Games I Didn’t Review in 2016: Obduction

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Silly old me thought for the longest time that the title of the semi-spiritual successor to Myst/Riven/All-That-Good-Stuff point and click adventure was a mere typo or perhaps creative indifference to the spelling of abduction. As it stands, I think it rather ironically would encapsulate the narrative in either its present spelling or that alternative. Obduction instead refers in no small part to something along the lines of opposite subduction, or rather oceanic lithosphere forcing itself over continental counterparts.

All that scientific banter aside, Obduction really is a fitting title for this game and since I’m seeking to avoid spoiling the majority of the narrative, I’ll say little more than that. At first glance it seems like just another adventure seeking to cash in on this newfangled idea of nuevo-retro. What I mean by this is that it takes an old gaming concept and places it into a new gaming era and melds the best of both worlds, or in this case multiple realms. The narrative and lore behind Obduction is certainly one of its strongest points and like the Myst saga, I really enjoyed how it was fleshed out and how things are rarely as they initially seem.

Even with Cyan Worlds having developed the game with the thought in mind for it to be a spiritual successor to Myst/Riven, the only ways in which it is truly similar stem from the gameplay and some of the ideas of travel and various worlds and time displacements and similarly intriguing alien technology. If you know anything about the Myst series- whether it be lore or gameplay or overall narrative, then you may find this particular title engaging as well. The most interesting of all the narrative elements and potential in Obduction is definitely the meshing of several worlds and several time periods. For example, there is an advanced alien subculture lying dormant right alongside a displaced wild western town straight out of the late eighteen hundreds.

Perhaps another of the unintended and yet awesomely interesting elements of the game is the ambiguity surrounding narrative and character choice. Certainly, some things will undoubtedly seem and in fact be very linear throughout the adventure. However there are also particular points littered throughout the story where your character’s journey or the concurrent adventures of the few other beings you encounter may come to an abrupt and even brutally twisted end. I won’t say much more for fear of ruining some of the finer endgame moments, but suffice it to say few things are as they seem.

Obduction, if it aspires to be anything else or anything other, is certainly a game revolving around unintended consequences and brilliance of simple design. I think that is probably one of its other admirable traits, and it is definitely something we don’t see as much nowadays or perhaps ever. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure itself for the feelings it elicited, the narrative tropes it trod, and the lore it hid slightly beneath the surface. It is always invigorating to experience something along the lines of a thrill ride in such a seemingly archaic and simple adventure game revolving around core mechanics such as light puzzle solving and information gathering. Yes, it can inevitably have its boring or even low points, but if you stick by it then the payoff is totally worth it.

For what it’s worth, I have only good things to say about this particular title as a whole and I would probably give it somewhere between an 8.0 and 8.5 out of ten. That’s high praise coming from me and something I believe it is entirely deserving of as well. I implore you to give it a whirl if you’re into old school adventures, an interesting story, or simply want to branch out into a new genre of gaming.

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Alien: Covenant- A Return to Form?

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The Alien franchise is one that has certainly seen its fair share of commercial success over the years since its initial inception. Whether it be through film, video games, or merchandise, it has been marketed to an ever-broader audience over the years. While this has its own array of ups and downs, Ridley Scott seems to be of the mind that a return to form mixed with this new-age horror business is of grave necessity and in the best interest of the saga itself. I can’t say I disagree.

Alien: Isolation was something of a rare gem for me just a few years ago when it released- managing to bring the tense action of the original film, mixed with some story background in the lore, to the forefront of a series previously only known for video games of the typical sub-par quality. Alien vs Predator and Colonial Marines are the other two most recent games of any renown in the series and neither is a good indicator of the quality work people should come to expect of it. Similar to Isolation being a breath of fresh air for the video game counterpart, I think Covenant can and should be the film iteration that bridges the gap between Aliens and Prometheus- being able to do what the first films did well as well as on the grandiose playing field of lore Prometheus introduced, albeit in a confused manner.

