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Just One More Level
In your childhood…
You sit in your room playing Super Mario Bros. and you look at the clock. It reads 9:05pm. You panic. You can hear your mother’s footsteps climbing the stairs. She opens the door and repeats the same phrase she always says every night. “It’s time for bed, you have school in the morning.” You plead for just one more level. The controller is firmly in your hands and the grasp so tight you that not even your dad could pry it from your fingers. You are in the zone and you know that if you stop now you would never be able to beat this game ever. In the wise words of Will Smith, “parents just don’t understand.”
You sit in your living room playing Skyrim and you look at the clock. It reads 11:05pm. You know that you have work in seven hours. You pause the game and contemplate saving and heading to bed. You unpause but you notice something on the screen. There’s a new landmark to the east. You say to yourself, “I’ll just uncover this one and then head to bed.” The next thing you know it is three in the morning and the controller is still in your hands. You finally save the game and head to bed for a little while — with no regrets.
We’ve all had those games where they grasp us and the familiar saying comes out of our mouth. Just one more level. One more level and I’ll be done. It is never just one more level, is it? Whether it is the one game you’ve waited for all year or a genre that just gets you so engrossed, every gamer has had an instance of playing something they just did not want to stop. For me, I’ve had plenty of games that have done that. Thankfully my gaming habits have never interfered with the rest of my life but I can admit that I’ve been the victim of “just one more level” numerous times. The moment when you finally pry yourself away from the screen and action just to realize that the sun is up and the birds are chirping away and you just say one word. I’ll let you think to yourselves what that one word is.
Either way, the following games are the ones that trapped me like no other. While I only take one from my childhood, the rest of them are modern day games that most can experience now to see what I’m talking about. These ten games have given me the bloodshot eyes and zombie look. Worst part is, in my group of friends, I’m not the only one who looks like this thanks to these games.
The original time waster for me. I played Tetris so much my dad thought that my GameBoy would just die on me. There was always that extra level that I knew I could beat in time. When I didn’t complete it, I could try again. And again. And so forth. Tetris is one hell of an addicting game. It is so simple yet the planning that you have to do in order to complete a stage made me think harder than anything else during those years. I like to think that Tetris helped me plan ahead for things in other aspects of my life. I had learned that being careful with the things I’m given got me ahead in life.
A little corny? Absolutely but you know I find it so true. When you’re a kid, it is easy to have things leave an impression on you. My parents saw how into Tetris I was. One time my mother watched me play to see if my time wasn’t being invested into something bad for kids. When she saw me expertly pass a level she called me a smart boy and moved on with her day. Back then, Tetris wasn’t so simple for a five year old. I don’t think my friends even cared for it like I did. They didn’t see the fun in it like I did. I guess that’s why I play strategy games a lot today.
This indie hit took me by storm for about two weeks after its release. The game is just so much fun. It’s also very challenging. Dredmor starts you off by choosing the skills for your character. You can choose which weapons you’ll be proficient with, if you’ll focus on defense, power, magic, or cunning. You could be a pirate, ninja, vampire, or even a werediggle. Yes, a werediggle. The custom class you create has a drawback, though. Once you die in Dredmor, you’re done. This game is all about survivability and how far you can make it. The game does give you an option that if you die you can start over with the same build but you’ll begin at the start with nothing. This is what hooked me. I felt so devastated when I lost my first character. I got pretty far with him and had just spent a ton on a new weapon. I felt like a beast killing diggles in one hit. I opened one door and found a ton of creatures having a monster ball. Needless to say I got destroyed. So what did I do? I made another character and tried again.
This went on for nearly two weeks. If I died, I made a new character. If I made it to the next floor, I’d get riskier and riskier as I found new monsters and my gear got less and less efficient. Dungeons of Dredmor is an excellent game that really plays on your care of your characters. You have to go into it like you’re about to read Game of Thrones. You’re friend comes up to you and tells you that George R.R. Martin does not write main characters and he views everyone as expendable. He isn’t someone you want in your zombie apocalypse team. Well, if you’re about to start Dredmor, that outlook on characters is great to adopt.
