ABC Plan Update #2
It’s a unique little experience that smoothly accomplishes what it set out to do. The acting is convincing and the story interesting enough to be worth mulling over after the credits roll. I did happen to find one of the more revealing videos early on, which dampened the mystery a bit.
My only real nitpick is that the interface is very limited when it comes to saving and organizing videos for later viewing. Fortunately this is justified by the story's setting.
Jotun certainly gains a lot of points for presentation. Its visual style is unique, the characters look amazing in motion, and an epic soundtrack is the cherry on top.
While it’s primarily a boss battler, unlocking each boss room first requires you to traverse through several exploration zones in search of runes. These environments display a great sense of scale but are light on combat and puzzle solving, resulting in a feeling of emptiness. Optional health and skill powerups are hidden throughout each one and running around trying to find them all can feel tedious.
The bosses are suitably grandiose, and fortunately the combat controls smoothly. I’d say that the game is suited toward speedrunners in that merely defeating the bosses isn’t all that tough—the true challenge is to do so while adhering to time or skill restraints. I’m not a completionist in the slightest so this type of difficulty doesn’t appeal to me. Still, Jotun was fun and pretty to look at while it lasted.
I was curious to see how the devs would manage to integrate a complex story into a boxing management simulator. Unfortunately they opted to go the easy route and make both aspects as shallow as possible. The story doesn’t take itself at all seriously and has little to offer beyond pop culture references, while the gameplay is simple and repetitive. Train your stats, eat and/or sleep then work jobs to afford more training and eating. Punch Club’s sole unique feature is stat decay. Your fighter loses a portion of his stats at the end of each day, necessitating a continuous grind just to retain his progress. At first, my pitifully slow progression felt like a nice complement to the story’s underdog vibe. Once I gained a better understanding of the game and how to manage my time efficiently, maintaining my stats started to feel like busywork. There were few opportunities to break away from the same daily routine, and no upgrades to work toward except skill points which, naturally, required their own grind. That said, the game’s overall simplicity would have been tolerable had the actual fights been interesting.
Instead they’re also very basic: select a number of skills in advance for your fighter to use then watch the AI take over. Success isn’t determined by strategy—there are few options in that regard—but by how efficient you are at grinding for stat and skill points. About halfway through my playtime I unlocked the best skills, crammed them into my build, and began beating all my fights without changing it once. All that remained was a repetitive slog to the story’s conclusion.
Punch Club was also quite buggy and crashed several times for no apparent reason.
A solid but unmemorable experience. In hindsight, my expectations were unfairly high going in. I loved the cyberpunk aesthetic and was eager to get fully immersed into its universe. It’s just such a cool and attractive setting. The environments are detailed and make excellent use of colour, while the lore is an interesting blend of cyberpunk and high fantasy. What eventually killed my enjoyment of this game was its extreme linearity. There’s a dearth of side content and, aside from a few key characters, the NPCs have little to say. Very few choices matter. The writing quality never rises above average and even seems a bit sloppy at times. I noticed more than a few glaringly obvious typos and grammatical errors. The story itself didn’t do much for me. What started out as a gritty murder mystery eventually went down a silly, cartoonish path. At least some of the characters seemed interesting, if only on a surface level. The game just doesn’t last long enough to give them any meaningful development, instead opting to devote most of its roughly 12 hour runtime to combat missions.
The combat uses a fairly standard turn-based tactical system with guns, action points, and cover. The cover system is just sort of… there. Cover is bountiful enough to have minimal impact on your positioning, so at best it’s just a mild inconvenience. I wouldn’t say that its inclusion makes the battles in any way more enjoyable or difficult. If anything does stand out about the combat, it has to be the skill variety. The class archetypes are nicely diversified and the addition of magic spices things up. I genuinely enjoyed creating and leveling my character. Admittedly I ended up relying on guns most of the time, but it’s nice to have options.
Despite my complaining, I feel that the game had a lot of potential and I’m still looking forward to the other entries in this series.
