I beat inFAMOUS Second Son a few days ago, and earlier today I beat Dark Souls II. I was meaning to write up a blog about Second Son last week, but I never got around to it. By which I really mean that I started several times, but couldn't do it. Been running into that a lot lately. Start trying to write something, but then I just don't have it in me. Even now, this isn't "flowing" anywhere near as well as it usually does. It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's more that... Ah, never mind. Forget I said anything.
Anyway, before I put my foot in my mouth too many times, let me get started on Second Son. I'm kind of torn on this game. I really loved the first two inFAMOUS games, and I really like this one. And on paper, this game is better than the first two in most meaningful ways. It plays better, it looks (hell of) better, and I can point to this game and say, "This is why I paid $400 for a PS4" with a straight face.
And yet, it feels like half a game. It feels like there should be twice as many story missions, or maybe 30% more, I don't know. It's just, compared to the first two games, and what open world games usually have content wise, it feels pretty light. You could race through this game pretty quickly if you wanted to, and even 100%-ing the game didn't feel like it took very long. But, coincidentally, I don't think there's any in-game way to see how many hours have been spent playing it (I could be wrong though).
As I was getting to the final mission, it felt (to me) like I was where the half way point of the game should have been. That's not to say that the game doesn't wrap up the story, as the story is quite wrapped up at the end (at least with the good ending). I just wish there was more to the game. Which, I suppose, can be seen as a good thing to say about a game. It's better to be left wanting than to be left wishing it had stopped hours earlier, I guess.
But I'm willing to forgive the game's "shortness" (again, compared to the first two at least) because of two things. The first is that the game play is absolutely spot on and rock solid, and because the game looks absolutely amazing. I try not to use the word amazing (or at least I think I do, I don't know that it would hold true if you actually looked through the things I usually say), because I think you should actually be amazed if you use that word. I was amazed at how good this game looks.
After thinking about it, it's not too surprising, though. Before playing it, I had only ever seen videos of the game online. Videos at resolutions lower than 1080P, and on screens not as good as my TV. Everything ends up looking better on my TV running in the full resolution than it does in video form on my computer. I probably shouldn't have been so amazed, but gosh darn, does this game look good!
Well, most of it, at least. The colored lighting, particle effects, explosions, and wet pavement all look incredible. The facial animations? Stunning. Frame rate? Almost always solid (and even when not, it's less than a second and barely noticeable). But, there's some clipping. And the pedestrians don't look so good. And I noticed some shadow detail draw-in stuff. You know, the kind of thing where...Eh, forget about it, I'm nitpicking at this point.
I'm a sucker for colored lighting, sunsets, and sunrises, and this game has all of them in spades. If only there was more of it!
The story missions are all fun, but the side content is mostly not so good. There are enemy truck-generator-things that you need to blow up, and fighting past the enemies to get to them was always fun. And there is a spray painting mini-game that despite existing solely to make use of some of the controller's gimmicks, I actually enjoyed. You have to hold it sideways (like a spray paint can), and tilt to aim the paint. And when you pull the trigger to spray, it makes a spray painting noise out of the controller. It's really gimmicky, and kinda dumb, but I enjoyed it. It helps that the graffiti was usually pretty good, and often humorous.
But the rest of the side content is lame. There's no "side missions" in the sense of getting a quest from someone and then going and doing it. Well, unless you count that "buy a new copy" stuff about "what happened between inFAMOUS 2 and Second Son." Actually, if side missions in this game would have ended up like those, then maybe the game is better off without them. But the non-new-copy-code side stuff is about finding audio logs, shooting cameras, and chasing down a dude hiding in a crowd. Yawn.
It's a real shame, because something cool could have been done with all the powers in the game beyond the main mission stuff. And even then, the missions are either free-form enough that you can just use whatever power you have at the time, or they gin up some story reason to give you smoke (so you don't have as many traversal powers and can't just run over all the walls and get out). It would have been great if there were missions where you needed to have a certain power for one part, but then needed to switch on the fly to solve some other problem. As it is, I generally tended to just stick with neon unless I needed to get somewhere else really quickly, at which point I went to video (it has more flying-ish powers).
Also, and I guess this is slight spoiler territory, so I'll white it out, but you don't get the final (fourth) power until the final boss fight. I anticipated this happening, so I left one district of the game full of side stuff so I would have something to use the power on, but I think that's weird. Then again, it feels a little half-baked and unoriginal compared to the other three powers, so maybe that's why. Also, if it's a concrete power, how come I can't refill my power meter off concrete sidewalks? Or anything other than defeated enemies?
But overall I did like the game a lot. The core game play is fun. Fighting enemies is thrilling, and the simple act of traversing the world is a joy. If only there had been more reason to explore, and more things to do. But, as it is, it's the best PS4 exclusive, and that alone is enough reason to warrant anyone with a PS4 to pick it up. And with the binary good/evil morality stuff, there's good reason to play it twice, which I will do at some point in the near future. I played it good first, because that's what I always do.
Like I said above, I also beat Dark Souls II. I already wrote a blog about that, so I won't go into a ton of detail about that, but I do have some more things that I'd like to say on the subject. Like with Second Son, I'm a little torn about this game. On the one hand, the minute to minute game play of DS II is as fun and gripping as DS I was. But, it's just not quite as good. I'm not really sure how to put it into words. I guess part of it is that DS II is easier.
It's not just that though. DS II does get quite a bit harder in some of the game's later areas, but even then, it kinda feels like it's just aping the first game. Well, aping sounds cruel, and I don't want to sound cruel, because I still loved Dark Souls II. Just, not as much as the first one. I wrote a lot last time about how the world of DS II doesn't feel anywhere near as connected as DS I, and now that I've finished the game, I feel confident in saying that's true of the entire game.
