Dragon Age: Inquisition user review - Strike Three.

Originally posted here! Though after letting some time pass I decided to post it to the forums! Bits and pieces of it have been posted elsewhere as well, though I wanted me review to sorta encapsulate my overall thoughts on the game; albeit where spoilers are kept to a minimum...

Dragon Age II was... a rather polarising game, to say the least. Its rushed development cycle lead to a lot of blatant corner cutting, with much of the many hallmarks of Dragon Age: Origins torn away with little to make up for it. Though now we have Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third entry in the series and one that's been allowed some actual legroom for BioWare to really flex their muscles and go for something bigger than either of its predecessors! Bigger doesn't necessarily equate to better, however.

Inquisition is set during the aftermath of Dragon Age II when the tensions between Mages and the Templars--the mages' oppressors--are at full swing. In an attempt to quell the calamity, both factions opt to meet at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, however a massive explosion ends up killing all within -- all except you. Who you are at first makes for a great introduction. No longer are you shackled with the mundane restriction of being human, and can now once again choose to also be a dwarf, elf, or even one of the tall, (possibly) horned Qunari -- a first for the series.

The character creator is relatively robust, though it still pales in comparison to the likes of Dragon's Dogma's. The hair selection in particular is incredibly weak, and much of the facial hair options look hideous. Beards resemble the plastic novelty variety, and stubble looks akin to someone dotting around your character's face with a felt-tip pen. The inclusion of a Qunari option perhaps by default makes this Dragon Age's best character creator thus far, but still... those are some pretty damn ugly hair options you have there. It should also be noted that you can't edit your character mid-game, either. So you better make damn sure you're happy with what you have before you press that confirm button. Unfortunately, what little niggles I have with the character creator don't even begin to measure up with what else I have problems with.

Inquisition is truly quite the looker.

Taking some very obvious cues from 2011's RPG epic Skyrim, Inquisition was stated to be BioWare's biggest game they've ever developed. They're not wrong, however much of the game's scale is put to little use beyond boring busywork. Inquisition isn't open world per se, but rather you have your homebase that functions as a HUB, where you can then unlock and travel to multiple different areas, not entirely unlike how Dragon Age: Origins functioned. The environments vary in size, but they're all much larger than most of what the series has seen to date. They all look stunning at that, and there are a number of beautiful vistas that are really rather fetching to the eye. However the open nature of the game's environments merely run skin deep.

Much of the quest design follows that of something resembling a single-player MMORPG. You'll wander around these vast expanses, picking up quests noted by the staple exclamation point we're all accustomed to, and you'll find that there is certainly a significant bevvy on content on hand. However, the majority play out as a bunch of piecemeal fetch quests that simply involve you talking to Quest Giver, heading over yonder to collect Item or kill Thing, and then returning for your Reward. What they notably lack is typically what I would assume most come to BioWare games for, and that's character interaction. There's very little actual discussion or diplomacy going on amidst these quests; you'll simply talk to person, ask what they want, then go and do it. Once you return you simply note that you've done what they asked and accept your reward. It's all rather straightforward and completely clashes with the way quests could pan out in games like the KOTOR series or, more importantly, Dragon Age: Origins.

Origins in particular often allowed you to steer many of the game's quests and character interactions in pretty drastic directions. This would typically mean you could potentially kill the quest giver, or demand more of a reward; you could blackmail, lie, persuade, or even turn away your reward for the more altruistic playthroughs. Inquisition seemingly has none of that, however. Collecting flowers, killing stray bandits, and setting landmark points are the order of the day unfortunately. The only one example I can think of that harkens back to the moral ambiguity of Origins is a quest involving your elven apostate mage companion Solas, where you will encounter a Dalish mage. Upon working with her in killing some demons in a dungeon, she collects a trinket to keep for herself. From there you're given the prompt to kill her, or could alternatively have Solas persuade her to give it to you, or you could just end the quest then and there with her keeping the trinket.

This is particularly disappointing for the slightly more involved quests, such as one that had me invade this secret dwarven carta base. As a dwarf character myself, with a history in the carta at that, that should have spelled out excitement as I perhaps use my history to... I dunno, do something other than just slaughter my way through everything? Unfortunately, no, that's all the quest entailed, as do the rest of them. Sometimes a person of importance may instead be brought to you to be judged back at homebase, but that there's zero potential for diplomacy out in the field itself is still unfortunate regardless.

Meet Korra. She enjoys being irrationally distrustful and antagonistic of Spirits... except when she isn't.

Another good example is with my alternate Qunari character after encountering a Spirit in Old Crestwood. It's all perturbed because it doesn't have the freedom of manipulation in our world as it does in the mysterious and magical dream world called The Fade. Now, I've been roleplaying my Qunari as someone that doesn't trust spirits/demons and as such even decided to cast the enigmatic sort-of-Spirit companion Coleaway -- I'd have killed him if it was possible. But for this specific quest, there's no actual option besides doing as the spirit says and heading to this dungeon and killing a Rage Demon. I could alternatively just decline the quest, but there should be a better method for being able to wrap the quest up without simply declining the quest; there should be a way for it to be ticked off and ostensibly 'completed' without bending to the quest giver's demands. With the way I've played my Qunari she would have reactively attempted to cut the spirit down if possible; even if the spirit flees or what have you or is invulnerable for whatever reason, at least give me the option. Part of what I love about Origins in particular is how you can define your character not only with the bigger decisions, but the smaller ones you're constantly having to make as well.

As I wander about the vast expanse of the game's many environments and uncover a new town and the like, I should be excited at the prospect of seeing what I could find! What stories I could uncover and take part in, but instead it's usually a sense of preempted exhaustion. When I unlock a new area I already know what's in store: collecting stuff and killing things. Attack first, ask questions maybe, make decisions never. When you do engage in conversations, most involve you and whoever just standing there, with no dynamic camera angles or anything. They are painfully flat and monotonous, and again much of the actual conversation simply involves you asking questions with few opportunities to react. It's less of a dialogue tree and more just a branch. Many of the animations for the more cinematic cutscenes are all incredibly dated, too; most I can recognise from as far back as the original Mass Effect. And on that note, given the many influences Dragon Age has been taking from Mass Effect, it's disappointing that of all things they still haven't included any sort of mid-conversation interrupts like the Paragon/Renegade prompts.

To be fair, much of the game's side content is technically optional, but when you look at the entirety of what the game offers, the junk side stuff overwhelms much of the actual story content. And even then, because the handful of story missions require that you spend 'Power' to undertake, which you accumulate by completing side content, you're going to have to engage in much of the game's ''optional'' side content to a certain degree. When playing on Hard mode at that, you'll have to complete side content to be able to keep up with the recommended levels for the story missions at that. You could possibly turn the difficulty down, although its Normal setting is far too easy.

While the majority of the side content may be something of a misfire, the story itself unfortunately doesn't fair much better. The core plot itself is pretty standard BioWare fair, involving an ancient deity who wants to make the world a-new and it's up to you to raise an army to ect. ect. The main villain of the game makes for a pretty memorable introduction, however as it continues onward he ceases to leave much of an impression. He never amounts to much and rarely feels like the sort of threatening presence the game wants him to be; he just doesn't actually do a whole lot throughout the narrative. There are no curveballs or twists of any drastic nature in a game that could have sorely done with a few, and the game ends pretty much how you would likely expect it to. Simply put much of the actual story beats are rather predictable and just plain dull even.

The actual story missions are all primarily combat focussed, which only makes the heavy focus on combat throughout much of the side content to feel even more one-note. Though there is one interesting story mission that has you attempt to play 'The Game'. An Orlesian (Fantasy French) mixture of politics, espionage, backstabbing and intrigue -- real cloak & dagger sort of shenanigans where everybody is trying to put on the fakest smile while they shove a stiletto into each other's back. It's a fascinating concept, one that has been referred to many times in the series' past. However the mission itself doesn't do the bestest job in replicating the concept's infamy. For the most part what it entails you to do is run around... collecting stuff. You must also eavesdrop on conversations and make the occasional dialogue option, but it all tends to feel rather clumsy. That there's technically a timer amidst it all only adds to the messy nature of the mission. 'The Game' is so ambitious of a concept that it feels like it would be more befitting of its very own video game, as when presented within the constraints of this action-focussed RPG, it begins to collapse under the weight of such a grandiose idea.

My issues with the story aspect of the game don't end there, however. Decision making is often seen as the lifesource of BioWare RPGs. They allow you the opportunity to build your own character and make your playthrough your own, up until a point of course. However as the years have gone by, your own input and the influence you hold continues to become more and more irrelevant. Sure, there a number of decisions you can make, but none ever seem to hold any weight. Many are of the binary variety and don't quite feel as naturally implemented as they have done in the past, but what's worse is how little consequence they hold. Many of your decisions lead to situations so similar that the decision itself frankly feels like a formality; a way to give the player the illusion that they're deciding on a course to take. I had talked with a friend of mine who had made different decisions to my own, yet was disappointed to find that we still practically got the same results each time.

The variety of armour, cosmetically speaking, is dreadfully slim.

Your companions and their approval/disapproval of your decisions was the catalyst for your morality in previous games. Making certain decisions to push away a certain character could end in their betrayal of you, if they don't simply decide to at least leave your company. However that's not the case in Inquisition. Regardless of what your party members seemingly think of you, they will never step out of line and will always be willing to share much of their own personal backstory. With my Qunari character, I strived to be as much of a right bastard as I could--especially towards certain characters as the religiously devoted Cassandra and Leliana--but not only are there so few truly earth-shattering decisions for you to make, regardless of how much of a bitch I may act towards my companions it never amounted to anything of note.

There was one instance where I made a large-scale decision tied pretty closely to one of my companions, one that I would have assumed would remove him from my party. Upon making the decision, however, rather than finally being done with my bullshit, he actually asked me if he should leave, erasing a part of the character's individuality in the process. Oh sure, he disapproved plenty, but his disapproval in the grand scheme means nothing; a mere slap on the wrist compared to the potential murder you would have to inflict in Dragon Age games of the past. Suffice it to say, Inquisition sorely lacks the flexibility that this series once held. Even Dragon Age II I would go as far as to say held more consequence for your actions.

And it's not over yet! For then there's that blasted dialogue wheel, the bane of an RPG's existence. Your Inquisitor character also of course continues to have a voice, and you can even select between two voices per gender (which is impressive given the amount of dialogue), but that isn't what I have an issue with. The dialogue wheel as first introduced in Mass Effect essentially narrows down your choices and what your character will say to the gist. On one hand it makes for a suitable method in streamlining what choices function as questions that you can wrap back around to, and what choices will actually move the conversation forward. The problem, however, is that can often create a noticeable divide between what you choose your character to say, and what will actually come out of your character's mouth. One such example involved a companion quest, one that was quite sombre in tone. As the companion sat beside a dying loved one, I opted for the dialogue choice of ''I don't know what to say'', only to then hear my character say out loud ''Well... shit''. Wasn't quite what I was going for if I'm being honest. And while it isn't doesn't happen too often, your character will sometimes speak for him/herself, further separating the link between the player and their character. Despite allowing you to once again select from a series of races for your character, the dialogue wheel continues to inhibit the amount of roleplaying potential that made Origins in particular such a standout game for its generation.

Most likely go by the notion that the core plot of BioWare games are never really the focal point of the games, and that it's the characters that deserve the attention. Fortunately Inquisition does have itself a decent selection of personalities. Iron Bull is a particular favourite of mine as the one-eyed Qunari merc; he's a bit rough-around-the-edges, but still imbued a sense of camaraderie between he and my character. The mysterious and stoic Solas is another highlight, for his unwavering dedication to knowledge concerning the magical Fade world, and his ability to always have a clever analogy on hand to throw your way should you question his beliefs. The powerful mage Vivienne and her snooty, holier-than-thou exterior will no doubt clash with some, but her more traditional views towards the controlling of mages makes for an intriguing perspective. While each companion does also have their own quest, most aren't especially interesting and pale in comparison to the Loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2 in particular. They're still perhaps some of the best content in the game, but they vary in quality per character and are often extremely short.

For an RPG to have such a strong emphasis on the combat (much more so than its predecessors), it's outright baffling as to why they would cut down your party scriptings and patterns so drastically. No longer can you customise how your party members will act and react under certain situations, instead forcing you to micromanage practically every action. You can still allow your party to use their abilities, but they rarely ever use them when it feels the most appropriate, often leaving me to then wait for the ability to finish its cooldown should I want to use it. If I for example have my crossbow-wielding companion Varric's Caltrops ability turned on, he will then often proceed to rush right into the thick of combat and throw them on the ground, even though it's supposed function as a defensive ability to allow him to escape from the very situations he's rushing into.

