Kenneth on Games: The Climb in “LISA”

LISA is a strong example of what I would call a recent indie movement in “ironic games.” This category covers titles like Undertale or Goat Simulator where a lot of the enjoyment comes from the way that the game subverts expectations. Cynical gamers think they have seen everything, and then these ironic games come and do something completely stupid, but it’s so unexpected that it works. One moment in LISA particularly stuck out to me in regards to this: the two minute climb.

WARNING: Minor spoilers for LISA, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Psychonauts.

Kenneth on Games: The Action Gauge in “Dungeon Fighter Online”

Dungeon Fighter Online is a game where you go to dungeons and you fight and it’s online. Fighting in dungeons is fun, but the online part means that the game is filled with boring MMO tropes like questing and farming and crafting. This disconnect inspired the very first design essay I’ve ever written, but DFO has recently introduced a “seasonal server” which promises pure challenging arcade action without the grind. One new mechanic introduced in the seasonal server is the action gauge, which is theoretically a great idea, but DFO was clearly not built with it from the ground up and this sometimes causes problems.

Kenneth on Games: Supports in “XCOM 2”

Alessa “Heartache” Roberti was my best scout. She forged bravely ahead through unknown territory, fearless of any aliens ahead of her. When firefights broke out, she snuck around the side through concealment to clinch the killing blow on a crucial target, only to slink back into the shadows and do it all over again. But then she developed an addiction to grenades and wanted nothing more than to toss them around all day long. How was I supposed to balance a sneaky assassin with an explosive pyromaniac?

Kenneth on Games: Sister Friede in “Ashes of Ariandel”

The DLC’s final fight has now taken the spot of my favorite Soulsian boss battle in the series, topping the Abyss Watchers. Sister Friede feels as if she deserves to be in Bloodborne with her high mobility and fast attacks. However, in Dark Souls 3 you don’t have nearly as much speed as a Hunter. Instead, Friede’s boss fight is designed in such a way that still makes you feel overwhelmed by her onslaught while also giving opportunities for a slow measly Unkindled to fight back.

WARNING: Boss fight spoilers, and in a Soulsian game that inevitably means story spoilers as well.

Kenneth on Games: Dark Vision in “Dishonored 2”

When Emily was first revealed as a playable character in Dishonored 2, I was excited. I was less excited when it was shown that she would have completely new abilities. This wasn’t inherently a problem, but I couldn’t imagine playing Dishonored without the Dark Vision ability, which was now apparently limited only to Corvo. A while ago, Bethesda released a new trailer showing that Emily does indeed have Dark Vision. Why is this ability special enough to break the rule that each character has mutually exclusive abilities, and how does it tie in to the Dishonored experience as a whole?

Kenneth on Games: The Nemesis System in “Shadow of Mordor”

When Shadow of Mordor came out two years ago, I thought its Nemesis System was going to be revolutionary. I thought all the major studios would be tripping over themselves trying to put their own spin on it. I thought there would be Nemeses in MOBAs and MMOs and FPSes and all sorts of games. I thought we were going to enter a new age of emergent narrative in pop culture. I thought wrong. Looking back at the way RPGs and stories have evolved over these past two years, why hasn’t there been anything in the AAA space following Shadow of Mordor’s footsteps?

WARNING: Slight ending spoilers.