[personal profile] usernamenumber
M and I have been playing BioWare games together as one of our preferred "ugh, we has no brains tonight" activities for almost as long as we've been dating, and it's been a lot of fun. True they're not two-player games per se, but the stories and character interactions tend to be just interesting enough, and the combat just monotonous enough, that we just periodically hand the controller back and forth, and debate every quest and dialogue option. The fact that we've done this for four longass games (Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age: Awakenings, Mass Effect, and now Dragon Age II) without murdering one another is, I think, one of the strongest signs about our relationship. :)

That said, we've been thinking of branching out (he says, shortly after ordering a copy of Mass Effect II), so I thought I'd ask for some recs.

I've been thinking about what I look for in a game, and the list I've reached for myself (and I think it's similar for M) is something like...

1) Story-driven. Sandbox games are cool on a technical level, but I'm actually realizing I don't like having too much freedom. I don't want to be railroaded either, but I've found that the quickest way to make me lose interest in a game is to make me forget why I'm doing whatever I'm doing, and why what I'm doing matters.

2) Character/interaction-driven. My biggest complaint about the changes from DA:O vs later BioWare games, is that we lost the ability to have conversations with party members anywhere other than "in camp". One of the things M and I loved about DA:O was the aspect of "Hey, bored fighting monsters in this dungeon? Take a break to flirt with a blood-spattered companion! Have a heart-to-heart with the dwarf! Send your dog to find random things! etc!". Basically, managing inter-character relationships is one of our favorite aspects of these games. ...so maybe what we really want is a dating sim with bonus combat and world-saving. Hmm...

3) Lots of customization. I like tweaking things. Skills, items, whatever. I like it when I by tweaking a character I can both improve stats and alter gameplay. This is a place where M and I differ somewhat. I feel so stereotypical saying so, but it drives me nuts when she picks up Bob The Mighty's Legendary Axe of Floor-Wiping and just chucks it in the backpack without so much as looking at it, let alone equipping it to replace our current weapon, the butter knife we found on a dead gnome three levels ago. Conversely, it drives her nuts when I endlessly futz around comparing equipment stats. We've reached a mostly-workable solution by taking advantage of the fact that she usually falls asleep at some point, so we just pretend there's a mini-game called "Inventory!" that I can spend as much time on as I want when she's not there/conscious for it (same goes for shopping/crafting/enchanting/etc).

4) Tactical(-ish) combat. While I like shooters, bad AI and/or overly monotonous combat kills a game for me. I don't (think I) want an RTS, but I do like it when being able to stop and think about what I'm doing, coordinate attacks among the party, etc, really makes a difference.

I think that covers the basics, and I think for me they're pretty much in priority order, too.

For example, I just played through Halo 3 and, like all the games so far in that series, I loved it despite it only having one thing on the above list. Feeling like I'm playing out a story with stakes that interest me is huge, and the Halo games do a great job of having a strong narrative through all of the missions, so fighting through to the next room feels like turning the page in an action story. Ditto Portal 2, which... oh man, <3 <3 <3ing that game (yes, I'm late to the party).

On the other hand, I grabbed Fallout 3: New Vegas a while back (maybe a mistake having not played Fallout 3?), and have been kinda meh, even though on paper it has all the things on my list. I enjoy the leveling system, but the AIs (at least on the 360) are dumb as rocks, which makes the combat boring, and the only companions I've found so far are a sullen sniper and a mute robot (hint: the robot's more interesting). While I have tons of power to affect the world, most of the NPCs just... don't really grab me enough for me to feel invested in one side or another, and the world is *so* big and open that I find myself forgetting or just not caring about why I'm doing what I'm doing. It's not that it's a bad game, it just... isn't grabbing me.

Soooo... yeah. I guess what I'm saying is: So far, BioWare has come the closest to having the formula right for me, but I'd kind of like to branch out. Any suggestions (needs to be available for the 360)? Games I've been considering include Arkham Asylum (not usually one for beat-em-ups, but the demo was interesting, and made M and I both nostalgic for playing Tenchu back in the day), Skyrim (really, this should be a no-brainer, but I tend to like to wait for games to come down in price, and Oblivion never grabbed me that much), and some other random RPGs that seem to have at least gotten OK reviews, like Kingdoms of Amalur, Two Worlds II, etc.


Edit Oh, also totally open to recs for actual co-op games. We've been enjoying Schizoid a lot, though it sometimes takes more brain than we have available in the evenings, and I feel like we should be enjoying Trine 2 more than we have. Probably worth another chance, that one.

