By nophilip 2 Comments
Welcome once again to February's episode of This-Column-Needs-A-Name! I'm your host, Nophilip, and we're going to be taking a look at the video games that I played in the last month. Let's get to it.
What an interesting, flawed experiment Dragon's Dogma is. Capcom set out to make a game in the style of other open-world western RPGs, and the result is pretty unique. This wasn't my first experience with the game, and I had played about 1/3 of the way through it back when it came out on Playstation Plus. For whatever reason, I just didn't come back to it until now.
The main attraction here (and greatest success of the game) is the combat. Capcom managed to craft a system that is leaps and bounds for interesting than the dull, button-mashy combat of Western games like Skyrim. Weapon strikes feel impactful, enemies react in a satisfying way when shot in the face with arrows, and high-level magic feels appropriately devastating. The lack of a smooth difficulty curve in the game is also compelling. Dragon's Dogma makes it very easy for you to blunder your way into situations that are far beyond your capabilities as a low-level character. It's pretty neat to come across a huge griffin or a monstrous drake in your wanderings, only to find that you are NOT AT ALL prepared for a fight of that magnitude. This is in stark contrast to many western RPGs, where throughout the game enemies are scaled to your level so that everything is roughly the same amount of challenge. Dragon's Dogma's world (boy, that's a weird title to make possessive) feels much more organic in this way. The key thing here is that the game doesn't punish you for finding a fight you aren't prepared for- you're perfectly able to run for your life fairly easily in those situations. I wish more games handled difficulty like this one does.
However, once you look beyond the combat, there's not a ton to get excited about. The art direction is particularly bland, and paired with being a last-gen game, the visuals here are aging rapidly. The quest variety is decent enough, but it's rare that the game gives you much motivation to do anything besides "Hey, this was written on a notice board". The dialogue is kind of weird. They go for a deliberately "ye olde" style of speech for the characters, and the results are... kind of odd. (Everyone's absolutely OBSESSED with the word "aught").
The biggest disappointment I had with the game (and the area where they should have followed games like Skyrim much more closely) is the story and characters. The story is almost completely generic fantasy, with almost nothing making it stand out from any other swords-and-sorcery sort of tale. Nowhere to be found are the delightful sorts of miniature adventures and interesting things to find in the world that are the hallmark of many Western RPGs. Almost none of the characters are memorable in any way. The one redeeming part of the game in this area is the postgame questline, which delves into some pretty interesting stuff about the nature of the world. But when that is 5% of your time spent with the game (and the last 5% as well), it feels like Capcom really missed the mark in putting interesting writing into the game.
I still came away from the game with a positive experience. You should give it a shot, but if the combat doesn't grab you in the first hour or two, maybe let this one pass you by.
I'm one of those weirdos that REALLY liked Dead Island. I found the analog combat to be extremely satisfying- so much so, that I ended up playing through the game a few times with different characters. Once Dying Light came out to some critical acclaim, I still felt a little mixed about it. It sounded like they had fixed some of the problems (and boy were there a lot of them) in Dead Island, but they also took my favorite thing out of the game! I didn't know how to feel about it.
It turns out that I shouldn't have been skeptical at all. Dying Light is the better game in pretty much every way. The combat has been simplified a bit, but the satisfying bits still sort of there. You can't precisely aim your strikes anymore, but after spending a few hours with the game, I was able to bend it to my will in a similar fasion. Decapitating or breaking arms, legs, and heads is still very possible once you get a feel for it.
The parkour and climbing elements are a godsend. Moving around Harran feels great- doubly so once you get your hands on the grappling hook. The upgrade system is handled really well. Upgrades are meaningful and really change the way you run, climb, and slice your way around the city. The nighttime segments are genuinely frightening and really make you plan your routes and play carefully. On top of that, the story in the game is told really well. Aside from the main villain being a little too cartoonishly evil, characters act and emote in ways that feel genuine.
I'm pretty happy with my experience in Dying Light. If you still like killing zombies, this is a pretty good way to do it. Oh, and the Co-op is pretty great, too!
Boy, what a weird game. I went into this one expecting an experience somewhat like Naissance. I wasn't entirely off-base, but the experience of playing Kairo is decidedly more strange.
Kairo is a first-person puzzle game that also tries to dip its toes into being a bit of a visual experience. It's somewhat of a success in the former and somewhat of a failure in the latter. There's no story of any kind here, just lots of really, really weird rooms and kind of crappy 3D modeling. The puzzles are serviceable, ranging from being a little too simple to a little too obtuse. The visuals are really strange. None of it looks especially great, and each "chamber" is a complete non sequitur compared to the last. You travel through doorway-like portals to appear in the next room. There's zero consistency or pattern to any of the style, color, or geometry between any of the rooms. You just go through a door, and poof! You're somewhere completely different that has nothing to do with where you were before. The one thing that keeps me from writing off the style of this game completely is that the game has this weirdly compelling sense of being vaguely disturbing from time to time. One room in particular surrounded me with weird static-y images and garbled radio voices for seemingly no reason. It was genuinely unsettling.
