Sunday, August 14, 2016

No Man's Sky

Long time no see Hivemind, I have returned to discuss a game that I've been looking forward to for quite some time.

Let's jump right in, shall we? (Possibly some spoilers ahead, beware)

No Man's Sky is one of the most ambitious IPs to come out in recent memory - this much is true. The scope of the title itself is mind boggling. There are so many different planets (quintillions with a q of them) that a player could never conceivably visit them all within the length of a human lifespan. That's a pretty impressive statement; I don't think (maybe I just don't know enough about games) there has ever been another title claiming, "Yeah, you'd die before experiencing a fraction of my content."

Naturally, this drew me in before I knew much more about No Man's Sky. Every journey would be a unique experience, everyone's course through the stars would be drastically different allowing for a truly singular experience for the player. What better way to introduce a space exploration game?

Now, for what No Man's Sky actually "is." You fill the shoes of Random Space Explorer01, wake up on an alien planet and find yourself prowling the wilderness for different components to repair your spacecraft and get back to space.  I'm not excited about the next sentence, but I can't avoid it for much longer. The first time I played the opening (I had to do it twice due to a bug that caused my game to crash as I was finishing) was the most fun I've had in No Man's Sky so far. The alien ships that would skim the atmosphere filled me with grim wonder. Were they coming for me or just passing through? Would this cave be full of predatory creatures or valuable crystalline plutonium?

Scrambling around the planet madly searching for elements and other materials to keep my suit's life support going while also digging up what I needed for my ship was thrilling. As I was cracking apart a monolith composed of a valuable element I needed a foreign red drone drifted over and scanned me. I froze, adrenaline pounded through my veins - but it lost interest and floated off into the sky. Phew.

I repaired my ship and with held breath took off into the I didn't the game crashed, and I had to do it all over again.

Alright, ok - I'll do it again. I was anxious to get into space, the idea of charting my course through the stars was enough to drive me through the prologue again. This time, there was no fumbling sense of exploratory bewilderment - only an objective. Collect specific items, get back to the ship, move on. What I didn't  know then, is that I had discovered the entire experience of the game.

To explain, I'll have to dive a bit deeper into the game. There is a crafting system in place which you spend quite a bit of time in; this is where you upgrade/recharge your equipment and ship. Eventually, you are guided to the blueprint for a hyperdrive which allows you to travel great distances and discover a new cluster of planets and stars. To power your hyperdrive you have to craft (what quickly becomes) an annoying set of products.

Before long it became clear that all I would be doing was hunting down the same things on every planet, I visited. But what about the quintillions of planets? What about the procedurally generated endless dimension held within your PS4 begging for your exploration? Well, I'll tell you.

Sure, every planet is different - but you know what isn't? Pretty much everything else. Sure, the few animals you may stumble across look different, but before long you'll see repeated limbs and other body parts re-used and the magic fades. Aside from that, besides a color swap in the atmosphere/ground/some environmental hazard lazily draining your life support...there isn't much of a difference between planets. You'll find small shelters and other buildings (with similar construction for all), and you'll find the same elements in the exact same forms wherever you visit.

It got to the point where I would land, explore one building, find an upgrade, and then gather the usual components for a warp core and leave the solar system without even blinking at the other planets. I couldn't even really see a reason to upgrade much of anything, the upgrades themselves take up valuable inventory space (something you'll be fighting more than any spacecraft or alien beast). The only time I died was when I tried to fight 17 enemy fighters, on the surface of planets, I felt completely safe. If the little floaty red sentinels got mad, I would just chew them up with my blaster and walk away.

It just all feels so, sterile. After a few hours it was painful to continue playing, to be honest it felt like a chore. I've given No Man's Sky a few attempts to recapture my interest, but even run ins with the plot left me underwhelmed and bored. I can't recommend this title in its current state, hopefully the developers see what could have been an amazing title and make some changes that bring me back. In its current state I can't see myself ever playing it again.


I didn't even mention the visuals. All I'll say is, keep your eyes moving when you are planetside or you will QUICKLY be forced to look at some pretty gnarly visual glitches.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Praise the Sun!

Hello, Internet Hivemind!

I have returned with much to discuss. While I would have liked to branch out into something other than games today, I simply have not had the time or money to do much else. April and the opening of May opened the floodgates on some titles I have been eagerly anticipating, with more still to come (I’m looking at you Doom, with big googly fanboy eyes). My problem is, what do I talk about?

The choice seems obvious, Dark Souls III was released toward the backside of March, and I was eagerly awaiting its approach with all the patience of a 5-year-old on Christmas Eve. While I do have much to say about this title, don’t get me wrong Dark Souls, and I are BFFs (we made bracelets and everything), it is not all positive.

Then, right on the tails of Dark Soul III, Quantum Break was released on April 5th and what I thought was going to be another sad attempt at a Xbox One exclusive surprised me with how innovative the title was – except for one or two MAJOR gripes with the game my wife and I loved it.

