Top Six: Franchises of the Current Generation

Current Gen

Even though this current generation of video game consoles isn’t wrapping up for at least another year, the new generation looms over the horizon. And thus, this warrants a look back at our recent past to honor the best of new franchises we were introduced to this gen. The list is based mainly on what franchises I found to be most compelling over the years. These opinions belong solely to me, but please feel free to list your own in the comments!

First, the games that didn’t make the cut. There are some awesome games here, but they just didn’t move me enough to make the list. All of them are still fantastic, though.

Honorable Mentions: Assassin’s Creed, Demon/Dark Souls, Gears of War, Saint’s Row, LittleBigPlanet, Borderlands Continue reading Top Six: Franchises of the Current Generation

Gameplay Mechanics That Time Forgot

demons souls

For every gameplay mechanic that sets a standard in the industry, there are always a few that manage to slip out of vogue no matter how interesting they are. Back in the days when gaming was just getting started, developers felt like they could take a few more risks with their designs and some really cool stuff came out of that era. There are some neat ideas being presented today, but the fresh stuff is few and far between.

IGN’s newest appendage 1up put out an article on four gameplay mechanics that should have caught on and it’s an interesting look at some big ideas that have faded away into obscurity. While Demon’s Souls (and Dark Souls) are new, things like Rainbow Six’s mission planner or Blade Runner’s randomized story elements are kind of relics now, lost to the ages.

I remember trying to figure out Rainbow Six’s planner back in the day and I recall it being beyond the scope of my young mind. My missions frequently boiled down to giving everyone a shotgun and hoping for the best, but I bet if I went back and tried that game today I would find a layer of strategy that is so painfully absent from modern shooters.

The social single-player elements of Demon’s Souls is one of the most intriguing aspects of that game to me and I would be really pleased if that caught on in other games, especially sandbox titles. How awesome would it be if you were playing Grand Theft Auto V and saw some graffiti on the ground left by another player, pointing you towards a secret area with a special vehicle? This is a masterful way of bringing players together inside their own separate worlds and I’d like other developers to take a stab at it.

Do you guys have any gameplay mechanics that you used to love that have fallen by the wayside? I seem to recall squad commands being quite the big ticket item last generation but I don’t see that too much these days. Personally, I’d love to be able to give my AI teammates commands because they can’t seem to think for themselves that well. Sound off!

Source – 1up

GamerSushi Asks: What Are You Playing?

Demon's Souls

Howdy, gamers. How was your weekend?

Now that I’m finished with Dragon Age 2, there seems to be a bit of a brief lull between Bioware’s not-quite-as-epic fantasy RPG and the sequel to Valve’s runaway hit, Portal 2, which releases on April 18th. As such, I now have some time to chip away at the always growing pile-o-games that awaits me at each and every turn.

The games I’m currently playing: Final Fantasy VI, Beyond Good and Evil HD, Infinity Blade and Demon’s Souls. I also plan on starting Torchlight on XBLA as well as Back to the Future on PC. I might even throw a bit of Lost Odyssey in there for good measure. The game I’m most curious about is Demon’s Souls, the uber challenging PS3 exclusive that I keep hearing horror stories about from Anthony. So far, it seems pretty interested, but I’m admittedly not very far into it.

So what about you guys? What are you playing at the moment? Has anyone else out there completed Dragon Age 2? Thoughts? Any Demon’s Souls advice for me? Go!

GamerSushi Asks: Gaming Marathons?

Dragon Age 2

Every now and then as gamers we get to bunker down and tackle a game for as long as we want. This doesn’t happen very often due to a number a life circumstances, but sometimes the stars align and clear the way for a gaming marathon session like no other. Needless to say, these always make for awesome days, and if you’re lucky enough, awesome binge gaming weekends.

Yesterday, a few members of the GamerSushi crew got to do just that. For instance, Jeff, finally over-burdened by our constant podcast harassment, took it upon himself to play Mass Effect 2 for about 10 hours. He knocked out the second half of the game and even DLC, including Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker. I know that Anthony has also spent some time plowing through Demon’s Souls. As for me, I think I’ve played Dragon Age 2 for about 23 hours this week, including about 9 yesterday in one awesome gaming session.

So what about you guys? When’s the last time you’ve gotten to jump into a marathon gaming session? What game or games did you play? Go!

GamerSushi Review: Demon’s Souls

I want those souls.

This thought runs through my head over and over as I eat my dinner, barely focusing on the food before me. My thoughts are filled with the bloodstain chock-full of souls I left splattered in the middle of the Boletarian Castle, surrounded by demon warriors just waiting for me return for them.

I need those souls back.

Demon’s Souls is the new action-RPG from Atlus and it is not for the faint of heart. If Halo ever frustrated you with the Library, then you are not ready for Demon’s Souls. This game makes the Library look like World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros. The concept of the game is that you are a warrior who decides to try to lift the darkness from the world by defeating the evil demon lords who rule it. Or something like that. The story, though well-written and voice-acted, is barely there. It’s simply an excuse to throw you into hell and watch you claw your way out.

The game is played in a 3rd-person perspective and at the start you create a character and choose one of several classes to start with, but fear not: you are not constricted in anyway by what class you choose. You can start off as a mage and never learn another magic spell if you desire and become a powerful melee warrior. The choice is up to you. The classes merely determine how your initial stat points are distributed. It’s up to you how you want to distribute them, one point at a time.

