Bioshock

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With an intricate plot and well rounded characters, Bioshock makes a wonderfully immersive game with a variety of environments and weapon styles.

Set in 1960, Bioshock tells the tale of Jack, a man who is left stranded in the Atlantic after a plane crash and travels to the underwater metropolis of Rapture. This city, built for greatness, has fallen to the greed of humanity and dystopian ruin. Jack makes his way deeper into the broken metropolis to find his only way back to the surface, the man who created and controls Rapture, Andrew Ryan. But is Ryan as bad as you are led to believe? And who is this mysterious Atlas figure who instructs your every move?

The plot sucks you into the world of Rapture and refuses to let you go. I have to admit that I was incredibly impressed with the sheer amount of thought that has gone into the plot for this game; it’s deep, intricate and undeniably enthralling. I played the game through once and was brought to both laughter and stunned silence. The plot provides surprising twists and unexpected turnouts that I never anticipated. Throughout the game, you can find audio tapes left by previous inhabitants of the broken city which give hints and ideas as to what happened to the city before Jack’s arrival. I found that that these audio tapes offered a lot more to learn about the game without forcing information down the throats of people looking for a more casual approach to the game. I was so taken with the plot and hidden history to the game that I found myself researching the history of the city. This aspect of the game was so strong that a book has consequently been published to explore the world of Rapture before its fall on the new year of 1959.

I found that the game had great pacing and atmosphere from start to finish, introducing the player to the world of Rapture with simple enemies such as thuggish splicers then slowly incorporating harder and more terrifying enemies as the plot advanced. A particularly well-handled moment in regards to pacing was seen at the introduction of Houdini splicers. I encountered a cave etched with strange symbols and signs in Arcadia and went to investigate. This fascinated me and I stayed a while to look at the alter-like table set with stick figures and candles, I turned to leave, only to come face to mask with this new splicer who promptly disappeared in a puff of red smoke. While my initial reaction was to jump and refrain from expletives, I was pleased that the game had taken the opportunity to present a new element and to hurriedly take it away like a promise of good things to come. Thiswhat I mean when I say that the game keeps up an effective level of tension. Enemies are often en mass but occasional which prevents the player becoming too accustomed to the enemy and thus never quite losing that initial hesitancy when entering a new room.

However, this leads me to what I consider to be a weak point of Bioshock. As an alternative to a ‘levelling up’ mechanic, the game gives the player a ‘research camera’. The player is expected to take photographs of enemies in order to ‘research’ them and thus ‘find weak points’ which allow the protagonist to deal with them more effectively. While this works in theory and seems like an interesting idea, it gets repetitive rather quickly and at times it can be difficult to catch that all-important picture. I found that, while the camera was fun for a level or two, it should perhaps have been used as a momentary plot device, to be used for one level or so then left behind. It would have been far more effective and would not have ended up feeling like a chore.

While I’m on the subject of ‘levelling up’ alternatives, I found that a useful and engaging alternative was the use of Big Daddies and Little Sisters throughout the game. The player is expected to collect ADAM from Little Sisters throughout the game and will be given a moral decision in association to the task. The player must first kill the Little Sister’s guardian, the Big Daddy, and is then given the option to Harvest her for the ADAM in her system or to Rescue her and remove the parasitic ADAM slug from her body. Harvesting inevitably gives you more ADAM which can be used to buy the superhuman abilities referred to as plasmids, while rescuing gives you less but compensates by leaving ‘gifts’ of ADAM and ammunition at the plasmid vendors. I thought that this levelling up style of mechanic worked really well. The Daddies get harder to defeat as the game progressed but it never seemed repetitive like the camera mechanic, new plasmids become available as the game develops and the game even gives alternative endings depending on the decisions you make within the game.

