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

Games beaten
Vaporum: Lockdown
Rise of the Argonauts
Batman: Arkham Knight
Tom Clancy’s The Division

Games dropped


Vaporum: Lockdown

13.7 hours, 0 of 46 achievements

I did not get any achievements in this game, for some reason. Might be the press build. Eh, don't really care about achievements anyway. Despite the lack of achievements, I really enjoy this game. Enough as to give it my first "top score" on the site I write reviews for!

https://saveorquit.com/2020/09/21/review-vaporum-lockdown/


Rise of the Argonauts

15.7 hours, no achievements

This game surprised me. I was going in expecting it to be a pretty mediocre 3rd person action RPG, that would be entertaining for an hour or two. But I ended up beating it!

You're following Jason, as he tries to bring back his dead wife. Along the way you'll visit a few places in and around Greece, and meet other mythological characters, like Pan and Achilles. The story is maybe not amazing, but it's good enough, and the different locations all have their own unique feel. All the characters you run into are also voiced, and the voice acting is surprisingly competent.
The games combat system is also not outstanding, but it's good enough. You're controlling Jason as he fights a bunch of different enemies (sadly there's not much more than a bunch of them, really should have been more!). At your disposal you have three different weapon types that you can switch between on the fly, and a few special abilities. It's nothing outstanding, but it's good enough.

Pretty much all the individual elements of this game are "good enough", without being great, but this really is a game where the sum of all the parts add up to more than the parts individually would. It's a solid action RPG that's worth playing, even if it's far from a masterpiece.


Batman: Arkham Knight

31.0 hours, 49 of 113 achievements

It took me 2 months to get through this one, and that should give you an idea of how much I liked it. Unlike Rise of the Argonauts, which as better than the sum of its parts, Arkham Knight is a game with a few solid parts, that gets dragged down by a few parts that don't work so well, and ends up being less than the sum of its parts.

On foot Batman is agile, fast, stealthy and all that good stuff. He's got access to a wide set of tools that he can use against enemies, and much like in the previous games, you need to be careful when attacking enemies that have guns, as Batman is not bullet proof. These parts are good.

The problem is that Batman is often forced to be in his car. The developers seemed really proud of this car, as enemies will constantly remark on how batman now has this super car, and how afraid of the car they are. Sadly the car is just boring. It's worse as a mode of transportation than gliding through the air, so if the game would not force you to use the car, it would likely not be used much. But you're constantly forced to use this car, and to make matters worse, there's something about the car that makes the game chug. The game runs well when on foot, but as soon as the car is in use, the games framerate drops considerably.

The games story is interesting, but could have been told better. It focuses a lot on Batman himself, his inner daemons, and also the fact that he puts the ones around him at constant risk. I like the idea, but it feels like the story is being harmed by the darn car! So many segments feel like they've been influenced by the fact that they need to push the thing.

Arkahm Knight is ultimately the worst (or second worst, if you count Blackgate) game in the series, by a wide margin. A lot of the parts work, and the story is even pretty interesting at times, but a slew of technical issues, and the need to engage with a boring car constantly just makes it a mediocre game.


Tom Clancy’s The Division

0 hours, no achievements

Warning: Slightly rambly review of the game.

You know what? I think I hate this game.

Tom Clancy's™ The™ Division™ is yet another Tom Clancy game made after the death of Tom Clancy, and it's a game that really seems to lack any proper direction. Is it a realistic military shooter? Is it an RPG? Is it an MMO? Is it an endless treadmill? Well, according to Ubisoft it's a lot of thins, and not all of them are things that the game manages to be. For an example, Ubisoft said that it would be an RPG without cutscenes, with a large immersive world that reacts to your decisions and without scripted events. When Ubisoft said this, which was quite late in the games development, they clearly did not know what the game was going to be. The world does not react to you, the game has cutscenes, and it does the bare minimum to count as an RPG.

In The Division™ you're playing as an agent sent into a New York that's been infected by a disease, and apparently it has made everyone living there capable of taking 5 large caliber bullets to the head. So you move from area to area, doing menial tasks, listening to repeated voice clips. It is a very pretty city you're moving through though, the game looks great, there's a lot of attention to detail to everything around you, but it's just a pretty façade.

The game world is populated by evil people who has taken the opportunity to turn very evil when the world turned mad. So they do evil things, because they're evil. The games writing staff really did not care to make believable enemies, and the only ones that seem to even have a motivation that makes some kind of twisted sense are "the cleaners" who believe that anyone infected by the disease needs to be killed and then lit on fire, to stop the spread of the disease. The worst part was that there was no self awareness to the plot, the writers did not seem to realize how stupid the world they had written really were.

Then there's the actual gameplay. It's boring and repetitive. Hide behind chest-high walls, pop out to shoot at the enemies, then hide again and wait for your health to regenerate a bit. Use a health kit if you take too much damage. Repeat. As you move through the world you'll face people who have different coloured hats and shirts. They're totally different enemies. The only standout here is, again, the cleaners, who have big tanks on their back that you can shoot, which makes them explode. The other enemies are just regular humans who wears clothes with different colours, and at some point the melee enemies go from using bats to using shotguns. And much like the enemies, the missions don't really change over the course of the game. There are plenty of copy/pasted missions, where the only difference is that you're fighting in a slightly different looking building.

