Category Archives: Games

How SEGA Should Approach Alien: Isolation II

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The Alien video game series, much like the titular movie series, has experienced its fair share of ups and downs over the years. There have been innovative flops such as Alien vs Predator, there have been outright horror stories such as Colonial Marines, and there have been sleeper successes such as Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation.

Not too many months ago I watched the highly anticipated Alien: Covenant and was much more pleased with it than I had been with Prometheus in terms of pushing the series and its speculative origins to the brink and successfully exploring new ideas as well as old. That got me thinking about the potential for another installment in the video game series, particularly one that catered more to the type of gameplay and audience that Isolation did rather than anything AVP or Colonial Marines may have attempted to do.

Details wise, it’s pretty much impossible for us to see another game from Creative Assembly themselves as the majority of talented designers who worked on Isolation have since left and gone on to other projects. Those that do remain recently wrapped up their work on Halo Wars 2 and are supposedly in the talks to continue their work on an as of yet pretty much unknown IP or project. However, that doesn’t mean SEGA couldn’t or even shouldn’t (or wouldn’t) tap into the same or similar sort of creative mindset that led them to select the bright minds at Creative Assembly as their leads for Alien: Isolation. There are a number of talented studios out there and far be it from me to say who should get the chance to put their own spin on such a popular series.

Ironically, I think perhaps the best route to go besides implementing a fairly fresh story like Alien: Isolation, albeit one that fits categorically into the original universe and into Ripley (by extension, her daughter) and others’ story, would be to detail the events between Prometheus and Covenant. This is where things are going to get a little bit hairy so if you’ve yet to play Isolation or don’t want the majority of the Alien/Prometheus series ruined for you on accident as I happily and nonsensically drop details, leave now or forever hold your peace.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed how canonically the story of Isolation fit just as well into the original universe as Covenant and Prometheus are starting to fit into the entirety of the series, I don’t want to see what is essentially Alien: Isolation II. I want to see something that is similar but not the same. As fun as it would be, I don’t want a sequel- I want another Alien title that takes the best elements of Isolation but boasts a new story and slightly different enemies and encounters as well as some brand new ideas. What better way to do that and semi-ironically make a movie tie-in game of sorts than to detail certain events from David’s previous experiments and the untimely death of Elizabeth Shaw after the events of Prometheus but prior to Covenant?

Allow me to clarify a little bit further. In order to be successful I think the game would have to include more of the aesthetic and elements of Covenant than Prometheus for sure, but that it should also maintain what worked in Isolation and not be a shooter or anything other than pure survival horror at its finest moments. The storytelling and pacing could be much similar to Isolation but perhaps set in the derelict ruins seen in Covenant or in the downed ship that David crashed. I would love to see a small team of engineers or something perhaps crash land on the exoplanet and slowly fall prey to David’s mischievous and diabolical experiments along the way. Michael Fassbender could even lend his voice and likeness to the character should it actually be feasible to include in-game.

Rather than the enclosed hallways and occasional open areas of the Sevastopol space station players could instead explore equal parts open fields and enclosed tombs and ruins of likewise free-form sort of levels and encounters. Many of the dynamics that made the first game thrilling could easily be re-implemented here as well and remain just as fluid and fresh. I would love to see the slightly varied looks of the alien creatures as they develop throughout the story and although it wouldn’t be exactly canonically accurate to have the classic look for the Xenomorph itself, the Neomorph and such variations of chestbursters and whatnot would be a sight to behold still.

There are numerous directions that SEGA could choose to go or not go in with the series but rather than some paltry attempt at another shooter or yet another AVP sequel, I’d much rather see survival horror in the vein of Isolation’s success. Whether or not the story is anything similar to the recently released Covenant or whether it features an entirely new time, story line, or characters matters little in the grand scheme of things. These are merely some of my farfetched ideas at this time.

If you have any of your own thoughts about what a theoretical next Alien title should or could or shouldn’t or couldn’t do, feel free to comment and I’ll happily discuss the series and my own thoughts with you. Cheers.

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A Lasting Legacy

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This blog is entirely not about The Witcher 3 in actuality so I do apologize if the title calling card of a picture is misleading, however seeing as Geralt’s continued adventures remain some of my favorite games of all time I feel it is likewise fitting. This particular blog post is instead about my own personal legacy, however great or however meager that may turn out to be. It is a retrospective reference to my own previous writings and pieces regarding games, films, and other discussion which I’ve had in the past nearly six years on this site and others like it. I do hope you all will enjoy some of my more classic appearances.

Although I have some published twenty-plus pages of content on my blog located at GIO alone (with twelve blogs per page) in addition to countless reviews in that particular section, I will more than likely stick to blogs of substance rather than review here. Pieces that either interest me or seem more relevant now than they even did at the time perhaps. Sadly I won’t be going over content solely found on SNo2 as it’s been more than a hot minute since I did much other than sports updates or poetry and whatnot here in terms of creative writing.

Please do keep in mind that some of these blogs that will be mentioned are fairly old and as such may have broken links or pictures that failed to load. I know it’ll make the quality look a lot worse for wear but we’re here to read more so than to visualize in most cases.

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Perhaps you wouldn’t believe it considering I hardly find the time or reason to talk about the game in conversation on a daily basis much anymore, but Portal 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. Yes, even besides the obvious topics of discussion that The Witcher 3 and Valve being unable to count to the number three in over two decades bring.

