Category Archives: Report

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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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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Manifest Questiny

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Isaac Asimov was Deus Ex long before (the video game series) Deus Ex was anything remotely popular. However, the blog that follows won’t necessarily touch on this point or even remotely resemble that statement. I simply felt that it was important to point out and that probably tells you a little bit more about me than other intricate details might spare.

I’ve always been something of a world traveler and travel junkie or jockey, if you will. The whole deal is somewhat cliche at best and downright atrocious as far as lifestyles go at worst, yet it’s unashamedly and irreverently me. It’s my thing. Exploration of tastes and facades and literature and culture is my jam and my own thoughts and sporadic hobbies are the peanut butter holding that classless metaphor together.

So it’s been some little amount of time since I last posted anything of significance here or anywhere else for that matter and although time is relevant I feel I have an onus that needs abating. Namely as such I shall deliver some kind details of the previous month and what the potential future may hold in terms of everything from my fair lifestyle to my writing and cautious works here and there.

Video games, like science fiction writing and fiction in general have always been a world that appeals to me and an offering that seems to remedy some of the less than jovial experiences and moments throughout life. Whether you’re an adult paying bills and handling the day to day meddling and toilsome work of a job/career/niche, a minor handling the day to day worries of school/life/jobs/stress, or perhaps nothing or everything in between- gaming and literature are two of the nigh infinite potential methods of release and escape.

Of course there are other stimulants and arcane methods of reaching such an escape or revision of reality but for the past month of toilsome work and shutaway, closeted hours spent meddling in the affairs of the mortals I’ve written into existence, I’ve been rewarding myself largely these past two weeks in a multitude of ways. The first is simply to be able to breathe deeply, drink richly, and enjoy the calmer moments of an otherwise frantic and frenetic life- traveling, enjoying family time, and soaking up a few literary classics side by side with otherwise trashy crime dramas and popular fiction.

The second has been somewhat more stressful but to engage in the double edged sword that is video gaming and communicating with other people around the world, each of us seeking to engage directly while remaining blissfully unaware of any of the problems being pushed to the rear of our brains in the heat of the moment. That means multiplayer and cooperative action are the goal and sometimes this will undoubtedly prove as stressful as watching your favorite team lose a key match (or perhaps as watching your country’s aspiring world cup goals sink further from the picture at times).

I’ve dived deeper still into experiences that I previously (and naively) assumed I was content to be finished with. Further exploration into the rich worlds of Dragon Age, The Witcher, and The Division have been made lately and look to turn promising times and tidings for the future. To make a note and a bit of an aside: I’ve completed all of the content of each of the games in those series, as well as the expansion content, and so I had rightfully perhaps thought there couldn’t be much more to witness and enjoy. I was wrong, thanks to the talent at development studios such as BioWare, CD Projekt, and those cunning Ubisoft minds. *cough (Now bring me Cyberpunk 2077) *cough

The previous month- ranging from roughly the twentieth of May until the twenty-fifth of June was a blur of equal parts motion and stagnant thought. I’ve attempted as much as possible to battle through the writer’s block that has followed and for that reason as well as some therapeutic vacation time afterwards, I haven’t written nearly as much or as avidly online. I apologize for the coming and going and the loss of certain trains of thought at times in my online presence such as here and Game Informer, but I am sure most of you understand how it is as well.

I’ll do my best to record my continued musings and whatnot despite losing out on a lot of time for the previous month and missing some of the cultural excitement such as expos and exhibits through which I could’ve otherwise talked about and subsequently blogged about my own upcoming interests and projects of note. I’ll probably branch out a bit here and there and just do some informal stuff like this- marketing my own thoughts much more than usual and musing on the grand scheme of things or perhaps the littlest details of all. It’s in my blood to do that kind of stuff and do that kind of stuff I undoubtedly shall.

I will however also be leaving in the near future- roughly two months from now, off on another jaunt around the world and more for business than for pleasure. As with some of the other things I’ve done in the past, coverage may be spotty as I am trekking over seven thousand miles around the world for this particular trip- one which is going to also be lasting several months. All I ask as usual and as seems to forever be my legacy is that you all keep me in your thoughts and try not to forget the cynical, witty, soul that somehow inhabits my slouchy self. I’ll do my best to check in here and there but the regions I’ll be in aren’t known for internet capabilities or free domain for that matter when it is available.

