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).