Lost_Remnant

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My top 4 games of 2015 or the I didn't play a lot of games released in 2015 awards

2016 is now officially upon us and I thought I’d take a little time to talk about my favorite games of 2015, of which there is only four. Yes, four! Even if I wanted to make a list of ten videogames I played in 2015 regardless of how I felt about them, I could only give you six. So to compensate I’ll add some misc. awards in-between my top four. I’m going to even shamelessly ape a giantbomb award category for my own nefarious gain. With that said, let’s do this thing.

4. Resident Evil: Revelations 2

I’ve been a fan of the Resident Evil series since I was in elementary. My love with the series started with 2, where the shambling horrors of the night, lickers, and those two lovable assholes Mr.X and worst father of the year mutated William Birkin made my life in raccoon city a living hell. As a child RE2 was pretty damn terrifying for me and made a lasting impression and a spark a long time love affair with this silly ass franchise. Resident Evil has seen hard times, six was mostly a mess with a few good bits, Operation Raccoon City was the definition of a boilerplate shooter, and those CG and live action movies continue to be pretty bad.

The revelation games while not perfect have proved to be good distractions. It bridges that gap better than six did in trying to mash the balls to the walls action of later years, and slow pace of the older games. The series also attempted to bring a little more camp back into the fray, the second game is a little more reserved on the ham than the first but still goofy in spots. Since this is a Resident Evil game you can certainly expect that the protagonists continue to live their exotic lives of being involved in biological experiments and other such dangerous situations. To the point where it’s out of the realm of coincidence and probably the work of some turbojerk deity who gets his kicks by only screwing with eight to ten individuals over a period of years. If you would like to hear more about my turbojerk deity theory, we meet in the basement of a coffee house, the password is Complete Global Saturation.

Barry Burton: Action Dad
Barry Burton: Action Dad

The story of Revelations 2 is pretty basic, Claire and Moira Burton get captured by a shady group of commandos, and they get transported to an island run by an overseer. Who has given them a virus that responds to fear, if you become afraid to the point of pure panic you mutate into a horrible monster the Claire sections sort of feel like a weird Saw movie with a voyeuristic antagonist trying to test you for one reason or another. To be honest it never comes off being all that great, it’s fantastic seeing Claire again but it kind of left me cold but with most of the enemies being pretty much being jacked up dudes armed with knives and the occasional biological abominations. Combined with a story that again that feels like some sort of weird Saw movie or something of that ilk it left me with mixed feelings.

Raid Mode is an addiction and I'll never stop.
Raid Mode is an addiction and I'll never stop.

It was the Barry sections that took hold with me, again I can’t really tell you how excited I was to see the silly old man again. The twist in his sections is that his part of the game takes place six months after Claire’s events. A lot of the enemies you spent time shooting up as Claire have rotted nearly to the bone and come at you like zombies, as long with monsters mutating in another way. They have become super-fast grotesque masses of flesh that will only go down when you find their weak point and shoot it. Barry teams up with a strange little girl name Natalia and you both strive to crack this case wide open. It also allows Barry to reach maximum dad and he even has some silly one liners as well as a call back to the first game.

The real meat of this game for me was how it played and the raid mode. Shooting monsters, chucking grenades at them, customizing my weapons, and healing with herbs are as fun as it always has been for me. The raid mode is where the value lied for me, running through gauntlets, getting new guns and parts, leveling up my character, getting new skills, and doing it all with a friend is addicting. It always has me going “just one more level” as I strive to gain more medals. I haven’t played as much of this mode as the last game which ended up taking nearly one hundred hours of my life, but the hours I have managed to get with my friend who I did everything in the first raid mode with has already proved its weight in gold.

If Revelations is to continue, I hope it continues a trend of bringing back older characters that have been missing in action. What’s Rebecca up to? What about Carlos? Is Billy in some dive bar somewhere drunk off his ass and telling random strangers about that one time he killed a bunch of zombies with an 18 year old combat medic? If none of this is to be, then I’ll be happy as long as it keeps being campy and leeching hours out of me with its superb raid mode.

Animal of the Year: My Dog

Doggie!
Doggie!

I imagine Abigail will continue to win this category for the foreseeable future. It is true that she doesn't have access to cool dog sneaking suits or know how to use stun blades. She did however learn to open the backyard door on her own and when she did it I thought she disappeared to join a mercenary group. So kinda like D-Dog right? Turns out she was just out laying in the sun, one step at a time. We'll turn you into a cute killing machine yet, or she can just keep hanging out on my bed as I play videogames, I can go either way.

3. Zombi

Yes, I know this game is a three year old Wii U game, but I continue to not be in possession of a Wii U and it released this year on the One and PS4. If I can’t get by on this technicality then this would only be a list of three games, let’s just look the other way yeah? I won’t tell 2015 if you won’t.

Zombi is a very interesting game marred by one significant problem but even with that problem I still liked it a lot. The problem being is that the combat is not nearly as difficult as one would initially think, yes you are super weak and if you get hit enough times and a zombie grabs you it is an instant game over unless you are in possession of an item you get later in the game. Ammo can be limited and danger lurks around every corner but don’t fear weary traveler. You hold in your hands the cricket bat wielded by the gods! This thing can take a licking and keep on tickin’ it will make short work of lone zombies and if you can get a handle on crowd control, you can kill entire groups of zombies with this thing without even using a single drop of ammo. So yes the game does become easy pretty quickly but even with that I still got surprised more than once and lost my first survivor to a surprise zombie attack three hours in. I lost my second to a land mine trap I set gone horribly wrong, and my third to pure hubris of thinking one medpack was enough, my intrepid third survivor paid for that confidence with her life.

Not even this helicopter stands a chance against the cricket bat.
Not even this helicopter stands a chance against the cricket bat.

Walking around Ubisofts approximation of London, scavenging for supplies, beating in zombie heads with my trusty bat, never touching land mines because I clearly can’t be trusted proved to be a great time. The story behind the plague being the result of a prophecy made by John Dee coming to fruition was interesting but that takes a back seat to surviving and looking through all manner of bric a brac for useful items. I even took it upon myself to play through survivor mode, one life and it’s over and made for a fairly nerve-wracking experience since it became more about me trying to get through areas as unnoticed as possible and saving my ammo for the crazy moments. I even did a chicken run through and went through as many survivors as possible just to see how random it was. I eventually settled on a survivor that looked like my dad and felt compelled to keep him alive, you’re welcome dad. 2015 was the year of dads for me, real or otherwise.

Looks like a good place to get ripped apart by zombies as any.
Looks like a good place to get ripped apart by zombies as any.

Zombi is a game I would like to see expanded upon in a sequel, Ubisoft is almost on to something here with the approach to making the zombies more threatening and random survivors. They could improve upon it by making the melee weapons either breakable or tone down the damage, make the different survivors more unique than just appearance by giving them certain traits. Make a police officer more proficient with fire arms, make an athlete have more stamina and maybe a certain percentage to get out of deadly zombie grabs scot free, maybe make a handyman able to customize his weapons with better stats than other survivors etc. They have a good base game here that could really be turned into something special, but that day might never come.

Favorite Non 2015 Release: Nier

Nier: Warrior Dad
Nier: Warrior Dad

I was not expecting to like Nier nearly as much as I did. I heard the word of mouth, and was vibing with the weird style it had from various videos I’ve seen on it. Over the years though, I lost touch with Japanese RPG’s for one reason or another, they used to be a big part of my gaming time into my late teens but midway into last generation I kind of lost interest except some main stays like the Tales series. Once I got going with this game I warmed up to it pretty fast, it has a fantastic cast of characters, one hell of a soundtrack, and pretty good voice acting to boot, and a great story to tie it all together. The moment to moment gameplay is really rather basic but gets spiced up a bit with the magic system and the bosses throwing projectiles at you like a bullet hell.

