Alright you sweaty fucks here's what's up.
At the time of writing this, I've got a massive double ear infection and just got off an 8 hour international flight. Do not deign to comprehend the cornucopia of pain which is my entire existence. I'm here to spit some vile sass. I'm talking real sass, acidic like sanitation grade vinegar levels. Or is vinegar an alkaline? I'm not some kind of science guy. Just listen because I'm gonna spew a buncha shit about a buncha shit because I been playin' a buncha shit and I got a buncha thoughts. This ain't a review, it's just a brain dump. This is one of those "quantity over quality" events. I'll probably follow up with dedicated reviews for a couple of the games I'm gonna talk about, because there are some I feel I could actually commit some time to discussing.
Aragami. Alright. Indie game. Picked it up during steam sales. It's okay. Basic stealth game. Not stealth action, just stealth. There's no combat to speak of. At most you can sneak up on a guy and press a button and he'll die, but that's as far as it goes. That isn't combat, that's simply the removal of a single NPC because you pressed a button. Most of the time if you get seen, you're instantly killed with no hope of escape and no way to actually fight. The idea is to not get seen.
You're a ninja who can use shadow magic. So you can teleport from shadows to other shadows. You can also create temporary shadows in order to teleport to an area you previously couldn't.
It has a pretty generic anime cel shaded look to it. I'd call it stylized, but the look is so common these days it's almost the new contemporary.
I would have liked this game a lot more if I felt it had a single original quality to it. It's not bad at all, it's just really, really unoriginal. I feel like every element of it has been done to death. The teleporting is straight from Dishonored, the look is straight from every modern anime cel shaded game, the stealth is really simple and actually kinda clunky. Seriously, if you're gonna base your entire game around a concept that has been done ten thousand times, you could at least take influence from the countless games that have done it drastically better.
Also the plot is predictable from the outset. It's immediately all like "This is a battle between Light and Shadow, you're shadow, and by the way the girl who's guiding you through the whole thing and is your only friend looks like she's made of light. DON'T THINK ABOUT THAT THOUGH, I BET SHE WON'T BETRAY YOU AND IT'S NOT ALL A BIG TWIST IN THE END."
I'll put it more simply for the sake of reiterating the point I'm doing a poor job of making: It isn't bad. It's just technically good, because it's a Frankenstein's Monster of several good pieces of other games. It just ends up feeling like an uncreative "I just learned how to use Unity" sort of situation. But hey, if I'd built that shit I'd be decently proud of it.
Okay what else? Uhhh let's see. Firewatch. I played that. It was okay. It's one of those "experiential" situations where there isn't really a game and you're just barely interacting with a movie. And that's fine. That isn't a criticism. There's a niche for that kind of game these days.
And as far as experiential games go, Firewatch is a good one. It tells a pretty good story. You get to experience life as a pretty ordinary dude who had some shit go down and escaped it by going into the wilderness and volunteering to be a forest lookout. It's got plenty of drama, suspense and so on. It's well voiced, well-presented, but simple and straightforward.
You have a fairly large area of forest and I guess the idea is that you're supposed to feel alone and lost out there and need to learn basic navigation using a compass and a paper map to really figure out your way around. And it sort of achieves that, there are definitely times where you feel very vulnerable and alone. Despite that though, it's not easy to get lost. The world might look large and open but it's actually very linear and somewhat restrictive as to where you can go. But the way the narrative and pacing works in the game, that's for the best. You kinda need to be on rails to really experience things at the right clip. This game has a story to tell and it's gonna tell it in a fairly specific way without much wiggle room.
It was a mostly satisfying and interesting experience overall. I enjoyed it for what it was - a simple, self-contained, nicely book-ended story with acceptable gamefeel and really good presentation. If you're looking to have a unique, personal experience that nobody else did, look elsewhere. The choices you can make in the game are superficial and affect nothing in the overall plot outside of some mild dialogue changes here and there.
Shit, I know I've played other things lately too. Lemme think for a sec. Gather my memories. Uhh, I started playing Final Fantasy XV. It's okay so far I guess but I'm only a couple hours in. So far I think the presentation is great (as you'd expect from a Final Fantasy), the voice acting is good, the characters are kinda cool and I like how they interact with each other... I'm not certain on the combat yet. I feel like the game isn't doing a good job of teaching me how to efficiently fight things and I kinda wanna just get on youtube and learn from somebody who already did the hard work. Anyway, based on what I've heard from others I don't have high hopes that the game will be good over all. I think it's gonna be pretty shitty ultimately. I'm already getting a strong sense that the game is 90% grindy filler content. Oh, I also find the saturation of product placement ads to be reaching near-intrusive levels. I'm already seeing Coleman logos when I close my god damn eyes. Then you've got the Vivienne Westwhatever name being dropped all over the place, and American fucking Express logos everywhere? I was genuinely shocked to learn the car wasn't designed by a real world auto company as a chance to produce a limited run of a hundred actual Regalias or something.