Both friendly NPCs and enemies have an extremely limited set of voice lines, and this gets extra obvious when they call out specific things. Like if you kill an enemy, they might shout "They killed Alex". A group of 10 enemies might have 8 Alex in it. And sometimes the clips that friendly NPCs play don't match what's going on, but they did not have a clip that did, so they just picked something that was "close enough".

This game things of itself as a bit of a looter shooter, similar to Borderlands, but with realistic looking guns, and this means that you'll keep getting new guns. Big problem here is that you'll just keep getting new guns with marginally better stats that the old ones. There's no real sense of progress here, you're just keeping up with an ever increasing health pool that the enemies have. So at the start of the game 4-5 headshots with your pistol might kill an enemy, and then at the end of the game 4-5 headshots with your pistol will kill an enemy. That's boring. Sure, I can go back to an early area and 1-shot enemies with my high level pistol, but what's the point? The RPG elements just acts to gate off later areas in the game, but they don't make it seem like you're getting more powerful.

So is there anything good about the game? Eh, the co-op works surprisingly well on a technical level. The game still looks and sounds good, and it was free. But I'll still say that this game is bad, really bad, and I suspect that it was made without much direction, other than the need to chase some open world looter shooter bandwagon that they could cram boring microtransactions into. Oh, incidentally, this game has some of the most boring cosmetics I think I've ever come across in a game that tries to get you to spend money on cosmetics.


Combat Mission Shock Force 2

17.2 hours, no achievements

This game does not really have an end, but it has a review!

https://saveorquit.com/2020/09/18/review-combat-mission-shock-force-2/


2 months since last post? Dang, I’ve not been keeping up with these update posts.

Anyway here goes

Imperiums: Greek Wars

8.4 hours, 12 of 100 achievements

I wrote a review for this. Head over to https://saveorquit.com/ to see it!


A Plague Tale: Innocence

0 hours, no achievements

Well this was an uplifting game.

A Plague Tale sees you follow a young girl, and her brother, in a world that's on the brink of destruction. Rats are swarming all over the place, spreading disease and devouring everything they can get hold of. The inquisition thinks that your brother has something to do with the rat plague, and in the games opening storms your family's home, killing everyone in their path.

As you escape the inquisition you're met by terrible sight after terrible sight. The rats are starting to appear in greater and greater numbers, disease is spreading, and as more people die, more rats starts to appear.

I really liked this game, although it suffers from a problem that's so common both for stealth games, and this is a stealth/puzzle game at heart, as well as narratives focusing on the relationship between a few people. How do you escalate things? And sadly I do think the game wend a bit off the rails towards the last parts, but up until that point, it was really good.

Also, on a side note, the studio who made this game must have one of the most diverse portfolios out there. They made this, the new Microsoft Flight Simulator, WALL-E (the game based on the movie) and Monopoly Plus (as well as a bunch of other games).


Iconoclasts

10.1 hours, 6 of 11 achievements
SG win

This is my most recent SG win, and it was a good one!

Iconoclasts is a 2D metroidvania (although it does not have the strongest metroidvania elements) with great pixel art and satisfying combat. Actually, satisfying is a good way to describe how this game feels to play, because the game does a great job with its audiovisual feedback, making your actions feel very satisfying to do. The story has some serious real world parallels that I was not really expecting, although in retrospect, with a name like this, I should have seen it coming.


Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus

22.4 hours, 24 of 34 achievements

Mechanicus was a refreshing take on the X-com style of games. In it you play as a group of tech priests, basically the only ones who are allowed to operate and fully understand advanced technology in the imperium of man in the 40k universe, as they try to stop the Necrons (evil egyptian space robots with a hint of lovecraftian cosmic horror).

As a fan of 40k, I liked the story, but I don't think someone unfamiliar with the setting would get much out of it. But this is the kind of game that's fun even without the story. And this game has one thing that really sets it apart from other X-com style tactics games, and that's its action resource system. In most games of this type all your characters will have their own action points, and every turn they get to do a limited number of things. Not in mechanicus, here you're using a global pool of action resources. Every character can move once during your turn, and use any free actions they have access to (depending on their skills and equipment), but to use any of your more powerful attacks, or use your more impactfull abilities you need to spend this resource. The only limit on how you spend this is that all abilities and attacks have a cooldown of at least one turn, but some abilities let you get more of this action resource, and you can move again by spending it. This means that one of your guys can move from one end of the map, and use all of their abilities in a single turn if you want to, but then you'll end up using up all your action resources, that is unless you can find some way to gain more. If you can keep generating this resource, you can keep doing things, and once you get the hang of the system, you can end up doing some downright broken combos. The game gets trivially easy at this point, but it's also quite satisfying to find new and inventive ways of breaking the game, and kill foes that look like they were intended take several turns to beat in a single turn.


Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone

4.5 hours, no achievements

I'll use Daggerdale as a placeholder for this, as both are really not all that great.