Date: 2012-10-04 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sprrwhwk.livejournal.com
I hear good things about the Persona games from Atlus (mostly 3 and 4), which I think will cover all the items on your list. Particularly, they were immediately what I thought of when you said "dating sim with bonus combat and world-saving" -- which is to say, my understanding is they're what happens when you run a Japanese dating sim game into a Japanese tactical fighting game at high velocity and watch the fireworks.

Date: 2012-10-04 06:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pokedigimaniac.livejournal.com
Absolutely agree with this recommendation for Persona 3 and 4. Great games, and you don't need to worry about playing Persona 1 and 2 - the stories are essentially stand-alone, just with thematic similarities. Though upon second examination, they're both Playstation games, damnation! No other 360 games come to mind, but if you decide to switch consoles consider these games a strong contender.

Date: 2012-10-04 06:19 pm (UTC)
dot_fennel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dot_fennel
I had a lot of gripes about the gender politics of Catherine, but it was certainly fun to play, and it sounds like a pretty good fit for the play patterns you describe-- it alternates block-climbing-puzzle sequences with time spent chatting with the other characters, and which characters you spend your limited time chatting with (eventually the bar closes!) affects the story. It's not an RPG at all, though.

You're welcome to borrow my copy.

Date: 2012-10-04 07:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] staystrong62805.livejournal.com
Skyrim, while Sandboxy, everything you do has meaning and purpose. You're not just doing things for shits and giggles. While the level of "change the world" is not quite on par with other Bioware games, you can still make a difference, and there is usually not a lack of reasoning of why you are doing what you are doing. There's also /so/ much customization.

Date: 2012-10-04 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bleemoo.livejournal.com
The Batman series is amazing, and I also am generally not a fan of beat-em-ups.

I'm not sure which console you have. Fez is out now for XBLA and should be coming out soon for PS3. It's... kind of story driven I guess, and has nothing else on your list, but it's absurdly good. It might not be your style, but it's an XBLA game, so it's cheap, and I've been playing it with Sheena and it works as a non-2-player 2-player. And really, you should try it. Whoever isn't holding the controller will probably want a notebook and pen, and possibly access to the internet unless you are opposed to using walkthroughs.

Actual co-op games: the Lego series is surprisingly fun. Some of the earlier games are a bit cheesy, but Lego Batman 2 actually has really funny original plot. And even the cheesy ones are fun.

Date: 2012-10-04 07:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bleemoo.livejournal.com
Kat points out that the Lego games have 5 hours of plot and many hours of sandboxing and TACOs. But I still think it's a fun game.

Date: 2012-10-04 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heiligekuh.livejournal.com
I played both of the Batman games on the 360 and enjoyed the combat and the Tenchu-ness. But the weird fetish plastic universe is UGHLY, and the treatment of catwoman/Ivy/all women in City is seriously off-putting. That said, I finished the basic story of City. In asylum I hit a room that was just more annoying than fun and walked away.

Date: 2012-10-04 08:12 pm (UTC)
gilana: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gilana
I asked Aaron, who is a big game nerd but not on LJ. His response:

My first thought is Fable. The 1st game is for the original Xbox and the next 2 are for the 360. The 1st game will play in a 360, but of course one must get past the clunky graphics and fewer options when compared to a more advanced 360 game. Combat is action-based, but fairly easy to handle, and the writing is full of British humor. There are good and evil choices to make that affect your character and the game world (particularly in the 3rd game), and while it may not be super deep in terms of game play it's in my opinion a lot of fun. A variety of weapons, choices in spending experience points, the ability to buy homes and shops in towns and adjust the rent/prices and likewise the happiness or misery of the populace, and other light management options round out the package.

Another option is Record of Agarest War. Definitely more of a "JRPG" (Japanese role-playing game) than a Mass Effect or Dragon Age. It's a tactical battle system, meaning it plays a bit like a chess match-- you move your small band of characters, choose your actions, then the enemies do the same. This will have more of the "stop and think about your next move" style of game play. In addition to an involved (if a little generic by JRPG standards) story, it also has a dating-sim mini game woven into the game. As you meet female characters and they join your party, you must win them over. Do so, and you can woo them and eventually marry one. Your offspring (which changes depending on who you marry) continues the quest. There is a second game, Record of Agarest War Zero, which I have not played but I understand it's a prequel of sorts.

I have a fondness for a game called Eternal Sonata. Again, very much a JRPG, but the battle system is one of my favorites in any RPG. A great meld of action and turn-based, powers that change whether you're in a light or dark area of the battle, and a colorful graphical style. Plus, you play as Frederic Chopin (yes, the composer). Definitely a bargain bin game these days, and it wasn't very well known even when it was released, but I really had a good time with it.

Date: 2012-10-05 12:42 pm (UTC)
gilana: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gilana
Aaron was bored at work yesterday and ended up thinking about this some more:

More thoughts:

Two Worlds was one of the worst games I've ever played in my life. I don't know if they fixed all of the issues for the sequel, so I would recommend downloading a demo and trying it first, or at the very least buy a used copy so you have the option to return it.

