Tag Archives: Chris Matyskiel

The Last of Us: Sinners Make the Best Saints

WARNING: CONTAINS HEAVY, MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE LAST OF US

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The Last of Us is singularly the best game I’ve played when it comes to the grey areas and hard choices of survival in extreme situations. In a lot of scenarios presented in the game, there’s no clean-cut right answer. In fact, having an easy, moralistic choice would entirely defeat the point of the game. The game is in fact all about the grey areas, and the difference between our current world and the one portrayed in the game….one in which Joel is in a fact a heroic figure.

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Review: The Last of Us

The Last of Us is the kind of game people wait for. It’s worth waiting for, as well. For those concerned about spoilers, there will be none in this review.

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The basic storylines of the game seems deceptively simple: a fungal apocalypse essentially destroys the world, with survivors holed up in quarantine zones. Twenty years on, said zones are downtrodden, oppressed, and  Joel, a smuggler, is hired to bring a young girl out of one of the zones to a safer place. It’s no simple task- the world we see every day has crumbled, and is populated by crazed tribes of scavengers, fungal zombies, and plenty of dangers from the environments and injury alone. The initial outset of the game seems simple, but it’s deceptively complex at times.

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Closing Ranks: Why We Need to Be Like BSN

It’s a well-known fact that publishers and developers have a simple if effective manner of dealing with discontent with their player bases: if they don’t say anything, eventually the ire will ebb away. Players will be distracted by other releases, placated by out-and-out bribes, or simply calm down and just be bitter. It’s not that these publishers and studio’s don’t deserve to be forgiven for things like Aliens: Colonial Marines, Diablo III and Duke Nukem Forever- they need to do things to earn that forgiveness, forever. If they don’t, players need to remember the actions of studios when making their next purchase.

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So what does any of this have to do with one of the strangest, loudest communities in gaming?

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A Return to the Secret World; Prologue

Well, after a series of horrendous financial woes including massive layoffs, The Secret World has gone free to play. While I played, I rather enjoyed the game…but not enough to continue my subscription after a few months. The gameplay was fun, but I was having trouble making it into a guild. Partly, the society of the game wasn’t quite hammering itself out at that point. It was all exploration, questing. And, to be honest, it was a hell of a lot of fun. There wasn’t a raid culture where I was inducted into a cabal of tightly-knit people like on World of Warcraft, so I didn’t end up roped into a cabal of other players wherein I was an essential cog of a larger machine. I am constantly getting suckered int playing a healer, and I didn’t in The Secret World. It seemed like a more casual MMO experience, and that’s what I enjoyed about it. The skill system was novel and didn’t really restrict me as a player- I could heal and DPS with a very minimal set of skills, and didn’t pigeonhole me as any particular class.

There wasn’t that factionalism to really bind us together like there was in other games; no screams of ‘Horde for life!’, reppin’ for Orgimmar and Undercity. The factions largely felt…well, cosmetic. I hate to compare it to WoW once again, but part of the reason why factions flourished was the world PVP aspect. It could be incredibly frustrating to get ganked while questing, but it also made players of a given faction much more likely to protect one another, to take pride in your colours. Even walking down the street today, wearing a Horde T-shirt gets me nods of respect or at least recognition. It makes it easy to strike up conversations with people.

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I think my favorite part of the game was the lore and story quests. The lore in particular was fantastically written, the world settings incredible, and the idea behind the setting itself fantastic. I walked around for hours and hours looking for lore and really rather enjoyed it. That was the game’s greatest strength. There were plenty of references to everything from Stephen King to HP Lovecraft and back again. The quests were a lot of fun, and the emphasis on puzzles and problem solving was a nice change of pace. The skill wheel made things easy while being deep, and it was fun not to be restricted by class. I could swap in one skill set and be a healer when needed, and swap in another to DPS or quest. This also required the odd equipment change, but that wasn’t as big of a deal as I originally thought.

The community of The Secret World is also wonderful, by and large. Not only is it helpful and polite, it’s occasionally self policing. Since there’s an emphasis on problem-solving skills, the community frowns upon asking for answers (and even more so about giving them) on certain channels. Racism, homophobia, and other unpleasantness are rapidly reported and shouted down. Players are, by and large, extremely helpful to one another to boot. I haven’t ventured into a roleplaying server yet, but by and large everyone seems to be wired tight and willing to both teach and learn.

