My progress for this month: Fnord’s profile
Because I’m terrible with keeping things like “currently playing” and my future plans consistent and up to date, I’ll just simplify things and make a list of my progress for the month, until I can come up with a good system.
If anyone is curious about my complete backlog, it can be found here
Over two months since my last post. I’m not getting through my backlog very fast… but I did beat some games since last time!
So, how about those reviews?
So many games starting with W for some reason.
I also wrote reviews for some DLCs
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Fortification Pack
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Lord of Skulls
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Assault Pack
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Reinforcement Pack
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Specialist Pack
Eagle Island: Twist (only reviewed the free DLC)
Well, I’ve been terrible at keeping up with writing reports here on what I’ve played. Guess writing reviews elsewhere kind of took the energy out of me for also writing reviews here. but anyway, here’s a very quick summary of what I’ve beaten since last time:
I’ve also been doing some more semi-professional reviews, so if you want to take a look at those, here’s what I’ve been playing for that since my last post:
Dragonborne - A new Game boy game (you know, the big grey brick that was all the rage 30 years ago!) that got released on steam earlier this year. You can run the game on a real Gameboy, so it’s the real deal!
Fantasy General II: Onslaught A recently released DLC for Fantasy General II, this one lets you control the lizardmen, which had some unique mechanics of their own, giving them a unique playstyle.
Airstrife A new SHMUP with nice pixel art, though sadly a few flaws keeping it from being outstanding
Imperator Rome: Heirs of Alexander The most recent DLC for Imperator: Rome that was launched alongside a patch that finally made the game what it should have been at launch.
Battle of Polytopia: Minimalist 4X game that can be played in <1h. Graphics was cute and it was easy to get into
Battle of Polytopia: Cymanti tribe A new faction for Polytopia! Adds a bit of complexity to the game, though not too much.
Dakka Squadron: A flight action game about Space Orks! Not awful, but also not great.
Cardaclysm: A semi-roguelite deckbuilding game with good production value but a bit too much grind.
Armored Brigade Nation Pack: Czechoslovakia – Netherlands: A new expansion for the really solid tactics game Armored Brigade adding new nations. Czech it out! (Sorry)
The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante: Narrative chose your own adventure style game with solid writing and a compelling story
Neurodeck A deckbuilding game about fighting your inner daemons. Not on par with Slay the Spire, but I still thought it was fun. More forgiving than these games tend to be.
Shields of Loyalty Kind of Fantasy General 1.5. Still in early access, with a long way to go before it’s ready for prime-time, but it has a good foundation.
Warhammer 40.000: Battlesector Just a preview of two levels from this game. Full game is not out yet. This looks like it might become one of the best 40k games to date!
Tactical Troops: A really solid turnbased tactics game with gridless movement and teleporters. Was greatly delayed, but as someone who got to play the first intended release version, I can say that the delays were justified.
We are the Caretakers A pre-early access preview of a game about saving space rhinos!
Unity of Command II: Barbarossa The latest DLC for Unity of Command II is just as good as the last one! Unity of Command 1 was incidentally one of the favourite games of the lead designer for Bioshock.
A Token War: A simple strategy game that feels like it has one foot in puzzle territory. Pretty solid
Voodoo kid An old point & click adventure game that just got a re-release. Kind of Monkey Island for children.
Field of Glory II: Medieval - Reconquista: Maybe more history lesson than review :P
Causa, Voices of the Dusk: A new TCG that plays it very safe. Is in dire need of a larger playerbase to really get anywhere.
I also really got into writing pen & paper RPGs since last time! Got offered a few RPGs in exchange for writing reviews (though the Mutant: Year Zero review is one I wrote just for practice)
Mutant: Year Zero My personal favourite pen & paper RPG of the last decade
Symbaroum A great dark fantasy RPG that’s currently in a bundle on Humble!
Symbaroum: Advanced Player’s Guide: The player’s guide for Symbaroum. A solid expansion
Symbaroum: Monster Codex Who does not like a good monster book?
Symbaroum: Game Master’s Guide: The Game Master’s Guide for Symbaroum, not a necessity (unlike some other RPGs) but contains some good stuff.
Alien RPG: Starter Set They made an RPG based on the Alien movies, and it’s surprisingly great!
Alien RPG: Chariot of the Gods: The adventure that comes with the starter set. I gave it a separate review because it deserved it
Tales from the Loop: Starter Set And finally a review of the starter set for Tales from the Loop (which by the way recently got a TV series based on it).
Most of what I’ve been playing since my last post has been for reviews. Got to play some nice games, although I did end up spending more time reviewing DLCs than full games this time around. Not that I mind, some of these DLCs were really good.
2 months since last post? Dang, I’ve not been keeping up with these update posts.
