My free time is about half way split between time with “Godus” on the PC and time with “Destiny” on the PS3.
It was well over a year and a half ago now when I found myself completely obsessed by the open world fantasy role playing game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’d downloaded a release day copy for my PC through Steam and over the span of about three or four months played far more than a mid-thirties guy with a kid and a job really should have.
Insert Abrupt Pause Here…
And then spring arrived. And some running goals fell into the mess. And that darned thing called life got in the way of a perfectly good video game.
I’d poked my head back into the vast and expansive world of Skyrim once or twice since, but my career as a dragon-slaying Nord-ess ended fairly abruptly as my priorities shifted. And, picking back up where one left off after such an extreme shift in engagement… not as easy as it sounds.
But then not completely forgotten, either.
About a week ago the Internet was ablaze with the release of the latest installment of the Grand Theft Auto series. GTA:V, as I understand it, is another vast, open world game, but that’s where it’s similarities to games like Skyrim end. And it’s also where my discussion of that game ends: with me saying the GTA series, as much as I’ve played past versions, are just not my cup-of-tea.
But back downtown, near where I work, is a video game shop in the mall. And on one particular morning last week, when I happened to wander by, a few dozen guys about my age, most in neatly pressed business attire, were patiently lined up waiting to grab their copy of the much anticipated “five” pre-ordered and waiting to be loaded into Playstations and Xboxes across the city and around the world.
“Impulse Shopping” Meets “Been Thinking About It Anyhow”
I decided to be different. Not deliberately, mind you, but when I wandered back to the store at lunch there was a pre-played copy of my long lost friend Skyrim — but for PS3, not PC — for little less than twenty bucks.
- for those who will first off say I’ve downgraded going from a PC version to a console version on the PS3, you are right. But what I’ve lost in graphics and control finesse, is more than made up by the fact I can play on the couch on a giant HDTV instead of in the basement, in a squeaky office chair, on a monitor less than a quarter the size.
- unlike last time when a four-year-old Claire was a little bit too young to even watch me play, the six year old Claire that lives at our house now LOVES the game and, in fact, told me she made up her own game to play during recess at school where she runs around fighting dragons and doing pretend magic in school yard. I’m still the one who actually plays the video game though.
- having decided to deliberately make different character and plot choices — some as early as minutes into the game — I’m surprised at how similar the early stages of the game are to the last time I played.
- it is just as addictive the second time through. Whatever perfect combination of game-play and simulated feedback the game designers stumbled upon in creating this piece — or whether it simply found a gaping hole in my brain to crawl into and set up home forever, I can’t tell — it’s like the obsession bloomed right back into full life only a couple hours after starting up the new adventure.
- I still don’t think it’s cheating to use the game guide and I pulled out my –only slightly dusty– copy almost before the game had finished downloading its initial installation updates.
- my updates are going to be far less interesting here because I cannot do screen grabs on the PS3… so you’re stuck with whatever old or stock imagery I can dig up elsewhere.
To quote another fantasy franchise: Winter is coming. And apparently that means juggling some dragon slaying in with my ongoing marathon training… provided I get to use the TV once in a while.
I’m not a car guy. I was appropriately reminded of this yesterday when I stopped off at the local Jiffy Lube to have my oil changed and some punk half my age was politely schooling me on the recommended air pressure for my tires. I nodded and shrugged it off, but chalked it up as yet another obvious lesson in my own mechanical incompetence, the skill I’ve failed all these years to level up, instead opting to toss my XP to other technical skills like HTML and graphic design.
That said, and despite my casual-disinterest in real-life cars, for some reason I really like car and racing games.
A couple years ago I picked up a used copy of Burnout Paradise for the PS3 and spent a considerable portion of my free time for about a month ripping up the mean streets of the virtual city of Paradise. I progressed really far, too, acquiring about two-thirds of the unlockables and a whole bunch of the achievements. But summer came along, life happened, and I never really went back to it.
Then the inevitable: a couple months ago that same game was on super-duper-summer sale on Steam, but for PC obviously. How could I resist? I picked up an install for roughly the same price as I pay for a cup of coffee… but there it sat.
Accelerate and fast forward to this weekend.
I’m on this silly sort of quest, you see. I’d like to give each of these games I’ve picked up through Steam sales or Humble Bundles a fair try rather than just having them sitting there on my inventory lists with not-so-subtle blank playtime status glaring at me expectantly. This means focus. This means playing through a couple hours worth of each and racking up some serious winter gaming hours.
Now technically Burnout Paradise doesn’t exactly count in this list as I’ve made some substantial progress on the console version, but I thought — perhaps like being distracted by a shiny object — I’d check out the comparison of control schemes between PS3 and PC or something and give it a fair go, too.
Click “PLAY” and…. my entry into the world of the game world was oh-so-familiar and oh-so-comfortable. I’d spent many hours exploring the busy and carnage-ridden roads of Paradise a few winters ago now, the soundtrack again raging against boost-fueled races and destruction runs through pedestrian-free virtual streets as I revved up my car and launched from the junkyard. My clunker rolled out into Paradise and I was off and cruising.
Oh-so-familiar and oh-so-comfortable…
…albeit (and admittedly) a bit jarring to be missing the large roster of cars I’d earned playing before on the console, starting over again with just a single set of mediocre wheels on this new play-through. I’d taken a liking to a particularly stat-balanced SUV at one point, but I couldn’t tell you how many hours I’d need to re-devote here to earn that beast back, of if it was just some random chance, order-of-operations type confluence of my previous play-through that netted me that particular prize.
I spent some serious time cruising. The world is wide open. With a few clear exceptions, you can go anywhere “outside” in Paradise, bashing through gates and barricades to clamber your car up stairs, onto train tracks, through parks, and even into the middle of a stadium centered baseball diamond, and that’s not even mentioning the hundreds of miles worth of city and country streets, a free-way ring-road, and couple industrial-scale driving playgrounds that can be found if you know where to poke your bumpers. The world entices you to explore, going deeper with each race, better vehicles, and — I assume though I’m not a huge fan of said feature — online play. If there is another full-on racing game with such an expansive, open world then I’m not aware of it: and someone please comment below tell me.
I spent some time cruising, crashed a lot, and felt some nostalgia for a great game. I’ll be back for more.
I’ve got no affiliation with any of these games. Screens have been captured during my gameplay using Steam (press F12) and this is all just my random, amateur opinion. Share and Enjoy.
Having just last week finished listening to The Diamond Age in audio format, and then having downloaded a promotional copy of the (abridged) The Areas of My Expertise from iTunes as read by the author (otherwise known as John Hodgman, aka. “PC” from the popular Mac and PC commercials) in a way only the author could, I stumbled upon the interested problem of what to listen to next as I fill the twenty minutes (each way) of my commute (each day.)
(Enough brackets by the way?)
Circumstances as they are, I stumbled upon the recordings of Michel Thomas the other day and pondered the fact that “maybe I’m NOT filling my brain with enough information lately” and perhaps I should cram German language lessons into my day somewhere. I loaded the CDs onto my iPod and listened to the first three tracks this morning.
Anybody heard of this guy? It seems all very intriguing… and if I can increase my fluency even a bit whilst driving to and from work, maybe it’s worth it.
In the meantime, if I finally get a grasp on German, perhaps I can take a look at picking up the French version in a few months. Then maybe Spanish or Italian. I’d still like to learn a little Mandarin if anyone knows a good instructor, by the way.