The Walking Dead did a poor job of making me feel like my choices mattered but made up for it with a tense, unpredictable story. This was my first Telltale game and I was quite impressed by how cinematic they managed to make it. The voice acting’s on point, and the camera angles and dramatic lighting boost the suspense level. I rarely enjoy quicktime events, but here they were integrated nicely into the gameplay. The characters stood out as another high point. They’re written to be heavily flawed, realistic and often unlikable; that’s exactly the sort of characterization I want to see from a zombie apocalypse story.
I thought I was finished with buying games until the next big sale… and then some very nice coupons suddenly started circulating. On the plus side, I’ve started working through my ABC plan again.
This is easily the best written visual novel I’ve experienced. It blends mystery, tragedy and romance in a way that kept me fully engaged throughout, all supported by a masterful translation. There’s not much I can discuss about the plot without veering into spoiler territory. I will say that it’s full of twists and foreshadowing, and genuinely surprised (and pleased) me with the direction it ended up taking. I’ll definitely be giving it a second playthrough to see if there are any hints I overlooked. The characters are what drive the plot forward, and they’re written to be intriguing and multi-faceted.
Fortunately the character portraits match the writing quality. Detailed and somewhat eerie, they do a great job at conveying subtle expressions. They’re pretty far removed from the typical anime style, and I quickly grew to love them. I’m less sure how I feel about the background art. I’ve never been a fan of seeing vague, digitally-manipulated photographs used as backgrounds. There’s certainly value in the power of imagination, but I think the art style here could have been used to create something spectacular.
On the other hand, I have nothing but praise for the music. The House in Fata Morgana eschews voice acting in favour of a diverse, emotional soundtrack with over 60 tracks. Many have vocals which fit in perfectly with the mysterious atmosphere. I must admit that a few of them are still stuck in my head.
I’d recommend this visual novel to anyone who likes romance and/or mystery stories, provided that they have a strong tolerance for disturbing content.
I’m not very familiar with the clicker genre, but Forget Me Not’s unique premise and visual novel elements looked appealing. It has an overarching plot as well as a number of characters with their own little sidestories. These scenes are good at breaking up the monotony but too brief to recommend buying the game for. Most of them last for only a few lines of text, and the main story is resolved quite abruptly. I did find the true ending cute but getting it required a massive grind.
The clicker portion involves watering the trees and harvesting their fruit (organs). Animal helpers can be purchased to increase productivity, but they need to be clicked on occasionally when they wander away from their duties. This is definitely not an idle game. It becomes quite hectic once the garden is outfitted with multiple trees, and the available upgrades do little to automate production. The upgrades themselves aren’t terribly interesting. Repetitive music and sound effects end up adding to the feeling of monotony.
I thought Forget Me Not was a cool experience and enjoyed it at times, but the clicker genre is clearly not for me.
A relaxing puzzle game about a young girl trying to save a flooded city. By absorbing light from lanterns and using it to power various electrical devices, she slowly lowers the water level. The puzzles are simple and somewhat mathematical; most involve figuring out how to allocate the limited amount of light in just the right way. Finishing the game isn’t difficult unless you’re going for 100% completion, which leads to the true ending. I liked the style of puzzles and, while short, the game occasionally introduces new mechanics. As made obvious by some of the controls, this originated as a mobile game. There were a couple times where they became a hindrance.
This game caught my eye due to the beautiful artwork. Combined with a mysterious soundtrack, it creates quite a gloomy atmosphere. There’s also a poorly-translated story revealed through diary entries. I didn’t find it at all interesting. That’s probably a good thing, as the endings are abrupt and disappointing.
I’ll likely try for full completion once I’ve made more progress on the backlog. Plus, it looks like the devs were nice enough to add some new puzzles for New Year’s. I should note that the “RPG” tag on the store page is misleading; this is simply a puzzle game.
Short but satisfying. The main mechanic is the ability to instantly switch between red and blue forms. This grants immunity to certain hazards and allows interaction with same-colour platforms. There’s some heavy reliance on twitch reflexes, but not to the point of frustration. The levels are short—most lasting under a minute—with frequent checkpoints. It definitely feels geared towards speedrunners. I found the stages fun, varied, and decently challenging. The controls felt responsive and couldn’t be blamed for any of my (many) deaths.
In addition I appreciated the unique visual style and use of environmental storytelling. While not the primary focus, there’s a neat little narrative taking place in the background.