Demon Stone is an action RPG set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. The same setting as Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale, Pool of Radiance and a bunch of other games is set in. You're playing as a band of 3 heroes, a warrior, a rogue and a sorcerer, as they battle their way across the world, in an attempt to save it from a great evil. The story is not exactly what I would call great in this one, despite it being written by the prolific fantasy author R. A. Salvatore, who's books has helped shape the setting (he's the guy who came up with Drizzt Do'Urden).

The concept of the game is not too bad, have an action RPG where you can switch between characters on the fly, all of which has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, but sadly the execution is really lacking. Combat feels fine, and when all you're doing is killing enemies, it's even fun, with the three characters having access to quite different abilities. The issue starts popping up whenever you need to do something that's not hitting enemies, and there are enemies trying to hit you. Two of the characters have special abilities that needs to be charged up before being used, and if an enemy hits you will you're charging your move they'll interrupt it. So you need to rely on the AI to keep the enemies away from you. An AI that's so dumb that it will often be found running into walls for no reason. And killing the enemies that keep interrupting you is not an option, because they respawn, and they respawn fast. How fast you ask? Faster than you can charge up your move. This became painfully obvious in a later part of the game where you need to break down an ice wall with the warrior. There are two spawn points for enemies pretty far away from you, and you have access to a "kill all enemies" move (that needs to be charged up by using all your characters). I used it, killed all enemies, and then started charging up my wall breaking attack, and before the attack was fully charged I was already getting swarmed by enemies again.

Had this game been longer, and had it not had Patrick Stewart voicing the character who also acts as the games narrator, I would not have beaten it.

Also, why are the characters using rules terms when talking to each other? While it's not as bad as them saying D20, or roll for initiative, they do things like use their classes in casual conversation, rather than names,


Woolfe - The Red Hood Diaries

0.8 hours, 4 of 20 achievements

This game was a disappointment. Woolfe is a really good looking platformer with a nice atmosphere, and lackluster gameplay. Controls feel floaty and imprecise, combat feels rather shallow, and the game is simply not very fun to play.


Warborn

14.5 hours, 17 of 26 achievements

Wrote a review for this!


Halo: Combat Evolved

8 hours, 17 of 26 achievements

I played this game when it was new on PC, and I remembered enjoying the first 2/3 of it, particularly the 4th level. But nearing the end, I remembered the game taking a nose-dive, and becoming annoying to play, as a new enemy type is introduced. The new enemy type was not difficult, just annoying, and boring to fight.

Now after replaying it, I can safely say that my memory of the game was correct. The first ~2/3 is good, the 4th level is great, but then the game just nose-dives off a cliff towards the end, and becomes a chore.

Halo has some great outdoors level design, and the main enemy for most of the game, the Covenant, are a good fit for this kind of environment. While I would not say that the enemies are smart, they have been scripted pretty well, which gives the impression of them using the environment well, and them working together. It's made better by the fact that the enemy has several different races working together, and they all work differently. While Half-Life and FEAR, two other games that are known for their good AI, are limited to a few types of enemies that work together, and that follow the same basic AI script..

But towards the late game two new categories of enemies are introduced, one far more common than the other. The more common enemy type is basically space zombies, that just try to rush you. Fitting for space zombies, but they're simply not fun to fight. And there are of course loads of them. The level design also seem to take a turn for the worse together with the enemies. Repeating corridors is no fun to fight in….

I get why Halo is fondly remembered, and had it stopped at level 5, I would have said that it's a fantastic game, but it does not stop at level 5…


Batman: The Enemy Within - The Telltale Series

10.9 hours, 30 of 30 achievements

Telltale's first Batman game was really good, so I was looking forward to trying this one. I even bought it during the sale, but then it got bundled (bottom tier even), so I got a refund, and bought the bundle instead.

This game explores Batman and his complicated relationship with the joker, and by extension, the darker side of himself. It's an interesting premise, and it's executed well, but it's a shame that the detective parts from the first game got so scaled back. I would say that this is one of Telltale's better games, but not their absolute best.

This game also got me interested in finding out more about The Riddler. That villain always seemed goofy and non-threatening, but this game showed a different side of him, one that made me think that he might well be one of the most interesting batman villains.


Halo Wars 2

5 hours, no achievements

I played the first Halo Wars about a year and a half ago. I did not really intend to play the second one, but then I noticed that this one was made by Creative Assembly, and they're usually pretty good.

This game feels like a game a development studio makes to keep the lights on, while they work on the thing they actually want to make. It feels a bit passionless. That's not to say that it's a hackjob, because it's really not. This game has exceptionally high production value, for an RTS. It looks good, it sounds good, the voice acting is good, but the gameplay is rather uninspired. It's also incredibly easy. I thought that the first Halo Wars was easy, but this takes easy to a whole new level. This games hard mode is seriously easier than the easy mode of most RTSs. This really clashes with the story of some levels. Everyone's chattering about how desperate your fight is, and you're sitting there, feeling invincible, because the enemy can't even take down one of your units…

This is a pretty easy skip. It's a rather soulless game, that lacks in difficulty, and they did not even have the courtesy of giving you the complete story. It ends on a cliffhanger, and I guess I would have to buy the DLC to get the complete story. That's not happening.