Fuck, I know I've been playing all kindsa shit but I don't fucking know now. OH WAIT, Tom Clancy's The Division by Tom Clancy, a Tom Clancy Company experience by the Tom Clancy Company. Alright, so this game sucks horrendously, as you'd expect from any MMO-style open world garbage. The main game is just awful. Terrible. A boring, lifeless grind. But you know what IS good about it? Survival mode. They added this new mode where there's no grinding and the game plays just like the original trailers made it seem it would.
In Survival mode, you're stuck in Manhattan after your helicopter crashed. You're infected with a disease which will kill you in about an hour. There's an enormous blizzard going on, and you're cold as shit. Your goal is to craft clothes and shit to stay warm, find or craft weapons to fend off NPCs and other surviving players in the same situation as you, find medicine to slow your infection, food and drink to not freak out and die of starvation (yes in the one hour you've been on the ground, shut up, dude didn't have time to grab his usual breakfast burrito today okay?), and make your way to a tough as shit area in the middle of the map where you can craft a flare gun to call a helicopter and escape the city.
First of all, it's HARD AS SHIT. You can sometimes go the entire game without seeing another human player, carefully surviving and avoiding conflict until the very end when the max level NPCs show up to completely fuck your shit while you're waiting for the helicopter. Other times you'll happen to spawn near somebody else and both end up going for the same landmark on the map to search for things and fuck each other up immediately. I haven't had this feeling of tension and dread since the first time I played Demon's Souls. You feel very vulnerable and very alone, and the only thing you know is that threats are PROBABLY all around you and you have NO IDEA where or who they are. And they're just as scared as you are and stuck in the same situation.
It's fucking cool honestly. I've heard it described as being like the Hunger Games, which I'd say is fairly apt. Same kinda concept, I guess. I think this is the first time a game has come close to a complete, satisfying survival experience. Indie games and mods such as Day Z have tried, but always been so buggy and perpetually unfinished that they just aren't satisfying, or lack the content required to sustain a playerbase. But this comes close to something. I would be really happy if more developers and publishers paid attention to this and built on it. I'd love to see some alternative settings - forests, deserts, mountains, tropical islands, cities, alternate weather systems, a completely different planet, robots, zombies, aliens, post-apocalytpic, pre-apocalyptic, present day, future, past. Any combination of any of those things could make for some really interesting survival scenarios. The Division Survival mode is scratching the surface of an emerging genre that doesn't have a figurehead yet. I hope it's the start of something.
Some criticisms: The gunplay in Division is so poor and bland that despite having a variety of possible weapons you can craft, they all sorta... feel the same. There's no reason to "specialize" in sniping, or heavy machine guns, or shotguns or whatever. You have a gun, it makes people dead. The end. I wish there was more to it than that. I wish I had a reason to craft one kind of gun over another depending on the threat I think I might face, rather than just "Hey this number is bigger than the other number."
The entire rest of The Division fucking bites my dick off, though. Even Destiny had more merit to its gameplay than this. That boring gunplay I just mentioned? Imagine that in a game where your only activity is to shoot waves of boring NPCs. It's about as satisfying as a 90s browser-based flash game, without any of the addictive qualities. I literally only bought this game for the survival mode.
I guess while I'm on the subject I'll talk about this past year's multiplayer games. The big FPS titles. Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2. Both solid for what they are. Titanfall 2 is definitely the most creative and adventurous. It's fun and different - it has a pretty steep learning curve as a result, but once you've started to get the hang of how differently your pilot and titan play and have a handle on both styles, it's REALLY satisfying.
Battlefield 1 is more of the same shit we've seen before. The only thing setting it apart from all the other Battlefields and Call of Duties is that it's a world war 1 setting, which hasn't been done in a major FPS for a while. It's not unique, it's not new, it's not special. Just being honest. It's good quality and looks cool, but it's just the same as every other FPS everybody has already played a million times. If you like FPSs, this is gonna be your thing. I've had a lotta fun with it when I'm in the mood for a straight forward, old-fashioned FPS. Of course it's Battlefield, so it also has vehicles and such, which I guess is cool. Personally I've been enjoying the giant robots and crazy wall-running of Titanfall 2 a little more, though, but hey, that's just me.
