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On Leather Wings…

So I’ll start by saying that I promise not to keep referring to previous posts for subjects of recent posts – this thing is only just a week old and that can’t last, nor was it my intention, but that’s how things have worked out. Also, promise not to just be me making these posts, either. Everyone on the show is welcome and invited to make posts, but since, out of all of us, I have the most time, I’m taking on most of the posting duties for the time being.

Now, with that out of the way, I want to go back to my first post about Batman: Arkham Origins. I’ve been playing it now since it release on Friday and it’s been nonstop. I haven’t wanted to play anything else and I’m a bit glad nothing else is out there at the moment for me to play (Battlefield 4, yes, and I’ll get to it, but I’m beelined focused on Batman currently). So here are my thoughts as of 25 hours of playtime (I’m an extremely slow player in open world games, by the way) and 91% complete with the main story for Batman: Arkham Origins:

If you are a fan of Batman you should be playing this game. If you’re a fan of the previous Arkham games, you should be playing this game. But…there’s a catch, and I’ll get to that after I gush over the game for a bit.

I love the combat in Arkham Origins more than I did in the previous games and yeah, they tweaked it. Some will say for good, others will cry foul – perfectly acceptable either way. But I’m doing better at the combat in this game than I did in the previous two. I also have a MUCH better understanding of the combat than I did before. My awareness of a fight is better and I’m easily able to pay better attention to the crowd of thugs, where to strike next, who to stun and leave for later, where my counter is and how many critical strikes I have, who has the knife, where is the ninja, and, just recently, can and should I activate my shock gloves. Seriously, the combat has all come together for me in Arkham Origins better than it ever did in Arkham Asylum or Arkham City. A side note here, I’m playing on the PC and was able to adjust the Field Of View. I only recently made that adjustment and it helps out a ton with the combat. The FOV adjustment only improved my already better understanding of the combat but I had been playing in the default FOV for the majority of the game – still like it better than the previous two titles.

I love the larger city and I really love seeing the parts I played around with in AC as they were before they got closed off as a prison city and flooded. Some have said the areas lack the personality they had in Arkham City and the reason for this is because a super villain hasn’t inhabited that section and made it their own. Interiors of certain buildings still hold true to the personality of the villain who is in that area, but the outside is pretty much void of those signatures. The city doesn’t feel “alive”, however, and EVERYONE in the city is a threat to you. The game explains this away by setting it on Christmas Eve and having a massive blizzard hit Gotham City – something it constantly reminds you with loudspeakers in the open world reminding citizens that a curfew is in place. The lack of pedestrians and the main plot of the story (bounty on Batman’s head from Black Mask who’s killed the current police commissioner in a gigantic prison break/riot at Blackgate) explains the city being overrun with criminals. Oh, and a note, it’s nice to finally fight regular criminals (and corrupt police) instead of orange jumpsuit after orange jumpsuit from AC – although, again, that situation fit in with the story of what was going on with that game, just as this one does for Origin.

Speaking of the story, before yesterday’s playing of the game, when I was at around 50% done, I would have made this a pretty short segment and said, “It’s a Batman game with a typical mass media market Batman story.” Something like that should tell you a bit about what to expect from the story. Anything Batman made for massive public consumption will always have a formula for what to expect. There will always be Batman. And he’ll always be fighting….well, you know who. It’s no secret Joker is in Arkham Origins. It’s been made a pretty big deal by the fact that both Batman and Joker had their voice actors recast from the previous games. More on that later. But yes, the Joker is in Arkham Origins and isn’t some side act or chance encounter. We essentially play Batman as he first meets the Joker in what has come to be called “The Arkhamverse” – meaning just the video games. The story for Origins takes place just about a year after Batman has started showing up in Gotham. You overhear criminals on the street talking about the myth of the Bat and retell stories they’ve heard from other criminals about what “it” is and if even the Batman is such a thing. So it’s early for Bruce Wayne as Batman, and it shows in his dialogue. It doesn’t come across as the older, wiser, and just generally smarter Batman we’ve come to know. This Batman is more aggressive and comes off expressively cocky and arrogant. At least more so than I’m used to from the previous games.

I really felt like the story wasn’t anything special. Becoming an excuse to bring in these characters (and kudos for them pulling a little from top, middle, and bottom shelf villains, instead of rehashing the AAA rogues gallery) and have Batman fight them. Then I hit the 50% mark and entered the hotel. I’ll stop there and just say the story progresses quick in this section, so much so that by the time I came out the other end and returned to the free roam aspect of the game, I was at my current completion percentage of 91% (as far as the story is concerned, full game completion sits at only 34% or so). That moment…and you WILL know that moment, stands as one of the BEST I’ve experienced in any of the Batman games so far.

