Friday, October 9, 2015

Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director's Cut - 25/20 hours

Well, towards the end of my time with "Dragonfall" I wound up having the opposite problem I did before. I only wanted to play it for a little while, in order to gather enough material for a blog post, and then I wound up playing it for 10 hours (in three sessions of about 3 hours each). What happened is that I kept thinking I was only a little bit away from the ending.

First, I finally got the 50,000 nuyen necessary to pay off Alice, and when I went to hand it over, my fixer-guy, Paul, was all "Are you sure? Once you do this, there's no turning back." Which is universal video game code for "final dungeon ahead." So my thought was that I'd beat the game real quick, write a post, and then play one of the custom mods for awhile.

Only it turned out that before I could rescue the scientist and confront the dragon, I first had to deal with the mansion's AI security system, which by sheerest happenstance was in an entirely different area.

But after that, then I could go and assault the mansion from the beginning of the game. But it turns out that, in contrast to some of the skyscrapers I'd previously infiltrated, the mansion was huge. There was a long dungeon to get through the exterior defenses, and then a long dungeon to get to the scientist.

And it turned out the scientist I was planning on rescuing was actually the mastermind behind the whole thing, and once I confronted him, I was sure that I'd reached the end. I talked him out of his evil scheme to use the subdued dragon Feuerschwinge to spread a virus that would wipe out all the world's dragons (and probably also destroy humanity in the process as an unintended side effect). I thought the game was over.

And then his lieutenant swoops in out of nowhere, kills him, and I have to go through two sub-basement dungeons before I get to the real final battle.

Which wasn't a problem, exactly. When I like a game, I generally prefer for there to be more of it, but it did mean that I kept pushing myself to play for just a little bit longer because I didn't want to have to write a post describing most of the game, and then half an hour later, write another one describing the end of the game. Of course, in hindsight, I really could have written a 20 hour post after all.

My verdict on Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director's Cut is that I really liked it. Had I played it two years ago, I'd probably even now be starting over so I could experiment with a new main character (once my shaman got going, she was pretty powerful, but I mostly wound up using Haste on my stronger party members, because I didn't want to "waste" my spirit fetishes) and possibly see the alternate endings (the last few hours throw you a lot of genuinely difficult moral choices, and I can't help but wonder if maybe a different path would have led to better results).

Which is, of course, the other half of my changed relationship with games. The blog motivates me to force myself to play games I'm not really in the mood for, but it also gives me incentive to stop with games that I might still be able to wring some enjoyment out of. Although, I'm not sure I can lay all of the credit on the blog.

The way I used to play games was that I would buy a new one two or three times a year (or perhaps rent one every month or so) and then play the hell out of it in massive marathon sessions, allowing it to become an obsession for days or weeks at a time, trying to get 100% completion, or at least as close as I could without having to do super annoying chores or impossible challenge missions, and replaying the story until all the novelty was gone.

And the reason I did that was because, until quite recently, video games felt rare to me. They were a luxury that had to be savored because once you were done with one, there would be a significant wait before the next on came along. Part of that was due to the fact that I didn't have a lot of money (especially while I was growing up) and part of that was because I was slow to embrace digital distribution. I only tentatively dipped my toe into downloading games (my first few Steam games were all physical purchases that used Steam as DRM), and so, until quite recently, most of my games were either expensive day one purchases of major franchises, rentals, or bargain-priced used copies of years-old games (I didn't get an Xbox until the 360 had been out for about a year, for example).

Then the Summer Sale that inspired the blog came along, and it was like a dam burst. In the last year and a half, I bought more than 100 games, because it was easy and cheap. I don't think I paid more than 10$ for any but a dozen of the more desirable games in my library, and most of them were under 5$. Somehow, a mental switch has flipped, and I've started to think of games as disposable. It matters less if I get the most out of a game or not, because my investment was small. Just some spare change I had no other use for.

It's hard to say whether this change was positive or negative. I'm having a whole lot of new gaming experiences that I would not have bothered with while games were expensive (although "Dragonfall," in particular, is exactly the sort of game I would have been inclined to buy), but I can't help feeling that it is extraordinarily wasteful. What the hell is even the point of buying a game unless you intend to play it to the fullest?

Hence the blog. Sometimes people wonder why I bother to play a game like Sakura Spirit for 20 hours, when I could easily find more productive and enjoyable uses for my time (hell, I often wonder myself), but when it comes down to it, I think it reaches to the heart of this blog's mission - I have essentially declare war against waste, against the habit of thinking of games as disposable.

If I'm being brutally honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that most of my games I bought because I was psychologically manipulated into doing so. Not to say that I'm blameless, but it is well known that the perception of scarcity, and the suggestion that you are missing out on a limited-time deal are powerful lures to get people to spend money. And I took the bait. I'd see something that generally looked the sort of thing I'm interested in, and then I'd see the little, green -75% sticker, and the discreet little timer underneath it and I'd think "oh, wow, I'd better buy this now, because who knows, maybe a time will come when I'll have the free-time and the desire to play this game, but it will be four times as expensive, so it would be like throwing money away not to buy it."

Which, when I type it out like this, looks profoundly foolish. Thankfully, I have the blog to rescue me from this foolishness. As long as I keep focused, and don't lose hope, I know that I will finish all my games, and that none of them will be wasted. And if that sometimes means that I have to sit through a game that was, genuinely, a bad purchase, or a cruel joke by one of my readers, then that is a small price to pay.

Which ultimately has nothing to do with "Dragonfall" except that if it weren't for the blog, I'd have had a hard time squeezing it into my schedule (in all likelihood, I would now be playing Civilization: Beyond Earth in anticipation of the expansion pack that comes out tomorrow), and thus it would be sitting on my hard drive, always a low priority, but never quite low enough that I'd regret buying it (because at the time, I really, truly did want to play it, and I'm not quite sure why I didn't finish it as soon as it came out).

1 comment:

  1. It's this sort of introspection and consideration of the nature of our digital economy that keeps me reading this blog enthusiastically. Thank you!