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.

Doki Doki Literature Club Review

In what’s really a departure for me, I fired up my Mac and played a Steam game.

Highly recommended by a few IGN staff and with enough intriguing non-spoiler hints, I chose to dive in to Doki Doki Literature Club. Plus the game was free.

The game comes off initially as a cloying continuation of a strange genre of video games: the dating sim.

However, after the first two hours, it becomes evident that the game is setting up the player for a huge twist.

I don’t actually want to say more to ruin anyone’s experience with this game. I’d just say dive in without learning anything more than the bare minimum and prepare to power through the sometimes awkward feelings of playing a japanese dating sim.

In hindsight, this game is extremely well written and thoughtfully mapped out. It leans hard on the tropes of the genre but only to completely blow them up by the end. I came to appreciate the light-hearted tone and dialogue at the end because of what comes after.

The game also has a plethora of secrets and easter eggs and it’s been fascinating to dive into those online.

Again, I highly recommend checking this game out. And don’t read anything about it until you do.

Let’s Play: Star Wars Battlefront II

Here’s a game from a small studio on some unknown licensed property that no one’s talking about.

EA took some notes from the last Battlefront game and gave us a single-player campaign, which is what the Let’s Play covers.

Overall I enjoyed it. There were certainly surprises in gameplay and characters that were fun. However at around 5 hours, the story felt a bit rushed and undercooked. As a result, some character turns felt a bit more sudden and unearned. There were some fun Easter eggs but looking back, I think they only weakened the narrative and seemed like corporate mandates. Not enough time was spent on our new protagonist, Iden Versio.

That’s a shame because she seems interesting and shows lots of future potential. It helps that’s she’s given life by actress Janina Gavankar. It’s been fun seeing her do PR for the game because she’s clearly a big fan of Star Wars and has been a strong advocate for making games more legitimate in the eyes of the non-gaming public.

The multiplayer areas of this game is where the firestorm of controversy and outrage have centered. Honestly, I think the reaction is overblown but not wholly unwarranted.

EA has a checkered history and obviously views the games as a service model as a potent money maker. And we shouldn’t forget that this is entertainment for us, but a business to them. The cost of making a video game today is much higher than in the past. I have no quarrel with them trying to find ways to monetize. I think we’ve now seen a few examples of how to do it right and EA did them wrong.

There are other sources that go more in depth on the issue but my take is that pay to win is wrong. Microtransactions that give players advantages over others is the problem. Overwatch is a great model because there’s plenty to spend money on but nothing ruins the balance of the gameplay. Naughty Dog floods its multiplayer modes with skins, emotes and finishing moves, but no unfair advantages can be bought.

Even non-cosmetic DLC is okay for me in the form of additional story content. I bought every Mass Effect trilogy DLC and had no regrets. And although Mass Effect 3 had a multiplayer with loot boxes for better weapons, the game mode was never PvP so no one went up in arms. They also smartly made any MP DLC free

I’ve already written more than I care to so I’ll reiterate that the story campaign made me glad I bought this game, despite the issues with multiplayer. The campaign should’ve been longer to flesh out beats and maybe less fan-service elements would’ve strengthened the core plot.

Also, EA recently shuttered the studio that was working on an Uncharted-like Star Wars game. But there were certainly moments in this game that felt like a Nathan Drake adventure. Bombastic set pieces and high paced death defying antics left me breathless, and made me want more.

Let’s Play: Horizon Zero Dawn, The Frozen Wilds

Just in time for the end of the year and “Game of the Year” discussions, Guerrilla shrewdly released a meaty DLC for Horizon Zero Dawn, which has maintained a spot near the top of everyone’s list despite the tough competition.

Clocking in around 8-9 hours of gameplay, it’s more than a typical add-on. Clearly a lot of work went into this expansion.

While it doesn’t offer anything newly revolutionary from the base game, what it does is remind everyone why Horizon Zero Dawn was so great. Every aspect of the game is solid and polished.

A few new tweaks were added, including control towers which shook up how I approached a pack of metal machines. The devs also brought in a few new beasts, which were dialed up in toughness and aggressiveness.

Almost immediately into the DLC, I stumbled onto one and experienced a heart-pounding battle that I wasn’t quite prepared for.

The story quests have a nice balance of current day tribe politics and some Old World lore to sift through, but I wish there was slightly more personality or differentiation from this DLC tribe and what we’ve encountered throughout the original game. The Ban-Uk look slightly different and live in the harsh snow climate, but they act like every other tribe: intolerant and dismissive. That is until you (as Aloy) solve every one of their issues and quarrels to gain their overall respect.

I just wish there was a bit more variety in this new world order.

Overall, I’m simply glad to be back in this world. I greatly enjoyed the main game and still hold it in my top three of the year.

As for the videos, I blasted through them pretty quickly to get through the game. But I also played shorter episodes. Let me know if you have any thoughts on the length!