As the name would suggest, Alien: Covenant seeks to tie the prequel trilogy to the main body of films in more ways than just a shared history and shared name. There are bound to be countless characteristics from both the new and old films and history, plus there are still plenty new threats to be introduced on-screen that have yet to be seen. I love how Ridley Scott isn’t afraid to up the stakes by adding more revelations and more variation to the alien species itself, but that he also plans to still directly tie things together and come full-circle at some point as well. What once began as a small-scale story should and ultimately seems to be headed towards resolving itself that way as well, whatever galaxy-wide implications and revelations and earth shattering lore dumps may come between those two points.

The first film is renowned for its tense, atmospheric horror and its bursts of action, among other cinematic qualities. The second is known for broadening the scope of the infestation and introducing us to an even broader cast of characters and setting. The third film attempted to venture down some semblance of a path between the two original titles while the fourth went full-blown science fiction and started a downward spiral of plot and sensibility in many respects. As far as the four main sequence Alien films go, they taper off towards the end if only for general concerns over plot and making sense of it all.

We’ve also been gifted with a few Alien vs Predator films which managed to tie-in the popular and cult classic Predator character and universe to that of the Alien setting. While that has largely been a marketing success, it has never been nearly as successful in terms of producing quality projects on par with what each series has managed to do separately. On the whole, even the confusing and ambitious yet inevitably fallible Alien-prequel Prometheus has done a better job of that. Prometheus managed to take some higher caliber actors and throw them into the existing universe (at least for us movie-goers) while forcing them to combat a threat altogether new to their characters. It has been criticized largely for its plot but on the whole it does what it intended to do all along- establishes a baseline from which the prequels and main series can stem.

I was way more excited than I honestly had any right to be when I saw the first few trailers for Covenant just last week. I’m not sure if it was the trailer itself or perhaps my own reaction to a series that I’ve been close with since my early days, but I really enjoyed it and have thought about writing this blog for several days now. I do not think it will be the cramped corridors of Dead Space 1 (er, Aliens 1) but that’s not to say it isn’t seeking to return to the successful format of the first film in many ways. Just look at the trailer yourself- the evidence is there, even if it’s presented on a larger than life level at times. By now I think we have to in some ways embrace the fact that it is the twenty-first century and grandiose posturing is a large part of cinematic film-making and camera angle, lighting, and amazing effects are here and now. So just because Prometheus or Covenant do or did a ton of special effects should not take away from the overall story or end project quality.

I’m curious to learn more about the paradise and hell that these new and familiar faces alike have stepped into. I’m also eager to push past Prometheus and head towards Alien, both in terms of setting and story and influence. I’m more than okay with injecting new ideas and new life into what is otherwise an old tried and true formula, but I also want to see it be more successful and more simplistic and meaningful. You can have your lore and your grand plans but sometimes less is more and not the other way around. All in all, these are just my musings on the tail-end of a crazy weekend and I hope that everyone else has already formulated their own (and already seen Logan).

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The Wolverine Movie You’ve Deserved

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Logan is shaping up to be one of the best superhero films to date and that’s largely because it laughs in the face of the superhero flick ‘norms’ and seeks to be a dramatic and heartfelt film in its own right. As things go, the X-Men movies have never been too bad although they have definitely adhered more to comic books stereotypes than the typically darker Marvel Cinematic Universe installments have done. The MCU television shows have opened the door to more humanistic, darker, realistic superhero tales and I feel like the standalone Wolverine movies have begun to slowly realize the same thing- ultimately culminating with the Old Man Logan storyline coming to the silver screen.

X-Men Origins was far from well thought out. It had interesting moments and some interesting characters, and yet for the duration of it many people couldn’t help but point out what a theatrical mess it was. The Wolverine remedied a lot of these problems but still wasn’t as superb as it could’ve been, despite an intriguing story and some excellent acting. Thankfully, lighting can strike thrice and the third time may just be the charm if the reviews are as spot on as I think they are. Logan is one of only a few Marvel-based movies to receive a R-rating right now and I think that’s probably the best thing for it, especially in terms of creative direction and freedom (see: Deadpool).