And now the big one, at least for me. Gears of War 4. Good fuck did this game scratch an itch for me. Y'all sluts know I love me some Gears, or at least historically speaking. I picked this baby up on PC because they pulled out all the stops and really reached out to the PC community and made a damn good game here. The variety of graphics options are practically unheard of, so I appreciated their efforts for that. I'm a big fan of the PC as a platform so when I see a developer taking it seriously and actually leveraging the superior power and scope that PCs afford players, I have huge respect. I mean, they're just doing the sensible thing, so respect shouldn't even come into it. Shit should just be the standard and people need to see the fuckin' light already. But since it still somehow ISN'T the standard, I will suck the dick right off of anybody who makes that effort until it becomes the norm and I can step away from the semen diet.
Anyway, Gears 4. Okay. The campaign was... fine. It was decent. It'll pass, I guess. I liked the characters. I didn't LOVE them or anything, they weren't as memorable or fun as the original cast, but they did the job. The settings and the stories told by the campaign were alright. Nothing really blew my mind or stood out, but it was all enjoyable enough for me to play it pretty thoroughly. But of course, the multiplayer is the real meat of Gears. And fuck me is it some good shit!
Gears has an interesting history with its multiplayer - none of the games have been perfect, or even close. Gears 1 was immensely fun and had incredible potential, but was plagued with issues of latency due to the peer-hosted system and lack of dedicated servers, and glitches that allowed people to bug their way out of the maps. Gears 2 was just a mess all around, with horrible imbalances and terrible ragdolling due to grenade tags and such. It was laggy and exploitable and just plain bad. Gears 3... now that was probably the best overall multiplayer experience of all of them until 4 came along. Gears 3 was largely free of lag and major glitches, it just had a few annoying changes to the way certain weapons worked and introduced some frustrating weapons designed solely to give low skill players a chance to get free kills. That isn't the way you get people to learn a game. You don't make it easy to get no-skill kills, you simply need to give incentive to learn to develop the necessary skills. Gears Judgment, whatever. I never really played that online. Didn't have a lot of interest in it. It was pretty different though.
Anyway, whatever. Gears 4 came along and removed the bullshitty weapons again and returned to a game that feels a lot more like a combination of Gears 1, and Gears 3. It has the same satisfying shotgun combat as Gears 1, but significantly more accuracy and less randomization. It's got the best and most fun game modes (Warzone, Execution, King of the Hill) as well as a couple of cool new ones (like Dodgeball.) It's fun, and it feels fucking good. It feels like Gears should feel.
It isn't without its problems - it has a big tendency towards encouraging microtransactions for one thing, which is just annoying. The items you can buy are exclusively cosmetic though, which means it's not as big of a deal as it could be. I just wanna fuckin' play as Anthony Carmine though, preferably with his original voice clips but that just isn't gonna happen. Which pisses me off because Anthony Carmine is my DOGG, dogg. I miss hearing him yell "EEEEEAAAAAT IIIIIIT."
Long story short Gears 4 is pretty good in the main, and I'm especially impressed by the level of effort they put into the PC version.
Fuuuuck okay what else. Oh yeah, Inside. Spiritual sequel to Limbo. Sidescrolling puzzle platformer, I guess would be the industry way to describe it. This was a fun little game. It's another one of those experiential titles. You just end up feeling for the protagonist in their hyper-shitty situation and empathising a lot with them, while simultaneously wondering what the fuck is going on with the crazy mysteries presented to you. The only narrative is what you see - there's no talking, and a lot of the game is concealed in brief glimpses of shadowy things happening in the background. It gives you enough to understand that some messed up things are happening and terrible things will happen to you if you are caught. You learn and experience things simply by interacting with the world around you and solving puzzles to progress. I think it's cleverly put together.
People have criticized it for essentially "playing itself" but I don't really get that. It's linear, and not necessarily difficult, and doesn't necessarily require fine motor skills or dexterity, but it's by no means easy and it really isn't a case of just holding forward and letting it play itself. There are plenty of moments when you have to stop, and think, and consider your environment and the tools available to you in order to solve a puzzle. There's elements of trial and error, and times you'll mess up and die. So yeah, I don't think it "plays itself" by a long shot, but perhaps the people who make that criticism are trying to make the point that there's really only one way to solve most of the puzzles and as a result it kinda feels as if things are inevitable and would unfold a certain way regardless of your solutions? I don't know, and I probably shouldn't project. Whatever. I thought it was a fun little game.
