Games of the Year: 2015

Post by Patrick

1 – Splatoon
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There are two unique aspects to Splatoon. The first is that a big studio was able to successfully release an entirely new game that played around with an already established genre and the second unique aspect about Splatoon is the fact that Nintendo was able to successfully do a good job with an online shooter. There are a lot of great things about Splatoon. The art direction, the music, the characters and all the different kinds of weapons and clothes you’re able to unlock and purchase. Add to that Nintendo consistently supporting the game, releasing free content after free content and there you have my favorite game of the year.

2 – Super Mario Maker
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When Nintendo first announced Super Mario Maker I didn’t think much of it. It seemed like software they were going to release just to make up for the lack of games being released on the Wii U. I’m not generally a fan of user generated content or games made to take advantage of user created content. I never really enjoyed LittleBigPlanet which this seemed similar too. Boy was I wrong. Super Mario Maker is incredible, innovative and intuitive. Creating levels is easy and there are a lot of great levels to play. The amount of things you can do with the tools Nintendo give you is incredible. I enjoy creating more than I enjoy playing other peoples levels, but what I love the most is being able to download a person’s level and seeing how they created something and being able to take that and find a way to implement it into my levels. It just adds a whole new level of depth to the game.

3 – Bloodborne
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Bloodborne is the most atmospheric game to have come out in 2015. It’s dark, gothic and scary. The game does a good job at making you feel dread. The combat is hands down the best of 2015. It’s fast, brutal and intense. Like the Souls games, the story in Bloodborne is vague, but still clearer than whatever was happening in those other games. The lack of shields in the game is clever and forces you to fight a certain way. The game forces you to adapt, and if you can’t, then you can’t really succeed in Bloodborne.

4 – Rocket League

Rocket League is the biggest surprise hit of the year. It’s addictive, easy to get into and a ton of fun. It also helps that the developers have been supporting it since launch with a bunch of downloadable content and seasonal changes, like the ice hockey mode during Christmas.

5 – Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
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Besides Splatoon and Rocket League, I don’t think I’ve had as much fun playing online with friends than when I was really into Monster Hunter earlier this year. I understand that this game isn’t for everyone but if you’re able to grasp the mechanics, you’re hooked. I love how every Monster Hunter player has a story of great battles, sad losses, favorite and least favorite monsters. Every hunter specializes in one weapon or another, while having a secondary weapon that they use “for fun”. One of the biggest positives of Monster Hunter is the great community that welcomes new players, helps them and isn’t as toxic as other online communities.

6 – Life is Strange
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Another surprise hit of this year has to be Life is Strange. A game that was inspired by old school point and click games and that adds an interesting time travel mechanic. The story and characters are captivating, the music is great and the choices you make in the game feel like they actually matter. The dialogue (especially early in the game) is corny at times, but if you see past that then you’ll see a game that is filled with emotion and care. Life is Strange is just on another level when you compare it to games in similar genre’s.

7 – Xenoblade Chronicles X
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The previous Xenoblade game was one of the best RPG’s to have come out in the past 10-12 years, if not the best. The genre has been in decline for quite some time so it was nice to see such a high-quality RPG come out in the west. Xenoblade Chronicle X might not have the same impact or quality as its predecessor but it’s still a great game. The world is massive, varied and beautiful. It’s one of the best open-world environments I’ve come across. The ecosystem feels real and there’s a sense of wonder and excitement that comes with exploring the world. It also helps that you get to ride in cool, giant mechs and fight giant monsters. The games main story takes some time to pick up and even though its interesting at times, it’s also somewhat generic and cliché. The game does have some great twists and turns though.

8 – Assassins Creed Syndicate
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I feel bad for Assassins Creed Syndicate, mainly because everyone still remembers the crappy game Ubisoft released last year. Thankfully they seem to have learnt some lessons from that and released this excellent game. The combat and the movement has been improved, exploring London is a blast and the two main characters are interesting. I also enjoyed the various side-quests, in particular, the Dreadful Crimes, which is basically solving murder mysteries. Also Eyvie Frye is a badass.

9 – Witcher 3
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Witcher 3 has won the most Game of the Year awards this year and for good reason. The game was a lot of fun, I enjoyed some of the side-quests and the characters you interacted with. The main storyline was interesting as well. The biggest issue I had with the game is that I just didn’t enjoy Geralt. Other issues I had was that the combat wasn’t all that great, the world was uninteresting to explore and there wasn’t a variety in environments and lastly Geralt’s skill trees didn’t really matter. I loved the way Witcher 3 portrayed war.

