Sunday, 28 December 2014

Final Fantasy VII Playthrough: Part 19 - Cloud returns, kinda

After a nerve-wracking few weeks that have seen Tifa and then Cid try their hand at leadership while Cloud suffered a mental breakdown, fell into the Lifestream and took a journey through his subconscious only to discover that he wasn't Cloud at all, things are finally back to normal.

"Normal", of course, being a race against time to save the planet from physical and existential destruction at the hands of Sephiroth, Meteor and Weapon.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The numbers game

I recently listed my top ten games on my tumblr blog following a nomination from Stella. Because my tumblr is mostly visual I added a set of ten images to accompany the list, and saw that most of the images had women in them.

I then realised that...

...four of the games (Tomb Raiders IV and II, Beyond Good and Evil and Portal) had canonical female protagonists...

...two of the games (Mass Effect 3 and Fallout 3) gave me the option to make the protagonist a woman...

...three of the games (Final Fantasy X, The Last of Us and Deadly Premonition), while featuring male protagonists, let me play as one or more women to some extent, with Final Fantasy X featuring three female members in the central party, one of whom is the most powerful and important character in the game, both in plot and gameplay terms.

Only Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception didn't let me play as a woman, but it has three very strong female characters including Katherine Marlowe, one of gaming's most subtly brilliant villains. Ok, so it might not pass the Bechdel test, but none of the women are objectified, they don't need need saving, and they all have agency.

Games industry, do you have ANY idea how much money I have spent on video games in my life, and how much more I might continue to spend on games that interest me?


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Final Fantasy VII Playthrough: Part 18 - Over to you, Cid

Cloud is lost in the Lifestream, a giant supernatural beast is on the loose, Aeris and Sephiroth are still dead and missing respectively and a meteor is about to collide with the planet. But the party have managed to steal an airship, so I think on balance, things are looking up for Team Tifa and her merry men.

Even so, it's hard to stay relentlessly positive when staring straight up at Meteor, which is heading towards us at terrifying speed (context: Final Fantasy VII predates both Armageddon and Deep Impact by a year).

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Final Fantasy VII Playthrough: Part 17 - Tifa takes control

Sephiroth has unleashed Weapon, SHINRA have captured my friends and I'm tripping out at the bottom of a crater. It looks like I'll be there for a while, so perspective shifts to Tifa.

Tifa is having a flashback to the time when she recruited me to AVALANCHE, thinking I was her childhood friend. She's just found out that I wasn't actually her childhood friend after all and that I was just created from her memories, but apparently she suspected something was fishy all along and only recruited me so she could keep an eye on me.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Final Fantasy VII Playthrough: Part 16 - S*** gets real, Cloud loses his s***

Aeris is dead, Sephiroth got away, and I'm having an identity crisis.

This was brought on by my recent blackouts, hallucinations, out-of-body experiences and a worrying tendency towards uncharacteristic behaviour, such as giving a WMD to my nemesis and trying to stab my (now late) friend in the head with a Buster Sword.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Final Fantasy VII Playthrough: Part 15 - Temple and City of the Ancients

Having rescued Cid from a life of regret (luring away with the promise of almost certain death), we find out that SHINRA are pursuing Sephiroth to the Temple of the Ancients. They've got a head start due to the fact that they're the planet's most powerful industrial corporation and we're using a broken plane as a raft.

A few conversations with suspiciously well-informed locals reveal that in order to get into the Temple of the Ancients, we need an artifact called the "Keystone", which is currently in the possession of our good friend Dio, owner of the Gold Saucer amusement park.

He's keeping it in his collection of curios at Gold Saucer's museum and agrees to lend it to us if I amuse him by fighting some monsters in his battle arena.

Final Fantasy VII Playthrough: Part 14 - Nanaki, Vincent and Cid

Having recently survived a theme park prison colony, we're all a bit tired so decide to pay a visit to Red XIII's laid-back home town of Cosmo Canyon.

Cosmo Canyon is a bit like a collection of New Mexico earthships, in that it's built out of found objects, it's in the middle of the desert and it's full of hippies.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Well-Rendered's Games of the Generation #1: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Sony Computer Entertainment/Naughty Dog (2009)

I probably should have written a proper article for this post. It would have been nice to reward your patience, at the very least.

But this is all you're getting.  

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is #1 because of all the games released for consoles over the last seven years, it's the one I've enjoyed most. The story is a big part of this, but I've already written an article about why and I would rather not repeat myself.

Well-Rendered's Games of the Generation #2: The Last of Us

The Last of Us, Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment (2013)

Spoiler warning

The "Games of the Generation" series is a list of favourites, so I was initially puzzled that the number two slot ended up being occupied by the most depressing game I've ever played. In fact trying to figure out quite why I love it so much despite how miserable it makes me has been the primary cause of the delay in publishing this piece, so I really hope it's worth it.

The Last of Us, like fellow downer The Walking Dead (#9 on the masochist's list of recommended weekend activities), is a story about a shady man and an innocent girl making their way across America after a zombie apocalypse. But while The Walking Dead is a tale set in a world without hope, The Last of Us puts you in charge of humanity's only hope: a young girl whose genetic code might just hold the cure for the Cordyceps infection that's ravaged the planet.