Naturally, if you have any questions about my travels and exploits I’d be more than happy to share some of them as well, however I’ll spare the gory details for the time being. Sadly it’s never anything so interesting as secret agent or gun for hire…well, as far as you all know of course. Cheers.

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Pre-Review: The Surge and Injustice 2

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I’m going to do something I’m not normally wont to do today because I’m feeling overly tired but also overly excited about sharing my experience with both The Surge and Injustice 2 with other people. I’m going to talk about some of the non-spoiler yet intriguing elements of both recently released titles with you all and give you a taste of what I’ve experienced thus far, having had the games for thirty-six hours and played each for roughly twelve. Yes, I’ve had a rough and time consuming time of it and yet somehow I’ve survived to tell the tale.

I’ll start with The Surge, which has strangely enough been one of my most anticipated titles of 2017 ever since I heard about Deck13’s newest project. I was a fan of Lords of the Fallen in all of its Dark Souls glory and although Deck13 has been around for sometime that was probably their most successful and most quality-driven title to date. I mean, if you’ve played it then you can agree Venetica hardly takes the cake so prior to The Surge there weren’t really any real contenders anyway.

The Surge is everything you’ve heard it to be including a science fiction, exo-suit wearing, machine fighting Souls-style role-playing game. It sports some truly gorgeous visuals that fit right in with the rest of the realistic visuals depicting a dystopian industrial setting in a video game in the year 2017. But where it stands heads and shoulders above the competition in the Souls-game lookalike market is the combat system which is intuitive and fresh although still bears a resemblance to Lords of the Fallen.

In fact, for Deck13’s next project they could very well do something akin to Lords of the Fallen 2 if they wished and I’m sure it would be incredibly well received and also well done now that they have two triple-A caliber titles under their belt.

The combat system is dynamic and fluid in its ability to shift focus from each individual enemy limb and even different targets on the fly. It focuses on many of the same elements that Lords of the Fallen did but it also introduces a new and already critically appreciated dismemberment system like some role-playing version of Dead Space come alive again. Not only can you strategically maim foes and slice and dice your way through their exo-suits but you can also keep choice equipment and gear that you hack off if you time your strikes right.

It’s far more than a gimmick as this is pretty much the main way to grind and progress your way through the game and also it keeps the combat perpetually entertaining as you perform finisher after finisher like nothing we’ve seen since Darksiders II. Things can get a little repetitive at times but the combat keeps the otherwise same encounters fresh and constantly interesting throughout the experience when you aren’t exploring the deadly industrial setting. In some ways The Surge’s world reminds me of a smaller version of the expansive canvas that is Nier Automata. Both certainly have a lot of the same decaying urban vibe going as well as the whole mechanized foes shindig down.

So far my biggest takeaways for The Surge are that it looks and handles smoothly and beautifully, the combat is brutal and effective and entertaining, and the sheer amount of loot and cosmetic upgrades is astonishing. If any of that sounds intriguing to you and you don’t mind a little grind as you play through what will probably be at least a 40 hour experience that is already highly replayable, then I think The Surge may be a game for you to consider.

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As much as I miss some of the cast of the original Injustice: Gods Among Us who don’t return in the sequel for reasons ranging from death (in the story mode) to irrelevance in this particular universe, the updated roster is better than ever. We may have traded Ares and additions like Lobo and Scorpion but now we have Ragey Rage Monster (Atrocitus) and Swamp Thing for example.

If you couldn’t tell, I’ve moved on from The Surge to Injustice 2 and I do hope you’ll stick around if you’re only reading this particular post for one of the two games mentioned. I’ve taken the liberty of playing through and also watching (courtesy of YouTube) every ending and cutscene in the story mode in order to be sure that I’ve missed absolutely nothing in terms of narrative prior to playing multiverse and multiplayer modes. As such, I can now officially call myself an even bigger DC nerd and Injustice fan- Injustice 2 not only builds upon the structure of the previous game but it adds in more depth than really seen outside of the Mortal Kombat series (also currently held by Ed Boon and NetherRealm).