While the mainstream first X-Men trilogy and the subsequent three films in the ‘First Class’ universe were okay in their own right, they never managed to focus on the human aspect or the down to earth moments as much- ironic considering the mutant element. The Wolverine titles have changed that in many ways, even if it’s largely due to the fact they encapsulate the titular character and manage to focus on one or two other side stories as well within the bounds of their plots. With Logan however, one of my favorite comic book plotlines looks like it’s coming to life and I absolutely love it- even if it probably means we’re to see the end of Wolverine as we know him and Professor Charles Xavier (again).

The X-23 story arc alone is pretty dark and gritty, which really tells you something if you know anything about Wolverine and his tragic past, present, and probable future. Reading the critic reviews and responses has really got me gungho for the movie, and considering I don’t typically pander much to critic reviews when it comes to television or films, I find it curious that a superhero film finally seems to have cracked the code and hit on themes that even hipster-esque critics can enjoy. We’ve had plenty of good superhero films in the past decade and yet many did not receive as much critical acclaim as they should’ve due to the fact that they largely ran the gauntlet from cliche to senseless action and adventure. When you bring things down to earth and run them at a smaller level (like Deadpool, in many ways) they seem to resonate better amongst us mere mortals.

If you’ve been living under a rock or trying to avoid any spoilers whatsoever, Logan is essentially a Wolverine western of sorts and definitely the grittiest take we’ve seen of the character. He lives in a world where the bad guys essentially realized they could do more harm if they banded together, and so they largely eradicated mutants both good and evil. Wolverine is of course largely indestructible and has somehow survived alongside his longtime friend and mentor Charles Xavier, whom he now protects and looks after. It seems as if Professor X’s mind is decaying exponentially due to years of stress and crazy powerful mutant telepathic abilities. Enter Weapon X-23 into the picture. Now Logan will have to do his best to protect both his friend and this little girl (who, fair enough, can also defend herself). As you can imagine, the plot is sure to go boundless places from there but this is just the basic gist of it.

The trailers alone have been impressive and I don’t think we’ve even seen the best moments of the film yet, despite there being some heavy feels and tense action in them. I really want to see the bond between Weapons X and X-23 (aka Logan and Laura) deepen as the film progresses, and I think we’re going to get that a la Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us. These two characters are bound to have their own flaws, and yet it should be heartening to see them find solace in each other considering their similarities and surely their differences as well. I expect we will see Sir Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman riff off of each other as their respective characters and bring further dimension to their bond, and yet I’m most interested to see Dafne Keen as Laura as well.

I expect we could see any number of rewritten scenarios for the Old Man Logan storyline, and I’m truly excited to see how they play up some of the most tragic and memorable moments as well as adding their own additional angle to things. I suspect that the story itself is no less comic booky or semi-cliche than the others in the majority of the MCU and X-Men films have been, and yet I feel it is the bonds that will be established and severed in this movie that will prove most stimulating and entertaining and tragic to watch. Imagine for instance if Logan himself is forced to put Professor X down because there’s simply no way to get him to safety and protect Laura at the same time. Logan will undoubtedly be dark and multi-dimensional and therefore such tragic things are not far from the realm of possibility at all.

Guardians of the Galaxy was in many ways as close to a superhero western as we were ever going to get up until Logan was announced, yet I’m fully intrigued by the desolate setting- both in terms of mankind’s evolution or devolution, and in terms of the forced character growth it can bring. What I’ve seen so far assures me that Logan is going to be dark and fulfilling as well as beautiful and memorable- from the cinematography to the characters themselves and the revelations in between the lines. Not only am I happy to see the Wolverine movie that we’ve been patiently waiting for all this time fully realized, but I’m also thrilled to see several world-class actors doing their best to do their characters the justice they deserve and deliver some of their most moving performances to date.

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The Ebb and Flow of Tides

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Planescape: Torment was and is one of my favorite games and also happens to feature one of my favorite universes. I’ve read the novelized version of the companion to the game and it is as much a fun and darkly intriguing mystery as the game itself was and is. Therefore, Torment: Tides of Numenera has been on my radar for quite some time and is truly something that I know I can and will enjoy playing through. This particular blog post is my first for the month (and first in a little while after my short hiatus) as well as a preface to what will soon be my review and report for the game, seeing as it just released.

