Archives for category: My Stupid Backlog

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a massive Sega fan. Of course, the company makes it difficult for us diehards these days, having abandoned seemingly all of their incredible franchises of yore. No more Shining Force, no more Outrun or Daytona, no more Jet Set or Panzer Dragoon. No more Shenmue.

One series that rose from the ashes of Sega’s descent into third party publisherdom (if that’s not a word, it should be) is Toshihiro Nagoshi’s Yakuza series. While the franchise has struggled to find its feet in the West, it does well enough in its home territory to be heading towards its eleventh release with the upcoming Yakuza 6. It’s also often held up by fans as something of a spiritual successor to Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue, and for that reason it’s a series that’s been on my radar for some time, but one which I’ve for some reason or other never gotten around to. As I patiently (not really) wait for the Shenmue 3 that I kicked $250 into to reach my grubby paws however, it seems like a good time to address that.

Only I didn’t start at the beginning. That would have made too much sense. Also, it would have cost me too much cash, as Yakuza 2 is pretty damned expensive these days. But I’ve had the PS3 titles, Yakuzas 3 and 4, sitting on my shelf unplayed since their respective UK release dates, so I jumped in at the third game. Handily, sitting in the main menu are recaps for the first two games that aim to catch any latecomers up on the overarching story of the Dragon of Dojima, Kazuma Kiryu.

Kazuma Kiryu

Having watched them, I honestly couldn’t tell you what happened in Yakuza 1 or 2. Something about ten billion yen going missing, and I think there was a gang of triads, or Korean gangsters, former friends turned enemy then back to friends, and there was a little girl and a big building. Point is, the catch ups don’t do a great job of communicating those stories to someone with zero prior knowledge. They delight in throwing names of people, organizations, alliances and events at you, and in such a condensed format, they just don’t stick in your brain. But that’s ok, because what they do manage to achieve is to give you a good feel for the kind of guy Kiryu is, and that’s really important. He’s a hard man, but an honourable one, and he’ll put himself on the line for his friends without hesitation. Clichéd? Perhaps, but there’s a lot more to Kiryu than stereotypes. He’s a fantastic, nuanced character, multi-layered yet easy to understand, and Yakuza 3 might just be the best place to see that for yourself.

We begin in Okinawa, at a beach-side orphanage run by Kazuma, ably assisted by a mature beyond her years Haruka – the aforementioned little girl who is now effectively Kazuma’s adoptive daughter. The start of the game is lengthy and rather slow-paced, taking a fair while to pick up a head of steam. Much of the early game is spent focusing on the relationships between Kiryu and the kids in his charge, and the game takes its time to introduce new characters, like the members of the local Ryudo Yakuza family. Returning players could understandably find themselves a little bored by the languid pacing, wanting to get stuck into the meat of the game, but for someone coming to the series fresh, I thought it managed to lay down an entertaining foundation, establishing Kiryu’s character as this stoic, erstwhile Yakuza chairman runs around tending to his kids, making sure they have everything they need, solving the odd dispute between them, and cooking them curry (again) for dinner.

Of course, it’s not long before Kiryu gets caught up in a complex plot involving a military expansion bill, a proposed resort complex, the land his orphanage stands on, and a grand conspiracy encompassing members of Kamurocho’s Tojo Clan, a man that looks an awful lot like Kazuma’s dead foster father, and even the CIA. Yeah. I told you it was complex, didn’t I? Again, there are a lot of names, organisations and titles thrown at you over the course of the 20-odd hour story, but in such a dense, plot- and character-driven game, you’ll end up remembering them all. Nagoshi’s team really excels in selling the relationships between Yakuza 3’s cast of characters, and there are bonds here that you will really see develop over the course of the story. Some are already ingrained from the start, like when you’re strolling down Tenkaichi street and Haruka hurries to catch up, taking Kazuma’s hand as she does. Others you will see grow over the course of the story, such as the fantastic friendship between Kazuma and the fiercely loyal Rikiya Shimabukuro, who may well be the ultimate bro.

