Lost Odyssey Review

I first played through Lost Odyssey around the time it came out, and several parts of that first playthrough stuck out so much for one reason or another that I was able to remember entire sections despite it being ~9 years later at this point. Most notably, I remembered the game being filled with brilliant little stories that fleshed out the game world far beyond that of most jRPGs and caused the game’s actual story to look pathetic by way of comparison. I also remembered that all of the characters get split up at one point late in the game, so I made sure to engage in soulless grinding to make things a little more palatable. At the end of the day, Lost Odyssey is a massively bipolar game that oscillates between brilliance and stupidity to such an extent that it’s simultaneously both highly enjoyable and undeniably aggravating to play, and while it’s definitely the kind of game that’s easy to recommend, it’s also the kind of thing that’s best run through only once and then left as a fond memory. Read more →

Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara Review

First and foremost: screw the people behind this game for making tagging this game so hard. I always tag by half-decade (mostly because it’s entertaining to look back and see how games advance—or don’t—over those 5 years) and wanted to reflect the original releases of Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara, but Tower released in 1993 and Shadow came out in 1996. Adding the modern incarnation’s 2013 release date on top of that, I’d have had 3 different tags for when this thing came out. Messy, messy. As for the game itself, it’s one of the most enjoyable, infuriating games I’ve played in a long time. As per the title, it’s based on Dungeons & Dragons, but it does nothing to ease you into all the little details you need to know. For example, there’s no obvious way of knowing that the final boss in Tower is completely immune to most spells because it’s a lich, making the final boss fight a huge pain when playing as the magic-using elf or cleric. That’s just one of dozens of things about D&D and the game in general that I had to figure out using a combination of trial and error and the internet, but despite how soul-crushingly unfriendly the game manages to be, you eventually start to piece things together. Once you’ve begun to pick up on its oddities, Chronicles of Mystara becomes an incredibly fun and deep beat-em-up. Read more →

Call of Juarez Gunslinger Review

Something like a week and a half ago, I picked up GameMaker Studio in a bundle. I only bring this up because I also started playing Call of Juarez Gunslinger around the same time. Take a guess which one had most of my attention this past week? There’s a very real reason this 5-ish hour game has taken me over a week to finish, and it has a lot to do with how thoroughly unengaging it is. Let’s run through just a few of the seemingly endless reasons behind that, shall we? Its writing is amateurish and the big twist is blindingly obvious less than halfway through the game, for one. Its gameplay is also awkward and full of invisible walls, with enemies running around unpredictably, seemingly free from the tyranny of physics much like enemies in the original Red Faction (but this game came out 12 years later and has no excuses). Then there are the insta-deaths. Fell into ankle-high water? Death! Bumped a wall while walking along the outside of a train? Death as the physics bounce you off the train! That’s not even mentioning the constant QTEs, or the fact that the game is so coated in high-contrast textures and a sharpening filter that can’t be turned off that actually seeing enemies—the most basic element of a shooter and one I’d never seen someone screw up before this point—is such a hassle that it becomes half the battle. Or how about the end-game section where you’re surrounded by enemies who randomly spawn in around you and shoot you in the back? Yeah. I’ve played a lot of games, and this is among the worst of them. Read more →

Cthulhu Saves the World Review

It’s depressing the number of times I’ve covered the first game in a series, only to then leave the sequel (or unrelated followup in Cthulhu Saves the World’s case) untouched. Call it a bad habit. In my defense, though, it’s only been 4 months since I reviewed Breath of Death VII. That’s quite a bit more defensible than the 3 and a half years it’s been since I reviewed King Arthur: The Role-Playing RPG and its spinoff despite owning the sequel for even longer than that. I think part of the problem is one of expectations; it’s easy for a sequel to play things safe and end up feeling like the same game, just like it’s easy for a game to diverge so much from its predecessor that it fails to embrace the things that made the first game worthwhile in the first place. The latter is what’s seen Lost Horizon 2 sit idly on my desktop for the past few months, while the former is why I had to force myself to jump into Cthulhu Saves the World—I was expecting more of the same, and while I was pleasantly surprised by the number of things that were improved on since the previous game, the biggest problems remain unchanged and render a sizable portion of the game a tedious slog through yet more mazes. Read more →

Breath of Death VII Review

This review will probably come across as mostly negative, and yet despite all of my problems with Breath of Death VII I still find myself interested in the developer’s later games. I mean, the humor here is spot-on and avoids being too distracting or falling into the same “look at me I’m so edgy” trap that makes Doom & Destiny so painful to play through, and little things like the combat system being designed to be faster than in most jRPG games go a long way toward alleviating the hassles of grinding (which I only found necessary on one or two occasions) and random battles. The game is also mercifully short, which helps keep it from outlasting its welcome. Still, I found myself finding excuses to not play it because of how barren the world is and how tedious the areas are, and that’s not a very good sign. Read more →

Dragon’s Dogma Review

How you’ll view a game like Dragon’s Dogma depends heavily on how you take a statement like, “This game starts to get really good once you put 50 hours into it!” Is suffering through that much staggeringly bland content a reasonable tradeoff for you? If so, Dragon’s Dogma might be up your alley. If you have any of the billion other games out there that have a more immediate payoff and value more than quantity in your games, however, it could very well end up being one of the worst RPGs you’ve ever played. I can see the value of both viewpoints, and wound up playing through the game three times despite a hatred of many of its systems that runs so deep that the only way to describe it is “biblical.” Like, Old Testament, fire-and-brimstone hatred. It doesn’t help any that it’s a game with a single-minded fixation on grinding. Grinding for levels. Grinding for better equipment and items to level up your current equipment. Grinding for money. Grinding for new combat moves. When it comes down to it, that grinding is really all this game ever is. Read more →

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