Side note: Both Deck13 and NetherRealm Studios have some of the classiest and coolest studio logos among developers, I mean let’s just take a look here. Obviously NetherRealm wins but hey points for simplicity as well.

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“Classics never die…”

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“Alert Captain Kenway immediately!”

Returning to the matter at hand and continuing my already hazy stream of consciousness (or ramble or whatever) here… Injustice 2 does everything correctly in terms of following in the footsteps of its predecessor and it also adds carefully to the cultivated mix of gameplay and story in decisive fashion. Some of the new character models look a bit strange but that’s easily remedied by unlocking new skins and animations. The setting for each stage and the rich roster more than make up for any minuscule beef I may have over character designs such as the Joker or Superman.

Injustice 1 offered a high level of replayability and it’s easy to see that Injustice 2 also offers that in the newly minted multiverse gameplay mode as well as the variety of online offerings and challenges. The mobile app seems to even be better integrated this time around and although quality wise it is a lot lesser than its peers it is still an interesting use of a mobile app for once in gaming history aside from shameless marketing plugs and Smart Glass actions.

I won’t spill the beans on the best moments although you’re welcome to watch the nearly three hours of story cutscenes and endings. However, I will say that you should definitely play the narrative if only to serve as a good tutorial for what’s to come in other modes and an introduction to the world of Injustice if you’re unused to it. You may think you know DC characters but this is an entirely different ballgame and it’s a lot more difficult to discern friends from foes. Things are significantly less confusing concerning alternate universes this time around but that’s still a thing too.

Oh and in case you wanted to know, there are some sweet cameos and moments where characters that aren’t currently on the available roster make appearances within the story mode or otherwise are referenced. So be on the lookout for the slew of interesting DLC content to surely follow as well. And thanks you NetherRealm for making me not absolutely abhor Barry Allen anymore (as much).

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Thought Blog: Call of Duty WWII

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Sledgehammer Games has dealt in Call of Duty stock prior to the upcoming entry in the multi-entry series. They not only worked with Infinity Ward and other subservient developers on Modern Warfare 3, but they also developed the solid Advanced Warfare as their first main addition to the Call of Duty chronology. In a series that now spans at least five confirmed timelines things can sometimes seem cluttered and jumbled, mixed up here and there year to year but otherwise a veritable mess.

In a bid to discover some of the personal glory that Battlefield 1 and DICE did with their look at total warfare in an older era, Activision and Call of Duty itself are returning to the previously overdone and oversaturated WWII market in order to rekindle some of the initial magic. As a note, Call of Duty hasn’t been to the second Great War since 2008’s World at War although some elements of 2010’s Black Ops did feature segments in and around the WWII era.

Previously Treyarch and Infinity Ward were the heavy hitters in the series however as of late and at least as of the previous three titles, Sledgehammer has picked up the slack where the other titans have fallen. Infinite Warfare was interesting and a pretty comprehensive package catering to all sorts of players and yet for many it was deemed a dud and not received as well as previous titles have been. Black Ops 3 was likewise seen as a cluttered mess that couldn’t make sense of what it wanted to be despite some interesting new features and a truly crazy single player campaign featuring the usual star studded cast.

As it stands, Advanced Warfare may be the last entry to really net a lot of praise- both for Kevin Spacey in his role within the single player campaign and for it being Sledgehammer’s first solo outing and a successful one at that. Prior to 2014’s Advanced Warfare, Call of Duty Ghosts (Infinity Ward) was deemed one of the least stellar entries in the franchise and 2012’s Black Ops II was an excellent multiplayer addition with some spectacular choice-making single player elements but otherwise started the series’ shift towards science fiction and what many consider a downward trend.