As such, found it within myself to do a little soul searching and take a walk down memory lane in 2012 in regards to Portal 2. You can check out my little synopsis of the game modes as well as my own personal thoughts on what went right and what didn’t quite happen in ‘Revisiting Portal 2.’

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Later on in 2012, after several excellent titles had already been released that year I took it upon myself to go back and mull over yet another influential title of the past and one of the shining gems of that console generation. If you even have to ask yourself what this particular game could be then rest easy knowing your first guess and probable assumption was correct in that it was Irrational Games’ original Bioshock.

My post at the time wasn’t one concerning necessarily Bioshock in its entirety but instead the characterization of Jack and the impact choice has on both him personally and the game itself in a myriad of ways. It was and still is a fairly lengthy piece rife with spoilers but for any of you interested in what I have to say about Jack’s possible redemption, check out the aptly titled ‘Jack’s Redemption.’

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If you really want a glimpse into my mind in terms of the types of games I play outside of the usual blockbuster titles that release pretty much every year and that I feel almost obligated to play and review, then it’s important to step into my shoes at some points as well. In order to do that, I’ve actually already prepared at least one list of games that I think were not only good but actively defined an entire generation of console or computer gaming.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and see into some of the twists and turns of my inner synapses and brain blast your way through to the conclusion, go ahead and give this a whirl as well. There may be a few surprising choices in there for some of you so expect to see equal measures sure-fire choices and several intriguing ones as well.

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I don’t always have second thoughts or third thoughts for that matter about much of anything much less video games, but when I do, I make sure to dedicate an entire blog series to them. Such was and still probably is the case regarding Naughty Dog’s purely epic The Last of Us. Not long after it had initially released, I not only reviewed the game but also issued my own declaration of love and appreciation for the gritty survival tale.

Not too much longer after that, I also issued a second opinion of it critiquing some of the parts that could use work and praising the other ninety-seven percent of the game. If you’re interested in reading some thoughts that while spoilerific aren’t in many ways necessarily related to a review you may or may not have read, then go check out thiiiis blog.

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It’s not every day that I get to share a little bit of my own creative writing or show you the twists and turns of my mind and how it works during the writing process, but occasionally I throw caution to the wind and write up a little piece purely to share. Such has been the case in the past and undoubtedly such will be the case again in the future when I’m not so horribly sidetracked by all the work and writing I’m having to do on larger issues.

Wake-Up Call‘ is an interesting little ditty and a twisting story that may not be entirely what you think it is in the beginning, much like The Phantom Pain in that aspect. It’s not so much that the prospective character doesn’t know who they really are but rather that there’s some withheld information from the start and that readers are going to slowly follow the trickle of information to its source at the conclusion. Oh, and there’s pirates.

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One of my proudest blogging moments isn’t necessarily the completion of my 31/31 (which actually ended up being a 32/31) but instead the fact that I managed to deliver at least mostly worthwhile and thought provoking content for a month straight. As such, I picked one of my constant favorites from that month of blogging and you’ll be pleased to know it talks about both classic literature and gaming- assuming at least one of those is your niche “thing.”

If you guessed “Heart of Darkness” and Spec Ops: The Line then *ding ding ding we have a winner! Not only is my blog post a little bit of an analysis here and there but it also covers some topics you may not have immediately made connections to or with if you’ve played Spec Ops: The Line already. And if you’re interested in the game whether you’ve played it or not, seeing as you’ve probably had it spoiled for you in some way or form already, feel free to check out the blog here as well.

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If you’re like me and can’t really ever get enough of Rocksteady’s excellent Batman saga then you’ll be particularly fond of this next series of blogs. This particular entry is actually going to cover three separate posts that discuss the villains and overall interesting and unique characters I would’ve been interested in seeing done in the Arkham-verse and placed into Arkham Knight. Of course, now that the game is out we know who in fact made the cut and who didn’t.

From Hush to the Great White Shark you can find some interesting tales here, from everybody’s bonkers Mad Hatter to Deadshot over here, and for the lowkey we have Death Rattle to Tally Man over here. Step right up and grab your tickets to the world’s weirdest freak show.

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While the majority of us are coming down after the veritable high that is the entirety of the Dark Souls III experience, and the series in its entirety as well I should say, this next blog focuses on some shenanigans within the confines of the original title. Dark Souls is an instant classic and while the series has been perfecting the formula since Demons Souls essentially, the first Dark Souls will always hold a unique place in my heart.

Also, I think it’s fair to mention that some pretty bonkers things can happen in the game’s world and as such you’re best left to your own devices when countering that with your own crazy quests. Such was the role of my created character in this blog discussion panel as I recount the experience of sending him into Sen’s Fortress- a notoriously difficult area…with the added challenge of being stripped bare of armor and weapons. Read and weep.

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A lot of times I feel it is only fair to end where you’ve begun so that you can see the entirety of the process as a whole and reflect upon that as well as appreciate that. As such, I’m ending with none other than the master Witcher himself. Perhaps the most recent of the pieces that I’ve gone over in this post, my comparison of the Wild Hunt and Breath of the Wild- in more than simple nomenclature of course, is something that fans of both CD Projekt and Nintendo should enjoy.

