Now Playing

I’m deep into Persona 5 right now and there’s no end in sight. People have been touting 100+ hrs and I’m only around the 35 hr mark.

So far it’s great, but I definitely think the anticipation and high praise made me expect a lot. The game’s a little more confining than I expected, forcing me to do or not do things at certain times. Which can be frustrating because there’s a ton to do in the game and I want to do it all.

I’m also wondering if the game will change things up later on. Even though I’m not halfway, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the mechanics and the gameplay loop. It hasn’t felt tiresome yet, but I’m afraid that I’ll get worn out by the same process throughout the whole game.

Other than that, I’ll still jump into Mass Effect Andromeda multiplayer from time to time. It doesn’t have its hooks in me quite the same way that Mass Effect 3 multiplayer did, which I can’t figure out why since it’s basically the same format.

My hunch is that there are just too many other games I want to get to. This has been an incredible year for games and we’re only now reaching the halfway mark.

The second half of the year doesn’t seem has loaded with games I’m anticipating. That’s even before Red Dead Redemption 2 got delayed until next year, which surprised absolutely no one.

I still have yet to play Horizon Zero Dawn and Legend of Zelda. I’m hoping that by the time I am ready to get to them, they’ll be on sale or at least in stock (looking longingly at the Switch).

For now, I’ll keep an eye out for more indie gems like Little Nightmares and What Remains of Edith Finch. And I’m still itching to do a second run-through of Dishonored 2.

I assumed I’d do another play of Andromeda simply because it’s Mass Effect, but the further away I get from the game, the less interested I am in revisiting it.

But good news is that a sequel to Life is Strange was announced! I have no idea what that game might look like, but I’m still excited.

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Let’s Play: Persona 5 (intro)

I’m finally diving into the eagerly anticipated Persona 5!

Due to Atlus’ restrictions, I won’t be doing a full Let’s Play series. Which is a shame because, lord, is this game beautiful and awesome.

Rarely have I ever seen a game this slick and stylish. Every single menu or graphic has been infused with eye-candy. Not to mention the top-notch animation cut-scenes that look better than most anime.

I’ve now played about 12 hours and I still feel a bit railroaded, so hopefully things change as I move further into the story.

There’s a lot to do and see, and lots of people to talk to, but the calendar system really makes you think hard about your choice of action.

As a somewhat OCD completionist who wants to see and do everything, I find it a little bit constrictive and somewhat stressful. But I hear this is a hallmark element of the Persona series so it feels a bit wrong to criticize it.

Also, unless the game opens up new areas as I progress, I’m a bit surprised at the limited scope of locations in the game. For some reason, I had expected to be able to explore at least a good chunk of Tokyo but so far have been confined to three areas. Now, those three areas are pretty dense with activities, but still… I’m anticipating another 50 hours in this game.

Even those complaints are pretty minor in my book, as I’ve been enjoying my time already.

Also to note, since Atlus barred the PS4 broadcast/recording features, I had to resort to external capture methods for the first time. So that’s why the audio sounds a bit off. If I had planned to record the whole game, I would’ve tried to solve it, but don’t really feel like it’s worth it at this point. Apologies!

Now Playing: VR

I’ve been playing through the story missions for Mafia III for the past couple of weeks. It’s a longer game than I expected, and I think I’ve settled on my opinions for the game. But I think I may hold off until I finish it and maybe I’ll write up a review post.

I’ve been posting Let’s Play episodes as I go, which can be found here.

BUT my friend bought Playstation VR on day one so I was lucky enough to finally give Virtual Reality a try.

I’d been hearing a ton of stuff about it on the gaming news sites but VR is a tough thing to get an impression of without actually trying it yourself.

Since it’s such a new medium, I had settled into the thinking that I’ll let this generation play out and then seriously consider version 2 if the whole VR thing takes off.

My immediate impression once getting set up and diving into a game was that this is a wholly different gaming experience. Sure the graphics aren’t as sharp and the actual mechanics can get down right clunky. Plus there’s the stigma that comes with putting on the headset and completely blocking out anyone in the room with you.

But the experience is as immersive and jaw-dropping as you’d hope it would be. Even simple things like riding down an elevator had my body and brain convinced. I felt like I was actually descending in a moving environment. And I would instinctively dodge if a character or object came too close to my face.

