The Surge Review

Souls and Souls-y games aren’t exactly my favorites; I managed to get through Bloodborne and enjoy it overall despite some pretty glaring missteps that the fan base’s love goggles tend to blind them to, but I’ve also never felt the desire to go back to Dark Souls and actually finish it. They’re just incredibly flawed games from a design perspective, lazily rehashing the same tired formula while stubbornly refusing to solve any of the problems that have persisted between entries. The Surge is a game that appeared to borrow the difficult combat from such games while departing from that formula, hence my interest in it, and while it eventually falls into lockstep with other such titles by doing the same basic things Souls games end up doing, there are enough interesting wrinkles and gameplay improvements here to make it worth a playthrough or two. That’s not to say that I have no reservations, though, and there are a few moments so poorly designed and thoroughly irritating that I considered moving on to something else. I suppose that speaks to it being a genuine Souls-y experience considering that was also my reaction to something as beloved as Bloodborne. Read more →

The Surge Screenshots

The Surge is a game I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, I love Deck13’s games; Venetica was one of the first games I got back when I constructed my first gaming PC back in ~2010, and I have fond memories of playing through Ankh (undeniably good) and Blood Knights (possibly Stockholm syndrome). On the other hand, Souls/Souls-y games haven’t ever really captivated me to the point where I’ve become willing to overlook their numerous, unaddressed flaws. Bloodborne was decent enough to warrant a positive review despite said flaws and I definitely like The Surge more than that game as a whole, but it also feels like these types of games follow the formula so strictly that they put themselves in a box and fail to live up to their potential. I mean, why do these things always send you through dark, mazelike corridors that are littered with screaming, lunging enemies hiding behind things? It’s not even scary anymore because a single one of these games teaches you to check behind things with the camera before charging blindly ahead. Read more →

I now accept review codes because realities of the industry blah blah blah

I’ve been working on this site for five years, and in that time I’ve seen smaller sites with shorter, typo-and-inaccuracy-packed reviews leapfrog mine in search results. Paying for games out of my own pocket guaranteed to readers that I wasn’t beholden to any external forces or tempted to soften the blow of harsh criticism with such popular review nothings as “but there’s a solid base here for [developer]’s next game!” Sadly, it also meant that I got games quite a bit later than other review publications, so that pre-release period where fans link to early reviews to weigh their enthusiasm against the opinions of critics is one I’ve missed out on the benefits of almost entirely. No links = no search engine juice = very little site growth. Blame it on the realities of the industry; I gave the whole “no review codes” thing a good go over half a decade, but it doesn’t work if you want a notable number of readers and aren’t willing to delve into the even uglier waters of clickbait. Search engines aren’t like Youtube where there’s an emphasis on discovering new outlets; once you slip beyond the first page of search results, you might as well not exist in the eyes of those doing the searching.

As for accountability/openness, I plan on making a page listing every game I receive a code for [update: this is now live and can be accessed by hovering over the “about” menu item] in addition to disclosing as much at the end of any relevant reviews. Additionally, any Steam codes will go into a new Steam account that I’ll make public and link to on that page. I’ve also been working on undoing some of the privacy settings I’ve had on my PS4 and Xbox One to make it possible to see recently played games and such, but this has proven to be a losing battle thus far.

Deck13’s The Surge is the first game I’ve accepted a review code for, hence the header image. You may be asking yourself, “hey, didn’t that come out already, totally undermining your point about getting reviews out early?” Yep. I requested it before release, but didn’t get the code until a day after it released. I’m assuming that keys will come faster once I’ve built up more of a presence.

Little Nightmares Review

Out of almost 300 games reviewed for this site, I’ve only failed to finish something like 5-10 of them. Whatever the number currently is, Little Nightmares has ensured that it’s now one more than it used to be; the thought of playing another second of this awkward, predictable tripe is so unbearable that I stopped and resolved to never continue. That’s not to insinuate that this is the worst game I’ve ever played—merely that magical mix of underwhelming and tedious that isn’t appallingly terrible in the way some games manage to be, but pointless enough to get in the back of your head reminding you of the million other things you’d rather be doing. If I had to guess how long I spent playing Little Nightmares before deciding that literally anything else would be a more rewarding use of my time, my gut estimation is that I wasted 40 years fighting against its awkward gameplay and insulting attempts to be so~oo~oo spoo~oo~ooky. In reality, it’s probably closer to an hour and a half, which from what I’ve read is probably about halfway into the game. Or at least around that point. That was far enough to cement my initial impression that was only backed up over time, though: this game fails at everything it tries to do. Read more →

Cosmic Star Heroine Review

As a refresher, I didn’t care for Breath of Death VII or Cthulhu Saves the World despite all the praise I’ve seen both receive, and that’s kept me from delving into the Penny Arcade games that developer Zeboyd Games produced after those first two. Every video about Cosmic Star Heroine intrigued me, though, with it seeming to draw inspiration from best-game-ever Chrono Trigger while putting its own spin on things, and so I bought it with the intention of seeing how it stacks up against some of my favorites in the genre. Its opening few hours proved mildly amusing, if a bit underwhelming given my high expectations, but the game soon after won me over in a big way to the point where countless softlocks, bugs, and typos couldn’t stop me from playing. While the way you get into combat is reminiscent of the encounters in Chrono Trigger, its biggest takeaway from that game is instead rock-solid pacing that avoids wasting your time with nonsense padding, and there are a handful of features taken from other games that are equally welcome. All of this coalesces into something that’s simultaneously a brilliant homage to classic jRPGs and strong entry in the genre in its own right. Read more →

Gravity Rush 2: The Ark of Time – Raven’s Choice (DLC) Mini-review

I really liked Gravity Rush 2. Sure, the first game was incredibly underwhelming, but things finally turned the corner in the sequel and became fun; it had better characters, music, and mechanics, and while the story was still scattershot nonsense, it was an entertaining enough ride that I was willing to look past that. Then its free DLC came out. Gravity Rush 2: Another Story: The Ark of Time – Raven’s Choice: Electric Boogaloo—a fine example of how to name something so confusingly that no one knows exactly what to call it—is an abomination. Its story is so bad that it actually dampers my enthusiasm for the base game, and I genuinely regret bothering to play through it. All this time I’ve been criticizing the Gravity Rush games’ storytelling for not providing any answers, and while this DLC continues that trend by introducing things that are left unexplained the second they stop being convenient plot devices, the moments where the DLC actually explains things are so much worse. The gameplay doesn’t rescue things this time, either. If anything, it piles on by including an awkward stealth section and “protect this thing that’s being attacked” mission so ill-advised that anyone who’s actually played a game in the past 20 years would know better than to design it. I’m becoming more and more concerned that everyone involved in this series’ development is being kept in windowless cells between games, starved of the most basic stimulation to the point where even the dumbest stories and worst mechanics are manna to them. Read more →

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