Torment: Tides of Numenera Review

When I first created this site, the very first review I put up was for Planescape: Torment. The review is horrible (all of the early ones are, really; it took awhile to figure things out), but that nevertheless speaks to how important the game was for me that I wanted to start out with it. Then there’s Torment: Tides of Numenera, a spiritual sequel to Planescape: Torment in the same way Pillars of Eternity was a spiritual sequel to Baldur’s Gate and Wasteland 2 was a spiritual sequel to a bowl of old Jello that’d fallen on the pavement and subsequently been left in the sun by uninterested passersby. In some ways, comparing the two does a disservice to both because of how stark the differences often prove to be. In other ways, however, Tides of Numenera invites and embraces such comparisons by taking elements from Planescape: Torment in ways that are probably a little closer to plagiarism than inspiration. Even the flaws detractors will point to as each game’s Achilles’ heel are nearly identical, which is a nice way of saying that T:ToN’s combat is complete and utter garbage that makes even PS:T’s widely (and wrongly, I’d argue) maligned combat feel wonderful by way of comparison. Then there are the problems so unusual and rare that I can’t remember the last time they actually stood out and distracted me. The clinical/drab UI would definitely fall into this category. Let’s get this out of the way early—Torment: Tides of Numenera doesn’t live up to or supplant Planescape: Torment in any way, shape, or form. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a worthwhile game on its own, however, and even a simulacrum of something as justifiably venerated as PS:T feels like a welcome bulwark against the waves of mindless games that ask nothing of the player and offer nothing in return. This is a game for those who love lore and large chunks of flavor text so overwhelming that one could conceivably drown in them, and while that makes the game impenetrable to those mass-market gamers who require an easily digestible story and lots of visual pizzazz to enjoy a game, it also allows it to be incredibly rewarding and memorable for those willing to put in the time to read through it all. Read more →

Gravity Rush 2 Review

If you’ve played Half Life 2 all the way to the end, you probably have fond memories of using the upgraded gravity gun to pick up enemies and launch them across the room. It was an absurdly fun, criminally short section that highlighted how much fun wielding that kind of godlike power can be in games. Gravity Rush 2 taps into this very same feeling of power, giving you the ability to pick up soldiers and use them as ammo. Need to take out a mech surrounded by soldiers? No problem—use your gravity powers to pick up the soldiers and then launch them at the mech’s weak spots, at which point shrapnel will come off that you can pick up and use as further ammo until it finally explodes. This isn’t the kind of thing you can do throughout the entirety of Gravity Rush 2, of course, but it’s certainly an example of the kind of thing that makes it truly special. That’s not to say that it’s without flaws, though, because many of the first game’s problems that ruined the experience for me are still present (even if they’ve been somewhat remedied in many cases); the game’s good moments are just so good that they more than make up for its many infuriating problems. Read more →

Final Fantasy 15 Review

When I was young, my family used to go on road trips in a conversion van that had a VHS player in it as its sole source of entertainment, and so I wound up watching a bunch of the same movies over and over again since the VHS tapes were too bulky to bring a bunch of them. One of these movies started with a skit featuring The Lion King’s Timon singing a cover of Stand By Me that caused Pumbaa to get pummeled by increasingly improbable cartoon violence, and seeing this hundreds of times over countless road trips caused me to associate the song with impending disaster. It felt apropos, then, when Final Fantasy 15—a game I went into expecting the worst of after playing two-thirds of the terrible FF13 trilogy—began with a rendition of Stand By Me. It certainly lived up to the expectations the skit had imprinted in me for the first 10 or so hours, presenting an unremarkable open world littered with shameless fan service and endless busy work. It eventually opens up and smooths out some of the initial rough edges, and there are some parts that were good enough that I even considered making this a positive review for awhile, but at the end of the day, this is a game that borrows so heavily from other games that it’s entirely bereft of originality or creativity. That’s not the same thing as being bad, of course, but Final Fantasy 15 takes so many cues from other games that it lacks any kind of individual identity, and considering how many games have done the same things better, you’re best off just playing those instead. Read more →

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Review

I picked this up having enjoyed the previous two Shantae games and wanting to start 2017’s reviews off on a positive note before the inevitable parade of mediocrity that typically has to be waded through before finding another genuinely good game. Apparently this was the result of a Kickstarter campaign from back in 2013, which means I was three years too late to get in on any of those backer rewards, but it’s kind of nice to be able to experience one of these games around the same time as everyone else instead of years and years after the fact. Now, reviews generally exist to answer the question of whether something is good or not, but the answer to that question is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no in this case. In fact, if my notes are any indication, the answer is “yes, then kind of, then yes again, then no no no no why is this happening, then ehhh, then yes again,” which is a roundabout way of saying that the game is worth it overall despite having some pretty glaring issues. Read more →

Tyranny Review

Tyranny is a game that I almost enjoyed. Almost. It’s certainly fun to play, though the combat was a little rough toward the beginning as I figured things out and tried to get used to the weird UI. Once everything clicked, though, I was more or less hooked. There are plenty of choices to be made, with you being free to side with this faction or that faction and actively work for or against tons of different characters. It’s almost overwhelming (highlighted text reminding you of how you know everyone proves to be a surprisingly handy feature). That’s not to say that there are no issues, though—how dialogue options go over with characters sometimes feels entirely random, the later parts of the game railroad you quite a bit, the music is repetitive, the inventory is a mess because you’re constantly picking items up and making it a hassle to go through and sell everything later on, and the writing has an annoying habit of contrasting really creative imagery with dialogue that’s a little too contrived to come across as natural. I could forgive all of that if the game had an ending, but it doesn’t. It ends suddenly and without warning right when you expect some kind of climactic boss fight and revelation that ties up all of the lingering plot threads in one fell swoop. That doesn’t happen. Nothing is resolved unless you contort your thoughts to where you can accept that “yeah, the game was really only about this ridiculously small skirmish and totally not at all the larger conflict that was blatantly built up to throughout the entire game!” Read more →

Zenge Review

I remember seeing Zenge on the Google Play store and having no idea what it was, and like so many games I’ve bought out of curiosity, it ended up being left unattended on my phone for a depressing amount of time. All I remembered by the time I finally started it up was that it looked like a vaguely adventure-ish puzzle game, something that quickly proved to be untrue; for all its art and store claims about a “journey,” this is a pure puzzle game that shows you pictures between levels that hint at a story and journey that isn’t really there. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—puzzle games can be some of the most rewarding games out there, even when they’re a bit on the easy side like Zenge is. In fact, I’d argue that this is one of the more uniquely rewarding puzzle games I’ve played because of how well it teaches you its rules, with that being especially notable since there’s not actually a tutorial or explanation at any point. You learn by doing, and this is something other games could take a page from. Read more →

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