Rikiya's a bit too into this

Though the series is often thought of as a sort of Japanese GTA, Yakuza 3 is structured much like a jRPG; you have your main plot thread, plenty of side quests, levelling up, which affords you new skills, and even random encounters, which, as ever, can get annoying when you’re just trying to get to the next plot point. Of course, combat isn’t exactly your standard jRPG fare, as fights in Yakuza are settled by brawling in the streets. You’ll punch with Square, throw in combo-ending kicks with triangle, and use the same button to activate powerful Heat Moves when you have enough meter; these do massive damage and, if you’re holding a weapon – which can be anything you pick up on the streets, from bicycles and signage to stun guns and even swords – you’ll get a bespoke animation for each when using a heat move. As previously mentioned, you can unlock new fighting skills as you level up, giving you access to new techniques, and best of all, you can learn new, elaborate heat moves by turning voyeur and videoing odd people doing crazy things in public – like watching a drunken salaryman try to pole dance on a lamppost – and then blogging the results with a hilariously dramatic flourish. It’s completely, wonderfully bizarre.

Of course, there’s more to Yakuza than the main story objectives, and that’s where the comparisons to Shenmue come in. If you fancy a break from all the brooding and brawling, you can head on down to the batting cages and hit a few home runs. Or maybe go bowling or sing your heart out at karaoke with Haruka. Then there’s darts, pool, golf, arcade and UFO catcher machines and tons more besides. Like Shenmue, Yakuza gives you a ton of different distractions and ways to waste time, and like Shenmue, while none of this is compulsory to drive the story forward, it does serve to enrich the world you inhabit. Yakuza is often labelled as an open-world game, and it’s a tag that ill fits the series in my opinion; the game’s two locations of Ryukyu and Kamurocho aren’t the sprawling landmasses you’d expect to find in a GTA or an Assassin’s Creed – they’re maybe the size of a single district in one of those games – but they are absolutely packed with things to do should you feel like you need a breather. Seriously, I finished the game in 24 hours and only achieved 12% completion!

Ultimately, how much Yakuza feels like a replacement for Shenmue comes down to what you take from that long-absent series. There are certainly similarities in the way you can choose to ‘waste’ time doing lots of extraneous yet fun activities, and also in the way that you’ll be fighting lots of goons in the streets (though Shenmue is more tied to the Virtua Fighter combat engine than the more arcade-y feel of Yakuza). However, if what captivated you about Shenmue was the setting, the atmosphere, the detailed slice-of-life portrayal of a Japanese teenager in the mid-80s, well, you won’t get that here. The tone of the two games can often be wildly different, too; while ostensibly a ‘serious’ yakuza/crime drama, Yakuza 3 isn’t afraid to suddenly turn incredibly gamey, often to the point of gleeful absurdity. Of course, Shenmue had a handful of goofier moments, like racing forklifts around Yokosuka Harbour or anything involving Chai, but there’s nothing that matches two guys tearing off their suits in one motion as their fighting spirit literally erupts from their bodies before they do battle on top of a skyscraper. It’s a game with a great sense of humour, that never lets its setting and subject matter get in the way of glorying in its nature as a videogame. For my money, Yakuza feels like Nagoshi’s team wanted to make an amalgamation of Shenmue and a 3D take on Streets of Rage, and dress it up in an elaborate yakuza-focused soap opera.

And that’s ok. Yakuza doesn’t need to ape Shenmue to justify its existence. For my part, while I didn’t manage to find a stand-in for Shenmue, I did manage to discover another Sega franchise to obsess over. Now I just need to find the time to play 4 and 5 before the next couple of instalments arrive on western PS4s.

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Well, it’s uh, been a bit barren around here of late, huh? Apologies for that – I’ve been a bit busy and just haven’t been in the mood to write.

Today is different though. Today, I just feel like writing for the sake of writing, so I thought I’d throw together some words about what I’m currently playing. If you’ve read the title, you’ve probably guessed that I’m playing a few too many games at the moment; I tend to play one title until I’m done and then move on, but every now and then I get a sudden urge to play something specific. Like the first game in this list, which I’ve been meaning to play for quite some time, and felt the sudden need to do so after a certain E3 reveal.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I’m currently using my Wii U to get through a bit of my Wii backlog. I really appreciate that the Wii U is backward compatible, and wish that my XBO and PS4 were, too. Having to switch between these three consoles as well as PS3 and 360 is a bit of a pain, so it’s great that I can tackle my Wii catalogue without having to hook up another console.