10 – Fallout 4
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If I was being biased, I’d put Fallout 4 in the top 5, but I have to be honest with myself and admit that Fallout 4 has some annoying flaws, the biggest being that the quests in Fallout 4 tend to be one dimensional. But I love exploring the worlds Bethesda create and Boston in Fallout 4 is no different. The art direction in Fallout 4 is fantastic and the sound design is brilliant. Bethesda also fixed one of the main issues in their previous games: Combat. The shooting mechanics in Fallout 4 feel great and a huge step forward from past Bethesda games.


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Destiny: The Taken King (or the game Destiny should have been)

Post by Patrick

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A few months ago I reviewed Destiny and didn’t think much of it. I didn’t like it. It felt like it had potential but it was lacking a lot of content and felt like a glorified beta version of a game. When The Taken King was announced and I started reading more of what it had to offer I started feeling cautiously optimistic. Characters were supposed to be more fleshed out, Nolan North came in to take over from Peter Dinklage, they were balancing multiplayer, making the random loot drops more frequent, there would be more variety in missions and just more content in general.

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After spending some time with The Taken King I have to say that I’m impressed by the changes Bungie have implemented. I wish this was the game they released originally. There’s more story, heart and character within the first 20 or so minutes of the Taken King than the entirety of Destiny 1.0. I still feel like there could be more content in the game, but this is a big step in the right direction. Bungie have done a good job implementing a lot of mysterious elements in the new area you unlock in the Taken King. The Dreadnaught. The Dreadnaught is interesting, but can get repetitive over time because it’s not really a huge area and it’s not really visually impressive like a planet can be. The thing is that even though the Dreadnaught isn’t as big as the other areas in the game it’s filled with secrets. You’ll find treasure chests scattered around the ship that require specific keys.

Bungie have done other things to keep people playing Destiny. One thing they’ve done is release quests that last 24 hours and that drop unique loot. To activate these quests there are a number of pre-requisites that are needed; usually these pre-requisites are unknown until these quests activate. Once the 24 hours are over, there’s no way to get these weapons until Bungie activates the quest again. This is a cool quest system to have but at the same time it kind of sucks for some of us because of the limited time these quests are active. It doesn’t tend to be a problem if you’re still in school but for someone who works (and is married) it takes a lot more effort to complete these quests so I end up missing a chunk of the game.

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The Crucible, the PvP mode of Destiny is still a lot of fun. With the Taken King there are more maps to fight in, so there’s a lot more variety which keeps things fresh for longer. The only problem with the Crucible is that if you don’t own a good shotgun or a good sniper rifle, chances are you’re not going to do well in it. That should be a pre-requisite for even joining the Crucible. Bungie are planning on re-balancing the weapons so the shotguns aren’t as powerful as they are now, but that update still hasn’t gone up. Another positive addition to the Crucible is a quest-line. Basically different challenges you have to complete while fighting in the Crucible that reward you with experience points and loot.

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The problem with Destiny right now is that the content is still limited. I’ve reached a point where I don’t need to play Destiny constantly. I play it a few times a week for an hour or two before switching over to something else. I’ve recently started playing it with friends and it’s a whole different experience than playing it with random people online. So that’s keeping things fresh for now. I originally would have never recommended Destiny to anyone, but with the addition of the Taken King that changes. The game still has issues, but it seems as though Bungie are listening to some of the criticisms the game has received and making the appropriate changes. Hopefully this lasts.

I highly recommend reading Kotaku’s investigation into what happened with the development of Destiny, as it sheds a lot of light on why Destiny launched with such lackluster content.

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review

Post by Patrick

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Trying to write about Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is tricky because it’s such a massive game. I love a lot of things about the game, but there are also a lot of things that bother me about it. It’s a love/hate relationship.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is an open world, stealth action game. It’s possible to play this game without having played the previous Metal Gear games, but you’ll obviously find some parts of the story confusing. Luckily there are a lot of Youtube videos that do a decent job explaining everything someone new to the franchise would need to know.