Anyway here goes
Just a heads up, there will be spoilers in here
Say what you will about the Final Fantasy series, but most of the games in it do at least leave a stronger impression than the average game. They’re not cheap uninspired throwaway games, but rather massively ambitious games, that often take a lot of risks, and re-invent the wheel with every new entry. Re-inventing the wheel is risky, and there’s been some duds here, but also some really good games.
Final Fantasy XV does not quite land in either category, but it’s far from a perfect game. In fact, this might be one of the more flawed games in the series, for a number of reasons. yet despite these flaws, there’s something oddly compelling about this game, something that kept me going, even when I was getting a bit annoyed with the games design choices.
A more grounded fantasy
Final fantasy games have, since FF7, maybe even 6 to some extent, had a tendency of being very fantastical. You don’t really have much that grounds the games into any form of reality, instead huge magical beasts and impossible machines is the normal. These things are of course still in FF XV, but you’ve also got a more normal feeling world. Through a large chunk of the game you’ll be traveling in a car, just a simple car, in what I think is supposed to be modeled after two, or potentially three different regions of the US. But between the common pine trees or large arid areas that has paved roads going through them, you also have some impossible rock formations, and a few other things that could not exist. With a world that feels as grounded as this, those fantastical elements don’t just feel more fantastical, but it’s also easier to get a feeling for their significance. You have a frame of reference. This is in stark contrast to how it was handled in FF XIII, where everything was weird and huge early on, and you only got something known to compare it to much later.
An open world done kind of wrong
Traveling through the world of FF XV feels good. It feels coherent, and the map designers have been kind enough as to not make traveling take too long (there’s also a fast travel system, but you need to have visited any place you want to travel to first). Other open world games could learn a lot from how you traverse the world here. The problem pops up when you’re actually doing things in the world, that’s not related to the main quest. There’s a lot of side quests in FF XV, most of which feel very copy-pasted, and many of them don’t even have unique dialogue, you get the exact same description for a quest in the first place you visit, as you get in a place on the other side of the map. There are very few side quests in the game that actually feel meaningful, the vast majority of them are just “Hey, monsters are eating my carrots, go and pick some carrots”. Then you go there, and there are no monsters, just carrots. So you pick them, and return to the quest giver. And then he tells you that the monsters are eating his carrots, and a quest marker shows up in a different location, so you go there, and find 3 evil cats that are half your level. So you kill them, and pick some carrots.
Then there’s the hunting missions. Most restaurant owners have a set of side quests that have no story at all, there are just monsters roaming about, with some only showing up at a certain time of the day. Beat these and your hunter rank goes up. I don’t know if you get anything fancy if you get your rank high enough, because frankly, I could not be bothered. There was nothing special about these fights, other than you possibly running into some later game monsters early.
Signs of troubled development
Now we’re entering spoiler territory.
I had heard that FF XV had been in development for over 10 years, with it originally being meant to tie in with FF XIII, but they shifted focus at some point of the development process. This shows. The games main story does not feel complete, and during the later parts of it, it runs at a breakneck speed, with some plot elements seemingly being forgotten about along the way. And then it just comes to a halt right before the final boss, where the game remembers that it needs to give you a chance to level up and improve your characters, in case you went into the late-game too early.
This switch to a very linear style is handled poorly. At several points through the main story you get told that the open world will be locked for a while if you progress, so if you want to do some more side quests, you have a chance to do so. And you get a very similar prompt when you’re reaching the point of no return for the main quest, and when I saw it, I figured that it would be just like all the others that came before it, I’ll be away from the open world for a bit, and then return to it. Nope, you never return to it. You’re brought to a second city, that feels very well developed, and looks great, but there’s hardly anything to do in it, and after about half an hour of playtime you’ll never return to it, so something tells me that the a lot of things that were meant to happen here were left on the cutting room floor.
What comes after it feels equally rushed, and somewhat unfinished. You’ll go from place to place, not staying for very long. Well, with one exception, a very drawn out segment that feels like it drew its inspiration from Resident Evil. Seriously, it even ends with a boss that feels like it’s taken from Resident Evil 1. The pacing here is just weird, which is usually a sign that things did not go very well during the games development.
A World of product placement
I sure feel like sitting in my Coleman camping chair, while eating some delicious Nissin cup noodles, and playing Terra Wars on my smartphone. FF XV really goes ham on its product placement at times. Seeing the Coleman logo on a lot of things your character bring with them is easily ignored, but when you’ve got a quest literally dedicated to making the perfect cup noodles, ending with your characters saying that they can’t improve upon perfection, because Nissin cup noodles are already so great, then product placement goes from at worst being a bit annoying if you recognize the things they’re trying to sell you, to really intrusive. There’s a few quests that are designed to just sell you other things, and they’re not well made. Heck, the Terra Wars quest was so bad that I now think the game seems like garbage, without even having seen it. Such is the power of bad product placement.