Oh, and the game also has a very pay to win multiplayer mode. As you play the game you'll be given card packs, these card packs give you units to use in the multiplayer mode. You need to make a deck there, with the units you want to bring, and getting more card packs won't just give you more options for how to build your deck, but they'll also make the units you have stronger. Get duplicate cards and the cards you have level up, and the best way to get more card packs is of course to open your wallet, thus if you spend money on the game, you get units that are just stronger versions of what other people get, with no drawbacks.


Warborn review

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.

So a month since last post. Not going out much right now, for understandable reasons, so more time for games!

Inexistence Rebirth

3.1 hours, 7 of 13 achievements

Review at the bottom of the post!


Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures - Episode 1: Fright of the Bumblebees

2.1 hours, no achievements

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures is a series of short episodic games, from before Telltale really struck it big with their Walking Dead series. This one tries to recapture the success of their episodic Sam & Max games, but using the beloved claymation series Wallace & Gromit as its basis. For those not familiar with Wallace & Gromit, then shame on you! It's a charming series of claymation cartoons, following the cheese loving inventor Wallace, and his dog Gromit, which has seen infrequent releases since 1989.

Sadly Telltale's attempt at creating something based on this property is overall rather disappointing. While it captures some of the charm of the cartoon, it's also held back by Telltale's strict adherence to the classic P&C formula, with uninspired, and frankly slightly annoying, puzzles. If this game was larger, it would likely have been a real pain to play, as that would meant that you would have to rub more things against more other things, in order to find which combination works. But it's saved from complete disaster by its brevity.

In this episode, Wallace has managed to ruin Mr. Paneer's cheese shop (yes, Mr. Paneer is Indian, and yes, paneer is a kind of Indian cheese), and offers to repay him with a lot of honey, as Wallace has decided to create his own honey business. Of course, you can't instantly make large quantities of honey from a single hive, particularly not when you don't have any pollen for the bees. And so the adventure begins!


Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

10 hours, no achievements

The term Metroidvania is a portmanteau of two words, Metroid and Castlevania. For anyone who's only played the older Castlevania games, the "vania" part might seem odd, but to anyone who's played any of the games that Igarashi worked on will know why Metroidvanias are called Metroidvanias. Koji Igarashi re-worked the Castlevania formula significantly with his Symphony of the Night, and the result was amazing. Symphony of the Night turned out to to be an absolutely stellar game, and over the following years Igarashi and co. was allowed to make more games in the vein of Symphony of the Night, almost all of them being great, and commercially successful.

But with Konami being Konami, they decided that the good times were not allowed to last, and so they simply decided that Igarashi would not be allowed to make more of his successful and popular games. So in 2014 he left Konami, and formed his own company, together with a Chinese Businessman. Seeing the success that some developers had had with Kickstarter, he then, in 2015, created his own campaign. He wanted to make what Konami had not allowed him to make, another game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

And that's this game. It's a Castlevania game in all but name, borrowing almost all of its design from Symphony of the Night, and the games that followed it. And it's frankly outstanding. There's been a bunch of great Metroidvanias in recent years, and Bloodstained is one of the greatest, being just a bit behind Hollow Knight. The only area where I feel like Bloodstained falls a bit short is with the bosses, which are generally too easy, but the exploration feels satisfying, controls are tight and responsive, soundtrack is great, and the game looks decently good as well (although I do think it would have looked even better had they've gone with high quality pixel art instead of 3D models).


Nordic Warriors

6.8 hours, no achievements

Wrote a review for this, link at the bottom!


The Outer Worlds

18 hours, no achievements

Ever played Fallout: New Vegas, and felt like you wanted more?

Outer Worlds is Obsidian's latest game, and it follows closely in the footsteps of Fallout: New Vegas, with first person combat and exploration, and an emphasis on dialogue and skill checks.

Outer Worlds is set in a dark comedic future. You've just been brought out of cryogenic sleep, and find yourself in the company of a slightly unhinged scientist, who tells you about what happened to the colony ship you were on. Something went wrong, and it never reached its destination. Instead of trying to rescue you, they had just abandoned the ship, with its hundreds of thousands of frozen passengers.

What surprised me about Outer Worlds was how small it turned out to be. Compared to the likes of New Vegas, Fallout 4 and so on, Outer Worlds really is tiny, and that's reflected in the playtime. It took me less than 20h to beat it, doing almost all the side quests. It's still a fun game though, and 20h is a respectable length for a game.
One area where the game does fall a bit flat is with its economy. RPGs usually do have rather bad balance when it comes to their economies, but Outer Worlds is one of the worst I've encountered in this regard. The game just showers you with stuff, be it ammo, healing items, lockpicks, hacking tools or just money, making all of this lose its meaning. When you're ending the game with over 10000 bullets, something is off. Also, almost every locked door that you open will give you a few lockpicks in return, making lockpicks a pointless resource. The game also gives you too much experience, so you'll quickly out-level everything, if you do a bunch of sidequests.


Dungeons 3

21.7 hours, 40 of 60 achievements

A review at the bottom of the post for this one as well!