The last of the AAA titles I was able to play (and the most recently released) was Battleborn. A title I was very excited to pick up as I am madly in love with all things Borderlands and Battleborn comes to us from the same minds that brought one of my favorite game universes to life. While mainly a multiplayer-based title (something I have come to loathe about this generation of gaming), when played with just my wife and I we had some serious fun – though this fun was swiftly tempered by a few major failings, both technical and gameplay wise.

What about the indie games? Once again, the indie games I dove into over the past month or two outshined most AAA titles with their beautiful art, innovative gameplay, and ability to keep the fun and challenge coming at a breakneck pace. Enter the Gungeon and Hyper Light Drifter are two titles that, while I may not have enough time today to unravel to their fullest potential today, are worth every penny – trust me.

Here we remain with a choice, what do I want to talk abo- screw it Dark Souls III is up.

What has been dubbed the final title in the Souls line of games, something I continue to struggle with after its announcement, is yet another rousing success brought to us by From Software. Players of the past Souls games / Bloodborne will find everything they loved here along with a few tasty new additions. This is not to say that there aren’t a few missteps here, in fact (for reasons I will discuss later) Dark Souls III may be the only Souls title I don’t feel the need to complete more than once…until the inevitable DLC of course.

As is the custom with Souls titles, the story is enigmatic at its clearest points – which is nice for me since spoiling the story is impossible as you need a degree in Demonology and Staring Into the Infinite Abyss to make sense of your mission’s true goal. Keeping in time with past Souls titles, we are placed within the body of an Unkindled (instead of being one of the Undead) on a quest to continue the Age of Fire. I can provide a tiny amount of insight into the overall workings of things in the Souls world, but the fine details still escape me. Each title has to do with a cycle of Dark and Fire, leaving the final choices up to the character to either continue the Age of Fire or plunge the world into Darkness.

Dark Souls III is aware of its roots, so much so that sometimes I felt like things got just the slightest bit lazy. You will run into characters you have interacted with before, such as our lovely asshole of the bunch Patches, and even collect weapons and armor you may have worn in previous titles. Though this left me wondering if, at one point, I was picking loot up off the desiccated corpse of one of my past incarnations. Like other titles in the series, your character has two “forms” – one that comes after you are brutally hacked into bits and are revived as Unkindled and one that provides you with a stat boost and a beautiful smoldering effect to your character marking that you are “alive”. In Dark Souls II you used Humanity to bring about this change, the only difference in III is that you use Embers to achieve the same goal. Being “alive” has its perks, such as more health and the ability to summon players for help before bosses or grueling sections of a dungeon – though with every perk in the Souls series comes a penalty. Being “alive” and summoning help opens the way for malicious player controlled spirits to invade your world with the hopes of prying your life out of your cold, cold dead hands.

A quick aside, as I have grown older I have found that much of the PvP aspects of newer titles do not appeal to me. When I’m playing a game the last thing I want to hear is a 12-year-old spewing racial slur into my ear,  luckily with Dark Souls there is no voice chat – so when I have invaded the fights against my human opponent were tense, exciting, and terrifying. No words, just two people with swords the size of Sedan’s circling each other waiting for an opening.

While the previous Souls titles saw us ascending to a gleaming castle from blood filled alleyways and poisonous swamps, Dark Souls III flips the progression path. This time, you start at the top and work your way down into the world below while hunting for the Lords of Cinder in an attempt to “link” the flame and continue the Age of Fire. The environments are astounding as one should come to expect by the point. Haunting vistas are as much a part of Dark Souls as the heaving monstrosities hell bent on breaking you in half, and there are plenty of each in Dark Souls III. 

Another interesting addition are the Weapon Skills. Each weapon now comes with its own special ability (some buffing up your attacks, some sending waves of lightning arching across the ground) allowing the player to further hone their personal playstyle.

While I could prattle on about the successes of Dark Souls III as they are legion, I feel that if you are reading this then you probably already know why Dark Souls III is great. Sure, a new player could pick up the third title in the installment and have just as much fun as a series veteran – but I personally would recommend spending some time with the previous titles to fully enjoy what is being offered here. 

Before dipping into the “cons” list of Dark Souls III allow me to make a bold statement, Bloodborne (and its absolutely fabulous DLC The Old Hunters) still remains my favorite title by From Software. Something about the frantic, bloodthirsty combat of Bloodborne left me feeling…slow in Dark Souls III. Bloodborne taught me that relying on a shield is folly, and the only path to victory is through agile dodging, attention to your foe, and the ability to do damage whenever possible. Being brought back into Dark Souls saw me returning to my old ways – find the biggest shield and pair it with the longest range, hardest hitting weapon I could carry. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my sword and board approach and relished feeling like a 3-ton ball of enraged steel throughout my journey – but gone was the feeling of frantic nail-biting fights that relied on my ability to dodge. As an experienced Souls player, I knew that after I found my first shield that could absorb full damage from a blow I was on the path to victory. Patience becomes your truest ally. When you can absorb a few hits from a towering boss with no repercussions, your fighting style changes drastically. You have time to feel out their move-set, know which attacks are blockable, and then formulate a way to dismantle your opponent.  This is still VERY fun and VERY challenging in places – though that feeling of being tossed into an arena with only your ability to dodge is gone.