So why did I end up quitting? Paying fifteen dollars per month to basically play by myself was just sort of…well, baffling. I was playing what essentially amounted to a single player game with a tax, and because I was taxed, I felt to compelled to play constantly. That really killed the casual feeling of the game, which made me enjoy it less and less until I figured I was better off saving the money. It’s not a bad game by any means, but I felt a touch pressed to play even when I didn’t want to. Why am I giving it another chance now? Well, why not? There will most likely be a much bigger pool of players, and since I’ve quit, there’s been plenty of content added. So why not give it another shot?

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Things I Learned From World of Warcraft, Part One

Right off the bricks, I’d like to be clear- I’ve been clean about four years now, since about a year after Wrath of the Lich King dropped. My experiences in Azeroth (and beyond!) have stayed with me- and I’d like to share some of the valuable life lessons the game has given me.

Lesson One: Situational Awareness

Back in the day, when I first started playing with my friends, I was tossed onto a PvP server. As a freshly-minted Undead Priest, I ended up in a largely out of the way zone to start. It was pretty rare for me to see any sort of Alliance presence with the exception of the odd group of brave (but exceptionally stupid) adventurers on their way to the Scarlet Monastery. At the time, seeing them didn’t worry me- I was close enough to Undercity that stopping to gank a level fifteen fighting gnolls added risk to an already dicey venture. It wasn’t uncommon for people leveling closer to the Plaguelands to call out in zone chat that there was a party headed that way…usually just before or just after the Alliance goons cut them down.  It was a dark time, then- ganking was a pastime for many, without even a yelled ‘BREAK YOSELF, FOO!’ to announce your murderous intentions. So there I was, minding my own business  watching the Alliance pass without interest, thinking I should live and let live, when suddenly, a paladin stops. Dismounting, she one hit me, and without fanfare, continued on her way. I shrugged it off the first time, and the second…but when it happened a third time, I got to be nervous. I developed the habit of constantly looking over my shoulder, being aware of what was going on around me in addition to what I was fighting and what people were saying on Ventrilo.

Seeing this from the opposing faction means it’s safe to pass them by…unless they’re lying, backstabbing goons.

At the time, Stranglethorn Vale and Hillsbrad Foothills were also major transit areas. I remember learning the unspoken code of civility- if you were passing through, and you found a member of the opposing faction, you came to a stop a waved. If they waved back, it meant that they didn’t want trouble and you could give each other a wide, wary berth as you passed on your way. If they didn’t respond, they were calling for reinforcements and you had to down them or dash. When you were questing or fighting mobs, you had to have one eye peeled because that was the perfect time to jump someone. In fact, it was considered an ideal time to jump someone of a higher level than you while they were fighting- me and a friend actually went prowling in a slightly-higher level area once to revenge a particularly egregious spree by a particular gnome in the Foothills. We both often leveled together, at least partially for safety- though there wasn’t much we could do most of the time if a level seventy decided he didn’t like the look of my eyeless, mandible-less priest trying to kill something.

Undercity was not a safe haven either. Even before there was an achievement for it, some people would city-raid. While each faction had one particularly hard-to-raid city (Thunder Bluff and Stormwind respectively), it was possible to be minding your own business and get caught up in a raid.You could be sitting there, at the auction house, turning in your leather when out of nowhere forty Alliance could pour down the Undercity pipes or through the far Ogrimmar gates. Players had to be ready to defend themselves, or at least get out of the way. It could be an easy way to get kills by helping defend your city- especially since you respawned so close, and so long as you helped down some of the raiders with area of effect spells or picked away at weaker members you could get a few freebies.

The face of the enemy, in the Horde capital of Ogrimmar, circa Burning Crusade.

Now, how did this translate into other things? Well, playing the game for years with one eye cocked over your shoulder translates fairly well into games like Dead Space. The knowledge that nothing is safe -not even your home city- imprints heavily in games with a survival element. Having to spot far-off Alliance goons gave me a knack for attention to detail. While I haven’t played for years- admittedly, doing thirty hours of raiding per week sort of caused me to burn out on the game- I still remember it fondly and periodically become nostalgic for it- even the PVP.

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