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 →

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 →

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard Review

Vikings is the first game by Games Farm that I’ve actually played through, but I’ve owned Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition (alternatively known as Kult: Heretic Kingdoms) and its sequel, Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, since early 2015. Shadows is a strange story, having been half-released at launch with the second half being promised to come for free to previous owners at some point later on. As such, I was waiting for the game to release fully so that I could run through both games in the series back to back. Then the game’s publisher went bankrupt. That’d be the end of the story for most games, but Games Farm unexpectedly went to bat for Shadows and got the rights so that they could continue developing it on the side while they also worked on Vikings: Wolves of Midgard. Obviously it’s best for this site and my deep, passionate love of harshly critiquing every game’s flaws to avoid being impressed by developer behavior, but we’re talking about the kind of rare post-launch support that’s previously only been seen from the likes of CD Projekt Red. Needless to say, I wanted this game to be good. Before you consider that a disclaimer that I’m going to play softball with Vikings and ignore its flaws, however, please note that I also wanted Dreamfall Chapters to be good. That didn’t stop me from viciously tearing into it, and Vikings certainly has flaws of its own that I’m similarly unwilling to overlook. Overall, Vikings is an enjoyable game with environments that are destructible enough to be weirdly satisfying and gameplay that’s entertaining enough to carry it (provided you have a gamepad), but it lacks any kind of narrative weight and begins to run out of ideas for varied boss fights toward the end. Read more →

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 →

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