Just Finished: Another World

My back is broken, I can’t feel my legs and I will probably never find a way back home, but at least my only friend in this another world is here, and we’re riding towards the sunset on the back of a huge flying lizard. See you in the next episode.

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By a lucky coincidence, I played the original Another World at the same time as when I discovered the joys of reading classic SF books. The thing is that some of the old editions available at my school’s library had those fantastic illustrations made by masters like Frank Frazetta and others. Well, sometimes their art was too fantastic — I swear that I was too afraid to open my copy of Burroughs’ Princess of Mars — but it certainly helped me to appreciate the incredible vision of an alien reality in Eric Chahi‘s masterpiece.

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Too bad that I lacked the skill and resolve for fair play and used codes to skip some, let’s say, problematic sections, but as a kid I didn’t care about it. Now it’s time to return and do it the proper way.

First of all, playing the 25th anniversary edition made me understand why people on Steam and elsewhere keep complaining about remastered editions. In case of Another World, you don’t get much, just hi-res graphics and soundtrack. There’s no audio commentary from the maker, no concept art, no new levels. Maybe I shouldn’t complain, though, because I shamelessly pirated the Amiga original so it was the right thing to pay the money without any additional benefits.

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What are my thoughts after I finally finished the right way? Human memory is a fickle thing, but this might have been the first mature game in my life. In this case ‘mature’ means an ambition to reach beyond, transgress the borders and make a video game something more than just pure leisure.

One example of this revolutionary approach is Buddy, the NPC companion with whom you try to escape captivity. Being a native to this another world, he has a different set of skills and is able to operate alien technology, but also to fight the baddies hand-to-hand – something that our eggheaded protagonist isn’t capable to do. What’s even better, sometimes our former cell-mate acts in a different dimension, for example escaping pursuit right in front of the virtual camera while the hero moves in the background. A very interesting and unique approach whis reminds the player that this 2D game has an actual third dimension.

Of course, being almost two decades, I cannot ignore the game’s flaws now. First of all, there’s little interaction with the environment and virtually no dialogue at all. The combat mechanics, although surprisingly exciting, are too simplistic – a cover system like in Alcatraz or Blackthorne would make it much more interesting. Finally, my standard complaint is that it’s far too short, but it’s understandable given the technical limitations of home computers at the time Another World was released.

Still, does it all even matter when we’re talking about a work of a genius. Maybe one day I’ll make my personal shrine, a shelf with physical copies of the greatest games I’ve ever played. Another World will certainly be among them.

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Weekly: Dead Money, Deadly Gold

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Last week I promised to post a picture of defeated Elijah, the charismatic antagonist who imprisoned my Courier in Sierra Madre, but I changed my mind after discovering a non-standard game-over sequence. Without spoiling too much, the final confrontation takes place in a vault which was built deep beyond the casino and contains a large gold stash. Initially, Elijah hides safely behind a terminal screen but, after an obligatory conversation about his sinister motivations and even more sinister plans, it’s possible to goad him into showing up. However, the story of Sierra Madre has another villain, the man who built the entire complex, and you can feel his wrath even if he’s turned into radioactive ashes long time ago. Accessing a certain file in the final terminal locks the Courier underground forever and the game over screen pops out. This gave me an idea…

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After reloading, I repeated the conversation and again boasted about my stealth skills until Elijah lost his nerve and came down to deal with me. This time instead of shooting him into pieces with my trusty Holorifle, I showed him that sneaking comes to me even easier than talking. Now he’s stuck down there behind sealed lift doors and I really hope he finds those gold bars tasty.

The whole Sierra Madre adventure was a cathartic experience because after finishing it I realised that I lost a few achievements due to my bad choices. This means that it’s impossible to finish the current playthrough with every possible achievement unlocked, which was my original intention. Instead, I can finally focus on enjoying the game without worrying about them. Feels refreshing.

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Who would win? A genius scientist who became a deadly warrior and fearless explorer after travelling into another dimension? Or a cast-iron chandelier? I got stuck in one of the latter levels of Another World because I forgot to clear a passage for my alien buddy and there was nobody to literally lend me a hand in that long and deadly corridor. Fortunately, my memory still works fine and after a dozen of frustrating attempts I finally managed to get him through and beat the level. Now it gets really exciting because I’m about to play a part of the game which was cut out from the Amiga floppy version. And some people say that remastered versions have nothing to offer but better graphics and audio.

No goals here because the All Saint’s Day is approaching. This means another Monthly post where I will torment myself with blog plans for November.

 

Weekly (VI)

This week reminded me how important it is to appreciate classics, and also why I’m Against the Modern Gaming.

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Saturday was a wonderful nostalgia trip back into the Erich Chahi’s masterpiece. After having played the refreshed version of Another World, I cannot help but feel amazed. Sure enough, now I can see the game’s flaws which escaped me when I was a naive teenager and the 20th Anniversary edition doesn’t add too much to the original (hi-res graphics, of course, and adjustable difficulty setting), but Chahi’s vision and the realisation how far ahead of his times he was have convinced me again that Another World is a true masterpiece. The only flaw that I cannot overlook is its shortness — mere 63 minutes of playing and I’m near the ending. Maybe I should try to play the supposedly failed sequel, even if every review was decidedly negative. We’ll see.

On Sunday, I decided to experiment and try out Tom Clancy’s The Division which was temporarily made free to download by Steam. I didn’t read much about it and thus I didn’t expect much, but an open-world shooter set in the NYC turned into Sarajevo by a plague seemed to be a nice prospect. What was I even thinking?!

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Less than an hour of playing was enough to decide that I’m definitely not buying it. Don’t get me wrong, this is an AAA+ title definitely not made by amateurs but, as a fan of the Fallout and Stalker series, I will not waste another second on it. I don’t say it’s boring, since hiding behind trashed cars and shooting looters was quite exciting for a while, but the entire experience felt empty. Hollow. Soulless. The developers even managed to do the incredible and make the surroundings, properly littered and full of abandoned vehicles, look s t e r i l e like an old-fashioned theatre set. I don’t consider it wasted time, though, as it was an important lesson about carefully choosing your games, especially made by mainstream giants like Ubisoft.

Plans for this week? Just do something, I don’t know, maybe try to finish Sunless Sea. And don’t forget to write for posterity about it.