Games I completed in 2019

List items

  • PS4 - 5/5

    Very, very good. I think it might be my favourite story in the RGG universe yet and I’m a big fan of the cast; Yagami is a likeable protagonist and good “straight man” while Kaito, his ex-Yakuza partner, is one of my favourite characters full stop. The game takes an approach like a TV drama rather than a film of anime, and while the length of some of the “episodes” is inconsistent, the whole thing builds to as satisfying a climax as they’ve managed to pull off.

    The battle system is excellent too; enemies are tuned to do more damage than I’m used to but when you’re playing well you’re just bouncing off walls and flipping over people. The end got a bit hairy though - make sure you remember to get some food as well as the usual energy drinks because you’ll need them!

    Of course it isn’t perfect, with a few little annoyances that persist, but after a couple of weeks I can’t remember them. Instead I remember the crazy situations, the fun battles, the plot and the friendship system, where you regularly check in on people around the city to advance their stories, maybe do a few side cases and generally become a bit more of a resident of Kamurocho than Kiryu ever did.

  • Switch - 3/5

    Good overall. My main issues were the occasional difficulty spikes mostly driven by high enemy damage; there were long periods where I would make constant progress punctuated by little difficulty spikes where the game decides that if you haven’t bought the right equipment you can die in two hits.

    Loses a mark per the Kangaroo Court system for having both a slippy slidey ice world and control reversing power downs.

  • PC - 3/5

    It’s fine. I definitely would have been annoyed if I’d paid full price but as part of game pass it’s a fun way to pass a weekend. It needed more Terry Crews (they get him, then all the story stuff after the start is generic because you can choose different agents - boo!) but I enjoyed bouncing around the city with the Director acting as my hype man. Fun weapons and agility orbs did enough to make up for some occasionally shonky targeting, a throwaway story making everything a bit samey and some weird difficulty spikes.

    I wasn’t happy with how it ran on my PC; I’m used now to having to turn down rendering resolution on my 1070 but the constant micro-stuttering is really bad and made it look much less smooth than the (excellently detailed) performance information let on. I shouldn’t be able to perceive judder at a reported 100 frames a second!

  • PC - 5/5

    Really great fun almost all the way through. The game simultaneously encourages careful stealth and all-out aggression which means that the approach you choose always feels like the right one. A broad range of skills and prosthetic gadgets unlock through the game, which definitely feel like a good replacement for putting points into stats; by about halfway through I definitely felt like I had found my play style without being locked out from trying something new.

    Special attention should also be given to the audio and animation; the sound effects are really top class and it’s clear that the artists really relished working on a Japanese setting for once. In one area in particular there would be parts where I’d just stop and watch the enemies, and that’s not even because I was eavesdropping on their conversations.

    If I had to complain about anything it’d be that I didn’t enjoy the final boss as much as I could have. I think the end boss in Bloodborne is probably the best one I’ve fought against because it’s a complete test of the techniques you’ve used up to that point while still feeling like you’re making progress. The final boss in this, though, just made me feel like I was banging my head against a wall for a couple of hours, at which point I just crossed over the narrowest of margins and almost immediately beat it. The thing is, though, there wasn’t a single other boss where that happened (though there were a few where I had some sort of realisation which made things a lot easier - another of the game’s very strong points).

    Overall, though, I think that the best thing about Sekiro that I can say is that it has finally pulled me out of a period of a few months where I have felt generally a bit burned out on games.

  • PC - 4/5

    Really solid exploration platformer. I liked the level system (apparently it was released in parts originally) and the artwork was excellent. Good music, too. Not a big fan of one hit death spikes though! Bit too much talking as well.

  • PC - 4/5

    Really neat little promo game for the 3DS version of Strange Journey. Some good mechanics come together, swapping between Jack Frost and Jack Lantern for elemental damage and resistances (some fun colour swapping to avoid damage on bosses in particular!) and the equipment you get near the end is really fun. The difficulty is a bit uneven in that once you get the ability to buy healing items it pretty much trivialises the rest of the game but I definitely could have played it a fair bit more. The ending is more SMT than I expected too.