So far I just want to share some of my thoughts going into the game, as well as a few tidbits from what little I’ve personally played thus far. Mind you, I don’t want to spoil any key elements to the plot or anything so for the most part I’ll be doing my best to avoid that here and in the future. I’ve played literally less than an hour in-game and therefore I’m assuming I’ve yet to even brush the surface of any grand scheme in terms of plot within the Planescape universe this time around as well. For the most part this is just going to be my thoughts prior to booting the game up and my reaction to the fan service that actually led to this title being developed in the first place.

Lately my time has consisted of a few measly things- living and laughing with my loved ones, working, studying important and intricate information on occasion, binge-watching Luther for the sheer heck of it, and salivating over Tides of Numenera and the promise it brings with it. I have greatly enjoyed the sudden influx of semi-traditional role-playing games in the last few years, from Pillars of Eternity to Torment. While I do love the action-RPGs that we see littering the desolate gaming landscape nowadays as well, I can’t help but always miss the “good old days” of classical role-playing as well. And as such, I constantly return to titles like Fallout 2 and Planescape. Whether you’re a fan of the old vibes of the 1990’s or the Baldur’s Gate II vibes from the early 00’s, the last few years have been kind to you if you like tradition meets neo-RPG style adventures.

Although the story of Tides of Numenera seems to largely be a microcosm built within the expansive universe of Planescape lore, it boasts some familiar elements for those of you who’ve played the first game or even read the book(s). When you place a society a billion years into the future truly anything can happen and that is no more apparent then the moment you begin this game. I really enjoyed watching the trailers for the game in the build up to its release and one thing that struck me as the most impressive but also the most obvious was the duality of choice. Choices can have any number of outcomes and as gamers we know this better than most people. Seeing the branching topical storylines in the trailer for Numenera was as awe-inspiring as seeing some of the new and interesting zones I’ll surely be able to travel to later in my own adventure.

I understand that some people greatly prefer the action-RPG archetype to that of the wordy, text-loving Zork II-style classical role-playing genre, and I hardly blame you. Games like The Elder Scrolls (series) and Fallout 3 (or New Vegas and Fallout 4) have plenty of lore and extra side content to discover completely at your own behest. And yet the original titles such as Fallout and Baldur’s Gate and Planescape that offer oftentimes lengthy conversations that rival or surpass Mass Effect in their depth and design are so much better still. I love tense action and leveling up my characters, but something I surprisingly miss a lot in newer games is that break from the action and the ability to truly revel in revelations and deep pondering of philosophical and interesting content. Sure, games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided handle some extremely relevant and important topics such as technological advancement versus mankind itself, and yet that game is still more a shooter than it will ever be a story.

The best elements of every story at some point must stem from the sheer fact that it is a story in the first place. And that is largely why Tides of Numenera strikes me as a much needed breath of fresh air. Ironically so, to some degree. It is very much old school in some ways but then again why fix what was never broken in the first place? Just because it features plenty of text and character driven choices in its own “craft your own adventure” style of set-up, Torment is no less exciting than the action-fueled adventures of Commander Shepard and the Normandy in its own ways. It is a realm and world-spanning adventure and a worthy continuation of the series as far as I can tell.I’m definitely looking forward to playing it more and more, even if it will be splitting time with my trilogy runthrough of Mass Effect in anticipation for Andromeda’s release.

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Games I Didn’t Review in 2016: Titanfall 2

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I have played both Titanfall titles for what probably amounts to a decidedly ridiculous amount of time. I reviewed the first one a long while ago and enjoyed it profusely despite its connectivity issues and other flaws. The second one is very much the Modern Warfare 2 to Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 1 in that it steps up the game in almost every single way, adds much more content, increases the replayability tenfold, and then makes other tweaks and adjustments that you never even realized needed to be taken care of but now cannot function without. I guess it’s fitting that Respawn would be the company to produce such a gem, especially with their roots in Call of Duty’s past as well.

