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 →

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 →

ReCore Review

When deciding what to play next, I weighed a bunch of factors and eventually narrowed the pool of possibilities down to either ReCore or Dragon’s Crown. The latter obviously takes many cues from the legendary Tower of Doom/Shadow Over Mystara, which piqued my interest, but I eventually decided to go through ReCore under the assumption that a newer game would make for a more relevant review. After all, it’s been only 6 months since its release as of this writing. It didn’t hurt any that I’d heard comparisons to everything from MegaMan Legends to Metroid Prime (the latter of which was apparently worked on by some of the same people if the box is to be believed)—stellar company to be in—and there was an adorable-looking robot dog on the cover. I went in knowing almost nothing about ReCore except that critics had given it middling scores for whatever reason. Imagine my surprise when I realized that many of them hadn’t gone far enough in describing the train wreck that this game is, even after 6 months of patching. This is a game that’s middling at its best and soul-crushingly tedious at its worst, a prime example of an open world that exists solely for the sake of having one, not to mention a stunning indictment against the Unity engine when in unskilled hands. Playing through this game eventually begins to feel like actual work, a repetitive slog to find X thing so you can unlock Y thing so that you can collect more contrived Z orbs to unlock a contrived game-y door to actually continue the uninteresting story, which despite being an afterthought nevertheless manages to include internal inconsistencies. When I finally got to the credits and saw how many people worked on this game, the only reaction I was capable of having was astonishment that it took so many people to create so little game of such a low quality. 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 →

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 →

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