New Game Announcements at E3 2017

This year’s E3 didn’t fail to excite with all the new announcements from the big three platforms. I have to say I was underwhelmed by the Xbox One X (dumbest name ever) but a lot of games got me really jazzed for the next year. Most were expected, but some nice surprises too…

Metroid Prime 4
The biggest “holy crap” moment of E3 for me and probably many others. The Switch really needs more marquee games and this really fits the bill. Now if we ever see it anytime soon…

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Something I was already 100% going to get. I liked the tension between Chloe and Nadine. They’re working together but there looks like a lot of mistrust that will make for an interesting dynamic.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
A really pleasant announcement. It wont be a full-sized game but looks to be a lot meatier than a typical DLC. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the last thing we get in the Dishonored franchise, which is a shame. (Go get these games, seriously.)

Got an extended trailer and the gameplay looks a lot like the Batman Arkham games, which I don’t necessarily view as a bad thing. I just hope they have a few new twists on the formula to not be totally derivative. And hopefully not too many quicktime events. Still looks really fun.

Looks like Bioware is pulling a Destiny (with a bit of Titanfall). Not 100% sold on this yet but I’m curious. Still sad about no Mass Effect news.

Star Wars Battlefront 2
This game looks gorgeous and epic. But I feel like I bought the first game not that long ago and am a bit annoyed that I sunk so much cash into it only to have to move on to the sequel so soon. I may hold out on it if I can.

Detroit: Become Human
Another beautiful looking game. I always love the Choose Your Own Adventure style games so I’m pretty much hooked. The trailer had a very anti-human angle which is really curious since we’re all, y’know, humans. Or ARE we??

God of War and Shadow of the Colossus
Never played these games, but the trailers are starting to win me over.

Days Gone
Still not sure what to make of this game. Looks like there are some impressive mechanics in it, but I’m a bit tired of zombies, and it feels enough like Last of Us to make me a bit put off.

I absolutely LOVE the graphics in this game and I’m a bit bummed that it’s an Xbox exclusive (for now).

Life is Strange: Before the Storm
The more I hear, the more worried I get. The voice actress for Chloe isn’t even performing the dialog???

Mario Odyssey
I was initially put-off by the urban setting, but as usual, Mario games display an echelon of inventiveness that is hard to not get excited over. Plus we may not see Metroid for a while so this could be a good gap between that and Zelda.

I’m Happy Yet Hesitant About the Life is Strange Prequel

As you’d expect from E3, a ton of exciting news and announcements are coming out of the event. Yet one of the more minor reveals probably has me the most excited… a prequel to Life is Strange was announced with a teaser trailer!

A surprisingly gripping indie game, Life is Strange puts you in the shoes of Max, a high school teenager who suddenly discovers she has time-rewinding powers. As fantastical as that aspect is, the game mainly stays grounded in the world of teenagers, focusing on the awkwardness and intense emotional swings of that stage in life.

As much as I want to dive back in to that world and absorb every iota of experience there, I’m hesitant about the idea of a prequel focusing on Chloe for a few reasons.

First, I generally think prequels are a bad idea (not just because of Star Wars). When a story or characters becomes successful and popular, the obvious urge is to go back and see more. Exploring origins may give more context, but trying to tell a story in that way is problematic. Mostly because you already know where the end of that origin story winds up. It takes a lot of the mystery and drama out of it.

For Life is Strange, we already find out a lot about Chloe and what she was doing in this era through the course of the first game. She gets expelled from school, befriends Rachel Amber and has run ins with Frank. I didn’t ever feel compelled to know more than that. What was always more important was Max and Chloe’s relationship to each other.

It leads me to my second issue in that Chloe has a great redemptive arc in the original game. She starts off at a low point, aimless in life and even attempting to blackmail Nathan.

A prequel focused on Chloe essentially means she has to experience another arc to propel a plot. I doubt the devs would go the dark route and have her spiral downward, but you’d need her to do that to make the link back to the original story make sense and retain its impact.

Another issue is that the trailer reveals Rachel Amber as an actual character. I’m sure plenty of people are happy about this, and yeah, I’m curious about it too. But the fact that she never actually appears in the original game outside of photos and referenced in conversation is such a powerful way to tell a story.

It’s a lot like the great Wes Anderson movie, Rushmore, with Edward Applebee who also never actually appeared in the film but loomed large over every other character like a ghost.

I think it’s such strong, evocative and mature storytelling. I just fear that going back and making her an actual presence undercuts the effectiveness of that original story.

Finally, it was revealed that Dontnod isn’t developing this game. I don’t want to outright dismiss the new developer but it’s a tad disappointing and just gives me less confidence overall.

But I guess all that we can do is wait and see! Hopefully we get a great game that enriches the world rather than detracting from the original story. Plus, Dontnod is working on an actual sequel, which we still know nothing about.