Friday, February 28, 2020

General RPGs' AMVs 17

Howdy all! Time to see some high quality RPG AMVs! It’s a slowly shriveling fan medium, so let’s give some recognition to those who stay in the game and keep providing us with quality RPG music videos!


Fallout 4: Freedom, by Pandamic
The music used is Launch, by Really Slow Motion. This AMV is a thoughtful, epic tribute to the Railroad faction of Fallout 4, showing off the Railroad’s morality, its philosophy, its personal connection to the Sole Survivor, and the path through which it saves an entire race of people during the game’s events, as well as the haunting conflict that doing so creates within the Sole Survivor. Edited beautifully, sequentially excellent, including perfectly-timed sound effects from the game footage, utilizing the music and dialogue superbly to create a stirring, compelling work representing that which made the story of Fallout 4 so great...this is a truly great AMV.


Final Fantasy 8: How Far We’ve Come, by YuniX2
The music used is How Far We’ve Come, by Matchbox Twenty. As always, YuniX2 provides a great match of lyrics and sound to game visuals, that somehow manages to use this crappy game so well that the AMV creates a narrative of sorts that actually embodies the game’s characters and events in a positive, satisfying light. YuniX2 never fails to please; I just wish she still made these things--this one’s an oldie of hers.


Fire Emblem 14: Another Fates AMV, by Shey Black
The music used is Breath of Life, by Florence and the Machine. Good old Florence and the Machine, they rarely disappoint. Shey Black skillfully selects scenes to reflect and coalesce with the weight of Florence’s lyrics and vocals in a natural marriage of game and music, with each half of the AMV positively affecting the other. Good stuff.

Fire Emblem 14: Bad Wings, by Shey Black
The music used is Bad Wings, by The Glitch Mob. 2 in a row from this creator! Once more, Shey Black uses the inexplicable yet undeniable versatility of FE14’s visuals to make use of the song’s weight and create an AMV with enough gravity to draw in the audience, in spite of its relative simplicity. It’s a solid work.


Nier: Automata: Falling Inside the Black, by Max-Ter
The music used is Falling Inside the Black, by Skillet. From what little I know of Skillet, I have a feeling that you’d have a hard time finding any of their songs that wouldn’t fit Nier: Automata pretty well, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that this AMV’s creator has done a worthy job of matching this song’s emotional desperation, in both tone and lyrics, to the game’s visuals, creating a fine video that nicely shows and describes this excellent game.

Nier: Automata: The Sound of Silence, by Imagine Maker
The music used is a cover The Sound of Silence, by Simon and Garfunkel. The cover itself is done by Disturbed. Oh wait, did I say Skillet’s music was a natural fit to Nier: Automata? Sorry, THIS is the natural fit to Nier: Automata, right here. This is a powerful force of a piece of music, and even Nier: Automata seems to almost be swallowed up within the music, where it would otherwise generally dominate the direction and tone of the AMV with practically any other piece. Nonetheless, NA is a great fit to The Sound of Silence, able to keep up with this somber dance partner quite well, due in no small part to Imagine Maker’s knack for pulling the right scenes and events from the game to coordinate with each heavy lyric and thoughtful set of notes. It’s a moving AMV to watch: moving because the music is powerful, moving because the game is powerful, and moving because the music and the game are powerful together.


Tales of Berseria: Hurts Like Hell, by Autumn Boze
The music used is Hurts Like Hell, by Fleurie. This AMV is an at times almost overpowering tribute to the singular and amazing Velvet Crowe, taking a song that’s simply raw with sorrow and pain and through it describing her with heartrending accuracy. Hurts Like Hell is a natural companion to the story of Velvet Crowe, but by no means does that lessen Autumn Boze’s contributions to this product--the scene selection and timing are of such skill as to use the song and game scenes to their utmost potential. Powerful, compelling stuff.