I’ll be avoiding specific story spoilers

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I’m going to get right to it. Every Metal Gear Solid game has had their share of special moments. The Metal Gear Solid franchise is known for its cast of memorable villains and variety of interesting boss fights. MGSV isn’t very memorable in that regard. In the 65+ hours I’ve played, it had less than a handful of those moments. Gone are the cutscenes and in are the cassette tapes. Cutscenes in previous games were lengthy (especially in MGS4) but I believe cassette tapes are a step back. The game development had budget issues, so maybe this was a way to cut back and save some money? Either way, listening to cassette tapes can be annoying. One of Kojima’s inspirations for MGSV were tv shows, so credits appear before every mission revealing the cast of characters that will show up in that particular mission. So there isn’t an element of surprise when the games villain suddenly appears because you already knew he was going to be there. So story twists and narratives are kept to a minimum. A big aspect of the game is Mother Base. You can visit your base in-between missions but the problem is Mother Base is pretty horribly integrated into the game. There is no reason to go back to Mother Base except for a bunch of dumb target-practice related side-quests and to activate some cutscenes. It’s a dull place. On top of that the menus for Mother Base (where you can micromanage your troops and equipment crafting) are confusing and convoluted. Lastly (and if you follow me on Twitter this comes as no surprise) I find Quiet (a deadly sniper with paranormal powers) to be a dumb character. It’s a shame because she had the potential to be memorable. Instead Kojima designed a character purely for the sex appeal, to be eye candy. This wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, but Kojima stressed that there would be a good reason to why she was barely dressed. The reason turned out to be stupid. It doesn’t help that while you’re in the helicopter in-between missions, Quiet is in the background “stretching” and sticking her butt in your face (not joking). While in cutscenes camera angles tend to focus on her chest, so it’s hard to ignore her.

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But even with all those negatives, MGSV has a lot of positives. Previous games in the franchise were strictly stealth games, MGSV has opened that formula up a bit and you can go into a base guns blazing. Depending on your objectives some missions will punish a non-stealthy approach, you won’t automatically fail the mission, but it will make it much harder. Kojima created a great sandbox experience that features a ton of flexibility. Everyone will have a different experience based on how they play the game and on how the game reacts to their actions. For example in one mission my objective was to find a specific target and catch him before he left the mission area on helicopter. As I was doing it the first time around, I barely caught up with him before he was able to escape. When I tried the mission again, I got to the base before him and saw the helicopter crash while trying to land in-between some trees. This caused the target to hide in a tent while his guards investigated the surrounding area for enemies. Making it easy for me to sneak in behind the general and capturing him. The fact that the game has AI that can make mistakes like that and adapt to a situation like that is amazing.

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Afghanistan and Africa feature huge maps and even though they’re quite empty, they’re pretty to look at. Technically this game is a marvel. It’s locked at 60fps and runs smoothly with no framerate issues. MGSV also features the best dog side-kick I’ve ever come across in a video game. Dogs in games tend to be dumb or just unnecessary. D-Dog on the other hand is incredible. The only downside is he makes the game kind of easy. If you bring him along on missions he’ll be able to pin-point every enemy and every hostage in your surrounding area, even if they’re in a building. Quiet can make the game really easy too. She can scout a base be able to pin-point enemies as well, the difference being that she can only pinpoint the ones that are visible to her. The advantage Quiet has over D-Dog is the ability to snipe enemies. The problem is enemies start to adapt to your play-style so you can’t milk one tactic over and over again. If you snipe or use Quiet to snipe, enemies will eventually start wearing helmets and body armor. They’ll have scouts patrol areas around bases and have their own snipers looking out for you. If you do most of your missions at night, guards will start wearing night-vision goggles. You use a lot of sleeping gas and smoke grenades? They’ll start wearing gas masks. The game features a crafting system that unlocks more equipment as you recruit better soldiers for Mother Base.

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There are aspects of this game that could have been polished more and (like the story) that feel unfinished. The world, the freedom you have as a player and the amount of content in the game are aspects of this game that are just amazing. Is it the best game in the series? In terms of story, not at all, but in terms of gameplay? Definitely.

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Playstation Plus Games for September

Post by Patrick

Grow Home

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Grow Home is an interesting game that looks like an HD version of a Playstation 1 game. You control a robot (named B.U.D.) exploring an open world and your goal is to grow and harvest something called a Star Plant, which looks like a giant beanstalk. To grow the Star Plant you have to find crystals that are scattered across the environment by climbing mountains and exploring your surroundings. The controls feel clunky and strange at first because you have to use L1 to grab with B.U.D.’s left hand and R1 to grab with his right hand, to climb you alternate pressing the triggers. The game features a great sense of scale and verticality that most big budget games fail to achieve. If you can get used to the controls, there’s a fun, relaxing game in Grow Home. It has little replay value, but it’s good while it lasts.

