Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hunting Game(s): The Best Stories

Hi All! First, two quick pieces of video game news:

First, Borderlands 2 released yesterday! I probably pick it up during the holiday season, I'm on a budget and putting all my resources towards XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but so far I've only heard good things about Borderlands 2. If it improves in any way on the original, it must be amazing. Maybe I'll do a reflection piece next week and talk a bit about Borderlands 1. We'll see.

Second, this article over at Game Informer talks about a new Ninja Gaiden game that looks pretty interesting. I've never played ANY of the others (they're somewhere on my to play list -- hey, that'd be a decent post too...), but this one pits a Ninja against hordes of zombies, what can go wrong?

Alright, on to this week's hunt! I'll be doing a top 5 post featuring video games with the best stories. It WAS going to be games based off of novels, but I decided that might be a bit TOO difficult to find...

Fallout: New Vegas
In my favorite games post, I mentioned the Fallout series (specifically the newer ones, though I own the originals and will finish them eventually). I could have put either 3 or NV here, but I honestly prefer the underlying story threads in New Vegas a touch more, especially with the conclusion of the DLC, all of which related in some way to your unknown past.

The main game's story is also interesting; you have three factions you can join and help take over the Majave, or you can take it over "yourself." It's not exactly as much freedom as I'd like (the factions aren't as diverse as I'd prefer and most of this missions you do are the same or similar between the groups), but there are plenty of ways to see the stories play out. Even more interesting are the random stories you'll come across as you roam the desert, some told by survivors of horrible events, others by the remains of those who didn't.

It's a story about how war never changes, even after the apocalypse has come and gone -- this is easily one of my favorite games and stories featured in a game. I'd rate this a 10/10, it really does hit everything I love in a game and a story.

Dragon Age 2
I think most fans of the Dragon Age series would be surprised to see this title instead of Dragon Age: Origins. Origins does have a great story and great gameplay with many varied choices you can make, but the game itself is MUCH more tedious than the second: I loved it the first time, but going back to it, I HATE having to go through Orzammar and the Fade, they're both overly tedious and make replays a chore. That's the same reason why Mass Effect didn't make it to this list -- I picked my preference for story and playability out of the Bioware titles. They're all good, but DA 2 has, in my opinion, much more focus on story.

You follow Hawke and his/her family through their exodus out of Ferelden and into Kirkwall. From their, you choose what impact Hawke has on the city over the course of three different chapters. There aren't as many choices as in the first, but they are much more focused and the characters you recruit seem to be better focused and much more interesting. Gameplay was streamlined, much to fans' disgust, but the story telling was made better by its focus on the city of Kirkwall instead of all of Ferelden.

My rating is 7/10.

Chrono Trigger
I still have yet to finish this game. That being said, I can already say this game has an amazing story that goes from a fantasy stone age era to the sci-fi future on the brink of destruction. You travel through time in an attempt to stop the end of the world you've already witnessed, recruiting a cast comprised of some of the most interesting characters I have ever seen in an RPG title. The gameplay, for me, takes a little getting used to; this is why I have yet to finish it. Even so, the game is nothing short of amazing and really deserve to be played by anyone who has the chance.

I don't like rating things I haven't finished, but I'd say this hits a 9/10 for me so far. The gameplay holds it back a touch, though when I finish it might not be enough to stop this being another 10/10.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
This game made it to the honorable mentions list of my favorite games, and that is because of its strong, strong story, which just happens to be set in the Star Wars universe. It is the predecessor to both Dragon Age and Mass Effect (the first one, anyway) in terms of gameplay and deep story telling.

The action starts immediately from the start, where you wake up to the sound of alarms and your ship being attacked. Unfortunately, you don't remember who you are or how you got there (ok, yes, it starts with an amnesia story, but it gets better!). This is another game that introduces you to interesting characters and, in the realm of video games, has one of my favorite plot twists of all times. I had managed to not spoil this one for myself and it made it that much better, so I won't spoil anything here.

The story starts of interesting, flags a bit on Taris, the most tedious part of the game, but picks up as soon as you get you first lightsaber. And you will be very glad when you do.

I rate this game a 9/10 and its sequel an 8/10 (it has better focus on the cast, but a less interesting main character/overall story). It would be in the honored 5th slot if not for the next title.

I do not normally enjoy First Person Shooters. I gave Bioshock a shot because I heard it had an interesting story and some decent mechanics. The gameplay still wouldn't qualify as my favorite, but the "interesting" story was absolutely amazing as far as I'm concerned. There are no traditional cutscenes, not hand holding moments that take you through the story and explain what's going on. You're another amnesiac (sometimes it works, I swear!) who ends up in Rapture and has to find out what's going on and how to get the hell out of the crazy, underwater city.

The story comes across via characters speaking to you over the radio and different audio diaries left around Rapture. Rapture itself tells a story as well; it was a paradise gone wrong that is now run by crazy splicers and watched over by terrifyingly strong Big Daddies. The game is dark and tense in theme, gameplay, and how the story elements are unveiled.

Towards the end of the game, everything gets flipped on its head and things become MUCH more intense. The plot twist in this game was something I simply didn't see coming and it floored me with how long it had been building up without me ever noticing.

Again, I'm not an FPS fan, but the story in this game dragged me along despite that, and for that alone it deserves the 5th slot. Add in my favorite plot twist in a game to date, and it'll stay here for awhile. Game gets a 9/10 for me overall.

You may notice that there are no PC titles up here. Being that I am only a recent PC gamer, I did not have much material to put here. I honestly thing Star Wars: The Old Republic would be better on here than DA 2, and I'm sure there are plenty of PC only titles that could make up this list. I may take a look at that in the future, when I have more under my belt.

This list is missing a TON of great titles with amazing stories. I know this. For my PS2 alone, I could make a phenomenal list. I don't want to repeat titles, so these are the ones I value most for their stories.

Next week's post is up in the air, there are several things I'd be interested in writing. If you have a preference out of the list below, leave me a comment and I'll make it happen:

Review of Borderlands 1
My "To Play" List
Best Post Apocalyptic Games (this one will be especially difficult since I avoid re-using titles...)
Other: Your choice!

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