Titanfall 2 is without a doubt the greatest first-person shooter title I’ve yet to play on the current generation of consoles. And that’s truly saying something, because there have been some spectacular gems along the way these past few years. My reasons for this lofty accolade are many and yet they all tie in to some of the same facts and opinions as well. For example, one thing that Titanfall 2 does that few other games save for perhaps the Battlefield series have yet to match or come close to, is offer a stunning degree of customization in the multiplayer client. I’m constantly surprised- not just by the amount of camouflage or titan chassis and colors or items offered, but by the entirety of the package provided with the base game devoid of microtransactions in terms of what is already available to players through simple unlocks.

Granted, if you want to pay a dollar or five here and there, you can unlock neat special chassis and camo patterns and packs, but even at the base level without these minimal transactions there is so much available to players. Another thing that is surprisingly done quite well is the leveling and unlocks system. In the first game there didn’t seem to be too much available upon leveling up one of fifty times or making it through another generation and essentially hitting the “prestige” level and restarting. In Titanfall 2 this has been remedied by the addition of golden tickets of sorts that are called merits. Instead of hitting a specific experience cap, you gain x amount of merits per level, per weapon, per perk/feat, per titan, etc etc. All of these combine in your after action review of a match and go towards your overall level and unlocks- of which there are many, many, many things to unlock and discover (whether that be weapons, attachments, camouflages, perks/feats, etc).

Moving away from the multiplayer content for a moment, let’s discuss the equally interesting and exciting single player mode. Yes- this Titanfall title actually offers one and doesn’t skimp by adding in radio bursts of exposition and story to campaign labeled multiplayer matches. I really enjoyed fleshing out some of the characters from the first Titanfall in a standalone story of Titanfall 2’s own creation. The single player does a good job of gradually introducing mechanics and attributes of the multiplayer content through loadouts for titans and weapon pickups for pilots- essentially operating as an interactive and fully immersive tutorial. The story is in some ways cliche for the shooter environment and yet in many others it is truly interesting for all the ways it explores the relationship between man and machine. I won’t ruin any of the spectacular moments the short campaign offers, but I will say it boasts impressive mechanics, some original ideas here and there, and plenty of tight shooting, platforming, and even interesting Singularity/Portal-esque mechanics.

I came into Titanfall 2 wondering how they were going to improve upon the interesting foundation laid by the original title and I came out of my first few hours with the game totally blown away. It’s no mere matter of adding a single player campaign or perhaps adding a few additional titan classes to the mix. Titanfall 2 has completely changed a lot of things around without losing the allure of the original experience or sacrificing anything that couldn’t be built newer or better. The community is thriving so far and the developers are constantly providing reasons for us to play the game- from daily rewards and bonuses to dropping free map packs and additional content every few months like they did with the original game as well. In an industry dominated by microtransactions and paid content, Respawn and Titanfall 2 have made an excellent environment and case for providing what the players want free of major additional charges. Yes, even they aren’t perfect, but it’s much better than $20 a pop for Call of Duty maps and constant barrages of new weapons to pay to win with.

I don’t even think my glowing words can necessarily do the game itself the justice it deserves, but I’ll let the near 90% in average reviews and ratings do the talking for me. If I had to gauge the game appropriately on my own scale, I’d probably give it a 9.5/10 and that’s quite rare for me considering most titles I review typically fall within the 7.5-8.5 range on the spectrum. I’ve honestly enjoyed every single element of the game, even with the few flaws it has, and even considering the fact that most multiplayer game modes operate virtually the same with slight modifications. That’s truly a testament to how exciting and exhilarating the overall experience is.

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Games I Didn’t Review in 2016: Chronos

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Last year was a busy time for me- in fact, this year and every year for the past four or five have been incredibly busy. Therefore, it only makes sense that I approach the veritable heap of a backlog of reviews that I owe the universe. These are titles that I’ve played and already formulated opinions on, and yet for whatever reason I could not find the time to review in full. However, I will write some brief remarks regarding each game that I decide to do this for. Essentially, my goal is to provide ample detail- although avoiding spoilers to some degree, in regards to the overarching plot lines or major details of the games themselves.

Chronos is an intriguing game in many ways. It was one of the headlining titles for the Oculus Rift and has received excellent reviews to date. It sits somewhere around an 80/85 percent out of one hundred. It isn’t your traditional virtual reality experience, and when I say this I mean you can actually see a playable character as with any traditional third-person role-playing game. While there are light role-playing mechanics present within the game, the experience is mostly atmospheric and not necessarily deep enough to rival anything like The Witcher or The Elder Scrolls in terms of questlines or overall narrative prowess.