I did everything I could in that game, I solved a lot of people’s problems, I cultivated myself a white moon flower, I saw all the endings, I listened to the soundtrack for months. When I think back about the exploits of Nier, Kaine, Weiss, and Emil I can’t help but smile and think about all the great moments that game had and the great music it had to accompany each scene. I’m confident in saying that the music in Nier absolutely makes the game for me; it gave the tragic moments much more oomph. It also weirdly enough continued my theme of dad related exploits as Nier saving his daughter is the main characters motivation for everything he does. I’d highly recommend giving Nier a shot or at the very least checking out the story in a commentary free let’s play so you can see all its twists and turns. Experiencing the story of Nier hit me hard and even got me misty eyed in spots and if it wasn’t for my number one game on this list it would have been my favorite story of the year.

2. Dying Light

It was a year of Resident Evil dads, London dads who looked like my dad, and JRPG dads but it was also apparently the year of zombies for me. I still like zombie games a whole lot but even I was surprised by two zombie centric games, three if you really want to call Rev 2 a zombie game, still that's a lot of shambling undead whichever way you slice the brain eater. Dying Light was a complete surprise and is a lot better than it may have any right to be.

You see, you don’t know what you’ll get with Techland, you can get good but flawed experiences like Dead Island, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (I would say this one is just great without any reservations) or pretty bad games such as Dead Island: Riptide and Call of Juarez: The Cartel. I was burnt on Riptide pretty hard, I liked the original game a great deal and to see that the sequel but not sequel being way too similar at too high a price and being pretty damn broken in co-op did a lot to earn my ire and make me nervous about the quality of Dying Light. The game came out and as far as I can tell was met pretty positively but I still elected to wait and bought it last month for a reduced price with some gift cards I had lying around. I don’t regret waiting but I’m glad this game turned out to be as great as it did.

Kicking zombies off roofs never got old.
Kicking zombies off roofs never got old.

The free running is what elevates this game for me, any game that gives you a fast and fun way to get around the environment usually become a favorite for me. It’s that reason why I loved Sunset Overdrive so much last year. Running around Harran, cracking heads with a baseball bat that has a blow torch taped to the side of it so it makes the exploding heads also emit hot flames proved to be a great deal of fun. The game kept supplying a steady drip of blueprints, new weapons that I was never wanting for new and exciting ways to take the fight to the undead with, my favorite being impact mods. It usually makes zombie heads explode like a water melon or send them flying backwards if you connect with body shots, and the rise from zombie novice to zombie slayer from the skill system was a very satisfying progression. The grappling hook also makes a fun traversal system even more ridiculous with the ability to clear buildings like it’s nothing.

Stick around pal!
Stick around pal!

I even had fun with the side quests in this game, some of them are basic fetch quests but the real fun is that the characters I interacted with from them were also funny in spots, and Crane has some occasional great lines. I helped a man with some gas lines so he could build an apocalypse fire wall and end up blowing himself up, I got a bunch of alcohol for some drunks holed up in a building, found coffee for coffee addicts who threatened revolt if they didn’t get any java, I helped two asshole twins build a goddamned submarine. It was the side quests where Techland cut loose with some silly characters and objectives, it was a nice break from the deathly serious main story while not terrible wasn’t especially interesting as whatever weird thing the strange folk of Harran wanted me to do. There were some serious side quests but overall my time of Harran was one of smiles and chuckles as I kept doing more and more ridiculous things while killing zombies in various bizarre ways, drop kicking them off buildings is probably one of the best things to do in that game. The game gets even more ridiculous if you get a friend or two in co-op and fight the undead.

I also liked how night in that game was actually super dark and the volatiles were a great enemy to be afraid of early on. Once you get strong enough they aren’t all that but even then you don’t want to be surrounded by a pack of them. So it’s usually still the better part of valor to just run away unless you need to accomplish something important at night, or you can engage in idiot behavior and try to drop kick them like I did and then get immediately killed because as it turns out the volatiles aren’t interested in my wrestling antics and quickly tore my throat out. I look forward to playing The Following next month and seeing what idiocy I can accomplish with a buggy in the country side.

Most Disappointing Game: Fallout 4

I really didn’t see this coming folks. I’ve been a fan of the Fallout series since getting a recommendation to play the first two games in my teens, I’ve been hooked since. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that Fallout is probably my favorite game series, and while I had plenty of quibbles with Fallout 3 I still greatly enjoyed that game. New Vegas only did greater things in the Bethesda format, glitches notwithstanding. I don’t think this is a bad game, in fact I actually rather like it but I think Bethesda kind of spun their wheels with this game. A prettier Fallout 3 is not necessarily the worst thing in the world but the other changes or additions they have made didn’t sit well with me. Even after playing the game for about ninety hours the voiced character, dialogue system, most of the writing I encountered, and the main story conceit do nothing for me.

After spending the time with it, I didn’t see the voiced character adding a whole lot to the game, it just took me more out of the experience and I greatly dislike how persuasion works now. Tying it all into the Charisma stat undercuts the conversation system for me. I wish the conversations I ran into allowed me to use my other special stats in conversations and found myself missing using skills in New Vegas to also pass speech challenges. I remember meeting a random ass dude in North Vegas who taught me how to make better 44. Rounds because my survival skill was high enough, or sometimes using my perception stat to tell someone was lying to me when I bet them on the road. Fallout 3 had speech checks that used your special stats so it’s not like it was just an Obsidian thing.

I can see why they removed the skills because after all what makes fifty seven in small guns so different from fifty nine? However removing that granularity made the conversation system suffer and continued to get in my way. I also felt that most of the optional conversations you could access with charisma in this game was mostly just to get more caps, I never really ran into interesting ways to implement speech. I’m sure there are some quests that do interesting things with it but I never found them and it made me tire of talking to most people, something I love to do in Fallout. Other than the companions I didn’t really give two shakes about the people I ran across, Preston Garvey is the Finn to my Poe, Piper has sttttttttttttyle, and Cait is great but the other inhabitants I’ve met in the wasteland? It’s a big wet fart.

He may be a goody two shoes but Preston and I have been to hell and back. He also has another settlement that needs your help. Again.
He may be a goody two shoes but Preston and I have been to hell and back. He also has another settlement that needs your help. Again.

I also dislike that they decided to make my character have a past wife/husband and child and revolve the main story about finding your son. I find it odd Bethesda continues to try to make the Fallout main character have a more detailed past then their Elder Scrolls games which you’re usually just a prisoner getting swept up in events. I can appreciate Bethesda trying to make a more personal story but since I only spent about forty five minutes game time with my Pre-war wife and son I just didn’t get attached to them. This would have been softened some if I found other people or groups to care about in the wasteland but other than the companions I found I just never found myself caring about what I was doing.

Now for the settlement system, I think the idea is fine but I wish it was more fleshed out. I built a decentish settlement in Sanctuary and Moonlight Theater but with the constant cycle of trying to get materials and struggling to make things look nice it’s something I got tired of. I eventually just made myself an above the ground hide out in hangman alley and only visited the other settlements to collect money like some disinterested land lord. I wish the radiant quests for settlements were better than just save people from an attack, rescue a kidnapped settler, or go kill everyone in this camp quests. I wish they involved more quests of actually doing things with your settlers.