  • PC - 5/5

    Really great remake. Lots of fun to play, looks fantastic, plenty of tension, and doesn't hang around past its welcome.I spent a fair while during the game kind of wishing the shooting was a bit more consistent in terms of dealing damage to enemies, but that's not really the point is it? I really appreciated the way the map worked, too.

  • PC - 5/5

    It's the same game on PS4, but I managed to brute force it to 60fps+. The graphics really shine at higher resolutions and the controls fell really nice at higher framerates. Some glitches remain though; some minigames are harder to play at higher framerates and the ragdoll physics are even more comedic. It's like Titan Quest at times, flinging enemies all over the place. Penalising a game for having you launch enemies 10 feet into the air sometimes does feel like it goes against everything I like in games, so I won't do it.

  • PC - 3/5

    This is actually Magic Potion Destroyer - there's no page for it. I'll see if I can add it later.

    Fun little idle game with a story. The soundtrack isn't quite the trance spectacular that it was in Magic Potion Explorer, which is a big shame. Looking forward to what comes next though.

  • PC - 5/5

    Ladybug just keep getting better and better with their Metroid-style platformers. Not being fully into the Touhou world, I didn't realise that the character you play as in this game is basically Dio Brando from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure; as your chances to use your time stopping abilities increase you are just throwing tens of knives into every single enemy. Really fun game system based around slowing and stopping time, an excellent soundtrack, and some fun bosses all come together to make a really great 3-4 hour game with just enough bite to keep you entertained. There's an extra level coming on the 14th of June, I'll definitely try that out.

  • PS4 - 3/5

    I've mentioned the curate's egg when talking about games before; here's another. The rotten core in this case is the PSVR hardware, or more specifically, the bits of it that had been hanging around for years before its release. But first, the positive bits!

    When the tracking in this game works, it's fantastic. I've been banging on to friends about the times when you're trundling (and yes, you definitely trundle like BJ Blazkowicz at the start of Wolfenstein The New Colossus) through an exploosive action scene, popping the mooks with some incredibly fun akimbo weaponry. There's a sawn-off shotgun which is just apocalyptically powerful - point it roughly in the direction of an enemy, pull the trigger and he'll be yanked back like he's on a wire. The sub-machinegun is also excellent; clear feedback means that you're dialling in your aim in full auto, even when using two of them at once. Pistols also work nicely and there are a couple of stealthier areas where you can just headshot your way through with a silent 9mm - very fun.

    The way the story's delivered works really nicely too. Your movement is limited and at times it feels a bit like a 90s FMV game with characters just talking to you but a lot of scenes, especially earlier on, let you fiddle with things nicely. There's a nice bit of choice at the end too.

    Ultimately though, it doesn't work all the time, and it's a familiar problem - the PSVR tracking and move controllers. With the space I have, I can put my camera either straight in front of me or a bit above. Depending on the game a different position works better; I've been enjoying some Beat Saber recently (suspect it won't get a review as there's no way I'm finishing that campaign but that's a 5 if there ever was one) and the camera works best looking down from above. In that position in Blood and Truth, though, it results in quite a lot of headset swimming and the Move controller action becomes juddery. That rules that out. Playing with it in front isn't ideal either, though - while when using the guns in akimbo fashion works mostly fine, the tracking on the climbing works poorly, grabbing things is often frustrating, and basically as soon as you put one of the controllers in front of the helmet it basically stops working. This renders the long guns unusuable; you have to use them one handed. The rifle is just about usable as you can use it like a pistol, but the pump action shotgun is terible. And it should be amazing!

    This is definitely a game I want to come back to next generation. I assume new hardware will help with the game resolution (even on PS4 Pro it's a bit blurry at times) but new VR hardware with more reliable tracking will make this a fantastic, if linear, experience. Of course, you might be fortunate enough to have a glitch-free PSVR setup - in which case add 2 to the score.

  • PC - 5/5

    Never played the original but this was excellent. Doesn't outstay its welcome, fun mix of running away and not running away, great visuals and just really well paced throughout.

