Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Off the List: Brink

Review: I never added Brink to the list (whoops!), but I just finished playing through it, so here's my thoughts. Brink is an objective based competitive team shooter game in the vein of Team Fortress 2. The game is similar to TF2 in its style of play and in that it possesses and exaggerated art style. Unlike TF2, however, there are a lot of weapons, none are limited by character class, and all but a few of them can be modified by players to fit their combat style. The precise look of a player's avatar is also highly customizable, though I imagine certain costume pieces will bet far more use than others. Also very unlike TF2, Brink has an actual story, lightweight though it may be, and surprising amount of lore available for players to unlock and discover. Also of note is the ability to seamlessly jump and slide around obstacles, which adds an interesting vertical aspect to some of the maps. The game is a lot of fun, and even once everything is unlocked, is enjoyable to play. I prefer Brink to TF2 myself, but I'm admittedly biased, and the specific bias is this: I enjoy video games, but am not all that skilled at them. I play most of them on the lowest difficulty setting, and enjoy that experience. That means that when I go online to play vs. other human, many of whom are extraordinarily skilled at video games, I get blown to shark chum. This is less-than-enjoyable, and so I confine most of my online gaming to co-op games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Magicka. This is where Brink comes in: it feeds my urge to tinker with its customizable everything and it also allows you to play through all of its missions in single player mode. Huzzah! So, I'd recommend it, especially if you're a clod of an FPS player like me.

RPG notes: For those that missed the post where I announced I'd be doing this, this marks the first review of mine that will include a discussion of the game as idea material for tabletop RPGs. If this holds no interest for you 1) I wonder how you found this blog (welcome just the same, though!) and 2) feel free to skip this part. Right then, let's get to it.

Brink actually has several ideas worth appropriating for tabletop RPGs, the first and most obvious being The Ark itself, which is one of the better game settings I've seen in a while. (Jim Rossignol over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun mentions this too.) It bears mentioning that before I started playing the game, I didn't realize that the entire thing was on water, a giant floating archology. (In fact, I wonder if Ark started out as a phoenetic shortening of "archology," if it's a reference to Noah's Ark, both or neither.) The Ark is largely self-sufficient, though scarcity is enough of a problem to have touched off a revolution, and the technology that built it was obviously adaptable enough to allow for expansion, though it expanded into slums that call back to the cities in Fallout 3, cobbled together from whatever was around. The Ark itself seems to be built on floating foundations of some sort of artificial coral, which is a cool idea in and of itself. The Ark, or something inspired by it, would make for a very interesting and cool setting for an RPG. An interesting thing to note is that while other technologies have advanced from the present in Brink, weapons technology is exactly where it is today, to the point of most of the weapons being copies to modern guns.

The second major concept that struck me is that both sides of the Security/Guests conflict in the game are actually right. The population of the Ark has increased to the point where society (and the Ark itself) are starting to break down, but the outside world is not a nice place, either. Ironically, each side has information that would end the conflict if the other side were to get a hold of it, but neither side shares, and neither side knows about the other side's information. Furthermore, neither side's leadership nor foot soldiers is particularly fanatical or without doubts. This dynamic could definitely be used by a shrewd GM to cook up all manner of interesting adventures.

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