Something like maybe your provisioner wants you to come along on a route to another settlement because he heard about a raider road block, one settler asks you to go on a hunt with him to procure food for the town, or a small group of your people from a militia and ask you to assist on clearing out a raider/ghoul/mutant cave nearby and you actually go with them to clear it out instead of hey you, do everything for us. Or you go and rescue a person who has managed to get himself captured twice in a row from a settlement with a great defense rating. It feels less like I’m pitching in with a community of people to make a world the better place and more like I’m their shotgun toting baby sitter. Eventually you get tired of cleaning up the messes, throw up your hands and live in an alley with a drug addicted Irish pit fighter. Hopefully next time I give this game a shot I can run into some more exciting side quests and maybe change my tune a little.

Weyland Jennings is ready to hit the wastes!
Weyland Jennings is ready to hit the wastes!

Even with all this, the world is still fun to explore, the shooting is much improved, and I really enjoyed customizing and naming my weapons. I still miss the skill system and not every perk is a winner but it still is decidedly satisfying to improve my skill with pistols and rifles and get wonderful VATS headshots. One problem though is that pretty quickly you eventually find nothing of interest in the ways of loot in locations because once you modify the ultimate weapon for your needs, everything else becomes junk, and in my time with the game the legendary gear I would get was usually garbage. Oh man a pool cue that does fifteen percent more damage to super mutants! In my time with the game the only great legendary weapon I found was a double barrel that never had to be reloaded; RNG can be a cruel mistress.

I know it sounds like I hate this game, I really don’t but a lot of the things I love about Fallout weren’t nearly as good this time around and you can only go around shooting and looting the wasteland until that falls flat on its own. I want to go back and try to do more in the game but these issues combined with the load times in the console version becoming lengthy saps a lot of my will to get back into the commonwealth and get up to some no good. Maybe after some more patches I’ll be able to find a groove with the game and try to see some of the stuff I missed. I never got around to finding Hancock for example and everything I’ve heard about this guy makes him sound like a character I would warm up to quickly. I still want to see what else Fallout 4 has to offer but it just didn’t click with me in 2015, maybe 2016 will prove more fruitful after some more time passes. We shall see.

1. Life Is Strange

We took a detour from Dadville and Zombie Town to end up in Arcadia Bay and I was sad when it came time for me to leave. I’m usually hit or miss on these types of adventure games these days, I loved the first season of Walking dead, and thought season 2 was mostly a clunker. The Wolf Among Us was good but the wait between episodes hurt the momentum, and Tales from the Borderlands seems great but I’ve only played the first episode so it could go sour. So I was weary if Life is Strange would hit a chord for me and I’m super glad it did and see Max’s but never Maxine’s adventure to conclusion. I’ll be touching upon spoiler stuff (end of episode 3 and beginning of episode 4 being the most significant to me but I’ll touch other moments so consider most of it spoiler territory) so I just want to give anyone a heads up who wants to play the game but hasn’t yet.

The first fifteen minutes, my first thoughts were oh god what have I gotten into I hate all these monsters pretending to be human beings. I mean, a douchey teacher tries to motive Max by quoting John Lennon earnestly and it made my eyes roll so hard I feared they were about to fall out of my head, but first impressions are not always correct. Some characters in this game will continue to be insufferable but more often than not there are actual reasons behind the assholeishness (Victoria being one such example as I found out in episode 4) and at the very least the friendship between Max and Chloe is incredibly touching that is made more believable by great voice acting by Hannah Telle and Ashley Burch. The meshing of high school nonsense and time travel is a combo that hooked me quickly and once I got to the end of episode 2 and managed to save Kate from jumping off the school roof I was all in. I should also say I greatly enjoyed Remember Me despite its faults and remember wanting them to make a game centered on the mind remix elements from that game, which helped to make me like Life is Strange even more.

This tale of time travel and high school life is brought to you by the producers of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, one of the best sci-fi films of all time.
This tale of time travel and high school life is brought to you by the producers of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, one of the best sci-fi films of all time.

What made this entire game for me was the end of episode 3, and the beginning of episode 4 it struck a chord with me. Seeing the repercussions of going back in time to save William, Chloe’s father but also permanently paralyze her was a sobering moment and a realization of how serious this power really is. The moments to follow in episode 4 was some of the hardest things I had to sit through in a videogame, it really knocked me on my ass. It got even more gut wrenching when Chloe lamented her situation, the toll it took on her parents, how absolutely helpless she felt in the world, especially armed with the knowledge that their lungs are weakening and she’s destined for an early grave anyway, taking even more control from her, culminating with her asking Max to end her life, which I did.

After this moment I had to stop and recollect myself. The entire opening section of this episode I was thinking about my mother the entire time and it was incredibly hard to temper myself. My mom was not paralyzed but she lost a losing battle with Leukemia and this coming Sunday will be the third anniversary of her passing. The pills she took to combat her Leukemia kept her alive but she was always tired, weak, and would sleep a lot and getting through a normal day could be an arduous process for her. She would sometimes sleep almost 18 hours in day, she would do what she could to be a mother to me and my brother and a wife to my father but constantly fighting this thing took a lot out of her and I see now that she felt helpless, tired, and just worn down. Fighting this thing took a lot out of her and she had better days than others but most days she would sleep and not much else. I think she was losing her will to fight this thing.

Of All Time!
Of All Time!

In fact I know that’s exactly what happened, three weeks after the funeral a friend of my mother’s called my dad to see how we were doing and checking in on all of us. At some point she dropped a tidbit that when she had a conversation with my mother previously that she explicitly said she found it hard to go on and that she accepts her fate, something my mom never told any of us. She stopped taking the pills long enough that she went out of remission and at one point or another it couldn’t be stopped. On January 10th 2013 she went to sleep one night as she usually would and never woke up. So seeing Chloe’s situation of not having control and not being able to go on and fight her condition any longer brought all those feelings of my mother and her similar situation to the forefront and it was really the first time anything in a videogame related to me on such a deep level.

Sorry to bring the tone down on you dear reader but the way this game made me feel in that moment was such a unique experience for me in a game that it had to be discussed. If only to get it off my chest. Even without this personal connection, I’m confident in thinking Life is Strange would have been my game of the year. Like I said the friendship between Max and Chloe was absolutely touching and the final choice I made in Episode 5 of sacrificing Chloe to save everyone else in Arcadia Bay was one of the hardest decisions I had to make in a game. I didn’t want to do it but I couldn’t bring myself to sacrifice everyone else either.

I was not expecting to get nearly as much out of Life is Strange as I did, it got its hooks in me and to coin an old term “I laughed, I cried” and loved my time in Arcadia Bay. I wasn’t expecting to get wrapped up in it as I did, but I’m glad I decided to play it and see the story for myself. 2016 looks to be a great year but instead of looking forward I’m looking back. I finally managed to get myself a copy of Phantom Pain and see myself cracking that one open soon and press ganging some dudes into my army. Everybody gets a free coffee mug that says world’s best dad. Closing the dad loop that has been 2015.

Thanks for reading my list, here's your mug. You might also have to fight in my army now, sorry about that.
Thanks for reading my list, here's your mug. You might also have to fight in my army now, sorry about that.

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The Akumu Incident: I beat Mikami's circus of death.

Hey there! Before we get down to it I just want to drop a little warning that this is a monster of a post. As I wrote down my feelings about the mode and offering a bunch of tips and suggestions for doing the mode it came out to be quite the piece. With that said, I hope you enjoy the ride.

This is your brain on Akumu mode, any questions?
This is your brain on Akumu mode, any questions?

At the moment of writing this, I’ve been a week off or more from beating Akumu mode and beating all the DLC the game had to offer. The road to beating everything this game had was an off and on two week affair and after the trials and tribulations of Akumu mode I wanted to give myself some time away from it before I put anything down on it since a lot of my writing towards it would be reactionary in nature and maybe not necessarily fair. My immediate feelings after beating this mode was an indignant “fuck this game, I’m glad this mode is over” but after giving myself a week and change I find that my feelings toward this mode occupies something of a schism in my mind, fitting given the games overall themes of messing with your brain. I find myself both absolutely loathing and loving this mode, during the whole thing and after when I stop and think about it. I also plan to divulge some tips at the end of this that might be of useful for anyone who is thinking about taking on this mode. Don’t take my advice as gospel though, I think Akumu mode is done best by whatever works for you, I’ll just tell you some things that worked for me.