While I haven’t finished the story yet, I’m really confused on those who mark against the story after that part I just described. It really does put to shame the other two games, although it had a bit of a leg up with how this one is set in the timeline. I also get a bit sadfaced when I hear people use the voice talent as part of an excuse to skip this one or that it is lesser in some way because of it. I mean yeah, the Conroy & Hamill connection is not here for Arkham Origins. It has been replaced by two other voice actors who do a great job with the roles. Roger Craig Smith voices Batman and I can easily tell you that you won’t miss Conroy’s voice as the Bat. He doesn’t replace the voice of Batman I hear in my head when I think of the character. Conroy owned that for 5 seasons and longer with the animated series (same with Hamill and the Joker), but as much as it’s been listed as a negative that those voices aren’t in the game, these guys aren’t getting their due. It’s fantastic work and really should be given a chance by any fan of the character. Same goes for Troy Baker as the Joker, but I have to nitpick a bit since he’s essentially doing a Hamill impression of the Joker. He nails it, by the way, and I was ready to end my thoughts on it there before I hit that section of the story I mentioned earlier. He does SO WELL as the Joker for that part of the game that it doesn’t become a Hamill impersonation for me anymore. Troy owns it here.

As for complaints of Origins just being a rehash of the previous games, I can’t really buy into that. There is similarity, but the art direction is different with the characters. I’m not even kidding that there is a HUGE difference in the hulked up Gears Of War looking Jim Gordon from Arkham Asylum and how he looks in Origins. The characters are different and seem less over the top in their design in this game as compared to the previous two. Also…the cut scenes in Origins outshine those we saw in Asylum and City, and by leaps and bounds at that.

Now, about that catch I mentioned earlier…it’s kind of a big one. For all the best parts of this game I still would say to hold off on buying it – for the PC anyway, but as forums posts have shown, it’s the same on the consoles. This game is Mayor Buggy McBuggington of Bug Town. I’ve had lock ups (2), crashes (1), moments in fights where an opponent floats to the other side of me as I’m attacking (1), missed dialogue (1), and a pretty damn big one that prevents me from finishing a characters side quest (Riddler). The game looks fantastic on PC, and I love playing it, but, in good faith, I can’t see these issues and still tell you to play the game. This should not have released when it did, but the pressures of getting in before the next generation hits store shelves, plus the other heavy hitters on the horizon (Battlefield 4, AC4, WatchDogs at the time, & CoD: Ghosts) meant this thing HAD to hit its release date and it has paid for that rush job in the amount of bugs seen throughout the game. Others have run across plenty more that are game breaking, but I only listed the ones I have experienced…so far. A recent patch was released but it fixed a lot of bugs people were experiencing on the Multiplayer side of things. Yeah…this game has multiplayer, but I have yet to give it a try.

This will be a great game to play for any fan of the previous games and if you don’t think the bugs will bother you, then by all means pick it up. Otherwise, keep an eye on forums and wait to see some patch notes to make sure this thing is running the way it should for a full completion of the game. Still, even after that, don’t let the small things like voice actors or a change in studio making the game sway you from playing it. It’s a fantastic Batman game that, even with 25 hours put in, has never felt like a chore or a task. It’s always felt fun and has been something I’ve looked forward to playing every day since it launched. Don’t miss out….you know, when they patch the bugs, of course.

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In Dreams Begin…Possibilities

There are many reasons we enjoy doing In-Game Chat. We’ve said before that what you hear on the show is exactly what we talk about on a day to day basis with each other. It used to be whenever we’d meet up for whatever occasion, but now with texts and IM’s, this happens every single day. So, it’s just a louder way for us to talk and more people to hear what we have to say, as well as have more input from those who can hear us and want to join the conversation.

So that’s one of the reasons we enjoy it. Another reason, surprisingly, has been the opportunity to talk to people working in the gaming industry. Those who’ve been listening for awhile know of the past guests we’ve had on the show. Some people who’ve had NOTHING to go with gaming, but we spoke with just because we were given the chance.

I wrote last week of some of the gaming companies I hold in high regard (which is just a nice way of saying I’m a total fanboy over), and over the years, one by one, the avenue of IGC has afforded me the opportunity to take that obsession to the next level and either speak with people from those companies or meet with them and visit their studios.

Well, this Saturday I can add another milestone to that list. Our guest this weekend on In-Game Chat is none other than Atrus himself, Rand Miller, Co-founder and CEO of Cyan Worlds as well as the designer and director of the original Myst (along with his brother, Robyn) and Riven, the sequel to Myst, Uru, and Myst V: End Of Ages.