I still have yet to find a boss fight I enjoyed more than Maria of the Astral Clock Tower in Bloodborne. A straight up warrior vs. warrior sword fight in a beautiful clock tower with arguably my favorite music track to be used in any of these titles so far. There are still boss fights that are truly epic in Dark Souls III, but I won’t spoil them for you here – better for you to be disemboweled a few times as I was. 

While I am reticent to place this next topic in the “con” section, my personal feelings compel me to. There are sidequests in Dark Souls III as there were in previous titles, and unless you have the wiki pulled up in front of you – you are going to miss out and ruin most, if not all, of them during your first play through. This irks me slightly, as some of the conditions for completing these can be ruined completely by accident. For example, I got lucky my first time through and actually pushed a sidequest to its second to the last step – all I had to do was find a character out in the world, talk to her, and then finish the final step. I hacked my way to her and prepared to talk to her and move things to the final stage of the quest. At this point, my cat jumped into my lap and caused me to hit the dodge roll button – throwing my plate mail covered from tumbling into the poor woman. This was apparently enough to convince her of my treachery and my sidequest ended there – taking away one of the options for an alternate ending. Frustrating? Yes. Game ruining? No. I simply do not feel compelled to replay the game and chase down the same vague sidequests again. Sure, seeing all of the endings would be great – but I was actually happy with my choice at the end of my first playthrough.

My only impetus to continue with a New Game+ would be to further strengthen my character to carry even larger weapons – I can’t get enough of swinging a sword the size of a building at things. This is not enough for me to whip myself through some of the most difficult areas, however. Perhaps this is just the completionist in me dying a slow, casual death. 

Before we reach the end of our discussion, let us return to some of the things that made this title a fantastic experience. Gone is the infuriating travel system in Bloodborne. No more traveling back to a hub to travel somewhere else in the game. The hub still exists and remains your source of leveling up your character and equipment, but you can travel from any unlocked bonfire to any other bonfire you have come across. Also, the Estus Flask has returned doing away with the Blood Vials of Bloodborne – something I loathed having to deal with. Blood Vials were a finite resource, and once you lost to a boss a few times you would be faced with the inevitable need to spend time either farming up souls to buy more Blood Vials or hunting them down from enemies that are known to drop them. The Estus Flask fills up whenever you rest at a bonfire, but carries finite charges. These can be upgraded with Estus Shards (I can currently take 10 swigs before running dry), and the amount healed can even be boosted further by using specific items you will pick up. There is also now a mana bar, and a separate Flask used to replenish your spell casting ability (this is something I wish did not exist and only pushes the title toward the usual fantasy approach to games, mana bar health bar stamina bar, etc.). 

Until the DLC comes out and I can give my FINAL impression of Dark Souls III as a complete entity, the final title of the Souls series will have to remain second to Bloodborne. Do not let this dissuade you from playing, however, as Dark Souls (regardless of which one) games are still some of the most enjoyable titles you can pick up. There is no feeling that you wasted money on a 3-hour flashy gimmick like so many of the other larger titles today. 

Face your fears, do battle with nightmares, help your fellow sufferers, and most of all – Praise the Sun!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Indie Love

Greetings Hivemind!

It has been a while, as usual, but for good reason. Aside from working, being a soon to be father, trying to keep up with my writing, and taking classes at the same time - I was having trouble finding a game that made me want to blog about it. Don't get me wrong, some titles have launched that I have thoroughly enjoyed...just not enough for me to sit down and write about them.

Let's see what all I've been working on in my spare time. X-COM 2 came out, and I was having a blast playing it  until recently. The X-COM series deserves respect and is in no way a bad game, about 4-5 hours into my first playthrough I just sort of...lost touch with the game. Fights are fun, stressful, and place a great deal of importance on player choice. Building up your flying fortress is entertaining, also requiring you to think about where and when you build things. When it came down to it, I think there were just too many stressors - the entire game is a slow trickle of sand cascading through the glass chamber of an hourglass and when time is up, you lose. Sadly, I don't have the time to restart an entire campaign five or six times until I can figure out a winning combination. In summation, X-COM 2 is awesome - play it.

I am currently waist deep into Farcry Primal and...I mean it's Farcry. This is in no way a bad thing, the formula used in their past titles works just as well in 10,000 BC as it does in a modern setting. I have to say though, having a gigantic scarred sabertooth tiger as a pet brings me a ceaseless amount of joy. Expect your usual Farcry action here - bases to take, characters to do missions for, optional challenges and hunts to undertake, etc. My only complaint so far is that, as with my other experiences in Farcry, it's easy. If things get hairy I just let me sabertooth off the chain and eat popcorn while it rampages through a primitive village treating it like a shrieking buffet table.

I still pop into Destiny now and then, everything about me has wanted to resist this title ever since I picked it up years ago. Yet, everytime I play I have a blast - the aesthetic, combat, and pulse pounding action are always fun. However, being the introvert that I am leaves me lacking in the backup category. Solo play is fun in this title, but wears out eventually - and you're joking if you think I'm going to head to a forum, try to find a group of random people, and then trust them during a raid. I'm an old school MMO player and I can smell a full raid wipe from 10 miles away.

