Revisiting the Horror Genre for Halloween

I’ve always thought that I didn’t like the horror genre. And it’s true that I don’t like a lot of what I generally expect to see in horror. But since I’ve unexpectedly found myself enjoying a few works in the genre right in time for Halloween, I’ve taken some time to think about what this means. Specifically, that I don’t like a lot of the tropes I associate with traditional American horror: lack of focus on characterization, shock value deaths, the notion that characters need to be punished. I’m not necessarily enamored with a work of fiction trying to scare me either, or reveling in the helplessness of the characters.

Still, while those things make up a lot of horror works, they don’t have to. Horror (especially psychological horror) can be character-focused. Every death can mean something, or alternatively, the threat of death could replace actual death. And while the entire point of the genre is to pit the protagonists against something far more powerful than themselves, that doesn’t mean the story can’t also be about them looking for ways to fight back. Continue reading “Revisiting the Horror Genre for Halloween”

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Sunless Sea: Captain a Ship and Explore the Dark Expanse of the Unterzee

A buoy with a light at the top, floating on an evening sea. Words read
Image: Failbetter Games via Steam

Genre: Steampunk roguelike/choose-your-own-adventure?

Synopsis: You are a captain who sails through an underground sea, always returning to your home port of Fallen London. In pursuing your chosen ambition–such as wealth, immortality, or finding your father’s bones–you will encounter a variety of unconventional characters and bizarre situations. And you will have to choose how to deal with them. Do you agree to take the undead Tomb Colonist passengers on a tour of adventure to distract them from their final death? Protect them while they’re in your charge? Or sell them to a colony of giant spiders for profit? Continue reading “Sunless Sea: Captain a Ship and Explore the Dark Expanse of the Unterzee”

Why I Can’t Seem to Finish Mass Effect: Andromeda

You guys, I tried.

There are good, entertaining parts to this game–I’ve mentioned them before–but the parts in between them are too much of a slog. At some point, the anticipation that drives me through that slog to get to the good parts wears thin. Andromeda needs more than cool ideas. It has to execute them well, and consistently enough to keep the audience engaged. The game is made up of a series of good moments, and some great ones, with a lot of not-so-good stuff in between them. But what it needed was to draw the audience into a continuous story, and it doesn’t really do that. Continue reading “Why I Can’t Seem to Finish Mass Effect: Andromeda”

Science in Mass Effect: Andromeda

I’m still not done with Mass Effect: Andromeda–I’m about halfway through the game. It might take me some time to get through it, but in the meantime, I wanted to talk about the impression I’ve had of the game so far from a biological/genetics standpoint. Continue reading “Science in Mass Effect: Andromeda”

Mid-Game Impressions for Mass Effect: Andromeda

An armored figure facing the backdrop, which shows a crashing spaceship on a rocky terrain, another planet visible in the distance.
Bioware

Genre: Sci-fi RPG

Synopsis: An intergalactic coalition from the Milky Way sets out to colonize a new galaxy. After 600 years travel, with the passengers cryogenic-ally preserved, you–Ryder (a customizable character)–are among the first woken up. You’re part of the team meant to explore the planets and ready them for settling.

Unfortunately, something has happened to this galaxy between when your people first analyzed them 600 years ago, and now. The worlds don’t sustain life the way they’re supposed to. Now you have to figure out what happened and how to fix it–while trying to initiate peaceful first contact with new species along the way. Continue reading “Mid-Game Impressions for Mass Effect: Andromeda”

Miscellaneous Things of Interest, from Sci-fi to Giving Back

Mass Effect: Andromeda – This game is coming out tomorrow, and I’m super excited. Hopefully, I’ll get a playthrough done in time to post about it next week. I’ve managed to remain surprisingly unspoiled so far–all I know is, it’s set after the Mass Effect trilogy and thus detached from the action of the previous games, and it’s a Bioware style RPG in a sci-fi setting. I haven’t so much as looked at a trailer, don’t know how many companions are recruit-able, and don’t even know the plot. So the discovery process should be interesting. Continue reading “Miscellaneous Things of Interest, from Sci-fi to Giving Back”

Tales from the Borderlands: A Corporate Lackey and a Con Artist Go Treasure Hunting

 

A man and woman standing next to the words "Tales from the Borderlands, A Telltale Game Series"
Image: Telltale via Steam

Genre: Interactive adventure/sci-fi

Synopsis: Rhys is trying to make his way up the corporate ladder in Hyperion, which is hard when his boss has it out for him. But if he intercepts a vault key–which can open up a cache of riches–it’ll propel his career to the top. Of course, said vault key is on Pandora, a run down slum of a planet that’ll be a challenge to brave. And things become even more complicated when he runs afoul of a con artist, Fiona. Continue reading “Tales from the Borderlands: A Corporate Lackey and a Con Artist Go Treasure Hunting”

Mass Effect, and Launching an Immersive RPG Trilogy

(video)

Genre: Sci-fi RPG

Synopsis: The player character is Commander Shepard, a member of humanity’s Alliance military. Shepard becomes embroiled in humanity’s desire to join the upper ranks of the intergalactic community, along with species that have held the highest authority for centuries. But he/she comes across a high ranking and trusted agent who’s gone rogue. With humanity still relatively new and unproven, no one believes her/him, leaving Shepard almost alone in going after the danger. Continue reading “Mass Effect, and Launching an Immersive RPG Trilogy”

Unrest: The Violent Turmoil of a City Struck by Famine, Strained by Social Tensions and Rage, in an Indian Inspired Fantasy Setting

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Image: Pyrodactyl Games via Youtube

Genre: Fantasy RPG (minus the combat focus)

Synopsis: In a fantasy inspired by ancient India, five people have to make their way and shape the world around them during a period of social unrest: a princess ingrained in the surrounding politics, a mercenary captain following orders, a priest engaging in charitable acts, a peasant whose marriage is being arranged, and a diplomat whose people are being blamed for all the wrongs of the kingdom. The decisions that each of them make, the alliances that they build, and the traps that they dodge will determine the future of the realm–and who lives long enough to see it. Continue reading “Unrest: The Violent Turmoil of a City Struck by Famine, Strained by Social Tensions and Rage, in an Indian Inspired Fantasy Setting”

Neverwinter Nights 2: Fun Adventure with Technical Frustrations

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Image: Obsidian via GOG

Genre: Fantasy RPG

Synopsis: The player character has grown up in a small village, raised by his/her foster father after some terrible event long ago killed his/her mother. But one otherwise peaceful day, the past comes back to haunt the village. The protagonist is sent on a quest to the city of Neverwinter by his/her foster father, given little by way of explanation. The danger escalates, and it slowly becomes clear that something truly terrible is happening. The protagonist must build a reputation, gather alliances, and fight an enemy more powerful than anyone imagined. Continue reading “Neverwinter Nights 2: Fun Adventure with Technical Frustrations”