I’ve probably spent more time shopping for games these past few months than actually playing them. Hopefully January will be an improvement.
Claire really nails the suspenseful atmosphere without relying on darkness or jump scares. Instead, it combines detailed lighting and unsettling imagery to great effect. The story’s vague but interesting enough, with cutscenes and scattered notes hinting at Claire’s past. I liked the pacing and thought there was a good mix of gameplay and story content.
Other than that, I don’t have many positives to mention. Navigation was a persistent problem. The map, displayed in an overhead perspective, doesn’t quite match up to the sidescrolling scenes. It’s easy to get disoriented, even without taking into account the enemies that roam the halls and will gladly chase Claire through multiple rooms. These enemies were the low point of the game for me. They’re more annoying than scary, but do a considerable amount of damage and tend to camp certain areas. I ended up ignoring several optional objectives after getting tired of running back and forth past the same monsters. Random menu bugs and a pointless sanity system added to the inconvenience.
I loved the art style and animations, but the gameplay eventually became tedious. The mechanics are fairly simple, which is fine, but they’re not used in an interesting way. Most of the platforming involves changing to the right season when you encounter a particular obstacle eg. winter freezes lakes. At first it’s a bit more complex than that, because the game takes place in a fantasy universe where the flora and fauna respond in unexpected ways. I had fun in the beginning interacting with these objects and discovering their capabilities.
Once the game enters its last two thirds, it becomes all about backtracking through the same four zones. Sure, new paths open up through these zones, but there aren’t many new ways to interact with the environment. The game quickly became repetitive and I didn’t feel that its other elements made up for the simple platforming. I found the puzzles pretty basic, and the story a bit too vague to instill any feeling of emotional investment.
An on-rails dungeon crawler in which all your skills, equipment and items take the form of collectible cards. I had some reservations about picking this game up because it seemed a bit too simplistic. I did end up enjoying it, but its stripped-down mechanics frustrated me at times.
The story’s threadbare and, while the papercraft aesthetic is neat, the dungeon levels are pretty bland in layout and appearance. Combat is the main focus, and fortunately it’s more complex than just clicking on monsters. A variety of status effects require you to click elsewhere on the screen, and AOE attacks provide some need for positioning. The different types of monsters have unique mechanics and I had fun fighting most of them. Plus, there are frequent minibosses with multiple attack phases to spice things up.
My main complaint is that completing the story felt too easy and I didn’t come close to dying. There are healing springs scattered all over the place, equipment cards with passive healing effects, and a very powerful health potion that can be refilled after every floor. Even the minibosses don’t pose much of a threat due to their low hp. I was often able to complete a phase before the boss even had time to attack. After my first run to beat the Archdemon (about 8 hours) a freemode opened up allowing me to continue descending through the dungeon on higher difficulties. In my opinion this is where Book of Demons suffers from its simplicity. I already looted nearly all the available cards during my first playthrough, and there’s not much left to do but grind for slightly stronger versions of them.
There were also a lot of little annoyances that started to get on my nerves toward the end. In particular, the movement controls can feel unresponsive and make it a chore to dodge projectiles.
ABC Plan Update #1
I got distracted by the September “play a game you won on SteamGifts” challenge and fell a bit behind on my ABC plan. Still, with 7 games down I’m cautiously optimistic about finishing my list by year end.
The cute and heartwarming story of a shut-in’s quest to make friends. It’s essentially a visual novel with a bit of adventure mixed in. It feels very high quality for its price, with great art and music and a smooth translation. I really enjoyed the writing, and there are some nice gameplay elements as well.
The game is split across several acts, each starting with a main story portion. In these linear segments the protagonist talks to NPCs and collects conversation topics. At key moments, there’s a conversation system in which you must use the right topic at the right point in the dialogue. I found it worked pretty well once I understood the game’s logic.
After comes a free roam portion in which the goal is to revisit previous areas and attempt to befriend NPCs by giving them gifts. This part of the game can get a bit grindy, as the money to buy gifts is obtained by repeatedly playing minigames. Fortunately there’s an easy way ingame to gain infinite money. Some of the friends’ stories are more interesting than others, but it’s worthwhile to befriend them all to unlock a special epilogue.
My only issue with the game is that it runs at a low resolution, and enlarging it results in some pixelization.
