What Dead Space 3 Did Right

I’ve finally done it. I finally beat Dead Space 3….the normal campaign anyway. After 2 years of procrastination.

In fact, the only Dead Space game I ever played that I did beat in a reasonable time frame was Dead Space 2. Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 3 took me extended periods of time, for axiomatically different reasons that serve to emphasize what types of games they are. Whereas I put Dead Space down after chapter 2 and didn’t pick it up for nearly a year afterwards because I was frightened to find out what was behind that med bay door, I put Dead Space 3 down because I knew what was behind the next door, and I simply did not care.

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Surprise, it’s an entire platoon of necros. Guys? Where are you going? You’re not surprised?

Dead Space 3’s failure as a Dead Space game, and as a survival horror game, can not be simplified any further than that sentence because after the first chapter, you will know almost exactly what to expect for the next 18. Fortunately it seems to be widely agreed that the game was a misstep, so it doesn’t need to be made any clearer than a simple sentence.

Let me take a step back and provide some clarification. I am not a little girl. I don’t scream in fright at any game – horror or not. You can rest assured I’ll yell some words, but they’ll be expletives, and not girlish cries. So Dead Space was never shit your pants scary, no. In spite of that, Visceral employed a great mixture of pacing and environmental design that allowed common gameplay tropes to exist, while still creating a brilliant haunted carnival house that was one of the most memorable and enjoyable horror experiences in video game history.

Isaac was vulnerable, he was essentially alone, and he was afraid.  As well as slowly going insane throughout the course of the game thanks to the red marker. Most importantly, he didn’t say a damn word for 99% of the game. It was just you, silence, your gun, and a haunted (basically) ship full of alien monsters trying to kill you. On top of that, innocuous heavy machinery would kill you too. Broken doors would slice you up, malfunctioning gravity plating would slam you into a wall and rip you apart, gyroscopic stabilizers would cut you in half, and most of the ship would try to suck you out into space.

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Also dude was newly single and out of shape too.

Dead Space 2 removed this vulnerability and feeling of isolation, but still managed to deliver a tense rollercoaster ride through a different haunted house with some slightly different tricks. Isaac could move more fluidly, guns seemed to be more effective, kinesis powers were more effective and he could use random objects to destroy enemies. He also talked a lot and often met up with living human beings, which made it feel like he wasn’t alone and thus like you weren’t alone. To make up for this, the game featured new enemies who were faster and harder to kill, and the first 6 chapters were basically a gauntlet of brutality for the player to survive. To be fair, you start the game in a straight jacket and the first living human being you meet dies a gruesome death within 20 seconds, and you don’t even get a gun until just before the first boss. The number of enemies also increased to compensate for Isaac suddenly being a badass. It seems his years in a straightjacket somehow magically turned him into a combat engineer, not just a systems engineer.

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He only wants a hug, Isaac.

So what did Dead Space 3 do wrong? Well, as it turns out, a lot of things. I’ll save those for another article for the sake of length. Right now, let’s acknowledge what it did right. The overall art design and sound design is still brilliant. This stands out more in the latter half of the game when you get to see vistas on Tau Volantis like the first approach to the research base, or when you reach the alien city and are introduced to their physical appearance as well as their architecture. Before this, though, you do get to see a lot of the flotilla in orbit of the planet and there are some cool shots like this one. The only negative thing I can say about the art design is that the death animations, while still varied, almost all seem to be too fast and result in the same thing – your body chopped into at least 2 pieces. Where Dead Space 1 and 2 took time to show you yourself being murdered, Dead Space 3 just blows you up every 5 minutes and doesn’t even have the courtesy to show you.

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On that note, the graphics are also much improved over the first two games. Moreso the first than the second, as Dead Space 2 came out this decade, but the graphics are better. Down to the fur and cloth on some of the outfits blowing in the wind of the frozen wasteland. Animations and character textures have been improved as well and overall the engine used for this game seems to have been tweaked with some more modern capabilities, especially when it comes to postprocessing.

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This is definitely a bullshot but with shader mods you can accomplish this.

