In general, I don’t like console and computer games. My main complaints boil down to the assertion that grinding is not gameplay, and the idea that repeatedly attempting the exact same task is mind-numbingly dull. Thus my appreciation for Magic, wargames, and roleplaying games. Each of these game categories (and you can read Magic as “CMGs” if you like) generates novel challenges in each game, or at a minimum novel experiences. Watching my friends try the same damn level in some Resident Evil game over and over again just hurts me.
Thus, I’ve been pleased by the experience of first watching and then playing Valkyria Chronicles on the PS3. Valkyria is a “tactics” game, which is to say it’s a standard wargame. From that perspective, it’s quite conventional, being an igo-ugo system (that is, all my dudes take their actions, then all yours do), but it spices things up with a command point system (so it’s not so much “all my dudes” as it is “all my command points”) and by properly capitalizing on the things a computer or console system can offer. To wit, it has hidden movement by enemy units (impractical in board wargames unless you want to take the time to play double blind with a referee) and an elegant opportunity fire system. Whereas opportunity fire in conventional board wargames can be clunky (although the classic game Space Hulk has a pretty smooth execution for opportunity fire in a boardgame), with pauses and people asking you to back up moves, in Valkyria the enemy units just, well, fire while you move. Clean. It does, humorously, mean they’ll keep shooting your unit if you just have it stand there while you think about what you want to do with it. We call that motivation.
Overall, Valkyria plays nicely as a solid traditional wargame interspersed with story, sans the usually (for me) mind-crushing combination of repetition and grinding that I tend to find in console games. Plus, there’s the joy of watching your troops run around and shoot up the enemy, in a visceral That-Chess-Game-From-New-Hope kind of way.
My friends enjoy the compare-contrast of how each of us plays the game. We have one person taking chances, and another gunning for exploits (for example, in some scenarios it works well to run a single person forward like a lunatic and just gun down the enemy while taking fire). I apparently run it like a ‘real’ battle, advancing my soldiers behind their armored support, and using bounding overwatches to cover the battlefield.
I haven’t found a lot of wargames I enjoy on computer and console systems. Too many times I’ve been disappointed (most often by the warped RTS trait of making me build units during the battle – why am I doing that in Dawn of War?). Valkyria is a lot of fun, and really captures what I do like about wargames, while adding in a fun story and leveraging the things a console can do well that a board can’t.
So, hey, if you have a PS3 lying around, give it a shot. 🙂

The next Lego video game…

So two days ago, as we were playing Lego Star Wars (Original Trilogy), I commented that I would “buy a Batman game if it were done this way.”
So they’re making Lego Batman.
If you look carefully at the date on that article, you’ll note that this is not new news — but if I heard about it before, I’d forgotten.
It’ll be fun swinging around, tossing batarangs…