Sony has done an admirable job building up a collection of VR games to prove that the system works and is worthwhile. Even though most of these come across more like tech demos and game snippets, they cover a wide enough gamut to give you a sense of what’s possible with VR.

The stand out games for me included Job Simulator, a deceptively fun and hilarious game that just puts you in various work environments. Its wry sense of humor reminded me of Portal and the simple graphics worked in its benefit.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is another simple premise with simple graphics that manages to use VR in a unique way. It was one of the only instances where anyone not using the VR headset couldn’t watch what the person was viewing via the TV. Instead, each person had to explain what they were seeing and instruct the other to collaborate on solving the puzzles.

But far and away the most impressive VR experience came from Batman: Arkham VR. It only ends up being a fraction of the length of the standard Arkham games but it was apparent that this project wasn’t phoned in by Sony or Rocksteady.

Setting you in environments such as high on the rooftops or in alleys underneath looming bridges really proved how expansive the sense of depth and distance can be achieved in VR. Looking over the railing down below caused queasy feelings in my stomach and the Batwing shining a beacon down onto me actually blinded me for a moment.

Finally, walking around in the dilapidated, dark hallways of Arkham Asylum gave me a sense of dread and fear that I didn’t really feel when running around with a controller and a TV screen. I was actually afraid to turn a corner or get too close to a window to peek in.

While I’m too much of a wuss to think I’d ever try out a full on horror game in VR, it proved to me that a whole other level of immersion is waiting to be achieved in video games. Just imagine standing on the top of a mountain with a 360 degree horizon to soak in, or diving into cover on a battlefield with bullets whizzing by your head.

It’s going to be possible. Soon.

I don’t think any developer has cracked the formula for the best way to traverse in VR. But like Super Mario 64 did for 3-dimensional gaming, I have faith that someone will figure out the solution that will be the blueprint for VR games.

I can’t wait!

Now Playing

Like most people, I’ve drifted away from No Man’s Sky due to the mind numbing monotony. I think I will eventually want to discover what’s at the center of the universe (almost guaranteed to disappoint) but for now I’ve had my fill.

In the meantime, I’m waiting for Mafia 3 to come out and have been filling up the time by going back into The Division.

More than No Man’s Sky, this game is what I was most disappointed in. I had high hopes for a game that wanted to meticulously recreate New York City (turns out it’s only Manhattan, and only midtown at that).

Running around in the game again, the flaws are so much more distinct now. The setting is beautifully realized. You can wander into an abandoned apartment and see the environmental storytelling.

But the rest of world is just so dead and barren. There’s almost no one on the streets, and you can barely interact with the ones that are there. I know it’s post-apocalyptic, but it’s also freaking Manhattan. There should be at least a few clusters of dense populations that you can come across and talk to.

Also, the enemy types are just too generic and repetitive. It’s only ever human beings with guns and occasional flame-throwers. You deal with them at Level 3, and you’re still dealing with them at Level 24. There’s no variation except they absorb more bullets.

Even visually it’s all too similar. Running up to a person, I can never tell if it’s someone I’m supposed to help, ignore, or shoot. At least until they start shooting at me first.

I’m aiming to finish the game, but only because every other game I want to play has been delayed.

Thoughts on No Man’s Sky

I’ve had a chance to dive into No Man’s Sky for about 6-7 hours, enough to get an impression of what this game has to offer (I think).

I can definitely see why there’s such a wide spectrum of opinions on this game. It’s not for everybody. I can imagine those who like online shooters like Call of Duty hating this game.

The mechanics of the gameplay can get pretty tedious. At one point, you have to craft a succession of four different items in order to get the right type of fuel for your ship. You can spend almost all of your time staring at the ground around you for minerals and crafting items. To me, I feel like I’m not exploring or taking in the wonder of the environments because I keep bee-lining to the next pinged location on the horizon. But that may just be my gaming tendency.

Isolation is a key word for this game. This is true despite running into NPCs at a surprisingly regular pace. They never feel like real characters so you still feel alone. But it sort of runs contrary to the idea of truly exploring new, undiscovered worlds when you can encounter settlements and outposts constantly.