Just like Dead Space 2, you start out with some living normal humans. And then immediately thereafter, the Church of Unitology shows up and kills the entire colony, turning people into necromorphs and I would think starting a convergence event. You are fighting necros and soldiers who shoot at you, in the streets and alleys and in shops. Whereas Dead Space 2 maintained an intentional pacing and didn’t give you the option of really looking around in the beginning, the sequel does not because there doesn’t seem to be any urgency after you clear an area of necromorphs. The only positive aspect of any of this is the fact that you got to see what “normal” human life might be like for a second. You didn’t really get to see it in Dead Space 2 because everything was dying and covered in blood by the time you saw it, but in 3 you at least get a brief glimpse. Which isn’t saying much, because it’s almost literally nothing. You see some cars, there’s a highway, and the Moon colony seems to be a pretty big settlement. Other than that and setting up the game’s villain, there is nothing notable to come from the first two chapters of the game.

Following that is your arrival in space around Tau Volantis, where you’ll spend the next 6 chapters, otherwise referred to as the Sovereign Colonies flotilla. This is the section of the game that seemed to be on the right track, and the section where the game shined. The ship corridors are tighter than most areas of Dead Space 2, and at most times it feels like a worthy tribute to Dead Space, though it admittedly doesn’t capture the same essence. You still have the vents and necromorphs coming out of them, and the creepy sounds, and the piece by piece backstory that you would expect, but the ships like the Roanoke or the Terra Nova just don’t feel the same.  What makes the flotilla cool is that it has sidequests where you can go exploring and learn the story of these ships, all while still being hounded by regenerators and lots of necromorphs. In addition to that, DS3 improves upon the zero g mechanics and takes them to a whole new level. Basically every zero g sequence is the cover of the game Dark Void, and it’s liberating to finally be able to move whatever direction you want in zero g.

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Unfortunately that all comes to an end somewhat quickly, depending on how you play and whether or not you do side quests at all. After that, it’s on to the surface of Tau Volantis, which is its own rollercoaster ride, but it’s just pure action and its downright annoying. The only good trick Dead Space 3 has left at this point is to employ some oldschool survival horror where you’re better off running away than fighting enemies, because it simply spawns too many of them on your face. Unless you have a ridiculously overpowered gun, which you won’t have until after multiple playthroughs, you are better off running.

It’s quite clear that EA tried to please too many audiences at once while really aiming this title at a different group of people than the group that wanted it. You simply can’t do that in a sequel, much less at the end of a trilogy. The third game in a series, where all the games are directly connected and still telling the same story, is not the appropriate time to try to remarket a franchise towards casuals.

Especially when that game only exists because the core gamers bought and supported the first two entries.

Mass Effect

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Indeed I am many years late to the party but I legitimately didn’t finish the game until last month. After all the hype and good things I’d heard from people who don’t even play video games and raved about this title, I decided I had to finally play it – 2 years ago. I just didn’t actually get past the prologue until I forced myself. I have to admit going into it that I have never been a Bioware fan. Sure, Jade Empire and KOTOR were excellent. Baldur’s Gate was legendary. But those were all over 10 years ago.

It’s more or less impossible to produce a space game, especially one with a rich and sprawling universe, without drawing comparisons to your three big hitters in the space “genre” – Stargate, Star Trek, and Star Wars. Star Wars in particular is something you might think of when playing Mass Effect, as the funky aliens, rogue murderous robots, space secret agents and many more common elements are there, and it’s fortunate that this isn’t a Star Wars game because BioWare has already done that, and done it well.

In Mass Effect I found probably the best sleeper hit RPG in many years. I bought it because I assumed I’d like it – I’m into basically all of the themes and elements that make the game what it is. I just don’t particularly like Bioware. Dragon Age left a very bad taste in my mouth. The combat was dreadfully boring, the learning curve didn’t exist, and the characters would not shut their mouths. Look, I like dialog and story as much as the next guy. It’s a vital part of RPGs. But the characters in Dragon Age droned on and on, and none of it was ever interesting. Fortunately for Mass Effect, I hung on every word that characters had to say. Even if I got tired of hearing them talk, I read the subtitles and hit the spacebar.

Obviously, the story in the game is not 100% original. I’ve seen many people draw comparisons with System Shock – though I’m not so sure how given the ending of this trilogy. Many elements draw blatant parallels with the big three, again – how couldn’t they? With thousands of hours of film and even more of novels and comics between them, those three franchises have covered as close to everything as possible. I also knew the ending to the trilogy would be shit beforehand, thus the thing about playing games way too late. Regardless of all this, I found it to be entertaining, and robust. The game has so many factions and side-quests to deal with that I found myself having to pause to remember exactly what was going on at times, more-so in the sequels than the first entry.