I played the demo for Kingdoms of Amalur, and was underwhelmed. Combat system was fun, story was about as generic as they come.

Supposedly it gets better as you go along, and I have heard that there are a ton of side quests and such to keep you occupied, but I played a 45 minute demo and had absolutely no interest in playing more. So again, demo it or buy in such a way that you have a return option.

Both Batman games (Arkham Asylum and City) were amazing. Asylum was slightly better, but both were really cool. I was totally hooked, and I'm only a casual Batman fan.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance seems to be one of those polarizing "love it or hate it" games, that I happened to really enjoy. Action/brawler fighting system in a dungeon crawler game. Think something like Baldur's Gate with superheroes. XP and stat management, changing costumes changes your powers, etc. Fairly low thought, very linear (so level to level, not open world), and super cheap since it's a several year old game. Avoid #2, the first one was better.

Fallout 3 holds to the Oblivion style of game, so if you didn't like one you probably won't like the other. Huge open world, almost too much customization, and losing track of your objectives.

Resonance of Fate is supposedly a great RPG, with an amazing gun play based battle system. I have not had the chance to play it yet, but have heard good things from people I trust.

Lost Odyssey. Holy angry fuckballs, Lost Odyssey. I put about 100 hours into that game. Long turn based RPG, cool twists on a standard battle system, and some of the most emotional cinematics I've seen. One particular moment in that game brought me close to tears, no lie. I don't tend to like games with a "random battle" system (in which you wander an empty game field and battles suddenly spring on you), but damn that game was amazing. Some crafting and customization, too, and the ability to make any character proficient in any class.

Blue Dragon was a fun, lighthearted game. Very evocative of old Super Nintendo RPGs, obviously with better graphics, but still holding onto that "spiky haired kids save the world" style. Definitely an old school RPG, but one that I found surprisingly fun.

Alan Wake has an amazing, and very scary, story. Game play is mediocre, basically a shooter, but the tale the game weaves is well worth slogging through the action.

Mass Effect 2 and 3 are both amazing. They eased up the RPG elements a bit, but still awesome.

Date: 2012-10-04 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrored-echo.livejournal.com
In addition to the things already recommended, I've managed to play Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain with Eddy as date games pretty successfully. They're story-heavy adventure games with no real combat, not RPGs, but otherwise they are quite good, and work well if you're looking to hand the controller back and forth with someone.

(it looks like Heavy Rain is PS3-only, but Indigo Prophecy seems to have an Xbox 360 version.)

Persona 3 and 4 are amazing, but they've got a very different feel than Bioware games, plus they're not Xbox compatible. They're literally dating sims with a dungeon crawl and save-the-world storyline, but dialog decisions tend to come down more to saying the optimal thing to score points with an NPC rather than roleplaying your character, which can be frustrating.

Date: 2012-10-04 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrored-echo.livejournal.com
Oh! On the subject of adventure-games-that-actually-run-on-an-Xbox, I really enjoyed Dreamfall (and The Longest Journey, for that matter). It's very unpopular with a lot of people I know (it's more of an interactive movie than an adventure game, and the puzzles are pretty much nonexistent), but I've also had a good experience with playing it cooperatively.

Date: 2012-10-05 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elenuial.livejournal.com
First off, go through Bioware's back catalog:

* If you like Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic is a really good game.

* Even if you don't like Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic 2 is a GREAT game, and you can get by without having played the first one.

* Jade Empire is a really underrated Bioware game set in Magical Ancient China. It's one of my favorites of theirs.

I feel like I should point out the company Obsidian Entertainment, and the company it used to be Black Isle Software. A lot of their games are older D&D based rpgs, often coproduced with Bioware, that set the formula for the Bioware games you play today. The gameplay is a little older, so it might not work out for you, but if you can get into it, they will definitely hit all the buttons you list above--maybe better than the Bioware games these days.

If that sounds up your alley, I should point out two in particular:

* Planescape: Torment -- The most story-driven and unique-settinged of the games. I am playing this right now, btw, and enjoying it.

* Project Eternity -- This is a game going to be made by this studio in the same style. They have a Kickstarter going for it now that has already doubled its requested funding (at 2.3 million (!) dollars right now). You might want to check it out. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/obsidian/project-eternity

Now for other titles:

* Vampire: the Masquerade Bloodlines -- ESPECIALLY if you are fond of the old World of Darkness stuff, but even if you're not, this game is still stunningly good. You have to be okay with things being a little over-the-top in the way WoD stuff is, but if that's no issue I can't recommend this game enough.

