This was by far the game I heard people talking about the most last year. I went into it with high expectations and got everything I expected, but didn't like it quite as much.
The best thing Shadow of Mordor has going for it is the gameplay. It combines the Batman style combat with a ton more variables and a lot more guys, which usually works out in its favor. It keeps you on your toes and by the end of the game you feel like a total badass, picking off dudes left and right. The open world you run around in is well crafted and incredibly easy to traverse. It's well populated with side quests and collectibles, but it never felt like there was an absurd amount of either necessarily. That being said however, by the end of the game I had collected all of the collectibles and done probably 4/6ths of the side missions and decided to just focus on the main story at that point.
The Nemesis system is really what brings people to this game, though. Thankfully it doesn't disappoint. You're constantly working your way through Uruk ranks, working all the way up to the Warchief's and killing them, and eventually, manipulating the ranks in order to control their followers and replace the Warchief with someone you control. It ends up being a really cool way to add a lot of life and challenge to the open world. Every time you find a Captain, they get the big dramatic zoom, the red bolded text across the screen, they all have a unique line or two for you depending on if you've encountered them before as well. On top of that, every one of them has a set of weaknesses and strengths too that keeps you on your toes throughout the encounters with them. Also, fuck you Khrosh Learned Scribe, you're a god damn asshole. I killed this guy six times and he kept coming back. On top of that, he definitely ran away a couple times and killed me a couple times as well. I hate him. The way his weaknesses worked out made it so that stealth was useless against him, as well as combat finishers, and he was a Combat Master. So basically, all I could do was chip away at him with my sword and bow, never behead him, and wait for his inevitable return.
The most satisfying part of the game was at the very end where it makes you fight your rival, I shot all of his guards in the head and let my Warchief's smash him between them as I pinned his leg to the ground occasionally. As he was about to die, I Branded him and made him my puppet. The main story progressed and sent my Warchief's and I into the base, while he was left in the battlefield stumbling around aimlessly for all eternity I presume. It was one of my greatest moments.
The worst thing about this game, the worst three things actually, are the story, the characters, and the last boss fights. The story is bad. You spend half of the missions just slowly following someone and doing everything for them. Basically I killed a whole bunch of orcs, blew up a statue, and then killed many more orcs until I killed the biggest baddest orcs and then it ends. Nothing happens that is remotely interesting.
The characters are all terrible. Talion is constantly brooding, for good reason of course, but that's all he ever is. Celebrimbor has a cool place in the LotR lore, but all he serves as in the game is a guy who spits Elven wisdom every once in a while. The dwarf isn't bad I guess, but he wasn't good either. Lithariel was supposed to be this sexual temptation for Talion I guess? All of a sudden for no reason, Celebrimbor just starts telling Talion to remember why he's fighting and that he has no place with her, which leads into a laughably terrible scene with Lithariel and Talion when they're escaping after she's captured that has the most corny and unwarranted lines ever spoken in it. This fake romance literally comes out of nowhere and is dismissed just as fast.
And then the two last bosses, oh my god. The Tower was terrible. Run around and stealth brand him 3 times. Seriously? That's the best you could come up with? For all that effort put into the Nemesis system for making it unique and interesting, you're given a piece of garbage battle for one of the 3 guys you've been chasing the whole game.
This battle, however, is a shining example in gameplay achievement compared to the last battle with the Black Hand. This is supposed to be the big confrontation. The guy who killed your wife and kid. You climb the Black Gate to get to him. You watch a cutscene, there is four quick time events, and then you win. That's IT. It is so bad. A one on one regular battle would have been so much better than this.
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. You get a little scene after you finally kill the Black Hand. Talion talks to Celebrimbor and they decide that they can't just leave Sauron here and go to the afterlife. They gotta stay and fight and make a NEW RING OF POWER. Whatever that means. I'm not even gonna focus on the ring part.
The whole game Talion is talking about moving on, how he's getting revenge so he can move on to be with his family. Thirty minutes before I fight the last boss you find out that Celebrimbor is keeping you here and he could've let you go anytime he wanted. Talion flips out and says "I SHOULD'VE DIED WITH MY FAMILY". That brings us back to the beginning of this paragraph where I said he decides to stay. Why they decided to write it like this is beyond me, but god, it is so sloppy. I guess they really want that sequel.