  • PC - 5/5

    There's a lot of game here. All the different fighting styles, loads of goofy lines, just really fizzed along.

  • iOS - 4/5 (Lostbelt 4)

    A mostly enjoyable romp in India. They're getting better at balancing out story and battles and keeping the difficulty consistent; I kind of wish there were more characters in this segment but another solid 30 hour VN/RPG battle mix. Pepperoncino~!!!

  • PC - 5/5

    This was exactly what I wanted. Sure, the budget shows, but exploring the castle and breaking the battle system over my knee is loads of fun and other games of the style don't really scratch that same itch. Excellent Japanese voice cast too!

    PC version was super, super solid; really fast loading, no crashes at all.

  • Quest - 4/5

    I found this unplayable on PSVR. With the Quest's working tracking it's a revelation. I just wish there was more (and some more of the goofy side stuff from the PC).

  • PC (RTX ON!!!!) - 4/5

    The hardest workout for my RTX 2080 yet - Resi and DMC flew through at 100fps plus but I really had to pare back the settings and resolution for this! As a shooter though it's still really fun. Sure, the rocket launcher's a bit rubbish and you don't move that fast, but the level hub system still works really well, the rest of the guns are great and once they patched the music in it brings a lot to the game too. The RTX effects manifest themselves in some surprising ways sometimes, but always in a "oh yeah, I guess it would do that, that's cool" sort of way. A fun glimpse into the future and a great trip back to a classic FPS.

  • PC - 2/5

    First, there's actually plenty to like about this game. The levels look great and run great (literally locked at 120fps the entire time with everything maxed), the base in particular has some great art, the storytelling around the plot is excellent (like the fake pop songs) and the main characters are really, really goofy and fun. I definitely want to play as Soph and Jess much more than I would control BJ for another game.

    The issues though - plenty of them. First, there's much less story than the other Wolf games and only really one thing that could come close to some of the ridiculous stuff that saved New Colossus for me. More seriously, though, the encounter design is completely fucked in service of Numbers Going Up, numbers which are instantly balanced out by all the enemies just matching your level anyway.

    Levels teem with elite soldiers, an enemy type which you have to strip armour off by using the right type of weapon; for every encounter that you can just solve by hurling axes around there is two where you have to just pump round after round into yet another fucking Hammer Soldier. Swapping weapons works really badly too as it takes multiple seconds for the switch animation, and even worse if you push fire it completely skips it. this applies to early reloads too, so on the heat of battle there's a solid chance you'll mess something up from that.

    Even worse are the bosses - though there are only really two they're both completely awful. The final boss in particular is barely possible when playing solo because your CPU partner sticks to you super close and you have to shoot the guy in the back so you just can't get back there. I went through the entire game without seeing the 'you died' screen once and I ended up reducing the difficulty on that final boss. The last straw was the CPU partner just staring into space while I bled out. It still took me a few tries, and the game restarting you from a checkpoint with the amount of ammo you had when you died, even if it's zero, is frankly insane.

    I still preordered this after being drawn in by the Arkane connection. I'll be waiting on Wolf 3. After all - fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times, shame on me. Maybe I'll just watch the story on Youtube next time as it's the only part of the game I genuinely enjoy now. New Order and Old Blood really feel like a fluke at this point.

  • PC - 4/5 (completed main scenario to first credits)

    Really good MMO, especially now they've tightened up the skill distribution. Really started getting good in terms of story coming up to the credits too; what I've played afterwards is only improving too. My main issue is still the reason I stopped playing at launch though; there's a lot of content where you *must* group with other players to complete. As much as I enjoy playing with friends, they're not always around and I hate playing with solely random players.

  • PC - 5/5

    It's been ages since I've played an older style shooter like this and it really feels authentic, albeit with the edges filed down a bit. That's not a negative though; stuff like killing yourself in doors and a balance towards projectile rather than hitscan enemies was noticeable after something like Blood.

    The level design really shone for me; each of the huge areas had a good sense of place and I never actually got lost, though it never felt like I was completely railroaded in the right direction. Lots of secrets as well - initially I hardly found any but there is definitely a logic to how they are presented which I picked up more and more as I went through.

