So, the end of 2012 is drawing near.
I've had a chance to play most of the candidates for my year-end Top 10, and after scanning the upcoming release lists, it doesn't seem like there's much likely to shake up my current ranking. There are a couple of things still on my radar, though.
Hitman: Absolution is one of the few that has a good chance of getting on the list if the levels are as free and open as they appear to be at first glance. I can't say that I've ever been much of a Far Cry fan, but I'll give Far Cry 3 a shot as well.
Apart from those, it's looking pretty done. However, I'm definitely up for any suggestions for sleeper picks or surprises worth investigation. If you've got something that's worth considering, drop me a line via Twitter, email, or with a comment on this article, and let me know!
I'm still between review games at the moment, so I started playing Silent Hill: Book of Memories on Vita. I liked the demo and I'm a big fan of dungeon crawlers and Roguelikes when they're done well, so despite all of the negative talk I heard, I decided to go for it. I'm about ten levels into the campaign so far, and I think it's actually pretty good—but that statement needs some qualification.
For some reason, Wayforward (the developers) decided to keep the player in the dark about basic aspects of how the game works. I'm not talking about a few little details here and there, I'm talking about some core, fundamental elements which are barely explained. By not taking the time to properly introduce the player to what's going on, I can easily see why so many people were turned off.
Once I got my hands on a copy, I spent the first two hours or so trying to figure out what was affecting what, what was causing what, and basically, trying to get a handle on how to play the game efficiently.
Even after that, there was still plenty of stuff that I didn't understand, so I went to GameFAQs and read as much information as I could. I got some answers there, but not all. Then, I talked to a few reviewers who had already been through the game, and that helped clarify a few more things. That research combined with my previous experience with other Roguelikes finally started making all of the pieces fit, and that's when I finally began to enjoying the play.
A welcoming, approachable title this is not, but if you've got a Vita and jumping into a quasi-Roguelike with rusty metal and bloody nurses sounds like an appealing thing, here are a few tips to get started:
- Save up money and buy Backpack upgrades ASAP. Every upgrade lets you hold one extra weapon and increases the amount of supplies that you can carry. Needless to say, this is absolutely crucial for your survival.
- Choose which enemies to kill carefully, and invest in the Karma Flip ability as soon as possible. Killing enemies willy-nilly means that the Karma meter will usually hover near the center, without building up towards either side. Without making progress towards the Blood or Light side, the player will never be able to use special abilities, and using them is key towards making progress.
A strategy that's working well for me is attacking only Blood karma enemies until they're gone, then using Karma Flip and turning any remaining Light enemies into Bloods. (I know this probably sounds like gibberish, but it will make sense once you start the game.) If you're having trouble telling which enemies are which, use the left shoulder button to lock on and their orientation is revealed by the color of the reticle around them. By doing this, I keep my Karma meter consistently high on the Light side, which means I have a few healing spells available so that I don't have to use healthpacks except in extreme emergencies.
- If you run out of supplies, replay the first level and stock back up. The enemies there are pretty easy to beat, and you probably won't need to use any items to get through to the end.
- Take the time to do every bonus mission that the demon offers you at the beginning of each level. The weapons he rewards you with are usually quite powerful, and well worth the effort. Once your backpack is upgraded, use the pickup weapons found in each level as your primaries while keeping a Sword of Obedience or a Great Cleaver on hand in case of emergency. Having a heavy-hitter in your back pocket can get you out of trouble in a hurry.
- On difficult levels, don't try to make any real progress until you locate the save point. In most cases, it's possible to find it after a few test runs. Once you know where it is, then start putting the effort in towards meeting your objectives and take the time to save after each one—losing a ton of progress is really disheartening, and there's no real reason to do so. Haste makes waste.
- Increasing the INT stat to at least 10 gives you time to avoid all of the invisible traps that pop up in each level. Strongly, strongly, strongly recommended.
- Weapons have their own alignments. If you're trying to use Light powers and find that your Karma meter keeps dropping, go to the pause menu and check the details for your weapon. It's possible you may be using a Blood weapon that's sapping your Karma. The reverse is also true, if you are trying to use the Blood powers while wielding a Light weapon.
…So yeah, there's a lot of stuff to learn about Book of Memories and the game tells you basically none of it.
Some of this can be figured out with a little experimentation, the frustration factor ramps up quickly when you've got no idea what's happening, and I would imagine that plenty of people who would have otherwise enjoyed this game bailed before they came to grips with it—and I don't blame them. Giving players something to figure out is one thing, but failing to explain fundamental principles of a game in which they aren't immediately obvious is a pretty serious lapse in judgment, if you ask me.
I'm definitely glad I stuck with Silent Hill: Book of Memories and did the legwork, but WayForward's got no one to blame but themselves for all the negative reviews and poor word-of-mouth. And really, it's a shame… once a little light is shed on the proceedings, it's actually a solid title on a system that really needs ‘em.
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