I was drawn to this game by the nicely animated battle sprites and a number of unique features not commonly seen in RPG Maker style games. In dungeons, enemies are represented as dark shadows on the field and touching one leads to a turn-based encounter. Turn order is based on speed, and is made very important due to a combo system. Hitting an enemy between its turns racks up combo hits that do progressively more damage. Certain skills are able to break the combo in exchange for dealing massive damage based on the number of accumulated hits. Factor in a stun meter that can be filled to make an enemy lose a turn or two, and there’s a fair amount of strategy involved. There’s also a skill point system that has a significant effect on how the characters operate during battle.
I was disappointed to find that these features don’t really matter, because the game is too easy overall. By fully exploring the dungeons I was quickly overleveled and never faced any risk of dying. The lategame bosses had no special mechanics and didn’t pose a challenge; they just had tons of hp. I did find the battles to be decently fast-paced and fun in the beginning, but the low difficulty eventually made them boring.
My main issue with Arelite Core was its weak storytelling. The plot is generic and there’s barely any lore to develop the setting (which is actually quite unique). I found the characters to be pretty one-note, especially the villains. They go through some dramatic ordeals during their quest, but I didn’t feel much incentive to care.
I don’t think the game’s quality justifies its price tag. Outside of the battle sprites it’s a mixed bag visually. The tilesets are pretty bland and one in particular is reused in at least five dungeons. The character portraits lack expression and the writing is grammatically questionable. There are no side quests and it took me about 16 hours to complete the story while exploring as much as possible.
I had a lot of fun with this game. The combat feels responsive and impactful, and the environments are a joy to explore. I appreciate games like this which actually reward exploration. I did find that the game dragged a bit toward the end, due to repetitive encounters and a number of guns/vigors that felt samey. Plus the upgrading system encouraged me to focus on only a couple of each, so gaining a new vigor quickly lost its excitement.
The story does a good job of building intrigue but a slew of plot conveniences and bland antagonists soured the experience a bit. I managed to miss quite a few voxophones despite seemingly exploring every inch of the maps, but the story wasn’t too hard to piece together.
The Burial at Sea DLCs were a refreshing change of pace with their more suspenseful setting. A higher emphasis on stealth makes enemy encounters feel more meaningful. The vigors and weapons, especially in the second chapter, feel more diverse and I used a wider variety of them. I’ll have to get around to playing the first two Bioshock games one of these days.
This puzzle platformer bases itself around a simple mechanic—balancing light and dark energy. Each has its own effect; light energy allows for higher vertical jumping while dark increases movement speed and horizontal jump distance. The balance of these elements is changed by interacting with a variety of environmental hazards, and absorbing too much of either type results in instant death. The main character must platform her way through a series of power plants while solving simple puzzles. Add in a unique setting and a strong emphasis on story, and Even the Ocean made a good first impression on me.
As it turns out, the game doesn’t handle any of its components all that well. The special attributes of light/dark energy are used in only a handful of puzzles. The focus is instead placed on standard platforming while keeping the energies balanced to avoid death. Platforming is easy and each stage has its own little gimmick, but I was expecting a little more out of the game’s unique setup.
The plot is generic until it suddenly throws in some heavy religious overtones. I thought they were handled poorly, and some heavy moralizing toward the end didn’t help. There’s an option to skip the plot entirely and just speedrun through the platforming segments, but I’m not sure the gameplay is good enough on its own to warrant a purchase.
Fumiko! follows the journey of the titular A.I. in a quest to determine her purpose. She’s equipped with some impressive mobility, and has some of the highest jumps I’ve seen in a platformer. The jumps are intentionally floaty, but I never found them unfair. As someone who rarely plays 3D platformers, I thought the game offered a good challenge.
There’s a compelling narrative and an immersive atmosphere, despite the low-poly world. Environments range from serene to broken and chaotic and the music fits the mood. It’s possible to rush through the story, but exploration is rewarded. Memory fragments are scattered throughout the zones and serve to provide more insight into the story. Many of them can only be obtained through careful platforming. Collecting them all was one of my favourite parts, and the game helpfully displays how many are remaining in each zone.
The developer has made a demo available; if you like it you should enjoy the rest of the game.