Flawed as it may be, the combat is at least flashy and full of spectacle

Now, the micromanagement itself can be fun at times when it feels it's earned, such as during boss battles for example or huge skirmishes involving you combating against 6 or more enemies. But to constantly tell every party member to do this or that for every single battle? It can get to be pretty damn exhausting quite frankly. That your companions can't even be intuitive enough to move out of a flaming circle of death seems like a pretty significant oversight. Trying to micromanage a dual-wielding Rogue character in particular requires you to be constantly telling them to hold position, as all melee characters regardless of their health will forever charge towards whatever enemy they can find. A Rogue of course primarily benefits from flanking attacks, however when controlled by the AI they will never actually attack as such and will just routinely rush into the fray and start stabbin'. For a class that is both melee focussed and can only typically take so few attacks before succumbing to death, the amount of micromanagement required to keep a Rogue alive is simply more busywork than should be necessary. Frankly the more I played the game the more it started to feel as if it's all one step away from having to tell them when best to wipe their own ass.

Inquisition does at least include the Tactical Camera, even on consoles now too, allowing you a more efficient, isometric view of the battlefield; however it's still not ideal. In certain situations it can sometimes leave you staring at a bunch of branches, completely obfuscating your view. Certain actions cannot be undertaken within the tactical camera, either. Telling a party member to revive another never seems to work, neither does telling my Inquisitor to close or disrupt the demon-spawning rifts you'll encounter on your travels. Abilities that can ordinarily be chained in real-time--such as a two-handed ability where you'll swing your weapon around until your stamina drains--by holding down the appointed button cannot be chained amidst the Tactical View. Whence told to use such an ability, the character simply does one strike/swing/ect. and then that'll be that, which for some abilities will then put that ability on a cooldown.

The sooner BioWare does away with that wretched Dialogue Wheel the better

The combat itself is at least enjoyable to watch, with all kinds of magical effects spraying everywhere, some superb animation work, and the sound effects are also well done at that. For a time the combat was indeed rather fun, despite the frustrating lack of party AI customisation. But because of how much combat there is in this game, it started to wear out its welcome, especially as the enemy variety isn't quite extensive enough to span a potential 100 hours. It is at least appreciative that your party members' abilities can now essentially be customised however you want; Cassandra doesn't have to be the sword & shield type of warrior and can be specced to specialise in two-handed weapons if you desire. While it at first eliminates the individuality of each party member, after a specific story event they'll unlock their own unique specialisation tree to help distinguish them from one another.

Bugs and varying levels of jank have cropped up here and there as well. Situations such as party members somehow getting stuck in the geometry are easy to giggle at, but crashes taking me back to the PS4 XMB aren't quite as hilarious. One particular bug that sometimes required me to skip through dialogue is another that is hard to forgive. In this current climate of games being released unfinished Inquisition doesn't begin to compare, but the bugs of note are still worth criticising. *Certain issues may have been rectified via the recent patch, however*

While Inquisition has attempted--and in some cases succeeded--to right all of the wrongs Dragon Age II committed, its sloppy attempts at competing with Skyrim does no favours to the ever invasive influence of Mass Effect. Inquisition is most certainly a huge game, one that can undoubtedly take you 100+ hours to witness all of its content. However a significant majority of it all feels like filler, with a pretty weak story to boot, and what little story missions there actually are can barely manage to hold the game together on their own. Dragon Age II is equally as flawed as Inquisition, if not more so. However it's easier to be a little more forgiving because of its unfortunate circumstances; that it had to be developed within such a tight schedule clearly left the developers with their hands tied. Inquisition, however, was supposed to be BioWare getting back on track, to have the time and the resources to make the game they want to make. If Inquisition truly is that game, then that's pretty damn depressing.


A sandbox to be remembered!

You, erm, got a little something on your, er...

I've been playing an awful lot of Far Cry 4 lately -- over 20 hours now to be exact. However what may be distinctive in that regard is about 80% of my time has been spent frollicking about within its world and what it has to offer. I've actually undertaken very few of the story missions, just enough to get out of the prologue, for them to let me off the leash and go wild.

Ever since then I've just been going around making my own fun, exploring at my leisure, doing whatever stuff is available that isn't actually related to pushing the narrative forward. The story itself so far is pretty weak and doesn't get much better I'm to believe, but who cares! Far Cry 4 is a game that excels because of its open world and the mechanics within, not down to its story. I'd go as far as to say it's fair game if you simply view the story missions as another set of side content! Just another set of reasons to go blow up stuff or shank some fellows; the why behind it all doesn't really seem to matter and it's probably best you don't ask very many questions.

Disclaimer: I played very little of Far Cry 3, so... it's possible Far Cry 4 wouldn't prove to be as fun had I already gotten into a very similar rhythm with Far Cry 3 before hand. Nonetheless!

AI on AI Fighting!

Don't you just love it?! Actually killing your fellow man is all well and good (very good in fact), but part of what I've loved so much about Far Cry 4 is watching everyone and everything else kill each other.

Since the crux of the game's story is about this civil war thing, that means you've got two AI factions that are constantly duking it out with one another. You can barely cross the street without dem blues & reds going at each other's necks, completely unscripted! That on its own can be fun to witness, and also use to your advantage by then shanking all the reds in the back while they're preoccupied, but then you of course have the wildlife.

They function as a third faction that are basically out to kill every single one of us. So, not only do you have the Blue v Red, however there may also be a fucking rhino that'll come charging out of nowhere, effortlessly knocking everything aside like ragdolls. Or perhaps an eagle will swoop down from the skies, or a pack of wild dogs will start chewing at a squad of bad guy's ankles, or a single determined Honey Badger will arrive and LEAVE NOTHING IN ITS WAKE.

Hell, animals won't simply just attack us, either. Being the barbaric fuckers that they are, they can routinely be seen attacking other wildlife as well. I've seen a pack of wolves chasing after poor, defenseless boars, and have on innumerable occasions witnessed an eagle picking up pigs & goats and then dropping them to their death. Bears will aggressively bear hug (and scratch, maul, and so on) one another for funzies, vultures will start pecking at corpses, tigers will actually crouch down into the bushes to stay out of you sight while they silently sneak their way towards you, the rising undead, human sacrifices, dogs and cats living together - Mass Hysteria!

Witnessing all three factions dynamically interact with one another is eternally entertaining, and that's without any of my own meddling at that!

Making Traversal Fun

...Bless 'im for trying.

High Gliding, gyrocopters, wingsuit, cars, elephants, simply using your own two feet - getting around Kyrat is about as engaging as murdering everything within it. While it's not quite a platformer, there's a great amount of maneuverability at your fingertips and shoe soles; clambering up buildings is easy and intuitive, as is sprinting along and then sliding behind a car to keep yourself hidden. The way you'll actually poke your head out, be it above or to the side, when aiming next to a flat surface is ever appreciative, as is the easy accessibility of your wingsuit. Being able to leap off a cliff and immediately start soaring along like a bird only to then lead it into a parachute drop is simply invigorating.

The gyrocopter is easy to fly and highly maneuverable, and riding a rampaging elephant isn't as difficult as one may expect. Being able to turn around on your elephant as easily as if you're still on foot is perhaps a tad unrealistic... but regardless, everything feels like it's been designed to be immediately accessible and emphasise the sheer variety rather than realism.

Gah, and then there's all the vehicles! Leaping off of cliffs on a quadbike, sitting underwater in a car somehow immune to the predicament of drowning or getting electrocuted... It's as if the world of Kyrat is your own little box of toys. A... sandbox if you will.

Interacting With The World Around Me

Don't you just hate it when your ride decides to take off on its without you?

The world of Far Cry 4 isn't the most lifelike. Los Santos for example this is not, but the way I can interact with it all more than makes up that. The simple blending of action and stealth, as is becoming more and more popular these days, is still a brilliant mix of systems. Crouching around only before rushing and gutting a bad guy, then pulling out his sidearm and killing another two nearby is the purest of power-fantasy! Being able to leap off and gut a guy from above, or pulling a guy over a piece of cover and... gutting him thataway too! How the Hell Ajay Ghale hasn't achieved some creepy ominous nickname like 'The Butcher' amongst the Kyratians (?) I have no idea.

Far Cry 4 can be played as much of a stealth or action game as you want it to be... usually. Still, mixing the two together is what I find works. Sleuthing around, doing some more of that gutting, throwing knives from a distance, hiding corpses -- only until that one bugger you forget to tag turns around a corner and now it's time to switch to that portable grenade launcher and start throwing molotovs in every direction. Or I could start throwing down proximity mines to cover my flank while I slink back into stealth, while also perhaps tossing in some bait to keep the guards busy with a leopard or whatever else is immediately lured into the fray. Kind of ridiculous for how a wild animal will (usually) spawn immediately within the vicinity, making it seem as if you're summoning the animal with a pokeball or something, but realism ain't welcome in Kyrat!

Not the most traditional placement to set up camp, but whatever works for you man.

Obviously the outposts are what most come to to have everything blend together, though I find they're not always necessary. Simple patrols that you can spot may sometimes be enough incentive for me to start throwing molotovs while out of their sight purely to start freaking them out, if not just charging right in them and plunging my machete into one while then immediately throwing his own knife into the other. mmmmm, good stuff. I suppose the outposts do offer a more contained environment to see what kind of havoc you can unleash, though I still ultimately prefer the freedom of the open world itself. It's more satisfying to watch a group of bad blokes getting jumped by a leopard as opposed to I myself somehow making that leopard materialise into existence.

Though I do have some degree of infamy at least. The way seemingly everyone knows my name and will comment on me being the one to finally get off my ass and start taking over outposts is rather neat. If also somewhat hilarious because of how Ghale is basically The One True Savior that is an expert in virtually anything and everything, while at the same time having so little personality or character that he might as well be a silent protagonist.

There are a number of actual official dynamic events that'll occur throughout your travels, too. Clearly inspired by the sort of stuff from Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto V, they add a little structure to your open-world madness and go to great lengths to make it seem like there's always something going on around every corner. Unfortunately the actual list of events themselves is pretty slim, but because of the sheer randomness that can occur (again usually involving the surprise cameo of a rhino or what have you), they're worth checking out all the same.

Even the simple act of booting things and watching them go puff is so weirdly satisfying. I do wish Ajay would always resort to the boot rather than switching between that and his disappointingly unsatisfying machete depending on the angle (I think), but alas. The collectables too are actually well implemented purely as means to give me more reason to scour around such an expansive world. Those creepy Yalung masks in particular add an extra layer of appeal for how you have to find them by ear due to weird chanting sound that emanates from it. Plus, I really enjoy many of the caves and underwater graveyards that are filled with details left behind by this 'Goat' serial killer.

The way the NPCs themselves will react to everything happening can be entertaining in its own right, too. Believe me, they get just as freaked out by that recognisable shriek of an eagle that's preparing to skydive itself towards any unlucky prey. That the regular soldiers will actually call out to their troops what specific animal it is is kind of impressive. It's such a little detail they didn't need to implement. In fact the AI in general and how they adapt is not the worst I've seen! They'll actually coordinate with one another and try to surround you, though that very same coordination works to your own advantage as they happen to enjoy shouting very loudly every action they are about to undertake.

The Jank!

Mercy, mercy me!

'Jank' is such a strange concept, as it typically refers to a game's scripting breaking in some way, but to the benefit of the player. It's the weird sort of bullet point that technically shouldn't be praised, but sometimes it can result in so many laugh out loud scenarios that it's hard not to deny that it has its appeal. Jumping in for a ride alongside some AIs while they're at the wheel is one of the best ways to have some jank fed right down your gullet. Their driving often makes it all feel as if they're driving on ice, as they slip around all over the place while keeping the same level of acceleration. Maybe that's just how all driving looks in this game from more of a third-person perspective, however!

Some of the ordinary folk and how they will often get very confused in traffic jams, or can be found skinning a dead animal with their bare hands (no actual bear hands yet unfortunately) is another common example.

Oh! Conclusion!

I admittedly don't blog about games I actually enjoy that much, so it was a nice change of pace to write about a game I've been spending my time playing so much purely for the sake of playing it! Rather than so I can better write up an authoritative list of criticisms or something.