Anyways. The game has some really big problems, but is supported by a really well realized world and great gameplay systems. It's interesting that this would be the game I beat right after Last of Us, which I loved for its story and characters, but not for its gameplay. Total opposite here. Here's hoping whatever I played next has a good balance of both I guess.
Halo 4 is a game I wanted to love. It just makes it so hard to do that. On paper, it hits all the Halo milestones. There's a vehicle level, a sniper level, crazy alien technology, Master Chief and Cortana are there, and you save the world. What could possibly be wrong with a game like that? Well, lemme tell you.
The biggest issue Halo 4 has is its gameplay. It is just nowhere near as fun and varied as it was before. Most of the levels, besides the couple of times you get to go in a vehicle, are pretty linear. You're driven down a straight path the majority of the time, either through the relatively bland wilderness, or inside a generic looking Forerunner building. Overall I wouldn't necessarily call it actively bad, but it certainly doesn't stay with you. The exception would be whenever they frame Earth or Infinity in the background, that was pretty good looking, but even then, not much. The Mammoth level was fun as well, but they could've done a lot more with a mobile fortress considering what we've seen Scarabs do. Also, the flying sequence at the end was terrible. Even when you manage to fly straight and avoid everything, when the game starts to violently shake the camera it's impossible to keep on course and more than a few times I ran into a wall and died.
The other disappointment gameplay wise was definitely the enemy design and new weapons. They added a whole race of new enemies and they don't particularly stick out at all. With the Covenant, you had Elites running at you in crazy battle armor and a sword, ready to shank you. You have pairs of Hunters lumbering along, always inspiring an "oh shit" moment as you know things are about to get real. Jackals were a pain in the ass, but in a good way, because taking that extra second to shoot them exactly where they were open and then killing them is always a little satisfying. Even Grunts bring something to the table with Grunt Birthday Party on. Also, every time you turn around and see one with two plasma grenades running at you, it is terrifying. You get none of that from the Forerunner enemies. The dogs are a bland, fodder style enemy and are more of a nuisance than anything. The Watchers are also just an annoyance, just serving to remind you "Hey! I'm up here! Shoot me first!" whenever you forget about one and toss a grenade by accident. And the Knights are okay at best, but just feel like they looked at Elites and came up with Knights without much thought. They teleport away and then you find them and shoot them again. Incredibly bland, not fun at all to fight, and you end up fighting them the most throughout the game. The guns are no better and they all, except maybe the Scatter Shot, feel incredibly weak and unsatisfying to shoot. They don't have any impact and you'll constantly want to find some UNSC weapons, even some Covenant weapons, instead of using the Forerunner ones. And again, you use them for most of the game. It just feels like we took a step back. What happened to crazy open areas with massive Scarabs stomping around as you try to disable them? Or storming that AA placement, working your way up this really fortified hill to disable the turret so the fleet can come in and bombard the enemy? Or even the super tense Warthog chase at the end of each game as you race away from god knows what exploding? It's just missing any kind of set piece moments. You move from one combat scenario to the next and none really stick out from the other except if you're in a vehicle or you're not.
The story is another place Halo 4 falls short. You're introduced to the Didact with literally no explanation at all. Cortana just goes "Oh! The Didact!" and you're left wondering who he is and how she even knows about him considering Chief and her have been floating for four years. You decide that he must be stopped and you eventually do go and stop him from doing whatever he's doing. Seriously, I only understand a little of what happened and that's because I read the books. The fact that you have to go to other mediums of entertainment to glean some sort of plot from a game is ridiculous. All you figure out from the game is that you found a Forerunner Shield World, somebody named the Didact is there and he doesn't like you very much for some reason, he takes an artifact and tries to kill people and then you kill him. It's all very cut and dry, it's not explained at all what's going on, why it's happening. Then at the end of it all, after they do a crazy amount of build up and stroking of the Didact's ego talking about how awesome he is, you attach a grenade to him and he dies and it's over. So anti-climactic. He comes and goes and you're left just wondering what happened.