Your characters aren’t the only ones with levels in this game. Every item has its own set of levels and the way you have to gain experience for that piece of hardware is pretty unique. In Disgaea, players go through a pretty humorous story featuring some great characters. It is turn-based strategy at its finest on the consoles (or even portables). When I first played Disgaea I told my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics to move over. This series gives so much to its players in terms of things to do, fan service in sequels, and memorable characters. The only thing I can’t say Disgaea has is replayabiltiy. Why? Because if you get that far where you start to contemplate going back over from scratch, you begin to realize how much you’ve done and built up that you’d throw up if you lost it all.
Leveling characters is just like any game. You play the levels and gain EXP. However, for items you have to actually venture into the item and kill monsters that have taken residence inside of it. Killing things and moving on to more floors gains EXP for that item. You can build up some seriously strong items thanks to this. It gets really challenging, though. Before you know it you could be surrounded by tough monsters because you aren’t ready for it. The Item World can be ruthless but it is addicting. If you can’t get further in one item, you can just hop into another and clear some floors. One more level turned in one more floor.
I know some of its more hardcore fans don’t like to hear this but this is 2D Minecraft. However, instead of an emphasis on building you get an addiction to creating. Terraria has so many things to craft and tiers of armor and weapons. You start the game with just some very basic tools and you’re off. You mine and kill to collect resources and build up a house to store all your things. Then there comes a time when you’re about to build some new armor but you find that you need about 30 more copper bars. Back down the mine shaft you go. This continues until you’ve hit a good enough point to where you can fight your first boss. Now you really feel like things are ramping up.
Well, that’s all it takes folks. You fight that first beast and you find some resources needed to make Shadow Armor and you’re hooked. You’re going to keep playing until you’ve hit the final tier of items and all three mega bosses are conquered. It is really a shame that the game is finished now, though. It had so much promise but after two big patches, the creator has closed the cover on this book. I won’t get into my personal feelings about this just yet but know that I do not agree with the way Red, the owner and co-creator of the game, handled this. Terraria is a lovely game that could have been so much more. In fact they planned for so much more. None of it will happen. I guess now all we can do is sit around and hope for Starbound to be released sooner then later.
Just one more turn is so relevant here. Civ5 is a great entry point for people who kept looking out at the series thinking it was too much for them. It takes what Civilization Revolution did for the consoles and mixed it with the tried-and-true formula of the PC games. What came out was a refined Civ4 with the learning curve not so steep. Civ5 became a hit with my friends and we’ve been playing it ever since. We’ll probably will get back into it heavily thanks to Gods & Kings coming out. The game is an amazing city and army builder that gives players multiple ways of finding success. Games take a long time to complete but you find a lot of satisfaction in the various things you can do. Whether you win by conquest, leading space exploration, or being voted upon by the United Nation Civ5 can’t do wrong by the player.
One night two friends and I started a game of Civ5. We still haven’t completed it. Now I can attribute that to the fact that we have not played that saved game in a while. When we all get together it is hard for us three to play Civ5 as the others get upset about it. They know how long of a game it is and they’d rather us all play something together. It’s true. Whenever we start that game up, we’ll go hundreds of turns before finally calling it a night. It’s 2am and I’m still advancing my troops up the coast to hack away at my friend’s empire.
I love me some loot fests. I like me some guns. Borderlands was an obvious day one buy for me. All the hype leading up to that game was well met. Aside from the very terrible ending, Borderlands got many, many hours out of me. I was happy to see that the game took no emphasis on armor and basically just had you finding the best weapon you could. The story was alright, too. The landscape became a bit too tiresome by the end of the game thanks to the arid wasteland but every area presented new challenges. The mini bosses and big guys themselves were fun to battle and that hidden developer chest had me restarting my save point nearly a hundred times.
The classes were fun and varied enough to present some different viewpoints to the game in terms of how you played. You could be up in the faces of your enemy holding a shotgun and brute force or stay hidden and strike the weakspots. Whatever your fancy, Borderlands could give that to you. With the sequel coming, I believe it is the only game this year that can truly tear me away from Diablo 3. I am just a sucker for loot.
