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RPGs for the Playstation 3 (PS3): An Oldschool Perspective, Part 3
Dragons, Mutants, and Diseases
One of the best things about the RPG genre is that it can be crossed and mixed with almost any other genre. This has lead to some of the best games out there. In part 3 of this series on RPGs for the PS3, we will look at one of the best hybrid RPG series ever, Fallout. Part post-apocalyptic survival game and part RPG, Fallout has always fit outside the traditional understanding of what an RPG should and can do, Fallout 3 is no different.
In this hub, we will also examine Nier, a strange adult themed RPG from Square-Enix, and Dragon Age: Awakenings, a 2010 expansion to the 2009 RPG of the year that was so big, it came on its own disc. Does the expansion do the original justice? Is the strange world of Nier worth an exploration? Let's talk about.
For the first time, Fallout goes to the east coast. Fallout 3 is also a lot of other firsts for the series: first "proper" Fallout game on a console (Brotherhood of Steel was a Spin-off), first FPS style Fallout title, first Bethesda released Fallout title, first Fallout title in something like 5 years, etc.
There was a lot of anxiety that Fallout 3 might ruin the series by failing to adhere to what made Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 so great (though those titles were pretty different from one another in my memory). Well, Fallout 3 has been out long enough now that we know the verdict: It was a smashing success in terms of fan expectations. Certainly some fans are upset about different things (I have seen complaints about the Super Mutants in Fallout 3 being divergent from the mutants in previous titles), but many of the staple parts of the Fallout franchise made it into the game, in fact almost all of them did. Fallout 3 is H U G E.
The Good: Where to begin? Exploring D.C. after the holocaust on your own in power armor is more fun than I am the Legend of the Book of Eli where the Hills Have Eyes. Recognizing locations and places and getting from one D.C. monument you've seen in real life to another is just a blast, literally. Discovering the inhabitants of the wastelands while exploring is just as fun. There are so many people to meet/kill/etc. in Fallout 3 that I know I never met them all. The world is literally teaming with life and while you are there, it is quite an experience.
One of the great things about Fallout 3 is that the character development remains true to its Fallout roots. The skills you get have funny names and little Fallout cartoons that fans have come to know and love. As you get more powerful, you get unique and exciting upgrades like mysterious strangers who show up to help you, and the ability to earn the trust of the children you meet more easily. The RPG has never been more campy, and in the campy world of Vault Tec, Fallout 3 is a standout. You can even collect Bobble Heads which you can display in your home. These Bobble Heads also reward you with permanent and valuable stat increases as the number of levels you can obtain in Fallout 3 is 20 (30 with the Broken Steel DLC). In fact, the level cap isn't that big of a problem in Fallout 3 if you plan accordingly, you can still max out skills by reading magazines and books, etc. So again, character development is fun in Fallout 3.
Another great part about Fallout 3 is the story. You are in a race to make a water purifier to bring hope to wastelands where toxic water is a continual problem. Your race is against a mysterious entity called The Brotherhood who you don't even know for sure exists until the second half of the game. I really started to hate the Brotherhood after hearing their propaganda broadcasts all over the D.C. wasteland, so when it became clear you would be gunning for them in the end, I was very satisfied. That is the thing about Fallout 3. It is so full of mystery and wonder. So much was lost when the bombs fell and you can rummage around forever like it's a real apocalypse. This is a sobering thing to do within the game. This fact is made more sobering by the amazing graphics and sound Fallout 3 has brought to the series. The visual story that is told in Fallout 3 is one that fans only saw before in their own minds as the older games were from a different era. Fallout 3 is staggering in its implications at times, and I for one am glad to see the Fallout universe will continue to grow and expand.
The Bad: One thing that seemed counter-intuitive is to design one of the largest open ended explore-fest RPGs ever and then put your level cap at 20. In fact, it's down right ludicrous in certain light. I understand the level cap thing makes each character unique by having them choose the style of combat they want to specialize in, but this can be achieved with 30 levels as proved by the Broken Steel add on. Having to pay $10.00 just to get access to ten more levels when I'm only half way through the original story line is a ripoff. Broken Steel should have extended the level cap to 40, but the original game suffered from such a low level cap.
