Sapper Gopher

White Gold: the horror, the horror…

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There have been a few recent shooters that are supposed to put the main character through some kind of psychological terror. Far Cry 2’s hunt for the world’s most dangerous speed reader (did they only book the recording studio for four hours or something?) had laughable allusions to Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness. Like calling the last level “Heart of Darkness”. Far Cry 3 had Flight of the Valkaryies and a speech about insanity, in case you didn’t get that the character delivering it was supposed to to be insane. Spec Ops: The Line did a somewhat better job with the material. But nothing can rival the unintentional descent into madness that is White Gold.

After the jump, welcome to the bungle Continue reading →

White Gold 4: from (near) Russia with bugs

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We storm out of the landing craft onto the beach. German pillboxes are slaughtering soldiers left and right. The whole thing looks like something out of Saving Private Ryan. Probably because Saving Private Ryan came out only two years ago. Dying soldiers are everywhere, though they don’t seem to be suffering any bleeding. After we reach cover by barb wire, a sergeant yells “Go back down there, and grab those bangalores!”. Yelling to be heard over the din, I scream “What the fuck is a bangalore!?”

After the jump, shocking spoilers about the mystery of the white gold Continue reading →

White Gold: cocaine is a hell of a drug

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On the second island, I finally reach my CIA contact at the US embassy. The embassy is one room in a two story apartment building, a great satirical jab at the decline of American influence in the Caribbean, or just an indicator of the game’s small budget . They’re also blaring the Star Bangled Banner constantly. I don’t want to sound anti-American, but could they please turn that crap down? Anyhow, I’m told to meet another contact in the local bar. Alright, meeting an informant in a bar. I feel like I’m in Dr. No, or Our Man In Havana, or just a better game. The ass tells me to cough up 20k in pesos before he spills the beans. This is the part in a non-linear game where the developers grab you by the lapels and shout “Go do some of our side-quests!”. See Baldur’s Gate 2 for an example of the same device. What follows are tales of my adventures on the second island…

After the jump, “I come not to praise Don Guillermo…” Continue reading →

White Gold: because two years ago there was no Far Cry 3

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When I drive back to the starting village in White Gold, I find a group of villagers having an informal dance party. It’s a great serendipitous moment, one more games should have. Their dance moves wouldn’t make the grinding strippers in Fallout: New Vegas envious, but it adds more character to the world. Most games are too obsessed with explosions and gore to include wonderful details like this one. I even stop to admire the scene for a few seconds before I machete one peasant, fire a burst from my M60 into another peasant, and launch a grenade into the crowd.

After the jump, let us prey Continue reading →

White Gold: island hopping and bunny hopping

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Fade in to Youtube video of Far Cry 2. A custom Far Cry 2 map with red fuel barrels strategically placed in underbrush under a tree line. The End by The Doors and jeep engines are the only sounds. After a minute the player launches a grenade, a giant fireball fills the screen, engulfing the trees in flames.

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes, again

Dissolve to:

December. Shit. Far Cry 3’s not coming out ’till December. Every time I buy an open world FPS game I think it’ll actually be good. When I was playing Far Cry 2 after finishing the original it was worse. I’d keep expecting it to get better and there’d be nothing. When I was playing, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I’ve been here for three months now, waiting for the next new release, getting fatter. Every minute I spend in front of this monitor I get stupider. And every minute the AI squats in the bush he gets cheaper and lamer.

Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a sandbox FPS set in the tropics, and for my sins they gave me one. It was no accident I got to be the caretaker of the villain at the end of White Gold’s memory, any more than being back in fictional third world country was an accident. There is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And if his story is really a confession, then so is mine.