That brings me to my last, big issue which is Cortana and Chief's relationship. Now don't get me wrong, I love their relationship as friends and partners, but Halo 4 never quite sold me on this psuedo-romance thing. For one, there's very little indication of anything of t sort going into Halo 4. All of a sudden, they're swooning over each other. She's going rampant, he's being himself and ensuring she gets home, but it doesn't work out. It's a pretty simple story over all and I was definitely sad with how it ends, but it really didn't feel like they earned it. On top of that, the fact that they've really only known each other for two months, max, bothers me. Sure, you can't put a time limit on stuff like this, but I dunno. Their relationship always felt incredibly close and really worked for them as partners and I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea of them having these feelings for each other, if anything I love it, but it really feels to me that they could've planted more seeds perhaps in Halo 3, or used Halo 4 to launch the premise and develop it over the next two games. Who can say, maybe the stories of the next two games will totally redeem it for me, but as of right now, I'm just a little disappointed.
Okay so there are also some good things about this game. In general, the upres 343 did looks really sharp. The environments, though somewhat bland, are all very bright and some quite morable. The faces were really upgrade this time around and there's tons of subtle facial movements you can see that are still impressive. The music in general is pretty minimalist, but there's a couple tracks along the way that are pretty good. And when you're using the weapons you're used to and driving in the vehicles you're used to, it's mostly just like any other Halo game and that's fun. It's just a shame it falls short in basically every other aspect.
All I can say is that I hope they do better with Halo 5. I'm really looking forward to it despite my problems with 4, and I haven't given up on 343 yet.
Demon's Souls is awesome. I always forget how much I love it. I started up a new character with a build in mind, went into 1-1 and immediately took my chest armor off so I could fast roll and I immediately became this fast, halberd-weilding, one-hit nightmare for all the dredglings in 1-1. It was damn fun and I had only just started.
It only gets better from there. It never ceases to amaze me how different the game feels just by switching out to a different weapon type. I went from my halberd to a spear and found out quickly I preferred the former over the latter. I love that I can go in with one idea of what I want to do and get totally sidetracked and have way more fun just experimenting.
As usual, the bosses and the gameplay are super fun. It's been long enough that I didn't really remember any boss patterns or weaknesses so the game was full of fresh experiences. On top of that, I decided to finally learn all there is to know about the World Tendency, Character Tendency, and NPC events which lead to me seeing and doing a lot of stuff I've never experienced before. Fought a whole bunch of Black Phantoms, totally ganked some NPC's, and finally did all of Ostrava's quest line. Add all that to the previously mentioned weapon experimenting and it almost felt like I'd never played it before.
I can only hope Bloodborne lives up to the legacy of Dark Souls and Demon's Souls, but hey, if it ends up being shit, at least I'll always have Boletaria and Lordran to run around in.
SPOILERS BELOW! Final Thoughts at the bottom are spoiler free
Her route was interesting. The whole game up to that point really lures you into a sense of security with its typical visual novel/anime high school setting and quirky cast, filling their own archetypes. Shit got real when her route started, though. The creators did a pretty good job planting the seeds for stuff they explained in more detail in her route. A lot of things suddenly made way more sense. At first glance, she just looks like the typical big sis character, infatuated with the player character because of course she is, luring him in with her body because that fits her character type. Then it breaks down why she's like that and I came away from it pretty satisfied. The whole "camping trip" part went on a bit too long I thought, but overall, it was probably necessary. The ending certainly benefited from it and, damn, that ending was sad. Got all misty eyed, so I'm definitely happy with Amane's route.
Very tragic. Once again we have a character who fits perfectly into her archtype. Incredibly hostile, but with a soft side somewhere underneath. She's not just that, though. That would've been god damn bad. I'm really enjoying how Grisaia is actually explaining and going into great depth as to how these people came to be the way they are. So far it's been incredibly believeable, especially with Yumiko. She's been betrayed and tricked her whole life. every time she makes a connection it turns out to be fake, or someone's using her. She tries so hard to be accepted, to do everything to make her mother and father love her but when you're told "I wish you were a boy" how can you change that? Is that not the most awful thing to tell someone? When she goes crazy in the class and cuts her "friend" laughing all the while, exclaiming "Laugh everyone! It's all a game, right? My life is just some game someone's pulling on me!" you can't help but not blame her. It's so god damn fucked up.