Another bad thing about Fallout 3 is that whenever I got a companion, they always seemed to get themselves killed. This meant that they were a burden, not a help. This was true even when I had power armor on them. This meant that I basically always went it alone. This is fine, but the world of Fallout is foreboding and the idea of bringing a friend along (even if it's a computer friend) is a nice idea. I just wish they were smart enough to stay alive if I am smart enough to stay alive. The D.C. wasteland is no place to babysit.
Another complaint I had about Fallout 3 is that there are certain supplies you need that you can only get from certain locations and without knowing that, you might play 80% of the game without something that could help you out greatly. You could be just a few hundred yards away from a town you have never heard of where there is a vendor selling an item you rarely come across anywhere else, but the game will not give you a clue at all. This can mean you waste hours searching for little things that a friendly word of advice from the designers within the game could have avoided. Overall this is a small complaint, but I want to spend my time exploring and fighting, not being frustrated.
The Verdict: As far as RPGs for the PS3 go right now, Fallout 3 is one of the very best. In many ways, the engine is improved over Oblivion (Bethesda used same engine on both games) which makes an improvement in game play and graphics. The game play is much slower than Borderlands, so it's not much of an FPS other than the manner in which you explore and the way combat looks, but this isn't a good or bad thing. It's a preference thing. Overall, I give Fallout 3 a 7 out of 10 as far as RPGs for the PS3. It's one of the best, but a few poor decisions in game design made the length of time the game remained fun for me unnecessarily limited. If you can find Final Fantasy XIII, Demon's Souls, or Dragon Age: Origins, I'd recommend them first. But, if you can find a cheap Game of the Year Edition, say $35.00 or under, you'd be getting a great deal because it includes several DLC packages including the one that ups the level cap. The Game of the Year edition I would give an 8 out of 10. I personally think that Fallout: New Vegas will improve on Fallout 3 drastically as it was worked on by the Black Isle crew that made Fallout 2. I will let you know how it ranks next time.
Dragon Age: Awakenings
At the end of Dragon Age: Origins, the Arch Demon has been defeated, and peace is relatively restored to Ferelden under their new King and/or Queen depending on how you decided things would go. Things should be relatively easy for the Warden Commander as you settle into your new role recruiting new Wardens and running the Arling you've been awarded for saving the kingdom. The darkspawn, however, do not make things so easy. Whereas in the past, they have always been a mindless horde with the simple minded purpose of heeding the call of the Arch Demons, they are now suddenly able to talk. The results are frightening, some have a half human semblance of intelligence and sanity, while others go insane.
Once again you must save Ferelden from a new and this time mysterious threat presented by the dark spawn. The game engine is identical to Origins, so don't expect much difference in the way it looks, plays or feels. This is good, though, as it expands Origins into a decently long RPG. I can't help think of the Diablo II expansion that really added a lot to the game, and except for the fact Awakenings is a lot longer than the Diablo II expansion was, the comparison holds up well.
The Good: Given the fact you have to pay something like $29.99 for this disc used at the game store, the pros in Awakenings are far thinner than Origins. The best thing about it is that each Class (Warrior, Rogue, Mage) has two new specializations and many more new skills and talents to add to the already extensive number from Origins. It really does feel like all of your character leveling has taken a large step up and the possibilities are exciting if you enjoyed character development in the first game.
Another good thing about Awakenings is that you get to see a new part of Fereldon. The world map in Origins felt small by comparison to other RPGs. Getting to see some new locations and a new map made it feel like you had a larger glimpse into the world Dragon Age takes place in. Within this new part of Fereldon, there is a large city, Vigil's Keep (The Warden Headquarters), three large locations to explore, and a few little isolated events. Each location was unique and as you explored it, you found a new character to add to your team. It was enjoyable to construct a new party, even if it meant no more Alistair and Morrigan arguments.
The other best addition is the Rune creation system. Now you can
build the runes you could find and install in Origins (Again, Diablo II
expansion anyone?). Also, armor has been upgraded to accept runes as
well. This is great as it makes customizing and fully maxing out your
armor and weapons a much longer quest with much higher stat rewards in
the end. I wish this had been in Origins it is such a welcome addition.
