner time on the Normandy, there isn’t much conversation.
Anyway, that’s why these games are timeless. I just need a bit more time before I can appreciate each of them fully again. Until then.
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Silvercublogger: Lost & Found
Hawty McBloggy: Much Like Your Mom
Game Couch: Finding Citizen Kane