I thought that the in-game design and aesthetics of Bioshock really enhanced the immersive qualities of the game. The environments are detailed and varied from location to location but hold enough similarities that the player doesn’t feel lost within each new area; there was also enough differences between enemy classes is clear enough that I was never left wondering if I was fighting against a spider splicer or a lead-head splicer. I think the environments were detailed and a lot of thought had gone into the scenes shown; small details such as posters and writing on the walls added a lot to the game-play. The maps were intricate and set out in a way that allowed the player to search for hidden items if they pleased but didn’t force them into exploring a thousand rooms if they are looking for a casual gaming experience.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Bioshock and found myself fully immersed by the plot and design. The game mechanics are easy to use and offer a challenging experience to any gamer without being too tricky for a beginner to handle. Bioshock thoroughly impressed me and I’d recommend it to beginners and experienced gamers alike.

I would recommend this game to people who like:

*Dishonored
*Gears of War
*Dead Space

Dishonored

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Well, it happened.

I wasn’t originally going to put games reviews on this blog, as I felt it may detract from the whole Steampunk and Victorianesque aesthetic I had going on here. But I do enjoy my gaming and Dishonored seemed like a perfect Steampunk crossover. So, welcome to my new game reviews section!

Dishonored is a role playing, first person stealth/combat game released late last year. You follow the story of Corvo, Lord Protector, after he is falsely imprisoned for the murder of his Empress. You receive a mystery letter asking you to meet with a covert organisation that intends to expose the true murderer; and seeming as they help you to escape, it seems like a fair proposal to accept. I shan’t say much more but the game involves a lot of running around, a lot of difficult decisions and one hell of a clever game mechanic.

As you play through the game, you have the choice to murder everyone in your path as you attempt to escape OR you can take your time, sneak around on the ventilation pipes and hide behind walls, and eventually make it out of each level without so much as alerting a guard to your presence. There seems to be a much better achievement payload for the second option… So I went with that one! And it certainly did provide a challenge. It took a lot of patience (something I’m not renowned for having) and a bit of quick thinking. But what’s incredibly clever about this good/bad mechanic is the punishment system. If Corvo goes around the city destroying everything in his path, more rats emerge from the sewers to devour the bodies and consequently infect more people; which means you have to deal with a lot more Weeper enemies. If you sneak around, this risk is minimised and there are less enemies to be wary of. So, the game actively encourages the player to choose the morally righteous path to avoid a more difficult play-through.  This decision also effects which ending you get!

Dishonored was produced by a lot of the people that worked on Bioshock and RPG champions Bethesda, which really does show through the game’s design. You use a left hand magic/right hand weapon style of combat which is almost identical to the plasmid/weapon style seen in both Bioshock games, as well as incorporating the yellow glowing item outline seen in these games. Once this familiar connection was made, the casual chatter of the guards began to remind me of splicers and it became a lot harder to focus on being stealthy. Bethesda’s input really came to my attention when items were collected around the world of the game; the notification text at the side of the screen and the way in which interactive items were picked up within the game rang with the familiar tune of the Elder Scrolls games. But this is certainly not a criticism! These are elements that worked fantastically within their respective games and add the same effective gameplay to Dishonored without feeling ‘second hand’ or overly familiar. As a Bioshock fan, I found the mechanics comfortable and easy to use, which made it a lot easier for me to adjust to stealth based games. I’m not sure why, whether there were companies involved or simply by coincidence, but a few other elements of Dishonored reminded me of other games. The heart that you keep seemed so uncannily familiar to Potato GLaDOS (or Potatos) from Portal 2 that I couldn’t take it seriously, and the dialogue style seemed very similar to that of Rage. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but that heart will forever be GLaDOS in my mind.

Overall, I think that Dishonored is a beautifully constructed game with stunning graphics and environments. It’s engaging and challenging, providing a variety of opportunities for decision making and contains a gaming style to suit most gamers. There’s the combat option for the FPS gamers, the stealth mode for Assassin’s Creed fans, or even a mixture of the two for fans of games such as Deus Ex. The story is well constructed and interesting, not too grand that it becomes confusing but just complex enough to avoid boredom. I think the mechanics work incredibly well for the style of game and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I really would recommend this game if you’re a fan of:
*Bioshock
*Assassin’s Creed
*Deus Ex