I’ve been a fan of Rand’s work on the Myst series (and the series itself), along with his brother’s work on the soundtracks, plus the three books he helped author that expanded the lore of Myst. The Myst series has been the most dear to me among anything else I’ve been a fan of throughout the years.

Getting this opportunity to speak with my personal heroes of the industry is a massive dream come true and one I never really ever considered even in the early years of doing In-Game Chat. Hell, even when some of those did come true for me, I still never imagined I’d be given the chance to speak with someone who shaped my love of gaming into what it is today.

So, when you listen to this weekend’s show and hear the interview, you should know I’m doing my best to remain calm, but the excitement of such a thing will likely spill over into the interview and you’ll hear just how it sounds when a long time dream becomes a reality.

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On The Next Episode Of In-Game Chat…

For the most part on Friday’s we’ll use this post to give you an idea of what will be coming up on tomorrow night’s show.

For instance, tomorrow night it’ll be myself, James, & Arjay in the studio (with a possible guest appearance from Jeremy) and we’re likely going to discuss what went on this week with CoD Ghosts possibly being shown in 720p on the Xbox One and 1080p on the PS4. This seems to be rumor and speculation, but there’s a lot of evidence pointing to this actually being true. Something we’ll go further into during the show tomorrow.

We also plan to discuss what we’ve been playing and what we will be playing – usual talk for us though you might hear a surprise or two from James – if his Steam activity is to be believed.

Finally, we have an interview scheduled to air that took place earlier this week with David Chateauneuf from Red Barrels Games. These are the folks who made the wonderfully creepy and scary OUTLAST. I spoke with him about the game and its future as well as getting a bit of insight into the very small team that makes up Red Barrels.

Not only that, but we’ll be giving away 2 copies of OUTLAST to some lucky listeners during the show tomorrow night. These are steam codes and they DO work outside of North America, in case some of you might be wondering. We aren’t sure how we’ll give them away, but we do know you’ll need to at least be listening to the show LIVE tomorrow and it would help to be in the chat room with us on Twitch.

Remember, all the links you need to listen or watch the show live can be found just over to the left there. We’ll see you LIVE tomorrow night!

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Loyal To The End & Back Again

Plenty of you are likely familiar with the regard in which I hold certain games and developers. There’s Criterion with the Burnout series and, of course, Naughty Dog and Uncharted. There’s a few others in there, but not many. The list grows very slowly if at all.

However, the first studio and games that I ever fell in love with started on the PC and they started with adventure/puzzle games. I vividly remember playing The 7th Guest on my father’s 486DX40…I think. I don’t even know if that’s how you write it out anymore and no clue on ANYTHING about the specs it had, but Dad said it was good and it ran the game, so I was happy.

While Trilobyte made me take notice of what kind of a world I could find on a PC and the puzzles waiting for me, it was another company that would fuel the obsession and forever remain my standard for adventure/puzzle gaming.

I’m not exactly sure what first drew me to pick up Myst from Cyan Worlds. I wasn’t following gaming news. About the closest thing I had was Nintendo Power at the time. It had to have been the box that made me buy it….or ask for it. Again, the details of how I came to own the game are fuzzy. I can only think that I walked into Electronics Boutique in the mall with my mother or father and looked at the PC section, noticed the box, the little banner on it claiming “WINNER OF 12 MAJOR AWARDS including 1994 GOLD MEDAL & 1994 WORLD-CLASS AWARD” and then either asked my Dad if his computer could play it or remembered what he’d told me enough to know it would and bought it.

However way I came to own Myst didn’t matter, once I played it I was hooked. I can’t remember how long it took me to finish the game, but I had notes upon notes during my journey through Myst island and the different ages. It was the hardest game I’d ever played at the time and for some time to come following. In fact, I likely didn’t get another challenge like that until the sequel, Riven, was released. I have that box, too, by the way. In fact, I have every boxed copy of a Myst game I have ever bought – double dips and all. I own the soundtracks lacking only Myst IV and Myst V. In fact, here’s pretty much everything of Myst that I own in some kind of physical form at the moment:

photoSoundtracks, digital copies, and eBooks aren’t shown, but I have those too

The bug had bitten me and I forever tried to reach back to that first feeling of visiting Myst island. Although, it only actually seemed to work when I played a Myst game. A few titles here and there came close. Syberia was one of those games, but as I played it, the game became its own thing and not something I ended up comparing to what Myst was for me. Myst has stayed with me since I played the very first game nearly 20 years ago. And I had long since given up on seeing anything new in the universe. Myst V: End Of Ages was the finale, and I had my doubts early on in the release of that game that we wouldn’t see a Myst VI or some kind of side venture, but the more I read about End Of Ages, the more I began to accept that the adventure was over.