I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t played Twilight Princess before – I’d stupidly walked away from the series for years after the Wind Waker reveal – and I’ve always seen the game palmed off as basically being an Ocarina re-imagining. This, I think does Twilight Princess a bit of a disservice. Every Zelda game since Ocarina has of course followed that basic template, but Twilight Princess feels to me like the ultimate evolution of that blueprint. So far, it’s everything I wanted from a follow-up to Ocarina of Time – grand, epic and mysterious, with a bit more of a focus on storytelling, and infused with a melancholy atmosphere that few games manage to achieve.

It also feels like the largest, most expansive Zelda adventure to date (in terms of landmass, certainly). More than ever, Hyrule feels like a real place; from the bustling Castle Town, full of citizens going about their daily lives, to the Gorons of Death Mountain, enjoying a relaxing hot spring while Link adventures through their territory. It’s a world filled with memorable characters, none more so than Link’s constant companion Midna, who goes from mischievous imp to sincere friend and ally to Link.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I love Midna. Go home, Navi and Fi.

Oh, and then there’s the music, which I’ll be writing about a bit more in a few days. While it’s a bit of a shame that Nintendo decided not to go for a fully orchestrated score (something they did achieve, with fantastic results, in 2011’s Skyward Sword), this doesn’t detract from the quality of the compositions. And while the game can occasionally look a bit muddy and muted (especially in the starting area of Ordon Village), it frequently looks absolutely beautiful – just witness Faron spirit spring as the sun’s going down – and more often than not, the music and visuals come together in such beautiful ways, like a journey through the strangely familiar Sacred Grove set to a melancholy reimagining of Saria’s Song.

Having just arrived at the Arbiter’s Grounds, I feel as though I’m approaching the halfway mark in the game, and if it continues at its current pace, Twilight Princess might well end up as my favourite Zelda game of all time.

Tales of Xillia
I love Tales of Xillia. Not only do I have the expensive Milla Maxwell edition, but it’s also signed by Hideo Baba. So this isn’t my first time through the world of Rieze Maxia. But with the sequel out next month, it felt like a good time to revisit Xillia and its great cast of characters, and I decided to use the occasion to play through the game as Milla.

For the uninitiated, from the off Tales of Xillia gives you the option to play as either conscientious med student Jude Mathis or all-powerful Lord of Spirits Milla Maxwell. The two split up – briefly – a few times throughout the story, so to see what the other lead is up to during those short periods of absence, you’ll need to play through it twice.

I’ve taken the opportunity to completely ruin the challenge of a game that was already easy by spending my accumulated grade (points earned through battle) to carry 5 x EXP, double damage, the ultimate weapons and a few other perks through into my new game plus. Five hours in, I’m closing in on level 30 and absolutely flying through the game.

But that’s all I wanted – to play through the other side of the story quickly, reacquainting myself with the world and its characters before Tales of Xillia 2 launches in a little over a month. And yes, I have the expensive Ludger Kresnik edition pre-ordered. I can’t help myself.

Dragon Age: Origins
Now here’s one I started a few months back and sort-of abandoned. I started the PC Ultimate Edition a while ago, intending to play both it and its sequel before the promising-looking Dragon Age: Inquisition launches at the end of the year. I got stuck and decided to park it for a while, and I’ve just recently gone back to playing it on my laptop when I can’t get access to the TV.

It’s not the first time I’ve abandoned the game; I bought it just after release on 360, rolled a mage, and then realised how redundant I was once I had both Morrigan and Wynne in my party. This time, I’ve gone for a rogue, and so far I’m enjoying stealthing around enemies to get an idea of the lay of the land before bringing the rest of my party steaming in. You can see my Dalish Rogue, Meadghbh, below.

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I’m only at the Tower of Ishal in Ostagar right now, but hopefully this time I’ll be able to see the game through. Then it’ll be on to Dragon Age 2, which I recently managed to grab for under £4 in the Xbox 360 Ultimate Games Sale. With that sitting on my hard drive and a pre-order down on Inquisition, that should give me ample motivation to finish.