* The Metal Gear Solid series. I think it pretty much hits everything you want in a game, though it's stealth instead of action. The second game makes some pretty unique formal choices that make a lot of people angry, but given your taste in other media, I think you'll be okay with that.

* Deus Ex is really old, but is considered one of the best games of all time, even compared to stuff presently. It's a judgment that I can agree with. I wouldn't have suggested if you didn't mention Halo 3; it's not a shooter per se, but it is definitely more level focused like Halo is. Be warned: the story is kind of like Neuromancer had a mind-baby with the Illuminatus Trilogy, so it can get wacky, but it's really well designed.

* I'm currently playing the recently-released prequel Deus Ex: Human Revolutions. It captures a lot of what's good about the original while toning down some of the goofiness. If you don't want to play something as old as the original, I would still recommend this one, probably.

* If you like JRPGs, Lost Odyssey is an extraordinarily good bet.

* I can second the Fable series. It doesn't have the character-driven parts as strongly (especially the earlier titles), so it's not higher on the list, but I think its strengths hit the rest of the points you list. Also, goofy British heroic fantasy.

* I can also second Indigo Prophecy. It is a unique game, and you will know in the first five minutes whether it's a game you can get behind. There's no action except for some very scripted sequences, but I suspect you will love it all the same. As a warning, the story kind of goes off the rails by the end, but up until that point it's really good. Heavy Rain is put out by the same company and supposedly improves on the formula. I haven't played it, but I want to, badly.

I can't tell from this post if you've played any games from Square-Enix, but if you haven't, some of them might work well for you if you like the JRPG genre. In particular:

* Final Fantasy X-2 -- But you should probably play Final Fantasy X first, which is a great game but doesn't hit all these buttons as hard as the sequel. Be warned that the sequel is at-best pretty ridiculous at times, and my wife calls it "Yuna's magical hotpants adventure." I happen to like it a lot, though.

* Final Fantasy Tactics -- This is an oooold PS game, but I think you will groove on it.

* Chrono Trigger, and maybe Chrono Cross.

I could keep going. If I think of anything else, maybe I'll put it up. XD

Date: 2012-10-05 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] usernamenumber.livejournal.com
Thanks for the recs! Unfortunately I'm mostly limited to the 360 for now. I actually own a bargain-bin copy of Planescape and have wanted to play it for forever, but haven't had a Windows machine in even longer. Someday, though...

I've also actually played several of the games you recommend (KoTOR, Fable, Deus Ex, Jade Empire, and a couple of Black Isle games like Fallout 2, and (most of) Chrono Trigger), and agree with you on all of them, which gives me reason to believe I'll agree with you on the others! :)

Fun Fact: an earlier draft of my post cited KoTOR's combat system, where you could queue up the next three actions of each companion, as my favorite from all of Bioware's games. There's a Mac port available for $20 and I've been thinking about trying to talk M into playing through it next.

I also think Jade Empire didn't get the credit it deserved for doing a way, way better job of creating a real-time martial arts combat RPG than I'd have thought would be possible. My biggest complaint about both KoTOR and JE is that for a while Bioware games had a formula: 1) Play a light-side (or equivalent) character. 2) Work up to the high-level stun ability that all light-side (or equivalent) characters can get in Bioware games. 3) Become completely unstoppable to anything short of a major boss. ;)

Oddly, I was never able to get into KoTOR2. Ditto Fable2 (or did I skip to 3?...) Should really give it another try, I guess.

Finally, Deus Ex is absolutely one of my all-time favorite shooters (along with the Half Life series and System Shock 2-- if you haven't played SS2, do so!), and probably one of my all-time favorite games period as well. Oddly, like KoTOR2, the beginning of Human Revolution didn't grab me, but I've heard enough good stuff about it (except that the supposed dilemma between the two factions is pretty one-sided, the way everyone seems to tell it) that I'm willing to give it another try too.

Anyway thanks for the recs! We've got a dusty old PS2 here and a copy of one of the MG Solid games, so maybe I'll give that a try the net time I'm feeling retro. :)

Edited Date: 2012-10-05 03:42 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-10-05 03:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elenuial.livejournal.com
Hah! I thought I remembered you being more into games than I had read the post as being. Sorry for being half a waste of your time! XD

I'll point out, then, that Lost Odyssey and Indigo Prophecy are both XBox games. Also, that they're definitely making a Linux version of Project Eternity.

Since you loved Deus Ex, I'll mention Vampire: the Masquerade Bloodlines is considered a spiritual successor to that game.

I also agree with you re: Jade Empire. I'd really like to see another wuxia cRPG come out sometime. I think there's great potential and an untapped market there.

SS2 is definitely a game I've wanted to play for a long time, but haven't gotten around to.



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