    I also liked the weapon selection, most of them had use throughout the game - particularly the pistol and the good, meaty shotgun. There's a bit too much fiddly reloading (especially going from shotgun to grenades and back) and it could have done with at least one more wacky weapon like a laser gun or a shrink ray but I really liked the homing grenades and none of the weapons actually felt useless.

    I immediately went and bought Dusk after this which says a lot about how much it's set off my desire to play a modernised 'classic' shooter. That's excellent so far too, having completed the first episode. Just needs the music to kick in more!

  • Switch - 4/5

    I must admit, for a while it was trending towards a 3; in the second part it threatens to fall apart under its own weight. The main culprit, while also being the thing thatr 'makes' the game, is the monastery - you end up spending so much time there and unlike the battles there's only limited scope to speed things up. Also, the main story really seemed to just take a back seat in the second half (well, final third as it ended up); there's a bunch of stuff that people say that isn't explained very well or just plain makes no sense and I wasn't given any closure on the stuff that happened in the first half, either.

    I'll probably go through another route at some point in the future but for now I think I've played enough.

  • PC - 5/5

    Brilliant! The first episode was good but it really took off in episodes 2 and 3. Lots of variety, fantastic soundtrack and some really fun level gimmicks on a few occasions.

  • Switch - 3/5

    A game of two halves. Everything around the generally excellent combat is irritating and slow; the 'platforming' completely exasperated me. A jump button would have fixed a significant amount of my problems and given me a much better overall impression as it felt like I was just being beaten down by irritations; every time I had to battle the camera, every time I slid around and off a platform.

    The scoring system is completely worthless too as it goes by how many different moves without taking into account player damage, maintained attacks and only a limited amount of scoring for speed. As a result, overpowering the enemy quickly and efficiently will land you a sub-standard grade, but grinding out a tough-fought battle of attrition, dying multiple times, will get you an S+.

    It really feels like it could have done with another few months in the oven. This includes completely redoing the final boss, because jesus christ it's bad.

  • Switch - 4/5

    This is the new mecha shooting game I'd been waiting for. Controls great, designing your own machine is great fun and the weapons in general are a really nice mix. The structure of the game works well as it takes a lot from Monster Hunter - short missions ideal for portable play and plenty of scope to mess about. Only a shaky framerate and a bad final boss take the shine off what ends up being an interesting campaign, with plenty of variety to it.

    I'd buy an expansion or a sequel for sure - hopefully we won't have to wait that long for it.

  • Switch - 5/5

    Classic. Always felt the controls were a little stiff but the level design is so great; at this point it's just a really fun, atmospheric trip.

  • PC - 4/5

    This ended up being very good. Lots of thoughts:

    Good:

    Map system - makes it hard to get lost and easy to make sure you have everything (tying into one of the bad points below)

    Item detector - just knowing how many items are left nearby is very good for my obsessive searching!

    Character building - learning skills and jumbling them around to make the Ultimate Build is really fun and in the end my character felt super powerful. No need for currency or anything to respec or anything, and there's a function to check your damage levels in the home base.

    Smooth action - unlocked framerate on PC (though it did bug out at one point) and a quick hex edit gave me 21:9, which is always appreciated in a console port.

    Character based storytelling - I liked the little moving dioramas telling everyone's story effective, and it all ties up well into the world.

    Not so good:

    Balance - in the second half it just ended up being a bit of a slugfest and I didn't even need to learn the last few bosses as I just smashed them up real good with my big sword. Though that was still fun in a way as it tied in to the character skill learning etc.

    Maps - Particuarly in the second half, the maps end up kind of degenerating into a series of gimmicked corridors. The water one, then the fire one, then the sandy one, then the spiky one. Most of them can be dealt with by only minor changes to your build though!

    Music - So does Go Shiina just sell music by the yard Vangelis-style now? Aside from a couple of themes there wasn't much going on at all.