An unfinished story full of easily digested symbolism
The FF series is not a stranger to symbolism, and FF XV is no stranger to this. It can’t be a coincidence that the main character is named Noctis, and hails from the city of Insomnia, and mostly wears black, while his wife to be, Lunafreya, wears a bright white dress. Notics, known as The King of Kings, is meant to save the world from an eternal night (finally dispelling the night in the city of Insomnia). Through your journey, you’re repeatedly tempted by a man named Ardyn, who seems to know a bit too much, and who’s willing to share nuggets of his wisdom, but who never quite seems to be on your side. This is a biblical story, is it not? Ardyn is clearly the devil, Noctis is the messiah, who ends up sacrificing himself, to save humanity. The Lunafreya, Noctis & Insomnia parts are there to reinforce the light & dark themes, and the eternal night refers to the eternal darkness that the messiah was supposed to save the world from.
It does get a bit muddled by how messy the storytelling can be at points in the game. Important scenes seems to have been cut out, and and you’ve got characters who seem to change their allegiance and personality on a whim. The story feels unfinished, but the thing above is my reading on it.
Easiest combat yet
To call Final Fantasy XV easy would be an understatement. The game offers next to no challenge, and you can just brute-force almost any encounter as long as you’re willing to spend a few potions. Potions are of course cheap and plentiful, and it’s entirely possible to beat quests that are far above your level by just holding down the target and attack button, and once your companions are ready to do a special attack, hit the button for it. If someone goes down, use a potion and they’ll be back up again. In the case of longer dungeons, you might need to use an elixir at some point (elixirs can be purchased in this game, and are cheap).
What makes it even worse is how rapidly you’ll end up out-leveling things. If you do a bunch of side quests, you’ll greatly out-level the main quest, and completely trivialize it. The leveling system simply does not work well with how the rest of the game is designed, and the over-abundance of healing items makes it so that you’ll at no point be in danger of seeing a game over screen. For a game that’s about 25h long, this is not great.
At least it’s charming
Where FF XV shines is with its atmosphere. There’s something about the feeling of going on a road trip with a few friends, taking in the sights, and enjoying a nice meal under the stars (sitting in a Coleman chair, of course…). The people you’re with, while sometimes a bit too exaggerated in their personalities, do feel like real people, and the friendship between them does not feel forced. They can take jabs at each other, act silly, but also share their feelings and fears. The writing can at times leave a bit to be desired, but this road trip aspect of the game is something I don’t think I’ve come across in any other game.
Well, the DLC is good
This game has 4 pieces of downloadable content, of which 3 are free. These are about 1-2h long, and follows one important character each, for a short while. The first one, following the big muscular guy of the group is a take it or leave it affair, but the other ones are worth playing through, and help explain some of the events in the main story. Their mechanics are also unique for each one of them, which is another big plus.
- Won on SteamGifts 166
- Temp 0
- Games beaten - August 2016 7
- Games Beaten - September 2016 13
- Games Beaten - October 2016 11
- Games Beaten - November 2016 9
- Games Beaten - December 2016 9
- Games Beaten - January 2017 15
- Games Beaten - February 2017 12
- Games Beaten - March 2017 5
- Games Beaten - April 2017 13
- Games Beaten - May 2017 9
- Games Beaten - June 2017 12
- Games beaten - July 2017 9
- Games Beaten - August 2017 8
- Games Beaten - September 2017 8
- Games Beaten - October 2017 6
- Games Beaten - November 2017 6
- Games Beaten - December 2017 3
- Games Beaten - January 2018 6
- Games Beaten - February 2018 6
- Games Beaten - March 2018 6
- Games Beaten - April 2018 3
- Games Beaten - May 2018 5
- Games Beaten - June 2018 7
- Games beaten - July 2018 7
- Games Beaten - August 2018 5
- Games Beaten - September 2018 1
- Games Beaten - October 2018 8
- Games Beaten - November 2018 6
- Games Beaten - December 2018 2
- Games Beaten - January 2019 8
- Games Beaten - February 2019 12
- Games Beaten - March 2019 8
- Games Beaten - April 2019 12
- Games Beaten - May 2019 8
- Games Beaten - June 2019 7
- Games Beaten - July 2019 3
- Games Beaten - August 2019 4
- Games Beaten - September 2019 2
- Games Beaten - October 2019 3
- Games Beaten - November 2019 4
- Games Beaten - January 2020 7
- Games Beaten - December 2019 3
- Games Beaten - February 2020 1
- Games Beaten - March 2020 6
- Games Beaten - April 2020 6
- Games Beaten - May 2020 7
- Games Beaten - June 2020 5
- Games beaten - July 2020 2
- Games Beaten - August 2020 4
- Games Beaten - September 2020 3
- Games Beaten - October 2020 7
- Games Beaten - November 2020 2
- Games Beaten - December 2020 5
- Games Beaten - January 2021 5
- Games Beaten - February 2021 7
- Games Beaten - March 2021 2
- Games Beaten - April 2021 0
- Games beaten - May 20201 3
- Games Beaten - June 2021 3
- Games Beaten - July 2021 2