Then, just a week ago (the day before my birthday, in fact), a project on Kickstarter sprung up from Cyan Worlds called Obduction. The first thing I did was look at the backer rewards for the boxed copy of the game (it’s at the $75 level). Done. Backed. Now, where’s the level that gets my name in the credits? Could they possibly have a level that gets me to provide input for the development of the game or maybe a visit to the studio? They have all of those and more and while some of the levels are out of my reach, I’m still getting a boxed copy of their game whenever it’s released. That’s, of course, assuming their project gets funded, but I really have no doubt in my mind it won’t pass its goal and become a reality.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a game from Cyan to look forward to, and it doesn’t really matter that it isn’t part of the Myst….mythos. It’s a new beginning from them. And maybe it doesn’t take a Myst game to bring me back to that first feeling of being on Myst island, maybe all it takes is Cyan to keep doing what they do best. That’s a project I’ll support every time they offer it. As was said to me 20 years ago in Myst by one of the founders of Cyan…perhaps the ending has not yet been written.

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And Welcome To In-Game Chat

Seven years and we’ve barely ever used this space for anything other than an official place to put our shows. We gave it some thought and figured we should change that and give writing a shot and put our voices to…screen, as it were in between the times we do those shows.

I can’t guarantee we’ll do this as scheduled every day of every week (except Saturdays & Sundays). But we’ll try.

This past weekend both Batman games were on sale on Steam, in what I can only guess was a celebratory manner for having both titles stripped of the GFWL brand and soothed over with the cooling aloe of Steamworks. Not only that, but those who’d previously bought the two games on Steam had their copies upgraded (both of them) to the “Game Of The Year” editions with all the extra content added in.

All this did was remind me that since the time I’d bought these games on my PC, I’d recently rebuilt my machine and made the switch from an AMD graphics card to NVIDIA – almost for the singular reason of PhysX. I’d been with an AMD card for quite a few previous builds of my machine and had watched, almost with heartbreak for me, the videos of games come and go that were using the PhysX stuff in NVIDIA cards. Finally, I could play a game I have a distinct recollection of watching back when I didn’t have the proper equipment to see all of its bells and whistles with PhysX – Batman: Arkham City.

So far it’s been fun. The game that is. I’ve barely noticed the really great ways fog moves, curtains flow, and papers fly around when you walk over them. I mean, sure, they’re there and I’ll take notice occasionally, but for the most part, I’m just too focused on being Batman to really pay attention. Then again, I’m not very far into the game so maybe there’s more of it later on I’ll actually start to see. Still, it’s a bit comforting to know that whenever NVIDIA does release videos of upcoming games using their tech of physics, I’ll know I can play that game and see exactly what they are showing me.

That said, they’ve really been showing off what their cards and tech can do in the next Batman game releasing on Friday – Arkham Origins. The game hasn’t really snuck up on me, but my anticipation for it has. Just a week or so ago I knew it was coming out, but I was very…meh on the issue. Not disappointed or thinking it wasn’t going to live up to the previous games, but just, well…neither here nor there on it. However, since replaying Arkham City over the weekend I’ve gotten more and more excited for Origin’s release. I’ve been reading forums and subreddits, watching videos (even the most recent walkthrough done by someone who got their hands on an early copy), and I’m even listening to the soundtrack sample as I write this*. It’s rare I get this enthusiastic for the release of a game to drown myself in its media and hype, but here I am…wallowing in it, soaking it all up.

I’m not even really worried about the reviews. I’ve only played a bit of the game at PAX and it really plays EXACTLY like Arkham City. Yeah sure, it isn’t Rocksteady making the game, but the guys at WB Montreal seemed to have done a fantastic job mimicking their every move. I find that to be good and bad, in a way. This is good because it means they don’t stray too far from a formula that works and bad in the sense that they aren’t really carving a place for themselves. I mean, the sections of Gotham that were in Arkham City look very familiar, as they should, and it means the team had more time to work on other aspects of the game. Having it set yet again in the winter means most of the areas affected by the weather could go unchanged (that pool on the highrise is still frozen over). Setting it on Christmas Eve and added the element of a terrible blizzard and that keeps them from making Gotham as busy as a city like it would be on the streets – keep in the tone of a locked away prison playground as it was used in the game before. And maybe they don’t have to stand out for themselves. Maybe coming away with a win on a Batman game means they’ve shown they can make things work and build the confidence to work on their own stuff and not be held to a standard of another studio. Maybe. We’ll see when the game releases on Friday.

In fact, I think I’m going to finish this up and get back into Arkham City for a bit. Getting all the DLC in the recent PC upgrade from Steam means I have new content to explore. Speaking of which, I think I’ll stream my playthrough of the “Harley’s Revenge” DLC.

*Check out 10:14, 14:00, & 17:51 for my favorites so far