Digital Salad: Tying Up Loose Ends

I mentioned in my last blog that I’ve been playing a lot of Europa Universalis 2 and Crusader Kings 2, my old friends in video gaming. I thought I’d add a bit more context to that with this post because over the Christmas break I was reaching the final missions of 2 games, which I’ve since finished. With those games out of the way those loose ends, games you get halfway through and leave for months before picking up again, have reduced in number – so I could really get back in to EU2 and CK2 pretty guilt free.

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I’ve finished both GTA V and Sleeping Dogs. Completing them pretty much simultaneously turned out to be a good idea as well actually, so I’m going to compare them and generally consider them both.

I’ve looked in to Sleeping Dogs before, deciding that it stands up pretty solidly against the blockbuster might of GTA IV and V (it came out between the two). Most reviewers passed it off as a cheap GTA imitation to feed the addiction and tide the players over in the long gap between GTAs. I think its better than that though, and having finally got round to completing the final mission (I’m not really sure why I left it so long!) I still stand by what I said about Sleeping Dogs before.

Its a good game, and the martial arts are a real selling point. One of the final bosses is a great martial arts fight, although a little to many quick-time events in it for my liking but they’re not over the top. Bosses is a point in itself. The last game I played which had bosses was probably Skyrim, which I’ve put on hold again at the moment. Skyrim bosses aren’t really the same though, they’re not particularly challenging or different from ordinary grunts usually. Sleeping Dogs bosses get right back to boss fight basics, and I’ve missed it more than I realised.

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I think Square Enix rescuing the project and remaking it in their style really shows through and makes it special. You can see Square in the boss fights, you can see them in the mission style, you can see them in the cut-scenes; and that’s a good thing. I was very late to Final Fantasy, and the controversial XIII series doesn’t really hit the right note for me, so to get some Square charm in Sleeping Dogs was a real breath of fresh air for me – although probably made it a little stale for anyone more used to Square Enix games.

So, Sleeping Dogs was good. What about GTA V, my very own game of the year and probably one of the games that this generation of consoles will really be remembered for? I had great fun with it, definitely. I’ve spoken about GTA V quite a bit on-and-off whilst I’ve been playing through it, but I’ll mainly compare my thoughts now back to my original ones which I blogged about when I first started playing it.

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The first thing I wrote about was the world. Back then when I still wide-eyed and naive to the world of Los Santos; it seemed huge, rich and unconquerable. Now that I’ve completed the story and a good chunk of the strangers side-missions the world has lost a bit of that charm. That’s understandable really, I’m no longer wide-eyed and naive and I’ve poured more hours than I’d care to count into it. The thing about the world that sticks with me though, as a small gripe, is that a lot of it is essentially empty. Rockstar tried really hard to make the world feel alive, with dynamic events and as dynamic an AI for general citizens as you’ll get.

The trouble is, is that the dynamic events are repeated all too many times, and that begins to grate more than it should. The centerpiece of the dynamic world, and I ended up with the same 4 or 5 events repeating several times. I expected a bit better than that.

Don’t get me wrong, the world was amazing. The thing was, was that I never expected that I’d grow bored of it, but I have. I’ve seen it all, done all the things in it that interested me a good few times. I enjoyed driving up Mt. Chiliad only to parachute off it, but after doing that a few times I never had an urge to see the spectacular mountain again. Funnily enough, I think my favourite time I did that was when I ran all the way. Poor Michael struggled with running up, taking many rest stops, and it took forever, but it was somehow the most fun – complete with wild coyote attack halfway up.

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The combat and the driving remained solid throughout. I mentioned in my original post about how I couldn’t find anywhere to have a siege with the police, unlike the hospital in GTA IV which was perfect for it. I found shops to be the best in the end in GTA V, with the Ponsonbys shop in the Los Santos hills lending itself to it pretty well. However, with the new police AI of GTA V it never was really as fun as GTA IV sieges for me, so that was a bit of a disappointment.

It was also a bit disappointment that there wasn’t more opportunity for big gun fights, with only one or two memorable ones in the story. I wished there was a side-mission where you could take part in a gang war, both Trevor and Franklin could easily be worked in to this and it would allow the player to have big gun battles whenever they had the urge – akin to the Gang Wars of the GTA IV DLCs.

Finally there’s the story of GTA V. This gets the most praise of all of the game’s aspects in reviews, and it is a good story. For me though, Trevor never grew on me. I only played as him in missions, outside I never picked him. Michael remained fairly bland, but did grow on me a bit towards the end. Oddly enough, Franklin, who I clicked with the most originally began to irritate me by the end. I get the feeling that Rockstar were trying to say the money had changed him as a person, but it felt a little overdone to me and left me with no characters I really cared about. They could all have died in the final mission and I wouldn’t have minded too much.

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What I said about the heist missions became even more true towards the end as well:

The heist missions, as peaks of previous missions, are fun but often too short after all the work put in to them. Once you’ve completed one you’ll never be watching the bank balance again though, which makes sense but almost makes the game too easy.

Towards the end it really felt like the story was being stretched a bit thin just to squeeze another big heist in, that were too short as it was anyway. I wanted the Heists to be more epic. They were also too easy, I never really felt challenged by them when they felt like they should have been the equivalent of a boss fight for difficulty.

Overall, GTA V was a good game, and I’d still say it’s my Game Of The Year 2013. At the same time though it disappointed me, and lacked a lot that I’ve come to expect from previous GTAs. Once I’d finished the story the world felt empty, I’d seen and experienced everything in it several times over. So, in the end I’ve gone back to GTA IV, which keeps re-playability even years later. GTA V is done, probably never to be played again.

When I sat thinking about GTA V’s re-playability I wondered whether I would replay Sleeping Dogs at all. The answer was, for the martial arts combat. But then, that’s hardly a reason to keep a game where that was only a mechanic of a bigger picture.

Then, when I thought about it more, I realised that I liked the martial arts combat in Sleeping Dogs for all the same reasons I like the Assassins Creed combat. I loved the fighting in Assassins Creed III, but hated the game and world around it, so I didn’t keep it for re-playability. Sleeping Dogs has the same combat hit for me, but a world and a game around it that I can get on with. The thing is, though, is that I’ve not yet picked up Assassins Creed IV. So I wonder, when I do pick that up whether I’ll have any interest left in Sleeping Dogs at all. Maybe I should pick up an MMA game, or an old Tekken. Interesting questions that I won’t know the answer to for a little while yet!

An unexpected rival to Sleeping Dogs?
An unexpected rival to Sleeping Dogs?

In the mean time I’m happy letting my console gather dust for a bit again, and instead playing on my PC. I’ve been on Guild Wars 2 a little as well as playing EU2 and CK2, so I hope to blog about what I’ve been up to on there soon!

 

Digital Salad – https://lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

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