An Objective Review of Dragon’s Crown

I’ve been seeing a lot of controversy regarding the new Atlus/Vanillaware game, Dragon’s Crown.  Specifically, many people are unhappy with the review posted by notable gaming website Polygon which can be found here.  Personally, I found the review to be well-considered and fair, and it has not diminished my interest in the game.

However, we here at The Chaos Fold always seek to please you, dear reader.  So to make up for the perceived “bias” and lack of “objectivity” I have crafted the following, a completely objective review of Dragon’s Crown.

*ahem*

Dragon’s Crown is a piece of interactive software designed for the purposes of recreation and entertainment. It is available in two formats, one for the Sony PlayStation 3, and one for the Sony PlayStation Vita. It has been released in the Gregorian calendar year of 2013 AD/CE. Each version has slightly different controls, and while the PlayStation 3 version has higher resolution graphics and higher quality sound reproduction, the PlayStation Vita version can be played in a wide variety of locations and does not require the ownership of a “Television Set” peripheral.

Dragon’s Crown features combat between belligerents of varying shapes. These shapes are generally inspired by various western fantasy archetypes, and have a wide array of colors in them. Some of these archetypes are humanoid. Others are non-humanoid.

There are also animations, and visual effects generated by these characters. Sometimes this animation takes place during combat. Sometimes it does not. Sometimes this animation is triggered by player input, other times it is triggered by unseen scripting.

The game contains audio, some of which is represented in the form of sound effects, and some of which is musical in nature. There is also a good deal of text, which can be informative of gameplay systems or mechanics, or related to the game’s storyline.

The game has a storyline, with a beginning, middle, and end.

There is multiplayer, solo play, and solo play with AI-controlled allies. Allies, both AI-controlled and human-controlled attempt to be helpful. On occasion, they do not succeed.

The storyline is progressed by initiating combat with multiple enemies through a variety of environments, and succeeding in this task. There are various missions through which you can advance the primary storyline, and various other tangential missions that do not directly advance the primary storyline. Successfully completing missions will provide the player with rewards. Many missions culminate with combat against an enemy significantly larger and/or more powerful than previous enemies.

Players will use inputs on controllers to affect change within the game world.

Upon completion of the game, the game can be replayed.

Editorial note: The Chaos Fold’s review of Dragon’s Crown is based entirely on facts that literally anyone can acquire with or without playing the game.  No code was provided by Atlus or Vanillaware for this review and I am not being paid by anyone for this, or indeed for anything else.  If you require more detailed analyisis and critique of this game, we at The Chaos Fold urge you to seek out a professional video game reviewer whose opinions have historically aligned well with your own.  Note that any review obtained in this manner will not be objective, as media criticism is an inherently (and entirely) subjective.  Please see the companion piece, A User’s Guide to Media Reviews.

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Too Human: The Story of Denis Dyack

Too Human.  Two words.  It is a game that has been in development over ten years.  Originally slated for release on the PlayStation 1, Too Human has since gone through iterations on the Nintendo GameCube and the Xbox 360, where at long last it has seen release.

This story isn’t about the game, though.  This story is about a man who helped make that game.  The man who is most closely associated with that game, and quite possibly, the man who has doomed that game.  Denis Dyack.

Denis Dyack has been around a while.  His studio, Silicon Knights is notable for their successful games Legacy of Kain, and Eternal Darkness.  They also orchestrated the GameCube remake of Kojima Productions’ breakthrough title Metal Gear Solid.  More specifically, Denis Dyack is a fairly talented guy who has gone more than a little bit wacko because of a few things, most notably the overly-long development cycle of a game he clearly has considered to be his magnum opus. Looking at the progression of his behavior and the media coverage of his game, they follow the same downward trend.

After E3 2006, there were many previews of Too Human written based on a demo, a demo that everyone knew was forced out by Microsoft despite being unfinished and unpolished.  Dyack knew what had happened, he knew the demo sucked, he knew why it sucked, and most importantly: everyone who played it knew all the same things. Listen to game journalists back in 2006, after they played that demo. There’s no antipathy. There’s no misunderstanding, there’s no one saying that Too Human was going to be a bad game because of an obviously forced demo. The demo got bad press, because the demo was bad, but that’s not what doomed the Dyack.

The community starts up doing what they do best, shitting things up for everyone.  NeoGAF, 1up boards, commenters across the blagoblags trash the Too Human demo. None of them have played it, most of them are trolls, and nothing they say should hold any merit. That is until Denis starts responding. Here’s a guy who has been working on a project that has crossed a full three systems, has been fighting against an engine that by all accounts was delivered broken and unusable, is starting what will inevitably be a public legal standoff with a very popular and prolific developer, Epic Games.  He is stressed-the-fuck-out.  He’s got to believe in the project, that it will be worth it, because after all the bullshit he’s had to put up with, it HAS to be worth it. Claims get more grandiose, he starts rebutting internet comments. He feeds trolls.

The media starts to turn on him. Luke Smith and Bryan Intihar, both formerly of 1up.com were probably the first two to come out swinging.  Those two came out swinging at a lot of things before they each jumped ship for two very prolific game studios, Bungie and Insomniac respectively. Of course, at this point, Dyack has said that game previews should be abolished, because the system is flawed. Of course it is flawed, but more importantly he feels like he has been particularly scorched by it.

Now one thing that all editorial media outlets have in common is that they don’t like people pissing in their coffee. One need look no further than the treatment of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert by the people at every network and news outlet save NBC, to realize this.  Same thing goes for movies. If a film director or studio doesn’t hold a private screening for critics in advance of the release, they get double secret slammed. Granted, the reason that studios decline advance screenings to critics is usually because they know they’re about to fling a pile of poop into the multiplex and want the general public to remain ignorant as long as they can manage. Still, I’d imagine that a bad movie will be reviewed as a horrible movie for no other reason than scorn.