That being said, I really enjoyed how she evolved over the course of the story from that prickly kind of person to her truer nature: a hardworking, loving, adorable girl. I didn't necessarily get as much why Yuuji fell for her though. I get wanting to protect your friends, but the reason they gave mostly was that she got rid of his despair. It seemed like there was very little catalyst for them to actually jump together in the first place. She was very hostile to him and he was very distant until they eventually ran away together. I dunno, just felt like we were missing the middle stepss that established a more tight, personal bond kinda.
It's weird how my opinion of Michiru has swung over the course of the game. I actively dislike tsundere characters because what they've become is just as excessive amount of the tsun and very little dere. It's just violence and abuse and a lack of positive expression without any payoff usually. Michiru brings it back to a real kind of personality in a way, she provides substance to that kind of character again as you figure out why she is the way she is, and you see her softer side.
Until you first get evidence of her alternate personality I thought she was an idiot and annoying, but I've always had an interest in alternate personalities and it was a really sudden change in her story, so I was immediately drawn in. What you end up finding out about her is really tragic. Constantly abused by people who are supposed to be mentoring her, disappointing her family, and sheltering herself from her school because she believes she's not capable of a normal life, then losing her best friend in front of her. You can really see how she might end up in a state of mind where she'd hide from her pain, and where she'd think "Why's life worth living if it all ends anyway? Nobody cares about me anyway, I'm just a liability." She never really had anyone to fall back on after her best friend commit suicide. Her family had largely given up on her thanks to her heart problem and her difficulties learning and socializing. It's sad that she had to take to acting out and making people laugh to find some place in the world. It all culminates in the scene where she tells Yuuji to just kill her. She's too scared to say she's afraid of loss, afraid of being alone, after tasting a little bit of affection from her peers at Mihama. The loss of her cat obviously made her get to this point, because it was the first thing she opened up to in forever. The lengths Yuuji went to after she said what she did; prentending she was dead and all, seemed a bit crazy, but whatever, it all worked out in the end. I really like that they didn't just get rid of her alternate self, they went and had a nice scene with her mother and they ended up coexisting which I think is a really cool outcome. Realistically, I really doubt anything like having another personality from a heart and both existing at the same time is possible, but it's a cool concept.
What really made me scratch my head at the end was that out of all the routes so far, this was the one that felt like Yuuji was invested for little reason other than it was convenient for the romance. Throughout the route, he is brutally indifferent about Michiru. They go on play dates and even have sex and he constantly assures her that he has no feelings for her and it means nothing to him, when he knows she loves him. Perhaps because she wanted it and he was clear about it that makes it less weird, and she does say it helped her to turn away from some of the bad things in the end, but it just seems like a weird situation overall considering her whole problem was not feeling like anyone cared. And at the end of it all, he says he loves her. It makes allusions to the fact that Yuuji doesn't quite know how he feels, but then it goes right back to him denying anything. Weird.
Once again I cry. That makes Amane and Sachi the most emotional routes for me so far. It's something about loving, happy families that always gets me, so of course the endings to those two routes did the trick.
Sachi as a character remained interesting throughout her route. You go in wondering "what the hell is up with her crazy level of devotion to completing her tasks?" and you come out of it with a great answer to that question. Sachi is another character who, once again, had a tragic childhood accident redefine her life. Her parents died in front of her, leaving her with the words "Sachi...why...?". It's haunting. Survivors guilt and the trauma would be bad enough, but she got post-traumatic stress disorder. She has to be a good girl so bad things don't happen to people she cares about. If she's bad, people will leave her. She devotes herself to this lifestyle. It really makes sense.
The writers did a great job with the "childhood friend" character type. They played the card late, which was an interesting twist, and it worked out well. Yuuji and Sachi's romance didn't feel forced, instead it felt like something that was going to happen sooner or later. For Yuuji it starts off as just wanting to help someone he cares about and evolves into something much deeper over the course of most of the route. The way he helps Sachi through her problems was also really interesting and touching. He was always there for her, but he always made her find the answers herself, slowly and subtelty pushing her along a path that she had to choose the outcome of. Overall it seemed like they complimented each other incredibly well and I loved their banter and humor.
Overall, I was the least invested in Makina's character. I've never had much affection for the super childish loli types in general, and that was no exception here. Not to say I hated her, just compared to the other girls I was less interested. In general, the reasoning behind the way she is I found less satisfying that the others as well.