If you don’t believe me, feel free to check it out for yourself at the handy link on the word pineapple right there. Other than that, feel free to enjoy your weekend as it is more than likely upcoming and looming on the horizon ominously (in a good way I hope). I hope you’ve enjoyed an easier read and some new potential reading material or perhaps food for thought and response. Feel free to comment as you wish, as I’ll always be open to questions and concerns. Cheers.

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Games I Didn’t Review In 2016: Infinite Warfare

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My history with the Call of Duty series is an interesting one: I’m one of the few people who actually plays the series for its story as well as the frenetic multiplayer mayhem. I do enjoy a good if cliched tale from time to time and the Call of Duty series provides that as well as over the top thrills about one in every three titles or so. Although the series trend of pushing into the future is coming to at least a temporary halt with Sledgehammer Games’ turning back of the clock to World War II, I for one enjoyed the campaigns of both Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare immensely as well as the multiplayer of Black Ops III.

While the series has been largely hit or miss in terms of quality since 2011’s Modern Warfare 3- a game I immensely enjoyed yet recognized its handy amount of faults, it’s still a series I enjoy even if it has largely done the majority of things all shooters nowadays do. Black Ops II had a thrilling story and admittedly good multiplayer. Ghosts was a mess through and through and likely the lowest we’ve seen the series come thus far. Advanced Warfare was a brave and bold and satisfying push into the future. Black Ops III was a mess in terms of story but brought the fun factor back. And here we are, set to talk about Infinite Warfare- a game that received near standing ovations when the initial trailer was shown, only to be dissed and booed unceremoniously once it was revealed to be the next Call of Duty.

The fanbase constantly ceases to amaze or to let down whenever news is shown about upcoming games- often deriding the game all the way until release and then purchasing the title anyway. Despite my confusion over the antics of a fanbase largely comprised of prepubescent teens and then of shooter fans everywhere of every age, I can understand the mixed feeling over the most recent Call of Duty release. Infinite Warfare is the furthest from the series initial start that we’ve come and that we’re likely to see anytime soon but that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, I’d say that the game is best when it tries the least to be like any Call of Duty title we’ve yet experienced. The single player campaign is challenging and fantastic in its authorial intent- at its best when showcasing the horrors even of a future war, at its most sluggish when attempting to needlessly tie in old concepts or series staple gimmicks. The free-form-ish exploration and level design is in the vein of Black Ops III and some of the broadest and most open we’ve yet to see.

I cannot express my satisfaction for the single player campaign any more than I already have but the downsides to the game come in the other modes. While I will say that it is a fair assessment of Infinite Warfare to call it perhaps one of the most complete Call of Duty titles to date- offering Zombies, classic multiplayer, and a unique story mode, that does not say anything about the quality of each game mode. The multiplayer is largely what you would expect from the series with the added aspects largely present to some degree in this particular universe and story. It frustratingly places an emphasis on speed and mobility while restraining your movement and mobility at the same time, settling somewhere between Ghosts/Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III on the spectrum of such abilities. Infinity Ward obviously took notes from previous games in the aftermath of Ghosts and yet they still failed to hit the mark and honestly for one reason or another this has been the least satisfying multiplayer component outside of Ghosts to date.

On the subject of Zombies it’s much of the same story but things work a tad bit better than in the rest of the online component. The age old formula remains largely unchanged and the graphics and gimmicks are all well and good however the gameplay just falls a little flat at times and I never felt quite as into it as I have in the first two Black Ops titles. Over the past few titles (essentially since Advanced Warfare) I’ve found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the Zombies offering for one reason or another and I think I’ve finally pinned down as to why that is: I simply don’t enjoy future zombies or overused ideas anymore than I particularly enjoyed facing the Flood or The Library in Halo.

If I had to justify my commentary with a score of some sort and apply that to the game then I may sound harsher than the actual numerical value I’m likely to assign the title. In my mind even despite its flaws, Infinite Warfare should be no less than an eighty percent or 8/10 and no more than a ninety percent or 9/10. Anywhere in between there could be arguably applicable depending largely on what aspects you’re likely to focus on. The campaign, while replayable for sure is still possible to complete on higher difficulties at one hundred percent and then never be returned to. It’s more rewarding and more challenging than in the past which in turn makes it much more worthwhile and engaging however in its messages and character building. As for the rest of the package, there are some solid foundations and ideas but it’s been done much better before in the series and as such isn’t the most compelling example of Call of Duty heritage.

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My Favorite Games: A Decade Long Retrospective Pt. 5

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It’s been some time since the last iteration of this blog series, however here I am bringing you the next post in succession- as well as more on both my Pokemon and Borderlands 2 retrospectives in the near future. For those of you who either do not remember or have yet to read this particular series of blogs, I’ve been focusing on my favorite games of the last decade from roughly 2005 to the present year. There are plenty more excellent titles than the ones I will be and have been listing, however those that do get selected are oftentimes the games I’ve mastered and sunk a ridiculous amount of time into completing to one hundred percent. This particular post may be the penultimate one as I will be focusing on the years 2013 and 2014. Feel free to comment as you please.

2013: Dead Space 3, Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, Injustice Gods Among Us, Metro Last Light, The Last of Us, Outlast, Grand Theft Auto V, The Wolf Among Us, Killzone Shadow Fall.