Others
Those three are my ‘main missions’, if you will, but I’ve also got a number of other things on the go at the moment. On Vita, I’ve got both Borderlands 2 and Final Fantasy X on the go. I had actually set FFX aside to get stuck into Borderlands 2, where I’ve been playing as the Mechromancer Gaige and her killer buddy Deathtrap (“love ya, bot!”), but recently I’ve been trying to get a bit of each done here and there, according to my mood. On Borderlands, I’m just about to head to the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve, whereas in Spira I’m currently halfway through the Thunder Plains. Then there’s always Project Diva f when I need five or ten minutes of rhythm action goodness.

On Xbox One, I’m currently playing through July’s free Games with Gold release, Guacamelee (or Super Mextroid, as I’ve taken to calling it). I didn’t really pay it any mind when it hit PS Plus last year, and I’m glad I got another chance to try it out, because it’s really good – a Metroidvania with a luchador aesthetic, absolutely filled to the brim with references and call-outs to classic games.

Speaking of Games with Gold, I’m nearly finished with June’s game, puzzle-platformer Max and the Curse of Brotherhood. I’ve enjoyed playing through it in very short bursts, and while it’s a good looking, inventive game, I’m glad I managed to get it for free. Lastly, on PS4 I’m still playing Ubisoft RGP Child of Light. Well, sort of. I chose to play the game on hard and some battles can be frustratingly unbalanced, leading to me setting the game aside a few times. I think I’ll need to make a conscious effort to push through the rest of it soon, if only to get to the end.

I’ve mentioned abandoning games above, and this is usually how it happens – I start too many things ‘just because’ and then some just never get finished. It’s something I try to avoid these days, as it’s just a waste of money to have so many unfinished games. I’m determined to finish off the ones I’ve talked about here though – hopefully before I have to add the likes of Bayonetta 2, Destiny, Alien Isolation and more to add to my ridiculous backlog!

It’s been a while since my last ‘Musical Mondays’ piece, and this one was prompted by doing something that I’ve previously covered in another of my irregular series’ – my backlog-baiting ‘My Stupid Backlog’ pieces. You see, over the weekend, I finally finished The Witcher, a game which, along with its sequel, was the focus of my second ‘MSB’ piece, and when I heard the end credits theme, Believe, I just knew I had to write a post about it.

It reminded me of when I first finished the original Mass Effect and M4 pt II by Faunts kicked it; it just felt so fitting, so right. This piece of music is wildly different from that which closed the first chapter of Commander Shepard’s story, but no less fitting for the game it brings to an end.

I love the mix of violin and electric guitar in this theme. It all melts together beautifully, the violin lending the music a bittersweet, melancholic edge, while in other places joining up with the guitar, soaring in triumph. It perfectly evokes Geralt’s travels and trials throughout the game, each victory coming with a price attached. It also perfectly encapsulates how I felt when I had completed the game – elated at finally seeing the tale through to its conclusion, yet a little sad to see it go.

As a bonus, here’s a track taken from the bonus CD The Witcher: Music Inspired by the game that came bundled with the Enhanced Edition. It’s a beautiful piece of harp-led electronica, and includes some samples that are taken straight from the game’s soundtrack.

It feels good to finally be seeing some movement on my ridiculous backlog of shame, and I’m really glad I played The Witcher. Though a little clunky in places, it’s an utterly fantastic game, and with the third title on the horizon, now is a perfect time to grab the first game and its sequel Assassins of Kings, which will be next on my list… after BioShock Infinite, of course.

togf
It’s time to take another guilty look at my absurd backlog, and today I’m focusing on Namco-Bandai’s Tales of Graces f. An enhanced port of a 2009 Wii title, this PlayStation 3 version added a ten-hour epilogue (hence the ‘f’, for ‘future’), and finally made its way here last August.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (first off, thanks!), then you may remember that I made an unboxing video of the Day One edition that Namco-Bandai put out at Graces f‘s release back in August. And a very generous set it was too, comprising a gorgeous, full-colour (albeit paperback) artbook, a behind the scenes DVD and a soundtrack disc. I was very excited for the game; I was quite new to the Tales of series at the time, having played Tales of the Abyss on 3DS and (most of) Tales of Vesperia on my 360, but I became a big fan of the series right from the start.