The route as a whole was okay. It really is offputting to see her character act and look like a kid constantly, and then these serious scenes happen and you're supposed to look at her like an adult. It's a weird contrast. On top of that, everything with Yuuji and his "demonic right hand" was pretty corny. I think they could have justified that a little better. It just came off as this weird, magic-y premise that didn't make any sense and just came off as the creators trying to be edgy. I'm totally okay with him not being able to kill and having this dark past he blames himself for, but this whole "oh man my head hurts, the demon inside me killed again." I dunno, it came across as poorly written to me. On top of that, in Yumiko's route we're shown how good Yuuji is at running away from his organization and in this route they throw all that out the window. It's just a mishmash of bad things happening, edgy Yuuji nighttime killer mode, and then the eventual lead up to everything miraculously working out??
Seriously, the end of this route is weirdly clean. He made an enemy of Japan essentially and hurt a ton of people, almost assassinated Makina's mother, and then at the end of it all Makina's fine, he's fine and they're living out their life in the bakery that Makina waned. Oh and also, Makina is 9029 now. Because why not? After they spent the whole route emphasizing how killing is a big deal and it's heavy shit that drags you down, let's make Makina 9029. I dunno, there were some good moments, but overall I wasn't nearly as invested in this route as the rest.
Grisaia is a great visual novel. The cast that they throw at you is full of archetypes you'll recognize from any anime or visual novel, but they're not defined by those archetypes. The first section of the game does a great job of introducing you to every character and establishing their daily routines while throwing in a ton of funny and insightful dialogue to keep you interested. The second part where you actually decide with route to pursue is even better. Every route is full of a ton of detail regarding their pasts and, for the most part, they all do a great job of making the romance part of it very convincing. It doesn't just feel like "oh, well, this is a visual novel so of course these character fell in love." They really sell it. You start to care about the characters and what's going to happen to them. Yuuji acts as a great partner to each as well. They're all in Mihama because they're fucked up and instead of being the perfect main character riding in on his white horse to be strong and make everything better, you realize that he might easily be the most fucked up of them all. He's got a ton of baggage that you explore through the routes. I really like his set of abilities, though I was somewhat disappointed they weren't used a little more than they were. He's also a super smart guy. The game is full of his insights into situations both related to the characters, or to just basic human problems in general. Walking away from this game, I feel like I actually learned things which is awesome.
Overall, you can't go wrong with this game. It's filled with great characters, insightful dialogue, ridiculous moments, and some genuinely heart-wrenching scenes. I went into it not expecting too much and was totally surprised to not be able to put it down. A great visual novel for sure.
8/10 (Early Access)
H1Z1 is a flawed masterpiece. The premise is not very new: you're in a zombie filled world scrounging for supplies and there are other players out there trying to also survive. It's very similar to the other games of its type, but it does what it does so well.
First off, the main mode: survival. You're dropped in the world with some gauze, a shirt, waist pack, and pants and that's it. You can rip up your shirt and pants and make a satchel and a makeshift bow with a stick (don't know how that works, but okay). And then you just explore. You come across trailer parks, towns, garages, cottages, rivers, etc and you are just looking for ways to survive. You need food and water, but less crucial to your immediate needs and more crucial in the horrible world you live in now are guns. You want to find one as fast as possible and then find as much ammo as you can on top of that. If you get a car, that's a great convenience to be had, but it's not really necessary at all.
There are some spots that yield certain objects more than others and I found myself constantly drawn to the police station in Pleasant Valley. It's full of guns and equipment, on top of being in the middle of a town with plenty of room for food and everything else, and right on top the spawn point for two cars. It's great. Unfortunately, everybody knows that so it's almost always crawling with people. But that's what leads you to some of the best moments of the game. One scenario for instance had my buddy and I raiding the basement where all the best stuff is when we heard a door opening above. We weren't in a Skype call or in the same room, so we had very little means of communication except frantic messages in Steam chat. We spent a good 5 - 10 minutes down there with one of us on the door, one of us finishing raiding the rooms and it was one of the more tense experiences I've ever had with a game. Eventually, around when I was starting to let my guard down, the door flew open and a massive firefight ensued, where I unfortunately died. But what I'm trying to say is, the game is full of situations like this. Running around in the night only to turn a corner and get gunned down by two dudes who had the same idea you did, coming across fresh players while you have tons of guns and ammo and deciding to give them a bit of food, only for them to try to kill you while you're in the menu. I have a ton of great stories just from playing this game. It's a really fun experience. It's all made better by little touches too, like the push to talk button defaulting to pushing in the middle mouse. It makes it even easier to use so you'll constantly be communicating with these people you encounter while trying to survive. Unfortunately it is in Early Access, so there are problems. It's incredibly annoying to pick up items, often taking 3 or 4 button presses to pick up anything. The game has crashed and frozen on me at least 10 times, there are hackers and glitches all over the place, and there can be some pretty bad server lag and slowdowns sometimes. It's got a lot to improve, but it brings a lot to the table.