I have only two real criticisms First is the games handling of other species sex, and the Asari were somewhat well written. However, why must every character be overly sexualized? Do I need to see her tits as she dies? Just like early Star Trek and most of Star Wars, most species just seem to be a green or blue human with boobs tossed on them. We can’t speak for the quarians because we don’t know what they look like, but from what little you can see through their visors they appear sort of reptilian. The Asari, who even knows, with their tentacles on their heads.

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The other is….the morality system is basically meaningless. If you play RPGs properly, that means you talk to literally every NPC all the time, and do every quest possible. Simply talking to everyone whenever possible gives you paragon points. The only way to get renegade points is to intentionally take renegade actions. Even so, you would have to only do the renegade type of thing every single time, to be a renegade. Just like Fallout 3, the balance of morality has basically no effect whatsoever on anything because even if it did, it will take you 4 seconds to fix it.

The voice acting was very well done, even in the first game, and combined with the dialog itself I felt a sincerity to the things people were saying to me, or to others. In addition, the dialog and story seemed rather well written, to the point that I wasn’t being taken out of it to question the authenticity of the plot developments.

I flew back and forth around the galaxy, doing 100% of every side-quest and quest possible. It reminded me of long dead games like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger where you controlled where you go and what you do, when. Even better, it seemed that every single one of these quests remained relevant after the game was over. Looking back, the only things I didn’t do all of were probes or beacons or containers that required too high of a science level I didn’t have.

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Worst vehicle in the galaxy.

Surprisingly, the fact that the combat all controls as a third person shooter didn’t even bother me. Occasionally I ran into some frustrating battles like Benezia or basically everything else on Noveria, but most of that boiled down to playing the game too much like a shooter. It seemed an interesting way to handle the combat – not many RPGs have tried. Although I do feel that if you’re going to make a third person shooter and make it with consoles in mind, it would be nice to have a functional gamepad control scheme on PC as well. I typically play PC games with keyboard anyway, but the option would be nice. The only thing about this game that bothered me, other than the god awful handling and boringness of the Mako, was the 150 item limit. I was picking up at least 50 – 100 items per planet and mission. And then having to turn them all into omni-gel or sell them, seconds later.

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I don’t know what the graphics in the game looked like originally, as I played with the MIUTM mod. It doesn’t drastically change things, but it does replace most of the textures with high quality ones. And it looked pretty decent for an ancient game.

Resident Evil – What IS it?

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As of late, Capcom has been publishing data regarding its franchise sales and success on a regular basis, and of course with E3 coming up soon, there is once again a lot of talk about reviving the Resident Evil franchise. A lot of alleged fans come out of the woodwork to say that RE4 was the best of the series and that people clamoring for a return to form need to take off their nostalgia goggles. I concede that it would be better to have better controls a la Dead Space or RE6 – and it would be better to have the option to change camera angles, but not one single other thing from RE4 needs to ever show its face in the franchise again.

RE4 has nothing to do with Resident Evil. Capcom – and Mikami himself in that case – thinks that throwing in a couple of characters that fans were familiar with and liked, and emulating what they did before in good games is all they need to do to make another entry. It’s not. The story had no connection whatsoever with the established lore – 8+ games worth I might add by the time RE4 came out – other than the text at the beginning of the game and the obligatory, off-topic references to and inclusion of Ada and Wesker. Krauser and Leon’s backstory didn’t even exist yet when they put him in the game.

It’s not a Resident Evil game. It’s not even a survival horror game. Literally the only moment of “fear” in that entire game was the first time you encountered Dr. Salvador because you didn’t know what would happen and if he was an insta-death. Once you found out that he was, there was no more tension in that game that didn’t come simply from your own desire not to die and have to replay part of it. Considering the frequent save points, and not needing ribbons, even that was minimal. Combine that with the fact that you can literally buy first aid sprays, upgrade your guns and subsequently get free ammo doing so, the fact that you have grenades and sniper rifles and can buy rocket launchers, there’s nothing suspenseful about the game. It was entirely action.

Allow me to reiterate: I do like RE4. It was a good game. I spent all my gaming time when it came out playing that game with my best friend until we unlocked every last thing possible (well, before the full PS2 version came out), even in public at our local video game store. I own the original, the PS2 port, the original mess of a PC port, RE4 HD on 360 and RE4 HD on PC. But, it’s not a Resident Evil game, and that precludes it from being the best Resident Evil game.