Returning to WWII is a somewhat expected approach and yet it is nonetheless a bold one as well, even if only as a direct response to Battlefield 1’s WWI setting. The critic in me cringes at the terrible naming convention that deemed it necessary to call this game ‘Call of Duty: WWII’ and yet you cannot fault it for simply encapsulating what they plan to offer: the full breadth of the total war experience across the European theater. From the start they could’ve easily used this as an opportunity to somewhat reboot the series and simply called it ‘Call of Duty’ and still made the exact same game they are making despite it being in yet another timeline and yet another setting.

As overdone as the setting was for so many years in the early 2000s, I cannot help but notice how graphically impressive the game is looking already and that it already seems to have Sledgehammer’s trademark narrative focus instead of the monumental attention to every single set-piece moment that Infinity Ward likes to push. Sure it will inevitably live up to the majority of WWII cliches- the gung-ho sergeant that wants to “kill the Nazi scum,” the calm and collected leader that wants to make it through alive and without subjecting his men to the cruelest horrors of war, and the grizzled war veteran side by side with green recruits. But I think the experience itself seems already promising enough.

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Aside from the obvious focus on some of the lesser trod battles of the European theater, the single player campaign looks to focus on the moral repercussions of war as well as the visceral nature of the fighting. I’m eager to see how a return to such ‘Medal of Honor’ gameplay as requested healing in comparison to immediate super-human healing from injuries over time works as well. The game is making it clear that although this will be a similar experience to the previous ones, it is going about things in both a more traditional and entirely different way. For that reason and surely others, WWII looks like it’ll be more than just a visually updated version of events we’ve already played through.

Focusing on single-player would hardly be fair to those of us who also enjoy the other gameplay offerings of the Call of Duty saga and so it’s also praise worthy than once again Sledgehammer Games is offering both Zombies and multiplayer components. Exo-Suit Zombies was an interesting take on the classic formula in Advanced Warfare and yet something tells me once more seeing Nazi zombies will curdle our blood and elevate our pulse in the most appropriate fashion. As for the multiplayer component itself, despite offering some of the expected PvP content it also sounds like Activision is really going after DICE and some of the Battlefield cake- large objective based battles and completely unique character class ‘divisions’ for one.

I applaud Sledgehammer for going the traditional route while still managing to find ways to inject new life into both the series and subsequently the game. It’s commendable that rather than create the same overdone science fiction super trooper tale we’ve seen for the previous few incarnations, they’re opting to return to the literal roots of Call of Duty while still producing new ideas in that older setting. Of all of the developers lately, Sledgehammer seems the most likely to take risks and reap the potential rewards of those design decisions as well. Treyarch used to be the one to do that and Infinity Ward has always stuck to a pretty similar model outside of last year’s Infinite Warfare.

I personally appreciate pretty much every Call of Duty game for the experience that they offer but even I can see the franchise fatigue constantly on the border of gamers’ hazy vision and lurking, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce and render a particular series iteration irrelevant and disdained. Black Ops 3 narrowly dodged that bullet and Infinite Warfare caught the brunt of the blast of criticism despite doing so many things differently and being quite literally out of the world to the degree where people argued as to whether or not it even deserved to be tagged as a Call of Duty game. As much as people buy the games, it’s constantly astounding to see the flak each one gets for literally no reason at times- fans complain about getting the same thing over and over again yet complain when they receive something new and different as well.

I could go on and on about my thoughts with regard to the series and this upcoming release and yet I think now is as appropriate a time as any to end it as well. What are your thoughts about the upcoming game? I personally have no doubt that Sledgehammer will do their best to give the community the most authentic and quality driven experience that they can and although I foresee some criticism in regard to the setting I do think they will fare better than both Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare have. Thoughts, comments or concerns? Feel free to comment and give voice to them here.

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My Favorite Games: A Decade Long Retrospective Pt. 4

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It’s been a little while since the last post in my ongoing retrospective that focuses heavily on my favorite games of roughly the past decade and the previous generation up until present day. Although I’m only covering a small chunk of video gaming history, there have been plenty more excellent releases in this time besides the ones that I’m listing- ones that I’ve predominately mastered or otherwise completed and completely enjoyed. This particular post will be emphasizing the years 2011 and 2012 and as always you can feel free to comment and let me know what you think of my favorites.

