Bloodborne Review

There are certain games that are praised so universally that you can’t help but expect the world of them. I happened to buy two of them—Dark Souls and Bloodborne—on a whim based on this universality, figuring that I’d play through Dark Souls first to allow me to appreciate and assess the two games’ similarities and differences. After several hours of Dark Souls, however, I came to realize that it really wasn’t my type of game. Despite the incessant claims of its fairness I’d seen littered around the internet for years, I managed to kill a skeleton through a wall. Despite the gameplay being lauded to the point where many people would show up on forums to insist that X game and Y game copy Dark Souls’ allegedly sublime formula, I found it incredibly clunky, with a special call out going to the stupidity that is mapping center-camera and lock on to the same button and having the game decide which of the two you’re trying to do based on whether an enemy is nearby or not. Then there was stupidity like one of the items you can choose from in the beginning having an item description that’s patently untrue. How this hasn’t been patched out is beyond me. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t having fun, and fighting through a game for 10-20 hours in the hopes that it eventually “clicks” (as is said to happen after a groan-inducing period of not-fun) wasn’t something I was in the mood to do. Where I began expecting Dark Souls to pull me into Bloodborne, I was suddenly in a situation where I hoped the reverse would end up being the case. Read more →

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review

My history with the Assassin’s Creed franchise is a rocky one; the first game was one of the first newer games I played when I built my first gaming PC in ~2010 (though it was a few years old by that time, I had been playing decades-old games because they were the only thing that worked on my laptop at the time), and I liked it. It was slow and kind of meandering, but it was an interesting concept and I really liked the characters. Then Assassin’s Creed 2 happened. It was my first experience with always-online DRM, and if that wasn’t enough to make me hate the game, I found Ezio to be endlessly annoying. I know that the games that focus on him are typically revered by fans—and even many detractors—as the highlights of the series, but I found him to be an infinitely less interesting character than Altair in the first game, and his story was just so consistently dumb that I only barely made it to the end of the second game. Five minutes into the third game, I was fed up with his presence and the series’ lack of innovation and I stopped playing. Until I received Assassin’s Creed Syndicate as a Christmas gift, I hadn’t played through any of the other games or paid any attention to the annoying yearly releases. After the atrocious reception of Assassin’s Creed Unity, that decision felt like the right one. However, I figured I might as well give Syndicate a shot to see what had changed since I quit the series, and I actually ended up liking the game overall despite several annoyances and “I can’t believe this is still a thing” moments. Read more →

Fallout 4 Review

Fallout 4 is a game that it took a long time for me to make up my mind about. Its opening hours are a glorified tutorial that serves to do little more than annoy long-time fans with strange changes that drive home the fact that the last bits of that old Fallout vibe—already eroded to virtual nothingness by Bethesda’s first try, Fallout 3—are now truly dead and gone. That’s not to say that it’s a bad game, though, because things eventually pick up toward the middle of the game and become entertaining; Fallout 4 includes several improvements from Bethesda’s last game, such as less empty space, weapons that don’t have to be repaired (this comes down to personal preference, but it’s worth noting that the original games didn’t have weapon degradation), and fewer invincible NPCs. However, it’s also a huge step back from the complexity of previous titles in many ways, boiling all dialogue down to a wheel of four options and dumbing down the RPG elements to the point where it’s little more than a glorified shooter. I enjoyed my time with it, all things considered, but it’s not a game I’m likely to ever revisit or look back on fondly so much as a pleasant one-time distraction. Read more →

Life Is Strange Review

I don’t have a huge amount of experience with these types of episodic games, but Life Is Strange was made by the people who made Remember Me (probably one of my favorite games of 2013), so I knew I had to give it a shot. For months upon months I waited for it to be completed, dodging spoilers like some kind of internet ninja so that I could play through the whole thing in one go once all its episodes were released, and it was totally worth it. That’s not to say that everything turned out to be as incredible as I had heard, of course; when the early episodes released, I heard a lot about how even small things seemed to have consequences, right down to whether you water your plant or not. Now that the entire game is available, it’s apparent that the only actual consequences many of these things have are small dialogue changes that don’t end up mattering. However, unlike The Wolf Among Us, which annoyed me with its lies about reactivity, Life Is Strange does change a bit in the middle of the game depending on whether a certain character is alive or dead. It’s also completely devoid of QTE sections, and includes little touches like the need to occasionally piece together clues or sneak around someone in a stealth section. Even without all of that, though, the writing is more than enough to make this a must-play title. Read more →

Contrast Review

Long setups that never actually result in anything meaningful are a trademark of the artist who creates while having nothing to say; everything is designed so as to suggest a deeper meaning, but nothing ends up delivering on that promise as you’re led deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole until things have become so complicated that any kind of sane-sounding explanation becomes impossible. That’s not to say that the end result is necessarily bad, but it’s most definitely not art despite the artist’s desperate attempts to make it so. This is Contrast in a nutshell, a game that spends several hours engrossing you in a time period filled not only with jazzy music and organized crime, but also two parallel worlds that are largely unaware of one another. While the latter is the more interesting element of the two, only the former lives up to its potential and makes the game worth recommending thanks to the dual worlds and the rules/purpose behind them being self-contradictory or otherwise left shrouded in mystery. Read more →

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review

I’ve been a huge fan of the Witcher series since I played the first game, so much so that I wound up following the second game’s release back in May 2011 and became an active poster on their forums. I even managed to win a contest they sponsored, which netted me a copy of the official Witcher 2 game guide with a bunch of developer signatures. That being said, I’ve been hugely critical of the games and developers because my enjoyment of the series causes me to expect more out of it than most people, so I made an effort to play through this absurdly long game three times in order to get a feel for the choices and consequences and determine which of the choices aren’t choices at all. In some ways I’m impressed by the game, most notably in the quest design that effortlessly trumps the boring simplicity of other open-world games’ quests. In other ways I’m blown away by the laziness of some of the underlying systems given all of the potential the series had in terms of your actions having consequences. At the end of the day, The Witcher 3 is a lot of fun, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a shadow of what it could have been. Read more →

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