The influx of “kids” who never played RE Directors Cut, RE2, RE3, RE Code Veronica, REmake, RE0, and Outbreak 1 and 2 in that order are what has caused the franchise – in terms of quality – to nosedive. They played RE4 and thought it was the best game ever made, so Capcom has tried to emulate that unsuccessfully ever since. I’m sure a lot of people who liked original RE played it and liked it, but if you played them contemporarily when released and then jumped ship to the action, all I can say is that you’re a sellout.

And so this is why Resident Evil has had an identity crisis for the last 10 years of its 19 year existence. At this point it is mathematically more appropriate to call it an action game, than a survival horror or even an adventure game. Capcom is trying to appeal to two radically different groups of fans and ends up attempting to appease them both. RE4 introduced ridiculous gameplay moments like those below:

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Since this, the identity crisis suffered by this franchise has soared to hilarious, indescribable new heights. It reached the pinnacle of absurdity in Resident Evil 6, which featured the disgusting failures the below screenshots only hint at. If you haven’t played Resident Evil 6 but are a fan, be warned: You have to pilot a fucking fighter jet. You attack a Neo-Umbrella aircraft carrier with a fighter jet. This is the franchise where you had to re-arrange statues to get gems to get a key in 1998 and you couldn’t even aim your gun. In 2011, you are flying a god damn fighter jet.

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The amount of vehicles you have to “control” in Resident Evil 6 is simply fucking ridiculous. You control Air Force One, a scout helicopter, a UH-60 variant helicopter, a Harrier fighter jet, a police cruiser, a motorcycle, and a snow mobile. This is in addition to the set pieces. RE6 features so many exploding set pieces, it’s unfathomable that Capcom wasn’t having a contest with Activision. Exploding cars by the dozens, exploding planes, exploding helicopters, exploding ships, exploding trains, collapsing Moria mines, nuclear explosions, exploding rail artillery guns, exploding submarines, exploding giant houseflies, epic avalanches…Resident Evil 6 is the most ridiculous Call of Duty game in history.

As if the explosions and set pieces and raging fires weren’t bad enough in that game, they also mashed as many other games as possible together, like Gears of War. Look, I actually admit that Chris’s campaign was the best campaign in the game. It physically hurts me to say so, but it’s the truth. If Resident Evil were to just split off into a third person action shooter about the BSAA fighting bioterrorism, Chris’s campaign would be a great template to follow in order to accomplish that goal. That being said, what the hell is this? No seriously, though, I’m legitimately asking. What were these things called? You only had to kill 2 of them but there was never an explicit answer who made them or why. Are we to assume it was Neo-Umbrella?

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Sidenote, what fake build of RE6 is this screenshot taken from? The game does not look this good on absolute ultra graphics on PC.

Back on topic. To make matters worse, Resident Evil 6 is the best selling entry in the entire franchise. Certainly this sends a message to Capcom that we want action games, and that really isn’t the truth. Especially now that Revelations 2 didn’t sell as many copies as almost any other entry in the series. At this point in time, Capcom has actually commented that they may just keep making the main numbered entries into action games, and save what little similarities to the original game still exist for the Revelations games. Capcom, of course, says a lot of nonsensical things about Resident Evil.

Keiji Inafune – legendary creator of Megaman, the guy who left Capcom because they wouldn’t make a new Megaman game and then made it anyway (the one that we’re waiting for because it got delayed to 2016) made a statement in 2010 that Capcom wanted Dead Rising to replace Resident Evil as their zombie franchise (http://goo.gl/QDDw4E). That’s the extent of this ridiculousness.

We know now how that worked out. Capcom released the worst Resident Evil game in history the next year, and then contracted Slant Six to make the second worst game in Resident Evil history. Shortly after that they released the only good Resident Evil game in 7 years, and then Dead Rising 3 did not at all meet their expectations. So, those plans got axed. It seems at this point like Capcom is trying not to continue the RE franchise but they keep doing it begrudgingly because people want it – like the fact that it took them 14 years and 2 separate fan remakes of Resident Evil 2 before they finally decided to officially remake the game, along with the fact that they remastered RE0 and REmake.

At the same time, Capcom is making an online only competitive Resident Evil shooter that won’t even have Resident Evil in the title. I think it’s safe to say that after 10 years of struggling with this franchises identity, even having proven data with Revelations 1 and 2 that shows people want the horror back, Capcom still has no idea what to do with their IP. Barry and Jill’s frequent, badly voice acted query from day 1 is perfectly appropriate 19 years later and seems to be what Capcom employees are still asking each other when they have meetings.

What IS it?!