...Far Cry 4 is a really fun time, one that has left me taking my sweet time with just about everything. I rarely ever actually fast travel and prefer to hoof it (or... fly/glide my way there) purely because I simply enjoy inhabiting this world. I do take part in many of the side activities, but for the most part it's been very easy for me to lose the track of time by simply running around seeing what dumb stuff I can instigate. That is if don't choose to take a seat and watch as the game does it all on its own. This is all without also getting into the huge variety of actual firepower on hand -- the sidearm grenade launcher and double-barrelled shotgun being two of my personal favourites!

There is the fear that I'll perhaps burn myself out on the game before I actually reach the end, however. But for now I've got a pretty good balance of playing a story mission in between every five hours of random nonsense.



I have some criticisms for Dragon Age: Inquisition.

...They certainly know how to make dragon's appear intimidating, I'll give them that!

Like many I'm sure, I've been spending an awful lot of my time in Dragon Age's land of Thedas. I was pretty pumped to return leading up to release; many of the gameplay videos, trailers, interviews and the like proved that BioWare had actually taken feedback and the many criticisms of Dragon Age II to heart.

I should preface this all by saying that I don't think Inquisition is a bad game, far from it in fact, and that I am enjoying myself... yet at the same time there are so many nagging issues in the back of my mind that I simply can't escape, no doubt akin to the very Calling that haunts the Grey Wardens............................. >_>

As far as the visuals go, I have few complaints in that regard!

...Anywhoo I haven't actually even finished the game yet, which is partly because I'm not quite as engaged as I was hoping to be. Though there's also the fact that I've already got two simultaneous playthroughs going on... That's a thing with me I'm afraid. I just can't help myself when I'm greeted with character creators or multiple classes in games, and I invariably end up playing multiple characters at once. It took me forever to actually get a single completion out of Diablo III in particular as I was playing through with every single class. I would have ideally gotten at least one playthrough before I post this, but the game is of course so damn long that I want to at least express my current thoughts before I reach the end.

In any case, while there's a lot left to be seen, I've invested more than enough hours for my problems to stick out. So, to begin with:

Single Player MMO-itis

To put it bluntly, many of the side-quests in the game are pretty dull and wholly predictable. The majority play out as a bunch of piecemeal fetch quests that involve you talking to Quest Giver, heading over yonder to collect Item or kill Thing, and then returning for your Reward. What they notably lack is typically what I would assume most come to BioWare games for, and that's character interaction. There's very little actual discussion or diplomacy going on amidst these quests; you'll simply talk to person, ask what they want, then go and do it. Once you return you simply note that you've done what they asked and accept your reward. It's all rather straightforward and completely clashes with the way quests could pan out in games like the KOTOR series or, more importantly, Dragon Age: Origins.

Origins in particular often allowed you to steer many of the game's quests and character interactions in pretty drastic directions. This would typically mean you could potentially kill the quest giver, or demand more of a reward; you could blackmail, lie, persuade, or even turn away your reward for the more altruistic playthroughs. Inquisition seemingly has none of that, however. The only one example I can think of is the quest with Solas where you meet some Dalish mage; upon working with her in killing the demons in a dungeon, she collects a trinket to keep for herself. From there you're given the prompt to kill her, or could alternatively have Solas persuade her to give it to you, or... just end the quest then and there with her keeping the trinket.

This is particularly disappointing for the slightly more involved quests, such as one that had me invade this secret dwarven carta base. As a dwarf character myself, with a history in the carta at that, that should have spelled out excitement as I perhaps use my history to... I dunno, do something other than just slaughter my way through everything? Unfortunately, no, that's all the quest entailed, as do the rest of them. Sometimes a person of importance may instead be brought to you to be judged back at homebase, but that there's zero potential for diplomacy out in the field itself is still unfortunate regardless.

Meet Korra. She enjoys being irrationally distrustful and antagonist of Spirits... except when she isn't.

Another good example is with my alternate Qunari character after encountering some spirit in Old Crestwood. It's all pissy because it doesn't have the freedom of manipulation in our world as it does in The Fade. Now, I've been roleplaying my Qunari as someone that doesn't trust spirits/demons and as such even decided to cast Cole away -- I'd have killed him if it was possible. But for this specific quest, there's no actual option besides doing as the spirit says and heading to this dungeon and killing a Rage Demon. I could alternatively just decline the quest... but there should be a better method of being able to wrap the quest up without simply declining the quest; there should be a way to be ticked off and ostensibly 'completed' without bending to the quest giver's demands. With the way I've played my Qunari she would have reactively attempted to cut the spirit down if possible; even if the spirit flees or what have you or is invulnerable for whatever reason, at least give me the option. Part of what I love about Origins in particular is how you can define your character not only with the bigger decisions, but the smaller ones you're constantly having to make as well.

As I wander about the vast expanse of the game's many environments and uncover a new town and the like, I should be excited at the prospect of seeing what I could find! What stories I could uncover and take part in, but instead it's usually a sense of preempted exhaustion. When I unlock a new area I already know what's in store: collecting stuff and killing things. Attack first, ask questions maybe. And given the many other inspirations Dragon Age has taken from Mass Effect, how did they somehow miss to incorporate the Renegade mid-scene prompts??

Now don't get me wrong, killing things is a lot of fun in this game and I'm enjoying the combat a good deal. However when that's pretty much exclusively what you can expect from anything besides the major story beats... it can feel rather one-note. It brings to mind the Deep Roads segment of Origins, as it's one, long stretch of what is essentially pure combat, with some story stuff at the end. Now I actually liked this segment a fair bit to the contrary of most, as I enjoy the combat of these games and relished the chance to explore and fight my way through this huge dungeon. However with Inquisition the 'Deep Roads' is encompassing far more of the game than even I am happy with.

Which is a shame, because the areas themselves are beautiful and indeed expansive. The Hinterlands alone feels like it's larger than the entirety of Kirkwall. And to that I do still enjoy exploring around, but it's only for the simple pleasures of taking in the environments and not for picking up new quests.

Either do exactly what I say, or don't do anything at all...?

I'm no doubt preaching to the choir on this one, but it simply baffles me as to why they would completely nerf your party scripting and AI pattern setting potential. Playing on Hard mode, it has forced a significant amount of micromanagement as leaving your party to their own devices is usually a direct path to annihilation. I have turned off near all of my party's abilities as they rarely ever use them when they're the most appropriate and often left me waiting on cooldowns to use an ability when I wanted to use it.

It also results in situations like with Vivienne's melee slash spell ability. When turned on this will mean that Vivienne will actually sometimes charge into the fray and start slashing at people... which is not where you'd perhaps want your mage to be. But with it turned off, that means that I always have to pause and then switch to her myself and mash the appointed button to use it. Varrick's poison cloud ability is another good example.

Having to constantly tell my party where to go and/or telling them to hold position can be annoying at times, too. Especially when my Qunari rogue has low health yet continues to charge right towards the flaming Rage Demon. With so much to manage I will sometimes forget to tell a party member to do so-and-so, which may invariably lead to their demise. Like, why can't I assign formations and the like?

Basically I just want to be able to have my tank choose to taunt when he's surrounded by three enemies rather than doing it myself, or allowing him to use it himself, which will inevitably lead to him using it as soon as a fight erupts regardless of how many enemies he's near. I don't mind having to essentially play complete battles from the tactical camera and meticulously pausing and unpausing... but it can at times feel like there's more busy work involved than is necessary.

That even Dragon Age II allows more party customisation just leaves me scratching my head as to why they'd water it down to such a degree for an RPG of such a larger scope.

It's the little things

I will admit that the lack of decent side quests and party scripting are my primary complaints thus far and takes up the bulk of the blog, but there's still many more such little cuts spread throughout this thing. Each one on their own isn't anything much to be dismayed by, but when viewed altogether they start to form a pretty significant gash...

The character creator isn't their best

I think I may have accidentally given my dwarf a comically large underbite after editing his mouth and jaw w/ goatee on display

I quite liked the DAII character creator. It isn't as diverse as what you would find in Dragon's Dogma for example, but it allowed me to create characters I liked to look at with surprising ease. The lack of selectable races was pretty damning, but by and large it was a character creator I enjoyed tinkering with.

Inquisition I can't say the same. For starters, the hair and beard selection isn't nearly up to the standards set by DAII, and it also looks ugly as sin at that. There's like 6 different varieties of buzzcuts, and many of the beards look like the plastic novelty kind really; stubble also looks like little coloured specs that have been dotted on as well.

That there's no way (AFAIK) for you to be able to tweak your character mid-game is insane. Even DAII allowed you the option to edit your Hawke, albeit through a preorder bonus... Letting you choose from a number of races again, including the debut of Qunari, is mighty appreciative all the same. Still, much like in Mass Effect in particular, even if the character itself may look fine in the creator, actually seeing your character in-game may perhaps tell a different story.

I'm something of a perfectionist when it comes to character creators personally and I always enjoy making the odd tweak here and there, and that you're literally stuck with your character looking the exact same for a 100 or so hours seems like a massive oversight.

Lack of cosmetic armour variety

Still on the cosmetic side of things, the armour variety has been dreadfully slim from what I've seen. Despite putting in a good 30 or so hours into my main playthrough, I've only encountered like 3 or 4 different armour styles. The most common being that hideous coat. Furthermore, these armour types seemingly carry over across different classes! As my rogue has also often been restricted to the same few armour styles, including that same damn coat and the piece of armour that's just like 60% chainmail.

I do at least like how adding in new attachments will edit your armour's look at least, but still, the bulk of the armour pieces themselves have left me wanting for so long now. Part of why I enjoy playing as warriors in these games is due to the awesome armour you're likely to find and wear, yet with no such luck so far despite hitting around level 14.

Say what I want you to say when I say it.

One of my primary issues with how BioWare design their RPGs these days is the increase in having your character talk for themselves. It was particularly egregious in Mass Effect, as Shepard became more and more of a defined character across the series. Though with a series like Dragon Age it sticks out all the more. The whole idea behind Inquisition with the multiple races should be that you are creating your own character. Hawke was essentially Dragon Age's own Shepard, but with the different races--each with their own backstory you can tailor slightly during conversation--your character is supposed to be your character.

On some occasions the game will at least allow you to choose how to respond mid-travel by pressing R3 to bring up the dialogue wheel, but more often than not your character will simply talk for themselves. It's nowhere near as prevalent as in Mass Effect 3 for example--where Shepard quite literally seems to talk for him/herself for like 40% of the dialogue--but every time it occurs it's like adding another penny to the jar.

Furthermore, and this is a problem with the dialogue wheel in general, what I choose my character to say and what will actually come out of their mouths often isn't 1-1. And I don't mean because your dialogue wheel option is typically 3-4 words whereas the dialogue is of course whole sentences, but rather the direction it may go in and the way my character delivers the line isn't always what I intended.

No more Rivalries?

One of the genuine innovations Dragon Age II brought to the series was the concept of Rivalries. These existed alongside Friendships, so as to allow you to still 'unlock' a party members dialogue despite this character potentially disagreeing with the majority of your actions. It's especially important for how it defeated the possible pressure of having to pander to characters so they'll like you, as you'll now still establish a relationship with a character... just not one that isn't entirely friendly is all!

For Inquisition however, it doesn't look like that's still a thing? Hell, I have no idea how you're supposed to track your character relationships in general. Perhaps they wanted it to feel more organic overall by not giving each party member a bar to measure their like/dislike of you? If that's the case then why in the Hell do they still pamper the screen with Approval and Disapproval notices?

Oh! Conclusion!

At least the combat is as engaging as ever! if only there wasn't 'as' much of it.

It once again need be said that first: I am still mostly enjoying my time with Inquisition, and second: I've still got many hours to go before I hit the credit scroll. I again enjoy the combat, the game's environments look stunning, many of your party members are likeable, and the story is... a BioWare story, I guess. Least as of where I am now. There's a great sense of progression as you're just constantly benefiting and building up the inquisition throughout. Also, the soundtrack's pretty grand; the campfire scene (you know the one) legitimately gave me goosebumps!

The openness of the environments also allows for a little bit of emergent gameplay. Nothing that'll rival the kings of the open world genre, but witnessing bandits fighting off wildlife helps in establishing the world around you. The more busier environments are also just that -- busy! There's often more people on screen doing whatever, and when the game wants to look cluttered, it will do so.

All the same, Inquisition still hasn't quite matched what I'd want to see out of a successor to Origins -- which only continues to look all the more impressive and ballsy by each passing year. Inquisition has certainly at the very least aspired and succeeded in remedying many of the ails brought about from DAII... But similar such issues still persist, and the Mass Effect influence is as invasive as ever.