The characters in your party are not quite as engaging as the Origins party, but they are unique and believable. Justice is perhaps my favorite character in Dragon Age, though it is a pity you do not get to introduce him to Shale and use them together on the battle field.
The Bad: The only real "bad" about this game comes from comparison to Origins. This game is a lot shorter, only half the length at most, maybe less. This means the time you get to spend enjoying the new abilities and traits is undermined by the fact that the game ends when the story ends and there is no chance to go play with your party and develop them to learn new tactical combinations. I really don't like the fact that at a certain point there just aren't any more battles to go on, no matter how much I enjoy combat with my party.
Another thing that doesn't stand up with Awakenings is that the game felt like it rushed the plot. The ending sequence felt way too fast, and I didn't even felt I had an adequate understanding for who the Architect was before I had to decide to kill him or let him go. I let him go thinking I would meet him again, but his scheme, though it took years to develop in Fereldon, wasn't given enough screen time to make it seem consequential. Say what you will, but the story of Origins was fascinating and engaging. The problem with Awakenings is not that the story isn't as fascinating or engaging, it's that it wasn't allowed to be by the limited scope of the project. If it had been given a bit more time and attention, it could have been a Dragon Age game proper instead of an after thought. I know the developers are anxious to put out Dragon Age II, and I have strong suspicions it will be an amazing game, but I just wish the story of Awakenings had been given the attention it deserves.
Lastly, the overall feel of Awakenings is "Less Than"
the original game. It was evident in many ways this game was never
intended to stand on its own two feet, and this constant dependency upon
Origins makes the high price tag feel, again, like being taxed for
being loyal, not being rewarded. I want some value for my gaming
The Verdict: As the price on Awakenings continues to drop, it will become a better value. I strongly recommend NOT downloading it because you don't get a used price and you cannot sell it when done. After installing the disc, you don't need it to play anymore, though I'd still hang on to it till I beat it. It's nice to sell a game after beating it. As DLC for $39.99 I give Awakenings a 5.5 out of 10. If you can score it used for under $20.00 (and then sell it for $6.00), I would rate it a much better 7 out of 10. I know it's strange to give a game two scores, but for the reasons above, I only recommend this title in disc version as the value more than doubles. If you like Origins, you must play this game just to see how the character development has been expanded and to use the rune creation system.
First, I must say that Nier is probably unlike any other RPG on the PS3 for a number of reasons. What you make of those reasons and difference can differ, but I must say that it stands alone as a unique hybrid of several other titles with a strange cyber-punk twist on the traditional formulas it appropriates from liberally.
At best, the game resembles a Zelda clone with a lot more traditional RPG elements added in. For example, you can fish and farm, you acquire experience to gain levels, you can upgrade your weapons extensively, you perform tasks and quests for NPCs, and you find all kinds of items to use, consume, and trade. There are varied locations in the game, and all of them have a somewhat unique quality to them despite the fact their relationship to the Legend of Zelda, or at times Resident Evil, is never that hard to detect.
The game is a hybrid of sorts in that it shifts to a 2D hack platform adventure in certain areas and into an over the head Diabloesque Hack N Slash in others. The camera angle is inventive in its hybrid use of God of War point of view problem solving as a way to bend genre. It is effective, if underused and confusingly implemented at times.
The Good: There are several good things about Nier. One of those things is that there is a varied number of quests that will keep you busy running from town to town letting you encounter enemies on the way and effectively letting you level up as you go on quests in a way that reminds me of 8-bit and 16-bit titles. It's just fun to do in Nier. Not only is the magic system unique, it's fun to use in combat, and there are several types of swords to try out to determine how you to fight.
The characters that join your party in Nier are also unique and have their own engaging story. In fact, the story as a whole is very intriguing, if deceptive at first. You have to play through the game and then play through the game from a certain point (it's as weird as it sounds) to start to find out the truth about the effectiveness of your quest to save your daughter Yonah. For example, the game begins in a post-apocalyptic world where these strange creatures are closing in on you and your sick daughter in a modern city environment. While you are there, it becomes obvious that a certain sort of salvation lies in a book that is near by, one that you don't want to turn to, except as a last cost. One thing leads to another and you turn to the book and presto chango, we are in a land that could be mistaken for a modern day incarnation of Phantasy Star or Zelda. The head scratching never really stops, and this keeps you playing, so for me, the change of pace worked in terms of the unique story telling devices.