I knew I wouldn’t be jumping straight into Graces f, as I was knee-deep in something else at the time (I can’t remember what though…), so I had intended for it to inhabit The Shelf for a while. But recently, a couple of things have really tempted me to get stuck in. First of all, I’m currently playing another beautiful, colourful Namco-Bandai RPG – Ni No Kuni. I’m now about 16 hours into Level-5’s collaboration with anime house Studio Ghibli, and loving (almost) every second of it. It really is a beautiful game, and genuinely looks like a Ghibli anime. It’s quite an achievement; we’ve seen cartoon-y games before, but the sumptuous colours and bright, clean shading really elevates Ni No Kuni‘s art-style above other aesthetically-similar games. Visually, it reminds me of the couple of Tales of games I’ve played so far (Abyss and Vesperia), as they’re also very colourful and possessed of stark, clean lines and use of flat colours and cartoon-y shading. Playing Ni No Kuni has reminded me that Tales of Graces f sits unloved on my shelf, and also that I still need to finish Tales of Vesperia (a game so good I bought it twice!).

Speaking of Vesperia, that game is another reason for my sudden desire to play Graces f. I recently watched the anime prequel Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, and it reminded me how much I loved the game’s characters – Yuri Lowell might well be my favourite jRPG protagonist ever, and young mage Rita Mordio is fantastic, possessed of the kind of attitude that usually only inflicts one who is too good, too young – but I never finished the game. I reached the final dungeon (The Tower of Tarqaron) a few months back, and then decided to ‘take a break’. I absolutely loved my time with Vesperia (I might even call it the best jRPG I’ve played this gen), but there was one difficulty spike that took me close to ten hours to overcome (and also took me perilously close to crying real man-tears). When I reached Tarqaron, I worried that I might find the final boss insurmountable, decided to leave it for a few days… and then never went back.

As I’ve been getting strong Tales of cravings recently, I’ve decided to go back and finish it off soon – maybe even today. But I only have a few hours of the game left to me, and I really want to experience a full-on Tales of journey, so it’s handy that I have Tales of Graces f, which hasn’t even graced my PS3’s disc drive yet, to scratch that itch. The only problem is that it’s calling to me so strongly right now that I’m tempted to play it concurrently with Ni No Kuni, and this I must resist! I don’t think I can handle two massive RPGs at the same time (and I’m still dipping into The Witcher on my PC every few days). So, provided I can hold out, I’m pencilling in Tales of Graces f as the next title in my backlog that I aim to tackle. And I know I’m in for a good time; PSG’s own Dan Bushell put the colourful jRPG in at number three on his top five games of the year list, and if Dan loved it, I’m sure I will too.

ds2s
Yes, it’s a new year, but I still have a ridiculous backlog. Worse, in fact, thanks to receiving games for Christmas, as well as sales on the likes of Steam and GOG.com. As always, the first few months of the year are again jam-packed full of new releases that will also be joining the growing list, while I fruitlessly try to whittle away at it.

And it is one of the upcoming releases that’s on my mind today; Dead Space 3 launches in a little under three weeks, and I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. The original Dead Space was one of my favourite games of 2008 – I absolutely loved it. Contrary to popular internet opinion, I thought 2011’s Dead Space 2 bettered the original in every way (except for that frustrating monster-rush near the end), and it ended up being my favourite game of 2011, ahead of Skyrim and Sonic Generations.

But Dead Space 3? I don’t know what to make of it. Admittedly, I haven’t seen much of it, which is likely to its benefit, but I didn’t much like what I did see – series protagonist Isaac Clarke running around a bright, Hoth-like world called Tau Volantis engaging in third-person shooter battles with human opponents with an AI companion in tow.

At first glance, these sound like the exact same issues that most people had with Resident Evil 5 back in 2009. The demo and the overwhelmingly negative reaction that I noted online put me off playing that game until last year, and when I did I loved every minute, so perhaps I am giving Dead Space 3 short shrift. I can say that I’ve been curiously uninterested in the game since that initial unveiling, yet as it creeps closer to release, I am unexpectedly starting to look forward to it. And I’m quite glad to feel that way – I do love the franchise, after all. I even read the thoroughly mediocre book about Michael Altman and the origins of Unitology…

So, I said I loved Dead Space 2 (and I really did – I feel like it didn’t get enough praise – certainly for the visuals, which I believe are among this generation’s best). When I spied the DLC mini-campaign Severed on Xbox Live for a cheapo price more than a year ago, I snapped it up eagerly. There it has since remained, unplayed, on my harddrive. But as Dead Space 3 began to gently tug at my attention, it occured to me that playing through Severed might be a good way to get back into the franchise before the sequel arrives.

