Dear Diary: 12th March 2010
Heavy Rain is making me reconsider everything I've ever known about video games.
In between Final Fantasy XIII sessions, I've been managing to find a few hours here and there to sit down and start playing Heavy Rain in earnest. Sadly, it seems that to enjoy Quantic Dream's game as intended, I'm going to have to teach myself how to play an interactive drama as I've already started to worry that I'm missing something vitally important when I accidentally trigger new chapters before I've exhausted all the possible places to explore. One of these days I'm just going to have to accept that I'm supposed to live with the repercussions of my decisions and that I'm not supposed to experience everything in a single play through with games following a choice oriented philosophy.
It's also probably due to this lack of experience with interactive dramas that I find the act of playing Heavy Rain rather strange. Although I'm without a doubt enjoying seeing the plot play out within a gorgeous aesthetic created by a combination of stunning visuals and sublime musical score, the act of playing the game itself just isn't that fun. Of course, I'm still only in relatively new to Heavy Rain, but I can't help but think that my expectations for the medium are a bit naïve and that an involved gameplay experience isn't necessary for a successful. It's still early days for both the genre and my acquaintance with the game and I'll be very interested to see how they both progress from here.
The linearity of Final Fantasy XIII is making a line straight for my heart.
Before picking up Final Fantasy XIII, I consciously decided to avoid reading any reviews as experience has taught me that nothing polarises opinions liked Square Enix's epic franchise, making it nigh on impossible to garner any useful information from the articles. Of course, it's futile to try and ignore everything so from the little I encountered, it appears to be the linearity of the game that seems to be causing most of the altercations. It's still early days in terms of my experience with the game, but it is abundantly clear is that the world consists mostly of zones constructed from straight lines or geometric shapes and lacks any towns of a significant size.
What I find myself enjoying about Final Fantasy XIII so far is that the world consists mostly of zones constructed from straight lines or geometric shapes and lacks any towns of a significant size. I gave up playing the twelfth instalment of the series primarily because I was sick and tired of completing laps around Rabanastre every time I advanced the plot, just to ensure I'd obtained all the new side quests, shop items and plot descriptions from the masses of idle citizens around the town. The environment should function as a vehicle for the narrative, atmospheric and combat elements of a game and deviation away from these aspects for too long always results in tedium rearing its ugly head.
I suspect that Square Enix have done the deal of the decade by trading in hundreds of stationary townspeople, often spouting single sentences of nonsensical gossip, for a multi-character perspective of the game's action packed opening scenario. I love the way that you have control over different characters during the same time period, so that when I sent a ship careering into the side of the building as Lightning, I saw it happen in the background later on while commanding Snow.
The datalog compliments this method of story telling by filling in plot holes that would prove awkward to explain amid the action of the game's opening, providing a sensible amount of text rather than utilising a colossal codex that would put the Encyclopaedia Britannica to shame. I'm also impressed by the fluidity of the combat system, which abruptly and almost seamlessly transfigures the game world into a battlefield and vice versa, allowing my team to move around dynamically rather than standing in a regimental queue like it's pension day down at the post office.
It might be because I've been burned recently by the nasty tactics system in Dragon Age and the frustrating gambits scheme in Final Fantasy XII, but I am incredibly glad that aside from the team leader that you control yourself, characters look after themselves rather than needing micromanagement. I occasionally found it a little hard to keep track of how enemies on the battlefield were related to their names within the menu because there is usually a lot happening on the screen at any one time, but it's a relatively minor complaint against what seems like a pretty robust system.
The only other issue that I've noticed is that occasionally the music volume drowns out the ambient chit-chat of bystanders, but when I find myself moaning about problems that are easily resolved by a few tweaks of an in-game audio slider, it just feels like I'm trying to invent bad things to say just for the sake of a balanced argument. Therefore, I won't deny that at this point in time, I love Final Fantasy XIII and pray that it's an emotion that persists throughout the hours we're bound to be spending with each other.
I'll let you know how it goes. Until next time diary.