Super Time Force Ultra

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Super Time Force Ultra is a fun, fast paced 2D shooter action game. Think of it as a mix between Mega Man and Metal Slug, but more colorful and featuring some pretty wacky characters. The Super Time Force squad feature a bunch of different characters and each using a specific weapon. Each gun has its pros and cons. For instance the sniper rifle can shoot through walls, but has a slow rate of fire. The games gimmick is that every level has a time-limit and your squad is able to control time. So if you die in a level, you can rewind time and redo the part. The stage select screen looks a lot like Mega Mans, but instead of choosing what boss you’ll be fighting, you get to choose what time period to go too. The game also features a big cast of characters you can unlock, each with their own unique weapon. Super Time Force has become one of my favorite indie games, I think the ability to control time is an interesting gimmick and creates some tense moments, I really enjoy the silly sense of humor and I like the time travel aspect.

Telsagrad

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So I’ve saved the best for last. I’ve known about Teslagrad since it was announced and released for the Wii U last year but I never got around to purchasing it because there were just too many other games to play. Teslagrad is a puzzle/platformer with a mix of metroidvania elements. You control an orphan who escapes the kings guard into an abandoned castle. The game mechanics revolve around magnetism and electricity. One of the biggest issues I have with the game is the difficulty curve. You could solve a puzzle easily in one room and when you move into the next, the difficulty will spike up and get incredibly challenging. There isn’t that gradual buildup in difficulty, it goes from easy to hard and back to easy. Luckily, the checkpoint system is very forgiving in the game. Whenever you enter a new room, the game saves. So when you fail, the game doesn’t pull you back too far and there aren’t any loading screens so it takes a second to load back up. The narrative is there but it’s kept at a minimum, so the focus is exploring, finding secrets and solving puzzles. If I were to compare this game to anything I suppose it would be Ori and the Blind Forest. So if you enjoyed that game, you should definitely check out Teslagrad.


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Chrono Trigger – Retrospective Review

Post by Patrick

With the recent trend of remasters and remakes I thought I would highlight games that have aged well enough to still be played and feel as though it was just released yesterday. The first game that popped into my head was Chrono Trigger.

Chrono Trigger was first released on March 11, 1995 for the Super Nintendo. The game was developed by a superstar team that included Hironobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy), Yuji Horii (Dragon Quest) and artist Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball & Dragon Quest). Yasunori Mitsuda (Xenogears, Chrono Cross) composed the music for the most part, but Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) also contributed once Mitsuda fell ill.

Chrono Trigger is a role-playing game that featured some revolutionary and innovative features that have since become the norm in most modern role playing games. Enemy encounters weren’t random. Enemies are visible on the map and are avoidable. Unlike previous role-playing games that had a separate battle screen when you encountered enemies, fighting in Chrono Trigger is quick and happens directly on the map. And when you’re fighting, the game features “Active Time Battle” which means that enemies won’t wait for you to attack before attacking themselves which makes battles more hectic, intense and fun. Another welcome addition to the battle mechanics is the ability for characters to team up and combine moves together to perform some devastating attacks. My favorite aspect of Chrono Trigger is the ability to travel through time. This ability allows you to visit the same areas at different time periods, so as you complete side-quests in the past you can see how your actions affect the future. Chrono Trigger also has 15 different endings (including a bad one). Playing through the game multiple times was made easy through a new mode called New Game+. In this new mode, special abilities, your characters’ stats and equipment carried over from your previous game. This allowed you to beat the game at a much faster pace, encouraging players to try to view the other endings without making it feel like a chore.

The game still looks good after all these years partly due to the detailed pixel art. Good 2D visuals tend to age much better than good 3D visuals. Each time period in Chrono Trigger has their own unique color pallet and theme, so you’ll easily be able to distinguish each time period easily and areas don’t have that “same-y” feel. The characters all look great as well, which is rare for a JRPG, there always tends to be one or two badly designed characters. Each character has an interesting backstory and distinctive personalities. As you travel through time learning more about each character, you see how they developed into who they are. The villain, Lavos is another unique aspect of the game. Lavos is a terrifying, huge parasitic monster. Villains in JRPG’s usually tend to talk a lot about their motives, reasons for why they’re trying to achieve their end-goal. Lavos is special in the sense that as a creature, it doesn’t speak. There is no reasoning with Lavos. It has one purpose in life and that is to drain planets of their energy before moving onto the next one.