These puppies believe you can beat Akumu mode, except the middle one. He just likes to see people get hurt.
These puppies believe you can beat Akumu mode, except the middle one. He just likes to see people get hurt.

What Akumu mode wants and attempts to do to you is very much deliberate. The base game on survival difficulty is by no means a cake walk and you trade blow for blow with the enemy, but patience, keeping a cool head, and trying to use the various systems of the game to your advantage will see you through. It’s a down and out fight and I hope you brought a lunch. Akumu mode is much the same in what it sets out to do, but the things it changes make it a whole different beast. It uses nightmare difficulty in terms of enemy resilience and placement (get used to seeing Ruvik clones early on friend) and adds the much ballyhooed one hit and you’re out rule. If survival mode was thought to be a fight for survival, in Akumu you are fighting for every damn square inch and if you aren’t ready to use absolutely every tool at your disposal the game will absolutely punish you. When playing this mode you might get the feeling that Shinji Mikami might actually hate you and if he hasn’t met you personally then he hates the idea of you.

Playing this mode made me switch up certain aspects of my play style considerably. I stealthed a lot in survival and I tried to do the same here, but it will not be a reliable tool all the time, the awareness of the enemies on this mode (I assume it’s a nightmare modifier) is pretty insane. Use it when you can, but expect early on and often that the enemy will sometimes just seem to sense you and immediately go on the offensive. This combined with an even greater abundance of traps makes Akumu mode a test of dogged determination.

The problem with Akumu, at least in my eyes is that the game does not feel in anyway balanced towards this mode and puts something of a spot light on its flaws. Like I mentioned, stealth in this mode is much, much harder and since you have the constitution of a paper fan, not being seen is very much what you so dearly want. If the game bridged the gap of having the enemy’s awareness level being on survival, but keeping the enemy health levels of nightmare would have gone a long way of making Akumu a still tense mode but way less moments of pure frustration. Frustration that sets in as somebody seems to see you from such a range that feels unreasonable or what seems to be a sixth sense of “hey, an asshole is behind you with a knife.” There is no way around it, sometimes you’ll sneak up on a guy and dig a knife into his skull like an absolute pro, other times you’ll feel like you’re walking around in tin can shoes and that the enemies have eyes in the back of their head.

I also mentioned that the game has added a lot more traps, getting perfectly good runs ruined by stepping on bear traps is more common then I’d like and unless you are absolutely Johnny on the spot, attempting to disarm the wall mine traps will probably end in expletives. Again there is no way around it, other than just memorizing where the traps are and taking it slow. Another offending feature is the letter boxing feature. It didn’t really bother me on survival but since every possible square inch of land in this game could be a potential death or hard won fight, being able to see less in this mode is quite the hindrance. This is where once again taking it slow will pay off, if you go with the assumption that you are going to crouch walk or slowly make your way through every area, the traps shouldn’t pose too much problem.

The man in the lab coat is sporting the Akumu stare. It's the look that says
The man in the lab coat is sporting the Akumu stare. It's the look that says "what have I gotten myself into?" but is in to deep to turn back now.

The other niggle the letter boxing adds, is that it makes using bottles somewhat difficult and if you want to get ahead in this mode, you will make liberal use of bottles. If you successfully throw it at a haunted head, it will stun them, giving you the option to jam a knife in their stupid faces. However, since the regularly haunted is quite a spritely creature, it can quickly close the distance and choke you out. Making it sometimes where I could not see the trajectory of the bottle because of the letter boxing. Hitting them in the head with the bottle is the only way to stun them with one, if you miss or hit them anywhere else, you will most likely die afterwards most of the time.

I would recommend you get really good at throwing these.
I would recommend you get really good at throwing these.

This next bit might also sound like a bit petty I admit, but it got me killed more times than I could count. The little animation Sebastian does when he has the lantern on drove me absolutely nuts and the moment I got used to playing without it on when I could saved my ass a ton if you don’t know what I mean let me explain. When you holster a weapon and have the lantern on, good ol’ Seabass will raise the lantern up off his belt to further light his way. While he is in the animation of taking it off his belt and raising it up he is very vulnerable, from my experience I could not switch to a weapon and in some cases climb and interact with the environment while he was doing this. A lot of it I will readily admit was my fault and once I beat it into my head that I should have a weapon equipped at all times, and use the light only when needed, this issue when away. It however could rear its head out of my control, sometimes when I would run up to torch enemies on the ground, Seabass would sometimes just straight up not take out a match and light a down enemy. Using a match is the same button as holstering a weapon, so there were quite a few instances of a enemy would get up the very nano second before I pressed the button (or he just straight up would not do it sometimes for no real reason) and instead of torching the enemy, he would holster his gun and do the lantern animation. It might sound like absolutely nothing, but that moment of vulnerability is all it takes to send your ass to the last check point.

One last niggle in my airing of grievances, and it’s not something I blame Evil Within for exclusively. One thing that really yanks my chain in survival horror games in the last eight years or so. Not all of them, but some games that attempt to go for survival horror that at some point they cannot seem to help themselves but add gun enemies later into the game. If you want to get technical with it, I guess you could blame RE4 for this maybe, but only one enemy in that game to my recollection (if you exclude the Krauser boss fight) had a gun of any sort, but it was obvious who it was (big palooka with a minigun is hard to miss) and it took him a moment to wind it up, giving you time to either hit the bricks or try to knock him out of the wind up. RE5 and 6 eventually piled up on enemies with guns and in my eyes was the worse for it, I felt the same for Dead Space 3 and I feel the same with this game. Eventually adding enemies with semi-automatic pistols or MP5’s in this game is just not a fun enemy to go up against, especially since they have absolute laser aim and are incredibly fast with it. I disliked it on survival and it’s a major source of frustration in Akumu, especially on that rail track ride you have to go on in chapter 11 surrounded by gun toting and Molotov toting jerkwads.

This is how I imagined Mikami looked like when he told everyone at Tango to make Akumu mode.
This is how I imagined Mikami looked like when he told everyone at Tango to make Akumu mode.

The game had a couple of gun toting enemies I was fine with, the sniper rifle haunted gave you an obvious scope glint when he was about to pull the trigger and the guys with sawed off shotguns have to close the distance in order to be effective. It was a happy medium between making some haunted more dangerous than the others but also giving you a tell of when they were about to hurt you and giving you just enough time in my cases to make a snap decision on to either fight or flee. The dudes with semi-auto pistols or MP5’s just charge at you like a bat out hell, firing all the while, or pegging you from suspect distances. In Akumu mode, these guys were how my frustration with Akumu mode started to come to a head. I died tons in Chapter 1-10, make no mistake but I took my lumps and sailed forth. Once these gun guys showed up in chapter 11, I had a few shouting matches with my TV and it started to suck some of the tension and fun out of the mode. It became less about trying to get through sections with patience and consideration of my options and surroundings to just “fuck you, here have a flash bolt for your dumb fucking face” and running to the next section and seeing some of them leash back to their original positions. Ruining a lot of the tension I had before and straight up just attempting to game the AI.