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I have a strange history with many games that are the third in a series- particularly Dead Space 3 and Assassin’s Creed 3 in recent years. The main thing these two titles have in common is that they’ve been polarizing in the mixed reviews they’ve received and yet despite it all I’ve awarded both of them a whopping 9.75 upon release and completed them to 100% and poured numerous hours into the experiences. Whatever you may think of Dead Space 3 in particular and it’s faults- too many human enemies, not enough horror, too much action, etc etc, I’ve still undoubtedly enjoyed the evolution of Isaac Clarke’s journey. Am I disappointed that we haven’t seen a new Dead Space game in years and likely won’t outside of a potential reboot? Yes, yes I am. Am I glad they aren’t continuing to ruin the series by milking it? Without a doubt.

Crysis 3 is the culmination of one of the most beautiful yet confusing series I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. Crysis continually offers excellent gameplay and has some really innovative ideas. 2013 was jokingly the year of the bow and Crysis 3 is one of the largest proponents of that whole deal- Tomb Raider being the other major player there. Crysis 2 is one of my favorite games of all time and features the best story in the series and yet Crysis 3 manages to step things up in every single way whereas action and adventure are concerned. You truly take things to a global scale even if the story gets completely muddled in the process. There’s some weird thing I also seem to have with the second game in a trilogy being my favorite (hell, it even extends to film a la Empire Strikes Back)- look no further than other notorious mentions such as FEAR 2: Project Origin. Crysis 3 will always look beautiful in terms of graphics and run smoother than many games can manage now.

I was super skeptical and yet super stoked when the Tomb Raider reboot was announced and eventually released. The end result is a game and a series that I have renewed my love affair with and so long as the quality holds up as it has in both 2013 and the sequel, I’m going to remember for a long time. I’ve been playing the Tomb Raider games since their inception and have loved the series even at its lower points, however it’s very easy to see that this new direction has pushed the series to its limits and in an interesting new direction. It was great to see the survival and even horror aspects of 2013’s adventure and then to see the survival and action hero aspects of the sequel. I’m looking forward to more of the gritty world traveling and bloody, up close violence in whatever sequel may come next.

Bioshock Infinite is an interesting species, that’s for sure. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the memories created by the series as a whole and yet the first and third entries take the cake mainly for the emotions that they’ve elicited. It’s weird to admit a game that eventually turns into a shooter mostly devoid of physical attachment can make me feel so strongly and yet that’s exactly what Bioshock Infinite managed to do when it truly melded the stories in the series together with Burial at Sea and showcased the descent of Rapture and Elizabeth’s part in larger things. Betrayal, blood, and baths- three things you should really watch out for if you’re Booker DeWitt or Elizabeth apparently. And twists, twists, twists. Good times…

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Ever since anybody would listen, I’ve been harping on the merits of first Injustice: Gods Among Us and now Injustice 2. They are rich and plentiful and the sequel has truly proven that if the base formula is correct you can still refine things and create something three times better. I thought the first superhero fighter was one of Netherrealm’s best titles yet, topping even Mortal Kombat and then Mortal Kombat X in terms of story and depth. And now I’ve been wowed even more so by the complexity and yet simple substance that Injustice 2 has to offer. Nothing will beat my jaw hitting the floor when Superman slammed a fist through the Joker’s black heart within the opening moments of the first game however.

Metro 2033 is a very interesting experience packaged in a game that does some things right while battling against both bugs and flaws. I thoroughly enjoyed the game but appreciate the sequel a lot more for fixing most of the problems relevant to the first one’s woes. Last Light doesn’t change too much up so much as it makes the experience both more accessible and more enjoyable. And for that I can only appreciate the efforts of both 4A and Deep Silver in their partnership together. I truly hope I get to see more of Artyom’s journey and get to make more tough decisions in such a memorable post-apocalyptic Russia snowscape. It’s one of the best series based off of actual novels aside from the epic saga that is The Witcher.

The Last of Us is probably the game that speaks to me the most on this particular list and I don’t really think I need to go into too much detail as to why that exactly is. I feel like I’ve shared an experience with so many people who’ve played the game and I will continue to share that journey with all of the people who are surely going to play The Last of Us Pt. II when it finally releases. In truth, it’s about tense action, emotional gravity, and a world that’s both vibrant and morally grey. It’s about the journey more so than the destination and that has never been more apparent to me in a game before this, except perhaps something along the lines of Shadow of the Colossus. And if we’re comparing the two then that should go to show how much affection I feel for Joel and Ellie and their trials and tribulations in particular.

Outlast recently got a bloodier, more graphically impressive sequel but that won’t stop me from appreciating the torturous adventure that was the first and more indie centric game. Something about not being able to defend yourself is apparently attractive to us masochistic horror and survival fans who continue to play games like Amnesia and Outlast. The settings, the characters, the trials and trying times that those characters get put through- you could grind it all up and the experience would still be blood curdling and rich. Outlast might not be the most graphically impressive horror game I’ve seen and yet it elicits reactions that many others have failed to do. In a year where a sequel to one of the most classic horror titles of all time was released (Resident Evil 6), I chose to play Outlast instead because it was thoroughly more enjoyable and a better experience.