Wolfenstein: Youngblood

0 hours, no achievements

Ah Youngblood, mediocrity is thy name.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a cooperative focused FPS, set in the Wolfenstein universe. You're playing as one of two sisters, daughters of the main character from the previous games, as they try to find their father in a Nazi-occupied Paris in the 1980's.
Let's start with the good:
Much like the previous Wolfenstein games from Machine Games, the guns have a nice feel to them. Sound effects feel meaty and they also feel distinct. Also, in the linear areas, the level design is pretty good, with good enemy placement and map design that allows you to approach the larger fights in several different ways, depending on preferred playstyle. The game also runs surprisingly well, even if my graphics card sometimes decided that trying to force a game with a 4GB VRAM requirement to run on a 2GB card was a bit too much for it (a restart of the game solved this).

Sadly, a lot of the games design choices seem to have been informed by its "live service" nature. You've got some (surprisingly small) open-world regions, that you need to traverse repeatedly, and you get a lot of uninspired sidequests, that force you to go to the same area several times, with the difference between two missions sometimes being that you need to interact with different objects in different rooms.
The game also has hyper-aggressive level scaling, so every time you level up, the enemies level up, making levels pretty much useless.
You've got things you can buy with real money to help you along the way, and with how bullet spongey many of the enemies end up being, I can see why someone would be tempted to buy power. The game is overall not hard, but the combination of having to visit the same few areas repeatedly, and having them populated by increasingly bullet spongey enemies might well break the will of some people.

The game has some good points, but it also has some serious bad points, and overall, it's not a great game.


Inexistence Rebirth review
Nordic Warriors review
Dungeons 3 review

Libertad o Muerte!

5.6 hours, no achievements

Wrote a review for this one (link at the bottom)


Path Of Aurora

6.4 hours, no achievements

Wrote a review for this one (link at the bottom)


Carrier Battles 4 Guadalcanal

5.7 hours, no achievements

Wrote a review for this one too! (link at the bottom)


Aeronautica Imperialis: Flight Command

3.9 hours, no achievements

Would you know it, there's a review for this one!


Total War: WARHAMMER II

33.4 hours, 33 of 152 achievements

And there's a re… wait, no, this is a game I bought on my own to play.

If you've ever played a Total War game, you'll have a rough idea of how this game works. You pick one of the available races, which in the base game for Total War Warhammer 2 (why did they not just name it Total Warhammer?) are Lizardmen, High Elves, Dark Elves and Skaven (but if you own the first game, you can play on a huge map with all the races from that game as well), and you need to conquer your way through the world), and then you go out and try to conquer the world!

As in all other Total War games, this game is split up into two separate parts, the Strategic Map, and tactical combat. On the strategic map, you move around your armies, recruit troops, build buildings and so on, and once you run into an enemy, you'll enter into tactical combat, where you need to try and beat the enemy army, by use of clever tactics. The tactical combat in this game is just outstanding, probably the best the series has ever had to offer. While the AI is still a bit lackluster, the variety of troops make it less predictable than it used to be (after all, you did not really have huge dragons or rat mutant abominations in ancient Rome, at best you had elephants).

Total War: Warhammer 2 might well be one of the finest grand strategy games out there. It does not quite have the strategic depth of Paradox's outings, but it's far more accessible, and watching the enemy army getting stomped on by a gigantic dinosaur never stops being satisfying.


The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

15.3 hours, 35 of 46 achievements

Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a co-op focused 3rd person action game. You play as one out of three characters, a dwarf, an elf or a human, who need to battle Sauron's forces. On your way there, you'll meet people like an Ian McKellen knockoff, an Elijah Wood knockoff and of course a Hugo Weaving knockoff. Basically what I'm saying is that the actors who try to portray the actors from the movies were generally not very good.

The gameplay is perfectly fine. The 3rd person combat feels okay, even if the enemies are a bit too damage spongey, and between combat you've also got an excuse to explore, as each character is capable of finding different secrets (the dwarf for an example can spot weak walls and knock them down, to reveal hidden rooms).

While the game is 9 years old at this point, it does have some nice art direction. A lot of it was borrowed from the movies (which in turn borrowed things from the art made for the books), but that does not mean it's bad, the movies were very good looking.

What makes this game worth playing is really its co-op. The different characters have slightly different strengths, but the game does not go overboard with it, making it a somewhat relaxed co-op experience. Had this been a singleplayer only game it would likely have just been a bit dull, but as a co-op game it's fine.


Europa Universalis IV: Emperor

281.7 hours, 53 of 310 achievements

Well, would you look at that? Review at the bottom!


.hack//G.U. Last Recode

5.2 hours, 2 of 52 achievements

Well, this is actually bad.
I'm vaguely familiar with the .hack franchise, but I've never played any of the games, and now I can see why.

This game is basically trying to simulate a futuristic MMO, you're playing as a character who's in this MMO, and who lost their friend to some mysterious entity that made them go into a real life coma. And so you visit different areas, fight monsters and level up. But here's the first issue: The combat is kind of dull. It plays like a second rate Tales of Symphonia, with real time fighting, but you're far less agile here than in ToS, and combat feels button mashy.
Mediocre combat could be overlooked, if the story was great. But the main character has to be one of the most unlikable protagonists ever. He's just being rude to everyone around him for absolutely no reason. And yet for some reason, despite him being really unpleasant to everyone, most people he run into still insists on seeking him out. The character writing is really bad.