Since the Super Nintendo release of Chrono Trigger, the game has been re-released on the Playstation, Nintendo DS, the Wii’s Virtual Console, iOS and Android. The best version to play is the Nintendo DS version which includes two extra dungeons, the animated cut-scenes, an improved translation and a second screen, that shows the map of the area you’re in and allows you to place menu shortcuts. Amazon still sells the Nintendo DS version for a pretty decent price. But if you don’t own a Nintendo DS or a 3DS, the smartphone version of the game is based on the DS version of Chrono Trigger. You’ll just be stuck with touch controls and no second screen, but on the plus side it’s only $10 which is a steal for a game like Chrono Trigger. The Playstation version can be downloaded if you own a Vita, but I would avoid this version because it (for some odd reason) adds load-times, there’s also an issue with slowdown during battles and an inconsistent sound quality.

Chrono Trigger is one of those titles that every person who enjoys video games should play. The same way every movie fan should watch the Godfather at least once or anyone who loves music should listen to the Beatles. Chrono Trigger will stick with you, I first played the game almost 20 years ago and I never forgot it. There are scenes and moments in the game that will stick with you: the courtroom scene, the jail break, the first time you visit the future. Are early memorable examples. I carry Chrono Trigger around with with my 3DS at all times, sometimes I’ll start a new game but not to necessarily beat it, but just to just have a taste of the game and meet the characters all over again. This was the game ultimately changed my life by introducing me to role-playing games. The characters, the art, the music, all near perfection.

Score:


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Wolfenstein: The New Order – Review

Post by Patrick

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Back when Wolfenstein: The New Order was first released I felt that the market was oversaturated with shooters that all felt the same. I even wrote about it. I didn’t really give the game a chance until I found out the studio who worked on it. MachineGames was founded by key members of a studio called Starbreeze Studios. Starbreeze Studios were in charge of two great games, Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness. Both those games weren’t your typical shooters. There was greater emphasis on the narrative and a greater emphasis on immersion. The pacing was different than most first person shooters. This made the purchase of Wolfenstein: The New Order a no brainer for me.

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But when I started the game, I had mixed feelings. The games prologue felt like your typical FPS game. There was a lot of running around in trenches, shooting Nazis, running around a bunker shooting more Nazis. It’s long too, but it also gave the player a good idea of what to expect in terms of gameplay, there’s a little bit of choice when going through the different levels. You can either go in gun-blazing or go in stealthy. You’ll encounter commanders as you progress through each level and if you take down these commanders without raising the alarm, it unlocks the location of each secret on your map. If the alarms are raised, waves of enemies will come at you until you take down the commander. Besides that there are various challenges that you can complete to unlock a variety of perks that range from the amount of ammo you can carry to the speed of your reload. These challenges are optional, but encourage you to play a specific way which makes things more interesting.

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At the end of the prologue you meet the creepy Deathshead and that’s where the game takes a turn for the better. I love the concept of an alternate history. The one MachineGames created for The New Order is no exception. You can discover more and see how the world differs by reading news clippings that can be found throughout the game. These news clippings will answer some questions you might have, but not all, leaving you with enough curiosity to want to come back to this world in the future.

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There are a lot of great moments in this game, some remind me of MachineGames previous titles. Like a prison segment that’s quite reminiscent to one from Chronicles of Riddick. Without revealing anything, there’s a scene on a train that’s incredibly intense and just a joy to watch unfold. I enjoyed these moments of quiet, where shooting was not involved. Exploring your base, talking to the other characters, playing the old-school Wolfenstein level. It also helps that the game is designed incredibly well. I had fun looking around the environments. The design elements of objects like the Nazi propaganda posters, the little food packaging that you find lying around, the technology, all looked beautiful.

Everything sounds good too. Mick Gordon (who also worked on Killer Instinct and the upcoming Doom game) does a great job at creating music that fits the mood of the game perfectly. One of the most annoying things in a shooter is picking up a gun that looks powerful and having it sound like a much smaller gun. It throw the “feel” off completely. Thankfully all the guns in this game sound like they look. The big ass automatic shotgun sounds a lot more powerful than the normal double-barreled shotgun.

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MachineGames hit the jackpot with Wolfenstein: The New Order. My only other complaint besides the games opening is that I felt the final battle in the game could have been done better. MachineGames built a world thats immersive and they showed enough of it in the New Order to make me want to know more. It will be interesting to see which direction they take the story in. Hopefully they can maintain the standard of quality they set themselves in The New Order.

Score:


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Journey – Review

Post by Patrick

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One of the greatest features to come out of the last generation of consoles was the ability to download games straight to our consoles. This along with the fact that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo gave the means for indie developers to publish their games, we were able to experience games that probably wouldn’t exist otherwise. The popularity of these games didn’t go unnoticed. Sony signed Thatgamecompany right as the two founders were finishing up their master’s degrees. Thatgamecompany released Flow and Flower before giving us Journey. All three games felt like some sort of experiment. In Flow you played as a microorganism and in Flower you controlled the wind.