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Truly, hail to the king. I’m continually impressed day by day that Rockstar and by extension GTAV is still kicking as hard as it does. It’s been several years since the next generation versions of the game released, much less the last generation version’s initial release. And here they are still releasing a plethora of online content to keep the game going and the following growing. As much as I enjoyed previous GTA games I will never be able to dispute the fact that the legacy has so far been defined entirely by the fifth entry at least since its release. Innovation was the name of the game and Rockstar made that work to the tune of three controllable characters and atypical and asymmetrical online multiplayer. GTAV is like a monument to gaming gods and I’m not surprised that we aren’t going to see another sequel for probably five more years considering they’ve made one game last for almost five already.

The Wolf Among Us has lowkey been one of my favorite Telltale Games episodic releases since I recognized some of the most intriguing and interesting characters from the Fables comic series in it. The fact that it remains one of the more popular Telltale series and yet has yet to spawn the sequel it deserves is a little disappointing and disheartening but doesn’t in any way diminish the experience. Yes, as with the other episodes it has its moments for both good and bad reasons and yet the narrative is one of the best and the action sequences are both unique and thoroughly entertaining. Where else can you rip off the monstrous foe of Beowulf’s arm or throw your adversary into a literal wishing well after all?

Killzone Shadow Fall is a game I couldn’t resist playing and one I couldn’t help but spout love for. I’ve reviewed the game just as much as I’ve thoroughly spoiled it in a blog series designed specifically for that reason alone. It’s still the most recent release in Guerrilla Games Killzone series (also of Horizon Zero Dawn fame) and I truly hope we see Shadow Fall 2 or a true Killzone 4 by the end of the decade. The level of polish and the graphical depth in combination with an original ‘Cold War’ story just blows my mind. I wish the multiplayer had truly held up but then that’s always the problem associated with series such as this that aren’t Battlefield or Halo or Call of Duty essentially. And yet the game still shines even a few years later.

2014: Dark Souls 2, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Destiny, Wasteland 2, Alien Isolation, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Dragon Age Inquisition, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

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This was basically the first year my workload really started to step up and I found myself less and less able to be as active in gaming or communities such as the GIO one I often find myself in. As a result I was a bit pickier about the experiences I allowed myself the time to get thoroughly invested in. To nobody’s great surprise and certainly not to my own, Dark Souls 2 wrenched me in and I haven’t been particularly disappointed since. I played and enjoyed the first game so I figured the second couldn’t do much worse- newsflash: it turned out to be a tougher and yet somehow more enjoyable experience than even I could’ve imagined. So kudos to From Software for equal parts good times and rage inducing boss battles.

In the wake of news and updates for The New Colossus, it seems only fair to mention The New Order. Before ID brought back retro rampages with Doom they tested the waters a bit with another attempt at a popular reboot or sequel of sorts and it took off to massive amounts of success. The New Order remains one of the best initial offerings on the current generation of hardware and is one of the most interesting and entertaining stories I’ve experienced in video gaming to date. There’s plenty of exploration, action, and even a dab of romance if that’s your thing I suppose. And all of this is packaged in not only a game that revolves around bashing in mecha-Nazi faces but surviving the established New World Order of an occult worshiping Nazi regime in a post-WWII atmosphere. Who could’ve guessed?

Destiny was a mixed bag at best when it released so perhaps it’s fairer to place this particular entry under 2015 since that’s roughly when The Taken King expansion released and largely revitalized the game and fixed the majority of its launch issues. However, I’ll leave this here because from the start I was excited about the project as much as I am skeptical now about Destiny 2 and all things that I want to be amazing and knock your socks off great. I can afford to be skeptical because I am in love with the project and want to see its full potential realized like the first game’s largely wasn’t despite the end result still being intriguing, satisfying, and enjoyable overall. There’s so much potential for Bungie’s new universe and I want to see the series realize ever gamer’s fondest dreams and science fiction nerd’s greatest odyssey- even if that is unrealistic in terms of expectations.

Wasteland has been an iconic series for sometime and the fact that a second and third entry have seen the light of day largely thanks to Kickstarted fundraisers is spectacular for anyone who enjoys classic titles like Fallout. I could probably best compare the game itself to something along the lines of The Walking Dead (comic) in a post apocalyptic wasteland that doesn’t at least prominently feature zombies. The choices and dynamics and isometric style of the game is what makes it a winner in my heart and the overall attention to detail and the experience as a whole makes it largely replayable as well as enjoyable.

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Alien Isolation is without a doubt the best Alien game we’re likely to play in our lifetime short of a much appreciated sequel to Isolation, or at least a game also created by The Creative Assembly and set in the same narrative universe. It was a refreshing blend of modern and retro as well as a refreshing horror experience that is still necessary and needed even today. It reminds me in many ways of Resident Evil 7 and as such I feel like the new direction of Resident Evil was definitely inspired by the dynamics and gameplay of Isolation. In the wake of watching Alien Covenant I can definitely say that Isolation kept my love and admiration for the slightly butchered legacy of the series alive and I’m glad it’s still out there, screaming silently in the far reaches of space.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is probably the biggest offender of any sort on this list and possibly the most controversial pick I could’ve even chosen. However, as with Assassin’s Creed 3 and Dead Space 3, I’ll stand by it. For much the same reason as Destiny, Unity is still one of the most interesting games I’ve played and despite it still having some issues and quality concerns at times I’ve enjoyed the experience thoroughly since its release. Admittedly, it’s one of those games where I enjoy the experience when it actually wishes to present itself as playable and thoroughly enjoyable, however the narrative and the world itself largely got me back into the increasingly annoying Assassin’s Creed series. Yes, I feel the franchise fatigue even now and as such have resolved not to deal too much with Origins despite its promise of being new and bold and blah blah blah. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed series and yet I’m still largely over it at times. Ubisoft could take the elements that make the series popular and put them into plenty of other titles.