Dead Space 2: Severed is a two-chapter mini-campaign, featuring characters from the enjoyable lightgun spin-off Dead Space: Extraction (and set three years after that game) and is a side story to the events of Isaac’s own traversal through the Sprawl. As far as I’m aware, the gameplay is broadly comparable to the main campaign (though I imagine suit and weapon upgrades must be either excised or handled differently), and I hear it’s just a couple of hours long – perfect for someone who’s trying to clear items from a backlog!

Of course, the fly in the ointment of this plan is that tomorrow will see a Dead Space 3 demo arrive on XBL and PSN, so that will get all my attention (and I’ll most certainly be doing a write-up, you can count on that!); if it’s good, I’ll probably be salivating over more Dead Space content and immediately load up Severed. If it’s bad? Well, I’ll probably be sitting in a corner crying and rocking back and forth whilst holding onto my knees, lamenting what has become of one of my favourite new franchises this gen.

Let’s hope for the former, eh?

geralt

I haven’t been terribly active on here recently (thanks, build-up to Christmas!), so as I sit here, up early with nothing to do but await a UPS delivery, I decided I’d relate another tale of my epic (read: ridiculous) backlog. This one’s a two-for-one deal.

Like a good many gamers out there, I have a Steam account, and any Steam member knows what a dangerous proposition the Steam sales are. For the uninitiated, games frequently go for little more than £1 in these seasonal extravaganzas – I’ve previously bought games like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, BioShock, and the subject of this piece, The Witcher, for between £1-£3 each. Unfortunately, and also rather stupidly, I don’t own a PC with even a half-decent GPU.

Now, before you double-facepalm, hear me out: about four years ago, I bought a Core2 Quad-based desktop with a cheap GPU, intending to replace the graphics card at a later date for something a bit beefier. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and the PC went mostly unused, save for loading music onto my trusty iPod Classic. More and more, I’ve not wanted to sit at a desk staring at a monitor for any length of time, and seeing as the desktop came with only a DVI output, I can’t simply link it to my living room TV without also needing to set up an array of speakers.

My main PC for the last 18 months has been an Asus EP121, a 12.1″ tablet PC running Win7, which is great for daily use, but awful for gaming, given its Intel HD Graphics solution. It’ll run Half Life 2 pretty well, as well as Portal at an acceptable frame rate, but Source Engine games tend to be fairly lightweight, and HL2 itself is now pretty old. Attempting to load up The Witcher on the EP121 (an exercise I fully expected to end in failure) resulted in a slide show at even the lowest settings. So I went temporarily insane and ordered a laptop.

Based on the work of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher was released back in 2007 to positive reviews, and a sequel, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings followed on PC in 2011 and Xbox 360 earlier this year. As I’d wanted to play the original title for some years, I eagerly pre-ordered the 360 version of Assassins of Kings (getting a signed version into the bargain), intending to YouTube the major events of the first game. As so often happens, it ended up on ‘The Shelf’ and has not been touched since.

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So what makes me suddenly want to play these games? And badly enough to buy a new PC? Well, I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones’, the first book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve been meaning to watch the HBO adaptation, Game of Thrones, for a while, but decided I’d read ahead and then see how the television series fares. I’ve been wholly sucked in to its world of clouded morality, medieval intrigue, double-crossings and ruminations on honour, loyalty and the divine right of kings, and The Witcher series seems like a pretty good gaming companion piece to it – especially the sequel, which apparently revolves around the mysteries surrounding the murders of kings.

My new plan is to play through The Witcher on my new laptop before settling in to enjoy the sequel on my 360. I’ve almost knocked one game off of my backlog (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, which I’ll be finishing up this morning), so by the time that UPS van arrives I should be about ready to dive headfirst into the adventures of Geralt of Rivia.

Are you a big fan of The Witcher? Or do you have an equally stupid backlog? Leave a comment below and let me know.

