A Bit of Fantastic

We talked a bit on this weekend’s podcast about The Division. It’s a game I feel like I’d really enjoy if I were playing it with friends, though I’m pretty sure I heard at least one person audibly check out at the point where it became clear there was neither sorcery nor swords of any kind, including indistinguishable-from-magic technology.

A Bit of Fantastic

credit: Dennis Chan

I’m in a similar boat– the game is much more interesting than I expected (I was a bit cynical about it) and honestly looks like it could be a lot of fun. I just wish there was a bit more fantasy in it. I feel like I’m roaming the streets of modern-day New York, and while it’s gorgeously rendered and surprisingly detailed, I can also hop a flight and literally walk around those locations myself. It’s just barely enough escapism for me to enjoy, and I can completely understand how it wouldn’t be enough for someone else. I tend to like my “modern” to be followed by “supernatural” as far as settings go.

That having been said, I loved Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer, and like I’ve said elsewhere, The Division feels like a deeper, more varied, more refined, and more complete version of that, just in a different setting. I’m still pretty likely to pick it up and give it a go at some point. In the meantime, I’ve continued to play a TON of Warframe, which has continually managed to surprise me and get more interesting.

I do keep thinking about that key amount of fantasy it takes to make something compelling. It’s a delicate threshold, and different for everyone. Too much fantasy, and you can’t relate to it enough to get into it, and too little and it feels boring. I know some people who instantly check out of entertainment that has magic or advanced technology of pretty much any kind, and I know others for whom there’s a minimum threshold of one or the other (or both) that has to exist before they’re interested. Personally, I like at least a little bit of fantasy, but I’ve run into things that are just too much for me to get invested in.

Weirdly, what I’m looking for lately is a game where I can really appreciate the worldbuilding. I want to walk around fantastic cities and see people living everyday lives, and live part of a fantasy, virtual life myself. I’d boot up Deus Ex again if I couldn’t still remember it so well; there’s something really awesome about walking around its cyberpunk cities among ordinary people, doing largely ordinary things. It’s part of why I picked up Cradle, the first-person sci-fi puzzle game that held such promise but ultimately disappointed me.

I’m waiting on a few games that might scratch that itch– I really want to play through Dreamfall Chronicles once the season is complete, since there’s a lot of cool wandering through a real-feeling cyberpunk city there. I’m tentatively hopeful for CD Projekt Red’s cyberpunk game, though I’m leery thanks to The Witcher– not a game that meshes well with my tastes. I continue to wait for Persona 4, and I’m actually excited about Final Fantasy XV thanks to the demo; it’s not without some obvious flaws, but I think it’ll be fun anyway.

Kind of a rambling post today, I’m having the gaming equivalent of having a craving for something specific but not quite being able to place what that specific thing is. This post is trying to put words to that. If anyone’s got good recommendations for an open-world cyberpunk or otherwise sci-fi game, I’m open to suggestions!

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