Embarking on a new journey

by Staff

Genre Introductions – Get into the Game

The video game world can be daunting to newcomers. With so many games, where do you even begin? Never fear, Aztec Gaming is here with our recommendations on breaking in to some of the biggest genres today.

JRPGs

Kevin Smead, Entertainment Editor

Japanese role-playing games have experienced a bit of a rebirth lately, and while many gamers are interested in the often-massive undertaking that is playing a JRPG, few really know where to start. “Massive undertaking” may sound like a bit of hyperbole, but in reality, it’s not. Most JRPGs clock in at around 40 or so hours of gameplay, while some can hit the 100-hour mark with no end in sight (looking your way, “Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King”). If you’re going to make that big of an investment, it’s important to know with which games to spend those precious, massive quantities of time on.

While many JRPGs have intricate, complex game systems that require players to think critically rather than focus on twitch action, the main focus of the JRPG is always on story. In the best JRPGs, strong gameplay elements accentuate compelling narratives. Many boast strategic turn-based battle systems, which have admittedly sort of become archaic, while keeping things varied with in-depth character customization and crafting. Some perfect examples of this may go back a bit, but with emulators and numerous rereleases, there’s plenty of ways to play these classic games.

For those new to the genre, it’s best to start with the classics. Check out “Chrono Trigger,” “Final Fantasy VI” and “Secret of Mana,” all JRPGs staples from the Super Nintendo era. In fact, many consider “Final Fantasy VI” one of the finest games ever made on any platform, ever. I’d have to agree.

Next, I’d recommend sinking your teeth into “Final Fantasy VII,” because it’s easily accessible and perhaps the most recognized and popular game in the genre. “Final Fantasy” isn’t the only JRPG series that exemplifies the genre, though. An equally long-running and respected series is “Dragon Quest” (also known as “Dragon Warrior” in Japan).

For a more tactical approach to the genre, check out any of the “Fire Emblem” games or “Final Fantasy Tactics.” If you can get the PlayStation Portable or iPhone OS version of “Tactics,” do so. That one, I would argue, is the definitive version of the game. With better edited dialogue, updated animations and some character class tweaks, the game is better than ever.

So far, the games I’ve mentioned are at least a decade old. The more modern JRPGs have changed quite a bit, as the genre suffered a bit of a quality drop in the mid-2000s up to recent years. As I said before, though, we’re in a bit of a renaissance for the genre. The latest “Tales” games are phenomenal and “Xenoblade Chronicles” is one of the best titles released in any genre in recent memory.

For a different, modern take on the genre, check out the “Souls” series, be it “Demon’s Souls” or “Dark Souls.” These gnarly, brutal action JRPGs will test your patience and reward you beyond your wildest dreams with a huge sense of accomplishment.

While the genre does require a large commitment, the genre of the Japanese role-playing games are near and dear to my pixelated heart and will hopefully become part of your gaming rotation, too.

 

Adventure Games

Jordan Pollock, Aztec Gaming

Adventure Games are one of the oldest genres in gaming. Be it a text adventure, point-and-click adventure or what have you, adventure games have always managed to catch gamers’ imaginations. Rather than focusing solely on action sequences as a beefy Space Marine, adventure games put players in the shoes of a normal guy or girl, tasked with a quest that can only be surmounted with a combination of agility and intelligence rather than brute strength.

Throughout time, adventure games evolved to contain more action sequences in order to make them more accessible to players who generally prefer to just punch things in the face, but this doesn’t detract from the experience in most cases. The combination of action and adventure genres has produced games appealing to a much wider audience.

Series such as “Uncharted,” “Tomb Raider” or the much beloved “Monkey Island” games are some of the most influential adventure games that even non-gamers have heard about. But there are many more games out there that would-be adventure gamers should check out. In most recent times, Telltale Games’ “The Walking Dead” received critical acclaim for its focus on story rather than gameplay, while keeping players enthralled with the world and characters that populated it. Of course, for those fearless few, “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” is a game that will probably haunt your nightmares for the months leading up to its sequel, “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.” But hey, adventure is adventure.

The games in this genre always leave a lasting effect on you, even months down the road. They are designed to immerse players in worlds that are enthralling, thrilling, fantastic, awe-inspiring, funny, genuine and even sometimes scary. In the end, that’s what makes them amazing.