Unfortunately what the 50 or so hours in Inquisition has told me is that Dragon Age is likely never going to match the crazy amount of flexibility that Origins offered, and that's... unfortunate, to say the least. Still, I will assuredly complete this game -- twice even most likely! Even DAII managed to wrangle two playthroughs out of me. Whether I'll actually bother to partake in more of the game's outer activities and explore many more of the open areas that are available is a little more ambiguous, however. Perhaps the side quests get a little more interesting as the game continues? While I would at least appreciate it, that there are so many huge areas full of boring junk quests is still a criticism that can't be ignored.

The one bright spot amongst all this is that I now suddenly have a real hankering for giving Origins (and maybe even DAII) another run through one day. Never did finish a playthrough with the dwarven commoner Origin.



Resident Evil's Red Headed Stepchild: A Look Back at Dino Crisis 2.


Here we are, the second (and what might as well be last) chapter of the mildly-famed Dino Crisis series! Following the original by only a year, Dino Crisis 2 holds very little similarity to its predecessor--beyond the inclusion of dinosaurs that is--and made a quick u-turn on the survival horror-ness of the original Dino Crisis. Though unlike the original I had already invested many an hour into Dino Crisis 2 during its heyday and loved it dearly.

Survival Horror this is most certainly not, but since both Resident Evil and Silent Hill were still covering that front at the time--and because of my lack of investment in the original--I was plenty open to letting this game's hail of bullets and heaps of dinosaur corpses wash over me.

...Which wasn't quite as unpleasant or painful as it sounds.

It's Resident Evil, but w-... No, wait, this isn't like Resident Evil at all!

You just couldn't leave well alone, could you, Theodore...

OK, it certainly includes many similarities to such ilk, but they all basically begin and end at the foundation. Sure, camera angles are still in play (with pre-rendered backgrounds instead of 3D funnily enough), and your character still moves with the grace of a wounded sloth, but... you can't walk. Like, literally. This is a game where you have one level of speed and that is GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO! Not only that, but ammo is never an issue, and not in the ''I've replayed Resident Evil so many times that I always have enough ammo because of knowing where it's all located'' thing, but the ''starting off with a shotgun complete with a hundred rounds'' kind. Yup, one hundred shells, at the very opening of the game! It just hands you this payload and asks you to go to work on making these dino-fucks extinct all over again. And of course, to go with the speedier nature of the game you can move and shoot, or ''run n gun'' as it's more traditionally known!

There's even an arcade element to it as well, as you rack up combos and are then awarded points upon exiting the area into the next. Bonuses for countering enemy attacks and/or getting through an area without getting hit (that is if you kill at least 6 enemies) also accentuate the score-focussed nature of the game.

Suffice it to say, Dino Crisis 2 is certainly quite the departure from its forebearers. Rather than relying on cribbing from its more successful cousin (or... stepparent) it decided to spread its wings and head in a markedly different direction. And despite the higher action-focus of the game, it still stands out even amongst the latter day Resident Evil shooter games at that.

Guns are fun! Fun Guns! Funs!

Simply listing what the game is can only count for so much, however. Fortunately, Dino Crisis 2 is indeed a fun time to this very day. The shotgun in particular feels powerful to wield and the dinosaurs themselves animate well and react accordingly to getting blasted in the mouth with some shells. The game isn't especially gory or anything--no dinosaur limbs flying through the air--but your weapons still evoke a feeling of raw power nonetheless.

Running and gunning your way along gives the game an urgency and pacing that feels right at home in a Platinum game or something. While the tank controls do feel a little inhibiting for this style of game, the combat is still basic enough that they don't get in the way too much. You have the ever reliable auto-aim for starters, and there's also a dodge maneuver you can use to try and escape from a dinosaur about ready to headbutt you across the environment.

Weirdly enough the sidestep dodge you have is not only an option, but is turned off by default. In fact I had only just discovered that this maneuver exists with this very revisit! Throughout all of my time playing this game as a wee cherub I had no such idea; simply keeping on the move and knowing when to shoot were my only defences. Though it should be said that it's not especially useful, as it's a little clunky to perform and you can't cancel animations or anything like that to initiate your sidestep. It's perfectly playable without it, and while again it's not exactly a game changer, it's still there so... might as well make use of it. Rather to have it than not I suppose; that triangle button isn't being used for anything else!


This time around you'll actually be playing as two characters throughout the story. The spunky red-headed not-Jill Valentine Regina returns, alongside newcomer Dylan Moran Morton. Though there's not really very much difference between the two beyond what weapons they have access to. Dylan opens up with the shotgun and Regina is again initially stuck with a pistol. Though don't let its small frame fool you! While it may have taken up to like 13 bullets to down a velociraptor in the original, that average has noticeably been cut down to somewhere 2-3 bullets instead.

In all honesty I think it's a tad disappointing that they didn't attempt to differentiate the two characters a little more. Maybe Regina could have been used for more puzzle-y segments, whereas Dylans is pure action. As it is, they're both practically just character skins of one another.

If there is a problem with the gameplay it's that it's... well, to put a negative spin on my aforementioned summation of it being rather ''basic'', kind of shallow. Most of the core combat simply involves you running and gunning in the hopes that you can shoot the dinosaurs before they claw or maul you. They do have more of a variety of dinosaurs this time around, but beyond the Allosauruses that require you to maneuver around and shoot them in their sides, for everything else you need only keep running n gunning. Though speaking of dinosaur variety, I do really like that they included a type that will by the very definition of the word literally attempt to dropkick you. I'd like to think that's precisely how they would actually fight off other dinosaurs all those millions of years ago, and if science were to prove me wrong, well -- FUCK YOU DROPKICKING DINOSAURS MAN DON'T RUIN THIS FOR ME.

You'll acquire a number of weapons as the game progresses, but for the most part I found myself plenty comfortable in just sticking with the defaults. There are some later game weapons that act as decent replacements, but because the enemies are all so similar and exhibit such basic AI patterns, there's not exactly much room nor need for strategy or anything like that. Furthermore, while you also have a menu for equipping a secondary weapon such as a machete or stun rod, they don't really serve much purpose. And in the machete/stun rod's case they're more beneficial for simply opening certain doors (ones that are covered in vines for example) than actually using in combat.

Nonetheless, the sheer act of shooting dinosaurs, especially mid-jump, is ever satisfying to pull off. As simple and shallow as it all may be, the core act of shooting is fun enough to reliably carry much of the game across its run time.

A set-piece driven shooter before there were set-piece driven shooters.

A bloody goldmine right here.

I might be misremembering the times, but during the year of 2000 I don't recall many games that were consistently introducing new kinds of temporary mechanics and set-pieces ala modern day games, least not to the extent of Dino Crisis 2. As I was much younger at the time and playing a significantly smaller variety of games, however, I will admit I don't exactly hold much authority to speak of such an era...

Regardless, Capcom must have understood that for as fun as the shooting is, they hafta to mix it up here and there to keep it from getting too stale. While the majority of the 6-8 hour story does involve all of the running n gunning I previously described, there's a good amount of curveballs involving two turret sequences (one's alright, the other less so), an escapade that has you driving a tank while trying to keep a T-Rex at bay, a short escort mission, and a particular standout that has you switching control between Regina and Dylan amidst an onslaught of Allosauruses. Some of those of course sound trite by today's standards, but back then it's no wonder why I was so enamoured with this game.

Funnily enough, the most memorable segment throughout the whole game actually goes to an underwater segment. Oh yes, you read that right. As Regina during the middle portion of the game, you'll hafta travel underwater in this huge, bulking diving suit. Your footsteps feel heavy and plodding, and firing your needle-gun at the underwater dinos is quite satisfying; you also have access to a jump now as well, which leads into a little bit of light platforming -- none of it is particularly taxing or anything, though, and getting to jump about can be pretty fun. You'll also eventually have access to an underwater missile launcher thing, which feels pretty powerful to shoot, if also making all combat encounters underwater a breeze. Just a shame you don't keep them upon returning to the surface.

The atmosphere is what really sells it, though. The pacing is slowed down a great bit alongside your movement, and the waviness and murky blue of the visuals actually portrays a surprisingly unsettling visage. The boss battle you'll face during this segment I also legitimately found to be kinda terrifying! Being underwater in general is pretty up there of my list of fears (beyond a fear of terrible game design that is), and witnessing this huge amphibious dinosaur slowly leer towards you from outside of your vision really gives me the goosebumps. The battle itself isn't particularly difficult, but the whole experience is still an effective one all the same. Funny that Dino Crisis 2 is actually more successful at being scary when it wants to over its predecessor.

Strange why there's so few horror games set underwater, and I don't mean even ala BioShock by having you in an underwater city, but actually underwater, within the ocean itself. It's a setting that carries a lot of similarities as to what makes space such a potentially terrifying location. You're slow and sluggish in movement, whereas your predators are the complete opposite of such, and the water itself can make it difficult to see very far beyond your own hand. The thought alone of dynamically encountering a giant fuck-off shark or something similar gives me the shivers... Open water itself is just as terrifying too; the idea of seeing nothing but water stretching as far as the eye can see, while there's an entire world beneath you. An environment that's just waiting to be exploited.

No game is perfect.

Dino Crisis 2's pacing in general is admittedly all over the place, however. Most of those set-pieces I previously mentioned are all primarily contained within your stay in the Edward City location during the final third. The whole first third of the game is pretty much just running n gunning with the occasional key hunt. There's also one particular instance where you're about to enter the 3rd Energy Facility, however you locate a file explaining that the guy lost the key for the entrance back in the opening jungle... So, for no reason whatsoever, you must then head back to the jungle, collect the keycard, and then return to the facility entrance. There's no new enemy introduced, no story event... it exists purely as busywork to pad the game a little and nothing more.

The points system is also easy to exploit. Enemies won't respawn indefinitely in an area, however switching between camera angles in an area will keep them respawning for a short time. Grinding isn't really all that necessary mind you as you'll likely have bought everything before the game finishes, but at the same time it shouldn't be too hard for anyone to rack up more points than you actually have stuff to spend them on very early into the game.

There's one particular area just after the first turret sequence where it's exceptionally easy to score about, maybe, 80K points, which counts for a lot. At this point the game will now make available for purchase an M60 machine gun for Regina; in the very next area you'll then be fighting the amphibious dinosaurs I mentioned earlier, only now while you're on land. With the M60 in hand you'll then be able to swiftly kill each and every one of them with a single shot. Not only do they offer up a significant amount of points purely for the base kill, but because you can kill them about as fast as they raise their head out of the water, it's pitifully easy to keep a combo going alongside some hefty No Damage bonuses, too.


There's another weapon-related bit of weirdness later on as Dylan. At this point the game will introduce these hard-skinned enemies that you must first try and knock over onto their back to deal serious damage, however by this point you're able to purchase an Anti-Tank Rifle for Dylan, which can kill them in three shots regardless of whether they're knocked over onto their back or not. The weapon itself is fucking awesome by the by, but still... It perhaps wouldn't matter as much if points were more difficult to accumulate, thus making the weapon less easy to acquire, but as mentioned earlier that's really not the case.

Unlockables, or the lack thereof.


Overall I think what would be my one primary criticism is the lack of unlockables, or at least unlockables that are worth a damn. Upon completing the game you'll unlock Extra Crisis mode, which essentially functions as a... wave survival thing, I suppose. It has a timer of 10 minutes, though really it shouldn't take you any more than maybe 5. All you do is select a character and, if it's a human character (if?!), just run around shooting stuff for a little bit. The actual battle arena is this generic VR-esque thing and the camera is pulled back a fair bit. You'll go through all of the dinosaur types before finally facing off against a T-Rex, but there's nothing fancy or enticing about any of it. One unique quirk is you can unlock many of the dinosaurs to play as, however they unfortunately pale in comparison to playing as the humans. My first purchase was the T-Rex, because it's a T-Rex, however it's actually considerably difficult to kill anything with it. It's just too damn big to be able to efficiently attack any of the smaller dinosaurs at the beginning of the mode. As such, I've had most success simply playing as human characters (which includes Rick and Gail from the original Dino Crisis) and it's all rather boring. As Gail, I was able to get the highest rank on my first go at that, so...

There's another mode called Dino Coliseum, where you and a friend or someone you drugged and kidnapped off the street and have locked in your basement can fight each other as the dinosaurs. Both modes function more as a casual novelty than anything of worth akin to the Mercenaries minigame in any case.

