Quick impressions: Papers, Please

PapersPlease

 

Papers, Please is an indie game by Lucas Pope, currently in beta, in which the player takes on the role of a 1980s border guard in a Communist country. On paper, the game is simple: read the papers of each traveller who approaches your checkpoint. Admit those who meet the official criteria (e.g. they are citizens of the correct country; they have a valid work permit and visa); deny those who don’t; and keep an eye out for discrepancies. In practice, it’s a bit more complicated: there are a fair few variables to keep track of, which requires the player to trade off thoroughness and speed. You are paid based on how many people you process, but make mistakes and your pay will be docked. Earn too little, and your family starves.

 

The real appeal of Papers, Please isn’t so much mechanical as psychological: this is a game that tries to put the player into the shoes of a minor, despised apparatchik upholding a corrupt regime in order to pay the bills. I might even go so far as to say the game turns you into a bureaucratic version of the mooks we normally mow down without a second thought. Not necessarily a “fun” game, but it’s an interesting thought experiment and worth checking out if you have a few minutes to burn.

Musical Monday: “Reach Out To The Truth” (Persona 4), composed by Shoji Meguro

This week’s song is the battle theme from classic (has it really been that long?!) JRPG Persona 4. It works on several levels: (1) it’s an energetic, upbeat, and enjoyable song in its own right; (2) it fits the mood of what, murder mystery plot notwithstanding, is a pretty cheerful game; and (3) as a piece of J-rock, it’s probably exactly what the protagonists would listen to while they fight monsters. Enjoy!

Continue reading “Musical Monday: “Reach Out To The Truth” (Persona 4), composed by Shoji Meguro”

What five games say about violence

“They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.”

– Terry Pratchett

 

I’ve been thinking lately about violence in entertainment; my response to such; and what creators themselves have to say about it. In the last twelve or so months, I’ve played five games that symbolise different attitudes to violence: three “traditional” shooters in which there is no non-lethal option (BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Spec Ops: The Line), and two stealth/action games (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dishonored) that permit a gentler approach.  Below, I table their key differences.

 

violence-games-table-v2

 

(Note: each game’s violence is largely directed against human enemies, such as mercenaries, cultists, soldiers, or police/city watchmen, as in the quote at the top of the page. Also, there are a few bosses, in both senses of the word; but most enemies are low-ranking grunts.)

 

My comments, and mild spoilers, below. Continue reading “What five games say about violence”

Musical Monday: “Main Theme” (Stardrive), by Jeff Dodson

This week’s song is the main theme to Stardrive, the upcoming (26 April) 4X space strategy game, and it is exactly what one would expect from the main theme to a 4X space strategy game. This is not a bad thing. Triumphant, stirring, and dare I say, “epic”, it’s been a real pleasure to listen to. Enjoy!

Continue reading “Musical Monday: “Main Theme” (Stardrive), by Jeff Dodson”

Guns of Icarus Online: Adventure Mode Q&A with Jess Haskins

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Guns of Icarus Online

GOIO Adv Mode Banner

 

Last year, I wrote about Guns of Icarus Online, an interesting, atmospheric shooter set on board opposing steam/dieselpunk airships. Since then, developer Muse Games has unveiled a Kickstarter campaign for the long-awaited paid expansion, Adventure mode. Muse’s stated plan for Adventure includes three key elements:

 

1. PVE and co-op gameplay, unlocked at the Kickstarter’s threshold of $100,000;

 

2. An in-game economy and faction system, flagged as Muse’s first major stretch goal ($350,000)

 

3. Worldbuilding tools, flagged as the second stretch goal ($500,000).

 

Muse has stated that, should it secure more than $100,000 but less than the full $500,000, all Kickstarter backers will receive a “season pass” that will entitle them to future elements of Adventure Mode as and when they are released.

 

Read on for my email Q&A with Jess Haskins, Designer and Chief Nomenclator at Muse:

Continue reading “Guns of Icarus Online: Adventure Mode Q&A with Jess Haskins”

Musical Monday: “Withered Earth” (Suikogaiden II), composed by Miki Higashino

This week’s song is probably the most obscure I’ve featured to date. It’s the opening theme to a game I’ve never played — Genso Suikogaiden Vol 2: Duel at Crystal Valley, a visual novel spun off from the cult classic Suikoden JRPGs. (You might remember I featured the opening theme to Suikoden III a while back.) It’s also a lively song with a unique sound, and like the Suikoden III theme, it goes really well with the accompanying cinematic. Enjoy!

Continue reading “Musical Monday: “Withered Earth” (Suikogaiden II), composed by Miki Higashino”

Wiping away debts: the BioShock Infinite spoiler post

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series BioShock

Since so much of my response to BioShock Infinite is wrapped up in the details of the game’s story, I thought it deserved a short follow-up of its own. As such, there will be extensive spoilers ahead – don’t read this post if you haven’t finished the game!

 

Ready?

Continue reading “Wiping away debts: the BioShock Infinite spoiler post”

BioShock Infinite: The Verdict

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series BioShock

BI Beauty of the City Marred

 

 

“Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt.”

 

The year is 1912. With those words ringing in his ears, Booker DeWitt, washed-up private detective and protagonist of Irrational Games’ BioShock Infinite, makes his way into the flying city of Columbia. On his shoulders lie several burdens: the fate of Elizabeth, the young woman he’s been tasked to bring back to New York. His own destiny, as it becomes intertwined with hers. And lastly, the weight of the BioShock franchise, one of the most acclaimed in gaming.

 

Not playing much of the previous BioShock games (1) did nothing to water down my expectations for BI, a game whose promised features read like my wishlist. A game that gives players an array of special powers, and rewards them for ingenuity? An original setting, layering vibrant, imaginative mad science atop an underused historical era? A companion character, Elizabeth, for us to like and grow attached to? Sign me up! Read on to find out (spoiler-free) how the game fared against my hopes.

Continue reading “BioShock Infinite: The Verdict”

Musical Monday: “Twelve Dreamsongs” (The Twelve Kingdoms), composed by Kunihiko Ryo

Happy Easter, everybody! This week’s song is the opening theme, “Twelve Dreamsongs”/”Juuni Genmu Kyoku”. of a classic anime, Asian-themed fantasy epic The Twelve Kingdoms. I’ve linked two versions — the first is simply the show’s opening credits, which pairs lovely visuals with a short version of the song. The second version is the full-length theme from the official soundtrack. Hmm. With my Twelve Kingdoms DVDs sitting on the shelf within arm’s reach, perhaps it’s time for me to re-watch the show…

Continue reading “Musical Monday: “Twelve Dreamsongs” (The Twelve Kingdoms), composed by Kunihiko Ryo”