Most of the planets I’ve explored are desolate rocks but a couple have had lush vegetation which livens up the experience. I’ve yet to come across a landscape teeming with animal life as shown in the trailer and it sounds like that was an exaggeration, yet I’m still hoping it happens. I also wish, but don’t really expect, to see a wide variety of planet types. Will there be a world covered in water? Will there actually be a planet with big cities? The last seems very doubtful but the not fully knowing is part of what makes this game wondrous.

Much of the hype for this game was around how the game is largely built on dynamic algorithms. It’s been an interesting debate on whether a game is better by having truly random, unique environments or if a meticulously crafted experience (such as Uncharted 4) makes for a better video game.

I think my feelings are that the medium can’t be the message. The emphasis on the technology always seems misguided. A game can be a tech or graphic marvel but if I don’t care about the characters or story then I won’t want to play it.

What’s also getting lost on all the reviews and opinions that this is still essentially an indie game. Sure it’s got the backing of Sony but this isn’t a AAA product. People expecting the kitchen sink or a flawless game are piling too much hope onto this game.

My hesitation for jumping onto No Man’s Sky (and the hype bandwagon) was wondering if the game’s expansive scope would in actuality be a pretty desolate and boring playthrough. For now, I don’t think I’ve played enough to have that come to fruition, but I can see the possibility. 19 quintillions planets! How are you ever going to run across anyone else in that universe? I would’ve preferred a Journey approach where the encounters are a bit random and unplanned but at least possible.

For now, the exploration and the crafting are intriguing enough to keep me interested. The question is for how long?

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Now Playing

I know everyone’s on the No Man’s Sky kick, and my friend is really talking it up. But I really had no clue what the game was actually going to be so was waiting until I get a better consensus from everyone.

Meanwhile, I’ve been knocking out a bunch of indie games and still banging around on Star Wars: Battlefront.

Oxenfree

The first indie game on the list was Oxenfree. I’d heard a lot of intriguing things about it, like Life is Strange (and I ended up loving that one), so decided to make the leap.

It was an interesting game, but definitely lacked much of any actual gameplay. A lot of it is walking your character around as she talks to other characters and choosing dialogue options. I know that annoys some people but I usually have no problem with it as long as I’m interested in the characters and story.

There were definitely moments that had me on the edge of my seat. And some actual creep out instances that I wasn’t expecting.

It ended up being pretty short and not quite as mind-bending as it was starting to hint at, but I’m still glad I played it.

And I recorded the live stream which you can watch here.


 

Abzu

Next up was Abzu, which was a pretty new release by the people who made the masterpiece, Journey.

That was very evident as the art style, music, and general feel didn’t veer too far from the former at all. Not that that’s a bad thing. Journey was one of the more memorable, unique gaming experiences I’ve ever had.

The only knock against Abzu is probably that it’s doing a lot of what Journey already did so there’s a diminishing return on the impact.

Still, I kept feeling moments of quiet awe and expansive serenity. Several times during my playthrough, I thought to myself that this is a game I’d want to sit my mom down next to me and watch as I play. I could imagine her “oohing” and “ahhing” at the underwater scenery.


 

Firewatch

I was hesitant to check this one out because I’d heard conflicting reports. Some people gushed about this game while others were very dismissive.

I think my verdict is somewhere in between, edging slightly on the higher side.

To be fair, I think playing the three games in quick succession hampered my experience of Firewatch. If I’d just come off something like Uncharted 4, then maybe this would’ve felt more refreshing.

As it is, I still liked this game. The voice acting is great, considering they have to bring to life two characters that you never even really get to see in person. The art style is very solid. It’s tough to compete against AAA games the likes of Naughty Dog’s but I found this game’s depiction of wilderness just as immersive.

I think, like Oxenfree, there is a point in the story where it feels like it could open up into a larger conspiracy or crazier adventure, but it ultimately settles on a smaller scope.

I was very tempted to make this a Live Stream series too but coming so close off the coattails of my Oxenfree playthrough just didn’t seem right. Perhaps if it had more of a gaming element but it was basically another walking simulator with dialog choices.


 

That’s my current gaming lineup. Let me know if you had any thoughts on these games. And if you think there are any others out there that you think I should check out!