Now Playing

Despite some proclamations that 2018 is already matching 2017 as a great year for video game releases, I’ve found myself not interested in most of the big releases.

I wasn’t interested in Dragon Ball Fighter Z or Monster Hunter World. Although I’m actually hungering for a game with a lot of character customization, Monster Hunter World’s gameplay loop doesn’t appeal to me very much.

On the near horizon, Far Cry 5 and God of War are series that I’ve never paid much attention to either. Unless these games end up getting incredibly rave reviews, I may skip out on them this time around as well.

I did dive into the Shadow of the Colossus remake, which has been great to finally experience what everyone’s always talked about.

But playing a 10+ yr game always has its downfalls. Bluepoint has done an incredible job remaking this game with cutting edge graphics. The scenery looks stunning and I’ve paused to just look around at the landscape. But the world definitely feels a bit hollow. And the gameplay loop a bit shallow.

That said, I can fully appreciate how groundbreaking this game was when it was first released. It’s more of a history lesson than a true game for me to play. And you can see how it’s influenced games such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Plus, even after all this time, there are moments that feel unique to this game. The scale of the “enemies” is still rarely seen in other games today. And the feeling of clinging to a flying Colossus was a vivid and electrifying moment that I can’t recall any parallel to.

The other game I’ve been spending my time with lately is Friday the 13th.

On the surface, nothing about this game would appeal to me. Online multiplayer, horror theme, subpar graphics, based off an IP I’ve never paid any attention to.

Yet there is something that is, frankly, really fun about this game.

Firstly, the developers wisely leaned into the campy b-movie style of the film series. In that way, everything about this game works in its favor. The cheesy setup, the dated and somewhat exploitative character designs. It all feels right.

Plus the actual tension and terror this game creates is surprising and hard to convey through reviews or watching video clips. I’ve had so many moments when Jason pops up nearby and I get a flash of panic that ripples through my body. Frantically trying to escape from him is harrowing and successful survival is a euphoric moment.

The main frustration for the game is the matchmaking. The game has been out a while now and thus less people are still playing it. Plus there aren’t dedicated servers so you’re at the mercy of the host who can quit or lose connection at any moment during the match, ruining your experience. (Also there are a disturbingly high percentage of little kids playing this. What the hell, parents??)

Aside from these two, I’m really itching for a good story-driven game, maybe from the indie side. As well as hoping we’ll get release dates for Spider-man and Detroit: Becoming Human.


Now Playing

2018 has certainly started off slower than last year. I’m not complaining though since it allows me to go back to a few games I’d been itching to try or finish up.

Mainly, I did a NewGame+ for Persona 5, which I thought would go a lot faster but ended up being another 100 hrs of my life. I have no regrets though since my goal was to max out all the confidants and through that, got a much more enriched experience and deeper connection with everyone I encountered in the game.

I didn’t expect to Platinum the game but I got so many of the trophies that I decided to go for the last few. And those were doozies. The compendium and the twins trophies did make the game feel like a bit like work since I spent a lot of time in the Persona Fusion menus.

All this did nothing to diminish my feelings that this is a masterpiece of a game. Previously, I bristled against the constraints of the calendar system, but this time I came to appreciate its game mechanic. It helped that my NG+ allowed me to ignore certain aspects like Stat Building but I realized how the calendar made every choice much more purposeful and deliberate.

Next up, I played Bethesda (and Arkane’s) Prey. If previous posts are any hint, I absolutely adore Arkane’s Dishonored series and you can feel the core in Prey as well. However this game didn’t grab me nearly as much as Dishonored.

Perhaps it’s due to the focus moving from stealth to action, or that the level design was less multi-faceted. I think it also had to due with the relatively barren environment. I believe this was a conscious choice due to the enemy types in the game and also a bit of a homage to the original Alien movie. But it really just made the game a bit lifeless through much of the journey.

Prey¬†opens with an impressive mind-bender but the rest of the game fails to deliver on what it teases. Without trying to spoil much, the end does include a twist, but it’s not one that you don’t already see coming a mile away and I don’t feel that the way they showcased it had enough of a punch. The end just kind of happens.

Finally, I lucked into a SNES Classic and have been hopping onto it periodically. However, I’ve come to realize that I’m currently not as interested in going back to old games right now. I really just want to play a new game and have a new experience. Also, I want to really put my new 4K TV through its paces.

On the horizon is the Shadow of the Colossus remake which I never played so will see what the fuss is about. God of War is probably after that but I’m on the fence as far as my interest there. I’m still waiting on Spider-man and Detroit. I have doubts we’ll see Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Last of Us Part II this year.

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.

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?