Star-Fired Beef


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Steam Challenge – L. A. Noire

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

Grand Theft Auto is the series that RockStar is best known for, and despite changes to the bells and whistles, they all share the same basic gameplay foundations. A sprawling world, huge amounts of off-the-rails activities to discover, a main story that you can complete at your own pace while tooling around as much as you want. L.A. Noire is, at first glance, another chapter in that great tradition, but it soon becomes clear that RockStar have done something a bit different with this one.

L.A. Noire is very much a RockStar game – the attention to detail, the freedom of being able to roam at will, the immersion of being in a living city. What makes this game different, however, is the focus on the storytelling. You play as Cole Phelps, a young detective just back from Japan after the end of WWII. As he makes his way up through the ranks of the LAPD, and is assigned to various departments, he finds himself involved in a tale of corruption and murder.

The main focus of the gameplay is the case investigations. You visit crime scenes, search for and inspect clues, gather evidence, question witnesses and suspects, and eventually make an arrest. Every NPC is motion-captured, with particular attention paid to facial expressions and subtle body language to help you decide just how truthful your interviewee is being. As a police procedural, L.A. Noire is really, really good.

My main gripe – although it didn’t seem to affect my pace through the game – was with the questioning system. Every conversation has break points where the NPC says something and you have a choice on how to respond, depending on what you think they are telling you: Truth (believe them), doubt, or lie. The problem is, you don’t know exactly what Cole is going to say in those situations, and a lot of the time doubting them ends up accusing them of lying, or withholding information. It feels janky. Often it ends the conversation, since they clam up and won’t respond any more, which means you fail the questioning and can lead to you failing the case.

I think RockStar padded the game somewhat in the middle, too. There was a stretch of three or four cases where nothing seemed to be happening story-wise, and you were just doing the same things over and over. Once I got over that hump, my interest picked up again and the last third of the game was really good.

I’m not sure the writing was all that great, though. Dialogue was pretty spot on, but story-wise, it wasn’t all that satisfying. Most of it was predictable and there were a lot of loose ends that I don’t think were sufficiently explored. It felt like there was a much larger scope initially but the game got scaled back partway through.

I loved the premise of L.A. Noire, and the traditional RockStar strengths were what made the game enjoyable. The attempt at a more linear, story-based game was not as successful as it could have been, though.

Bran Van 3000 – Drinking in L.A.


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Oh, To Be A Time Lord…

So my new posting goals hit a snag pretty quickly, hah. I had my busiest week for ages last week, just so many appointments and meetings, it was tough to find the energy to do any gaming, let alone writing. But then I slipped and ran out of meds, and the two days I was without them was just devastating. I lost all energy, had to drag myself out of bed, all I wanted to do was sleep, body ached everywhere. It was such a sharp crash, it was quite scary to have a demonstration of how much I depend on them in order to function at all. Even now I am just starting to get back to my previous state of mind. Harsh lesson.

I’m now just over halfway through the story cases in L.A. Noire, it continues to be an excellent game, but it is starting to feel a little slow-moving. The meta-story was set up early but despite continuous hints and suggestions during each case, there doesn’t seem to be any advancement of it. I was expecting more moral grey areas, more difficult decisions, facing more corruption than I have encountered thus far. I’m still on track to finish it by the end of the month, though! Despite putting a few hours into FFXIV, all I’ve really done is level my gathering and crafting classes, and stockpile some low level materials. I won a new game on Steamgifts, One Finger Death Punch, and have been having a blast with it. So. Much. Fun. I’d been eyeing it for ages, so I couldn’t help installing it immediately!

As was probably inevitable, I have given up on Wildstar. Although I liked the game, I felt no connection to it, had nothing attracting me back. As time passed without me logging in, and not missing it, I came to accept that it was just not cutting it in competition for my time. So, off to the land of the Deleted it went – joined, to the surprise of no one, by Devilian. I played exactly one session of that, and while it was kind of fun while I played it, as soon as I logged out it ceased to interest me. I always feel vaguely uncomfortable uninstalling games I haven’t played much (but didn’t hate), shades of my completionist past I guess. But with the Steam backlog, FFXIV/LOTRO/TSW occupying my current MMO attention, evergreens like Hearthstone,  and a bunch of new MMO titles coming out over the next couple of years, I simply have to face the fact that I have to be choosy. If only I had a TARDIS…

Wellyn – Alcoholic Tea


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Oooh, It’s A Snaaaake

As well as my mental recovery, the other thing I need to work on this year is my physical fitness. Now, I am not exactly happy with being fat, and I am definitely going to need to be slimmer in order to feel healthy, but after all these years I am finally coming to terms with why I am unhappy with my current state. It isn’t being fat that makes me feel ashamed and depressed, it is that I am unable to physically handle the activities that I love and want to be able to do. Simple movement without pain or effort is something that I look back on with longing, and I know that regardless of how fat I am, what I want is that freedom of movement, that confidence in body that has been lacking for so long. The side effect of increasing my fitness will naturally be weight loss – or, rather, fat loss – but I am not bound by arbitrary numbers or clothes sizes as a goal. My goals are purely action-based: can I handle this half-day hike? Can I ride from here to there? Do I have the energy to attend a full day of convention attendance/work a full shift on my feet/enjoy a walking tour of a new place? This week I made a significant step towards achieving these fitness goals. Thanks to the generosity of a community outreach mentor and his contacts, I now have a secondhand mountain bike, which I can ride in the nearby parkland walking paths. I had to ride it home from my mentor’s office, and it took about three times as long as it should, since I haven’t ridden a bike for nearly twenty years. And oh man, did I feel it afterwards. You guys. My balls. So sore.

I just got to the point in FFXIV’s main story questline where I chose my Grand Company affiliation. After a long and frustrating consideration of how each GC fit the needs of Menashi’s RP personality, I ended up choosing to become a member of the Twin Adders. It’s not ideal, but the speeches given by the other leaders at the memorial services rang a bit false for Menashi’s liking, so it became a choice of ‘least unsuitable’ rather than ‘most suitable’. THAT unlocked the Grand Company requisition dailies, and I finally got the quest to obtain my chocobo. So today I spent ticking off as many supply and provisioning orders as I had materials for, and soon discovered how lacking I was in some basic resources. Thus, after I finished crafting and obtaining GC seals, I headed out to start work on my mining. I can see myself easily spending a day’s session just gathering and crafting every so often – it is not a fast process!

My Steam gaming project at the moment is L.A. Noire. I am loving it for so many reasons, but I cannot help feeling slightly restricted by not having a controller. The investigations, though, are incredibly engaging. I did attempt to make Thief Gold my next project, but after struggling to make it through the first mission, I found that it just wasn’t holding my interest. Every time I played it my mind kept wandering off to ponder what other games I desired to play. Not a good sign. Also finished with a Lemmings-style puzzle game called Spirits, which again could not hold my interest long enough to stay motivated. I think I’ll do a Steam Challenge post on it, since I am satisfied with how much I got from it, but I doubt I will do a post for Thief Gold.

Airiel – Sharron Apple