Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Probably only good for a rental

And just like that after three years of solid gaming, I've beaten the education system.  I didn't think much of the end boss, with it's huge difficulty curve, but overall it was a satisfying game.
First off, the NPCs in the game had huge dialog trees, and it really felt like you were forming a bond with them.  It seemed like each NPC had their own personality, and I didn't see a single repeated model.  The dynamic clothing system was also a nice touch which helped immersion.  The voice acting is also superb, although I didn't recognise any of the voice actors.  The facial expressions given usually match up perfectly to the voices which almost makes me wonder how such a perfect system was coded.
You need these NPCs to help you complete the many tasks the education system gives you, which are usually in the form of essays or code generating.  Some of them tell you about topics in the background while you play the drawing and sleeping minigames which I found really rewarding.  However, it is VERY important to pay attention to the information you're told, as you are tested on it at the end of each level.  This is easy enough during the drawing, but the volume turns down and everything goes black during the sleeping minigame, so it is much harder.  There's also something about the game which throws this minigame your way during the most important topics, which I thought was a cheap shot. 
At the end of each day you have the option to study what you learnt, allowing certain topics to be easily recalled whenever they're needed, or doing one of the many minigames the game offers.  These include increasing your social standing with certain characters,  playing one of the ingame video games, or taking part in the drinking minigame, which I'll talk about in greater detail later.
After each level, as stated, you are tested on what you've been told, but this grade is added together with your grade from other minigames given by the teaching NPCs.  You are usually told to go and write and essay using the knowledge you've been taught so far.  This is where the game really shines, as you can talk to the other characters and gain more knowledge, or you can go the evil route and steal their work.  Enter the influence level, which admittedly needs some work.  Certain acts gain bad influence, meaning the characters don't treat you with as much respect, and can even start to dislike you depending on the action you took.  This influence level can end the game for you if it goes too low, so it is important to keep it up, which doesn't allow for much experimentation with different methods.  Apart from this small point, it really shines through, as each character knows everything you did, and your actions sometimes get brought up in conversation, which was suprising to hear, and sometimes very rewarding. 
The customisation is another great factor of the game, as there is literally millions of combinations of clothing styles.  The game boasts hundreds of shops in the city you choose to start in, which each provide different unlockables for your character.  My only concern is once you take an item out of your wardrobe to throw it away, you have to unlock the item again.  I'm not sure if this was a bug or intentionaly programmed in.  You unlock items by spending money which you get given each year, and through more minigames.  The amount you get each year is determined on your character creation, and some stats you gave yourself, as well as your parents and family, so I hope you have a good background prepared for your character.    This money spawns at the start of the year and in installments throughout the game, so you should always have something to carry the game on.  If you unlock too many items, you need to play some minigames to get the monetary rewards.  This requires you going to one of the shops or buildings and asking if you can play the minigame.  Sometimes you get lucky and you proceed to play the games, but you can only play them at certain times of certain days, with each building having different rules.  Once you've unlocked yourself your clothes, you can also work on your appearence.  There are hundreds of different styles of hair styles and colours, with the hair length growing each day, allowing for a lot of change should you require it.
There is also a drinking mechanism in the game which gives you some really cool effects.  Once you drink a certain type of drink, the screen goes nuts, and your character gets harder to control.  You may see yourself falling over, shouting dialogue at others even though you didn't choose an option, or even jumping into bouts of dancing at inopportune moments.  A very fun distraction, but if this action is taken too much you start to become addicted which makes the game more about this mechanic instead of the education aspect.
All in all, it is a very rewarding game, but with a huge price tag of £3000+ a year.  I can only recommend this to hardcore fans of the genre as it doesn't seem to be for everyone.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The most annoying things about the World Cup

For those of you who enjoy football, The World Cup is a time to show your support for your country and to watch endless amounts of your favourite sport.  For those of us who can't stand the thing, it's a time of being kept up to date with, and being bombarded by the latest goings on with some athletes we don't care about.
Below are some of the things I have to look forward to every four years and which help to greaten my dislike of the majority of the human race.

Those damn flags:
Are the flags really necessary?  Chances are, we know who you're going to be supporting.  I don't see the point in sticking a flag out of the window or covering houses in the things, but apparently most of the population do.  A short trip turns into a loating for the colours red and white as you pass hundreds of cars sporting the flags.  Though it does allow you to preemptively know which houses not to visit.

No other conversation matter:
I don't like football.  I don't watch football.  I don't know any players in our team.  And yet I'm having discussions with my dad about what went on in that last hour and a half because nothing else has happened recently.  The country has ground to a halt to wait to see what happens with those guys halfway across the world. 

TV goes crazy:
Quality programmes?  Nope, here's a load of adverts about football.  News reports?  Nah, footballers are more important.  I can't remember the last time I turned on the TV to find something other than a football being onscreen.  Well...there was the time I turned over to see a show with the set covered in England flags.

The songs:
Every tournament, we get a buttload of easily forgotten anthems, the most popular being 'Three Lions'.  I don't know what brings people to wail about how awesome England is, but I want it to stop. 

Endless Facebook updates:
I only use Facebook here as it's the current social network in mainstream use, but whatever the network is, you can be assured every other message sent is in regard to the World Cup.  When something interesting happens, it's custom to go straight to Facebook and tell the world what just occured.  This isn't the thing that bothers me since it's the entire purpose of that box.  The annoyances start when a thousand others post the exact same thing.  If someone scores, I hope you weren't hoping for any interesting updates for the next few minutes as everyone goes to post their love/hate of the goal/player/team/all of the above.  I can't wait for the World Cup to be over so I can go back to reading about what meals people have been eating recently.