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Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:49 am
by Exhuminator
Finished another one tonight...

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11. Dear Esther: Landmark Edition | PC | Adventure | 2017 | 3hrs | 9/10

Dear Esther was originally a Half-Life 2 mod released in 2008, and later redeveloped as a commercial release in 2012. Five years later, Dear Esther was retooled again, this time as "Dear Esther: Landmark Edition". Differences include having been ported to the Unity engine, with a full audio remaster, and the addition of a brand-new Directors' Commentary mode. Some cite Dear Esther as the beginning of the "walking simulator" genre, a label this reviewer thinks makes as much sense as reducing Super Mario Bros. to a "jumping simulator". There's just no getting around it, Dear Esther is not a game for everyone.

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Does the idea of walking slowly around a deserted island, while listening to a man read excerpts of letters to his dead wife, sound like a fun time? Probably not. But "fun" is not the point of Dear Esther. Exploring, discovering, and thinking is. (Though unraveling this mystery which surprises you for every assumption you dare make is very entertaining in its own right.) Thankfully the island which you wander is quite beautifully rendered in convincing detail, and the cavern area contains some of most stupendous graphical design I've ever seen in a video game. Your eyes will be well fed, while your mind ponders, and your soul begins to stir. Or maybe you'll just be bored silly, it's very possible.

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This gamer however, was totally enraptured by the experience. From the achingly beautiful immersive atmosphere, to the tiny subtle secrets hidden all over the island. I found Dear Esther to be a wonderfully subversive "video game", but also understand fully why so many have challenged its authenticity as such. Now I won't claim Dear Esther is perfect; I ran into a nasty clipping bug in the caverns, and not being able to save your game at any time is annoying. Also taking control away from the player for the ending, that could have been handled a little more interactively. But those are tiny gripes in the grand scheme of what Dear Esther accomplishes.

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This game is art. Yep, I went there. Art as I define it anyway. I believe proper art asks questions, but doesn't tell the answers. And Dear Esther met that criteria with gusto. Is Dear Esther just a pompous exhibition masquerading as a video game? Is this a milestone of the medium, pushing the envelope of what a video game can be? Only future gaming historians know for certain. But this player was absolutely astounded by the experience, and moved deeply by a phenomenally brave ending. It's not often a video game can make me cry, let alone hug my wife a little tighter.

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https://www.gog.com/game/dear_esther_landmark_edition

Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:57 am
by MrPopo
Exhuminator wrote:
alienjesus wrote:I feel like Tactics Advance and Tactics A2 are better than either by some way because they just feel more streamlined, despite being long games themselves.

I often wonder if I'd enjoy Tactics Advance and Tactics A2. I've read so many conflicting opinions about those two. The contention seems to stem from something called the "judgement" system or some such. And that the plots are more lighthearted. I also now wonder how I would enjoy The Knight of Lodis on GBA. I've read many times people disparaging it versus Tactics Ogre original. I certainly don't see mention of Lodis on this forum often.

So I can't speak to A2, but Tactics Advance I feel was overall fairly weak. It sort of takes the FFT class system and heavily restricts it. Your force is split into several races, and each race can only use certain jobs (with the same style of learning skills and the need to master earlier jobs to use later jobs). Some jobs are more universal than others, but at the end of the day you lose out on a lot of customization. But the Judgement system is really the thing that just feels completely bad. This is a system wherein at the start of the battle a roving Judge shows up on his chocobo and tells you what action(s) are prohibited this battle. These are the same Judges as from FFXII (which came later), except in XII they were actually badass. The way this works is let's say the restriction is "No swords". If you attack with a sword then you'll get a yellow card, which is some sort of bad thing, and then continuing to do so will get you a red card, which is even worse. I can't even remember the specific effects since it's been (oh Christ, I hate doing math like this) almost 15 years since I touched the game. I went ahead and looked up the wiki article that explains it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_Fan ... vance#Laws

Knight of Lodis I can't compare to original Tactics Ogre, as I think I'm two battles into the PSP version and haven't touched it since release. Knight of Lodis uses a sort of modified version of Ogre Battle's promotion system. You still need to care about alignment and stats, but you also need certain awards. These are things gained during battle for various actions, and jobs typically need an award related to their functionality. An award might be gained for killing so many units, or charming a certain number of enemies, or counter attacking a bunch. Many of them come with inherent bonuses, so they're worth getting even if you don't care about a particular job.

Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:23 am
by Exhuminator
MrPopo wrote:The way this works is let's say the restriction is "No swords". If you attack with a sword then you'll get a yellow card, which is some sort of bad thing, and then continuing to do so will get you a red card, which is even worse.

I can only imagine the designers did this to try to force the player to be more strategic and not just rely on the same tactic over and over (i.e. don't just use archers all the time). It still seems a little goofy to read about out of context though.
MrPopo wrote:I went ahead and looked up the wiki article that explains it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_Fan ... vance#Laws

Ah and that link provides better insight, such as Judges granting bonuses (Judge Points) for using recommended things by said Judges. And that later in the game, the player gains the ability to use law cards, which can add laws, and anti-law cards, which can nullify laws that are already in effect. For all the complaining I've ever seen about the law system, I've never read anyone mention those balancing aspects. :roll: Thanks for the informative link.
MrPopo wrote:you also need certain awards / jobs typically need an award related to their functionality

Ah so this was this game's way of trying to get the player to play more strategically, gotcha.
MrPopo wrote:I think I'm two battles into the PSP version and haven't touched it since release.

Any particular reason why you dropped it?

Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:37 am
by retrosportsgamer
This game is art. Yep, I went there. Art as I define it anyway. I believe proper art asks questions, but doesn't tell the answers. And Dear Esther met that criteria with gusto.


Well put. I played through the Landmark edition back in October and as soon as I completed the game, searched for and read as many commentary pieces as I could find to compare my thoughts. That is a good indicator the game was effective in its storytelling goals.

I have no interest in going back for the director's commentary (or to grab the 1 or 2 achievements I missed) however. Once the initial exploration and introspection is complete, it's over.

Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:42 am
by ElkinFencer10
retrosportsgamer wrote:
This game is art. Yep, I went there. Art as I define it anyway. I believe proper art asks questions, but doesn't tell the answers. And Dear Esther met that criteria with gusto.


Well put. I played through the Landmark edition back in October and as soon as I completed the game, searched for and read as many commentary pieces as I could find to compare my thoughts. That is a good indicator the game was effective in its storytelling goals.

I have no interest in going back for the director's commentary (or to grab the 1 or 2 achievements I missed) however. Once the initial exploration and introspection is complete, it's over.

I've got a PS4 copy in the mail from Limited Run. After reading that review, I'm excited to experience it for myself.

Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:43 am
by Exhuminator
retrosportsgamer wrote:I have no interest in going back for the director's commentary

I thought about replaying it with the director's commentary enabled, but decided against it. A magic trick loses all magic once explained.

Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:35 am
by Ack
I played through Dear Esther back around 2013 or so. Any reason I should return to it for the updated release?

Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:41 am
by Exhuminator
Ack wrote:I played through Dear Esther back around 2013 or so. Any reason I should return to it for the updated release?

Not unless you want to hear directory's commentary as you play through it again. Although there is this aspect that Landmark Edition adds:

"Every play-through a unique experience, with randomly generated audio, visuals and events."


I don't know what parts are randomly generated or how significant the randomization is.

Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:27 am
by MrPopo
Exhuminator wrote:
MrPopo wrote:I think I'm two battles into the PSP version and haven't touched it since release.

Any particular reason why you dropped it?

I think there was too much coming out at the time, or I was in the middle of some games at the time. Some sort of distraction, in any case.

Re: Games Beaten 2017

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:42 am
by dsheinem
A few thoughts on some of the things Ex has been writing about...

-I spent a boatload of hours with LUCT on the PSP several years ago and got up to the last "run" in the Hanging Gardens/Eden and despite having sunk many, many hours into the game and having done many of the optional/grindy things, I was disappointed to find that I was still not in good shape to do the final run. I tried to go back to it a year later, and then another year or two after that (after transferring saves and downloading the game for my Vita), but I had forgotten so many of the intricate systems that I felt totally lost and even more inept than I did when I was playing it seriously. I remember asking for help then, to no avail :lol:

-Dear Esther made me cry :lol: It is now required playing for my college students in the video games class I teach. Ex, have you played "Everyone's Gone to the Rapture?" It is their follow up title, and is a worthy successor in many ways - it both lags behind and surpasses Esther in different ways.