I picked up the latest Naruto title, as I simply must own any title with CyberConnect 2 involved. The love story between myself and CyberConnect 2 runs deep - we'll go into this another time. Sure, I'm a mild Naruto fan, but DIZZZZZAMN does CyberConnect know how to make cinematic fight scenes. *fans self* If you can't get enough of over the top fights, do yourself a favor and look into this studio (ESPECIALLY their title Asura's Wrath).

As you can see, there are things out there to play - Farcry itself is going to eat at least 9 or 10 more hours before I'm anywhere close to finishing much to do, but let's get back to the topic at hand. The real shining stars of my gaming library come in the form of two games you may or may not have heard of. Both hailing from polar opposite genres, opposite art styles, opposite story progression, etc. etc. etc. I present to you an amazing point and click adventure, and an adrenaline pumping first person shooter with a twist.

Let's start with some adventure, waddya say?

Before I begin going into the details of Oxenfree, I find it interesting that the titles I am introducing today were both purchased on a whim. No review hunting or trailer viewing involved.

The point and click adventure has made one hell of a comeback to the gaming scene, and I could not be more pleased. Oxenfree comes to us from Night School Studio, a conglomeration of old Telltale employees and members of Disney interestingly enough. As with most titles of this genre you won't find yourself jumping off walls, dodging bullets, or hacking monsters apart with a giant sword.

What Oxenfree provides is a slice into the life of a group of friends returning to a favorite vacation spot. This is no ordinary trip however, this trip is to mark the recent passing of the main character's brother while also introducing her new step-brother into the mix. The voice acting is amazing, which it has to be as the actors provide most of the action through their reactions. 

The gathering soon edges away from a normal beach party toward the unknown. There is a mysterious signal on the island that can be tuned into with older radios, and when three of the teens do exactly that they are exposed to a danger far beyond the comprehension of human thought. 

This is not a true "horror" title, though I will say that many portions of Oxenfree disturbed me more than 99% of recent horror games. While there are a few jump scares, the over all tone, voice acting, and stellar musical score will have you on the edge of your seat. I don't want to go too far into detail as experiencing Oxenfree is hard to describe without ruining some amazing events. If you're like me, enjoy an engrossing story, have a strange affection for multidimensional horror, and don't have 40 hours to sink into a game - pick up Oxenfree. You won't regret it.

Next up we have a truly rare occurence, a game I purchased with no prior research that after booting it up for the first time I was compelled to complete. Hours marched by at a fever pitch, each met with "one more level, then I'll stop and go eat" - I was very hungry by the time the campaign ended. Allow me to introduce - 

Superhot is proof that a game does not need to be dripping with dazzling graphics to be downright amazing. Envrionmets are spartan at best, there is only one character model (a red dude, though said red dude could be carrying a variety of weapons), and there are no beautifully scripted cinematic events - let me say though - Superhot. Doesn't. Need. That. BS.

Don't worry the link isn't a trap. After watching some of the uploaded clips you are probably thinking to yourself, how in the hell does someone react that fast? Enter the amazing gameplay addition Superhot brings to the table - time only moves when you do. Let that sink in.

In one of my favorite scenarios you spawn in a crowded elevator with three enemies all with pistols pointed at your face. Rough spot to be in...unless time is on your side. You throw a punch at the guard to your left and freeze. His gun is floating in mid air as he grabs his shattered nose - the other two guards prepare to fire, you take a half step to the right while snatching the gun out of mid air. Two bullets whiz by your head inches away, you turn and fire once dealing with the second guard - the third takes one final shot as the doors behind you open to reveal two shotgun toting enemies ready to fill the elevator with buckshot. You jump. Buckshot flies underneath you and peppers the final guard in the elevator, you hit the ground noticing that the shotgun guard to the left is closer to firing than his companion. That split second allows you a moment to leap toward your prey as his partner fires at your last position, missing. You deal the guard a flying punch, snatch his shotgun out of the air, land and backpeddle quickly as the second guard fires again - this time blasting his ally in an attempt to hit you. With only one guard left, time to throw some style into the mix - you throw your shotgun at him, it strikes him in the face causing his own gun to careen through the air. You do a sick 360 jump rotation while grabbing the gun out of mid air and blow him away before hitting the ground. Actual time elapsed - 4.56 seconds. After such a secnario the game then plays back your antics in realtime, making you look like a god among men, something I never get tired of.

The campaign is short, very short - though still more entertaining and thought provoking than most shooters. At this point I would normally say save your money for something with more story - but Superhot opens up with challenge modes (such as a story run through with only a katana), speed runs, and endless modes where you fight an infinite wave of red dudes while unlocking new arenas as your kill count rises.

I really could go on, but if you are like me and are still hankering for a game to get that "Matrix" feel right - wait no more, Superhot has arrived.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The top 5 of 2015!

Greetings once again Internet Hivemind!

