Conflicted

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is a new post-apocalyptic RPG for Wii. The impression I've gathered is that it's very different, is hauntingly beautiful, and that the story is very engaging. That is enough to make me prick up my ears, though there is also part of me wondering why I keep torturing myself with JRPGs recently.

I don't normally pay a lot of attention to game reviews. They rarely match up well with my tastes, and the ones claiming to be objective in particular make me laugh. Reviews are always subjective and individual. I prefer it when writers make use of their personal perspective rather than trying to hide it behind rigid journalistic style, and that's rarer than I'd like.

But in this case I've found the reviews oddly fascinating. Some reviewers seem amazingly conflicted, e.g., this review at Destructoid. It comes across as a wonderful concept dragged down by some absolutely hideous gameplay decisions. It reminds me how possible it is to both love and hate a game at the some time.

The potential trade-off between story and gameplay is a common enough issue for gaming. I think it is definitely possible to do both well, but sadly it often doesn't turn out that way. I tend to seek out different experiences, and this seems like something I'll have to play for myself. I am well forewarned, though, and expect to find it just as beautiful as the reviewers... and just as frustrating.

I do feel like a bit of a sap for wanting to play this game in spite of full knowledge of its (rather serious) flaws. Sometimes gameplay decisions are different and not for everyone (such as Heavy Rain's approach), and sometimes they are just plain terrible.

Games don't normally produce such a conflicted response. For me, the other major example is probably World of Warcraft. Azeroth had plenty to keep me occupied during the two-years-or-so I spent there. It has a fascinating lore and exploration. It was a useful space for social interactions (yes really, it's a big place and you just have to find the friendlier and more mature elements). There was a strong sense of teamwork and shared achievement.

But there was also plenty to hate. The people too lazy to construct proper sentences. The nagging feeling like being a lab rat offered food pellets. Loot-obsession and learning just how much of a sense of entitlement some people have. And ongoing commitments that could become like having a second job.

I think it's probably much cooler to act the critic and focus on the negative elements of a game. Yahtzee certainly seems to do pretty well out of it. My weakness is probably to go in the other direction, and make excuses for games in defence of the things I love about them. I'd like to be able to talk about where gaming fascinates and inspires, far more than where it disappoints.