Where last week was bereft of notable videogames, this week sees two major franchises come roaring back, another featured in its greatest glory, and one more that continues its sordid campaign to irk series’ fans.
Tomb Raider (360, PS3, PC)
Lara Croft gets her long-anticipated reboot this week in the simply-titled ‘Tomb Raider‘. The franchise has attempted to modernize a few times previously with middling-to-disastrous results. When coupled with those lame movies, this would seem to indicate that the character doesn’t deserve the incredible amount of effort that Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have put into the game. However, not only has the entirety of the franchise been rebooted, the new game seems to be garnering enough praise to stand tall next a series of similar ilk, ‘Uncharted’.
Not only has the serious take on ‘Tomb Raider’ succeeded to the point that its level of presentation buoys all other AAA games, it also seems to have emerged from its earlier controversies, a challenge often faced by Square Enix and other global game publishers in the U.S. That said, the game’s gruesome level of violence, both to the title character and to the endless string of bad guys, is not for everyone. (And yes, ‘Hunger Games’ fans will be enthused about a nimble bow woman.)
The birth child of Will Wright, ‘SimCity‘ is a cultural phenomenon that has spanned not only sequels, but entire new approaches to city planning. The concept of the game, where a combination of administrative powers and real-time city manipulation allows the player to either grow an ideal metropolis or purposely terrorize the city’s inhabitants with disasters and disastrous initiatives, represents some of the best and the worst in gaming. Balancing resources and manipulating the game through a logical set of cause-and-effect circumstances is possibly strongest corollary between a videogame and real life. Yet, as the successive spin-off ‘Sims’ took off, and social games like Zynga’s ‘CityVille’ rose in prominence with their endlessly time-intensive progress-quests, ‘SimCity’ faded, no longer able to hold the attention span of players.
Thus EA, with a refocused Maxis, attempts to re-engage players using the modern PC platform with an always-on online multiplayer component that draws together neighboring cities as never successfully attempted in prior games. Has that magic been recaptured? I can’t yet say, but at the very least, ‘SimCity’ has returned to the conversation of serious PC games.
MLB 13: The Show (PS3, Vita)
‘MLB 13: The Show‘ is the big enchilada as far as ‘MLB’ games go. Last year’s commercial where the Cubs finally won the World Series illustrates one the most attractive reasons for playing games like these. (More on that later.) This year’s version adds several interesting features, some of which seem like no-brainer additions.
Beginner Mode allows new players to gradually learn the fundamentals of hitting and pitching – that is, playing the game – and likewise allows more causal gamers to play without having to know the nuances that veteran players use regularly. Every sport sim needs a mode like this, otherwise it can be frustrating to pick up. The key here is that the goal is to reach the normal nuanced control mode, as opposed to just having a dumbed-down version to play.
Franchise Mode has been revamped to encourage players to do well over the course of a season, while player development for minor league prospects (“Road to the Show”) has been completely overhauled. Post-season Mode offers the ability to skip the playoffs, something I can recall from sport sims way back in the ’90s. Cross-platform allows PS3 players to play against Vita players, but understandably only in Home Run Derby mode.
What really held me back from diving into ‘MLB 12: The Show’ was the PS Move controls, which seemed tacked on. Swinging with the PS Move should be a huge boon for the game, but nothing thus far has suggested any effort to improve for this year’s version. If somehow the Move controls have leveled up, I will happily spend hours in ‘The Show’.
MLB 2K13 (360, PS3)
‘MLB 2K13‘ is the other current baseball game, a distant second to Sony’s ‘The Show’, and the only option for the Xbox 360. 2K, owned by Take-Two interactive, had a disastrous exclusivity deal for third party Major League Baseball games that expired last year, and it seemed like the company would let the ‘MLB 2K’ series die a quiet death. Only recently has a new deal with MLB been announced along with this year’s entries. The bad news is that the uncertainty undoubtedly affected this year’s version, which winds up as a carryover from last year. On the other hand, some would say that all yearly sports sims are carryovers anyway.
As an Astros fan, a game like ‘MLB 2K13’ is the only chance my team has to compete for a pennant.
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3)
Unsurprisingly, ‘Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk‘ is a Japanese RPG. In this one, the lead character struggles with her family, both the legacy of her past grandfather and her missing younger sister. Finding the sister through turn-based battles and world exploration is the name of the game. The latest in a long line of ‘Altelier’ titles, the trope-heavy melodrama looks to be quite intense and promises to be a lengthy game, but only hardcore JRPG fans need apply.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC (360, PS3, PC)
It’s been nearly a year since ‘Mass Effect 3‘ was released, and BioWare (a division of EA) finally allows gamers to play with the party members that joined and were fleshed out in ‘Mass Effect 2’. Being honest, that bitter feature is the only pro of this DLC. Otherwise, it seems that some mercs are out to kill Commander Shepard. Big effing deal.
Battling mercenaries on the Citadel has already done been, both in ‘Mass Effect’ and ‘Mass Effect 3’. Giving Shepard a swank place to hang out in the guise of DLC was done in the first game as well. Also, don’t forget that the twice-baked ending for ‘Mass Effect 3’ makes anything like this DLC entirely pointless anyway. Spoiler Alert: The supposed ending of the trilogy, while not so bad as to engulf the internet as it did, nevertheless snuffed out most of the enthusiasm for any additional single-player story.
This DLC, as with other DLC packs for ‘Mass Effect 3’, eludes Wii owners, and there’s no telling if that will ever change.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (3DS)
‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate‘ for the 3DS is the portable sequel to 2010’s ‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadow’, a game with gameplay and design I hated so much that I only mention this sequel for the sake of 3DS owners. In theory, this title, which links ‘Lords of Shadow’ with its upcoming sequel, was developed from the ground up to be a ‘Castlevania’ game, unlike the mishmash of its predecessor. Both the gameplay and art design are 3D, but supposedly exploration has been emphasized over the predecessor’s dreadful ‘God of War’-cloned mechanics.