As usual, it has been far too long. After an entertaining bout with bronchitis and large amounts of work, I finally found the time to return. As 2015 has concluded, it is time for my list of favorite games of the year. Keep in mind, these are purely opinion based, and my taste in games probably does not line up with yours...that being said these games are fantastic.

Delrain's Top 5 of 2015

5. Mad Max

Mad Max was met with skepticism and more than a few poor reviews - I, on the other hand, found the game immensely enjoyable. Is it a profound or innovative experience? I wouldn't say so; Mad Max does not redefine the sandbox genre but damn if it doesn't make it fun again. Being a cathartic experience gives a game major points in my book, and Mad Max provided catharsis in spades. Something about kitting up my car to my own standards and rocketing around the wastelands provided me with unending glee. Firing a harpoon into an enemy vehicle, tearing the door off, and then yanking the driver out and firing him into the air at 80mph never got old. The basic hand to hand combat was also a blast. Melee battles are not as deep as many similar titles (Batman Arkham Knight for instance),  but they are brutal and watching Max pick up a thrashing Warboy and suplex him into the dirt always left a smile on my face.

The world is beautifully crafted, car battles are fun (once you get the hang of it), and tearing enemy strongholds apart kept me coming back to this title. I rarely 100% a title, it has to get its claws deeply set for me to commit such time and effort - but I can say without a doubt that wrapping up every loose end in the wasteland is on my to-do list.

4. Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

I have yet to find the time to adequately review this title by itself, but it deserves a spot on this list. Let me start off by saying this - I am TERRIBLE at Starcraft II multiplayer, always have been always will be. When I discuss Starcraft II I am mostly speaking about the single player experience - and what an experience it is. The wait for the Starcraft II trilogy to finish was beyond worth it, Legacy of the Void provides a stunning conclusion to an amazing storyline and brings some of the best and most varied mission types in an RTS title I've ever enjoyed. By the time I was halfway through the game, I felt more like I was being allowed to influence a fantastic sci-fi film than playing a game. While Activision/Blizzard sit low on the list of companies I respect, this title demands attention.

New units, varied maps, interesting characters, and exciting missions leave little for complaint. This title launched on the same day Fallout 4 did and still pulled enough to be a success - that alone should show its strength (that and Fallout 4 is not on the list). Sit back, put on your Space-General hat, and enjoy the epic events unfolding around you.

3. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

Surely, you saw this coming. What is there to say about the Witcher 3 that has not already been said? CD Projekt Red pulls off one of the best and certainly most ambitious RPGs released to date. I'm hoping the men and women who developed this title are still taking a much-needed break from development because this title must have required GALLONS of blood, sweat and tears to bring it to life. The world is massive, the quests all carry narrative weight, and the combat is tense. Again, this is a title I need to spend time giving an entire review to - but trust me when I say that if you enjoy a dark-fantasy setting and role-playing games, you simply cannot go amiss by joining Geralt on his adventures.

2. Darkest Dungeon

I have such profound respect for Darkest Dungeon that choosing between it and my next selection for the number 1 spot was a nail-biter. Darkest Dungeon provided me with one of the most engrossing gameplay experiences I have had in years. I just love so many this about this title that I could ramble on for pages. This title tasks you with reclaiming your family's old estate (now swarming with vile creatures lurking in the catacombs and warrens beneath) - a goal that at first seems feasible. This is no stroll through the park, though, the poor souls you send into the depths suffer from stress that can lead to mental breaks, these breakdowns apply psychological and physical effects that stick with that character forever (or until they die, which they will). 

It soon becomes a game of difficult choices. Do you flee from battle because you favorite party of adventurers that you have invested so much gold into is losing, or do you press on in hopes of accomplishing your goal? Sacrifice is something you will find yourself face to face with on every dungeon raid. Most recently, my rock-star party that I use to put down the various bosses you will have to deal with ran into something even they could not overcome. As the battle progressed and their fate became more apparent, I was faced with a choice. The boss was nearly beaten, but my group was battered, bloody, and almost insane. If I ran I would have to come back and find my way back to this beast again - something I barely managed the first time, so I fought...and lost. Not many games besides this title (and my number one pick) can cause me to cry physically out in lament, but as my final brave party member took what could have been the fatal stroke against the boss the unthinkable happened, he missed. I then had to watch as the boss took its turn and dealt the fatal blows to all four of my vulnerable members; they were dead. I felt their loss, and upon returning to town, my squads of weaker members all became highly stressed when the toughest group around never returned. 

Do yourself a favor and pick up Darkest Dungeon. You will be challenged, forced to make hard calls, and die - but you will keep coming back for more.

1. Bloodborne + The Old Hunters DLC

As I stated earlier, the battle between Bloodborne and Darkest Dungeon was tough - but Bloodborne emerged on top as my favorite game of the year. In fact, as I compose this list I am pushing myself to finish so I can continue playing my New Game+. Bloodborne and its amazing DLC bring everything to the table I ever wanted in a game. Incredible atmosphere, combat that not only challenges your twitch skills but your mind, and mysteries that are not openly revealed but must be sought out and solved on your own. Every step forward in Bloodborne is its own small victory, every bloody fight against a monstrous boss that leaves you as the last standing combatant provides pure elation. 