It is possible that this game is like Final Fantasy XIII, as in if you're willing to sit through a lot of bad, you might finally get to the good stuff. But I'm not willing to spend that much time on a game where I find the combat to be mediocre and the writing to be terrible.


Libertad o Muerte! review

Path of Aurora review

Carrier Battles 4 Guadalcanal review

Aeronautica Imperialis: Flight Command review

Europa Universais IV: Emperor review

It’s been a month since last time, but there’s some big games this time around. And some not so big ones.

The Flower Collectors

3.1 hours, 7 of 13 achievements

I wrote a review for this one! Link at the bottom of the post


Assassin's Creed: Syndicate

28 hours, no achievements

The forgotten Assassin's Creed, or at least it feels like it. The game came out between the much maligned Unity, and Assassin's Creed Origins, which seemed to re-invent the series. And between those two, Syndicate really does not stand out, for good or bad reasons. Syndicate is basically using the mechanics of Unity, but it's a lot less buggy. That means that you have the standard Assassin's Creed gameplay, of jumping between buildings, Batman Arkham-series-like combat, loads of menial tasks to do, combined with a rudimentary RPG-lite system, where you get skillpoints that you can allocate, and an actual stealth system (a game about sneaky assassins, with a stealth system? Who would have thought that was a good idea?!)

The highlight of this game, like any other AC really, is the setting. Victorian London looks quite impressive, and you've now got trains and steamboats to contend with. Overall, this part is really good, and the main reason to play this game.

As for the story, it's passable. Templars are doing an evil, and you need to stop them. This time you're playing as two characters, twins, who have slightly different skills and of course personalities, and they have their own missions to contend with. In the open world you can pick whichever you want though. And as for the characters, one of them is a bit of an idiot, and I don't get how he could become an assassin. The story is by no means good, but at least it gives you an excuse to climb some tall buildings, and stab some people.

Final verdict: This game is a Ubisoft game.


LEGO® Batman™: The Videogame

10.0 hours, no achievements

Ever played a LEGO game? Well, this is just like that, only you're Batman. Or a Batman villain. This game has two campaigns, one good guy and one bad guy one, and they play pretty much the same, only with the Batman one, you're changing suits mid-mission, which gives you different abilities, while in the villain one, you change characters between levels. This game is nothing special, but like all other LEGO games, still pretty fun.


Mega Man 11 / Rock Man 11

3.6 hours, 22 of 50 achievements

Mega Man is back, in yet another Mega Man game! Well, in all fairness, it's been a few years since the last one. This one is very "standard Mega Man", you get 8 stages to chose from at the start, each stage has an end boss, and if you beat it you get a new weapon. Each boss has a weakness to another weapon, and once all these bosses are down, the final set of levels is revealed. The only new mechanic here is what they call the double gear system, which lets you give yourself a boost, either by slowing down everything around you, or increase your attack power. I found the attack power boost to be far inferior. Other than that, it's like any other main series Mega Man game. Which is to say a solid 2D platformer. I don't think this one will be remembered as the high point of the series, but neither is it a low point.


Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team

4.0 hours, 7 of 12 achievements

Warhammer 40k: Kill team is a perfectly fine twin stick shooter, where you and another player get to play as Space Marines. You need to battle your way through a ship filled to the brim with orks and Tyranids. There's nothing really great about this game, but nor is it awful, it just kind of is yet another co-op twin stick shooter. Co-op works fine, and it is remote play compatible, so that's nice, but it feels a bit slow, and the character balance did not seem great.


Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales

29 hours, 36 of 39 achievements

Remember Gwent from Witcher 3, and how this was a massive success? Well, they made a digital TCG out of it. And then that spun off into a singleplayer game. That's this game.

Thronebreaker takes place a bit before The Witcher series, where you're following Queen Meve, as she defends her country against Nilfgaard. I don't want to spoil the story, because it's actually pretty good, and worth playing this game for.
As you move through the lands, you'll encounter different tricky situations, and these are, of course, solved by a game of Gwent. The card game has been expanded and rebalanced, compared to how it was in The Witcher 3, and is a lot more tactical. Some encounters are regular Gwent games, where you use a deck you've made, to face off against the enemy, and some use a pre-determined deck, and are more like puzzles than regular games of Gwent.

I do have a few criticisms of this game though. It feels like it wants to teach you the basics of Gwent, but it also does a pretty good job at encouraging bad habits for TCGs, like treating larger deck size as a bonus that you need to pay for (in most TCGs you want to keep your deck as small as the rules allow, to increase the likelihood of you drawing the right cards for your combos). The games economy is also a bit busted, and it gives you far too much resources.

But other than that, this game is really good, and the best game of this update.


Flower Collectors review

Three zombie games in a row!

Resident Evil

13.3 hours, 20 of 44 achievements

Resident Evil is a classic, and this remake is a big improvement on it.
For those who have never played one of the earlier Resident Evil games, these are closer to adventure games than action games. You traverse a limited space, trying to solve puzzles, that then open up new areas. These puzzles are usually solved by rubbing items against things, much like in a point & click adventure game.