Now, I did quite a bit of yelling and venting of this mode, would you believe me if I told you I’m glad I did it? I didn’t even believe myself at first but I’m glad I did. Akumu mode has problems and definitely needed some balancing to go along with the massive handicap but at the end of all this I relished the opportunity to really challenge myself. Beat the odds and come out ahead. The survival horror genre is one of my personal favorite genres and dates back to playing RE2 on my brothers Playstation years ago when he wasn’t home. I love tank controls, I love the camera angles, I love the resource management, making the tough decisions to remove this enemy from my path or try to get by him with the risk of taking some damage in the process. The hopeless atmosphere these games usually have and in the case of Resident Evil, the crazy ass convoluted story line that is like a train without a conductor, who knows where the fuck it’s going but I’m gonna be there. This genre is more near and dear to my heart then the recent cropping of horror games that remove any means of defending yourself.

Once these guys start getting guns, you'll grow to hate seeing this mask.
Once these guys start getting guns, you'll grow to hate seeing this mask.

Those sorts of horror games have their pro’s, but generally I like having the means to defend myself, removing all vestiges of power from me can be effective at first. But like I described in my experience with chapter 11 in Akumu, dying over and over to certain parts will eventually ruin the tension and instead of trying to play within the games rules, I just say eff it and run to the exit as fast as I can to get past it and then try to play by the games rules again. In survival horror games, you can almost always run, but you can also dig in your heels and stay and fight. Akumu mode, for all its faults for the most part is a successful blend of giving me the means to defend myself and get stronger with upgrades, but no matter how much ammo I have, how powerful my guns are, or how fast I can run. All that power can be taken from me in a single breath because a haunted snuck up behind me and kills me. I’m always on a razers edge with this mode, there is very little respite, and the game is all but intended to tear me limb from limb, I haven’t been this on edge with a survival horror game since playing Silent Hill 2 after renting it from a video store for the first time when I was eleven years old.

Maybe Shinji Mikami knew what he was doing with this mode all along, maybe this crazy son of a bitch wanted to exhaust me mentally, emotionally and even physically if you count me shouting obscenities at my TV until my throat went horse. I mean, the achievement/trophy for beating this mode is called “You Asked For It” Shinji gave me no quarter and wanted me to prove I was up to the challenge. Akumu mode has problems, but it’s a mode that seems aimed at people who felt that over time games have gotten easier and that survival horror games don’t have quite the tension that they use too. I conquered this man’s insane circus and I’m glad I did. Every once in a while I like to see if I still “got it” and see if I can take up an insane challenge and Akumu mode was certainly that, a challenge. Despite some issues, it is definitely doable and by no means impossible, but it’s not for the faint of heart and if you have patience, determination or no sense at all like me then you can definitely conquer this games gauntlet. That’s the end of this write-up but I’m by no means finished yet, for anyone who wants to undertake this I will throw down some tips, use my advice or find your own way. There is no right way to conquer this mode, the only thing you can really do is perhaps make some things easier for yourself, but it will by no means be a cake walk. Is it weird I’m considering doing it all over again someday on the Xbox One? It probably means I’m a masochist for sure.

Call the Akumu Mode tip-line today! The number is 1-800-DIIIIIIIE

-Get used to dying. A lot. This may sound blatantly obvious, but unless you become some kind of savant in this game, you will die often.

-Patience, this is probably one of the most key things to have to do this mode in my opinion. This mode will tax you both mentally and maybe even emotionally if the same asshole with an MP5 kills you for the seventh billionth time. Taking breaks from moments giving you hell is also not a bad idea.

-Use stealth till you can’t! But don’t rely on it all the time. Confusing? You betcha. The enemy awareness in Akumu is real crazy so you will get caught a lot unless you just completely commit yourself to getting good at it. The best advice I can offer is that more often than not you will want to hang at the right behind an enemy. They for whatever reason look to their left the most, and if you aren’t hanging at the right this quick look to the left will be enough to see you. Even though his eyes aren’t “really” looking at you, they will sometimes look right however. It’s not fool proof but it did make some of my time with stealth easier and more successful. Mashing the hell out of the stealth kill button as you zone in on them also saved me from getting caught a few times too, something to consider.

-Get good at glassing dudes in the noggin. Bottles will be one of your most useful items in the game that isn’t a gun or axe. Hitting an enemy in the face with one will stun them, giving you the chance to kill them with the knife. The letter boxing will make your efforts tougher then need be but if you use bottles often you will get a feel for it. I should also mention that in order to kill an enemy stunned with the knife you have to be crouching, even if you are facing them. It’s a weird thing, but it is what it is.

Welcome to the Akumu mode tip hot line how may I-sir, please don't cry. It only makes Mikami stronger.
Welcome to the Akumu mode tip hot line how may I-sir, please don't cry. It only makes Mikami stronger.

-Consider everything you do a risk, use this as an opportunity to experiment. This game will often kill you in weird, bizarre and in some cases instances where it feels like the game is cheating. This ties back into dying a lot, if a strategy doesn’t work, try to change it up! For instance, if you take it slow and try to only get seen by one enemy at a time, you can drag them away from the other haunted and take him on one on one. Or if you can, try to avoid enemies all together. You might miss out on some gel if you killed them, but there is no guarantee they will drop anything. Did you also know that during the first time you fight Laura in chapter 5 you can set the bodies on fire she is emerging from and do damage to her? The timing is a bit strict but you it’s doable.

-Run. Seriously, just do it when it gets to hectic. In most cases you can attempt to run to the next check point, section, or hiding place and save yourself tons of combat time. Sometimes you will get in over your head and it’s better than restarting in some cases, especially if you’ve died a lot to specific sections.

-Abuse checkpoints and save rooms. In certain sections in this game (like the village section early on) if you use up melee weapons or other finite use items; the next checkpoint you get will respawn the melee weapons if you die. If you have an easy access route to a save room that is free of danger, constantly going back to it and making a fresh save could prevent you from having to redo tough moments. You can also use this as a safety net when attempting to disarm those wall mine traps. Speaking of traps.

Yes sir, I'll be sure to tell everyone at Tango your relations with their mothers.
Yes sir, I'll be sure to tell everyone at Tango your relations with their mothers.

-Only disarm wall traps if you are prepared to redo sections! The timing on the mini-game for these explosive wall traps is pretty damn brutal. If you do them enough, you will get a knack for the timing (in my experience the needle does not stop the moment you press A, It’s usually a split second afterwards, take that into account.) abusing save rooms like previously mentioned will give you a little bit of breathing room. I would suggest disarming the traps you safely can since trap parts are always useful. But if you are unsure of yourself, with no safe room in sight and the last check point was a while ago, it’s probably better to just pass it by and save yourself some frustration.

-Only build agony cross bolts when absolutely needed. For the most part the game is pretty good at supplying you with bolts, so going crazy and stocking yourself up on bolts when flush on some isn’t always the best idea. You could make three explosive bolts right now, but what if two, three, or four rooms away is a stash of them? It’s not always possible to go back to previous rooms to get left behind ammo or bolts, so my advice to you? Only build bolts when you absolutely need it. If going through Akumu immediately after a survival run, you will generally have a good idea on when those times are coming and can plan accordingly.

-Try to get those keys! Throughout the game you will find keys that you can later use to open morgue doors in the safe room. These morgue doors will have precious green gel to use in upgrades, ammo, syringes, and in some rare instances more keys. Try to be vigilant when scouring the area and collect as many as you can. I would also suggest only opening them until you absolutely need them. Say you have a tough fight coming up like a boss and you could really use some shotgun ammo, explosive bolts etc. Save beforehand and open the morgue doors until you get what you need in the smallest amount of used keys as possible. Is it cheesy? Absolutely, should you give a rats ass? Not in my eyes, the game will dog you at every turn, take every advantage you can.

-One more bit about traps! When you are moving around the environment, do you notice that sometimes you see what looks like floating red orbs floating about? That means a trap is nearby and since a bear trap can end a perfect run, you need to have your head on a swivel at all times.