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Journey is special. I still remember the first time I played it and beat it. At the time I only owned a Wii and an Xbox 360, so I wasn’t really following any news or releases regarding the PS3. I had heard of Thatgamecompany but didn’t really pay much attention to them. One night I was over at my friends house while a friend of ours was visiting from abroad and they encouraged me to play through Journey. We sat there in the dark for two hours while I went through the game, pretty much in silence the entire time except for the occasional “wtf” moments. At the end I was speechless, the game took my breath away, I’ve rarely experienced that kind of moment and I’ve been playing games for over 22 years. This might all sound like hyperbole, but I mean every piece of praise I write. It might have been that one specific night I played the game, maybe the stars aligned just right, I’m not sure what it was but when I was done with Journey that night, it left a lasting impression on me.

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In Journey you control a robed figure. You start off on a dune and your goal is to reach the summit of a mountain that is illuminating light. Along the way you have to solve simple puzzles. Your character wears a scarf, its length determines how long you can fly through the environment. The game is pretty linear, but you can explore off the main path and discover secrets that explain the games mysterious lore. You can also find glowing symbols that will increase its length of your scarf. The longer the scarf the longer you can fly.

One of the games special features is its multiplayer. As you traverse the world you’ll come across other players. You’re randomly placed together so you can’t control who you play with. The only way to communicate with the other player is through a serious of sounds and pings. You can work together to recharge your scarves and to help each other fly further. You can see how experienced the other player is by counting the rows of patterns on their robes. Most of the time these experienced players will help guide you to secrets. Sometimes you might play and beat the entire game and not even experience the multiplayer.

To top it off, the music in the game is brilliant. The composer Austin Wintory was nominated for a Grammy in 2013 for Best Score Soundtrack for his work on Journey. The nomination was the first for a video game soundtrack. It’s hard to say what Journey would be without Wintory’s work because his music fit so perfectly with the game.

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Journey is one of those games that I keep going back too. I owned it on the PS3 and I just bought it again on the PS4. It’s a game that I’ll keep going back too as long as I own it. I understand why people would dislike it, but I personally think it’s a perfect game. If you were to play it I would strongly advise to play it in one sitting, with the lights off and the volume up. It’s not a long game, it’s not difficult and it’s pretty straight forward.

Score:


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Rocket League – Review

Post by Patrick

I’m just going to come out and say it: Rocket League is one of the greatest sports games. It sits besides other classics like NHL ’94 and NBA Jam. The premise of the game is simple, football with cars. It plays like an arcade game. The game follows the philosophy of easy to learn, hard to master. Making a game with that philosophy is no easy feat, in this case the developers made the differences between each car miniscule. The biggest differences between each car is just maneuverability while you’re speeding and jumping around. The looks of each car can be customized, the game features a lot of decals, wheels, antennas and hats so you’ll be seeing a lot of wacky looking vehicles online. Best of all you unlock new cosmetic items after every game, win or lose. You can play 1 v 1 up to 4 v 4 players and best of all the game supports up to 4 player split screen.

This is a game that should be on every Playstation 4, it’s free for Playstation Plus members so grab it before the offer runs out.

Score:


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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Post by Patrick

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I like role-playing games, I like feeling immersed and I like getting lost in worlds that other people create. I was excited to try Witcher 3 because it seemed to have the things I wanted in a fantasy game. I’ve been playing it for about three weeks now and I’m far from being done but I think I have a pretty good picture of what the game has to offer and I’m liking it, it’s not without its annoying flaws but it’s still a lot of fun.

Like I said earlier, I love exploring the worlds that game designers create. Especially worlds that have established lore with a certain amount of depth. I like worlds that I explore to have a bit of a variety in scenery. It gets tiring to see one type of landscape in a game that I’m going to be spending 50+ hours in. So far I’ve put in at least 30 or so hours into the Witcher and the majority of the landscape are forests and open plains. The area’s that aren’t those two things are few and far between. I understand the fact that the Witcher has an established lore based on Slavic mythology so the game designers can’t create strange fantasy worlds like Bethesda does with its Elder Scrolls series. What helps keep the environments less bland in the Witcher 3 is the fact that they’re vibrant and the landscape feels alive. You’ll find animals, people and monsters wandering around. The trees also sway in the wind that you can hear howling when the weather becomes stormy or blowing gently when the weather is calm.