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

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Yes. I explicitly said I do not intend to buy this game. I did it anyway. Twice, in fact. I remember when this game came out in 2013. I had reservations and doubts and pretty much knew it would suck, but paid $60 on PS3 for it anyway. Actually I believe I even pre-ordered it and then stopped by GameStop to get it on the way back from work.

I broke a controller because of this game. The first time I’d done something that childish in  a decade, and it hasn’t happened again. That is how poorly designed the game is.

Example: Blade mode literally does not work the way it is supposed to. There are two bosses where you must use blade mode the proper way, or you die. The thing being, it never really gives any indication what the proper way is , and blade mode is a horrible way of blocking in the first place. Because you have to parry everything – there is no block. Very bad decision for a hack and slash game when literally every hack and slash ever made allows you to block and counter attack based on timing, but your game instead only applies parrying. Parrying is not the same as blocking and frankly is not the only method of defense in a sword fight.

Sundowner explicitly requires you to slash in 180 degree angles – horizontally or vertically. If you are remotely off, it doesn’t undo his shield.  The thing is, it’s not that difficult to see the clear middle of the x and y axis on a PS3 controller or Xbox controller. It just doesn’t work regardless.

It's literally telling you how to slash, and then not accepting it.

It’s literally telling you how to slash, and then not accepting it.

Other than the technical failures, the game presentation is completely inconsistent. There is no rhythm or flow to the play of this game. Normal enemies – soldiers/cyborgs – are pathetically, pointlessly easy. In comparison, Geckos are moronically hard. Yea, I’m aware of what they are, I played MGS4 – wherein Raiden easily fought them by the way – and they shouldn’t be doing as much damage as they do in one hit. Not to mention Dwarf Geckos, give me a break, if they swarm you. This is my major problem with the game. Each level is offensively easy even including the annoying and often overpowered minibosses, but then comes the other major problem with the game.

Bosses: Bosses are so, so, so stupidly out of place “difficult”. And that’s the thing, they aren’t even difficult. The last boss is the easiest boss in the entire game, if you don’t screw up. In fact, the fourth boss is actually the hardest in the game. As if that little fact wasn’t enough, you actually have to fight the third, fourth, third, fourth, and fifth bosses in the same hour of gameplay – three of them on the same level, on the same life bar, too. It actually reminds me of Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge in that the health bar was so poorly implemented – except in NG3 you literally couldn’t heal back to full health and stay that way except for checkpoints. In Revengeance, you can carry a meager amount of nanopastes and then you better hope there are spines – attached the human enemies – that you can heal with otherwise. Hint: There aren’t many in the second half of the game.

So you go from murdering everything, which Raiden should be doing, to getting his ass kicked by these A-team rejects in the same levels. It breaks the suspension of disbelief, even in a Kojima game, this juxtaposition of difficulty between actual gameplay, and cinematic boss encounters.

I’ve saved the actual story for the end because it is just so ridiculous. So, on top of what happens to Raiden between MGS2 and MGS4, he starts working for a mercenary organization to combat cyborgs and Metal Gear stuff. He’s pretty identifiable and expected compared to what he was in MGS4, until the point where the Spanish cyborg samurai basically leaves him for dead. Then he is still normal, but on the subsequent boss fight, he goes crazy. He embraces “Jack the Ripper” – remember him? His nickname when he was a WHITE African child soldier. Goes crazy and literally impales himself with his own sword to get off on the pain and apparently use it like a Sith would to make himself stronger.

Except this never happens. He doesn’t get stronger. He’s the same underpowered whining girl he was outside of cutscenes since MGS2. So the whole thing was pointless. And then at the end of the game, he just kindly goes back to Rose and their kid and can be a normal father again. Why? Because….

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Yes, this is the last boss, and yes he literally says “Nanomachines, son”.

 So, we’re just not going to talk about that? How you shoved a katana through your [admittedly cyborg] own chest and then decided to regress to the horrible past you allegedly have gotten over? Thanks Platinum and Konami, whichever group of you wrote the story, it’s even worse than any MGS including 5.

Aliens: Colonial Marines

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Yes, it’s more or less common gamer knowledge that Colonial Marines was ass, but I felt it necessary to drag it through the mud again. This game is the pinnacle of bad game making. Or maybe one of them – interestingly enough another one of them was released by the same company. It’s okay though. Remember, 3DR ruined Duke Nukem – not Gearbox.