Where the game kind of falls apart for me is the predictablility. It's structured in nearly the same way from beginning to end. You run through a series of unrelated rooms with weird visuals. Then you hit a sort of hub room with multiple exits. One leads to your the next hub, but you can't go that way until you finish the puzzles in the rooms connected to this one. The pattern to the hub and puzzle rooms almost unilaterally goes Hub -> Weird hallway -> Puzzle Room -> Weird hallway -> Puzzle Room -> Weird hallway -> Puzzle Room -> Weird hallway -> Back to the original hub. Then you run through some weird hallways to the next hub, and it all repeats. It wouldn't be as much of a problem if the other aspects of the game were better.
In the end, I was glad I ended only paid about $1.50 for this in a sale. It has some somewhat interesting weirdness to it, but it just doesn't quite execute well on any of it. Maybe skip Kairo.
I finished this game over a week ago and I still can't get over how great it looks. What an awesome idea for an art style. In case you didn't know, Apotheon's visual style is inspired by the ancient Greek art style known as "Black Figure". It's a very striking look for the game.
I went into Apotheon expecting a Metroidvania-style experience, but that's not really what I got. You don't really get any traversal upgrades or any abilities that let you reach new areas. Apotheon is nearly 100% combat focused, and all upgrades you earn are in the same vein. The combat system is surprisingly complex. There are a multitude of weapon types, from melee weapons like swords and hammers to ranged weapons like bows and slings. All weapons have a durability meter, and everything breaks pretty quickly. Running out of killing tools is never a worry, though, since the game practically blankets you in more weapons at every turn. The main effect that the durability system has is forcing you to change up the weapons you are using frequently.
Apotheon also has a number of other complex systems layered on it. There are health and armor meters and upgrades, a crafting system with learnable recipes for consumables and tools, a stamina bar, throwing options for all weapons, melee or ranged... It's safe to say the game was quite a bit more complex than I was anticipating. Most of the systems seem to work together fairly well, and I only had a few complaints about my time with the game. First of all, there are many dark areas in the game where you need to get out a torch to see. That's all well and good, but effectively taking away the map in these segments is not welcome when it's already pretty easy to get lost in the labyrinthine passages of the various regions of Mount Olympus. Another annoying issue is the poorly implemented crime system in the hub areas. Taking basically any action besides running or jumping will bring down a hurricane of guards that are frequently more deadly than any boss encounter in the game. Sometimes the game allows you to pay a fine to the guards to make them leave you alone (a mere 20 gold, no matter what the crime), but more frequently the game decided I was to be immediately put to death.
All in all, Apotheon wasn't at all the game I was expecting, but that doesn't mean that it's not a good experience. I was hoping for something with more of a focus on exploration, but Apotheon's fairly complex systems are solid enough that I still had a great time with the game.
WORKING ON IT:
I find that I can only play this game one chapter at a time. It's taking a while to get through. I'll write about the experience once I finish it.
Alllllmost wrapped this one up. I'll write more about this and its sequels next month.
After watching Brad's Encyclopedia Bombastica for Tetris Battle Gaiden, I finally decided to get off my ass and start trying out some of the Giant Bomb classic old local multiplayer games. Here's what we played:
This is the real hit. Everyone I've introduced the game to loves it. It's especially been a hit with my fiancee. She's played a lot less video games than I have but is also very competitive, so it can be frustrating for her when I win the games we play most of the time. However, Battle Tetris appears to be the great equalizer. Now that we all know the general strategies and abilities of the characters, my brother, my fiancee, and I are all pretty evenly matched.
We've only played this one once so far. It hasn't really grabbed anyone.
So far I've only played this with my fiancee and my brother, with wildly varying reactions: My fiancee hates the game, but my brother really likes it. Windjammers has more of a learning curve than I was expecting, but my brother and I are both getting there and having a lot of fun along the way.
Some friends of my friends from across the country and I decided to start playing this together. We're having a great time so far! More on this in the next column.
The Year Beast Brawl is terrible.
After the announcement of the expansion last month, I felt like I should try to jump back into this one. I still haven't done more than dabble a little. I guess you'll know next month if I end up actually doing it or not.
So that about wraps things up for February. Next month, we start to turn away from the backlog and look more towards new releases! Especially Final Fantasy Type-0 and Bloodborne.
Thanks for reading! See you next month.