You will WORK for everything you accomplish here. Some bosses or areas may not be as difficult as others, but trust me when I say that somewhere along these streets filled with the blood of the unfortunate you will stumble and die - over and over and over again. 

A quick word on the DLC. The Old Hunters DLC is one of the downloadable additions to a game that I can say is completely worth every penny. Hell, I probably would have paid more - the playtime I got out of this expansion makes it as worthy a game as Bloodborne on its own! The Old Hunters features my favorite boss encounter as well; I have yet to take part in such an exciting fight, and even though I came out on top the first time I still look back on it as one of the most memorable pieces of combat in a game I have had the pleasure of enjoying.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Praise The Angel Combustion!

Greetings once more internet Hivemind! I recently concluded a wonderful Honeymoon in France with my wife, outside of jet-lag feeling like someone is constantly throwing hammers at my face - everything is amazing. I won't go into the details of the full trip as this is not why I (or you) am here, but Paris is an amazing place with so much to see - it was absolutely the best, just the best.

Onward to the topic of today! While I get back into my short-story mode, I'll let the bachelor party D&D story rest for a while longer - today we have other things to discuss. Gather your scrap, strap on spikes to repel boarders, and work those gun-powder stained fingers to the bone - it is time for Mad Max!

That feeling of anxiety in the pit of your stomach is a common one - franchise games more often than not find themselves on top of the bargain bin at your local Best Buy after about a week. I am pleased to relay that Mad Max is far from a bargain bin seller, in a time-period where I owned both Mad Max and the newest iteration of the Metal Gear series - I time and time again found myself drawn to the wasteland of Mad Max over the critically acclaimed pedigree of Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain. Why? Well, Mad Max is just plain fun.

In the words of the venerable Ken Levine - Anyone who doesn't think the Mad Max game is fun is a massive schlanger. I could not agree more. As you can see from the video above - the game is absolutely gorgeous. I was treated to visual spectacle after spectacle as I roamed around the wasteland in my car (an inanimate object that becomes just as much of a leading character as Max himself). Giant sandstorms can come whipping through the canyons and valleys with little warning, and when I say giant I mean giant. If you do not properly seek cover during the storm you and your car will be tossed around, struck by lightning, and ripped asunder by fierce winds. 

I have completed the story, and as it goes with many sandbox games, I now have much left over to tackle. There are a series of strongholds that Max utilizes throughout the game that can be upgraded in order to give Max a bonus for stopping by - such as a full water canteen, or full ammo and gas for your car. The outlying wastelands beyond these strongholds are filled with enemies,  enemy strongholds, giant scarecrows meant to terrify the locals, snipers, name it, it's out there and it wants you dead.By clearing out camps and other obstacles, the threat in a certain stronghold's region will drop - unlocking specialized customization options for your car (well named The Magnum Opus). 

Your car becomes an extension of your play style quickly, with a multitude of bodies to build from and different upgrades you could find yourself in one of many configurations. I myself opted for light armor, blazing speed, top notch handling and firepower. It works out quite well, until I get cornered by an especially tenacious group of Roadkill warriors - a few heavy shots to my car means certain death. You could build a car just the opposite, a fully decked out tank of a vehicle that can take a beating for ages - but doing so will sacrifice speed and maneuverability. From paint job, to engine choice The Magnum Opus truly is your creation and effects how you play the rest of the game.

Max himself also comes with a fair share of upgrades. Melee combat hearkens back to the Batman: Arkham series (not a bad thing) though much simpler. Fighting and countering become second nature and never seems to get dull. Pulling in an especially annoying opponent in a headlock, placing your double-barreled shotgun into his gut and blasting him ten feet into the air is cathartic indeed. Parrying at perfect moments opens up opportunities for instant kills, and fighting long enough drives Max into a Fury where his blows become thunderous and instant kills are even easier to achieve.  Max himself can upgrade everything from the tools he carries to his fist weapons and armor. Even cosmetic options are unlocked to give your Max the look you want. Aside from these, as you progress through the wasteland Max will "level-up" gaining tokens that can be spent at the mysterious Griffa to boost your stats further. These can range from gathering extra water, obtaining more ammo from looting, gaining more scrap (which is used to upgrade), or even gaining more health from eating food. 

The customization options are legion and help create an experience tailored to how you want the game to play. There are races, convoys to chase down (who drop hood ornaments that further augment your car's stats), and of course enemy camps to take down. These camps were my favorite portion of the game. Each camp comes with a set of defenses that you need to tear down with your car before proceeding on foot into the base proper and dealing with the denizens or objectives within. If you are like me and prefer the brute force method, you'll spend time firing harpoons into the siege towers and yanking them to the ground, destroying massive gates by either ramming them into submission or firing off some rounds from your "Thunderpoon" (basically an RPG). If you are the stealthy type (which I myself am not) there are usually hidden ways to enter a base where you can begin your devastation from inside the base. Wasteland dwellers can often be found on the outskirts of these camps and can provide helpful intel - hidden entrances, boss weaknesses, and other bits of info come in handy when making choices on how to tackle an especially tough situation. 