Colonial Marines largely ignores and retcons the plot developments of the movie Aliens, then relies upon fan popularity and familiarity with the settings and characters of Aliens to sell a game whose story makes absolutely no sense, and whose gameplay is simply abysmal. For example, how would the USCM know Ridley landed on Fury 161? The timeline is all fucked up. Aliens took place in 2180. Yet they place this game 17 weeks after Alien 3. There is no possible way that the shuttlecraft from the Sulaco at the beginning of Alien 3 could have drifted anywhere near a planet in the generic timeframe described – still 2180 – while the Sulaco was still orbiting LV-426. It is astronomically impossible, and bad writing. If they dispatched the Sephora to investigate Sulaco and it’s still at the original planet, then how the fuck could the Sulaco shuttle have crashed on any other planet? Fury 161 can’t be in the same solar system because no one had ever been to that system before – they explicitly say this in Alien. It even says so in the Alien wiki, that no one knows where Fury 161 is except Weyland-Yutani. Meaning it’s impossible. Which also begs the question how Michael Bishop Weyland could possibly have gotten to Fury 161 in Aliens 3 – considering they had to send him a message first. Sorry, but a shuttle craft even going at full speed is going to take years to get anywhere. Not weeks. As evidenced by the fact that Ripley was in that escape pod from the Nostromo for 67 years before she was picked up.

Significant amounts of the game take place on Hadleys Hope only a few months after it was destroyed by a thermonuclear bomb, yet the entire colony is fine – is not irradiated – and you can breath the atmosphere, despite the Atmosphere Processor being destroyed in the movie – which by the way is intact in the game, even if there are other atmosphere processors. The Sulaco is visibly destroyed while you escape from it, which again is somehow after Ripley’s pod was ejected, again. Ignoring that the Sulaco was basically fine and no where near a planet at the beginning of Alien 3 and the escape pod was ejected for reasons – no explanation why (because the alien facehugger started a fire, on the escape pod not the Sulaco), James Cameron says its a true sequel. That’s great, except the sequel to Aliens was Alien 3. You can’t retcon in a sequel.

Ignoring the story, the gameplay is simply bad. QTEs, rigid and boring combat; enemies that take multiple headshots to kill; aliens that can crawl on ceilings and walls but will walk up to you or literally stand there and do nothing. Floors you can get stuck in and die. There is almost never any indication of what you’re supposed to do other than a generic marker on your motion tracker.

It’s s shame too because they did a great job of reproducing the atmosphere, appearance, and sound effects of the movies. The graphics, though an obvious letdown compared to hype footage shown before release, are still rather gorgeous.

They did a great job of reproducing the atmosphere

They did a great job of reproducing the atmosphere

Even the technology, down to the props used in Aliens, and the sounds such as the ripping paper of the plasma rifle or the clanking of the turrets, was reproduced with excellent clarity and authenticity. It’s just a shame that I have to lump this title in with Operation Raccoon City. Great reproduction of an established environment, but terrible story and gameplay, to the point of being  broken.

Seriously – don’t buy this game. Even if it’s 5 dollars, it’s 4.99 too much.

Banished

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Addictively fun and brutally unforgiving village simulator. It takes a lot of time and effort to master this game due to a steep learning curve (unless you fancy spending the first several hours reading the in-game Wiki), but once you do, it will dawn on you that the gameplay is very simplistic, and new features are neither being added nor planned. At that point the only game is to see how long you can survive with a functioning village without a disaster or a disease outbreak bringing it all down around you – leaving little else to do.

The Witcher 2

I hope you have a GTX 980 and an i7-4770k, otherwise – you aren’t enjoying this game on ultra graphics.

But, if you’re willing to turn the graphics down a tad. The Witcher 2 improves upon the original in almost every conceivable way. Immensely better graphics, way better combat system, way friendlier user interface both for mouse/keyboard and controller, better animations, and a more engaging story. As old as it is, the game still looks extremely impressive. There are a great deal of natural landscapes and vista scenes that just make for great eye candy, for example. The castle siege at the beginning is quite a sight, too.

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Unfortunately, like the first game, that beauty is somewhat skin deep. Just like so many areas in The Witcher were cordoned off with invisible walls and fences or unopenable doors, so too are areas in the sequel. The game makes a point of showing you that you can use your medallion to find alchemy/other ingredients, but the perceived ability to run around the map and find things fades pretty quickly when you realize all of the lootable objects are blatantly obvious and never in the middle of nowhere. As much as I’d like to call it open world, it isnt, not any more than the first game.