Unfortunately, for a game that seems like it would be rife with reasons to replay, there's not much there. No unlockable costumes or weapons or anything like that. It tracks how many times you've cleared the game, but beyond simply playing the game again for the sake of... playing the game, there's no incentive; no NG+ equivalent, either. Back in the days of yore I still completed Dino Crisis a-plenty, but there were games of a significantly lesser quality that I also completed too many times to admit so, that's not the best barometer to measure the game's replay value by. As such, looking at it from a modern perspective is a little disappointing to find the game lacks the traditional pantheon of unlockables you'd expect from a Capcom game of this era.

Also, I think it's a little unfortunate for how Regina is delegated down to a supporting character. She's a co-protagonist in so much as you'll play as her, but the (still pretty bad and nonsensical) story is squarely focussed on Dylan. Only he gets any sort of backstory and much of the actual narrative is focussed exclusively on him; Regina for the most part is just sorta there. I mean the game explicitly opens and closes with you playing as Dylan, and I think that's a little unfair.

Oh! Conclusion!

I know I spent a good chunk there focussing on criticism, but I still quite like Dino Crisis 2. Certain aspects haven't aged as well as I would like, but it's hard to argue with gunning velicoraptors in the face with a shotgun while running at what feels like 30mph.

Alas, as I have no access to Dino Crisis 3 I'll hafta thusly cut my retrospective on this series short. I'd be more than willing to put the hours into that thing if possible! If it was backwards compatible with the 360 in particular, but no such luck.

Dino Crisis is such a weird series. First game's this survival horror Resident Evil knockoff, sequel's an arcade-inspired run n gunner, there's some light-gun game that I never even knew existed until I looked over our Dino Crisis franchise page, and then there's Dino Crisis 3... Dinosaurs are essentially the only constant tying this series together anywhoo, and it's precisely why a reboot would undoubtedly go through a little smoother than Resident Evil for example given that it's not really beholden to any particular style of gameplay. Considering that there's so few people who even remember that this series exists, there's unlikely to be much backlash at the idea, either.

Maybe one day... Though with current Capcom I feel like there are a lot of 'maybes' and 'one days' with regards to their forgotten franchises.



Some Scattered Thoughts on Umbrella Chronicles.

A while back I made a list detailing the shrinking number of Resident Evil games I haven't yet played. And while it wasn't specifically created as a bucket list of sorts, it did remind me of my blind spot in the franchise regarding the Chronicles games. Coincidentally spotting it on sale for about £5.50 recently then finally pushed me over the edge in trying out. Unfortunately, the reasons as to why I was so hesitant in the first place have come to fruition.

A Relic of the Past, But Not The Kind I Enjoy...

I dunno, caption ect. I initially didn't even plan to put in images but then decided to anyway once this became a lot longer than I thought it would. Also super long caption I know but eh wachu gonna do, this is all off the cuff, son. And on that note, flippity floppity floop.

I can't say I've ever particularly enjoyed light-gun games. I played House of the Dead 2 some at the arcades, and I did also surprisingly enjoy my time with Dead Space: Extraction, yet it's never a genre that'll have me rushing to buy any that comes available. I wanna say the only reason I played through Extraction in the first place was because it came free with all Day-1 copies of Dead Space 2 on PS3... And while again it turned out to be a pleasantly enjoyable experience, part of that was undoubtedly for its pre-Dead Space 1 story and its cast of characters, specifically Gabe.

All the same, light-gun games in general definitely feel like the sort of genre that's of a by-gone era, and these days I envision the tightly-scripted roller coaster rides of a Call of Duty campaign are perhaps the natural evolution of these styles of games. When playing one of these time capsules from a modern mindset, they can often feel a little too... inhibiting. The way the camera keeps jerking around completely out of your control is often simply annoying, and the gameplay is traditionally rather shallow and one-note. There will need to be a helluva lot going on screen to help make up for the lack of actual control, be it sheer spectacle or a decent dose of personality, and Umbrella Chronicles doesn't come very close to delivering either.

Though not only are light-gun games not exactly my thing, there's also the fact that I have no Wii, nor a PlayStation move controller for that matter... Which has also admittedly steered me clear from many (of what few there are these days) in the genre. I have also been playing Umbrella Chronicles completely single-player at that, and with all this in mind... I can't say I'm enjoying myself so much with this game.

Though while I admit I'm far from playing this game under the ideal conditions, I'm hesitant to believe that even with a Move controller in hand I don't think that would help the actual shooting feel more satisfying. It would certainly assist my aim, but the actual shooting itself would still feel as lifeless and dull as it does regardless I'd wager. I think that would have to sum up my experience overall in playing Umbrella Chronicles -- that is one of boredom. Shooting zombies simply doesn't feel as fun as it should be, and beyond critical hit head-explosions there's a surprisingly distinct lack of feedback. The gun sound effects are all rather weak at that, and given that the entire gameplay revolves around you shooting stuff, you can imagine then why it's not left me overly enthusiastic about it all.

Having to use a DS3 most definitely isn't helping things, though, as the aim somehow manages to feel both sluggish and yet weirdly squirrelly. I won't deny that part of my lack of enjoyment with this game rests on me for not playing it correctly, but... like Hell am I getting a Move controller.

Resident Evil: CliffsNotes Edition.

Barry, where's Barry?... No seriously where in the Fuck is Barry??

The stories contained within are another thing, too. Given the structure of it all I guess it makes sense to essentially boil them down to these abridged versions, but they omitted Barry Burton from the original Resident Evil retelling for starters!... In fact there's a great many liberties they make with all the main three they have in here, being Zero, the remake of the original, and Nemesis. That said, certain unique scenarios created for this do sound rather interesting, such as one following the exploits of Rebecca Chambers shortly upon arriving at the Mansion after the events of Zero and meeting up with Richard Aiken. It's too bad Zero wasn't released in an era of DLC, as I would have loved to play through such a scenario with the old-school survival horror gameplay of the series.

There's all these scenarios following Wesker's actions throughout the series too, and not to mention one that depicts the forming of the BSAA and the ultimate downfall of Umbrella. All of which inspire a feeling of disappointment for how they're restricted to this format... The whole end of Umbrella thing in particular seems important enough that you'd think it would have been handled in a different game altogether.

There's an awful lot of Files you can collect, though like the stories themselves most only seem to be repeating information that's already out in the ether, only in much more detail. I guess for the sake of anyone who doesn't want to play the older games but is still interested in the lore surrounding them it may hold some appeal, but for myself at least many of the carrots had already been caught long before I loaded the game up.

Also, the voice acting and writing is all pretty bad. Which, Resident Evil I know, but I'd say it's all potentially even worse than their original work. Or in most cases is at least more... bland. The writing has never been stellar in Resident Evil games of course, but there's often a B-Movie level of charm to it all, which Umbrella Chronicles lacks in favour of something much more altogether dull and forgettable. Rebecca's new voice actress also makes the character sound a helluva lot more Anime than she did in the regular RE0, too. Many of those weird ''Uh!'' noises and all that... You're typically bombarded with a lot more dialogue overall courtesy of the game's structure featuring two character side by side at all times, so it makes it a little harder to ignore than it would have been in their original incantations.

So much missed potential.

Though there is this weird quirk regarding Billy Coen which I thought was kind of funny. See, when I first started up the RE0 to my surprise it was Roger Craig Smith inhabiting the character! Who has been Chris Redfield's voice actor since RE5. However when you get into gameplay... the character is very clearly being voiced by someone else. Then we reach another cutscene and RCS makes his welcome return! So, at that point I figured that RCS voices Billy in the cutscenes and this other guy voices him in gameplay... Still weird, but least there's some consistency to it I guess. That is until this scene where Billy explains about his time as a marine, where he quite literally switches between the two voice actors on the fly. It's just so bloody bizarre that that alone has sort of at least partly justified my purchase...

But not completely, as I'm still not really enjoying myself with it very much. As mentioned earlier, it's all just rather boring and feels a little muted at times as well. Lot of slow panning and shit in its attempts to create a little bit of the ole tension I suppose, but none of it is effective and only threatens to obliterate the pacing. I can't say it looks very good either, and the few occasions you see the game in third-person show off some pretty awkward animation work at that. Chris' back kick after knocking off an enemy in particular just looks terrible. Oh, and the framerate will begin to chug in some instances as well... It's not common, but the fact that it'll occur is still embarrassing to witness.

Is funny to see how it's essentially an asset-smoothie made up of so many games from the series, which even includes the Outbreak games as the zombies in the Raccoon City portions hail from over yonder. Difficulty also seems a little unbalanced, with Yawn thus far being the most difficult boss fight, while the T-002 Tyrant that succeeds it in the next chapter was a complete pile of piss.

Oh! Conclusion!

I'll likely wanna see all of its content through for the sake of... seeing it all. That way I can then comfortably add it to my list I also recently done ranking the series from Best to Worst. For the sake of 'scholarly' purposes I guess I'm getting enough out of it, but... eh, suffice it to say it's not going to be ranking very high. I am at least curious to check out its rendition of RE2's 4th Survivor story, due to the praise from one @arbitrarywater. Given how there was so little to that to begin with, giving it a wee bit of added substance may actually benefit it. Though I doubt it'll be able to top the superbly haunting Outbreak intro, however.

Still, this has all left me wondering what it was about Extraction that I found to be surprisingly engaging in comparison to this. I'm both curious but also slightly worried at the prospect of giving Extraction another ride to find out in any case. However by the time I shelf this selection of Chronicles I likely won't even care one way or the other anyway. I'd likely sooner play its seemingly universally agreed upon inferior sequel...

Also, since I'm all about linking to my lists in here it seems, to Hell with it have another!

Outro Music Yeah Big Whoop Wanna Fightaboutiwqbwqddqcndxwuwnpd


Resident Evil's Red Headed Stepchild: A Look Back at Dino Crisis.

Or... at least the first two anyway.

I'm someone that generally enjoys going to back to old games a fair bit, especially of the survival horror variety. It's often as to simply jog the noggin', maybe for the sake of working on its wiki page, or... just to better to keep my accumulated knowledge of the videya intact. Dino Crisis is a game I actually got to pretty late, I think maybe in 2009 or something, but it's one such game that I was a little disappointed by.

And for no particular reason whatsoever, I decided to head back to it again and then sloppily slap my thoughts together. That's right, even when I'm not writing about Resident Evil I'm still basically writing about Resident Evil!

It's Resident Evil, but with dinosaurs!

'ey... 'ey! No tongue on the first date, you got that, Theodore?

...is a suitable summation as any of Dino Crisis, the survival... sci-fi game once again lead by Shinji Mikami himself. Throughout much of that era of Capcom, spanning the PS1 and early-mid PS2 days, most of their games were almost something of a skin draped over what was (and to be fair still is) their biggest selling franchise. They had a foundation in place--camera angles, exploration, key hunting, puzzles, (sometimes) tank controls--and made liberal use of it to then lead the way for many other series, such as Resident Evil with dinosaurs, samurai, scissors and demon hunters.

For as apt as it may be, there are still a number of differences that help set it apart, for both better and worse. Though sticking with the similarities for now, this is indeed a survival horror game, one starring a spunky red-headed special ops lady, who controls like a tank, is crippled in the ways of moving and shooting, and is forced to undergo a significant degree of backtracking while the camera determines what you player should be focussing on.

So far so familiar!

However where it begins to diverge is, perhaps predictably so, the ''with dinosaurs'' part.

Boat Controls

Not gif'd -- the dinosaur then proceeding to shrug off your bullets like a tank and start mauling your arm off

I had touched upon this in an earlier blog of mine where I lead the defence force for survival horror controls. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of framing dinosaurs as the terrifying bipedal meat grinders that they are -- feathers be damned. However the controls of Dino Crisis can sometimes put you at an unfair advantage, or rather even more so than, say, classic Resident Evil games. See, in the survival horror era of Resident Evil games you were actually surprisingly nimble. Tank controls aside, the animations were always fast and snappy, and once you began running you were off. That's not quite how it is in Dino Crisis, however.

For starters, there's actually a slight build-up for when you begin to run, and actually turning mid-run feels a lot more sluggish than it does in its contemporaries. Controlling REgina (OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONNNNNE) feels more akin to steering a boat than it does a tank. Then there's of course the dinosaurs to account for as well.

Now you may not be surprised to learn this, but dinosaurs are a helluva lot faster than zombies! Not only that but they're also bigger, and so trying to maneuver around them within the game's many tight corridors is often far more tricky than wall-hugging your way past a zombie. Resident Evil does have enemies such as zombie dogs of course, but even they are often just ever so slightly slower than you, so as long as you kept on the move you could keep them from chewing out your ass.

Dinosaurs are also understandably rather sturdy, and the velociraptors you'll be facing throughout a large majority can take up to like 13 regular handgun bullets. Plus for as strong as they are, your starting pistol also has shit all for stopping power, and it's got a rather slow firing rate to boot.

