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Recent Gaming Habits

I picked up Valkyria Chronicles II for my PSP the other day and I’m quite enjoying it. Having never gotten the opportunity to play the original (I don’t own a Playstation 3), I was quite looking forward to it, even if I had heard mixed things towards it. I think my exposure to anime has dulled my senses to the point where it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest that the fate of the world could hinge on a school class of teenage misfit soldiers. The game places you in “Class G”, the absolute bottom of the barrel. And boy, does it let you know about it. Not only do most of the students moan and whine about how they never accomplish anything, their teacher calls them losers straight to their faces. It gets irritating after a while, and outright perplexing at times: some of these characters are either outright geniuses or hard-working overachievers, so what are they doing in the loser class? Despite this annoyance, the gameplay is solid and the character advancement system is interesting.

I also picked up the double pack of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Bioshock at the same time. I had actually gone into the store to look for Elder Scrolls and found the bundle for £2 extra. Bonus! I currently have two characters in Oblivion: a wandering Bard and a ruthless Assassin. I usually don’t play evil characters but I forced myself for the latter because playing an Assassin was quite a thrilling prospect. Immediately I noticed why Fallout 3 had been called “Oblivion with guns” and Oblivion very much feels like a predecessor in both presentation and style. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors involved in creating the world: for example, you can talk to nearly every NPC but 80% of the dialogue is shared. But there are a lot of interesting ideas here, like the ability to join various guilds and work your way through their ranks and storylines. I’m enjoying myself more than I did when I played Fallout 3: I think the narrative freedom offered at the start (you’re in jail, make up your own backstory) helps a lot.

Bioshock still holds up really well. I was amazed. I had watched playthroughs of the game on Youtube and played the second game, but this was my first time playing the original. The opening- where you crash into the middle of the ocean and have to desperately swim towards the entrance tower of Rapture- is one of the most thrilling and effective ways to start a game I’ve experienced. While the flaws of the gameplay are thrust into a sharp light by the improvements made in Bioshock 2 (stupid Pipe Dream hacking minigame…) the immersion and atmosphere are top-notch.

I was pretty excited when the newest Mass Effect 2 DLC, Lair of the Shadow Broker, came out, and I’m pleased to say that my faith was not displaced. This is a superb piece of content that is well worth your extra money. The writing is absolutely fantastic, displaying exactly the kind of razor-sharp wit that is quoted so often by the game’s fanbase. The gameplay is solid, and even includes the one action movie cliche (in the nicest possible way, since Mass Effect is a homage to sci-fi action films) that was missing from the original: a high-speed chase sequence. The reward at the end is worth more than any armour or stat-boosting equipment: a virtual treasure trove of character development for all the important players in the Mass Effect universe, ranging from the touching to the outright hilarious.

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