The story seems to draw on some ancient roots of Greek and Roman mythology and the title may even allude to such as well if you think about it- as well as the passing of time. You take control of a hero on a “lifelong quest” to purge their homeland of an almighty evil and to delve deeper and deeper into a mysterious labyrinth which is central to the plot. Another interesting thing in regard to time and the title itself is that said labyrinth only opens once a year and if you fail to delve deep enough to uncover its secrets you will be cast out until the next time it chooses to open. At its core, Chronos is an adventure game first and foremost and as such it offers plenty of thrills and gorgeous visuals.

Leveling, as with most role-playing games, is an important part of your adventure. However, Chronos approaches this in a way that sort of reminds me of Fable and yet is totally original in its own right as well. Each adventure into the labyrinth ages your hero as they must wait to return another year should they fail in their quest. Obviously, things are not going to be easy enough for you to just run through in your first year- so coming back is completely in the question. As you age you start to lose stamina and agility and gain other attributes like magical prowess. It’s a neat and refreshing give or take system and it definitely changes the way you play as well.

As with many of the Oculus Rift launch games and with virtual reality adventures in general, Chronos isn’t necessarily a very long game. That having been said, it is probably one of the lengthiest and best virtual reality projects I’ve yet to play in my own experience with the consoles with provide VR. Most people should clock in anywhere from twenty to thirty hours on it and could definitely see more than that if they make a goal of finding every single secret and scrap of lore within the adventure. The attention to detail, the solid mechanics, and the overall aesthetic experience have such a level of depth and attention to quality gaming that it really pleasantly surprised me.

Gunfire Games deserves all of the praise they’ve been getting for Chronos and I definitely would recommend it to anyone interested in playing a few VR titles in the future. Once the price for VR headsets and equipment goes down a little bit and there are other quality titles to accompany this one in your collection, you should definitely make a point of at least attempting to play it whether adventure-RPGs are your “thing” or not. In my mind, it’s at least a solid 8 out of 10 and definitely worth the time and effort.

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For Honor Review

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In the week since Ubisoft’s For Honor released, I’ve been either playing the game or reading and watching anything related to it. I’ve read and viewed other people’s reviews, talked to them about their thoughts, and tried to talk myself out of writing my own review as well. That last point is not for lack of positive reinforcement, nor is it for negative reasons in regard to the game itself. However, I feel like everything I am about to say is going to in some ways sound pretty redundant, and that irks me above all else. It’s a good thing in a way- if everyone who plays and reviews a game is largely in agreement, then you’re bound to be getting the best possible feedback on your product or as a gamer.

I played through the beta period with a friend not long before the game became openly available, and some things have changed since that time while others have remained the same for better or worse. For Honor is at its best when you completely ignore the story and focus on the combat itself. I am not saying to ignore story mode in its entirety, as it will definitely help you out where multiplayer is concerned and as far as gaining experience overall goes. However, do not get sucked into the narrative itself as you will only emerge confused as to what the ruckus is really all about and why samurai are fighting knights who are fighting vikings. It’s as bonkers as you’d think and as bonkers as it sounds and even more impressively, it’s probably less believable than the events of Resident Evil 7 and their impact (or lack thereof) on its protagonist.

Like pretty much every other reviewer has said to this point in time, For Honor knows what it does and it does it well. If it were a merchant it would be selling death sticks- yes, that’s a Star Wars reference and joke. To take it one step further, the combat is such a priority and so well played out and played up that if this were Star Wars, For Honor would be the severed arm laying on a cantina floor roundabouts Mos Eisley. Now, reeling our thoughts back in and not straying too far from the source material here… In case you didn’t get the memo, combat is an important and impressive thing within For Honor and it is implemented in a way somewhat similar to that of Nioh’s complex yet fluid mechanics. What I mean by this is combat can be boiled down to simple mechanics and yet the ways these mechanics mingle and interlock become complex to understand on a grander level.

