What We’re Playing – August 5th
The weekend is upon us and it’s time to play some videogames. Here are a few games we’ve been playing away from the office this week. What’s on your agenda? Share what you’re playing!
Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey of the Cursed King
The last hooray of the PlayStation 2 was utterly grand; stupendous in fact. Its crowning moment came in 2006 with Square Enix’s magnificent RPG – Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King (or Dragon Quest VIII for those of you who were paying attention). A very traditional game in every sense of the word, Dragon Quest shunned the innovation present in its more wanderlust sister series Final Fantasy, and focussed on the roots of what was a great RPG heritage. Combat was repetitive, character design was uninspired and the plotting was functional at best. I loved it then and I love it now. Plodding around green fields in absent minded curiosity, falling into and out of random battles (which don’t faze me) is a pleasure even after all this time. It’s just like reacquainting myself with long lost friends… and then smiting them to the heavens with a rusty battle axe.
For me, RPGs will never be as solid as this. Functionalism can be a form of familiar beauty if undertaken with the amount of love and craftsmanship displayed within DQVIII. It remains a mighty game with a mighty heart that I still dip in and out of to this day.
When I signed up to be a Japanese gangster, I did so on the presumption that it would require me to solve problems with my fists. All problems would be solved by signing above the dotted line with my knuckle stamp, and for a while that was true. Even ridiculously true. I’d be walking through the streets in a quasi-open world city of Japan when random encounters would trip up like I was playing an RPG. Only through violence would I be able to relay to this random passerby that I meant no disrespect by not greeting them by name.
And then I had to play golf. I played golf so that I’d get on the good side with a politician, so that I’d have leverage against a teacher whose son was bullying a kid at an orphanage I run. It’s surprising how much the kids at the orphanage matter to the overall story. I’m still not sure how much I care about running around, dealing with their problems (the solutions usually do not involving punching people), though I suspect the purpose of it is to make the protagonist appear to be more than a pair of fists. He also cares about the children.
As a budding Fallout fan, I’ve decided to take that special journey back to the roots, back to the source. Having been spoiled by the majesty of New Vegas, there certainly was a lot for me to adapt to. While it may not pack the immediate rush of an FPS, its origin of classic turn-based mayhem continues to maintain its humble demeanor even to this day.
Today’s Fallouts solidify the common practice of repetitive saves, no thanks to glitches and freezes. Though the original may have been devoid of these hiccups, the need to save often still looms due to its old-skool RPG challenge factors – a need to level up constantly to face already jacked up foes, window shopping equipment that tease with their high cap costs, and any negligence for character care can cost them their lives from any random encounter on the world map. That and there’s no radiation suits, so irradiated expeditions will involve frequent trips to the store for RadAway.
When we muse of difficult RPG classics, the early Final Fantasies and Shin Megami Tensei installments usually come to mind. But throw a bone to the west, and this dog of war can still pack a harrowing bite that never changes.