Okay maybe last thing: Batman: Arkham Knight. So, I've always enjoyed the Arkham series of games. I think the people responsible really put a lot of effort into creating something that they think is an authentic Batman experience, and their efforts paid off, for the most part. I always kinda felt a little bit like each of the games fell just a tiny bit short of what they could have been. There's some missed potential in my opinion. The combat has always felt a little repetitive and simple, for instance. It boils down to a game of "wait and react to the prompt" which isn't even much better than a quicktime event. Sure, you can get somewhat cute with it, but it doesn't feel like the game ever really teaches you how, or even lets you know that anything more than mashing X and occasionally hitting Y is possible. As a result, combat can be a chore. But where this game excels is the lack of hand-holding... or, at least, a lack of hand-holding when compared to almost all other mainstream titles today. Sure, if you're dumb for long enough, the game is like "HEY, YOU NEED TO USE THE BATARANG HERE" but generally you can get the satisfaction of finding a solution by just looking around and thinking things through. You can't even rely on detective mode as much as you did in the previous games, though it is still too much of a crutch in most situations and too many times it's simply a wallhack that shows you the solution to the puzzle.
It also does a lot of fun stuff with the narrative. My favorite part from the first game was the entire Scarecrow section and how it fucks with your perception, and I'm glad this game does more of the same. It didn't have quite as much of an impact as Arkham Asylum's Scarecrow stuff, though, but it was still really enjoyable, and must have been so much fun to write. I'm probably gonna talk more about this game in a full review, so I guess I'll leave it at that for now.
Oh wait fuck of course, Pokemon! With how incredibly forgettable it is, I forgot it. That makes total sense. Yeah I played Sun and god dammit. Look, I skip a couple generations of pokemon and come back every now and then when the mood takes me. This generation is probably the most different from any of its predecessors, in good and bad ways.
I'll give Game Freak/Nintendo/the Pokemon Company (who even is it these days? Is it all just one company? I don't actually care) credit for the really good changes to the interface and fundamental systems that allow for significantly more user convenience. There have been a ton of tweaks that make things much less of a hassle, take less time, and are streamlined a lot. For instance: Exp share now gives all your pokemon a ton of exp, rather than just sharing a tiny bit between all of them. They finally realized that nobody wants to fucking grind 6 pokemon individually. That's not something anybody has time for. Also, it's a lot easier to move your pokemon between party and boxes now. It even gives you options to keep a pokemon you just caught, even if your team is full, rather than sending it directly to a box so you have to go pick it up, et cetera. Also, HMs FINALLY aren't a thing anymore. Gone are the days where you had to waste move slots on things like Fly and Surf.
The absolute biggest change though is that it's easier than ever to breed really ideal pokemon. I'm not gonna go into details about the IV/EV shit, but I'll give you the super brief version: Pokemon have randomized stats, meaning your random Pikachu will be different from someone else's random Pikachu. One will be faster or slower, one will hit harder or weaker, whatever. That kinda shit. Of course, competitive players will want only PERFECT pokemon to battle with. It's always been a massive struggle and time sink to catch and breed a pokemon with ideal min/maxed stats. Now, though, it's a simple process, and it doesn't even take long. A process that used to take days on end of relentless grinding and relying on random number generators can now be manipulated and controlled, and within a couple hours you can go from having nothing to having a perfect pokemon that's ready to be trained into a competitive team member.
These changes opened up the breeding and competitive scenes to me, which I had previously viewed as being far too much of a time investment to even bother with. I mean I'm still not bothering with it because I'm lazy, but this is the closest I've been. I even bred a perfect Rufflet! I could raise him into the ultimate don't-fuck-with-me Braviary if I wanted to. His IVs are fucking FLAWLESS.
The actual rest of the game, though? I'll be honest, I don't even remember it. It's become so streamlined that you can't get lost, you won't ever get stuck, and there is only ever one path to take. You just go, and along the way you fight a bunch of gym leaders and they're like "cool you can proceed now." I don't remember any of them. It was not a memorable or challenging experience at all. And no, I'm not expecting some fucking masterpiece from pokemon. But it really stood out to me how when I was fighting the elite four in this game, I couldn't even remember how I got there. I actually found myself remembering parts of pokemon Black, pokemon Y, and pokemon red and blue, and confusing myself because I could barely recall ANY of the places I'd been or people I'd fought in Sun. I remembered how insanely hot Olivia was though. And the Swimmers. And the Beauties. That's about it. Speaking of which, this seems to be the pokemon with the most suggestive dialogue. I picked up on so many lines of dialogue that seemed to be STRONGLY implying adult, sexual themes. Maybe it's just my mind in the gutter, I dunno.
Anyway, there you go. Some stuff. I ain't dead. I still do stuff sometimes. Working on some video projects because ultimately I think video is where I have the most fun. Watch this space I guess. But you'll be watching for a while because you know how slow I work. Lates.