I noticed this year a lot of whining amongst critics regarding the traditional end of year GOTY articles. Some people didn’t do one, others pussyfooted around and refused to call anything the “best” but would admit to having a “favourite”, heck even the people who actually named something GOTY were vaguely apologetic about the whole deal. Apparently it’s now passé to rate things as better or worse than each other, which strikes me as odd because that’s kind of the purpose of a critic isn’t it? Once you’ve given up on that then what is it that you do exactly?

I mean you don’t see the people involved in awarding the Man Booker Prize getting all worried about whether or not it’s possible to pick the year’s “best” novel do you?

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5 Reasons Persona 4 Sucks

If there are two things the internet loves it’s list articles and nerd rage. I shall now attempt to fuse the two into an unholy force of nature. Cower in fear as I present to you the top five reasons critical darling Persona 4 is totally rubbish and not worth your time.

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Taking Stock

Now days when I catch the train I see more people playing videogames than reading books. There are yuppies tapping away at iPhones, young boys catching them all on their DSs and punk rock grrls with purple hair and PSPs. Certainly a lot of the games they’re playing are trashy time wasters but then most of the people I see reading are not exactly boning up on the classics either.

A 2008 Pew survey says that 53% of American adults over the age 18 play videogames. In comparison during the same year only 50.2% of American adults read a “novel, short story, poem or play”. That figure is an actually an increase on previous years. That videogames are now a more popular past time than reading literary fiction for adults is fairly interesting, if shocking stuff.

Perhaps even a little worrying.

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When you strip away the hype GTA III is an arena shooter where you drive around and kill shit for points.

Typically when people talk about this game they’ll throw around terms like “emergent”, “non-linear” and “sandbox” as if that explains why it’s such a blast to play. I don’t think it does, mainly because we’ve just spent a good decade playing emergent, non-linear sandbox games that are not nearly as exciting or enjoyable as Rockstar’s opus. Freedom and player choice do not automatically translate to fun. By championing those aspects of GTA III above others we fail to understand what really makes it tick.

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Let Me Break You

This isn’t just about Dragon Age, really it’s an issue for all “non-linear” “player driven” games, but one of the the biggest problems with this game is that it’s terrified I’ll break it.

Case in point. There’s a character in this game who sets you up with thief missions. In one of the missions things don’t go smoothly and it turns out that you’ve been led into a trap. After the mission you confront your connection and ask him what happened. He’ll feed you some nonsense about how he was misled and he vows that he’ll set up another job so that the two of you can get revenge.

Now here’s the thing, from my perspective this guy screwed me over, it would be totally within reason to slit the guy’s throat and leave his body in the street for stray dogs to clean up. But killing him isn’t an option.

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Peer Pressure

In Dragon Age’s you don’t have to worry about building up light side points, renegade points or any other moral integer. You’ll still be making the same binary moral choices but Bioware have finally realised that they don’t need to keep score. Because, really, I already know when I’m being a douchebag I don’t need to be told by exactly how much.

Instead they’ve decided to try and code a rudimentary form of peer pressure. I honestly think it’s a great idea, one with a lot of promise but I’m not sure it works here. Or more accurately there was a glorious few hours where it worked and then it got wobbly.

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He Who Fights With Monsters

After 30 odd hours of playing Dragon Age my tactics have become worn smooth with use. First I scan enemy targets and look for possible threats, if there’s a mage I immediately get my spirit healer to cast stonefist against them, I’m not looking for a kill, just giving my Marabai warhound enough time to close the distance and tear the mage to shreds. Once the threat is neutralised the warhound will then attack any archers skulking amongst my enemy’s back line. Meanwhile my sword and shield wielding warrior charges forward like a lunatic and valiantly engages the enemy infantry. With his armour and copious hit points he can soak up punishment while my dagger wielding rouge acts as a force multiplier cutting down targets with carefully placed backstabs. If anyone looks like they’re about to die my spirit healer tops up their hit points.

It is an aggressive strategy all about projecting power and surgically emasculating the opposing horde with overwhelming force. Norman Schwarzkopf would be proud. For most of the game it works exceptionally well. That is until I reach the deep roads, the deep roads become my quagmire.

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