This really plays more like a visual novel than an adventure game. Controlling the protagonists is limited to choosing dialogue options and sometimes solving a simple puzzle. The game’s unique aspect is that it’s set up as a stage play, with moving set pieces and the occasional audience reaction. It keeps things visually interesting, but I would have preferred a traditional point-and-click where I could interact with things in the environment.
I never became interested in the story. The underlying mystery didn’t appeal to me, and the characters weren’t strong enough to make up for that. I’m not sure how much the choices matter, and I don’t intend to find out. My opinions aside, Knee Deep also comes with quite a few audio and visual bugs. I did like some of the music at least.
The story is set during a tumultuous time in Indonesia’s history, but it’s let down by a shoddy translation which goes beyond awkward grammar. There are typos galore, repeated lines of dialogue, and a few lines of text that trail off the screen. I didn’t mind the writing so much in the beginning, but it became particularly amateurish during the more dramatic moments.
There’s also a lot of verbose philosophizing about the nature of god and humanity. It’s within character for the adult protagonist, but not so much for a preteen child. I would have preferred more of a focus on character development or having choices that matter. I should note that the story ends on a cliffhanger, and the second episode is yet to be announced.
The art and voice acting are competent, but I don’t think Mayjasmine has many other redeeming qualities.
My backlog is still growing faster than I can play through it, but I made some good progress last month. I finished this round of Challenge Me! and beat a few games on my ABC Challenge list. The ABC games will get their own update post… someday.
A typing adventure game? I have a soft spot for unique games, and this one turned out to be very good. The origami-style environments are a pleasure to explore and the narration creates an aura of mystery. I wouldn’t say that the plot is particularly compelling, but at least it provides some sense of direction. Much of the game’s playtime is spent in dungeons, each of which is visually distinct and has its own type of puzzle. The typing mechanic is used during exploration to interact with the environment, such as by freezing bodies of water.
Typing also plays a key role in combat, and it’s here that Epistory really shines. Battles involve facing off against swarms of insect enemies, each defeated by typing one or more words. During your journey you’ll acquire four elements with unique effects in battle. Of course, some enemies are only susceptible to specific elements. Having to rapidly switch between elements to handle a large horde of approaching enemies adds tension to an otherwise relaxing game. I found the difficulty to be consistent throughout, and the encounters offered a decent challenge. The game is supposed to adjust its difficulty based on your typing speed, so I expect this would remain true for others.
You don’t have to be a fast typist in order to complete the main story. You’ll be fine as long as you can type without looking at the keyboard. For those seeking more of a challenge, optional monster nests are scattered around the overworld and an arena mode is unlocked after the main story.
I had some decent fun with this steampunk puzzle platformer. The protagonist pilots a Scarabeus—a giant steam-powered ball. By docking into special stations it gains the ability to shoot out smaller balls à la pinball or minigolf. There are various types of balls; for instance, one creates a ramp if it hits a wall. This forms the game’s puzzle element, and the goal is usually to make one of your balls activate a switch. The puzzles aren’t particularly complex but can require some trial-and-error. The Scarabeus gains new ball-shooting abilities regularly throughout the game’s 18 levels. I enjoyed the puzzles and found the stages varied enough to remain interesting.
In later levels Steamroll starts to place a greater emphasis on platforming. This typical involves gingerly maneuvering the Scarabeus through a series of cliffs, ramps and thin ledges. Reminder that the Scarabeus is a giant metal globe propelled by gusts of hot air; it controls about as well as you’d expect. I really wasn’t a fan of this element and just wanted to get back to the minigolf.
Steamroll gets a tentative recommendation despite some flaws. It’s short and a bit buggy, but implements its unique features well. If you like minigolf games, you should get a few hours of fun out of it.
Broken Age starts off slow but promising. The setting is creative, the animation excellent, and the story intriguing. Puzzles are logical but a bit on the simple side. The ability to switch at will between two characters with different settings keeps things moving in case a solution isn’t obvious. I was interested to find out where the story would go and how the two protagonists were related.
