Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Discord and Rhyme: When Bad Games Happen to Good People

Matt Turano | 24 Sep 2008 21:00
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When I was six, I fell out of a treehouse. Luckily it was only about an eight-foot drop (what can I say, we built 'em ranch-style back then), because I landed on my stomach and bounced my chin off the ground, resulting in facial disfigurement that I was certain would haunt me for the rest of my days, or at least until I turned six and a half.

The only lasting effect from my brush with rapid deceleration trauma was some minor brain bruising that completely scrambled my judgment synapses, causing them to function about as well as a year-old Xbox 360. As a result, I've done some pretty stupid things - one of which involved an underwear-threatening combination of road-stand Jagerschnitzel, a BMW, and a stretch of ice-slick Autobahn between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden - but nothing, and I mean nothing, reveals my own brand of piss-poor, Steve-O judgment more effectively than the fact that I not only liked, but repeatedly played, and currently own, the following games. If I'm lucky, this list will self-destruct in about three minutes.

Warriors of Might and Magic (PS2) - A hack-and-slash RPG that earned full completion from me not because of its brilliant graphics, captivating plot, or original mechanics ('cause, um...no), but because it contained two elements that I find absolutely irresistible; collection and leveling. While it was rife with clipping issues, abysmal dialogue, and mind-numbingly repetitive combat, Warriors had both collection and leveling in cascading rivulets. Basically, if a game's main story quest consists of nothing more than retrieving a damp sheet of carbon paper from an octogenarian bookkeeper with a hemorrhoid cushion, as long as it gives up new items and experience points along the way, I'm all over it like essence on Emeril. This weakness often returns to haunt me in the form of recurring nightmares in which a giant 3DO logo eats my face.

Too Human (360) - Fast forward seven years and we'll find that the soul of Warriors of Might and Magic has been reborn in the body of Too Human. While clearly a better game than its spiritual predecessor, Too Human captivated me in a way that few games have over the last couple of years, and I'll be damned if I can tell you why, other than the aforementioned fondness for finding new shit and leveling up. Surely, it can't be that simple, can it? It must have had something to do with the game's clever juxtaposition of Norse mythology on top of a bleak cybernetic future to depict a world in which gods and machines clash in an epic struggle for control over mankind's destiny. Yeah, not so much; basically it was the armor. And the weapons. And the leveling, don't forget the leveling. With the addition of item color modules, Too Human added a yet another compelling mechanic into the mix; customization, which only helped prolong the agony, er...enjoyment.

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