As such, the opening few hours of Dino Crisis can be fucking brutal, and your pistol is so useless that you'd likely have better luck in using harsh language to ward away the dinosaurs. Your main tactic is to basically just run away from all encounters, but as mentioned earlier that can be much more difficult than in Resident Evil games. Because of the limited ammo throughout, you may have to rely on tranquiliser darts instead, which make for a great risk/reward mechanic in that while they'll instantly put a dinosaur temporarily to sleep (for varying amounts of time depending on the strength of the tranq) they are of course still alive and will eventually wake up. Oh, by the way they can also follow you into other rooms too, and certain attacks can force Regina to drop her weapon requiring you to then recollect it for use. Also, bleeding -- god fucking dammit this game is hardcore! At least, in the beginning stages.

Weirdly enough Dino Crisis actually gets much more manageable as it progresses. There's only actually three weapons in here--handgun, shotgun, and ''grenade gun''--which'll you'll instead locate upgrades to make them more effective. A certain upgrade for your handgun will allow you to use a more powerful brand of ammunition, while one for your shotgun will allow you to fire without the need pump another shell per shot. Ammo is never in enough supply that you'll ever feel truly comfortable (which is a good thing I should add!), but you'll likely find you have enough to keep most at bay as the game goes on.

It's a really strange balance that, for as manageable as the game progressively gets, it also makes the game feel a little less... interesting in spite of it.

Throughout Dino Crisis, there are number of laser fields you'll soon have the capability to turn on and off at will. What this will often mean is that you'll be able to use them to your advantage to halt the advance of the dinosaurs, or at the very least allow you to get in some easy potshots -- 'bout the only time the pistol actually feels useful. Like the tranquiliser darts, they make for a great alternative to just shooting dinosaurs in the face. During the early game in particular it makes for an intriguing gameplay device that fits in with the core component of survival horror -- the act of improvisation and using other means beyonds guns to your advantage. It can be quite a rush as you ready yourself to turn the lasers off and then attempt to sprint past any nearby dinosaurs, preferably timing it at the second when they connect with the lasers knocking them over.

However that's kinda all there is. There's one, single instance where you can press a button to spray... something from above that'll potentially stun the dinosaurs a little bit, but that's it, beyond the laser fields. Had there been more environmental interactions you could use to your advantage then this would have made for an interesting take on survival horror games, and would have at the very least helped carve a niche within a niche as a means to further separate it from its granddaddy and help it establish its own identity.

Though as mentioned before, ammo becomes a little more plentiful so you'll likely resort to plain ole shooting dinosaurs in the face as it progresses. Fortunately ammo is again typically scarce throughout (or you at least never have enough to kill every dinosaur in sight), and even with the ammo on hand the dinosaurs are so aggressive that combating them can still prove tricky.

It's Resident Evil, but without a lot of what makes Resident Evil great.

For all you vore fans out there...

Despite my misgivings with the combat of the game, however, that's not actually my primary complaint. Instead it's how the game lacks much of the personality found in Resident Evil. All of the environments in the game are made up of boring, sterile facility buildings, and the story progression simply involves you moving from one building to another. Resident Evil games on the other hand of course often feature a variety of locales, and even though they do tend to rely on gothic mansions a little too frequently, they're still a sight more interesting to explore than the drab, empty hallways of Dino Crisis.

That Dino Crisis utilises 3D backgrounds as opposed to pre-rendered doesn't help, either. Because this is of course a PS1 game, 3D backgrounds means the backgrounds are rather, well, plain. Pre-rendered on the other hand forever offered all kinds of details littered throughout every room, but without taxing the hardware nearly as much as it would if 3D backgrounds was to attempt such a feat.

One other notable nuisance is how you won't archive any of the files and memos you'll read throughout the game. I for the life of me cannot understand why they would intentionally design it this way, but... there you have it. I mean even the very original Resident Evil nicely archived all files you encountered.

On one hand, this forced me to then actually jot down notes and passcodes and the like in the manual, which elicited a surprisingly warm feeling of nostalgia of years gone by. On the other, there are certain door puzzles that have specific methods for unlocking, some of which are a little tricky to jot down in a manual. I could have gone out of my way to practically write it all down, but that would have started to turn the nostalgic note-taking into a feeling of needless busywork. It as such resulted in me encountering locked doors that I simply couldn't wholly remember how I was supposed to unlock, and I certainly couldn't remember where the specific file was to refresh my memory. So, I would occasionally use an FAQ in that regard to get me through it. Still felt a little dirty doing it... but that feels like it's the fault of the game more than anything. Again, it need be reiterated that even the very original, 1996 Resident Evil allowed you to archive files.

On the topic of the game's personality, or lack thereof, the puzzles too don't accompany the same surrealness as Resident Evil, either. I suppose because this is more sci-fi than horror it would make sense that you're having to operate machinery and find passcodes rather than inserting gems into everything, but the passcodes in particular often take precedence over anything else. And while I'm usually not too bothered by backtracking, because of the pervasive blandness of the environments it's not particularly engaging to have to run through these hallways over and over again. One particular section nearing the end of the game where you're trying to turn on this giant third-energy machine or whatever poorly telegraphs what you should be doing at that, and the size of the thing demands that you constantly keep running from one place to the next all in the service of just... turning on a machine.


The dinosaur variety is a little slim, too. You'll primarily encounter velociraptors throughout most of it, to where they're replaced by a stronger, though slightly slower, variety of dinosaur. There's some pterodactyls flying around in a couple of areas, but they don't really do very much. Dino Crisis obviously features a T-Rex at least, with a noticeably awesome roar behind it. Though that also brings to mind how the game doesn't have many boss battles, either. I think there's only actually two, both of which involve you simply holding off against the T-Rex for a short while.

The story's certainly of a similar caliber at least, with a lot of silly dialogue (This isn't a joke, you idiot; we were just attacked by a big-ass lizard!) and Regina has a little more pizzazz than Jill Valentine could ever hope for. Her voice actress also strangely sounds an awful lot Jennifer Hale for whatever that's worth. The way you will also sometimes have to choose between two ways to proceed--one typically involving the combat, the other a puzzle--is a neat little story device, if hilariously hamfisted with the way your squad leader Gail will quite literally ask you to ''make your choice''. It also has a rather fantastic Save Room theme at that, and it's impressive for how it essentially sounds like a sci-fi rendition of a Resident Evil save room theme.

Oh! Conclusion!

Clearly I've been laying the negativity on pretty thick here, but many of the ideas presented in this I still really like the sound of. It all on paper essentially comes across as a more hardcore version of Resident Evil, with even more of an emphasis on generally staying out of combat. It's not... a bad game by any means, least not by my standards, and I think the best way to sum it all up overall is that it's just kinda boring. Certainly not Mikami's finest way in any case. At the same time, while I drastically prefer its sequel, it's a shame that the series couldn't have refined itself a little more and have another stab at it, rather than simply dropping it all and opting for something completely different. I think it would have been interesting to witness a mix of the two--Dino Crisis & Resident Evil--even, with zombie dinosaurs and shit. It's a series I'd love to see Capcom at least attempt to revive in some way, because hey, a big fuck-off T-Rex still sounds like something that could be legitimately terrifying in the right circumstances.

While I do plan to blog about Dino Crisis 2 in the near future, as always said future is always a little hazy with me, on the account of me being a lazy twat. I've still got these damned Resident Evil retrospective blogs to do at that, and I really wouldn't mind writing up something about Alien: Isolation. And then there was that Hitman blog too, and oh remember when I said I'd shortly do a write up about the GBA CastleVania games like a decade ago????? Oh btw about that, Aria of Sorrow's pretty cool, the other two less so.

Outro Music Sure Why Not


Resident Evil Within.

Note: I initially posted this as an actual user-review thing, but I noticed this game hasn't been getting much positivity around here so, I'd wanna thusly post it as a blog so it can actually get a little more exposure and what have you!

The Evil Within is a wonderful thing. While it unfortunately isn't quite a return to the survival horror of old, it at least makes for a brilliant blending of the then and now. It involves a lot of the hallmarks of the latter day Resident Evil games, while also incorporating the harsh nature and limited supplies of their forebearers.

Being lead by famed Japanese developer Shinji Mikami and his newly founded studio of Tango Gameworks, The Evil Within paves a path with its influences firmly placed on its bloodied sleeve. Anyone who's played Mikami's prior work Resident Evil 4 is bound to spot the innumerable similarities on display -- some that will require a keen eye to spot, some that feel like they were violently extracted right out of Resident Evil 4 and pasted into this. Despite the similarities, The Evil Within's more psychological horror-themed story helps give it an edge over the almost comparatively mundane tale of bio-organic weapons.

While the core gameplay will certainly seem familiar, it doesn't copy the RE4 formula wholesale. While it does have you controlling a character--Sebastian Castellanos--in third-person with an over-the-shoulder view shooting at not-Ganado, The Evil Within plays it up more like a standard shooter. You won't be pulling off crazy button-prompt melee attacks and your only venue for getting your fists dirty is with a quick minimal-damage smack, which on its own I find makes a significant difference between the two. What also sets it apart is the inclusion of matches. While you're primarily going to be aiming for the head, attempting to trip an enemy over can be beneficial as well; once one of 'em has found themselves falling over your bullets, you can then use a match to douse them in flame killing it -- and potentially catching any nearby enemies within close vicinity at that. You can also use them to burn any would be ''I'm totally dead right now and not going to get up once you've triggered a certain event'' enemies, too. Though of course like you would expect, you can only carry a finite amount of matches.

Sebastian has This.

The monsters you'll be facing are pretty much the Ganado in all but name only, however. They follow the same rudimentary AI patterns of functioning like zombies, in a sense, but while being much more aggressive and being able to utilise a number of melee weapons, and later down the line even firearms... unfortunately. That said they still to this day make for an engaging opponent. The way they'll routinely try to swarm and overwhelm you injects much of the tension into the gameplay flow, and they harbor a keen balance of being dumb enough to be taken advantage of, but aggressive enough to still feel intimidating all the same. The enemy variety overall is a little lacking, however. Fortunately the Gana--sorry, Haunted are versatile enough in what weapons and tactics they'll implement that they're able to carry most of the game rather soundly.

As such, The Evil Within's combat is different while still feeling familiar all the same. Though what's most important to mention is it's still an awful lot of fun. Headshots are forever satisfying to pull off, thanks to the beautifully gooey sound effects and the superb degree of gore-filled feedback. Heads go pop, blood spews everywhere, and the weapon sound effects gives each shot a real sense of oomph. The typically limited cache of ammunition also helps to make every bullet feel special, and every missed shot a tragedy. Coming upon a handful of bullets you've found off of a corpse or inside a crate can be surprisingly relieving. Though while you're certainly far from swimming in ammunition, you're not likely to ever encounter yourself being completely dry. The game is balanced well enough to make it so you'll often always have just the right amount of supplies you need to get through each encounter, so long as you know how best to use it all. It does a brilliant job of making you feel vulnerable, yet still empowered enough to know you can do this.

That there is a surprisingly diverse upgrades tree certainly aids in the empowerment side of things. Throughout the game you'll start hearing a piece of classical music that I'm too uncultured to recall the name of. That'll signify that you're near the game's save room, where you'll transport via a mirror into a mental asylum, where you're greeted by a noticeably apathetic nurse. From there you can of course save your progress, but further back is a rusty, metal chair that you can sit down and have your brain tickered with. Doing as such allows you access to the game's surprising number of upgrades. They're all pretty standard fare -- weapon statistical upgrades, health upgrades, and so on. But there's enough there and you'll always only have so much 'green gel'--the game's currency--that you'll have to really think about how you want to spend it each time. There are also a number lockers that house some supplies for you to collect, only you first need to locate keys throughout the game to unlock them.

The amount of weapons you have at your disposal is a little on the slim side. You'll have available the requisite revolver, shotgun, rifle and magnum -- though despite the mundane selection, they all feel satisfying to use in their own right. Oh, and there's also this little thing called the Agony Crossbow, a weapon that'll certainly live up to its name throughout your monster killing. It initially functions as a regular crossbow, however you'll soon come upon multiple different varieties of ammunition for it. These include what essentially amounts to proximity mines, freeze grenades, and even flash bangs. It's a wonderfully versatile weapon and, like the rest of your repertoire, feels ever so powerful to wield.

This looks awfully familiar...