There are only a few complaints I have. One, while the story is entertaining and there certainly are moments that make you feel like Mad Max to the fullest, it felt more like an afterthought in the end. Just another objective in the way of me charging into my next camp and wreaking havoc with flame and fist. Another, which has caused me to throw my controller a few times admittedly, is the seemingly perfect ability of enemy vehicles to strike you in just the right spot and spin you around in a clumsy loop. I can't count how many races or convoy attacks were thwarted through an enemy car tapping me on the side and sending me into a cataclysmic spin - then again, if my car weren't so light and had more armor I bet I could have shoved back even harder. 

I highly recommend this title, you can drop in for an hour and play without feeling like nothing was accomplished or binge for days on end. I myself have over 24 hours invested into the title, a rare feat these days when free-time is becoming more and more of a rare commodity. I'm going to keep this one short as I need to dive back into MGS:V and see if I can force myself to finish it for a fair review. Otherwise, I will be reporting back with a review of SOMA - Frictional Games' newest title (the creators of Amnesia: the Dark Descent). Until then, pick up Mad Max and send your enemies to Valhalla - SHINY AND CHROME!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Until Dawn

Behold, I have returned to the Internet once more. It has been a while, so in the interest of warming back has begun. It is once again the season where the heavy hitters of the gaming industry come out swinging - the new Metal Gear came out today in fact, I'm sure we'll be speaking about that sooner than later. On the other hand, something else came out - something I had never heard of before (a rare feat for such a widely praised game). 

If you're anything like me, you spend most of your time during horror movies bemoaning the dimwitted decisions of the poor souls on-screen. Why, just why would they go in that room? How do they not see these things coming? Until Dawn has had enough of your sass and puts you in a classic horror movie situation and gives you control - if you're so damned smart then things shouldn't be a problem right? Right?

Until Dawn, developed by Supermassive Games, places you in the age old scenario of teens + old winter cabin + complete isolation + murder. A group of students return to their friend's sprawling winter cabin (when I say sprawling I mean sprawling) on the anniversary of the disappearance of two members of their group. All the ingredients you could possibly need for a good ol' hack and slash - and that's what you're going to get. 

Not only that, and this is without any sort of spoilers of course, the flow of the narrative is interrupted by someone known as The Analyst. He, who is also a freakishly lifelike rendering of actor Peter Stormare, probes you with tests like a psychiatrist - questioning you about how you are feeling, your fears, and your anxieties. 


Also, yes indeed that is Hayden Panettiere and she does a wonderful job in the title. Massive respect goes out to those that brought this title to life, the environments, characters, animation, sound design, composing, voice acting, and well - pretty much everything else are absolutely top notch. When my only complaint with a game is - it's kind of hard to direct your hand holding a light source, but not really I'm just bad at it - then you can believe without a doubt that this title is worth your time.

Will it scare you? I'm a vetreran of a thousand deaths both supernatural and mundane, I have viewed many of the horrors film has brought to life, and yeah sure this game scared me once or twice - but I was too busy having fun to care if it was actually scary, I was too busy slowly falling in love with my cast of characters...who I can barely keep alive apparently.

It's true, every choice you make does indeed have an effect on the game ahead. I can see in the video above that there are massive game changing situations that could have happened to me had I made another choice, some negative some positive. Is your character doing something as mundane as a quick time event based on hopping from rock to rock? Did you just trip and spend a little bit of time climbing back up on the rocks to continue? Well, get over it because you just changed the entire out come of the game by not pressing triangle when you should have. 

Until Dawn demands your attention, and doesn't even really need to. You'll be on the edge of your seat with your controller gripped in your hands, waiting for the next second you need to make a life saving (or ending) choice. The idea of the "Butterfly Effect" is present throughout the game, as choices literally have a Butterfly Effect on the rest of your game - and after these game changing choices are made they are logged in your journal for you to peruse later. The best part? There is no warning of which choice will have a bigger effect than another - something as trivial as moving something from one place to another could have more effect than firing a gun.

I have yet to complete the game, but it is only a matter of time before I finish it. Though I can see replay value being high in a title where there are so many paths you could take. I can't praise this title any more than I have - do yourself a favor if you own a PS4 and pick up Until Dawn.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

From slightly before dusk till slightly after dawn - Part Two

Happy E3 all my fellow gamers! Feast upon the glorious trove of delicious trailers, gorge on the hype! Before we return to our story, I’ll quickly go over a quick list of things I’m squealing like a child on Christmas about:
-          -New Doom
-         -The Last Guardian lives
-        - Final Fantasy VII Remake (mixed feelings of terror and euphoria)
-          Dishonored 2
-          Uncharted 4
-          Metal Gear 5
-          There are turning out to be way too many things to list
Needless to say things are finally looking up with such a bountiful harvest of games on the horizon. As I recall, however, I think we were in the middle of something.

