Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
Has it been a year already? Wow. What’s also very wow is that we’re all still here, alive and happy. Looking back at the past year, we here at Kambyero have accomplished quite a lot. Way much more than what we’ve anticipated.
Here are but some of our victories: the blog did not turn sentient and try to kill us and our families by bathing us with radiation and bad view counts. People are actually contacting us and referencing things we wrote about, making us feel like The Third-World Gaming Blog That Could. We’ve quite shamelessly but successfully panhandled on Reddit. Because that is what all the other Web 2.0 content hubs do to get ahead.
Anyway, gaming blogs at the end of the year tend to have this listy thing where they run down their favorite games. We are kind of the same! Pushing the envelope, that’s what we do! It was supposed to be a Top 5 list, but Joseph’s such a special go-getter, he went ahead and did 10. You should read it because it is on-point and entertaining. Mine is disjointed and capricious like the ramblings of a demented old man. It’s not even arranged from least best to best best! I don’t know how lists work!
Roguelikes were kind of like gaming’s #YOLO last year. Glitzy and unforgiving, roguelikes were the serious gamer’s answer when jonesing for a serious hardcore fix.
Are you tired of babby mode difficulties? Or tutorial sections that spoonfed you every possible strategy? Do you wish gaming would hearken to its hardcore DOS days, where you suffered minor PTSD from seeing so many @-symbols dead because of your carelessness? Look no more. Encouraged by the successes of FTL and Spelunky, 2013 churned out titles like Desktop Dungeons, Rogue Legacy and Risk of Rain (among others) fixing us a hot toddy of permadeath, randomly scaling difficulty, and infinite replayability. While not strictly roguelikes, these games implemented roguelike design elements with great success. Who would’ve thought gamers would be so into games hurting them?
But roguelikes have this one Achilles Heel that keeps them from being more widely adored: length. The only way to enjoy a roguelike is to sit down and play. For hours. Not everyone likes the idea of creating an efficient dungeoneer over and over again so you can get a grip on how easily it is for you to die increasingly stupid deaths.
Then we have Desktop Dungeons. Somehow meeting roguelike’s reintroduction from the mainstream side, Desktop Dungeons sprinkles the genre with some delicious microgaming flakes. It endeavors to condense the cutthroat roguelike experience in 10-minute slices. Pick a race, pick a class, pick a level, and fight your way through a single-hazard packed grid. If you die, do it again! You lose nothing but a few minutes but gain experience to more effectively die next time.
Desktop Dungeons is so elegantly constructed, you’ll want to play it wearing brass monocles and with your pinky fingers perpetually cantilevered. From the onset, you will learn the inherent value of a single click. Each decision swells with purpose. Do I convert the IMAWAL glyph and pump up my HP now? Or should I save it for later to give me that last bit of EXP? SO MANY CHOICES MY BREAK ENDS IN 3 MINUTES AAGGGHH
In another world, in another time, another Kambyero defied the oppression of real life responsibilities. Alternate versions of Lukas and Mixka met up, downed a couple of Red Horses, and managed to write a piece so honest and clever that it received several million views. However, in our world of measured expectations, we hope a spot in two of our krew’s 2013 lists will be enough.
It’s now become a forum standard to rag on this game for its simplistic approach to shooty gameplay. Yes, it is not the best, that it feels incidental and not at all integral to the main narrative. As a game lauded for its experimental storytelling and world-building, the gameplay of BioShock Infinite could have been wildly different. Mowing down wave after wave of enemies with fantasy guns and drug magicks may have been the bee’s knees 5 years before. But if Infinite wishes to appeal to a better class of gamer, then it can start by being a better class of game.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Infinite brands itself as one of the most bombastic games in recent memory. In no uncertain terms, Infinite takes you on a vacation with Booker and Elizabeth from a floating, pre-WWII nation-state to the festering heart of the revolution, from a lighthouse in the middle of a storm to, well, everywhere. Play it. Take in vistas that can be described in lofty terms like ‘grandiose’ or ‘breathtaking.’ Play it for its patented BioShock-ey audiologs that reveal snarls in the tapestry–twisted backstories, grim pronouncements of determination, and the jagged heartbreak of decisions that can never be unmade. Play BioShock Infinite for the final act where it reaches a cinematic, mindbending zephyr. Watch as it weaves and knots Setting and Character as two inseparable elements, not just within the game but in all of storytelling.