Ma'am, this is a hot line for a video game company, I don't have time to help you fix your computer. I can tell you that using your disc tray as a coffee holder was probably a bad idea.
Ma'am, this is a hot line for a video game company, I don't have time to help you fix your computer. I can tell you that using your disc tray as a coffee holder was probably a bad idea.

-Match (un)safety and you! Until you get the right upgrades (more on that in my next section) for guns, head shots will not do you much good. On Akumu, the haunted can take some punishment, capping them in the knees and killing them with your matches is a great way to save ammo. If you can, try to group haunted together and pop them with all at once with a shotgun blast, and burn them all at once. I’ve killed five haunted with one match this way. Careful though, some haunted have VERY quick recovery times or can flail around on the ground and hit you. Using a match like everything else is a risk but can save your ass and eliminates a lot of enemies at once.

-Use melee weapons! For most haunted (the fat ones seem to be exempt from this) a hit with an axe or torch is an instant kill. You can also group haunted together and kill more than just one with an axe or torch swing.

-Ladders! Haunted are very vulnerable when using ladders, they can’t do anything while using them other then go up or down. Before they reach the top you can kick them, making them fall to the ground and give you an opportunity to torch them. Or if it’s just one or two haunted, you can go on an endless gauntlet of baiting them up a ladder, kicking them down and waiting till they climb up again and kick them again. They will eventually die, but it will take forever.

-Only uses Sebastian’s base melee (meaning no axe or torch equipped) as a last resort! Sebastian’s base melee does absolutely jack shit damage wise. It can however save you from getting grabbed or smacked in the face as in most cases the haunted will react to it. Giving you time to run away and formulate a new battle plan, or just keep running.

-Crouching can maybe save your life! I didn’t have a lot of luck with it, but if an enemy is running at you, hands outstretched and ready to choke the life out of you. You can crouch just in time and he will sail right past you. I only got it to work a few times, but maybe you’ll have better luck.

Glad I could help you get past chapter 11 Ma'am! Call again if you need help and I'll make sure to tell Mr.Mikami personally that he is a son of a bitch.
Glad I could help you get past chapter 11 Ma'am! Call again if you need help and I'll make sure to tell Mr.Mikami personally that he is a son of a bitch.

-Find a happy medium between conserving and using ammo! In this mode, ammo will always be at a premium but depending on your play style and a little luck you will sometimes have a max stock. When this happens, considering using some of that ammo because the very next room could hold a cache of ammo. Like I mentioned earlier in regards to agony cross bolt stashes, it is not always a certainty that you will be able to come back to a room and restock.

Find the build that is right for you

Choosing what to upgrade to help through your Akumu mode can be fairly granular. Once again, I think whatever makes an easier time for you is the best way to go so I can’t really give you the “ultimate” upgrade path, what just worked for me. There are some bits I think will be super useful, regardless of how you play. Stamina can be pretty important, being able to run for longer periods before Seabastian’s smoker quality level lungs kick in and wind him, run out of stamina and as you know it leaves you incredibly vulnerable and basically a death sentence on akumu. Getting my stamina up to level three was enough to see me through the game, you can go higher if you wish but it might be better to spend those points elsewhere.

Choosing what to upgrade weapon wise will once again vary based on what guns you prefer to use and how exactly you plan to use them. Since Akumu mode is based on the nightmare difficulty, enemies are super hardy and naturally upgrading damage might be a way to go, except with upping the damage on my sniper rifle and magnum I didn’t really go this way. With my pistol and shotgun, I upped critical chance as much as I could. With a fully maxed critical stat on a pistol, you have a 50 percent chance to make a haunteds head explode when you aim for the face. I never touched the damage on my pistol and only upped the damage on the shotgun twice when I found myself wanting to spend points after covering what I felt were my basics. I mostly used my shotgun as crowd control and getting as many people as possible outta my face. So upping clip size, fire rate, and reload speed is what I did instead of maxing damage, my pistol was about the same. I imagine max damage is super viable, but always aiming for the head with my pistol to get instant kill critical kills, or grouping people together with a shotgun and shooting them all down at once into a clump and then finishing them off with a match saved myself tons of ammo. Doing this, I found myself fairly stocked with ammo on most occasions. With my maxed out damage sniper rifle (a high damaging rifle seems to get instant kill headshots regardless of critical stat in my experience), and a nearly maxed out magnum got me through the tough spots or boss fights. The pistol, shotgun, and matches were for the normal enemies.

Up the critical shot stat on this baby all the way and watch all the haunted making your life difficult do their best
Up the critical shot stat on this baby all the way and watch all the haunted making your life difficult do their best "guy from scanners who head explodes" impression.

How you want to go about upgrading the agony crossbow, another useful weapon is once again up to you. The way I went about it was upgrading my flash bolt to 3 and maxing out my shock bolts, with a couple of points in explosive and harpoons when I could spare it. Level 3 flashbolts gave me about ten seconds of stun time and depending on how many haunted I was being pressured by, gave me enough time to shove a knife in everyone’s jaw, go for headshots, or simply to regroup and find myself a better position. These become very useful in the later city chapters when you run into a lot of haunted with protective masks, turns out those stupid things can’t stop a knife to the chin. With maxed out stun bolts, it increased the radius of its affective area and gave me ten seconds of stun time. You can’t use instant kill knife attacks but you can clump people together and damaging them all at once while you lay into them with more damage from your guns or to once again simply try to get out of there. These two bolts were really all I needed to get me through and I would use explosive, harpoons and freeze bolts when I acquired a surplus.

The other useful thing to upgrade is stock; I would say make whatever weapons you use the most a priority first. Since I was using my pistol, shotgun, and crossbow to deal with most enemies I went with that first. Once I got three levels into each, I then put a couple into sniper rifle and magnum since I would only use those against bosses or a sudden surprising “problem” enemy that needed to be removed stat. Such as ruvik clones, snipers, or an enemy who got way too close for comfort with a gun and I panicked. I would say upgrade match stock as well, I got to level 4 on that, when you used them as much as I did being able to have 15 of those at any time allowed me to save a ton of ammo. Grenade stock is once again up to you, I got by with only a couple of levels into it. Since this is Akumu mode, upgrading syringe stock, max health, or syringe recovery will of course be absolutely useless so that will free up a lot of points for you to spend elsewhere. You could also upgrade melee if you wanted, but I never did I only used it as a means to push someone away from me who got to close since I made it a general rule to never want to be in breathing distance of anyone, unless I was sneaking up behind them. Alright, I just have one more helpful bit and we’re done here!

Akumu mode is tough enough as it is, don't be afraid to seek out resources to help you

The crazed look of an Akumu survivor.
The crazed look of an Akumu survivor.

By this I mean don’t be shy about using a video or written guide. The game will have no qualms about making everything difficult for you and even with help you will still die a bunch. You can find plenty of Akumu guides out there and the one I used to help me out of some tough spots and was done by a guy called Theseraphim17. His guide was done and put up a little over a week after the game was out and he even did Akumu without upgrades. His guide has commentary and he has no qualms about telling you if the strategy he employed in the video wasn’t the best and sometimes offers alternatives. His guide felt more accessible to me than others since it was not about getting through the game in a crazy perfect like manner that you would see from people who have played a game a bajillion times. His guide helped me tons and made me consider things I didn’t before (such as setting the bodies on fire just as Laura emerges from them in chapter 5 tip I mentioned, I got that from his play-through) and if you find his video isn’t for you, you can always find others.

Using a guide to locate all the keys is something else I would also recommend. Having a surplus of keys to use to stock up on ammo or get more upgrade points can really make some sections of the game easier if you find yourself pushed up against the ropes and struggling.