I’m still playing Dragon Age Inquisition as we speak. Not literally right now of course but I continually start new adventures and sink at least fifty hours into developing this new storyline or redoing my entire Dragon Age World State or playing through Dragon Age 1 and 2 with a new build. Possibly more so than even Mass Effect or Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age is potentially my favorite BioWare series of all time. I know they’ve got their hands full working on other projects and yet so much more than Andromeda I was hoping to see the continuation of the Dragon Age world and what larger threat could loom on the horizon.

My last item on the list is one of the most interesting games dealing with one of the most beloved mythos of all time in literature and film and gaming. Lords of the Rings and by extension Middle-earth, is no joking matter. Doing right by a series and an established fanbase is no simple task and yet Shadow of Mordor and now Shadow of War either look like they will continue to do so or already have done so. It’s a bloody and interesting and unique tale crafted between events that already canonically exist and events that we have yet to experience. And for better or worse I utterly enjoy it all.

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The Unique Aesthetic of Wilson’s Heart and Monument Valley 2

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Monument Valley was a very interesting and aesthetically pleasing project when it released so it stands to reason that the sequel should and would be as well. Although there are several new gimmicks and ideas in play for all intents and purposes you’re looking at a continuation of the same game and same vein of design. This isn’t a bad thing at all.

What you may not be expecting is for me to compare the beautifully crafted visuals and puzzling gameplay of Monument Valley and its sequel to that of the monochromatic, dark and occult filled visuals of Wilson’s Heart. A virtual reality adventure and a downloadable game don’t always have much in common but starting today I’m making a connection between these two in particular.

It’s not so much that they have anything in common rather it’s the fact that both push the boundary of visual presentation in one way or another, or perhaps even in several ways in some instances. Functionality notwithstanding, each of these games is a thorough experience that relies heavily upon visual input and context. The ways in which you’re able to perceive specific stages directly impacts how you’re able to accomplish or complete them in Monument Valley 2 whereas the ways you’re able to react to and interact with the Lovecraftian occult setting and situations within Wilson’s Heart directly influences your experience as well.

Perception and reception are very much an integral part in the game making and game playing processes. Look no further than these two titles for confirmation of that one simple truth. Puzzle games are notorious for requiring players to adhere to a strict and often steep learning curve however this is all down based upon the expectation that if you show somebody how to do something and slowly walk them through whilst holding their hand, eventually they’ll be able to fly through the task on their own later. Continuing along that train of thought, if you see somebody place a blue and orange portal and then go through one and emerge from the other then naturally you’ll pick up how the specific mechanics perform in context as well.

How we perceive the world around us often differs with regard to specific stimuli in the environment and a whole metric plethora of other factors that may be involved from the womb until the tomb. There is no “one way” to perceive a situation or pick up on a particular aesthetic value or visualization as fate (and apparently science) would have it. And that’s why both Wilson’s Heart and Monument Valley 2 are two of the most recent and most intriguing views into both perception and reception in terms of visual effect and resonance for me personally. Sure, I could’ve taken the easy way out and chosen a game such as the aptly named Perception or perhaps even What Remains of Edith Finch but then that would be cheating don’t you think? We knew all along that those two games would purposely distort reality and offer a surreal and uncharacteristically and aesthetically challenging adventure.

In many ways the visuals of Monument Valley and Monument Valley 2 on the whole just have this air of surrealism yet it’s presented in such a uniquely tangible way as well. You see beautifully rendered and colored backdrops and the simplistic yet ultimately complex and multifaceted levels of the castles and stages and they just make you stop and think and appreciate the art style for a moment or two. Wilson’s Heart on a more cerebral level forces you to think in much the same way but it has more to do with the monochromatic visuals and old, campy horror vibe than it does with the surreal Cthulhu vibes the game gives off for the duration of its screentime. Sometimes it’s simple ambiance and principle that give quality to a project or perhaps that render it admirable or even redeemable when it would otherwise be a loss in terms of gameplay and presentation.

On one hand we have Monument Valley 2 which is most definitely a game that I would consider to be both pretty and unique but on the other you have Wilson’s Heart which is something rougher around the edges and yet no less enjoyable that some other dark and unique tales such as Outlast or Amnesia. Wilson’s Heart may derive some success from the level of camp it attributes to old B-movies and old school monster flicks and yet it is also ultimately a visual and presented success due to the vibes it can tap into akin to independently developed horror projects of recent fame and fortune.

Sometimes it’s impressive what you can compare yourself to and not just what you can showcase in your own unique way. It’s about connections and perception just as much as quality and reception. Cheers.

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Discussing TWD: A New Frontier

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It’s only been five years since gamers everywhere were first introduced to Lee Everett and Clementine. Since then we’ve been rocked by revelation after revelation and brutal death after brutal death in first Lee’s and since Clementine’s journey through the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. Of course by now you’ve no doubt heard of Telltale Games’ episodic properties as they’ve exploded in popularity since The Walking Dead in particular. You might’ve even played a few episodes or perhaps entire series such as Tales from the Borderlands or The Wolf Among Us or Game of Thrones. While some of the more popular properties have already garnered sequel seasons others have yet to see the light of day despite their popularity and success.