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What’s sad is the amount of bugs I’ve encountered. They’re not game-breaking bugs that ruin your save or anything like that but little things that add up to become a major annoyance. In one instance I was talking with a herbalist who was telling me about a girl she was trying to help who was badly wounded in a monster attack. I (being the good Witcher that I am) offered to try and help her. As I turned to face the bed the girl was supposedly lying in, I found it empty. Puzzled, I looked around thinking there was a second bed, but found none. Suddenly the door to the herbalists home opens and the girl casually strolls to the bed, lies down and continues to writhe in pain. In another instance I was fighting monsters in the middle of nowhere and realized that I needed to sell some equipment to free up some space so I could continue hunting for treasure. I opened up my map and found the nearest town. When I got to the town I noticed something strange. I couldn’t speak to anyone. Not the merchant, not the innkeeper and not the blacksmith. It was in the evening so I assumed that it was past their work hours and so I meditated until morning. That didn’t help one bit. I just couldn’t speak to anyone. To make matters worse, when I went back to check on the blacksmith, he wasn’t at his forge where he was supposed to be. I rotated the camera around so I was facing away from it and I suddenly heard the familiar “clunk, clunk, clunk” sound of the blacksmith working, I rotated the camera around again and by some miracle he appeared at his forge. Having these two glitches overlap like that was frustrating and I had to quit my game and reload my save file which solved this particular problem. This next glitch that I came across made an impact on a small quest. While I was competing in the last of the horse races, my opponent magically disappeared into thin air when the countdown to race got to zero. This made the “race” easier, but it was incredibly frustrating to see this happen. But one of the most annoying bugs I’ve come across in the game is a bug that doesn’t allow you to start a certain side-quest. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like this particular side-quest is important, but the fact that I can’t start it just sucks. I’ve encountered plenty of other bugs playing Witcher 3, but they’re the typical bugs that you usually encounter in so many of these open world games: floating bodies, enemies stuck in walls, enemies falling through the floor and enemy loot disappearing, I’ve even had a treasure chest disappear and reappear after re-loading the game and finally, amusingly enough, it rains in-doors in some areas.

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With that out of the way, I’d like to discuss some of the Witcher 3’s finer points. There are three things that I think games like the Witcher need to get right. Quest variety, world building/NPC’s and lastly combat. It doesn’t matter if a game has interesting quests if the world is boring and uninteresting to explore (looking at you Fallout New Vegas). To truly be a great game, not only do the quests and the games world need to be interesting and fun, but you need to have a good combat system to tie the game together (This is where Skyrim did poorly). This is where the Witcher 3 shines. Most of the quests are interesting and even though you’ll still encounter a fetch-quest here and there, they’re uncommon. Besides the main quest, you have side-quests, Witcher contracts and treasure hunts. And besides those quest types you’ll also find questions marks scattered across the world map for you to discover. Exploring these question marks tend to get repetitive because there isn’t a great variety of things hidden behind them. You’ll come across hidden treasure, abandoned towns, a monster nest or a bandit camp. Going after this question marks can be fun for a few hours but not for an entire game. One of the highlights of the game are the side-quests. The stories that you uncover through them are quite entertaining and interesting, the Bloody Baron constantly gets mentioned and rightly so. That particular side-quest is unpredictable and mysterious. The choices you make playing through that side quest matter, effecting the quest in one way or another at some point.

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The environments you’ll be exploring in the game are massive. The first area the game introduces you too which is kind of “tutorial” area, is huge and filled with enough content to introduce you to all the various aspects of the game without getting boring. The area you go to after that is at least four times larger. The developers have done an amazing job at making the environments feel alive. There are a lot of games that have great looking environments. Having wildlife in open-world games is a norm now, but it’s the little details that make the environments come to life. There’s one aspect, an important one that I mentioned earlier that the Witcher 3 does differently than other games and that helps quite a bit and that’s the wind. You’ll be wandering through the environment, seeing the trees gently blowing in the wind, you’ll hear the breeze, it can actually be quite relaxing. Another aspect that helps make this world feel alive is the change you experience as the game goes on. Part of the games storyline involves a war between two empires and you’ll see the effect of war on the land. You’ll see a bridge being patrolled by a set of soldiers and you might come across that same bridge later in the game and find those same soldiers butchered and a camp nearby belonging to the soldiers of the opposing nation. This event wasn’t triggered by some quest or anything, it’s just war.

