This post is going to be fairly… spoiler-heavy. Or, at the very least, revealing — about a game that’s better played while it’s still mysterious and strange. If you haven’t played Betrayer, I urge you to check it out before reading any further. Or if a more general overview would help, I’ve got you covered over here.
Today, on the other hand, we’re going to get into the meat of Betrayer. We’re going to talk about things that I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) bring up in my more surface-level review. I’ve finished a second playthrough, mulled over the experience for almost a month, and now I’m itching for a detailed critique. Also — I just love this game too much to leave it at one post.
Let’s begin with the most obvious part…
A World Without Color
Or rather, a world with one color: red.
Betrayer is not what you think it is.
Even if you’ve seen screenshots or watched trailers, it’s still probably not quite what you’re expecting. Which is actually great, because half the joy of Betrayer is the slow process of discovering just what the heck it is.
When you wash up on the shore of this strange land, some surface details will be immediately apparent. The first-person perspective. The striking monochrome visuals. The profound lack of information or context.
Two years ago, in the early days of this blog, I wrote a post about Ascendancy II.
It was in part a celebration of Ascendancy, the people who created it, and the immense role the game played in my childhood… and in the other part it was a vaguely bitter and definitely melodramatic rant about The Logic Factory saying they might develop the sequel to Ascendancy on a platform I had no access to. So — pretty on par with the quality and professionalism you should expect from the first year or so of my blogging career.
Here’s the weird part: that post is the most visited page on this blog. With almost double the hits of my next most popular post. Even now there’s still a slow trickle of people coming here for that post alone. And while it’s no longer the case, for a long time I was on the first page of the Google search results when you typed in “ascendancy 2.”
That says a lot if you look between the lines. For starters, people love Ascendancy just like I do — and they want to know what’s up with the sequel. Not a big surprise, since the old fans have been waiting for a sequel for almost twenty years, and the iOS port created a whole new generation of fans to join us in the waiting game.
To my shame, I’ve slowly been converted into a Steam user over the summer.
I used to avoid that thing like the plague. I originally passed on the F.E.A.R. sequels because they required Steam. I’m still waiting and hoping for a GoG release of Far Cry 3. I actually bought a physical copy of Fallout: New Vegas only to then play a cracked version so I could avoid dealing with Steam. I am a card-carrying, haterpants-wearing guy-who-doesn’t-like-Steam.
But everything changed when Borderlands 2 was announced and could only be found on Steam. They’d got me. I had to take the leap — but that didn’t mean I was ready to admit defeat.
Where was I?
Right — Rage. I started off my… what I think is now long and self-indulgent enough to call an “essay”… about Rage by pointing out how confused it is as a whole. Of course, like a dope, I racked up a thousand and a half words talking pretty exclusively about the story, and that’s not where Rage is really confused. Dumb, maybe, but I think it embraces its dumbness. And who cares — I mean, really cares — about the story in an id game?
You could say the only mistake that was made there was in having one, or at least in propping it up on Front Street like it was something worth the player’s attention. But no, where the game really spills its Cheerios all over itself is in the gameplay department, which is, like I was saying back at the beginning, a confusing mess — of half-realized concepts and clashing philosophies. And that’s what you want to hear about, so let’s get into that, shall we?
What are you, Rage?
What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to do with your life? Really, that’s the question, and I can’t answer it for you.
Truth is — I’m not sure anyone at id agreed on what Rage was supposed to be either. If there’s anyone who’s more confused about what it’s getting into than the people who played this game in its first few months — it’s Rage itself.
I suspect a lot gamers were looking forward to a typical id shooter. Those who weren’t familiar with id were probably expecting a solid modern shooter with a post-apoc slant. A prettier Borderlands, maybe. Those who knew id for their engines were looking for the next huge leap in technology, or — you know — an engine that at least worked the way it was supposed to. But Rage isn’t any of those things; not really.
I just finished Rage a couple hours ago. For the second time.
Since I’m still in the process of digesting the experience and figuring out what I want to say about it (there’s a lot to say), I figured I’d tide you over with some screenshots. If there’s one thing you can’t deny, it’s that Rage is a really pretty game, so while I sort the mess of notes I took into something comprehensible and hopefully worth reading, enjoy some (really pretty) virtual carnage.
(Don’t look at me like that! …it’s not like I’m just trying to offload some of these literally thousands of screenshots I couldn’t find a use for in the review…)
At this point, it’s probably pretty obvious that I am an unabashed lover of trashy first-person shooters. (If not, just wait until my review of Rage!) With that in mind, here’s the rather unexpected sequence of events that leads me to this post:
1. I finally give into the digital distribution model after much resistance. My first purchase on GoG is the original Rise of the Triad.
2. Shockingly, I don’t like it.
3. Several years later, I purchase the new Rise of the Triad without a second thought.
Just a quick heads-up post today. A bit of breaking news, if you will. (Please note: my working definition of breaking news here includes anything I just found out about, regardless of how long it’s been public knowledge.)
As of <some time in the semi-recent past>, the greatest RPG trilogy of all time is now freeware! That is, Jeff Vogel has released his classic RPG series, Exile, for free on his website. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty big news for me, even if I own the trilogy twice over already. Since time immemorial, I’ve considered it one of the best series out there, and now that it’s free, maybe more people will try it out.
Of course, there’s one sizable hurdle: I hear Exile doesn’t run on 64-bit operating systems. That’s probably a lot of you these days. (Believe it or not, old Jeff Vogel games are the #1 reason I’ve stuck with 32-bit Windows XP as long as I have.) But if you can figure a way to get old games like this running, I urge you to try them out. Classic RPGing doesn’t get much better than this.
I’ll go into more detail down the road, but for now, I just thought you should know. I’m looking out for you!
Warning: This post is entirely Save the Date spoilers. If you haven’t played it, please go do that before you read this. Here’s a link.
At the request of a friend, I played — or read, or whatever you do with visual novels — Save the Date a couple weeks ago. That recommendation may have been the biggest reason I took Save the Date the way I did.
“Play it” was basically what this guy told me. No explanation or disclaimer or anything. All I knew was that he had just lost his best friend, and — with that in mind — I may have gone in with certain expectations. I may have jumped in expecting some sort of answer to the questions he had been struggling with. The questions he’d posed to me, of all people.
Part of me was hoping Save the Date had been able to provide the answers I couldn’t.