I was initially going to do a group review of the newest season of The Walking Dead and the next semi-segment of Clementine’s adventure, as I’ve done in the past with both the first season and bits and pieces of the second season. However I think it would be best to instead simply discuss the merits of the entire season as a whole and hopefully not spoil too much for those of you who have yet to play it for yourself or perhaps even to play through and experience the adventure series at all yet. So this is your last warning- once you go past this there’s no going back in terms of potential spoilers and discussion about all things The Walking Dead (in terms of the shared universe as well as Telltale’s slice of the pie).

To date we have seen several episodic incarnations of The Walking Dead universe- Season One, 400 Days, Season Two, Michonne, and A New Frontier. A New Frontier is something a little different than we’ve come to expect as it fully features two interactive characters- even more so than Season One did with the interesting parent/child dynamic between Lee and Clementine. Now we actually play the majority of the time as Javier (Javi) instead of our young femme fatale herself, who is an integral part in the story but who only influences events and helps build a larger picture as opposed to outright commandeering the story. Once more, Telltale has proven that at any given time they can shift the point of view from even the most beloved of their characters and still keep the plot exciting and fresh and worthwhile. That’s some potent stuff. It also scares me because that means Clementine might not be the Rick Grimes we are looking for- meaning her stay in the universe may not last forever.

Daunting notions and fears aside, A New Frontier is a thrilling adventure and although at times it falls into many of the same pitfalls as previous episodes and seasons, it is the first time since Season One that I’ve truly enjoyed myself completely and been satisfied if a bit horrified by both my actions and their consequences. Although it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead without meaningful and meaningless deaths and destruction at times, I actually found myself quite satisfied by the ending I received upon completion of the season’s story- even though it cost Javi a brother and nearly an adopted son. I must really be a piece of work if I’m okay with being family first one moment but then screw over my admittedly unlikable brother and take his wife and surviving family members. But hey, it’s Telltale and we can’t always be as roguish and likable as Tales from the Borderlands or Batman.

Telltale’s biggest critique in terms of this whole episodic content delivery thing has always been the degree to which your choices matter in each episode and particularly season to season. I’ve enjoyed the little ways in which they bridge the gaps season to season and the ways in which they retrospectively go back to things that happened in the first season as opposed to simply the last episode, however I still see the glaring problem on hand. Admittedly, A New Frontier has some fan service available for those of you who still remember each and every gritty choice you made in the last two seasons of The Walking Dead as well as in some of the other downloaded segments and bonuses. However that’s not to say that there aren’t still plot points that I’d love to see addressed or be more visibly memorable to Clem and her companions than seem to be at least on the surface. A New Frontier does a wonderful job of mixing in meaningful flashbacks so what if in future seasons we could even go so far a to flash back to previously made and saved decisions at integral plot moments? Instead of a little cog and a ‘[blank] will remember that’ actually show us that moment when Clem shoots Lee or Kenny or Jane or something like that as she battles herself internally over what to do.

A New Frontier is very much the story of Javi and Javi’s family, however once you go beyond the themes of companionship and blood being thicker than water you’ll also find that it’s very much an important part of Clementine’s tale as well. A New Frontier shouldn’t so much be considered a full fledged season three as it should be essentially season two point five. It makes strides in terms of believable conversation and emotion and narrative pacing, but it also falls prey to some of the same mistakes that the first two seasons did in retrospect despite being a much smoother and more aesthetically pleasing experience. What I’m perhaps most excited about is the way in which the ending itself showcases Clementine’s development and how that is going to play into what will more than likely be her own adventure and own outing again in the next offering or next expansion or season or whatever. Through her shared experiences with Javier you get to see Clem grow into an even more adult and sure-footed version of herself and strengthen her beliefs as well as double down on her values. In a world about survival that’s something pleasant to see.

Season One holds a lot of nostalgic memories of characters and moments for me but Season Two didn’t always click and I rightfully never became too attached to characters outside of perhaps Kenny (again) and Luke. Everyone had even more visible and glaring flaws in that season than they even did in the first one but it seemed more forced and by the end of it I didn’t particularly care who lost as every decision felt like a bad one or a forced situation. Thankfully even in its darkest moments A New Frontier lightens up a little bit and provides the tensest situations with some redeemable learning points or even the no-win situations with a potentially less harsh and even less fatal factor. Yes, some of your favorite characters will develop ugly flaws or mean untimely ends but then such is the way of Kirkman’s world as is the way of many fictional worlds (I see you George R.R. Martin).

Whereas Season Two left me out in the cold quite literally, A New Frontier genuinely pleased me and I enjoyed the experience even if Javi’s family found it a hard one throughout and Clementine left with an uncertain road ahead. Despite losing David to the horde of walkers he foolishly drove into, I managed to save Gabe and Kate. I managed to rescue the majority of Richmond’s population despite angrily putting a bullet into Joan’s conniving head and ushering in a huge herd of walkers unwittingly. I managed to forge a lasting relationship with people when I needed to most, earning the respect of Jesus and the trust of Clementine and my fellow comrades in arms. Above all else, I paid for the sins of the father, mother, and brother throughout my adventure. A New Frontier pushes past the first few weeks and year of the zombie outbreak and into territory familiar to those up to date and current with the comic series. I really like the way we’ve seen little cameos from characters such as Glenn before he discovered Rick Grimes in Atlanta and Jesus as he’s out and about checking the status of his people away from the Saviors and Whisperers and other dangers.