Which leads to how you improve your character. Now, let me preface this by saying that you don’t have to level up a single time. You can literally play the entire game with the stats you start with, from start to finish, and defeat the final boss as such. God help whoever does that, because I expect you will be doing about 1 HP of damage to said boss per attack, so I hope you don’t have to go to the bathroom because you can’t pause Demon’s Souls. Ever. At all. Just warning you..

Now, when you defeat an enemy you gain souls. Some enemies give you as little as 8 souls, some as much as 2000. It just varies on the strength of the foe you have vanquished. Souls are used as both experience and currency. Want to level up your character’s HP? Get some souls. Want to buy a better sword or upgrade it? Get some souls. Need arrows or healing items? (And you will) Get some souls. Magic spell in the shop caught your eye? You guessed it…souls. The fun part is that the amount you need to raise your attributes increases every time you do so don’t expect to grind your stats and simply overpower the game because you will likely go insane first.

When the game starts, you find yourself in a brief tutorial area, which ends with you getting pwned by a giant boss. Your souls goes to the Nexus, which is the hub of the game. Here you level up, buy weapons and spells and pick which area you want to go to next. There are 5 worlds, each one having a few sections in them and once you defeat the first area, you are free to explore as you wish. I recommend doing so, as some great items can be found in different areas if you look hard enough. When in soul form, your health is cut in half, although a ring you find near the start brings this up by 25%. As a bonus, you do more damage in soul form, which is fine because you will spend most of the game in soul form. In order to get your body back, you must defeat the area’s boss or use a rare item. Generally, beating the boss is the best option.

When going through a level, in soul or in body form, when you die (Notice I said WHEN, not IF) you will return to the Nexus with all of your equipment and items, but you lose your souls. So if you had about 3000 souls and didn’t return to the Nexus to spend them, they are gone. Unless…you manage to fight your way back to the place you died and touch the bloodstain you left. If you can do so, you get your souls back. If you die on the way, those souls are gone forever. Now, since enemies respawn every time you return to the Nexus, you can always fight more demons, but you run the risk of doing what I did the other night, which is play for an hour and a half only to lose all my souls and have nothing to show for my wasted time. Being overconfident and not focusing on the battle at hand has led to many a lost batch of souls.

So why does such a game, which reeks of repetition, which I revile, appeal to me so much? Namely, thanks to the combat, which is so spot on, that when I die, I know it was MY fault. I mistimed a parry or didn’t watch my stamina bar close enough. There are NO cheap deaths here. The enemies all have distinct patterns and it is a matter if simply being observant and quick. When you see an opening, don’t hesitate or you will regret it. I got more of a rush playing Demon’s Souls than any game since the original God of War. When you slice through katana-wielding lizardmen like a hot knife through butter, you know it was complete skill that won the day for you and that feeling is addictive.

Demon’s Souls also boasts the most unique online system I have ever seen. As you play, you sometimes see blue specters running around. Those are other people playing the game right at that moment, at that spot. You are always connected to the servers, unless you sign out of PSN, but I would not play any other way. There are also messages, short and tweet-like, that players can leave for one another. Some give hints such as, “There is a treasure up ahead” or “The next enemy is weak against fire”. Such messages can be a life-saver, as one instructed me not to bother with a shield, which was sage advice because if I had tried to block the ensuing attack with my shield, I would have died. And if messages are helpful, you can give them a thumbs-up, which heals the person who left the message, wherever they are. This can be a great boon when you are in trouble and suddenly you are notified that someone liked your message and your health fills. It creates a great sense of community, of us against this harsh game world, and it truly adds a layer of awesome to the whole thing.

If you are having trouble and are in body form, you can drop a blue stone and pull someone in the same level who is in soul form into your game and suddenly, Demon’s Souls is a co-op game! Together you can defeat the boss of the area and then the soul form player returns to his game. The soul form player must also drop a similar stone, so don’t worry that you may get pulled out against your will. But there is a more sinister aspect of this: another player can invade your game if in soul form and attempt to kill you! If they do, they get their body back. Imagine the terror of seeing a message that states, “Black Phantom Starkiller81 has invaded your realm!” and knowing that there is another human being walking around your level, waiting for you to be hip-deep in demons before plunging a knife in your back. Talk about survival horror! Dead Space and Resident Evil can’t compete with that kind of tension.

One thing I want to mention that adds to the difficulty is the fact that you can’t manually save the game. Demon’s Souls auto-saves almost constantly, so if you think you are going to simply reload your last save and recover your souls, you got another thing coming.

The graphics and music are also very well done and coupled with the tight controls that never fail you make for a game like no other I have ever played. Except for the extreme difficulty of the game, there is not one bad thing I can say about it. Demon’s Souls is one game that no hardcore player can afford to miss out on. You will curse and gnash your teeth, but you will dive right back in again and again until the last demon is slain. For Christmas this year, I received Demon’s Souls, Dragon Age: Origins, Uncharted 2 and Modern Warfare 2 and I have been playing a little bit of each waiting for one of them to really hook me. It has finally happened because for the last 4 days, I have been on a straight Demon’s Souls bender and there is no end in sight. I can’t recommend this game enough, one of the best of the year.

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