Then the game enters its second Act, and everything seems to go downhill. The story starts to follow a more generic path, and most of the mystery established in the first Act is essentially invalidated. There’s some characterization that makes little sense. The puzzles take a dip in quality as well. There’s a lot more backtracking and trial-and-error involved. I found a certain group of puzzles to be especially frustrating and illogical from a story perspective. They require one protagonist to employ knowledge gained by the other, even though they have no way to communicate.
I ended up being unsatisfied with how the story was resolved and found the game lackluster overall.
I’m terrible at deciding what to play next, so joining the challenge should give me some sense of direction. My list
- Games may be played in any order
- Games not on the list may also be played
- Any game can be swapped for one starting with the same letter
- List should be finished by the end of this year
- But this is optional. I might have put too many RPGs on my list ^^;
A bunch of my wishlisted games have shown up in recent bundles, so the backlog continues to grow. I also picked up The Sexy Brutale and Beat Cop from Steam sales. Hmm… they’ll probably end up in bundles before I get around to playing them.
This is essentially an easy puzzle game which never increases in difficulty or complexity. Having 30 seconds to beat the boss in each stage is a cool gimmick, but in terms of gameplay it just means having to constantly run back to town to reset the time. Some of the branching paths are interesting, but the game is still very repetitive. There are some cute characters but in my opinion the writing was never funny, just mildly amusing. I was expecting the game to poke a little more fun at JRPG and anime tropes.
I checked out some of the other game modes after completing Hero 30 but they didn’t appeal to me, so I’m finished with this one.
I found this casual platformer to be decent, but not great. Its main draws are the cute characters and Alaskan setting. The player can switch between controlling the little girl (Nuna) and an arctic fox, each with their own abilities. Nuna can throw a weapon to destroy obstacles, while the fox can reveal and manipulate hidden spirits that serve as platforms. The game handles this well enough; switching between characters is seamless and there’s minimal need for micromanagement. While playing as one character, the other is controlled by AI and will either follow the player or stay put depending on the situation. The AI would often dutifully follow me over platforming sequences, and only rarely got caught on the environment. The platforming is also handled decently but sometimes feels imprecise.
When it comes to puzzles, the game is overly simplistic. It’s always obvious which character’s ability is needed, and the game quickly devolves into a predictable gameplay loop of moving Nuna as far as she can go, switching to the fox, and dragging any spirits over to Nuna to serve as platforms. There are a handful of unique puzzles, but I found them to be too far and few between.
One of the game’s better features is the documentary-style videos that can be unlocked during play. These provide information about Alaskan native culture, and are well done. So are the game’s visuals and audio in general. The characters are nicely animated and there’s some good narration throughout. I’m sure that Never Alone’s style and setting will appeal to a lot of people, but to me they didn’t quite make up for the mediocre gameplay.
Alan Wake has some unique ideas and I think it pulls them off well. I appreciated the emphasis it places on storytelling; the cinematic cutscenes are very well done, and the voice acting is excellent. The collectible manuscript pages are interesting especially when they describe events from an NPC’s perspective. Sometimes they introduce scenes which are yet to occur. It’s an interesting design choice, and I found that they increased the suspense rather than spoiled the surprise.
Both the story and gameplay stress the importance of light. Enemies are surrounded by darkness which must be burned away by a light source before they become vulnerable to damage. There’s a decent variety of consumable and environmental light sources, and I liked the complexity this added to combat. The enemies are quite threatening due to their speed, damage, and some unnerving voice acting. Fortunately for me, the game doesn’t rely on jump scares—in fact, it goes out of its way to avoid them. It makes up for this with its atmosphere. The wooded areas look great at night and the foliage effects deserve special mention. Lots of little details, like historical monuments and radio broadcasts, help bring life to the setting.
My only real complaint about Alan Wake is that it becomes repetitive toward the end. It could’ve used at least one more enemy type, especially in the final episode. It’s still an excellent game regardless.
This is a very solid adventure game that avoids the major flaws of its genre. There are no illogical puzzle solutions or pixel hunting. All of the puzzles involve figuring out where to use or how to combine objects. If needed, the ingame hint system is very good at providing a nudge in the right direction.
Whether this game is worth playing will depend on how you like its sense of humour. The story is firmly tongue-in-cheek and often ridiculous. I liked a good number of the jokes, but found some to be needlessly puerile. The script is delivered with decent voice acting, though voiced lines occasionally fail to play.