That my friends is a monster of a post and I award anyone who read through all of it a golden star. I hope with this write up that anyone who was considering Akumu before feels like maybe they could tackle it or help anyone who is currently playing through it. If all else fails maybe you can be amused by my death count that I will put below and just picture me yelling at my television and cursing Shinji’s existence.

One death for every day of a leap year!
One death for every day of a leap year!

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Tales From the Backlog Episode 1: Too Many Sidequests and Nazi Blastin' With A Soul.

Hey there fellow bombers! I've been meaning to post a blog for a while now but when it came down to it I never managed to pull the trigger. I even have some rough drafts of a couple game of year lists that I never posted, I've decided to change that and just go for it. I like talking about and thinking about video games as much as every one else but usually struggle in which way to approach that in blog form. So I've decided to go about it with my backlog. I have quite a collection of Xbox 360 games I've been meaning to get through. I'm not sure how many of these it will take until I feel good to "move on" and start to play on my Xbox One and PS4 more regularly. So while I start to tear through my 360 backlog I'll write up on what I've beaten and hell, it might make me more motivated then I usually would to get through these stack of games.

The general format of the blog that I've decided on thus far will be me talking about two or three games I have beaten each entry, maybe less if I find I have a lot to say about a particular game. So far I have written these entries before hand a day or two after I have beaten them. After I talk about the games in question I'll then quickly write up some quick and dirty impressions of whatever game I have started next, or if I haven't decided on something yet I'll throw a few games in list form that I'm thinking about under taking and anyone can feel free to suggest what I should play from the list. So here we go, these first few entries will probably be rough, blogging is not something I generally do so if you have suggestions or tips that make it a more pleasant read I'll gladly take it into consideration.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

I remember playing the demo for this game back on the week of its release. I don’t remember much about it other than having no strong feelings for it one way or the other. I played it, took the demo off my drive and it faded from memory. A couple of years later it was on sale as part of some games for spring or games for winter promotion for the low price of about three dollars and some change, I promptly downloaded it and forgot about it again.

I decided to boot it up and play through it last month and I have mixed feelings about it all, it only cost me three dollars (twenty three if you factor in the story DLC I bought. Which, in my glorious bad luck the story DLC’s went on sale for half off a week after I had bought them.) So it didn’t exactly break the bank. The game however is guilty of something worse, half of which I would say was my own fault anyway.

Most of the content in this game is pretty damn boring. The main story and some of the faction quest lines are interesting enough, but the main bulk of the side quests are utterly forgettable and usually not worth the time unless you just absolutely need the experience. It made all the “single player MMO” comparisons I heard fairly apt, every major town and areas in between will have swaths of put upon NPC’s that are just waiting for once such as you to kill this thing, fetch something, or some other tasks. A lot of RPG’s are guilty of this stuff so it’s not exactly fair to beat up Amalur on it alone.

This guy hopes you like doing menial tasks, him and many like him have it in spades.
This guy hopes you like doing menial tasks, him and many like him have it in spades.

However, there is just too much of it, if the game scaled back on the side quests or tasks by about twenty five or thirty percent and put that into making more interesting aspects of the main quest or beefing up some faction quest lines I thought were fairly weak like the Traveler’s the game would have been all the better for it. The game valued quantity over quality and at some point (I would say once I got to the desert area on the lower end of the first map) I started walking by every poor bastard with an exclamation point above his head, feeling them staring holes into the back of my head.

The game when it came to quests needed an editor. The combat which I thought was very enjoyable. I went with a battle mage combo, I had a great sword for pure offensive power, chakrams which are nice and fast to break certain enemies out of attack animations or to get at a group of them and magic lightning and frost for crowd control. I also heavily invested into the Skelton I could summon to get some of the heat off my back, once you level that up all the way he becomes less of just as a distraction for enemies and feels like a contributing party member. I called him Barry the Skelton and we went on a tear in the nation of Amalur. The combat for all it’s positive points could only do much, once you’ve been going through the ins and outs of it for one hundred plus hours in the same boring side quest, even the combat would become dull.

I also won’t talk too much about it since there really isn’t much to say but I ended up hating the blacksmith crafting system. I mean, it works and you can create some cool stuff, which I absolutely did with being maxed level in that skill but the salvaging system absolutely makes it a pain in the ass. Salvaging equipment and only getting random elements of the armor/weapon makes getting the part of it you really want a huge pain. Many times I would salvage high level armor that has good abilities such as health/mana regen, more lightning damage, or would give me a high health boost, I would salvage and get something like simple bindings and that’s it. Simple bindings only give you plus five to health. I often found this unacceptable and when I would salvage equipment I would save right before and not be satisfied until I got something useful.

I don’t expect to get every element from a powerful piece of armor, but if the game instead let me choose one or two depending on how much different stats it had on it instead of just pure luck of the draw, I would have been okay with that and spent a lot less time at forge as a result.

I also thought the story DLC’s in this game fared better than the base game in terms of interesting content. Wondering the wrecked strewn beaches of gallows end and tracking down a murderous pirate was fun. The new player housing option of Gravehal Keep was also a cool addition and had a lot of interesting bits and bobs. People you would recruit into the keep would also have side things for you to do. The librian would help you translate old texts, the master of arms would let you test your mettle against captured monsters, the beast master would capture some monsters for you to keep and confer you bonuses. Your diplomat would go on good will missions to neighboring nations and conduct in trade, tribute, espionage or even conducting raids and all out way if you wanted to be a bit brutal. One guy would even go check the salvage of wrecked boats and would occasionally find survivors who in turn would also help me out. It was a very interesting DLC but sadly once I reached it I was beginning to reach a point of being done with the game and was just kind of running through it and seeing the best stuff and ignoring everything else. Which is sadly what Amalur did to me, it gave me so much chaff to wade through that I might have actually missed some secretly good stuff if it wasn’t so preoccupied with throwing nonsense at me all the time.

It looks pretty nice at least.
It looks pretty nice at least.

At the end of the day, I’m glad I at least played it and saw it for myself, another RPG to be taken off the list, I usually have trouble seeing RPG’s to the end so I’m kind of surprised I stuck it out for this one. I would have liked to see the combat and magic system in this game, combined with the interesting ideas Gravehal Keep added from the Dead Kel DLC into a much smoother and tighter packed game. Amalur needed to learn that sometimes less is more and make the quests it does have be more interesting and fulfilling to do, instead of making a checklist of “we have 150+ quests!” and calling it good. I think it was Jeff on a bombcast or even his own review back when this came out said to avoid most of the side quests, that is absolutely the case here and I should of heeded the advice.

I would have felt better with my time in this game if I avoided at least fifty percent of the side quests I did. Amalur is a fairly good game weighted down by a lot of baggage. So unfortunately I do feel like a lot of my time with the game was not best spent. The quests that were good (I thought the main quest, the Fae House of Sorrow, Ballads and Warsworn quests were all pretty fun. The DLC main quests for Dead Kel and Teeth of Naro’s were also good too) and the combat was a lot of fun. It was fairly simple, but mixing between my two combat styles of light and heavy, mixed in with a healthy bit of offensive magic and my good friend Barry the Skeleton made even the boring parts of Amalur doable. I really would of liked to see this combat taken to an improved sequel but it seems like that will never be.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Before I put my thoughts on The New Order down I figure I would mention that there will be some story spoilers. I don't go into a ton of spoiler detail but I do mention some and as a common courtesy I figured I would mention that. With the fresh release of the Old Blood expansion there might be some people looking to try out The New Order the first time and would hate to spoil anyone on story beats which is a big part of why New Order is so darned good.

