Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Living in Oblivion

It was rumored that Einstein, in all of his eccentricity, kept a wardrobe of identical outfits to alleviate the burden of picking out what to wear every day. Supposedly, the stress of having to make that choice somehow interfered with his mental process, so he preferred not to waste the energy on such a mundane activity. He also refused to wear socks (which is neither here nor there, I just thought it was weird). The point is, where most people view choice as a liberty, he saw it, at least in this case, as an encumbrance. And with every new game that comes out in the middle of what should be the summer drought, I can’t help but think maybe Einstein was on to something here.

It could be early dementia setting in, but I honestly can’t remember the last time we saw the release of so many cool, new games in the middle of summer—games like Child of Eden, Catherine, Trenched, Shadows of the Damned, LA Noire, Ms. Splosion Man, and Bastion (and those are just off the top of my head). Frankly, it should more than enough to keep the most avid gamer busy till the fall. However, it’s also more than enough to drive the most resolute gamer up a wall.

There are so many things to consider when choosing which of these new games to play first, if at all. Price comparisons, pre-order bonuses, reviews, word-of-mouth, prospective DLC, potential price drops—these are all aspects of shopping around for new games that often make them feel like anything but. And as the number of feasible solutions to the new game problem increases, the more complicated the equation becomes.

As title after new title rolls out, it begins to feel a little like being stranded in the middle of a downpour with no umbrella. Sure, it feels good at first (especially in this heat, *blech*) but then you’re just kind of stuck in this torrential chaos. Your jeans get heavy under the weight of all that water, your shirt collar starts to sag down to your sternum and your shoes make that awful squishing sound. You scramble to seek shelter but there’s basically no escape. After a certain point, you calm down and come to realize: You’re not going to get any wetter, so pop that collar and suck it up. Sometimes you just have to let the rain fall, take a cue from Einstein and say, “Fuck it. I’m playing Oblivion.”

As with any open-world RPG like Oblivion, once you begin, there’s simply no end in sight. Anybody who has played it (or any Bethesda game for that matter) can attest to the earthworm-like resilience of the active quest log. With each mission completed, two more seem to spawn in its place. At points it literally feels like the never-ending story.

Besides the main quests, there are five different guilds whose members just cannot wait to give you tons of shit to do. Better still are the multitude of minor quest-lines that do nothing to advance the main story, nor do they net you any achievements as the guild quests do. The only rationale for completing these tedious tasks is essentially to extend the length of the game and maybe work on leveling-up your hero.

But wait! There's MORE!

Specifically, DLC, which is all included in the GOTY edition. Seriously, I am up to my cuirass in unfinished quests over here, and I couldn't be happier. Needless to say, I think I’ve got my game schedule covered for the foreseeable future (or until Arkham City drops, whichever comes first).

So please, if the flood of new games is stressing you out, I invite you all to come with me, to choose not to choose, and enjoy a summer staycation in Cyrodiil. The weather’s perfect, there’s plenty to do, and you certainly get your money’s worth. I think Einstein would have dug it.
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