While there wasn't quite as much as I was hoping, there's also some occasional bits of environmental interaction to help turn the tide in your favour as well. Most prominently are a number of traps that are both dangerous for both you and the monsters that are after you. As such, you could potentially lead them into the a wire trap or perhaps shoot one from afar to achieve maximum damage. Beyond the traps, there's some red barrels here and there, and even some bales of hay you can set alight and then comically kick towards your foes. Here's a video of mine to show off the generally scrappy nature of the combat anywhoo.

Don't take that to be indicative of every combat encounter, but it's how things may end up from time to time! Despite this being a game where you're often going to have to kill everything to proceed, there's still a glimmer of that old school survival horror magic that makes for an important proponent of The Evil Within's combat.

Besides relying on your guns, you can also utilise some stealth -- however it's all rather rudimentary. It quite honestly comes across as a half-hearted reaction to The Last of Us and doesn't really add very much to the game itself. For one thing you can crouch walk, but you're pretty damn slow. Slow enough that it sometimes feels useless for how long it can take to sneak up to an enemy; slowly sleuthing my way around for the kill only to have the (sometimes literally) bloody thing turn around at the last second was an annoyingly common occurrence. You can also theoretically throw bottles as a distraction, but the trajectory marker is difficult to aim with--the AI often don't even react to it anyway--and should an enemy spot you, it can be incredibly difficult to actually lose their line of sight at that. Likewise you can choose to hide under beds or in cupboards, however the game rarely gives you a reason to. It's not that I at least haven't been able to get any stealth kills, but it's cumbersome to attempt and is generally shallow enough that it all feels borderline unfinished.

As such, that the game actually opens up with a forced stealth encounter doesn't it any favours. However after that's outta the way the game settles quite nicely into what the rest of the game will entail. The Evil Within is strictly linear, however it does a good job in dallying between more open environments to explore for supplies, to more claustrophobic corridors that'll have you traverse every corner with your gun up. The pacing in general throughout the entire game is genuinely superb. Like Resident Evil 4, it feels like it is constantly introducing new environments and set-pieces -- both big and small. Situations involving you teaming up with fellow detective Joseph Oda typically features the game at its most action-orientated. The game has a brilliant ebb and flow to it, and it expertly understands when to keep things slow and atmospheric, and when to throw in some wave combat at you. Despite it being a rather lengthy adventure that took me about 14 and a half hours, I completed it all in two sittings it kept me so surprisingly stuck in. If there is one criticism it's that there's very few puzzles; not only are they few and far between, but they're also exceptionally simple. One of which has another character quite literally just tell you the solution, and another I solved completely by accident while I was prodding at the systems.

The pacing of the game throughout is a definite high point

The psychological horror story set up gives Mikami free reign to continually pull the rug from beneath you and throw you into a completely different environment, or maybe block off the door you just came in through, and so on. Even the save room might not always be entirely safe. Oh right, the story. It's... considering the many other similarities to Resident Evil, you likely won't be surprised to learn the story it also a bunch of nonsensical junk. There's many references to things that aren't really explained, certain character fates feels unsatisfying, and so on. It tries to tell a tale that has some rather disturbing themes, but a lot of it simply falls flat. The dialogue is pretty stupid at that -- it's not quite Master of Unlocking stupid, but it gets pretty close. The voice acting too doesn't fair much better unfortunately, despite wrangling in all of this hollywood talent including Anson Mount and Jennifer Carpenter -- Anson Mount as Sebastian in particular is quite possibly the worst. It's one thing that he's bad, but that he just sounds bored throughout really deflates a lot of the potential for some Resident Evil-esque cheesy charm. Funnily enough it's veteran voice actor Yuri Lowenthal as your aforementioned detective partner Joseph Oda that gives the best performance of the game. It's not unbearable by any means, and if anything it almost feels sort of nostalgic to encounter this level of storytelling in a game.

One thing that's important to note is that The Evil Within isn't especially scary. In fact for most I would bet it won't be scary in the slightest. It may carry a sometimes suffocating atmosphere about it, but despite playing it in the dark with headphones on... nothing. I tried, I really did, but alas. The game is still at the very least grotesque. Many of the enemy designs all look appropriately disturbing, and again the amount of blood that's constantly spraying everywhere is wonderfully akin to the B movies of the 80s. Some of the boss designs can certainly be intimidating at that, like the multi-armed 'Laura' and the lumbering, mysterious Keeper creature. The visuals throughout encompass a sometimes nauseating amount of grindhouse gore--there are a number of... let's say extravagant death animations for Sebastian--and with the way the game keeps mixing up the environments it always left me excited to see what other literal and figurative monstrosities was in store.

The Evil Within is not one to skimp on the damage modelling

The presentation of it all may be divisive, however. The game is boxed in some pretty extreme black bars throughout, which I personally got accustomed to surprisingly quickly. Nonetheless, that there's not even any option to turn them off is a point to consider. The way the camera zooms in to your hand when you aim your weapon also took a little getting used to, but like the letterboxing it was something I was surprised to find I adapted to rather quickly. The game otherwise looks rather attractive, or as attractive as constant heaps of blood, blades and gibs can be. Some of the texture work is a little muddy, but overall the art direction of it all steals the show, again thanks in part to the variety of environments throughout the game. From the opening village shrouded in fog at the beginning to the post-apocalyptic city streets later on, it all looks fantastic. The sound effects are also sublime at that. Everything has a very sloshy, gooey nature to it, and the sound effect for scooping up puddles of green gel off the floor I can't help but find weirdly satisfying. Speaking for the PS4 version the framerate can prove to be troublesome during the early stages, however it isn't long before it settles down and keeps itself at a rock solid 30 from then on.

I have to admit, I was always rooting for The Evil Within to function as a gateway to the old school survival horror of the 90s. It's... not that, and anyone who's coming to The Evil Within for a harrowing experience, one made of shielding your eyes and being too frightened to move, it's not that either. What it is is a nostalgic runthrough of most of Mikami's work laid down in Resident Evil 4, and it didn't take too long for me to become enraptured with it all once more. So for anyone who's in the mood for a delightfully bloody shooter made up of all the Mikami-isms of old, The Evil Within is a must play.


All Of The Vania, None Of The Metroid.

I bought a 3DS!

Well, I bought a 3DS like maybe two months ago at this point, but nonetheless I still continue to own and play games on my relatively new-spangled videya games console. However weirdly enough the type of cartridges that have found themselves snuggly fitted into its port (uh...) are of DS games rather than the 3D variety.


I do in fact own a couple of 3DS titles--Kirby's Triple Deluxe and Tales of the Abyss--to which I have invested a fair chunk into both. Although my recent craze has admittedly taken over and left those two at the sidelines. My recent craze being of course the Castlevania series! And more specifically the MetroidVania variety at that.

I was pretty hesitant as to which one to get first, and upon reading some opinions it seemed pretty evenly split between which one of the three--Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin, and Order of Ecclesia--was the most popular. The one I ended up getting first was Portrait of Ruin anywhoo -- I think probably because it was the cheapest on offer.


Portrait of Ruin

Oh, the humanime!

I quite like it! A lot, in fact.

I don't have much experience with this sub-genre, so Portrait of Ruin still managed to feel relatively fresh of an experience as of late. I had indeed played Symphony of the Night via XBLA years back, but I can remember getting lost shortly upon unlocking the mist power and got bored exploring the castle... Shadow Complex (which was also my first MetroidVania game) was thusly my primary frame of reference. Though it's admittedly been a fair few years since I played Shadow Complex at that... I should probably in fact give that another go, given my recent obsession and all.

Anywhoo, Portrait of Ruin. It encompasses all of the hallmarks we associate with the Symphony of the Night design of Castlevania, with a massive 2D castle to explore (albeit semi-linearly), light RPG mechanics, screen-filling bosses, and so on. In the grand scheme of things this is essentially another Symphony of the Night, though that's certainly not a bad thing!

The presentation for starters is just as stellar as you'd expect; even when viewed from a modern perspective the game still has a fetching look to it, with plenty of visual variety throughout the castle. The soundtrack is also really good at that -- another staple of this franchise. The combat, while simplistic, still manages to feel satisfying in slashing/cleaving/whipping (especially whipping) your way up, down and around to Dracula's domain. While there isn't necessarily a loot grind exactly, there's enough gear and hidden goodies to locate that exploration always feels beneficial and inspires you to make sure you've searched every corner of the castle.

Always Be Whipping... Always.

I suppose the primary differentiator that PoR utilises to help set it apart from its forebearers is the introduction of starring two dual protagonists, Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin. Jonathan is basically your traditional Castlevania protagonist, being able to utilise an all manner of swords and whips ect, and is likely to be the one you'll be directly controlling the most. Whereas Morris relies on melee and many of the series' staple sub-weapons (and then some), Charlotte is a spellcaster. Though that doesn't mean she can't also handle herself in a scrap, courtesy of a number of books she can equip that'll then sprout swords and shit for her melee attacks. The books that extend three different weapons at different angles in particular are actually really effective. That said, her overall melee damage can't quite compete against most of Jonathon's assortment of toys, nor can she take a hit quite as well, either.

Her variety of magic spells still offer up a lot of customisation all the same, and the handy ability to instantly call her at your side to perform a set-spell before then disappearing again is ever so useful. You can also opt to have her follow alongside you thattaway, to which she will join in attacking whatever enemies are nearby, and any damage she (or Morris if you're controlling Charlotte) sustains will instead eat away at your stamina/mana bar instead.

That said, I still more often than not rolled with Jonathan on his lonesome, occasionally switching to Charlotte when I want to cast a spell to its full potential -- summoning her to your side only has her cast the spell at half its power. Having her along to dish out a little extra damage can certainly prove useful, but because the AI is so rudimentary then it sometimes amounts to a waste of stamina having her going about attacking things of her own volition.

There's some occasional puzzles that requires you to switch between characters, or maybe tell one character to stay put while another does something else. But by and large it ultimately feels just a little tacked on. Though I believe you can in fact play the game cooperatively??

Jonathan Morris, ESRB Agent

If there is one major problem I have with the game it's that its default normal mode is a little bit on the easy side, especially once I acquired a Long Spear, and even more so once I unlocked the Royal Sword. However its Hard mode feels just a little bit too punishing... It probably starts to ease up a little as you acquire more gear, but the beginning of that game on Hard mode is fucking nasty. Practically everything can kill you in like 2-3 hits, whereas it takes much more to kill one of them. Even the most rudimentary of enemies like the zombies, bats and skeletons prove to be a serious threat. Overall the balance of frustration and fun is a little off for me in that mode, in that it's basically all frustration with none of the fun =/

Nonetheless overall I've really enjoyed it, and it's made for a great jumping off point into me binging through all of these damn things. In fact I've even gone back to it and decided to play through it again from scratch -- because why not?? Also, the way the 3DS makes the sound of a door opening/closing when you open/close your 3DS is pretty cool.

Unlockable Stuff!

One thing I really appreciate about these games is the tradition of including an uber-powered unlockable character to then get up to all sorts of sequence-breaking with. By which I'm of course referring to Richter mode! Or... ''Richiter'' mode as the game refers to it.

Playing as Richter is a joyous amount of fun, and while there's no story, inventory management, items, gear, or... well not much of anything really besides what you see on the screen, Richter himself is so bloody fast and powerful that the sheer act of playing as him is a reward in and of itself. Plus, you do at least level up so there's some degree of progression to it all. Since Richter is so powerful I decided to play it on Hard mode with him, and while it's actually still pretty damn difficult, it feels like I have much more of a fighting chance overall. Though because of how fast he is it can be a little difficult to reign myself in; sprinting and leaping around on full-auto is so fun that it's hard to stop, which very quickly results in my death...


I wish I could carry the same enthusiasm for the Sisters mode, though. I was actually pretty excited to play as the duo, only to have that excitement deflate like a ruptured whoopee cushion upon finding out that all you can do with 'em is use the stylus to perform a spell per sister. It's just kinda boring really, as you simply float about and stick the stylus on the screen to watch ice orbs fly everywhere. There's of course still no gear or anything like that and it's extremely shallow. There appears to be a bit of story involved with this one, but whatever, the stories even in the main modes are rather thin and poorly written, so the story of a small side-thing isn't exactly very enticing. Shame really, as again I was pretty excited at the notion of getting to play as them.

I've also read that there's an unlockable Armour Knight character, only it requires you to kill 1000 Armour Knights during the main game... One Thousand. Of this one specific enemy. Putting that to scale, by the end of my first playthrough I had killed about 3000 enemies.