2011: Dead Space 2, Killzone 3, Crysis 2, The Witcher 2, Shadows of the Damned, Bastion, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dead Island, Gears of War 3, Dark Souls, Batman Arkham City, Skyrim.

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The first Dead Space game was an exercise in mastering horror and all of the genre defining cliches that often accompany it. The second title was a master stroke in adding even more action to the mixture without sacrificing much in the way of tension or outright terror. Although the third game has since let many people down on the horror side of things, the first sequel showcased the ability to ratchet up the stakes as well as the action-fueled setpiece moments. It has so much going for it and added a lot of memorable content to Isaac’s terribly great story.

Killzone 3 was the final game in the series for a long time and in many ways is still the capstone to an excellent trilogy of games despite Shadow Fall also continuing the narrative even if it avoids many of the old characters’ outright appearances. It amped up the gameplay in nearly every conceivable way and looked downright gorgeous whether it be in singelplayer or competitive game modes. It was a versatile game for many reasons and just went to show that Guerrilla Games has their heads screwed on right when it comes to gameplay first.

Crysis 2 is a brilliant and beautiful game. I have been a big fan of the series and have enjoyed the fact that each game seemingly got better and improved in at least a few ways even if the second is ultimately my favorite even over the infinite customization options offered by the third. The story in Crysis 2 was interesting and fittingly tense when it had to be as well as adrenaline pumping when the action exploded for real. It was probably the most graphically impressive game of this list and for this time period and still has beautiful visuals and smooth gameplay even today. It’s just a shame not too many people hopped on board with the fantastic multiplayer elements.

The Witcher series has long shown gamers how to successfully pull off this sequel business. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings expanded every single element of the first game and it did so with ease and a narrative that should drag even the most reluctant fan into dark fantasy worlds and writing. Although Wild Hunt has since stunned even more players into awe inspired silence, Assassins of Kings set the tone and the pace for the bigger things that were to come and still stands out as one of the best games of all time as well as possibly the best game of 2011- especially as far as PC titles are concerned.

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To this day I’m still not entirely sure what to make of Shadows of the Damned’s darkly vibrant, gory romp of a horror adventure. And that’s entirely a good thing I think at this point. It’s deeply disturbing at times and equally interesting at other times. There are definite elements of horror and thrilling scares and grotesque creatures but within the same exhilarating experience is also crude humor and absurd encounters as well. It’s gritty when it needs to be and gutsy when it can afford to be and the amount of risk in the creative process and development just goes to show that a little thought can go a long way.

Bastion really set the tone for so many arcade games to come in terms of the independent developer scene on major consoles in the previous and current generation. Not only was it an overture for the eventual release of Transistor, but it was an intriguing and enjoyable experience in its own right- deftly melding a fantastic world and interestingly developed characters. Bastion doesn’t just share a name with one of Overwatch’s most intriguing characters, it shares the sense of quality and the intrigue and mystery of many of those characters’ backstories as well. And that’s always a compliment.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution hasn’t entirely aged well for whatever reason as far as the odd controls go, but the narrative show definitely gone on and hasn’t just continued in terms of Mankind Divided. I’m saddened to hear that Square has put the franchise on pause for the time being but it does remind me that there were greener pastures in the past as well and Human Revolution rekindled a desire I had already had for the series and its intrigue. Sure, the plot can be dense and confusing at times but you can hardly beat the set-up of a dystopian future ruled by corrupt corporations and occupied by cybernetics and titans of engineering- it’s all so Blade Runnery that I cannot help but adore it.

Dead Island is somewhat of a guilty pleasure at least compared to some of these titles but it’s no less enjoyable for that factor. There’s a paltry story at best but the gameplay is where it really shines and where the sequel could’ve had so much more promise if only it had done the right things better and paid attention to quality over quantity. The mere set-up of a quest driven zombie adventure on a massive island that has so many hidden details and secrets is enough to spark interest for most people. Couple that with some interesting enemies and a thorough weapon and dismemberment system like something out of Dead Space and you’ve got a fairly solid game.

