Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The summer of RPGs

The temperature reached 98 degrees yesterday, giving way to the start of the summer season. This means two things: Game releases will quickly slow down, as evidenced by this week’s release of Quantum Conundrum and Spec Ops: The Line next week, until they pick back up in late August, and I have a ton of games to write about from E3.

As a way to combat the drought of games during the summer months, I’m labeling this my summer of RPGs. In my backlog of games, I amassed a number of spectacular RPGs that I have yet to play. My goal for summer is to get through all of them, or as many of them as I can, before game releases pick back up on August 14 with Darksiders 2 and Sleeping Dogs.

So what games am I going to play? More or less in this order: Fallout: New Vegas, Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, The Witcher, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Deus Ex, Dead Island, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Depending on how things go, I might also squeeze in some of The Secret World, and level up another character or two in Star Wars: The Old Republic (MMORPGs are still RPGs).

There is a method to this madness. I wanted to play Fallout: New Vegas since announcement as that setting is interesting and ripe for potential narrative in many ways. I did play some of New Vegas, but that was on my old computer with its single-core CPU and AGP graphics card, so playing at max resolution and on ultra-graphics setting will make the experience a lot more substantial this time.

For the Dragon Age games, it makes sense to play the first before the second, even if there wasn’t an import save feature. Depending on how these games go, I might play through them a second time with a difference character class, making different choices along the way. BioWare games seem to make this viable with the variability of choices and consequences, which is why I’m playing through Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 for a third time. Allow me to in-depth for a bit. My first time playing any Mass Effect game was as a Paragon male Vanguard. My second playthrough is as a Renegade male Infiltrator. The differences in story beats and gameplay are staggering. For my third playthrough, I’m playing as a mixed female Soldier (mixed as in deciding at the moment of choice whether Paragon or Renegade, rather than a pre-determined path).

I know most people advise to skip the original Witcher and jump straight into The Witcher 2, but the first Witcher was old enough (2007) that it could run decently on my old computer, with the caveat of exceptionally long load times. Because of that, I already have 40 hours into that game. I’m in chapter three already so I should be able to finish that game fairly quickly and move into The Witcher 2.

Some might question playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution before the original Deus Ex, as the jump from a 2011 game to one that came out 11 years earlier might be jarring to say the least. Despite that, Human Revolution is technically a prequel so I’ll be playing it as such. I also added some texture, performance, and UI mods to Deus Ex so it should look and play less aged than it already is.

My reason for leaving Dead Island towards the end is simply economical. The Game of the Year edition releases on June 26 and includes all of the DLC. Leaving Skyrim until the end has a similar reason. The Dawnguard expansion, which is expected to launch June 26, has a month-long exclusive with the Xbox 360 version, meaning PC and PlayStation 3 won’t get it until at least July 26, if the June date is true. I’d much rather play Skyrim with the extra content, so I’m putting it off until the end to give the expansion the most lead time to release.

With The Secret World, having played it during several beta weekends, it feels like a hybrid between the old and new schools of MMOs, with a new setting not seen before in the genre. That intrigues me enough to give it a shot and see what Funcom can do with a conspiracy-based game similar to the X-Files. As always, I have Star Wars: The Old Republic to fall back on, and with the recent server transfers and new patches coming, I have two characters just waiting to be leveled up on the Sith faction and experience that content.

As for E3 content, expect it to see it coming all summer long. I had a chance to see demos and get some hands-on time with games like Darksiders 2, Hitman: Absolution, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Devil May Cry, Dead Space 3, Crysis 3, Star Wars 1313, Assassin’s Creed 3, Metro: Last Light, and my game of the show, Need for Speed Most Wanted, and I have thoughts to share on all of them.

In addition to all of that, I will be taking time to write up some perspectives on games released earlier this year and within the last few years as I move through my backlog. That list includes games like LA Noire, Syndicate, Bulletstorm, Homefront, Dead Space 2, and the entirety of the Assassin’s Creed series as I play them one by one coinciding with the release of Assassin’s Creed 3.

To put it humorously, this summer is going to be less of a drought and more of a flood for me.

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