Tales of Berseria: The Plagues, by Buckets42 TheBadLuckCharm
The music used is The Plagues, from The Prince of Egypt. It’s an unexpected pairing of music to game, but this actually works quite well, and while I’m not sure whether it’s an AMV about Velvet, Artorius, and Laphicet using the fated conflict of Moses and Ramses to describe them, or an AMV about Moses and Ramses using the tragedy of Velvet’s family to illustrate them, the end result is a thoughtful music video either way.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Deus Ex 3's Downloadable Content

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a rather great game, both in its own right and as a sequel. It’s able to successfully expand upon the lore of Deus Ex, maintain the original’s spirit and aesthetic in ways that its sequel never was able to, take new steps forward while losing nothing of DE1’s style, improve upon 1 of the original’s more glaring problems in having a protagonist with some personality and depth as a character, and bring up the same questions of conspiratorial power games and social existentialism while taking a different (admittedly smaller) direction with its plot and events. And it also overall provides a thoughtful, well-told plot that betters the audience to experience. Deus Ex 1 has never quite broken onto my Greatest RPGs list, but it’s always hovered at the fringes, and Deus Ex 3 will now join it there right at the edge--if the next expansion of that list allows for 1 of them to finally join their peers at the top, I daresay it will be difficult for me to choose which.

But as evidenced by multiple Fallouts, even great RPGs can still have crappy add-ons (although, as evidenced by Neverwinter Nights 2, the opposite can also be true). So today, let’s take a look at Deus Ex 3’s Downloadable Content, and see whether it measures up to the rest of the game.

...and let’s do so without thinking overly much about whether or not there’s any point to reviewing an add-on for a game that’s the better part of a decade old which is nowadays automatically sold at no additional cost with said DLC anyways. Hey, you know how I roll: for every significant rant I make, there has to be at least, like, 4 pointless ones.

The Missing Link: My experience with this DLC is odd. I didn’t realize it was an add-on, to start with: I played DE3 recently, so my copy just automatically came with The Missing Link, and it starts up as a part of the linear story rather than (as most DLCs do) requiring me to voluntarily elect to initiate its adventure, so I really had no idea for the majority of it that I was involved in something other than the main game’s narrative. At the same time, though, it felt from the start to be something separate from the rest of DE3, slightly out of joint. So I guess we can, first and foremost, give The Missing Link credit for having authenticity to the overall sequence of Deus Ex 3’s events, while also clearly being detached enough that the main story as a whole wasn’t incomplete without it. That has to be a tough line to walk, particularly with as smooth a gait as DE3 manages.

Now, as far as the DLC’s overall quality, it’s definitely solid stuff. Adam’s capture and prolonged escape from the clutches of Belltower’s clandestine base provides a story that expands upon the lore, particularly the conspiracy lore, of the game as a whole, introduces some decent characters in its course, and creates a microcosm tale of disrupting the grasp of the monstrous social overlords upon the innocent that reflects the style and purpose of the series as a whole, and maintains a healthy allowance for the player’s personal agency in how to overcome humanity’s secret masters--more than the main campaign does, one might argue, as there’s a little more complexity to the climactic choice in this DLC than there is to the game’s own ending.

I also think that The Missing Link shines on a couple of points in particular. First of all, it provides the player with an understanding of what the deal is with the computer mainframe of Panchea at the game’s end, which I imagine must have piqued some interest in players prior to this DLC’s release. The troubling thoughts at the end of Panchea’s internal communications and, more noticeably, the whole anime-esque white-blindfolded women connected to the machine’s all a great aesthetic for an unnerving final showdown setting, but it’s a little more palatable when you know what to make of it thanks to The Missing Link’s explanation of its origins. So this DLC enhances your understanding of the details of the main game, but not in such a major way that the game would feel empty without it (I would have taken Panchea’s operating system in stride overall), which is good.

The other point on which The Missing Link really stands out, and perhaps the one I think which has the most positive effect, is the fact that this DLC actually shows us the victims of Belltower’s atrocious operation. It hadn’t occurred to me until reaching this point, but the Deus Ex series has, as far as I can recall, never before this moment really driven home the cost that the innocent, the everyday men and women of the general populace, suffer at the dark manipulations of the secretive societal masters that the DE series warns us of.

Oh, sure, we get glimpses in the series up until this point of the suffering of the human species as a whole that results from these dark conspiracies of corporations and Illuminati and so on--we interact with the impoverished and homeless in Deus Ex 1, we see the needless struggles and animosity of the working class being manipulated into hating one another rather than looking at their real problems through the coffee chain rivalry in Deus Ex 2, and DE3 presents us with the hardships of common people with a dependence on medications that bankrupt them, and so on.