Play BioShock Infinite because in a different time, in a different place, you probably already have.
The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable has a lot of things to say:
1. Choice is an illusion, but it is an important one. Sometimes. Maybe? It depends on how badly you want to choose. And even then, choice is still dictated by context and circumstance.
2. Choice resonates. It ripples along timelines, influencing future decisions. Eat slightly funky cabbage casserole today and you might fall sick tomorrow, disallowing you to go to the gym or jog or do anything that will reverse the tide of flab overtaking your aging body.
3. Defiance can lead to self-discovery.
4. Compliance can do that, too, funnily enough.
5. Nebbish, matter-of-fact narrators have held my heart since American Beauty, and will continue to do so for years to come.
6. Honestly, anyone who’s ever played video games for an appreciable length of time should play The Stanley Parable.
7. Clever, provocative video games are almost exclusively packaged with branching plotlines and brisk gameplay. The best way to state a message is to tell it quickly. And with necessary moxie.
8. You are always in control. But the effects of the control you exercise are less significant than you think.
9. Sometimes, the answer you find isn’t the one you’re looking for but that is perfectly okay. The answer you wanted sucked anyway.
10. Who you are is determined by what you do. And what you do is determined by… who you are? What?
11. It is dead-easy to write when you’re following the list format. Seriously, I am punching these out as soon as I think of them. Transition clauses? Screw those!
12. WHY DID I EAT THE CABBAGE CASSEROLE, I SWEAR TO GOD
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Let me tell you my First: Khezu; a blind, albinic wyvern that looks like molded liposuction dregs. Village Urgent. I was wearing Yian Kut Ku armor, making me look like I slapped calcified sashimi all over my body. Ravager Blade. Carted twice. Got the sucker on a LV2 charge. My rejoicing pierced the heavens. The cloudcover gave way and Einherjar welcomed me into their oily, muscled embrace.
Anyone who has played Monster Hunter remembers their First–that exact moment the atoms in their brain converged and clotted to fully comprehend the word “epic”. It is no secret that MH, is difficult, demanding, for a different class of gamer. There’s something about it–a Faustian tradeoff of sorts. The prize: MH, and its latest, shiniest offering Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, can offer you one of the most full-bodied and hyperfocused experiences in gaming. The trade-off: MH requires time. Time and emotional fortitude. I have poured countless hours into Monster Hunter–hours that I cannot get back. My hands. Look at my hands. They are old man’s hands. How did that happen?
I advise that you let Monster Hunter take your life in its wicked talons. Let the hours drag out into days. Allow the days to wind out into months. Have the months of continued virtual abuse temper your reflexes and reinforce your fingers’ tendons. Listen as each hunt sings a ballad of your own exploits–a mashup of well-timed thrusts, exploited opportunities, and weakness overcome.
If you let it, the game will show you wonders–wyverns and dragons, both majestic and vicious. Allow yourself no mercy.
Kentucky Route Zero
It has been 6 months and 9 days since I’ve played Kentucky Route Zero. The memory of playing it is as fresh as if it were yesterday–if yesterday were a descent into sincere surrealism. I’ve yet to locate all of the niggling alleys and byways of KR0’s backwater Limbo, and I don’t think I ever will. What does it all mean? Does A really mean B? Is B truly a study on the futility of purpose? What is that dog doing there?
Confusion reigns in the state of Kentucky but it is a warm and beautiful kind. KR0 is at once comfortable and confounding, like returning to a long-abandoned hometown and discovering overlooked passageways and impossible shortcuts. Conway’s meanderings in the two acts of KR0 doesn’t just break the mold of adventure games, they melt the mold into slag and morph it into impossible shapes. Cardboard Computer has crafted what is essentially a haiku in game form–enthralling, quiet, and haunted with poetic tenor. KR0 may not be a cultural milestone, but it is a step in a new direction. Where this direction leads remains to be seen. But if there are two aphoristic cliches KRo subscribes to, they are these:
“It’s not the destination; it’s the journey,”
“Where the hell are we?”