After the jump, I stop talking like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now Continue reading →

Suikoden V: if I…should stay…I would only…be in…your way

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The stakes are fairly low in Suikoden V. The whole game is about a botched coup in a single country. Godwin’s forces don’t even look like Death Knights. They look like some third world army with their fruity berets. And like other Suikoden titles and real world wars, it’s clear the Godwins are going to lose near the end. The final battles are more like suicide by protagonist. Though in keeping with JRPG tradition, the final boss always ups the stakes in the last battle by transforming into a monster. Suikoden V is kinda like Hamlet, because you duel the usurper’s son before going on to kill the usurper. If King Claudius turned into a dragon for a final boss fight at the end of Hamlet, they would be even more similar.

After the jump, the prince and Lyon: will they or won’t they? Continue reading →

Suikoden V: the bathhouse at Sodom n Gomorrah Castle

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Getting a headquarters for your army is a Suikoden series tradition. The HQ is where all the recruits hang out, each with his own one or two line spiel that reflects his personality/backstory and changes in the plot. As you see your army grow, the HQ always goes from an empty warehouse to a bustling town, with new sections added in stages. All the non-combat recruits earn their keep here, even if their only job is to be an inn keeper. Each game has a recruit whose only function is to — no joke — install an elevator.

After the jump, what Suikoden characters do in their downtime Continue reading →

Suikoden V: 108 samurai. Or knights, ninjas, riflemen, whatever.

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From a gameplay perspective, saying there are 108 characters in a Suikoden game really means there are 60 to 80 benchwarmers once you subtract non-combat, non-support characters who are just there to serve as shopkeepers and other RPG jobs for your army. Some have common jobs like innkeeper. Some have uncommon jobs like elevator bellman, gardener, or the orchestra conductor who’s the music playback menu in disguise. Some such as series vet Jeanne do double duty as party member and vendor. Though Jeanne was already doing double duty as rune vendor and sex object. Story wise though, every character contributes at least a bit part. There are quite a few characters with subplots and character arcs. Everyone else at least has unique dialog and portraits, making this one of the few RPGs where the merchant peons have personality. The merchants that are part of your army, that is.

After the jump, why I love the beavers Continue reading →

Suikoden V: New Game Plus’n it

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One of the reasons I prefer the PS3 to the 360 is that I can copy saved games to and from the system with a USB stick, no need for some third party doo-hickey (caveat emptor: PS3 games won’t let you use other people’s saves, sans hacking them to work on your system). There’s also the fact that Blu Ray lets me play Assassin’s Creed with Italian dialogue, and play Uncharted 2 with the leads talking in French so I don’t have to hear the smarmy American voices, but let’s save that for another time. It’s one of the reasons I prefer the PSP to the DS too, aside from the non-tiny screen. I was able to expedite my playthrough of the Scott Bakula-Agent Smith inspired action RPG The Third Birthday with cleared game data, sometimes referred to as New Game+.

After the jump, what does any of this New Game+ business have to do with Suikoden V? Continue reading →

Suikoden V: to hell with Elder Scrolls V

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Wait, is this one of those games where androgynous teenagers save the world? Yes, thank you, wise ass. We’ve all heard that joke a million times.

Suikoden V does have a pretty-boy teenage lead. Freyjadour Falenas, as he’s officially known in the wiki. But he has a good excuse for being in a position of such importance: he’s the prince of Falena. His porcelain features reflect his good breeding. He gets his snowy white hair from his mother, the regal Queen Arashat, and his washboard abs from the consort of the Queen (but not the King, more on that later), former barbarian Ferid. And it’s not him and his high school pals leading the charge against chaos. It’s him and 108 other named characters, plus an army of thousands. And they’re not saving the world, they’re quashing a coup in a civil war against usurpers of the throne. And he’s not even the brains behind the war effort. That distinction belongs to Lucretia, the strategist or Tenki Star (the star of wisdom). Because this is an entry in the mostly defunct Suikoden RPG series, where the gimmick is that you recruit 108 possible party members (the stars of destiny) and raise an army.

After the jump, nothing about Skyrim, but plenty about marrying ten year old girls Continue reading →