Steam Library Retrospective: Advent Rising

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August 7, 2016 by Devin

Previous entry: AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! for the Awesome

The following series idea, shamelessly stolen from List Oriented, is a chronicle of me trying to play through my extensive Steam Library and categorizing my thoughts along the way.

The rules: play through each game in alphabetical order for at least 1 hour. Then report back here with the findings.

For best experiences, listen to the following as you read:

The Game: Advent Rising

Description: Advent Rising is a science-fiction third-person shooter. Essentially that means that you go around shooting aliens with laser guns, but this game also gives you access to powers that allow you to jump great heights, force push enemies, create barriers, and more. This is all set against the backdrop of this epic space opera that involves alien alliances and space battles. What is funny about this game is that when it was first released, it was compared a lot to Halo. You can wield two weapons, throw similar types of grenades, and the enemy designs seemed very reminiscent of Halo. Now, however, it feels more like proto-Mass Effect with this big story where you could make significant choices that would go on to affect future sequels (or at least would affect future sequels if those ever got made).

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Previous Experience: Beat the game on Xbox, bought it again years later on PC, and then beat it again.

My Experience: So part of the reason I wanted to do this was because there are a lot of games that I really want to write about but haven’t yet, and this was a good chance to do that. And here’s the game about Advent Rising: I love this game.

A lot of people throw around the word, “underrated,” incorrectly. Beyond Good & Evil was not underrated. Neither was Psychonauts. Those games were rated quite highly by the people that played them. Advent Rising was not, though. It had pretty mediocre reviews and was deemed largely to be such a failure that its massive marketing campaign failed to result in sales, meaning its big sequel hook fell flat.

But I want to defend the game because there is a lot to love about this game. If you followed the instructions at the top of the page, you are already listening to the wonderful soundtrack which definitely ranks up in my favorite of game soundtracks. More than that though is the game’s progression. People playing games tend to look for the most efficient and effective way to play a game, which is only natural. Nobody is trying to be bad at a game.

Unfortunately, in a lot of games, you tend to find the most effective and efficient ways early on. You learn which guns work best on which enemies, which tactics make sense for certain formations, which spells are absolutely necessary and which aren’t, etc. This is especially true in RPGs, where once you figure out which characters are tanks, which are healers, and which are damage dealers, your party composition is basically set for the rest of the game. This is not to say that these games are not fun or that make sure you use the appropriate approach for each enemy is not fun, but there is usually a feeling of exploration and discovery that is present in the beginning of the game that is not there at the end.

What Advent Rising does is really encourage you to change up your tactics as the game progresses. At the beginning of the game, you are a lowly human who has a really tough time against the enemies (at least I did when I first played this game). You are better off falling back, crouching to get headshots, and avoiding getting grouped up on. The middle of the game starts to unlock powers that allow you to use the environment in unique ways while also fazing out the human weapons you began the game with. By the end of the game, you tend to avoid weapons altogether as you use your menagerie of powers to create shields, zip around the environment, and shoot energy balls at distant enemies. Progression in this game rarely feels just like getting better guns or becoming better at aiming, but you really feel like a walking Swiss army knife of psychic might. It feels really awesome.

If it sounds like I am saying that this is the best game ever, I am not. What is really odd about Advent Rising is that so many awesome and amazing moments are punctuated by sloppiness. The opening of the game begins with this gentle cruise around this huge spaceship that creates this sense of awe and ambiance, and it’s completely ruined because the engines you have on your spaceship are so loud that you cannot hear the characters chat and give exposition. Meanwhile later in the game, you are aboard this crashing vessel where pieces of it are literally falling off right next to you, and the event feels oddly quiet, as if there were a bunch of sound effects that did not load properly. And I am not going to shy away from the fact that the character models look… off.

20160805003132_1.jpgBut still, this game will always have a special place in my heart. There’s a core feedback loop around the middle of the game where you are still getting to learn your powers while still using the weapon experience  you have built so far that I think is the best combination of force powers and weapons that I have ever played in a video game. While it definitely is incredibly rough, I still plan on revisiting this many times over.

Score: 17/19 unnecessarily long legs

Next up: Adventures of Shuggy

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