April 06th 2007

I'm currently on vacation and I'll be back for my regular life on April 10th, I guess. One week ago I attended a Nine Inch Nails concert. Few hours after the concert my allergic spring reactions finally set in. How I've missed it. With itching eyes and regular sneezing, and having a hard time breathing, you can imagine working on my projects is not really what I'm willing to do right now. Thus, I keep playing games and watching movies and series. The Longest Journey surprised me. I had played Dreamfall first, so going back to a game that was like ten years old wasn't as easy at first, but the world and the story sucked me in and in total I can say that I prefer The Longest Journey over Dreamfall. I really love both, but TLJ has a certain charm to it that I will surely remember from now on. After TLJ I started playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. which I'd been looking forward to quite a while now. Well, after playing for a few hours I feel disappointed. The graphics are very nice, even if not up to Half-Life 2 standards. But what really bugs me are the absolutely senseless sidequests that have you running around for rewards that are completely unnecessary to you, because you don't need to buy ammo or food or anything because you get plenty of that stuff by looting your enemies' corpses, and thus you don't need to sell the sidequests rewards. And, what are they calling it - Al? Artificial Life, or something. Well, it might be true that Stalkers sit around the fire and tell stories (in russian), and sometimes whip out their guitars to play a few (nice) tunes, but overall it seems to be a bit buggy (when going to sleep they start snoring before even starting the lie-down-animation). And why does everybody have the same guitar? The animations for all models are below standards, and while talking they just open and close their mouth like fish, while even Half-Life 1 already opened mouths according to the volume of the given speech. Okay, normally I wouldn't really bash a game for its look if the actual gameplay were fun. But it somehow isn't. In total it's a dull Counter-Strike clone in a post-apocalyptic environment. Dark Messiah was fun. Half-Life 2 Episode 1 was fun. But Stalker lacks certain things. Oh yeah, did I mention Stalker has 5 different endings or something? Who the hell cares about different endings? It's only frustrating.
Anyway, the second game I played was Runaway 2, a point and click adventure. I really enjoyed the demo, that's why I picked up the full game. Now I liked the first three chapters of the game. Sometimes the puzzles were slightly too far-fetched for my taste, but overall it was a fun experience. The dialogs are witty and the art is wonderful. However, after the third chapter things started getting really ugly. The story suddenly involved aliens and other far-fetched stuff. Also, the character Joshua makes me wanna go kill somebody. Do you remember Jar-Jar Binks from Star Wars? Joshua is probably twice as annoying. And the most ironic thing is: In the end the demo was the reason I lost interest in the main game. Why? Because the demo let you play a part very LATE in the main game. That wouldn't be so bad, if they hadn't changed the puzzles, leaving out areas and one complete character! It was very frustrating to find out that when you thought it's just like the demo, it actually wasn't. I had to go through all dialogs again, and search all places once again even though I'd basically already done it. Which leads me to another "flaw" in the game: You find a lot of items in areas that you can't use. Although after talking to NPCs you need to go back to those areas and try all those items again, because your character now may think he needs items he previously didn't "know" he'd need, which in the end makes you search places more than just once, which, in my opinion, is extremely frustrating if items are already just a few pixels small anyway.
After the part that was somehow the same as in the demo the story revealed something about aliens. And I'm really tired of aliens used as explanation for mysterious events. It's like saying a villain kills people "because he can" or because "humans are stupid". Well, duh. Or after a long story the main character wakes up and realizes "it was just a dream". In the case of Runaway 2 I guess it was meant in a humorous way, but I'm just tired of it. The story up until that part was very entertaining and engaging, but I've lost interest in it. I probably will never play the remaining two chapters. Just like the first Runaway: Everything was nice until the one part with the weird transvestites. Somebody in the story department needs a swift kick in the ass.

I won't write reviews for Runaway 2 and Stalker because I won't finish them (well, maybe I'll finish Runaway 2 someday). And I realize that writing reviews doesn't have much sense anyway, so I guess I will probably take a break from writing reviews for a while and just recommend games and movies in the little MS box to the left. Giving scores to something is just a personal opinion anyway, and in the end it's either recommendable or not. And if it is, you'll read about it here.

Just in case you're looking for something interesting to read, try the interview with Ragnar Tornquist, the creator of The Longest Journey.