Part 2

                “Scimitars are such bad-guy weapons.” Fenwick said, flipping through the pages of his spell-book. “You never see a nice guy with a scimitar, just saying.” The four adventurers, now no longer enjoying a nice rest at a tavern, faced a group of (scimitar wielding) skeletons. The nearest of the rattling fiends stepped into scimitar-ing range of Kinanar. If the skeleton could have raised an eyebrow it would have, lacking the capacity to do so it raised its notched blade into the air and took a swing at the strangely calm Paladin. The scimitar bit into the steel plate, the dwarf did not budge. The blade clattered off, leaving a scratch on the plate – nothing more.
                “My turn.” Kinanar said, his war-hammer whistled through the air and crashed into the skull of the skeleton. The dusty bone disintegrated under the weight of the blow – the rest of the skeleton’s body cartwheeled to the left and landed in a noisy pile of armor and bones. Kinanar smiled in satisfaction.
                “Really?” Chest said from across the room. The Halfling had somehow managed to make his way around the entire group of skeletons without being noticed. He now stood behind the farthest away of their enemies, his daggers were in his hands – it had been too late for his target long ago. The skeleton’s chest exploded as two small hands holding daggers exploded through it, the rest of the fiend toppled to the ground. “My turn?” Chest slid his daggers back into his hand, he reached to a nearby tower and seized the nearest tankard – he took a cautionary sniff but took a deep drink. “You talk like someone is following you around recording everything you say.” Kinanar grumbled and definitely did not blush. “Has Scrambles…oh wait nevermind he’s working on it already.” Chest dropped into the nearest seat, content to let his friends finish off the remaining enemies.
                “My skinless friend – it need not be this way.” The huge man had his arms wrapped around another of the skeletons. The demon struggled weakly in the gigantic man’s grasp – its scimitar pressed firmly to its side by the man’s arms. “Shhhhhhhh.” The big man whispered.
                “Someone should really take care of the other guy.” Chest said. “Hey Trailmix, that’s you.” Fenwick’s mouth dropped open.
                “Did you seriously just call me Trailmix?” The elf said, aghast. Chest shrugged and continued nursing his new drink. Fenwick shouted in an arcane language, three bolts of light shrieked across the room. The final skeleton paused, looked at the glowing lights slowly approaching it, and did its best to sigh. The bolts connected, the skeleton exploded into bits of ash and charred bone. “Next time you’re hungry you can find your own snacks.” Fenwick murmured, annoyed.
                “I’m trying to watch this if you don’t mind.” Kinanar said, the dwarf had pulled a chair from nearby and sat watching Scrambles attempt to calm the wriggling skeleton. “I could watch this all day, I don’t know how he does it.” The skeleton’s thrashing had become less dramatic, less panicked. Scrambles continually whispered soft words into where the skeleton’s ear would be…if it had ears…and was alive. The rusty scimitar it held dropped to the ground, it stopped fighting altogether. Scrambles lifted his head out of the crook of the skeleton’s neck and shoulder, his eyes pooling with moisture.
                “That’s right.” Scrambles said. “Suffer no more.” The skeleton’s head bowed forward.
                “How does that even work on a skeleton?” Kinanar said, not hiding his awe. The skeleton was completely still, having found some sort of peace in the scarred arms of Scrambles. In a flash, the arms flexed and pulled inward – the skeleton exploded in a gout of dust and vicious crunching. Scrambles made no loud boasts, his eyes were far away – twin trails of tears carving valleys through the dust on his face. Chest, meanwhile, he stepped out of his chair – moving toward the still ajar doors of the tavern, someone had to close them after all.  “Wait.” Kinanar said, Chest stopped – he could hear it too.
                “Seriously?” Fenwick sighed. “Do skeletons actually kill people?” He glanced around the room at the terrified bar patrons. “Oh right, normal people – they kill you guys sometimes.” He took a step toward the door, his keen ears picking up the sound of metal armor, and the smell of heat was on the air. “These are different.” Chest was no longer at the door, in fact he was no longer in sight at all. Kinanar stood up from his chair and swung his war-hammer back into his hands. Scrambles was still recovering from his latest emotional encounter, his big hands wiping away the dust covering his face.
                Four more skeletons entered the bar, the adventurers groaned. These were not your garden variety, throw 500 at them, garbage type skeleton. These were different, the air around them bent and shifted as if a great heat radiated from their bones. Armor hid most of their rattling bones, it too seemed as though it would be hot to the touch. They held long wicked blades that dragged on the ground, cutting ruts into the wooden floor of the tavern. Kinanar frowned.
                “Everyone stay down, once we clear these out we need to get those doors closed as soon as possible.” Kinanar said, he felt something stir outside in the tenebrous dark. The first skeleton was already on him. “Faster than your friends?” Kinanar said, still holding his ground.” The skeleton did not hesitate, its blade flashed through the air. Noticing the strength behind his opponent’s blow, Kinanar attempted to step out of the way – but too late. The sword sliced through his armor, and bit into the skin beneath. Kinanar grimaced, only a flesh would – but the first blood their new attackers had spilled nonetheless.