 

Indie

Sergio Lopez, Aztec Gaming

During the last several years, there has been a surge in indie games unlike anything the game industry has ever seen. Games with such creativity have erupted and maintained power that only a big-budget triple-A game such as “Call of Duty” could manage. Although there are many benefits to a larger budget and a bigger team, the intimacy and soul put into independent games shine bright within every line of code.

While many games are memorable for their puzzles or action, indie games become more personal, allowing players to develop a deep, emotional connection. One such game that gained praise for this is Thatgamecompany’s “Journey.” While it does have puzzles to solve and enemies to evade, this game is special because of the way it allows players to connect to others. Thatgamecompany created a game that is not just about its puzzles or set pieces, but one that emphasizes human connections and what it means to be alone. By meeting mysterious players with no way to communicate to them, a strange bond forms between the players that has yet to be matched on any triple-A title. That, along with an amazing musical score and incredible backdrops, shoots “Journey” beyond just being a two-hour game to become an experience that remains well after its emotional conclusion.

As independent games continue to thrive, the creativity of these games grows. Alexander Bruce’s “Antichamber” is a mind-bending game that tests what players refer to as puzzles throughout games. Much like a painting by M. C. Escher, “Antichamber” twists and bends minds unlike any other game.

Tomorrow Corporation’s “Little Inferno” starts off as if you were just ripped off by buying a burning simulator game, but those who continue playing realize this little game is much more than it initially shows. “Little Inferno” becomes a dark, creepy tale of consumerism that twists and turns. Players can’t help but fall further down the rabbit hole with the game’s main characters.

These are only a few of the many compelling indie games released within the last few years. “Thomas Was Alone,” “To the Moon,” “Hotline Miami,” “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” and “Braid” add to the growing list of outstanding indie games. With the arrival of the Ouya and Playstation 4, it will only become easier for independent developers to create unique experiences that are often overlooked and share them with the world. Get ready, because indie games are just getting started.

 

Real-Time Strategy

Cody Franklin, Head of Aztec Gaming

Real-time strategy games are some of the oldest games around. The allure of controlling grand armies as they clash against anything from aliens to Atlanteans has long attracted gamers.

You can’t mention RTS games without someone bringing up classics such as “Command and Conquer,” “Warcraft” and “StarCraft.” History fans can’t forget gems such as “Rise of Nations” and “Age of Empires.” When it comes to colossal scale, nothing matches “Total Annihilation” and “Supreme Commander.”

Today’s world is almost entirely dominated by Blizzard Entertainment’s “StarCraft 2.” In the first of three parts, “Wings of Liberty,” the Terran Republic shined, but the Zerg are returning with a vengeance in the next portion, “Heart of the Swarm,” coming out in March.

If you want to delve into the RTS world, “StarCraft 2” is the go-to game. If you’re feeling a bit more tactical, try out one of the games from the “Dawn of War II” series and shoot some Space Marines. If World War II is your thing, you can’t lose picking up “Company of Heroes.”

 

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena

Myhkail Mendoza, Aztec Gaming

Multiplayer online battle arena is a genre that recently exploded in popularity in the PC gaming world. Its roots trace back to a custom map during the early release of the triple-A RTS hit “StarCraft.” A few of the major MOBA games played today are “League of Legends,” “Defense of the Ancients,” “Heroes of Newerth” and “Smite.” Currently, “League of Legends” has taken the award for the most played game around the world. “League of Legends” creator Riot Games reported 32 million active players around the globe logging in a total of 1 billion hours of play time each month. The popularity of MOBA games contributed to the eSports associations and governing bodies and continues to increase the popularity and viewership of competitive gaming tournaments.

In MOBA games, there are two opposing teams with a minimum of three players to a team (player number is usually determined by the size of the map).  Players choose a hero or champion-type character that level up by killing AI-controlled minions or enemy players. Players also earn gold to buy items by killing minions, players, and buildings. Each character has a specialized set of skills, for a specific role such as a melee fighter, support character, long-range damage dealer or tank. The goal of the game is to breach the enemy team’s base and destroy its main building to claim victory. This requires players to coordinate their actions in order to outplay their opponents. Before reaching that main base, a number of guard towers with the capability of dealing damage need to be taken down. Due to the competitive nature of MOBAs, new players will experience “toxic behavior” from experienced players (whether they are skilled at the game or not).  If you decide to try out a MOBA game, be strong like the champions, have nerves of steel, practice the basics of the game and eventually, you will be looked upon as a valuable teammate and honorable opponent.