If you visit this blog with any regularity, you may have noticed something of a drop-off in content recently. It’s not so much laziness on my part (I promise); more that there hasn’t been much gaming news of late that has interested me enough to comment on.

I suppose that’s the way it goes at this time of year, when publishers are shipping out their big hopes for the Christmas period, and focus shifts from updates on in-development titles to sales numbers. Information like this doesn’t really interest me – I want to write and talk about games, not numbers of units shifted.

And so, staring at my shelves, laden end to-end and top-to-bottom with a considerable percentage of games I may never play (thanks to both the speed at which games drop in price these days, and my own inability to control my videogame spending), I had an idea: Why not write about these games I’m yet to play, and maybe give myself the kick up the arse I need to cross some off of my to-do list? I’m thinking I might do one of these a week, focusing on those titles that are foremost in my gaming regrets. So today, I’m kicking off with…

Heavy Rain
There are a few fairly good reasons why I’ve not yet got around to playing Heavy Rain. To begin with, it doesn’t help the PS3 (or indeed the Wii) that my 360 is my main console – pretty much all my multi-platform games are bought on the 360, and it’s the machine that sees by far the most use. The other two are mainly used for some fantastic exclusive titles, but with 90% of releases these days being mirrored across the two HD consoles, it leaves little free time for me to show the other consoles much love.

Secondly, Quantic Dream themselves are something of an issue for me. Granted, David Cage often comes across in interviews as if he’s convinced of his own importance (though it would be silly to form an opinion of someone’s personality based on nothing more than answers given to questions likely posed to provoke a response), but this isn’t my issue here. No, part of my reticence to play Heavy Rain stems from the one Quantic Dream game I have played: Fahrenheit, otherwise known as Indigo Prophecy.

I often see Fahrenheit used as an example of an intriguing story that utterly squanders its promise, and this is pretty much how I feel about it. The opening third of the game is fantastic, as one of a handful of playable characters wakes from a trance, having committed a brutal murder, and makes an attempt to hide evidence before escaping the scene. Perspective then switches to a pair of cops investigating the very murder that took place at the game’s start, which lends the game an intriguing cat-and-mouse element, with the player taking on the roles of both hunter and hunted.

The middle section sags a little with some questionable attempts at character building, before it all begins to fall apart and the story disappears up its own arse and into the realms of the ridiculous. For me, it was the kind of story development that made me want to flip over virtual tables, and the fact that it utterly destroyed the creeping atmosphere and intriguing premise that the opening hours worked so hard to build made it all the worse. The problems with Fahrenheit‘s story, characterisation and ending has always made me nervous to play Quantic Dream’s follow-up project. Sure, in most games, it’s often easy to overlook elements like this if you’re having fun with the gameplay, but considering how elevated in importance these elements are in Quantic Dream’s work, if those aren’t done right here, there’s not much left.

Perhaps the main reason I’m yet to play Heavy Rain, however, is down to one specific moron on the internet. Back when the game was originally released, a user on one of the forums I used to frequent decided to go around both forum threads and story comments spamming the identity of the game’s ‘Origami Killer’. Another user decided to compound this idiocy by confirming what the first cretin had posted. The story’s premise is discovering the identity (and solving the mystery) of the Origami Killer, so with that ruined,  I felt the game wouldn’t have quite the impact it would have had if I’d gone in completely blind. As it stands now, I’d be controlling one character knowing they’re the one to blame for everything that’s happening, and that’s surely going to affect how I play, and subsequently enjoy, the game. If anyone has access to a Men in Black neuralyzer, now would be a good time to offer its services…

It may sound like I don’t want to play Heavy Rain, but I really do – it’s in my collection, after all, and what I’ve heard from friends sounds promising. Curiously, it might be Quantic Dream’s upcoming Beyond: Two Souls that finally convinces me to stick the disc into my PS3’s drive and finally work my way through it – as excited as I am for that game, I’d like to see how Cage and Quantic Dream’s storytelling and execution have evolved since Fahrenheit caused me such disappointment. And if am to find a significant step up from the team’s last-gen outing, it may even increase my anticipation for their forthcoming title.

Do you have an enormous backlog? Feel free to leave a comment detailing your big gaming regrets, or, alternatively, lambasting me for my own.