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For the longest time it seemed like Gears 3 was it for the series and MY GOD what a fitting conclusion- like Epic’s version of Halo 3 to compare it to another potential trilogy ender. Dom, dear old Dom- RIP buddy cooperative action and memorable moments across the initial trilogy galore. If you haven’t played the Gears series you should really hop on the band wagon and buy Gears 4 so that you can get the access codes for 1-3 and Judgment- I promise you won’t be disappointed because ironically the story is oftentimes the bigger draw than the gameplay itself. Somehow Gears ended up being the most one of the more narrative focused shooters out there.

Dark Souls started the epic and terrible surge of brutally difficult games that we’ve since played- from games created by From Software to games that reek of generic Souls cloning. Without Demon’s Souls we wouldn’t have Dark Souls and without King’s Field we wouldn’t have any Souls-games, however Dark Souls marked the explosion of popularity for the series and its masochistic fans. I continue to play the first game to this day and it retains its originality and enjoyability and difficulty even now.

The Batman Arkham series is one of the best series of all time and easily the greatest superhero series outside of fighting games that feature multiple heroes across muliple stories. Although it has since has some less than stellar additions, the core trilogy of Asylum, City, and Knight are pretty spectacular (forget Origins because it was okay but bleh). Arkham City stands as the narrative highlight and offers the best quests in the series to date. Every boss encounter was original and well done. Every line of dialogue was enthusiastically delivered and believable. And boy oh boy the story was mind shattering at times.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over five years since The Elder Scrolls V hit gamers everywhere with its brilliant addition to the Tamriel universe. Skyrim is still a staple in many gaming libraries and constantly a topic of discussion as well. There has been talk of the potential for a sixth game after all, but honestly I still find myself content to traverse the realms of Skyrim over and over as Bethesda continues to tweak their MMO adaption of the series as well. I would never turn down more Elder Scrolls but I want to see the next game hit us as hard as Skyrim did.

2012: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Mass Effect 3, Journey, Xenoblade Chronicles, Fez, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Sniper Elite V2, Spec Ops: The Line, Darksiders II, Borderlands 2, Dishonored, Far Cry 3.

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Forgetting the fact that Amalur was essentially a one-hit wonder that subsequently bankrupted its studio despite decent sales and critical acclaim in terms of reception, it is a spectacularly underrated game as well. It has the sense of a high fantasy role-playing game and yet for every niche cliche it establishes roots in it also branches out into uncharted territory with interesting ideas that haven’t really been done since or seen before. Not only is it an enjoyable experience and competent RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur is just a genuinely good game.

It wouldn’t be fitting to not talk about the capstone to Commander Shepard’s spacefaring experiences here, ending issues or otherwise. In the wake of Mass Effect Andromeda’s release and the issues that have come with it, let us not forget the amazing trilogy Bioware gifted players around the world with and the amount of player feedback that went into the flawed masterpiece that is Mass Effect 3- both before and after its release. When a developer loves their work enough to tweak the experience after release and offer players a more thoughtful ending, that’s when you know that something special has been made (well and screwed up a bit as well).

Journey is truly a work of art and if you need to hear more arguments about the matter I invite you to happily google video games as an art form for more data and research to support that thought. As an experience it cannot be matched, not even by today’s standards or by other equally intriguing and compelling indie games. As far as the game itself goes it both looks and feels artistic and the artistic integrity of it should never be under scrutiny either. It’s like great titles such as Limbo and Little Nightmares where it’s an enjoyable game but also a thoroughly worthwhile and thought provoking experience.

Xenoblade Chronicles has had sequel content and additions made to it but nothing has quite lived up to the amazing quality and expansiveness of the first title. I was shocked when such an epic game released after virtually hearing little to nothing about it in terms of coverage here in the west. The fact that such an epic game could be made and not much have been said about it just seemed to be contradictory in so many ways and an egregious breach of gaming’s moral code in others. If you have a Wii and haven’t played the game then you’re missing out on quite possibly the best title outside of Twilight Princess.

