200 Blogs Under the Sea

[As Originally Written on GIO.]

It’s been a long haul to get here and I could very well be on my way to something like 500 blog posts if I’d kept up and been regular with my writing, however the topic of discussion today is quality over quantity and nothing describes these 200 blogs, 85 reviews, and nearly 9000 comments that I’ve made over the years.

Sometimes I feel like last year was 2011 and I’m about to go enjoy titles like Portal 2 and Gears of War 3 again. It really does amaze me that it’s already almost 2017, that I’ve already seen the birth of a “new” console generation, that The Witcher 3 happened, that Portal 3 hasn’t happened, and any number of gaming and life-related things. But it is 2016 nonetheless and time doesn’t slow down for anybody or anything- a note which I’ve blogged about in the past when things have gotten out of hand.

So let’s talk a little bit about some of the stellar titles that have released this year and some of the more redemptive stories of ones that weren’t so hot. We’re waiting on anticipated titles like Final Fantasy XV, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Dishonored 2, The Last Guardian, Watch Dogs 2, Dead Rising 4, and Shadow Warrior 2 to come out but that’s not to say some of the greatest games of the year haven’t already been experienced as well.

Titanfall 2 is one such example. Respawn took the criticisms players had with the first game to heart and they’ve crafted an even more encompassing and engrossing adventure tale to span the galaxy. Not only is there more freedom and customization and more of what worked in the first game, but it retains enough of the original formula while injecting bold new frontiers as well. Truthfully, I was skeptical as to how the singleplayer would play out as we’d already established that multiplayer was pretty darn good in the first game. However, I’d like to draw the comparison to another former project- Modern Warfare 2. Just when things seemed they were at a peak, Infinity Ward took it up to eleven and gave us a better story, better multiplayer, and greater experience. If there is a Titanfall 3 (and I’m sure there will be), then this game will be pretty hard to top.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is another such example of stellar storytelling and aesthetic, although also a bit of a backtrack for the series. Deus Ex has been known for its highs and lows and Deus Ex: Human Revolution had its flaws but it was a truly polarizing look at that world. It had some fundamental frustrations but on the whole it is just as good as the sequel which nails some notes the first game missed while falling short in other categories. The biggest thing about the Deus Ex universe for me has always been the backstory and the cinematic value. It has always struck me as a Blade Runner x Ex Machina vibe (go figure) and this new title is no different. Gorgeous visuals and a well-crafted story are things that we’ve seen before but until the creators of The Witcher 3 release Cyberpunk 2077, we won’t see many games in a similar vein to this one.

Gears of War 4 was somewhat of a skeptical play for some and somewhat of a long-anticipated return for others. If you thought you were done after Gears 3 and were let down by the Baird-driven prequel in Judgment, then look no further. Gears 4 takes what made the first one of the best Xbox lineup titles and injects a little bit of old, a little bit of new, and a little bit of awesome in a this n’ that formula. The finished product is a familiar yet new experience which should appeal to longtime fans and newcomers alike. I enjoy the melding of and passing along of the original story into what is probably going to become a new saga. The ending is one of those akin to Halo 2 that leaves some things to be desired, but that is not to say it is a bad game by any means. The work ethic that went into creating a faithful sequel to the Gears series shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Dark Souls 3 manages to reside somewhere between Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 both in terms of finesse required to play and situational story telling. It is definitely an evolutionary tale and one that has learned from the Dark Souls, Demons Souls, and Bloodbourne series. While Dark Souls 2 may in fact be one of the most lauded games From Software has created, Dark Souls 3 does a great job of quite literally returning to what DS1 offered without giving up the advancements of the second or being a fresh experience. It may not be as difficult at times and it may thus far have some disappointingly short DLC, however it is a testament to the team’s creativity and the resolve and longevity of the now-hit series.

Uncharted 4 was most definitely another blockbuster experience for Nathan Drake even if it seems to be the last one for a very long time. I’ve always been a fan of the small moments in the chronicles of Nate Drake and although his token setpiece moments are spectacular, it was A Thief’s End that finally gave me the realistic look at one of my favorite character’s backstory and life outside of dangerous raids and treasure hunts. For that I am going to be ever-grateful. Whether it’s sitting down to play some classic Crash Bandicoot or setting sail on a choppy sea with only murky waters and a dangerous band of goons between you and your goal, Uncharted 4 is excellent in both storytelling and pacing and truly is representative of a series with some of the highest quality work of all-time, specifically for Playstation exclusives.

Now that I’ve talked about five of the quality games, flawed or not, that have stood head and shoulders above some of the other titles I’ve played this year, I’d like to discuss a few more points. It heartens me to still be able to come here for news and to blog and see a mix of familiar and fresh faces day to day, both in terms of the community and online presence, as well as the GI staff themselves. This has very much been my “place” for years and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know life often gets in the way for many of us and some have departed for other opportunities or other aspects of life along the way, but I’m proud to have gotten to know many of you through your writing and through our conversations as well.

I just want to encourage you all to write your thoughts. Write that blog post. give us your thoughts on the latest and greatest titles, talk about movies, comic books, or whatever other passions you may have. Any and everything is welcome and very much appreciated. If you’re ever stumped or feel like you’ve hit the creative wall, message someone else or boot up a game to play and maybe you’ll get some creative ideas from the craziness that happens in Borderlands 2 or Gears of War 3. Hell, I wrote a blog about a naked speedrun through Sen’s Fortress in Dark Souls so very long ago so if I can do it, you can too. Just maybe find a little bit less dangerous and more fully clothed line of work.

My parting message to you all is this: be who you want to be, write what you want to write, think what you want to think, and do what you find worthwhile to do. Don’t let anybody ever tell you otherwise and even on your down days be your own greatest fan as well as your own greatest inspiration. Sometimes all it takes to spark the fire is the will to make something happen, the flick of a power switch, and maybe even a little bit of light level 350 gear- you never know. Gaming references aside, I wish you all a fine and dandy day as this month begins and we step one day closer to 2017 and what it may bring. Adieu.

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