For example, in DS I, the game was designed in such a way that there would often be one bonfire, and you'd later open up a shortcut to it (like in Undeadburg). DS II, conversely, is usually designed in such a way that the levels are, well, just that, levels. They start on one end, and you progress through it until you get to the next bonfire, and keep going to the next bonfire. There's definitely shortcuts to be had, but it's not like the first one, and I feel like the game is missing something without stuff like that.
I don't think the bosses are as good either, but I can't really get into that without going into details about the bosses in DS II, and I'd rather not spoil anything, so I won't. I do know (and I didn't notice this until a friend of mine pointed it out) that a lot of the bosses in DS II are "tall guys that you can just circle around and hit them." I'm paraphrasing, but his words were something like that. Which is not to say that bosses like that can't be fun (a lot of them are), but it is a running theme through a lot of the game's bosses, and it makes them feel a lot more generic (so thanks for pointing that out, KRIS).
And the final boss is too easy. Come on, you know better than to do something like that, From Software. I'm also not really sure why that boss was the final boss. In DS I, you were pretty clearly working toward a specific goal, and then the boss at the end made sense. Here, the boss is in a seemingly random place, and it's a "thing" (again, not trying to spoil too much) that didn't seem like "it" was important to the overall story until that point. But maybe I'm just missing something.
Don't get me wrong, there's a thing or two near the end of the game that are really cool/kind of crazy story wise, but aside from that I'd say I think the first one had a better story overall. But I could just be missing stuff. Well, I'm probably missing stuff, this is Dark Souls, after all.
In the end, it took me just under 70 hours to get to the end. The game lets you keep playing after the credits, so I might try to clean up another optional boss or two before I go into new game plus. And, after all this, I think that's what you should take away from what I'm saying. Despite not thinking it's as good as Dark Souls I, even after 70-ish hours, I want to go back in for more. I didn't have that feeling after DS I. That's kind of because there weren't any areas in DS II where I thought, "Well, that was fun, but I never want to do that again." DS I had several of those, and maybe that's the thing that DS II is missing.
There's no Sen's Fortress. There's no Anor Londo. There's no areas in this game that made me feel like I had accomplished the impossible after getting through it. That's what this game is missing. That feeling of doing the impossible.
I do wish that I had managed to do some jolly cooperation with that same friend of mine, but I'm afraid that now I'm much too high level (180s) for him. Yeah, that's another thing about this game. It's almost impossible to get into a game with a specific person. We tried, and tried, and tried. We did everything the internet said would help. We made sure we were within level range, we bought a ring to help connect us, we even joined the same covenant! Nothing worked. I did get to help some other random people, and even summoned some others for a couple of the boss fights. But nothing with my friend. Oh well!
Aside from these two games? I've played a bit more of Ground Zeroes. Still really enjoying the game part of it, but the more I play it, the more I realize just how little Kiefer Sutherland talks in that game. I'm really getting worried that this might be representative of The Phantom Pain, and that's a bummer if it is. What was the point of paying all sorts of money for Hollywood talent if he's going to talk so little that it starts to seem out of place during some vital story scenes? Hopefully I'm wrong, and he's appropriately chatty in The Phantom Pain.
Also, before I move on, I have a few things (game play wise) that I think HAVE to be changed by The Phantom Pain. I won't dwell on them though.
- There needs to be less clipping, especially with Big Boss's character model and his weapons.
- They need to do CQC animations WITHOUT Big Boss's guns just disappearing the second the animation starts.
- Weapon customization needs to be done BEFORE the missions start (this is the one I have the most hope for actually being addressed).
- Big Boss's shadow should have hair. Right now his shadow is mullet-less.
- Load time on the iDroid needs to be non-existent, there's no excuse for the map not loading for several seconds some of the time.
- The music for the helicopter arriving shouldn't reset to "no music" every time I turn the game off.
- Enemies should actually speak when you put a knife to their throats and demand information out of them.
- Draw distance needs to be improved.
The worst part is that several of these things shouldn't even be issues. This is the year 2014, clipping and hairless shadows shouldn't be in games with production values like this, and every line of dialog should be spoken, even if it's throwaway lines like "You'll find ammo over here."
That's about it for game related stuff that I have to talk about. I've been trying to work on my next book, but I haven't been able to get anything done. It's a combination of second guessing the direction I'm taking this one in, and of not thinking that any of this novel writing stuff is worth the time and effort I put into it. I mean, no one is buying either of the two books I put on Amazon. Granted, these are electronic books being published with no advertising, and from a "unknown" (I quote because if you're reading this, you are aware of me) author. I shouldn't be expecting killer sales, but it's next to impossible to put that much work into something and not feel real bad when I can't even get the people that read my blogs and follow me on Twitter to buy it (aside from a couple, and I appreciate them greatly).
I also feel like I've said this before. Several times. Deja vu? My whole life is just trudging through endless circles, doing the same stuff over and over and over and over...
I'm not even going to bother linking to either book. You can type "The Allegiance of Justice" or "SPACE COPS 5000" into Amazon. Or not, that's what you're probably going to do.
I'm going to end this now before this turns into me complaining about my life and how depressed I am. Wait, crap.
I was going to put in a picture from Goat Simulator, which I haven't played, but would if I had a computer than could handle its majesty, but I didn't immediately find one when I searched the site, so I'm not going to declare the successor to the Year of Luigi to be The Year of the Goat. I guess Waluigi will have to do, for now.