Symphony of the Night

And European boxart wins again ;)

The Grand Daddy of the entire franchise, and one half of the whole MetroidVania sub-genre thing in the first place. As I mentioned earlier I did already play this way back when, but after putting in some time with PoR I then figured now is as good a time as any to return back to the Champion.

And I quite like it! A lot, in fact.

Because it's a much older game there are certain elements that are inferior to the DS releases, however what it can hold above the rest is funnily enough its presentation. Whereas most games in this series have adopted a more anime-inspired look and sound, Symphony of the Night carries the classic Gothic stylings of the series. The game still looks superb to this day and has a heavy atmosphere about it all, in so small part down to its soundtrack. PoR certainly has some great tracks on there, but it's much more JRPG-ish as opposed to the grander and more bizarre SotN's soundtrack.

What CAN I DO FOR you... Stranger?

Despite that, certain aspects like your inability to slide, or the less prominent fast-travel portals, can make it a little less accessible. Plus, while there's plenty of weaponry, most are all basically just swords. There are different qualities like some have a faster attack animation and such, but there's nothing that gives you the same degree of disparity between switching from a regular long sword to a spear for example.

One other aspect that I really dislike is the use of fighting game-esque button commands for your spells. In the heat of battle having to pull them off is tricky enough as it is, let alone when you're also trying to do it with a 360 controller. As such, I primarily went through the game pretending they didn't even exist.

OK, and just to get the criticisms outta the way, Richter mode in this isn't especially great. I mean playing as Richter is still a lot of fun, and that slide leap move of his is probably my favourite anything in the history of Castlevania thus far. However because there's once again no gear to collect or even any levelling up this time, it's like Richter was dropped into the wrong game. Which... of course is true in a way. It basically feels as if the main pull for playing as Richter is to fight the bosses, as exploring the castle is kind of a drag. To constantly leap around only to be rewarded with more hearts really sucks. Also, most of the bosses are kinda easy as Richter funnily enough.

I've read that you can at least increase your overall health, though there's no kind of feedback to obtaining a health upgrade, and it treats it no differently than if you've just collected another heart. It basically feels unfinished, as if this was the developers experimenting with the idea rather than actually giving you a healthy alternative to Alucard.

Now, with all that outta the way, this game is still pretty damn awesome. One aspect that is undoubtedly worth all the praise is its Inverted Castle. It's probably the best use of a New Game+ ever from what I can tell. With the way it literally flips the entire castle upside down, it in doing so creates a completely new environment with new traversal obstacles to overcome. Of course, there's also plenty of new enemy types, bosses, and gear to find. So in that regard I don't know if it really counts as an example of NG+... But in any case it's a shame that no other Castlevania game to my knowledge has utilised such an interesting concept.

The voice acting and dialogue are also hilariously awful. Well, Alucard's mostly fine, but Richter & Dracula in particular are a laugh riot. Also, fun fact: the guy who voices Richter is the same guy who voices Chris Redfield in the original Resident Evil! Hey, it wouldn't be a Yummylee blog without a sprinkling of Resident Evil in there somewhere...

''What do you here?''... u wot luv


The difficulty is an improvement too, as it can certainly prove to be a challenge at times. Galamoth is also without a doubt the hardest anything I've fought across all of these I've played... The only way I could beat him was with the shield rod and alucard's shield. Oh, and btw, I had to look up that using the shield rod with shields actually grants you different abilities. As far as I'm aware the game doesn't ever tell you the button combination to then use the ability. Anywhoo, it's actually kinda hilarious how broken that ability is. Once activated your shield then does about 424423 damage per second. Which, hey, at least it gives your a shield an actual use!

I attempted Galamoth many a time simply with my skill, but I just couldn't do it. Those electric balls he'd constantly keep summoning, and reading that he has like 15000 health, when all of my attacks do about 4 damage without any sort of buff, well... Would you kindly go fuck yourself, Galamoth. It gotten to a point where the boss was built around a war of attrition than anything.

Dawn of Sorrow

Err, Hammer? Maybe wanna watch your hand there?

Given that I'm seemingly on a quest to play every single one of these in the wrong order, next up is Dawn of Sorrow!

And I quite like it! A lot, in fact.

Oh right yeah, one of your abilities quite literally turns you into an amazonian... Huh

It's always strange when you play a predecessor, because you can't help but head in with the mentality that you're playing a sequel, even when you know to expect that maybe it won't be quite as refined, or maybe this one feature you liked isn't there ect. Though because so many of these games are so similar, it's pretty easy transition all the same, especially after going through SotN.

In fact beyond a few minor differences, it is exceptionally similar to Portrait of Ruin, right down to enemy sprites. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. While they're both rather comparable, I think I'd hafta say I prefer Dawn of Sorrow just ever so slightly. Which is weird because at first it wasn't quite grabbing me as much, yet as it went on it eventually became just as addicting. I don't what it was that clicked, but... this one definitely took a bit of time for to me really get stuck in for whatever reason.

Anywhoo, I'd say it has a more consistently entertaining soundtrack, and the overall difficulty balance is a little better, too. It's still not especially difficult, but there's more of a challenge all the same I'd say. The way you can acquire like every single enemy ability in the game is also really enticing and makes it exciting to encounter new enemies. Sure, in PoR a lot of enemies would drop their weapon or a spell centred around their attacks, but because so many were spells as opposed to weapons or sub-weapons, it wasn't quite as exciting as what you could potentially uncover in DoS. Manticore Tail, motherffffffffff!

Some truly memorable boss battles as well, with the puppet master and mirror jester bosses in particular a couple of standouts. Though on that note, it also features some of the worst. Dario is an especially poor one as he basically just stands there with like 3 attacks or something. That, and there's his infuriating ''ha-ha-ha-ha-ha'' he literally does like every 3 seconds.

I also think it's interesting how instead of finding weapons, you upgrade them via specific enemy souls you acquire. On one hand it can make exploring around a little less engaging, because of the knowledge that you're not going to find any new weapons. But on the other, it again only makes grinding out enemy souls all the more surprisingly addictive. It's a pretty great system overall that I really enjoy, and of all the ones I've played thus far it's easily my favourite with regards to your sub-weapon/magic customisation.

From what I can tell it seems only those of the Dracula bloodline have the uncanny ability to sit in chairs.

Now the one primary complaint I have for this 'un is the magic seals -- the ''connect the dots'' stylus sequencer things. They're honestly more trouble than they're worth and at best merely prove to be a minor nuisance, but at worst can be utterly infuriating. They start off simple enough as you basically just connect the dots to make a triangle, but of course they soon start getting more complicated, until you find yourself doing circles followed by semi-circles and stuff. The one that really tore at me was when fighting Death and having to do magic seal 5. The battle itself was rather tricky to begin with, and to end it with that Magic Seal BS really tested my patience. It got to a point where Death himself wasn't much of a problem, but every time it came to the magic seal I wouldn't quite do it fast enough or my lines weren't straight enough or whatever.

It doesn't really add anything to the game and mostly comes across as something they shoved in purely because, hey, there's this touch screen doohickey so... Having to hold a stylus in my hands while also play the game can be a tad unwieldy anyway, and I'd much rather developers either build a game completely around the use of the stylus, or pretend that it doesn't exist. Though to be honest I think that's probably my only major flaw with the game.

Julius Mode!

Cuz I'm a Creepy Raper Guy, see.

Oh, baby here we go. To be quite frank I'd probably say I've had about as much fun playing as Julius as I've had with Soma. For starters he's basically in his 50s, which I always like in my protagonists, which also means that he's not quite as... athletic as Richter for example. He comes across a lot more even scaled overall, and in fact his default running speed seems to be slower than Soma's. All in all, playing as Julius is a lot of fun, and I especially like the additional music peppered throughout the game. It even has a Barkerville remix!.. Oh, yeah, I must confess that when that song started playing, my first instinct was to start humming it while pronouncing the Barkerville syllables in my head. Curse you, @brad...

What's also neat is how you're not just playing as Julius, but will eventually come into contact with Yoko and even Alucard. And by Alucard I mean Alucard... Like, Symphony of the Night Alucard, right down to his inability to slide and how he's the only one of the three who can sit in chairs. Because he already had that animation so, hey! Though despite that, I still found myself playing as Julius more often than not. It's his name on the mode after all! Alucard seems to purely exist for his traversal abilities really, and I guess Yoko has her small healing ability by way of her regular attacks each providing a small bit of health -- like, literally 4 or something. Though it's honestly so small that it borders on useless, even if it does slightly increase every so few levels. Her magic abilities are rather powerful, but... Julius all the way, mang. Plus, switching between characters isn't nearly as instantaneous as it is in PoR, so it's something of a hassle really. Though you are invincible during the short transition animation, which I guess could be used to your advantage if timed right.

Like Richter Mode, playing without the option to use items gives an additional layer of complexity to the game and suddenly makes you take all of those potions and puddings for granted. It's certainly not impossible, though, it just means there's less room for error. Fighting Death has proven to be rather tricky, but thank the Lord there's at least no magic seals in here!

Shame The Abyss(full) area is so short, though. Once I went through the portal I had hoped it was then going to open up an entirely new area about the size as the Cultist Castle. But alas.

Order of Ecclesia

All right, here we go! A badass looking female protagonist, complete with a return to the more Gothic-inspired art style of old! It's even bucking its own trends and trying out some new ideas!

And yet... I don't quite like it...?

Man, this sucks. I don't mean the game exactly, but rather my own reaction to it. It has a lot of qualities that should make it shoot right up to becoming one of my favourites even. However the way the combat is designed doesn't sit well with me. OK, first I at least want to say that I'm not opposed to the World Map design. While having this giant, singular environment to explore is fun, I'm game for any other ways they wish to dish out all of the many different environment aesthetics. And boy, is there variety! The game looks fantastic as well and is easily the best looking of the DS trilogy.

Unfortunately I'm not much of a fan of the combat. See, instead of picking up weapons, you must find Glyphs. Upon absorbing these Glyphs they will give you your weapons and also magic spells. You can equip a different Glyph per hand, so you could dual-wield swords for example, or stick a sword on one and a lance on another. However all weapons (least so far) function the same, and instead are differentiated by their type. So, you're going to want use hammers against skeletons for example. But their actual animations all play out the same and just don't quite carry the same satisfaction as the weapons of the older games do.

You can again also equip spells, and there are Glyph combinations that can form into a unique special attack. Oh, because you also now two mana bars, with one determining your regular attacks/magic, and the other being your hearts, which is used for your Glyph combos, making it resemble closer to the older games of the series. Though your primary bar replenishes almost instantly when used. Hearts, however, are much rarer, so it'll force you to use your Glyph combo attacks in moderation.

I have little problem with the idea behind the Glyphs system, but the core combat attacks don't quite do it for me. I also don't think the music is anything special thus far, either. Though being able to collect CDs of classic Castlevania songs and play them over the level is quite a treat. I also like the idea behind the HUB village, that you slowly grow as you save more of its villagers. Again, there's a lot of things I like in this game, but unfortunately I currently can't get over the combat system as of now.

I'll certainly make an effort to complete it, though it's also much more difficult than its priors. That crab boss in particular musta taken me about 20 attempts! Still, part of me wants to complete it just so I can play it with the unlockable character and see if maybe I prefer it that way.

Oh! Conclusion!


OK, I have actually totally been playing Aria of Sorrow and Harmony of Dissonance lately as well.... But hawt dayum I think this blog is long enough as it is, so if I were to be bothered to write up a little summin' summin' related to those then it'll have to be for another time. To put it short, one I like, one less so. Guess which one's which.

Still, my point has been made: these games have got me good. I'm admittedly fearing the inevitable burnout like you'd expect, but it's not quite here yet and damn if I can stop even if I wanted to! I've even got Aliens: Infestation over here for just a little extra smidge of that Metroidvania'n.

And who can blame me! It's a design that still stands up to this day; the 2D format allows some stupendously beautiful art for starters, and the act of continually unlocking new stuff and being able to further explore an ever growing environment is ever so tantalising. It's that aura of mystique that pulls us on, it inspires us to search every cranny and whip every wall... just in case. It may have taken me a few years, but I'm happy I've finally gotten around to discovering what is so beloved about these games. Though weirdly enough they're all a lot... shorter than I would have imagined.

Don't get me wrong, with them all averaging at about 9-10 hours just with the main game, they've certainly got a decent length about 'em. But when you look at the map and your statistics, you'd think you would have just surmounted a 25-30 hour long adventure. Eh, but again, I'm certainly not complaining about their value. Maybe it's just my way of admitting that I want more -- more castles, more whips, more double jumps,


Also, @vinny, where'sa ma VinnyVania?!

Outro Music Sure Why Not