Whether you choose to play as a samurai, knight, or viking- heck, even regardless of what heroic class or caste you choose within those three factions, the combat can be boiled down to virtually the same controls and mechanics. Now, one class and one faction may of course handle differently than another, but mechanically they are both stable and familiar once you’ve got the basics under control. You choose between one of three positions- essentially left, right, and high/up. These positions correspond with greater reactionary time given to defense, offense, and overall speed and agility as a result. Similar to Nioh in some respects and simpler/different in others, all three directional positions can be changed on the fly and at a whim by players, lending to breaking combos, counter attacks, parrying and ripostes, dodging, switching targets, and so much more. Simplicity is sound and beauty and even simple mechanics fluidly combine to form a complex melee mesh.

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In case that wasn’t enough for you, don’t forget that battle-ready warriors must also be strategists who account for stamina expended, area of effect items and attacks, enemy ballistics, the ebb and flow of massive skirmishes, and other visceral and intangible factors. Hopefully you’ve all played enough of the Souls series by now to recognize the importance of stamina and why button mashing doesn’t quite work as well in melee brawlers as it does in traditional fighting games. In terms of overall realism, I hope you aren’t considering that as a factor for purchase because you’ll be sorely disappointed- however, as it stands, For Honor offers a semi-realistic and authentic melee experience that more than competently gauges the experience and challenge as a whole. It’s a very psychological experience and should definitely be different player to player when you consider the immense skill and understanding curve from class to class, person to person, faction to faction.

No matter what modes you take part in the mechanics and game remain largely unchanged- even between single and cooperative play, 1v1, 2v2, and so forth. The gameplay is almost always tense in skirmishes whether it be at the start or the thrilling and blood-soaked conclusion. Rarely will you so incredibly outmatch or outpace an opponent or opposing team unless you managed to exploit mistakes or openings and double or triple team their only remaining player. The whole 1v1v1 kind of setup is truly entertaining and interesting to see played out and it helps that it works remarkably well in execution as well as conceptually. Don’t worry about getting left out to dry by incompetent teammates however, as most modes also account for leveling the odds against multiple attackers by gifting you the power of revenge (mode) and devastating combos.

Like most traditional fighters and even other online hack and slash brawlers, For Honor offers more than a handful of playable characters between its three factions. Unlike most other games however, it is not as simple as you would expect to switch between them. Although every character is virtually the same on a fundamental basis, each faction boasts several classes that are far from the same old class in the other factions’ offerings save for a cosmetic upgrade or change. Each class offers varied range, capabilities, combos, chains, and more. On top of that, you can actually customize this even further to a certain degree whereas finishers and coup de grace are concerned, among other items of interest. While story mode will act as somewhat of a tutorial for certain classes and help you to warm up to gameplay and the variance between factions and methodology whilst fighting, it’s still quite a jarring difference in reality and really forces you to learn not just your own character but your opposition’s as well.

As with many fighting titles, each character is very much a give and take sort of proposition- meaning while one class may offer plenty of strength and attack power, another may have them beat on light attacks and plenty of stamina. You must be tactical and strategic even in your choice of class within your faction, and that’s perhaps the most interesting thing to note about a game that otherwise looks like a simple and repetitive hack and slash multiplayer experience. In many ways, even if the story does not, For Honor digs very, very deep and maintains its focus without sacrificing vision or fluidity of design. Each character has their own potential for earning gear and upgrades to cosmetics, statistics, and prowess as a whole. It’s a pain to slog through match after match in search of hard to come by earnings, so I’d recommend playing through the story mode as well for some slightly easier currency pickups, as well as finding collectibles and performing side tasks. If you’re careful and pay attention to how you pursue certain upgrade paths and characters, you won’t have to suffer through the plethora of microtransactions that plague typical Ubisoft and online-heavy games.