Another thing that I liked about the game was that you could ride on certain animals (like getting in a vehicle in Borderlands to travel long distance). It was something you don't see often, and it was fun to do once you got the hang of it.
The Bad: The plot of Nier is as confusing as it is layered. Most gamers never get far enough to find out all the secrets it has to tell. I understand having these large plot twists late in the game to keep people interested, but if all the locations never change about half way through the game and all that happens for new enemies is they start wearing pots and pans (literally, though some are quite impressive), I need more to keep me going than a few little riddles and clues. The story was too convoluted to make adequate use of the plot twists it had in store for the gamer. It took too much effort to get to them, throw the gamer a bone at the beginning, or middle or something. Show us something shocking so that we're hooked before we've run out of locations to explore.
Another problem with Nier is that the world it took place in really feels small by the time you are said and done with it. It's like the world of Majora's Mask after the world of Ocarina of Time. I kept hoping there was a new area to go explore and uncover, but after about 2/3 of the way through the first play through you've seen most of everything there is to see or will be to see. This makes playing the game at late stages not near as fun as the sudden hybrid switches no longer surprise you and probably have a weapon or two that is already powerful enough you don't really need a stronger one, unless you want it.
Another thing that I put as a bad thing, but perhaps it's a good thing, is that most of the quests you go on in the game fail. Not that you fail, but the characters are continually plagued by tragedy and nothing you do seems to change it (well it does, but the feeling of loss is ubiquitous). For example, there are two boys looking for their lost mother. Turns out she abandoned them to go be with her lover. They were both discovered by monsters and eaten. What do you do? You go back and tell the boys the news, the older one goes off to avenge his mother and gets killed too. So then the younger brother goes mad and becomes this insane man bent on death and destruction. This is the guy who upgrades your weapons for you. Not exactly kid friendly. Speaking of that, there is a character, Kaine, who is a hermaphrodite. This doesn't come out till late in the game, but it is obvious that she's an outcast for some reason (maybe it's the fact she only wears skimpy lingerie?). This isn't a bad thing, but one of those things that left you thinking why?
The Verdict: Nier is fun to play for a while, but the appeal doesn't last forever despite the games promise of revealing more secrets about what is really going on the longer you play. Ultimately, it's a pretty good Zelda clone for adult players who are looking for an RPG to spend some time on. There is nothing wrong with the title, but it just lacks the originality and depth to make it a top tier RPG. I give it a 6.5 out of 10. If you can find it used for around $25.00 and you need and RPG fix, this will keep you entertained for a week or so. There is DLC, though I never got it and cannot tell you what it does or if it is worth it.
Coming Next Time...
I like trying to examine three different types of RPGs in each hub, so to continue this, in the next RPGs for the PS3 hub, we will look at Demon's Souls, White Knight Chronicles, and Fallout: New Vegas. These three RPGs are as different as the three we looked at in this hub, so check back for more. Seeing as Fallout: New Vegas came out yesterday and I am not getting it till this weekend, the next installment will be a few weeks out.
As always, leave your questions, comments, and suggestions below. Thanks for reading.
Final Fantasy XIV
Square's foray into MMORPGs has been dissappointing in the past. What about Final Fantasy XIV? Do you plan on playing?
Read More Hubs in this Series
- RPGs for the Playstation 3 (PS3): An Oldschool Perspective, Part 1
The first Hub in this series covers Final Fantasy XIII, Elder Scrolls IV, and Borderlands.
- RPGs for the Playstation 3 (PS3): An Oldschool Perspective, Part 2
The second Hub in this series covers Sacred 2, Dragon Age: Origins, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 & 2.
- RPGs for the Playstation 3 (PS3): An Oldschool Perspective, Part 4
This is the fourth installment in the series on Playstation 3 RPGs. This issue specifically discusses Demon's Souls, Fallout: New Vegas, and White Knight Chronicles.