In The Walking Dead you must do all you can to ensure the survival of little Clementine on the basis that it's the right thing to do. She's an innocent child who deserves a shot at life, and it's your job to ensure she gets it by whatever means necessary. In The Last of Us, you're a mercenary who needs to get Ellie to a resistance group (the Fireflies) who might be able to turn her immunity into a vaccine, even though extracting the crucial tissue will kill her. The terrible twist is that your character, Joel, decides at the 11th hour that he'd rather slaughter thirty people - including perhaps the last brain surgeon in existence - and sacrifice humanity's last chance for redemption rather than let Ellie die.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Well-Rendered's Games of the Generation #3: Deadly Premonition

Deadly Premonition, Access Games/Rising Star Games (2010)

Game-ruining spoiler warning

There are games that set out to rewrite the rulebook on how interactive narrative works, and there are games that learn from everything that has gone before and push the medium forward yet further.

And then there are some games that are so unlike anything that has gone before that it is possible to imagine that while their creators have read enough Wikipedia to learn what a "Video Game" is, they have never actually got as far as playing one.

Deadly Premonition, a Twin Peaks-style murder mystery in the sleepy American town of Greenvale, is one such game. Though the protagonist is one FBI Agent Francis York Morgan, the player is cast in the role of Zach, his invisible friend. Or at least that's what you're led to believe for the first few hours, but it eventually turns out that Zach is the main character, who created York as a kind of avatar for himself following severe childhood trauma at the hands of the supernatural entity responsible for the murder that brought him to Greenvale in the first place. Zach, then, effectively conrolls York in much the same way as the player does. I go into this in more depth in this Character Select article on Francis York Morgan.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Well-Rendered's Games of the Generation #4: Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2, BioWare/Electronic Arts (2010)

I'll settle for "writer" now that I've reached the age where rock stars die, but my number one lifetime ambition has always been "starship captain" (number two being "rock star", obviously). The Mass Effect series has done a pretty comprehensive job of letting me live out that fantasy, but it's Mass Effect 2, which casts the player in the role of outlaw on a mission to recruit the galaxy's strongest, smartest, weirdest, and sexiest loners, that really stratched the itch.

The first and last games in the series may have been excellent science-fiction RPGs that gave the player a spaceship, a gang of intriguing companions and a vast galaxy to explore, but the Mass Effect formula is at its most potent when it puts them outside the establishment. This is because its greatest asset is its universe, the species within it, and the way they are all trying to assert themselves while keeping hold of their identity and history. As Commander Shepard of Earth's Systems Alliance, the player views the "aliens'" predicaments from an outsider's perspective as they nobly balance humanitys's concerns with the greater good of the galaxy, but in Mass Effect 2 they operate from within a dark underworld that subtly infiltrates every planet, culture and society they encounter.

Well-Rendered's Games of the Generation #5: Fallout 3

Fallout 3, Bethesda Game Sutdios/Bethesda Softworks (2008)

I know I sound like a broken record, but the one thing a video game can do that no other narrative medium can is give you a world and let you explore it however you want in order to draw your own conclusions. The most intense experience I have had of doing exactly this is in Fallout 3, Bethesda's post-nuclear follow up to Oblivion.

Set in 2277, 200 years after the "Great War" in which the United States was reduced to barren rubble following all-out nuclear war, Fallout 3 sets you loose in the "Capital Wasteland", which was once Washington D.C. While some humans still roam the wasteland as bandits and others live above ground in makeshift towns such as Megaton (built, of course, around an unexploded nuclear warhead that the residents now worship), you grew up in Vault 101, one of many such nuclear bunkers scattered around the country. 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Well-Rendered's Games of the Generation #6: Portal

Portal, Valve Corporation (2007) 

Spoiler alert

Portal, as I have said many times before, is a brilliant metafictional twist on the entire puzzle genre in which the lab rat gets the better of the scientist.

I have discussed the metafictional aspects of the game indepth in my Character Select article on GLaDOS, so rather than retread old ground I will briefly explain why it is the original game rather than the larger Portal 2, that makes this list (Spoilers! Portal 2 is not on this list).

Sunday, 12 January 2014


We interrupt our regularly scheduled broadcast for the following announcement:

Image taken from

I have started a tumblr. As a person who uses the internet, I see cool stuff all the time, and while I'm able to write something interesting about some of them, the majority have slipped by undocumented. Until now.

I'm pretty sure tumblr is mostly of interest to other people who have tumblr and are looking for things to put on their tumblr, so if that's you please head to my tumblr.

Well-Rendered's Games of the Generation #7: Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games/Rockstar San Diego (2010)

I'll start this post with a massive oversimplification: when it comes to the driving force behind their art, Europe has history, America has geography.

The scale is equal. While Europe has undergone constant power shifts for millennia, America's vast, unconquerable landscape is as much an inspiration and a mystery to today's artists as it was once to the first pioneers. No game has expressed the harsh magnificence of the American landscape quite like Red Dead Redemption, an open-world epic set in the last days of the Old West.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Well-Rendered's Games of the Generation #8: Bayonetta

Bayonetta, SEGA/Platinum Games (2010)

Before the last generation began, I had a lot of time on my hands. Time to cover every inch of my bedroom walls with postage-stamp sized images of my heroes and embellish the spaces between each one with stickers and sequins. Time to hand-stitch song lyrics onto my denim jackets. Time to play fighters.

Learning to play a good fighter is like learning to play a musical instrument. You can muddle along by learning the basics, but to get the most of it you have to retrain your mind and your muscles to execute complex rhythmic commands. Games are unlike other artistic media in that they withhold content from you if you do not devote the time to uncovering it. In an open-world game, this may be a story hidden in diary entries that are hidden around the world. In a fighter, this content is what your character can actually do, and to discover it, you must learn to control them.