It’ll be most intriguing to me now to see if we ever get an appearance from Clementine or other beloved and popular characters in the comics or show or vice versa. I know it’s a foolhardy dream perhaps to have and yet it’s one that would wow me anyway so long as it be faithfully done. Those are just some of my thoughts on The Walking Dead and A New Frontier in general but seeing as I am a huge fan of the property (comics in particular), I’ll always be willing to discuss details and other crazy theories and spoilers with anybody interested. Cheers.

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Understanding Horror

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Today’s blog post is about two separate yet semi-related things. The first is an independently developed horror title released in February of 2017 (via Steam) known as Husk (courtesy of Undead Scout). The second is the 2016-17 horror-thriller film release known as “A Cure for Wellness.” Although these two have very little in common save for sharing a semi-similar genre and horror trope (as well as a February release), it is what they bring to the forefront of the mind that interests me most in retrospect.

Neither of these projects should be considered as anything remarkable in terms of a commercial success. In fact, due to their mostly mixed reviews and the relatively poor sales and return on investment, it would be hard to call them much of a success at all. However, there’s a reason that I bring two otherwise semi-obscure projects to bear when confronted with thoughts of horror or intrigue and plausible insanity (of the thrilling sort). I could be discussing something infinitely more credible such as ‘Camera Obscura’ or other horrifying concepts, yet I find myself drawn again and again to both literature and film/game content that offers an experience rather than a prodigious service in earnest.

At first glance Husk is a cliche, a tribute to the nineties, perhaps even a blatant attempt to steal the thunder and luster of titles such as Silent Hill, Alan Wake, or Twin Peaks. For all of that, Husk does succeed atmospherically if only to fail in terms of generic gameplay and repetitive plot and progression. Husk is greatest when presenting the promising factors that could come into play but ultimately it fails to impress myself or apparently the others who have played it critically, instead only offering repetition and mundane survival horror elements where many others have trodden before.

Instead of being here to critique a piece of flawed art however I would like to instead recognize the aspects which we have yet to see done fairly well in gaming history. Violence and abuse and alcoholism and addictive personalities are rarely personified in gaming despite being attempted plenty in literature and on the screen. They aren’t the easiest of the core vices to handle and more often than not get a bad rap when they are portrayed at all. It’s rare to see such believable elements attempted or portrayed in thrillers or horror but rarer still to see psychological and intrinsically flawed character feats billed into games- although we are beginning to see more and more of this. Look no further than games such as Condemned or Silent Hill: Shattered Memories if you want to see flawed appeal done right.

This brings me to “A Cure for Wellness” and its reason for existing in the same context as Husk within the confines of this particular post.

The film is at its finest when it’s portraying the twisted narrative setup or the intrinsic flaws of a particular society such as the one that Verbinski ushers into the context of the film. It’s utterly believable that Gore Verbinski was on tap to helm a Bioshock film and the shocking elements of “A Cure for Wellness” lead me to believe that it would’ve had all the makings of the 2007 Irrational Games classic except in film form. Incest has been covered in both horror and film before- look no further than “The Hills Have Eyes” for something truly horrifying and cinematic in its appalling nature. Kudos to you if you can sit through both the originals and the next generation versions. If you want shocking revelations or horrid discoveries then plenty of films exist for that but few cover it so well as “Soylent Green” or perhaps the political intrigue of “Three Days of the Condor.”

What I’m trying to imply here is simply that “A Cure for Wellness,” without ruining the enticing merit of its plot, offers plenty of shock value and gruesome appeal as well as all of the hitherto expected insanity of a Verbinski or perhaps a Bioshock-like project. Everything always comes back to either literature, film, or games with me. And perhaps sometimes it’s an eclectic mix of those. Neither Dane DeHaan nor Jason Isaacs characters are immune from their struggles with insanity and calamity and once the film has run its bloody course that ugly fact makes itself well known to audiences.

Pushing beyond the horror state of mind and into furthermore uncharacteristically bleak territory, the whole concept of happy endings and at the least optimistic endings in video gaming and film and literature has always bugged me. Shouldn’t we be realistic in our expectations and note that statistically it is improbable that so many endings just…well end? That so many aren’t left potentially unresolved or don’t end with characters much worse for their antics and wear? Perhaps the most poignant and fresh attempts at this will always be the classic Chinatown, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” and the 1999 Schwarzenegger film ‘End of Days’ in my mind. Particularly when it comes to gritty, realistic and gruesome ends for key contributors to the plot.

I’ve been jumping all over the place with my jumbled thoughts here but let’s boil them down to a few simple points at the end.

I look forward to darker tales in the future such as The Last of Us Part Two- it must, after all, be something much angrier and darker and grittier than the first which all things considered ended as best as it could at the time. I hunger for such tales sometimes and that sick feeling inside isn’t sated by gruesome images such as those visceral attempts in psychological horror or thrillers such as Twin Peaks and A Cure for Wellness. I don’t enjoy what I often see or read but instead have some unique sense or taste for it at times, even to the point where I can appreciate the otherwise unnerving and undervalued merits of independent projects.

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Milly Schmidt

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