  • Switch - 5/5

    Possibly the ideal battle RPG. Amazing battle system, full of tactical possibilities. Balanced extremely well, too - I beat the final boss in a real do-or-die type situation and that kind of thing happened all the time.

    The RPG part is no slouch either, though it's unusual. Presented in a picture-book style, it is more like a tabletop game in that you just move between encounters, either in towns, dungeons or with people or monsters in the open. It's refreshingly direct, and it feels like the non-essentials have been stripped away.

    There's some weird loading stuff that goes on in battles, which is a hangover from the Vita version; the machine clearly didn't have the RAM to handle the game running on Unity so it would slowly load all the moves and effects before each turn. It does so here too, but in a much faster fashion. The effect is still a drag on the overall tempo, but it does provide for some great drama as you wonder why it's spending a little longer than usual preparing the turn to play out. I don't think it'd work if the characters had more hit points; a couple of bad hits or a mistake can easily take out one or two of your characters and set you on a slide towards defeat, even in a relatively 'easy' fight by the numbers.

    The ports added a limited amount of voices but the real star of the show remains the music. My only real complaint would be that there isn't enough as a lot is spread across the four scenarios. That said, from what I can gather the four different characters progress through the story in a very different manner to one another. I'll definitely be playing through as another character at some point, after clearing it as the sarcastic ceramicist Taria. Dialogue is relatively scarce for an RPG but what's there is well-written and full of character. I really enjoyed the pairing of Taria and Kahn going through her story and the game's actually full of funny little moments, little mysteries, medium length stories and stuff that's left hanging or unsolved because you didn't do stuff in the right order.

    I think this is coming out in English relatively soon. I can't recommend enough that you give this a shot. It's huge, it's daunting, the party levelling system initially makes it sound like you can chronically mess your game up but it's actually the opposite because it drags you up to where it thinks you should be. It's a series of systems and algorithms which have been agonised over for hundreds of hours to the point where it almost feels like it's scripted or even that someone's in control of it for maximum drama, but it really isn't. The Grace system in particular contributes hugely to that sensation and it's not like any Japanese RPG I've played before.

  • PS4 - 4/5

    Tough one to call this. At its best, it’s nearly as good as Ys VIII was, but at its worst it doesn’t approach its predecessor in any area at all.

    The game itself remains a lot of fun, and the mapping is still satisfying. The end of the story wraps up quite well, and the new movement abilities are very satisfying to use.

    The problem is that there’s a negative to all of these: the story concentrated everything at the beginning and end, but there’s still a lot of talking throughout so the middle bit, when I should have been bouncing through new areas etc, feels baggy. Similarly, the central city hub structure is a good idea on paper but it means you spend 20 hours of a 40 hour game in the same area, with the same music and same backgrounds.

    The movement is a lot of fun but it just breaks the level design to run up walls and float around. There isn’t a single area I remember the structure of like I would the coastline areas, the mountain or the crazy tower in 8. It’s just either wide flat areas with set areas you can run up and overhangs everywhere else or super narrow corridors. In that sense it feels really linear as you see all these raised areas but have to approach them in a linear fashion.

    The 6 character combat in certain parts can be fun but the whole game just feels too chaotic at times; effects cover animations more than I feel they did in 8 and the erratic (borderline unacceptable in town when you can fight at around 20fps at times) makes landing flash moves and guards feel unreliable. The camera is also terrible as it often hitched up against things or spins like mad as you run under a locked enemy. The final boss is a particular casualty of this because I can see exactly how that would have worked with a top down view like Seven or Celceta, zipping around to attack various points, but with that camera...

    So yeah. A bit of a disappointment given how much I liked VIII but still a good game. We aren’t at Trails of Cold Steel 3/4 levels of disappointment yet!

  • PC - 4/5

    Good fun action RPG once it gets going. I really liked the directional parry system, the way you upgrade stuff by targetting that part of enemies and the little things like being able to bank your currency at rest points. Some of the level design is nice and clever too, like the seemingly expanding 'main area' which you finally fully unlock and actually realise, hang on - it's not that big at all. Gideon's Rock was another highlight, a proper romp through three distinct paths towards a big boss. I also liked the world building, though I am a bit of a sucer for fake companies in the games.

