Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Brutal Legend: Game Design Review

Brutal Legend by Tim Schafer of Double Fine productions is a hybrid game. Half of Brutal Legend is an action RTS game most similar to Battlezone and Sacrifice to teach you the controls of controlling the main character.  The other half is a sand box where which you drive around in to find stuff and play missions. The stuff and upgrades will carry over to the RTS portion.

What I liked:
Atmosphere- It's a Tim Scahfer game so of course it has a wonderful atmosphere and brilliantly creative metal world!

Music- Lots of awesome music. I didn't actually metal music but if I did, I would be in metal heaven.

3 unique factions- When I actually tried the RTS portion of the game by playing a single player battle I was actually quite impressed by the actual three different sides which were different enough with a variety of tactics and units.

What I didn't like:
Boring overworld- lots to do but I found it a bit pointless. It didn't grab me like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. The overworld feels empty, too big and the sandbox missions very bland.

Worse, the spells/skills that you can use in battle have to be found, but good luck finding them as they are hidden! Generally you'll find one per location you visit, but I just didn't have any particular desire to go driving around the area find them so I only had 3 or 4 at the end of the game. To it's credit, you really only need a handful to finish the game.

RTS hobbled by the controls- It's just hard to create groups or feel like you're having a solid strategy aside from making sure you have a balanced group. According to an interview with Tim Schfar you're suppose to play it as an action game guiding a mostly single group to victory.

Comparing it to Battlezone and Sacrifice, both games are way more fun and deep when it comes to strategy. Actually I think Sacrifice is mostly controlled chaos but at least it didn't have tedious overworld driving like Brutal Legend. Instead Sacrifice had branching levels and choices.

Lack of campaigns- You only get to play one side, the Ironhede side which is a bit of a shame. I think playing all three factions in the campaign would have mixed up the monotony of the game.

I do think Brutal Legend is worth playing once simply because the atmosphere, graphics and writing are simply amazing. But the lack of good RTS controls and boring sandbox make this game hard to recomemed to replay. Still, its an interesting if confusing mish mash of a game that is somehow still pleasant in the end. I still prefer Sacrifice and Battlezone still however and would recommend playing those first.

Mafia II: Game Design Review

Mafia II is an action game taking place in a city called Empire Bay. You played as a Vito Scaletta, a war veteran who turns to a life of crime. I got this free during the Golden Joystick promotion sometime back and tried playing it. Here are my thoughts on this game.

What I liked:
Graphics and art direction- The city is beautiful and it feels gorgeous. They really nailed the atmosphere.

Driving- The driving feels solid. Some people complain about the handling of these cars but these are not modern cars.

Vioice acting and Music- The voice actors are good and their are authentic songs from the period adding to the atmosphere.

What I disliked:
Way too much driving- After every mission, the game has you drive back to your apartment to end the mission. If this was film it would be like watching the main character carefully drive down the street and then carefully drive back home with nothing interesting happening.

The reason why it works in other games like Grand Theft Auto is because the driving servers to 1) Aadvance the story through character dialogue 2) shows the city to the player and 3) Highlights challenges and side quests available. In this case, after main missions when you are told to go home and sleep, there is literally none of that. There is no dialgoue because you are just driving home yoruself, there is nothing in the city to show because you've already driven through it and there are no side missions or challenges to discover. It is completely and utterly pointless. It's like someone copied thee missions in GTA and Saints Row 2 but forgot to include the mini games.

No mini games or diversions- As mentioned there are no mini-games, diversions or activities to do in the game making driving around the city pointless unless you enjoy touring virtual cities.

Boring pointless levels- The prison levels are probably the worst ones. You wake up, pick a fight and scrub toilets. That's it. It doesn't really do anything.

There's a missions where you have to destroy a bar using fire and bullets. I thought perhaps this meant we'd get some missions with destructible scenary. But that's the only time you actually do that.

I don't mind linear games. I like Half Life, Serious Sam, action platformers and Japanese RPG. All games which focus on linear or boxed environments and provide fun tactical shooters. The game fails because it tries to be like an interactive movie too much and has levels where you do nothing of significance.

Characters- The characters are just boring for the most part. The main character Vito feels like a brainless bully than a sympathetic game. He just follows whatever his pal Joe says and does jobs for everyone. He's the one being betrayed all the time and for entire game he's always a dispensible foot soldier rather than growing to become the head of a mob. That's boring.

Overall Mafia II has a very solid engine and graphics is well-voiced. However the badly edited story, boring levels and the lack of the any innovative ideas means all this is a waste .It fails to provide interaction in the environment, fails to provide a compelling story and pads itself outwith pointless levels. I got this for free and I would have rather spent 15 hours playing other games! Go play Saints Row or Sleeping Dogs and give Mafia II a miss.