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The combat in the game is engaging and not very button mashy. You can successfully button mash against weak enemies, but most of the time you’ll have to get used to dodging, attacking and effectively using your spells to cast magic. Combat can get annoying at times due to the fact that there isn’t a easy and quick way of changing spells on the go while you’re in the middle of a battle. There is one method where you can change your spells while holding the block button, but it doesn’t work well when you have six spells to flip through, especially when you’re in the middle of combat. Some monster can’t be beaten through brute force, they require you to combine your spells and your physical attacks together. For instance to defeat a wraith, you need to cast a magical trap, lure it in and then you can cause some damage. If you attempt to fight a wraith without casting the trap you’ll either end up dying or end up using too many potions. When you fight a group of humans, you won’t be fighting them one at a time (like Assassins Creed), you’ll have two or three enemies charging at you. Some enemies, like spear wielding solders, can’t be beaten by attacking them head-on, you’ll need to dodge and time your attacks. This is what makes combat interesting, each enemy requires a different style of combat.

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The Witcher 3 is a great game, plagued with annoying little glitches. I definitely recommend it, as the pros outweigh the cons. The game is really long if you try to complete each side-quest, Witcher contract and treasure hunt and it’s decently long if you attempt to stick to the main quest (about 50 hours). I wouldn’t look any further if you’re looking for a new adventure to play.

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Tomb Raider or Lara Croft & a Series of Fortunate Events

Post by Patrick

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Tomb Raider has been part of our gaming culture for quite some time. The first game came out nearly twenty years ago. Since then the franchise has taken quite a nose dive in terms of quality.The majority of the games aren’t that good. Since then, Nathan Drake has taken over most of the treasure hunting and adventuring in the Uncharted franchise. No one has really cared about Lara Croft or Tomb Raider for the most part of 10 years, even though they still put out more than six games in that time. The only one that really made an impact was 2013’s reboot, Tomb Raider.

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Tomb Raider is a lot of fun, the game does the important things right. Controlling Lara is great, she moves in a very fluid and realistic way. If you jump off a high cliff or building she’ll stumble as she lands while continuing the forward momentum. Which in turns makes a large portion of the game a joy to play. Square Enix made a vital decision in creating an open world for the players to explore and run around in. Another important aspect of the game is the upgrading your skills and equipment. Some games shoehorn these role-playing aspects into their games, but with Tomb Raider it makes sense since you’re controlling a young Lara Croft who is growing with experience every time you do something new in the game.

For the most part, this game is great. But it relies too heavily on gimmicks that it constantly repeats throughout the game. For instance, every time it seems Lara is about to fall to her death she lands on that one wooden plank that somehow doesn’t fall apart, even though every other plank around it are getting ripped apart. I understand if it happens once, maybe twice, but I lost count on how many times Lara survives a deadly fall. It spoils the feeling of immersion. There has to be countless of ways Lara could escape a building or tomb other than miraculously surviving a deadly fall. Or in one instance, somehow finding a parachute in a plane (or was it a helicopter) that looked incredibly old and decrepit.

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Lara is 21 in this game, has never killed anyone before or used any weapons previously. Yet she somehow is able to beat seasoned warriors and mercenaries in one on one combat and in huge gun battles. I know this is a video game. I know this point might seem nit-picky to some people, but the developers made such a big fuss about Lara’s first kill and how it impacts her, yet 5 minutes later she’s killing with no remorse and with the efficiency of an elite soldier. By the end of the game she has killed hundreds. Which is probably more people than those mercenaries killed. I feel as though the developers missed a huge opportunity to make this game stand out, to make it more unique than Uncharted. Instead they took the easy route and turned Lara Croft into Rambo. Lara’s first kill means nothing if we don’t see her being negatively impacted by it.

But even with these issues it’s hard to deny that those segments where Lara some how survives aren’t fun. Those set pieces are entertaining. Fighting an onslaught of continuous enemies and gunning them down makes you feel like you achieved something by surviving. Getting a head shot with my bow and arrow on a guy who is zip lining down a cliff is incredibly satisfying. All these things I just complained about doesn’t take the fun out of the game, they just seem out of place in a game that tells the story of how Lara Croft came to be, how she became a bad ass. Instead of gradually building her up into that amazing adventurer, we find out she turns into a skilled killer and bad ass instantly after her first kill.

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I still highly recommend this game. Microsoft did a great job securing exclusive rights for it because this new Tomb Raider has the potential to compete with the Uncharted franchise and more competition is a good thing. I also recommend reading this article on the original development of Tomb Raider and how it all fell apart for Core Design. Shows some insight on how hellish game development can be and how something with so much potential can be ruined.

So if you haven’t yet, grab this game, it’s worth it.

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