But unlike (most) point & click adventure games, there's also combat. Zombies roam the hallways, and you need to somehow avoid getting eaten by them. Zombies are slow, stupid and predictable, but but in a narrow hallway they're still potentially dangerous. You're resources are limited, so you can't kill every Zombie in the game, thus you need to be a bit strategic in which zombies you chose to get rid of.

Well, that's the idea at least. I ended the game with about 80 bullets in my pistol, more healing items that I could easily count, and enough ammo in all the more powerful weapons, except for the shotgun, to kill everything in the final area several times over. Resident evil is a surprisingly forgiving game on the middle difficulty.

It's also not particularly scary. There's really only one thing that got me on edge in RE, and that was due to a perceived threat. When I actually ran into this threat, it turned out to be rather easy to deal with, but because of its slight unpredictability and how the game portrays it, it still kept me on edge, despite me knowing that it really was not something worth worrying about.

The RE remake is still a very good game, and I really liked the main manor that you're spending a lot of the game in. I really don't mind backtracking, when handled well, and I think that backtracking in RE was handled exceptionally well. It felt like I was traversing a coherent space, and not something that was just designed as a video game level.


Resident Evil 5

18.3 hours, 28 of 70 achievements

Going from Resident Evil 1 to Resident Evil 5… quite the jump, right?

RE 5 is nothing like RE 1. Where RE 1 tried to be an atmospheric adventure game with zombies, RE5 tries to be an over the top action game with big explosions. Gone are the lovingly created game world that feels like a space you could live in, and instead it's replaced by a linear set of corridors, with no backtracking, and hordes of enemies that you need to kill, rather than avoid. There's only a single point in the game where it kind of remembers that it's a horror franchise, and tries to build an atmosphere, but that's short lived.

RE5 is not bad though, it's just that if it were not for three returning character, and the name Umbrella, you would not recognize it as a Resident Evil game, if you were to go from RE 1 to this.

RE5 is a co-op game at heart, and I did try to play it once prior, in SP, and let's just say that it was not a very fun experience. In co-op it works quite well though. There's enough you can do to help each other in combat and to solve certain (very simple) puzzles, for the co-op element to feel worthwhile. The actual combat is also not all that bad, although the enemy variety does leave a bit to be desired.

The DLC is pretty good. One of the DLC parts feel like a homage to the first RE, and attempts some light horror, and the other tells the story of two characters who are part of the RE5 story, but offscreen for a bit.


Prototype

12.4 hours, no achievements

Prototype… what a mess.

Prototype is an, at this point, 10 year old open world action game, where you play as a superpowered person who runs rampage in a city. A virus has infected you, and it gives you superpoweres, but it also turns regular people into zombies (so 3 out of 3 games in this post will be about zombie games!). The army has been called in to deal with the zombies, and you, so it's a three way battle.

First of all, the port is awful. There are so many things in this port that can make it not run well, or give strange sound glitches, that you have to question if they even had anyone QA test this. There are posts from back when this game was just launched complaining about the very same issues, so this is not an issue with modern computers, it's just an awful port.

The gameplay is pretty solid. You're playing as an extremely powerful person, who can jump high, climb buildings, glide, slice humans in half with a single hit, lift up cars and throw them at people, morph into other people, and hijack tanks & helicopters. Basically you're one of the most powerful videogame protagonists ever.

The story is quite poorly told, but there's some interesting elements to it. At first glance it's your basic military coverup story. Virus gets released, army gets called in to cover things up, you want to find out the truth. But unlike in most of these stories, you're really not a good guy, you're killing hundreds of innocent people in your mad rampage, and they're just inconsequential, you don't get punished for doing so (I actually thought you would, so I tried to avoid killing civilians through the entire game, but that was just making the game harder for me…). The problem is how the story is told. You get very short cutscenes, and then the game just dumps you into the world, it's just jarring, and the short length of the cutscenes means that a lot of information gets left out, information that the main character knows, but you as the player don't. Like how did you escape the military facility where you talked to the important guy? Game won't tell you, it just plays its cutscene ending with important person dying, and then you're standing on top of a building. The first half of the story also feels incredible padded, with boring characters doing boring things to waste your time.

Gameplay is where the game shines, when it wants to cooperate. You have a huge toolbox of powers, some of which are seemingly completely overpowered, like massive AoE effects, the ability to eat enemies (and civilians) for a quick health boost, or the ability to just jump up to a helicopter and hijack it, at which point you now have a heavily armed helicopter. But the opposition is also tough, the army has plenty of tanks & helicopters, the infected as powerful "hunters" that can chase you across the rooftops and are capable of dealing huge damage. And when the game works, it's really fun. Combat feels strategic and challenging, and yet somehow also like a power fantasy. But then the game just throws 4 hunters at you and they stunlock you to death, or the game throws a cheap QTE at you that you were not ready for, and you instantly fail it because you were in the middle of attacking, and hit the wrong button, resulting in you losing half of your health. There was also one lovely boss that had an instant-kill attack combo which it did not telegraph for me (an effect was not playing…). And some of the mission design is just awful. Actually, a lot of the missions were very badly designed, particularly those in the late game. My favourite was the one where I was told that I needed to "eat" a specific person witting in a tank, but if I tried to eat the person before the game wanted me to, there was an instant game over.