The last thing I wanted to mention is the Battle Royale mode. It's just as fun as the survival mode and it cuts out all the survival parts of it which is the fun part weirdly enough. You get dropped in from the sky, try to find a trailer park or houses to land at, and run as fast as you can for guns, killing anyone you see along the way. You don't get hungry or thirsty, cars start with all their parts, and all that is in the world are weapons, backpacks, helmets, and first aid kits. It's all about surviving down to the last man. It constantly pushes the people close together via poison gas that is on a 3 minute timer to close in on a certain area all players have to go to to be safe. It's incredibly tense, especially when you get down to the lower numbers, which the game keeps you up to date with. You start around 120 people and go till there's only 1 left. It's a great change to the survival mode, where you run into tons of unique situations and are constantly scrounging by. Overall the two modes just balance out really well and I had a lot of fun with both of them over my time with H1Z1.
So yeah. It might not be perfect, but despite all it's flaws, it's a really fun package for only around 20 bucks. Highly recommended if you like survival focused, open world online games.
If every area was unique and full of stuff and story as much as this one area of Ground Zeroes, Phantom Pain would have been an amazing game. A prototype that outshines its finished model in a lot of ways.
Hearthstone is a game I get into once in a while, then fall out of. It's really fun when you get some friends, build a new deck, and see how the strategies you dreamed up fall into place, or how they don't. It does get boring after a while though, at least for me.
Fallout 4 was probably the final nail in the coffin for me and Bethesda games. They are massive in scope and scale, but completely devoid of anything I want to see in a lot of ways.
One of the biggest improvements to the engine were all very familiar with at this point is the combat. The shooting feels much more tight and thanks to the gun upgrade system, it ends up feeling more personalized too. I always enjoy having guns that I upgraded to suit the way I play, it adds a bit of personality to combat. Otherwise though, it's a pretty standard Fallout shooter with a few wacky weapons I didn't mess around with too much.
One of the biggest problems I have is that it feels like almost the same game I played seven years ago. VATS is there, the awkward way npc's move around is there, the weird looking faces are all there, most of the quests are still run of the mill, and the main story isn't great. Beyond a layer of polish graphically and a few new systems, it feels like the same old Fallout I played years ago.
Especially after playing something like The Witcher 3, the way the quests and the story work just seem boring to me. I'm not going to sit here and say that every quest in Witcher was super unique and awesome, but a lot of them were great. They contributed to the world in meaningful ways, the people acted like actually people, there were consequences for your actions, and there were a lot of unique situations you were put into, even in a regular old contract. In Fallout, the majority of what I've done has been running from one place to another, grabbing something, killing everything in my way, and running back to whoever asked me to do that. There's definitely a lot to do in Fallout 4, the uniqueness of it over quantity just seems to be favoring the latter more.
Story is disappointing and standard as well. There's only really a couple important beats to it, and I came out of it not really knowing who was really in the right among the factions, which could be considered a praise for not giving the moral high ground to anyone, but mostly it just felt like everyone told me different things about what the others did and I wasn't given a whole lot of evidence either way so I couldn't trust anyone. Went with the Brotherhood cause hey, Power Armor and let's go kill shit. Everything with Shaun wasn't really hard hitting cause I didn't know him at all and I had no connection to the main character at all either, which comes with the territory when it's a game about making your own story.
I was hoping Fallout 4 would be this sprawling adventure full of fun times and crazy situations with an alright story to back it up at least, but more than anything I was just left disappointed at the end. Whether that's my fault for getting my expectations up, or the games, I don't know.