But though it is vitally important to see the results of the insidious, passive methods that the governing elite use to control the people of the world, the DE series hasn’t given its audience much direct contact with the ways that humanity’s hubristic handlers more actively abuse innocent common people. The horrors inflicted on people by machinations of civilization’s rulers have always, to my recollection, been more something that the series has told of, rather than shown. The Missing Link represents the first time that the weight of what the high few will do to the lower many is shown in full, inescapable clarity to the audience in this series, as we see the rows and rows of men and women unjustly incarcerated, secretly snatched from their lives by a private police under the falsehood that they’re involved in terrorism, never to be released, used instead as test subjects for inevitably fatal experiments. Hearing the frightened, angry, and confused cries of the prisoners as you pass by their cells as they beg to be returned to their loved ones, invoke basic social rights that they don’t understand they never truly possessed, and insist that their incarceration is a mistake...coming face to face with the pain and horror inflicted on hundreds of random innocents just for the sake of a fractional number of’s a sobering moment that the Deus Ex series was lacking, a putting of faces and voices to what were before tragedies and evils only described and theoretical. The whole series benefits from personally presenting this operation in motion to the player.

While it’s unimportant overall, I suppose I will say that the gameplay premise of The Missing Link is puzzling to me. The idea with it is that you get all your augmentations and weapons taken away at the DLC’s beginning, and have to get by on what you can acquire within the DLC itself, rather than all the stuff and powers you’ve amassed in the game up until that point. This sort of thing has been done before, of course, in other add-ons. Operation: Anchorage in Fallout 3 takes place primarily in a simulation, meaning you can only work with what the simulation provides, and the Sierra Madre DLC in Fallout: New Vegas did something similar, as I recall. It’s a way for the developers to create an adventure whose technical parameters can work regardless of what stage of the game you’re in, within reason--thus players who are in the endgame by the time the DLC releases can still find a challenge within it, while newer players don’t have to wait to try it out.

The thing is, that rationale doesn’t work here, because The Missing Link has a set time at which it occurs within Deus Ex 3. You can’t experience it any earlier or later than a single set spot in the game’s overall sequence of events. So everyone going into it will have had the same opportunities to build up their character and arsenal. DE3’s developers could just design The Missing Link’s difficulty level and loot output the same as they would (and did) for the next stage of the game. Forcing us to lose our entire inventory and all our upgrades--and the loss of the latter doesn’t even seem like it makes any logical sense--wasn’t even a developmental necessity! And it certainly didn’t add any fun to the adventure; I had tailored Adam’s development and inventory around a playstyle I enjoyed, and having to start that process again from scratch was a pain in the ass. It’s just an artificial and frustrating handicap that serves no purpose!

But as stated, that sort of thing doesn’t really matter all that much, and even if it did, it wouldn’t outweigh the positives of this add-on. The Missing Link is a solid and worthy part of Deus Ex 3, and while I’ve had trouble finding solid information on what it originally sold for (I think $6?), I think it’s fair to say that it was easily worth its price.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

General RPG Valentines Special Edition: Job Classes

As ever, many thanks to my sister and to Ecclesiastes for their helping me to get these things juuuuuuust right. Or at least good enough. It's not the sort of thing you shoot for the stars over, I guess.

I really like Valentine's Day. You all know this. And I also really like Bravely Default and Bravely Second. You all know this, as well. So with the recent news that a new Bravely title will be gracing us all sometime in the future, I figured, why not have a little fun, and do something special for our RPG Valentines this year? So today, in honor of the Bravely games being both awesome and the truest expression of the Final Fantasy series to date, I've got a whole heap of Job Class themed ways of telling someone special this holiday that you love them and a specific form of the turn-based combat formula of a specific video game sub-genre equally!

And naturally, I've got some for those of you who are distinctly on the other side of the fence in regards to this holiday! I couldn't quite figure out enough ways to use the Job Class system specifically for these anti-sentiments, but I can at least keep halfway to this year's theme by sharing some general Bravely/Final Fantasy reverse-Valentines with you!

...Look, theme or not, it's just not an RPG Valentines post without Reyn and Kevin.