Most important of all the improvements in Witcher 2 is the combat system. Good lord, the combat system is so, so much better than the original unengaging, frustrating, and primitive click-timing based system that so many games like Tera and Neverwinter capitalized on. It’s an MMO game style and it has no place in a single player game, so thankfully it was changed. W2 combat plays much more like an action RPG where left and right click or the equivalent gamepad controls determine strong or regular attacks. The timing of your button presses still affects your combos and the animations, and you still get the combo bonuses from the first game but they are a little less goals this time around, and more like rewards.

I do have negative things to say. People worship this game and Witcher 1, this game especially, for being so much different. Having played it now, I can conclusively say they are wrong. The game does have DLC. It does have QTE’s – extremely stupid ones for that matter. It has plenty of cutscenes, a bad save system that scares you in to manually saving whenever possible, and it does one of those awesome things like God of War 2 and 3 both did where you start out – in the tutorial – having skills, then dumps you with a crappy Geralt who has to relearn everything he learned in the first game, as if the first time he lost his memory wasn’t enough. They don’t even try to cover it up with a story excuse. How about just being super powerful for a moment, then facing equal or tougher enemies immediately once all game mechanics are introduced? Nah? Also, you have to meditate to use potions, and the entire quick menu section is convoluted, but at least you don’t need a campfire this time around.

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Overall though, Witcher 2 is a very good RPG – beautiful, fun combat, entertaining story (That bears a lot of similarity to Game of Thrones at times. Kingslayer, Vallettes always pay their debts, king with ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ children blah blah, etc.) Definitely buy this game if you liked the first one or were interested. It’s worth the price it’s at.

Bound By Flame

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It’s not that Bound By Flame is a bad game, per se, but within an hour of starting the game it’s pretty easy to see why the scores aren’t overwhelmingly positive for this title. It plays no differently, on the surface, from most other action RPG/hack and slash hybrids, but it doesn’t play as well as them either. While any of both your more popular hack and slash games and true action RPGs like Witcher 2, Darksiders, Darksiders 2, DMC 3 through 5, Metal Gear RR, God of War, and dozens of others utilize well built control schemes to condense various types of magic or abilities into one place, Bound By Flame makes the mistake of forcing you into a more MMO-familiar numerical menu, or quick-wheel which pauses the action, in order to do anything more advanced than swing a sword. In addition to this, the game utterly lacks a proper dodge function.

You can parry or dodge, but you can’t do both in the same stance. If you use warrior stance, you can parry, which doesn’t particularly help against large groups of enemies which can easily murder you regardless of parrying if more than one enemy hits you. Combined with the fact that you barely gain any HP from new armor or even levelling up, and you spend far too much time being a weakling that can be taken down by a pack of even the weakest enemies, your quest to simply survive until the ending is a frustrating one. If you use ranger stance, your combat is much faster and you can actually dodge – whether timed correctly or not – and it’s quite disappointing that you just can’t play the game without another stance.

In addition to that, while the premise of the game is for you to balance or choose between flame demon and human, you really have no choice but to use fire magic to accomplish anything. It’s just too bad even after putting skill points into it, your spells still cost so much mana.

As for the story and the dialogue, they really aren’t special enough to earn any praise. The dialog combines a lot of modern English and profanity (not that there wasn’t profanity in the old days) with the demon speaking in strictly Shakespearian English – to the point where the juxtaposition is just ridiculous. While I would like to be interested in the story, I find myself skipping through the dialog and cutscenes once the subtitles have displayed so I can get back to the game. Interactions with party members also seem ridiculous and overall your characters attitude is juvenile and callous, down to the wording he uses when he talks to people.

As a PC gamer I have to unfortunately comment on the graphics. When games like the Witcher 2/3 and Lords of the Fallen are basically the same thing, and your game looks like this on ultra, it doesn’t impress me. These graphics aren’t terrible, but they aren’t good either.

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I really wouldn’t buy this game until it’s on major discount – 10 dollar or less. The overall quality of the game combined with how short it is doesn’t merit even the $20 I paid. If you need an action RPG fix, this will satiate you – briefly, at least, but I fear it will not tide you over until a better game releases.

Final Fantasy XIII

 

Two things here:

Port:

Unsurprisingly, because why should Square Enix comprehend to any degree whatsoever the markets they are selling to especially when it comes to the Western PC gaming market, FFXIII for PC is not optimized by any definition of the word. The port itself is locked to 720p 30 fps, and the only way around this is to use Durante’s SweetFX-esque shader modifer to force override the locked resolution to 1920×1080 or whatever you want. You could also downsample and customize all of the graphics options which Square Enix did not include, at all, in the game.