I missed the boat on the initial fervor of this game and I regret I didn’t get to this one sooner. The original Wolfenstein 3D and Return to Castle Wolfenstein rank very highly on for me in terms of favorite shooters over the years. Wolf 3D was not my first experience with the first person shooter genre, that honor goes to doom, but Wolfenstein 3D is the first one I beat and got obsessed with. Growing up in a Christian household and being very young (I first played Doom and Wolfenstein 3D when I was six) my only access to Doom was playing it at friends’ houses. Wolfenstein 3D while still being fairly violent looked more palpable and inoffensive to my family and my father is a huge history buff, I absorbed many Civil War and World War 2 history from his as long as I can remember, so the act of shooting Nazis in a very cartoon manner, even if there was blood involved didn’t really bother him as much as all the demons running around Doom.

Wolfenstein 3D launched my love with the genre and I beat it over a dozen times and was one of the very few PC stables along with Command and Conquer and The Sims growing up, I was mostly a console kid, so I didn’t see many PC games so I replayed what I had endlessly. Return to Castle Wolfenstein was and still is one of my favorite gaming memories I have from the OG Xbox. I was thirteen at the time and remember being spooked by the monster designs and horror atmosphere amidst all the zombie blastin’ At this time Medal of Honor was pretty damned big and while I enjoyed those games well enough, I was always game to replay Return again, the combination of familiar sites of shooting Nazis seen in games at the time combined with the paranormal aspect was a combination I loved. I also remember being bummed out at the time by not being able to try out the online for Return, I had friends who would talk up how cool it was. I did have access to internet, but it was very slow and good for mostly just browsing the web. Whenever I tried to get online with various commander and conquers on PC it would chug up and become unplayable.

Mein Leben!
Mein Leben!

Which brings us to the New Order, I never did get around to playing 2009’s Wolfenstein I remember hearing it was merely alright and just let it get away from me. At that time, I was probably replaying Fallout 3 and any of its released DLC that year to really pay attention to much else. I was pretty stoked to finally play New Order for myself; everything about the release of this game seemed to have been hitting the right buttons. Headed up by ex-Starbreeze developers which made some of my favorite shooters for the 360 (I even loved Syndicate!), the shooting looked great and the word of mouth about how good the story and characters were had me pretty eager to check it out. For one reason or another I didn’t get around to playing it on release or in the year of 2014 at all. I picked it up a few months back on a bargain and for the 360 no less and I’m here to say I regret I didn’t play it sooner.

I can’t really say much else better or differently that has probably been echoed by this community, but the game is worthy of the praise heaped upon it and the game even performs admirably on the 360. Despite some rough looking environmental textures, longish load times from level to level (it only got noticeable when I would repeatedly die in a section and I played on Uber so there were a few bits of me seeing long load screens then I’d like) the framerate held up incredibly well, hardly noticed any dips even when the action on screen got chaotic. The cut scenes were pulled from the new console versions, giving me a glimpse of how great the game really looks, but despite some blemishes here and there it is surprisingly good version of the game.

The New Order has some of the most satisfying combat I’ve seen in a shooter in years. Being able to smoothly blend from taking out everyone on the down low with throwing knives, stealth take downs and leaning from around the corner and dropping a guy with a silenced pistol to a complete 180 of duel shotguns loaded with shrapnel ammo and turning a hallway into a corridor of destruction and viscera remained entertaining from start to end. Since I played on Uber difficulty, I took every opportunity to go quiet to lighten some of the opposition, but if I got caught, assuming nobody got the drop on me (you can go down pretty quickly on Uber and taking on shotgun dudes head on is basically suicide) I would go loud and tear apart the Nazi regime with a smile on my face the entire time. Over the years I have been getting somewhat bored of shooters, unless the combat was so satisfying or had a great story and setting to offset the combat if it wasn’t all that. New Order is a triple threat, as I said the shooter combat is some of the best I’ve seen, the alternate setting of a world taken over by the Nazi’s in the 60’s and a investing story with some fantastically written characters that feel human, The New Order had it all for me. The perk system also added something for me to work towards, the feeling of getting stronger and more deadly each level. I managed to get all but three by the end of the game, out of all the perks I got the most use of the stealth tree. I got deadly with throwing knives and the silenced pistol sniping.

Murder hallway currently in progress.
Murder hallway currently in progress.

On the story front, I went with the Wyatt timeline. In hindsight it probably would have been best to have gone with Fergus, solely for gameplay reasons. In the Fergus timeline you can get permanent health upgrades, while in the Wyatt timeline you find armor collectibles which don’t increase your maximum armor threshold of 100. Armor you pick up gives you more armor at one time with each upgrade, so by the end of the game helmets were given me ten armor and body armor suits were giving me max armor. It was useful, but since I was on Uber, the max health upgrades would have been more useful but I still saw the game through.

With the Wyatt timeline I did get to see J, the games love letter to Jimi Hendrix and his death was both parts heart breaking and awesome, when he started playing the star spangled banner I pumped my fist and dispatched his Nazi killers with a shotgun blast to the dome. Some characters in this game got to do more than others, I would of loved to see more moments of Wyatt and J hanging out (the discussion Wyatt had with J about playing clarinet in college was pretty funny) or Klaus and Max. Klaus was one of my favorite characters and had my favorite line in the game, he like everyone else was written very well but I wish he did more. The only complaint I had with some of these characters is that I wish I got to see more of them; I got attached to everyone in my rag band of resistance fighters. Even BJ feels human and more than just a gung-ho jarhead, his relationship with Anya made him feel like a man who just wants to carve out a bit of happiness in his own life, but won’t rest until he comes out on top over the Nazi regime, dead or alive.

Bang Bang Soda Pop all day son!
Bang Bang Soda Pop all day son!

I also enjoyed the vagueness of the ending, if BJ actually gets out alive or not, since after the end credits you hear the sounds of a helicopter that could infer he got picked up in time to avoid the blast. Once that credit song rolled after BJ tells them that their clear I’ll be honest and say I teared up a little. Part of me hopes BJ isn’t actually dead since it’s the first time we’ve seen this character written so well and with so much heart. If there is to be a proper sequel I would also take the main character in that game being whoever you ended up sparing form the first level, Wyatt or Fergus, it would give us a familiar main character and make the transition smoother instead of just “Here’s some random dude or gal you don’t know!” Whatever Machinegames ends up doing with a proper follow up to New Order or if The Old Blood expansion is all we’ll see for a while then I’ll be pleased as punch that we got an absolutely outstanding game and one of my favorite shooter stories in quite a long time.

I definitely see myself returning to this game on Xbox One at a later point and time when I can snag a cheap version and playing through the Fergus timeline and also playing Old Blood. So even though I feel a pang of sadness being done with this and not seeing more of its wonderful cast of characters, I’ll get to revisit it with better hardware and have an all new expansion to try out, pretty pumped to be a Wolfenstein fan right now.

Well, that's it for this inaugural episode of Tales From the Backlog! Hope it was a fairly enjoyable read and as previously mentioned I'll take any hot tips to make further ones easier/better to read.

Coming up next!

I have already started on the next game in my grand undertaking. I've started playing Murdered Soul Suspect. I've beaten the first proper level and on my way to the church. I hear the game is fairly short so if the rest of the game is ghost sleuthing mixed in with hiding from demons so I can sneak up on them and stealth exorcist them that will be fine by me. I'm a sucker for murder mysteries and solving the case as the victim itself is a nice bit of novelty. Only other game I can think of it recent memory that did anything like that was Shadow of Memories (man, remember that game?) in the early PS2 days. Other than the frame rate getting super choppy and I do mean chainsaw in a tree choppy out in the town portions of Soul Suspect I am enjoying what I'm playing so far. That's all for me right now. After Soul Suspect I've been thinking about playing through Batman: Arkham Origins or that free Horizon 2 Fast and Furious DLC that came out last month, we'll see when I get there.

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