You can also say Morrowind or Oblivion here but I’m using Skyrim as the reference. This game forces the “just one more level” feeling on you. The compass at the top shows all nearby locations you have visited or the mysterious ones that you haven’t been to yet. I hate that feeling of getting ready to end my playing sessions and seeing an uncovered point on my compass. I ain’t having any of that! Yes, I get suckered in and play some more but that just goes to show you how good these games are. There is a building or something over yonder and I must see what it is. The problem is once you reach that once uncovered map point, another one or four compass markers come up and you travel some more. It is a never ending quest to uncover Skyrim’s map and the fantastic places you’ll see in the world.
Skyrim isn’t alone in this, though. The other Elder Scrolls games and recent Fallout games are just the same. Fallout is even worse, though! It doesn’t even give you a hint of what is ahead. It just gives you a little marker on your compass saying, “hey don’t stop, keep walking because you have no idea what I’m pointing at.” With so many fun and crazy places the Fallout games hold, you can’t just not go see what it is! Just one more location…
In my Minecraft 360 review I mentioned how this game mostly can be considered a chore rather then fun. Sure, you feel a sense of survival and adventure when you first start but when you’re digging or building for 30+ minutes, it feels tedious. True, Minecraft needs a lot of player work in order to gain some satisfaction out of it but that doesn’t stop the millions of players from doing it. However, what makes Minecraft so damn good is that it is hard to stop. You’re mining and not having much luck but if you stop now you won’t see the hypothetical diamonds lurking right behind this next block. Okay, maybe the next block. And so forth.
The same feeling is had with building. You come up with this great idea for a house or castle or movie-inspired structure and you race off to make it. You have plenty of supplies to do it or are even in creative mode. When you start making the layout for this massive project, you get transfixed in it. You can’t stop. You want to complete this and reap the karma off of Reddit or show it off to your friends. Minecraft may feel very tedious at times, even during building, but the one thing it does really well is make you imagine. You’re imagining your completed work or how close you are to finding something good while mining. You just have to get one more block.
You can say Diablo 2, Titan’s Quest, or any other dungeon crawling loot fest but right now Diablo 3 has taken me by storm. The story, the difficulties, the loot! I’ve already placed nearly a hundred hours into D3 and I can’t seem to stop. I’m in hell difficulty right now with a Witch Doctor and while this is my fourth total time playing through the story I’m not bored. I fight a boss and I realize how far away I am from completing the act. However, I also think that if I reach this one point I’ll be close and then I’ll progress to the next part of the game! It’s so simple, right? Right? Hours in these games seem like minutes. You can’t get enough. You kill one demon and loot drops. You pick it up and repeat. You kill bosses and they drop some stuff. You pick it up and head back to town to sell or salvage. Thing is, you’re having a lot of fun while doing this.
Diablo and the loot-filled dungeon games are among my favorites because of how much I get into them. In these days where beating a game means a lot to me because I just don’t have the same drive I used to, getting hours upon hours out of these games is just too good to see. I went to the store the other day and saw Dragon’s Dogma, The Witcher 2, and Game of Thrones on the shelf. These are games I want to play. However, I think about where I am in Diablo 3 and know that I won’t give those games their just due thanks to Blizzard’s demonic time waster.
Honestly, you can substitute any MMO you want here. This genre is the biggest time waster in gaming. Starting out you know you have a long, long journey ahead of you. Let’s think of a brand new World of Warcraft player, shall we? You’ve got 85 levels to burn through. That takes you through the main game, Outlands, Northrend, and finally the cataclysmic focal points of Deathwing’s current struggle to destroy the world. Soon enough you’ll also have 5 more levels and an entirely new continent to explore and conquer. That is a lot to swallow. It can be daunting.
However, you’re determined and you want to experience what all the hubb-lubb is about. You’re in it for the prize at the end and you want it before Mists of Pandaria releases. You soon find yourself moving out of the starting zones and into the world. Then you see yourself in Stranglethorn Vale. All of a sudden you’re about to invade the Plaguelands. Now you’re in Outlands and you’re level 60. If you hit enter to bring up chat and put in /played you may begin to realize what you have done. You’ve just put over 200 hours into an MMO. Oh and trust me, you are no where near done.