I had fun with this one. The three episodes were pretty consistent in quality, and lasted 2-3 hours each.
Well, time for my first update. I’ve knocked a number of small games off my backlog since joining the site, but in my updates I’ll only be mentioning the most noteworthy ones. I probably won’t be updating in a regular fashion, only when I’ve completed several games that I have a strong opinion about.
My favourite aspect of this game was undoubtedly its atmosphere. The minimalist art style and moody soundtrack fit well with the post-apocalyptic setting. There were many tense moments during the exploration phases, partially due to limited resource availability. Looking through the abandoned buildings and reading notes left by the residents was genuinely fun.
I can’t say the same for the combat, which felt tedious and unrewarding. There was a decent variety of enemy types, but dealing with them quickly became boring due to the overall simplicity of the combat system. The Infected felt merely like obstacles to be shot or punched until a path was cleared, rather than actual threats. Annoyingly, the game tended to place large groups of them in small rooms. I could either rush in and waste resources killing them as quickly as possible, or exploit their AI. Neither option was particularly enjoyable.
The train sections were the most disappointing. I expected these sections to serve as the main source of exposition, but the passenger conversations added little to my understanding of the game’s world. For the most part they were just boring, when they weren’t being interrupted by the train maintenance tasks. The writing overall was marred by an awkward translation and grammatical errors. I just couldn’t get invested in the bland characters or incoherent story.
The Final Station was also painfully short; my playthrough took about 5 hours. I don’t have an issue with short narrative games in general, but this one felt unfinished. There were several locations on the map that I assumed would be playable but weren’t, and I had stored up a good amount of money during the final stages with no opportunity to spend it.
I don’t regret playing The Final Station. It was unique and the atmosphere made up for some of its flaws. I doubt I’ll play it again though.
The Final Station - The Only Traitor
I slightly preferred the DLC to the base game. The train sections were removed and replaced by less interactive car sections which allowed the characters to converse without interruption. A major change was that only one passenger could be brought along at a time. Each passenger had different stats, determining their ability to heal the player and craft items between exploration settings. They also had different personalities and information to share with the player, which formed the main incentive for replaying the DLC.
Combat was improved and melee in particular felt much more effective. There were a few new enemy types with their own gimmicks, but they weren’t much more threatening than the others. Beyond that the DLC was just more of the same, both good and bad. The exploration was still good, with some beautiful environments to visit and interesting notes to find. The writing quality was no better than in the base game, and the story just as ambiguous. The protagonist was a bit more interesting. Unlike the base game’s protagonist, this one had his own dialogue and more of a personality.
The Only Traitor took maybe 4 hours to complete. Due to the linearity of the gameplay sections and the weak storytelling, I probably won’t bother to replay it with different passengers.
My thoughts about this one are, in a word, ambivalent. Well, to get some of the more obvious points out of the way, the animations and graphical quality were amazing. The soundtrack always fit the setting and was quite epic when it needed to be.
The characters were charming and often quirky, but lacked depth and backstory. I never got attached to Otus or his companions, which made the game’s more emotional scenes seem a little pointless. There was a bit of forced drama which didn’t make much sense even in context, and seemed to be there just to temporarily remove a companion from the party. There were many cutscenes that felt like a waste considering how generic the overarching storyline was. The parts of the writing I was actually interested in—the lore and setting—received far less attention.
There were several things I liked about the gameplay; the flying mechanics felt great and the companions all had unique abilities with their own uses during boss fights. Enemies were well-designed and had interesting behaviours. I liked the bosses as well, and had little difficulty with them once I learned their attack patterns. Any issues I had with them were mainly due to the controls. Playing with a controller I found that certain combat mechanics felt sluggish (ex. throwing).
I really liked Owlboy’s open areas where I could simply explore and enjoy flying around. Bafflingly, most dungeons seemed to be at odds with the flying mechanic rather than take advantage of it. Tight corridors and slow stealth sections are not quite what I was hoping for. Puzzles were simple and repetitive, but not offensively so.
I did enjoy the time I spent with Owlboy, despite some frustrating sections. I don’t think it lived up to its potential, but I would be open to playing a sequel.