Even so, and ignoring that Durante’s plugin is an early alpha build he spat out in a day, the game still runs terribly at 1080p unless you are already using a beastly GTX 980 and the latest-gen i7s. At 1080p with graphics truly set to low, the game looks good – but also runs horrendously. It’s certainly not unplayable, but pretty much defeats the purpose of gaming on PC when you could buy an xbox for 50 dollars and pick this game up for about 5, and “enjoy” basically the same experience.

Did I mention the 20 or 30gb of uncompressed cutscene videos you are forced to download just in case you want to listen to the Japanese audio? How about the fact that literally every time you launch the game, you have to customize the “options” – such as the on screen button displays – or they won’t work? Don’t worry though. Even if you do change the button descriptions to “controller”, it will still show keyboard keys and not 360 buttons or even Playstation buttons.

Oh, by the way, if you have terrible internet – do not use Steam cloud. In fact, don’t use Steam cloud for this game. If you do, the game will ONLY save to the cloud and will not create a local copy. As soon as you go offline or you turn off cloud sync, your save will be inaccessible.

Game:

FFXIII is hands down the worst final fantasy game ever made. There are those who dispute this, and good for them, but it’s not opinion. The combat system is drastically hands-off in comparison to even FF12 which literally played the game for you, and to make that better, it suffers from asinine mechanics that never should have made it past quality testing. Specifically, if your party leader dies, it’s game over immediately. They fixed this in 13-2 obviously but, this isn’t 13-2, is it? Once you get waist deep in the game, though, the combat and the paradigm shift system are fully realized – but they never make for an interesting battle except for a few select boss encounters.

The voice acting is hard to deal with, in English anyway. Hopefully everyone knew that already but you have some of those PC master race kids on here who only game on PC. Vanille’s VA is schizophrenic at the best of times, and really the only voice acting you can deal with is Snow.

It’s somewhat of a shame, though, as the game does have impressive graphics and a decent story. You’ll just have to deal with a cavalcade of bullshit until you can actually enjoy the game – which will happen literally at Chapter 11 or so. Until then, you will be forced to use subsets of all available characters as they journey in separate groups around Cocoon and Pulse. For the first chapter, you can’t even level up or change your roles.

The crystarium is a cruel joke and all it does is make you hate it for not being the sphere grid. Again, they kind of fixed this in 13-2 and LR, too late though. So, more pure linearity to enjoy. The entire game is one long hallway until you get to a room – Gran Pulse Archlyte Steppes – and even so that “room” isn’t exactly the most expansive free roaming area. All of this culminates in literally the easiest last boss I can remember in any RPG.

Unless you didn’t suffer through this game the first time, or you’re a collector – don’t even bother.

Remember Me

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Contrary to what many critics say, Remember Me is actually quite a good game. The graphics are quite impressive, on PC, even though if you examine each thing in the game individually the textures don’t appear to detailed or high resolution, and there are plenty of beautiful scenes and vistas in the game. Combat is accomplished with a “customizable” combo system in which you can replace certain pre-determined buttons with various different types of attacks which increase your power, restore your health, decreasse your “Special” cooldown time, and others. Ultimately the combat is not too complex and usually consists of very simplistic patterns like X Y Y X Y Y, or X X X, but it proves fun regardless when combined with later abilities gained and new enemy types to which you must adapt.

The story isn’t exactly “new”, as it builds upon concepts floating around the science fiction world and even Hollywood for decades. You are tasked with correcting the “wrongs” of a Paris, neo-Paris, in which Dumbledores pensieve has become commercial technology for every citizen to use – leading to memory junkies, and all sorts of weird “digital” modifications as well as multiple oddly labelled “memoriel” concepts which Capcom seems to have made up.

The platforming isn’t remotely as challengng as some harder platformers, but really it’s a lie to say that any 3D platforming game is difficult. That’s one of the only things I remember people complaining about, that the platforming was pretty much on rails and the camera always told you where to go with it’s focus. Regardless, the game is some good fun without putting forth much effort. On top of that, the graphics in many parts of the game are surprisingly brilliant for a low-key console game – and, it gives me hope that if Capcom actually got their act together, they could use many of the lighting effects and creepy environments in Remember Me as a good example of how to fix some of the atmospheric problems of Resident Evil.

Posted: October 13.