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Don’t even get me started on Fez 2 rumors or Phil Fish’s antics, but Fez is an indie darling even in a year dominated by Journey and a two year period shared with both Journey and Bastion. It’s a callback to the old school exploration and platforming titles and truly an authentic and enjoyable one at that. Coupled with the fact that it melds new school and old school ideas, it is also thoroughly impressive that the title was all pretty much created by the talent and drive of a single Fish himself. Love the man or hate him, his art speaks for itself.

There hasn’t really been one single defining moment in the gaming community that has sprung up around Telltale’s episodic installments quite like Episode 5 of TWD Season One and Clementine’s experience with Lee culminating in her choice to put him down or let him turn into the zombies they’ve been narrowly escaping until that point. If I just ruined an entire series for you then I apologize but you’ve had five years to see what everyone was crying about for yourself. Similarly if someone ruined the Red Wedding for you then you had like a decade to see what all of your geek friends were sobbing over after reading A Storm of Swords so hey. The episodic format is a bit stale now but you can’t beat the series that made it as thrilling as it has been at times.

Sniper Elite V2 is a how a remake and reboot should be done as it is summarily a bit of both and a bit of neither. Sniper Elite was first made somewhere in the 2004-2005 period and was a competent and interesting shooter at the time. Sniper Elite V2 has since changed many aspects and turned the series into a franchise for Rebellion Games that has spawned three main series titles and a trilogy of Nazi Zombie content as well. All of which has been invigorating and interesting, but none of which would have been possible without the reception of V2 and its dynamic slow motion kill cams. It’s like a sniper’s version of Mortal Kombat and it is gory and gratifying.

Spec Ops: The Line deserves all of the talk it gets for how it handles trauma and so many other aspects not often discussed in video games, much less so in shooters. It is a brilliant game and also a thoughtful evolution of an otherwise defunct series. Honestly, as a one-off kind of experience that may never be replicated it’s an amazing experience and one that I think many different types of gamers would enjoy. If it ever does get the sequel it would most definitely deserve then I can only hope it lives up to the legacy and the shock value established in this particular title. Maybe a jungle adventure like something out of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now…

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Just like the forces of evil could not fully contain either War or Death, the release of Darksiders III cannot be contained or prevented by the death of a publisher or subsequent acquisition of developers. As thrilled as I am for another installation of the series (so much so that I blogged about it prior to any news of a new release) I also constantly revel in my enjoyment of the previous iteration of the series that leapt from the linear path of the first to the open world and embellished lore of the second. For all that I adored in the first game (a lot of things actually) I came to love and appreciate fully in the second- with its Diablo meets God of War meets Zelda structure.

You already know how big a fan I, like many people, am of Borderlands and the second game in the series by this point. Not only have I established my own series of blogs in regard to the replay of the second title but I’ve also delivered many comments and bits of discussion on the lore as well. Borderlands 2 is something that you don’t always see with a gaming generation- it is an icon and a high water mark of excellence that can’t often be replicated, whether within the same series or even within a genre. And yet I still have high hopes that Gearbox can strike gold yet again with their highly anticipated third main installment and make me feel the same way the blood and guts and loot filled adventure has in the past.

Dishonored 2 is every bit as original and as stellar a the first game but for whatever reason the game’s sales have not been reflective of that and it hurts my heart to say so. The first game is fittingly a fresh adventure into something that Bethsoft has some experience in personally but has otherwise left largely to games like Thief and Assassin’s Creed before. Dishonored features dynamic choices that actually matter and colorful characters within a colorful world that you can both interact with and affect in numerous ways. Although the sequel has expanded upon much, the lore and sheer ability to do virtually anything imaginable in the first game are what make it one of the most intriguing experiences of all time.

Far Cry 3 is an island in the series and probably because it offered the freshest start as well as the most original and unique gameplay elements in a series that was otherwise headed downhill after the flawed African safari of Far Cry 2. Although I enjoy the series as a whole and can recognize the great elements each iteration has implemented, FC3 is easily the most quality driven experience and outside of the unique setting for Primal it is the best and brightest excursion to date as well. Far Cry 4 piggybacks too much of the gameplay elements and sheer shock value in terms of colorful characters to get much love from me despite that experience still being a grand one.

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Milly Schmidt

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