Take it from me, writers have some egos on them. Its a job requirement of anyone who wants to tell other people what is and is not fit for their cultural consumption. You have to think you know better than everyone else.

Denis Dyack, though, he violates the one inviolable rule of dealing with the media: he points out a flaw. Over a period of time, the mood sours. The more he speaks, the more public opinion turns against him. He becomes the gaming equivalent of a Britney Spears, people report on his crazy antics just because its him, and because his antics be crazy. One other thing about the media: they all love a punching bag. Denis painted a big target on himself and kept adding rings to the bulls-eye through the months leading up to the release, culminating in an utterly ridiculous and intellectually bankrupt manifesto, that can be broken down to “NeoGAF is a shithole and I don’t like them.”

He’s right about that, too, but again, you don’t say that out loud. You certainly don’t pair it with a challenge to one of the web’s largest gaming forums. Now the game is out, the reviews are in, and guess what? They’re all reeking of bias. This is how the media takes their vengeance.  Go read the 1up news coverage of Too Human for the past week. It is vicious and abhorrent. You’d think no one worked at Silicon Knights besides Denis Dyack. The review, the press coverage, everything, they’re not about the game. They’re about Denis Dyack, and getting even. They’re about amplifying the flaws and please, please, pleeeeease, don’t let it sell well so we can run stories about that, too. Almost every piece of writing you can find on the subject from a professional outlet is laden with personal invective and editorial bias, the sort that would get you fired under any other circumstance.

However, Dyack brought this on himself, in a way. He pissed in the coffee, and now he’s going to have to pay the price.

Hopefully they’ll let him off before ritual suicide is invoked, but having all but murdered his career, I don’t think that’ll be necessary.  Too Human is more than a game at this point.  It is a symbol for one of its creators, and appropriately enough an adequate decription of him.  Denis Dyack, the man who was too human.

The Pile Grows Ever Greater

I’ve been trying to play through more of my video games in the past week or so.  My Pile of Shame as of right now is fairly significant, though I’ve made some progress in diminishing it.

First off, everyone who owns an Xbox 360 with an ideal or near-ideal setup (ideal being HDTV and 5.1, near ideal being at least one of those) needs to buy Rez HD right now.  Rez, a game perhaps best known for an odd japanese peripheral called the Trance Vibrator, and the infamous article written thereafter by the esteemed Jane Pinckard, the specifics of which are hallowed in internet lore.

The game is the sort of thing you can imagine Hunter S. Thompson appreciating, a pure trip into digital psychedelia.  It even has the aptly-named “Traveling” mode for people who are stoned, smashed, whacked, and straight fucked up out of their minds.  The game can be completed rather quickly, all things considered, but it isn’t a game that one plays to complete.  This is a game that one plays to experience.  An all around masterpiece, go buy it.

Also, I’ve cut my way through Oblivion’s Shivering Isles expansion.  All in all a worthy addition to the game.  I’ve almost completed Assassin’s Creed (how can you review it without completing it, you ask?  When a game’s combat system is as clumsy as a freshman’s first lay, I think I can pass judgement without facing the anticlimactic Zerg rush at the end.) which is somewhat fulfilling, at least.

Hit the jump for my current pile of shame. Continue reading

Nintendo Ex-Pat

I’ve said before that I have not been a console gamer forever. I didn’t play video games at all until I was 11 years old, and even then I preferred PC games to console games. When I did play console games, however, I started with the Nintendo 64.

My reasoning? The analog stick. I was mystified by the directional-pad, as someone who could barely hold a pen, it seemed clunky and unintuitive. The Joystick I used with my PC for flight simulators and space-combat games, however, was perfectly natural.

I played Final Fantasy VII on the PC, along with Final Fantasy VIII. I didn’t own a PlayStation. I became indoctrinated into the Cult of Nintendo during the early days of the internet, when virulent fanboyism was first starting up.

For a long time, I couldn’t see how any console-manufacturer could match Nintendo for quality. These days, however, I feel like a Nintendo expatriate. Continue reading

REVIEW: Folklore

The Playstation 3 hasn’t exactly enjoyed the world’s greatest library since its launch. A number of titles that fans were counting on to give them some much-needed value faltered, seemingly because of motion controls, time pressure, or both. Lair and Heavenly Sword arrived to much fanfare but little welcome, as they both were found to be overhyped and deeply-flawed games, moreso in the former than the latter.

In recent weeks, however, things seem to be picking up for the beleaguered Playstation stalwart. Folklore, Ratchet & Clank Future, and The Eye of Judgement have all landed on store shelves. Today, I take a look at Folklore, the fantasy action-RPG from Game Republic. Continue reading

REVIEW: Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

As this is the first full review on The Chaos Fold, I’m going to take the time to explain my methodology.

I review games based on their play value. If I buy a game that is graphically amazing, but with lackluster controls, a piss-weak storyline, or flawed design principles, I’ll say “Skip it” or something along those lines. If I play a game and enjoy it thoroughly, and believe it is worth the price of admission, I’ll say to buy it or possibly rent it. No arbitrary numbers or star ratings.

And now, without further ado, on with the show. Continue reading

Assassin’s Crap.

One of the earliest PlayStation 3 games to jump out at me was, well, one of the earliest PlayStation 3 games to jump out at anyone.

Assassin’s Creed, from UbiSoft, appeared to be if not unique, at least polished to a mirror shine. The trailers showed an intensely stylish evolution of the recent Prince of Persia trilogy, starring the enigmatic Altair, an assassin bounding along the rooftops of third-crusade-era Jerusalem.

Today, I read in this month’s Electronic Gaming Monthly, what is perhaps the most ridiculous statement to ever emerge from a game producer. Continue reading