Sparky Clarkson's blog
By Sparky Clarkson on April 1, 2012 - 2:35pm.
The Falmer are coming. You can hear guards whispering about them in Skyrim's towns. You can encounter them through their attacks on trading caravans or isolated, unlucky outposts. In the journey to Blackreach, if not before, you will encounter the Falmer. Blind and pale, they scurry through the caves beneath Skyrim, clothed and armed with chitin from their hideous insect livestock, communicating in primitive hisses. Considering only these characteristics, it would be easy to dismiss the Falmer as goblins by another name, like Mass Effect's awful Vorcha. However, the fiction surrounding the Falmer positions them as a touchstone for many of Skyrim's main ideas.
By Sparky Clarkson on March 27, 2012 - 3:37pm.
Among core gamers, Electronic Arts and BioWare's decision to deliver an additional squadmate as day one DLC for Mass Effect 3 continues to rile people who haven't yet finished the game and gotten angry about the ending. Fast-flying accusations and defenses about whether the content was stripped out of the game mostly miss the point.
By Sparky Clarkson on March 6, 2012 - 12:58pm.
Although I don't know whether there has been any TV presence, Electronic Arts has mounted a decent push behind the game, with some mobile tie-ins that are mediated to the main game's fiction by the Galactic Readiness mechanic. This is also integrated with the game's packed-in co-op third-person shooter. Tying that kind of functionality to a role-playing game (RPG) suggests that EA wants to expand the audience, and perhaps turn BioWare's world-building into a company-wide asset tied to multiple games.
By Sparky Clarkson on March 4, 2012 - 11:02am.
When Skyrim tries to go big, it often falters due to poor writing, over-promising, or a disconnect between the story and the gameplay. The happiest exception to this trend is the Dark Brotherhood questline, which is one of the game's great successes. This is because it obeys the rules of good writing, and of good game design.
By Sparky Clarkson on February 22, 2012 - 1:00pm.
The only interesting thing about NeverDead is that it's not actually as bad as it seems after you've beaten it. I don't mean that NeverDead is secretly a good game. It truly stinks, mostly for boring reasons—awkward and mushy controls, inconsistent mechanics, stock characters, vapid story. However, NeverDead leaves an even worse impression than it deserves to, because its concluding bosses exhibit excruciatingly stupid design.
By Sparky Clarkson on February 5, 2012 - 3:15pm.
On the strength of Matt Kaplan's review, I decided to grab Resistance 3. Kaplan didn't steer me wrong. Alongside solid gameplay, Resistance 3 delivers a compelling story about a man's journey through an interesting post-apocalyptic landscape. Like many other recent games, however, Resistance 3 flubs the ending, betraying its own tightly-crafted atmosphere.
By Sparky Clarkson on February 2, 2012 - 4:47am.
Skyrim is a huge and uneven game, and I will be discussing many of its high points. In the spirit of getting the bad news out first, however, I want to discuss the game's secondary quest, concerning the civil war between the Imperial Legion and the Stormcloaks led by Jarl Ulfric of Windhelm. There is much to admire in the way this quest is set up, but as a world element and gameplay series it falls short in several respects.
By Sparky Clarkson on January 13, 2012 - 12:13pm.
I have a lot to say about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and indeed I've already said some of it. Some of it has been said for me, for instance in Shamus Young's takedown of the Thieves' Guild quests, which after a promising start became too intolerable for me to bother completing. Uneven writing quality is almost a certainty in a game this large, though, and perhaps it was the Thieves' Guild's time, after being one of the best sidequests in Oblivion.
By Sparky Clarkson on January 3, 2012 - 2:05am.
In a cinematic action game, the player needs to keep moving forward because the intent of the game is to both tell a story and excite the player. Viewed as a question of design alone, difficulty that forces several replays of any section is undesirable because it gates progress and converts the game into a movie that is merely very inconvenient to watch.
By Sparky Clarkson on December 18, 2011 - 7:50am.
There is a certain muddiness here between "narrative" components and "systems". Would I have loved Agro as much if he were a lizard? A featherless chicken? A square with four squares sticking out of it? Perhaps I would not have. At the same time the graphical (i.e. narrative) depiction of Agro as a horse serves to contextualize the system he presents and make the game's rules intelligible.
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