Prototype is a game with some real strengths, but also massive weaknesses. Combined with the atrocious PC port, I really can't recommend this game. I get why some people remember this game fondly though.


Mini-rant number 4.

Quick time events, or QTE for short. Don’t you hate them?
Well, I don’t. I don’t actually hate QTEs, I think they can be done well, the issue is that they’re more often than not not handled well at all. And here’s a big no-no when it comes to quick time events:

Don’t make quick time events that you automatically fail, particularly not if the punishments for failing are harsh, if you press the wrong button if it’s during gameplay where you’re expected to press buttons. Getting blind-sided by a QTE when you’re attacking, dodge-rolling or otherwise doing “stuff” and then taking a large chunk of damage is not fun, it just feels cheap and frustrating.
I’ve now played two games in a row that had this problem. Resident Evil 5, and Prototype. RE5 did not have a whole lot of these instances, though it still had some, but Prototype had plenty. It was always fun to try and do a jump attack, only to then be blind-sided by a big soldier, and instantly failing the QTE because I had just hit the attack button, thus getting suplexed into the ground and losing most of my remaining HP.

Not too long since last time, but there’s been a lot of just staying at home as of late…

Fates of Ort

12.2 hours, 5 of 8 achievements

I reviewed this. It's very good, you should give it a try!


Celestian Tales: Old North

6.5 hours, no achievements

Celestian Tales: Old North is a JRPG that shows some potential, but ultimately falls flat. At the start of the game, you get to pick which of the different characters is your "main", and that one will constantly be in your party, while the rest can be switched in and out at will. Depending on your main character, you'll also get a slightly different start, and the ending will (supposedly) be slightly different, but otherwise the story is the same.

You're playing as a group of squires, who are training to become knights. But then one day an enemy force appears, a group of giants known as world enders are invading your kingdom, and the army has to stop them. And your group does of course get dragged into all of this. There are some hints at great ideas here, the party often talks about their place in society, with the different characters having different views on the roles of nobles, religion and so on, but this ultimately does not lead anywhere. Actually, not leading anywhere is pretty much how I would sum up this game, it starts a lot of things, and hints at a great and interesting world, but it's not there, and then the game abruptly ends in a very anti-climatic way. The DLC is a bit better here in this regard, as it actually has a proper ending, but it's on the other hand a lot less interesting. You kind of need to play the DLC though to understand why a specific thing happened right at the end of the main game though.


The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game

0.6 hours, 6 of 6 achievements

You're a detective who's also a frog, who need to find out why people think there's a ghost living on/under an island. That's the story of this game. The frog detective games are super short, but charming, P&C adventure games that are almost entirely devoid of any challenge. You walk around in a small space, solve very simple puzzles, and then you eventually win. I enjoyed this, but some people will take umbrage with the short length.


Contrast

3 hours, 16 of 2 achievements

Another short one. Contrast is a puzzle platformer with a neat gimmick. You can turn into a shadow, and walk on any other shadows. Light sources and objects can sometimes be moved to change where the shadows are, and this is where the puzzle element comes in. For the most part this works really well, but there were times when the game struggled, particularly with shadows cast on curved surfaces, and sometimes the physics bugged out. This was nothing game breaking, but it's a blemish on an otherwise good game.

I think anyone who enjoys analyzing game stories will have fun with this one, as it's one that does not spoon feed you the answer, but instead hints at a lot of things, but lets you, the player, draw your own conclusions. My conclusion on the story makes it kind of generic for an indie 2D platformer, but you might come to another conclusion. I won't say any more about it though, in case someone wants to play the game.


Star Trek: 25th Anniversary

5.2 hours, no achievements

I'm by no means a Trekkie. I've seen most (but not all) the movies, and my opinion on the original series is kind of lukewarm. I don't dislike it, but I also don't particularly like it. But this game was a pleasant surprise. It's a P&C adventure game along the line of Monkey Island, but with a few twists. The game is basically structured like a series of episodes from the old TV show, with each new "episode" starting on board the Enterprise, where you get informed about something happening somewhere, and you having to go there. Once there you're sometimes dragged into a space battle, and this plays like a simplistic, but not bad, space combat sim (think X-wing or Wing Commander, minus a lot of features). Then you get to talk to the crew on board the bridge, voiced by the original actors from the series, to find out more information, and once that's done you beam down to the planet/space craft and the P&C part begins. Find items, solve puzzles, talk to people, all the familiar stuff. But as this is Star Trek, you also have some crew members with you, including a person wearing a red shirt, who have skills that will help you solve some puzzles. Most puzzles only seem to have one solution, but there are also a few that have multiple, and the game will reward you if you find peaceful, diplomatic solutions, and will scold you if you just shoot the "bad guys".

This game was really good. While some Star Trek fans might be disappointed by the lack of green women to seduce, there's just so much good about this game that I don't get why it's not being talked about more often. This is clearly one of the best P&C games of the early 90's, easily rivaling those of Lucas Arts.


Fates of Ort review

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