    Story was a bit of a letdown which seemed odd, given how much effort that they'd put into the world building. I think they went for the kind of environmental storytelling that From's games are known for but I don't think they quite managed it. Didn't help that I didn't really like any of the characters. Also the thousands separator in English is a comma not a full stop god dammit!!!!

    Either way, given Deck13's consistent improvement with every game, I'm going to go in day 1 with their next one. Punching heads and arms off is too much fun not to! Also a good first run out for my new Xbox Elite controller as the paddles felt ideal for running and jumping.

  • Switch - 5/5 (Katerina route)

    Firstly, this remake is disappointing in a few ways. Some of the backgrounds look badly compressed, the framerate is half what it should be and the interface is actually worse than the SNES version in some ways (no soft reset button, selecting towns on maps can be a pain).

    The game itself, though. Wow! I bounced off RS2 because of the inflexibility of the LP system and the way it tried to push you forwards through generations and almost never allowed you to regenerate LP. This, though, doesn't do that and is a more traditional party-based game.

    That's not to say this is traditional though - random character advancement, characters deciding they don't want to leave your party, a pretty much open-world structure (there are four main bosses before the end game and it turns out I did the hardest one first), and almost no explanations for pretty much anything seem to define Saga and this game is infused with an inscrutability combined with an ambition which means that it's full of surprises. Even if you play with a guide you only improve things; there is still plenty of stuff out there that's waiting for you to discover.

    Overall then, a game that I thoroughly enjoyed and one with a number of events that I'll remember for years to come. The story itself might be a bit light, but much like Scarlet Grace the game is full of character and memorable moments.

    Also, Senior Designer Gary Harrod?!

  • PC - 3/5

    A high 3 but I can't really get excited enough to make it a 4; possibly because I'm not much of a Star Wars person. A nice enough game with some decent exploration and a great cast but it starts too slowly, ends too quickly and needs better fast travel options. The combat felt a bit too flyaway too, and there was only one boss I really liked. Still probably worth it overall though, certainly at the Origin Access price.

  • PC - 3/5

    I actually really like this but it's absolutely feast or famine: the moments when it works are genuinely next-generation levels of interaction and the sense of presence when fighting is superb. On the flip side, everything to do with your arms and legs is just irritating; as much as I loved being able to haul myself around there were too many times where an arm would get trapped or a foot would refuse to move up when hauling myself a ledge, or it'd decide that I didn't move an item close enough to a holster so it drops on the ground (and I don't notice until two minutes later!).

    The final area in particular is a perfect mix of that; some ideas which, while they may have been done before, really feel much better for being in VR, followed up with some irritatingly scruffy puzzling.

    Overall, it's both extremely easy and difficult to recommend. If you're interested, definitely give it a go, and if it literally makes you vomit (as it may well do) then remember you can refund. It's an unpolished glimpse into the future and there's a reason I literally played the last 4 hours without stopping even for a break.

  • Switch - 2/5

    2 is probably a bit harsh but man, all I can really think of in the end is negatives. The battle system is irritating button mashing, there is no sense of balance in the game, the arranged music is piss weak, the whole Private Actions system is one of those ideas that sounds good on paper but is actually a pain, and the game, while short, feels both like it skips over a load of stuff while making you backtrack more than it should. Encounter rate's too high too, and the final dungeon was fucking terrible.

    Also I didn't need the fucking credits twice.

  • Switch - 3/5

    Actually the best Atelier game for a while. Runs well most of the time on Switch and there's a nice ramp up towards strong items at the end, albeit after a dry beginning.

    Ultimately though, it completely fails to reach the highs of the Dusk series. The main character's too simple, the menus really need an overhaul (the occasional pauses put in by design to try and prevent you from making a mistake actually caused more mistakes and reloads than they prevented, because they didn't prevent any!!!) and each time a scene played out without a vocal theme it just felt like Koei spend less and less on these games every time.

    I might give Ryza a go after a bit of a break, more likely on PC than Switch as I haven't found these more recent ones much good for play on the move.