Welcome one and all to our new Saturday club feature ‘Controversial Club’. As so much of our content is positive, charming and a lovely read we thought we’d start a weekly article where we can get a bit of rage out, or just generally be dicks! I introduce our controversial club, a place where we can all write about things that get on our nerves, rub us the wrong way and generally go against the norm.
This week we’d thought we’d discuss our thoughts on some of our favourite under rated games. Those that perhaps weren’t well received critically but we enjoyed the fuck out of!
One of the most under explored content areas is the post apocalyptic world of Mad Max. While there are four films in the series, the first three where released between 1979 and 1985, and after the release of Fury Road in 2015 we’ve had our apatite’s wet for more with the new technology that has become available. The only advancement to the world is within the game, entitled Mad Max.
I’m mainly going to be focusing on the story aspect of the game here because a whole review could, should, and will be written on it at some point. The story continues on from the end of Fury Road where Max is journeying to the Plains of Silence, after attempting to get some fuel for his car, The interceptor, He meats Scabrous Scrotus the third son of Immortal Joe, the antagonist of Fury Road. A fight ensues where Scrotus’ Chainsaw gets lodged in his head, but fails to kill him. After he leaves Max for dead who winds up meeting Chumbucket, a hunchback with immense mechanical skill. Together they work to build a car that would be capable of taking down Scabrous while also helping as many people as possible along the way.
The reason why I focus on the story quite so much is due to the way that it explores a seriously deep world, that can be as big as possibly wanted. Not only is the world set in a huge place, The Australian Outback, but the number of stories that it holds as well, all the way past the death of Mad Max.
Now this game received “Mixed or Average” reviews from critics, because of a story that felt week or didn’t seem like it existed for the majority of the game. The steam reviews reflect this. But it takes more to see the story than to have it presented to you on a platter and deep down, I can see it, and its beautiful.
My favourite has to be the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy, but 13-2 to be specific. 13 wasn’t exactly the best, but it had a few elements that I liked! The characters were cool, and while everyone I knew hated Snow Villiers he was actually my favourite (I still have the Play Arts Kai stored away somewhere…). So it was a little unpopular, the first half of the game was pretty linear to be fair, but it got good eventually! I liked how you could level up your characters in any class you liked, giving everyone the potential to be as versatile as you please.
But my favourite of this trilogy has to be Final Fantasy 13-2. It picked up all the criticisms that its predecessor received and hauled them away like a hulking Behemoth! The game was massively open, with tons of places from the get go that you could explore, some crazy time travel paradox story (I get why people might hate this game) and an improved battle system that had you obtaining defeated monsters to add your team, and grinding for hours to get that goddamn Blue Chocobo!
The plot was a little bit out there, and at times a little convoluted, but overall it kept my attention, and the inclusion of multiple endings kept me going back for more. But the DLC was pretty terrible (I still bought it all though…). I’m a sucker for monster collecting games, and I think that’s why I was so drawn in by Final Fantasy 13-2. It was so versatile, you could get some massive and sometimes ridiculous monster allies at times.
It’s a grey area in gaming, even for a lot of Final Fantasy fans, but for me, the zeitgeist of my late teens was in this game. I maxed out my characters, played for over 100 hours, and had the best time playing it! Would I go back to it now? Probably not, Final Fantasy 13 would be a chore to go through now and I’ve got far too many newer games to play.
In terms of underrated games, one in particular that I especially enjoy is Alice: Madness Returns; delving into this sick and twisted rendition of Wonderland with familiar characters bastardised into hellish incarnations oddly fit the narrative presented… Weaponry that Alice acquires and uses (Asides from the Vorpal Blade) originate as somewhat regular items, but morph into oddly amazingly creative tools of destruction, such as a Pepper Grinder turning into a crank-operated gatling gun – Combat was, to be fair, regular-old hack & slash gameplay, but hot damn was it robust; the current 9/10 average score on Steam proves that alone, despite this game getting 5/10’s galore upon release…
Just wandering through the mystical and maddening Wonderland when compared to the (At the time somewhat recently released) live action Alice in Wonderland films felt like such a breath of fresh air… Don’t believe me? Just look for yourself:
I’ve always thought Dragon Age 2 to be especially under-rated; when it first came out, people came down on the title, and came down hard. Now, did the game have problems? Oh Maker yes; That One Damned Cave for like 20 side-quests, pathetically low-poly background NPCs, the undesired design shift with elves, and, well, Merrill’s complete stupidity regarding demons. But that aside, the game was really not the next coming of the Darkspawn (that would be more Inquisition’s lackluster effort).
Dragon Age 2 was, first and foremost, a game of characterisation. It had a quality cast equal to that of Dragon Age: Origins – Fenris, Merril, Isabella, Bethany or Carver depending on your class, Aveline, Anders, and, of course, Varric (Nope, I’m not forgetting anyone, certainly not a whiny archer or anything). They were well written, engaging, and it was a delight to develop your friendships, rivalries, and romances with them. Interacting with the supporting cast was similarly fun. Kirkwall, in all honesty, felt alive, both because of those people, and through how the game’s acts showed the city in a different light each time. Every shift in politics and concern was clearly displayed, and all felt like a natural evolution; you can see how the Mage/Templar crisis that’s at the core of the plot built up over time to what it eventually did.
The gameplay, whilst different to the first in terms of speed, was still an engaging tactical experience, and brutally difficult – I remember this one battle in the central room of the Dwarven ruin that took ages to get through. Being unable to spam health potions gave even simple fights a more dire edge.
But the most stand-out part of the game to me has to be (Spoilers) the final battle against Knight-Commander Meredith. She music swells, those statues you’ve walked by so many times casually come to life, and you fight a coked-up Superwoman with *all* your allies and friends you’ve made throughout the game. In truth, it’s an epicness that was missing from the Archdemon confrontation in Origins, and it’s a powerful sequence that I won’t forget any time soon.
Quite simply, Dragon Age 2 is a thoughtful, intimate experience whose flaws blinded a lot of critics to it’s more numerous and finer features. I’d definitely recommend giving it, and it’s DLC, a look at.