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And now we come to the relatively minimal negative aspects of the game, save for the aforementioned microtransactions which are of course deplorable but thankfully (relatively) avoidable as well. For Honor is a visceral and gripping experience- certainly one of if not the best fighting/hack and slash/brawling game I’ve yet to play. And yet for a game that focuses so much of its real estate on the online infrastructure it is afforded, that online aspect can be such a bear to deal with. I know it has only been a week thus far, and yet I still had higher hopes for the servers and the matchmaking- especially seeing as that’s obviously the main focus of the entire project. Disconnects and network bumps or errors must be addressed in the future, and sooner rather than later. If they are remedied then I have no doubt it’ll improve the experience as a whole.

Concept: Vikings, knights, and samurai fight for a thousand years in a conflict that nobody really cares too much about because we’re all too busy watching this one guy get his head lopped off and his body lifelessly tumble off a bridge and into some beautifully rendered water.

Graphics: The environments are varied and textured to an amazing degree. Characters looks great even though they are all strikingly similar up until you’ve leveled enough of your gear to truly make a name for yourself and stand out from the pack. Every environment also features accompanying dynamic weather changes and patterns which look and feel believable and fantastic.

Sound: Although you’ll mostly hear cries of pain and anguish, metal on metal, and other sounds typically associated with combat or films, the soundtrack is a great, resonant accompaniment as well.

Playability: Like any good fighting game, For Honor is easy to grasp and difficult to truly master. The mechanics are simple and straight forward, the means to defeating all of your enemies are laid out in front of you, and yet the path towards your objective is sometimes blocked by an incredibly agile samurai warrior who claims your life time and time again.

Entertainment: For Honor is a semi-flawed experience in that its fun and atmosphere hinge upon a networking system which boasts many prevalent issues at the current time. However, the experience as a visceral fighting game and realistic depiction of combat and battlefield tactics is unparalleled and often well-realized. It is a fun experience if you can handle connectivity issues for the time being.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.0

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Pokemon Go: Gen 2 Update

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Pokemon Go is flawed at best but it is an endearing project that, similar to Bungie’s Destiny, has evolved over time into something much greater and relatively smoother than it initially was when presented. Over the past week (and potentially still going on) Niantic has been slowly but surely releasing new pocket monsters into the wild. Although not all Generation 1 and 2 Pokemon are in the game as of yet- many monsters of the legendary variety have yet to ever show up and be confirmed, this is definitely good for publicity as well as for adding content to the alternate reality simulation.

I was never personally big on Pokemon Go, but I recently started watching the original Indigo League again for old time’s sake- more on that later, as I was considering blogging about it and my impressions as well. Needless to say, this led me to want to scratch my Pokemon itch- something that I haven’t felt in a good long time, and rather than shell out the forty bucks for the newest game(s) I deigned it an appropriate time for the hefty download to my iPhone instead.

It’s only been a couple of days and I’ve played sparingly here and there between work and other responsibilities, but I’m finding that it is easily one of the most accessible titles, if a bit frustrating thanks to several glitches and bugs here and there. The most annoying aspects come from random GPS and server failures as well as the fact that the app takes about six or seven tries to even get started. Besides three moments where my app crashed right when I captured rarer monsters, it’s been fun and games so far. I’m a solid level ten and already have some nice second generation additions with over five or six hundred combat proficiency and power.

My basic impressions are probably pretty close to any and everything else you’ve heard about the game and the update in the past, however I still think some things merit credit or explanation where credit or explanation are due. The most recent update has added some other elements besides simple boosts to the roster and the mechanics. Pokemon now more actively and realistically try to evade capture- often knocking even well-aimed pokeballs away if you’re not careful in your timing. Several new items have been added as well to further expand the lore and the universe of Pokemon Go. All in all, the update itself lays a solid layer upon the shaky foundation of the game and actually makes it a little more balanced and playable even for its flaws.

Sure, it’s annoying as ever that some of the rarer Pokemon, no matter their level, will break free of most any pokeball and virtually ignore your berries and charms- I’m talking to you Togepi and Totodile. But all in all it’s a rich experience and one that, despite being limited to only some three hundred of the total eight hundred plus Pokemon now available in the known universe, is fun and encompasses the feelings I imagine Ash, Brock, and Misty must’ve felt in the original series. I’m interested to see where the app goes from here and hope that it gets the continued support it and fans deserve as well. It’s a worthy goal to want to meld interactive gaming and health benefits, after all.

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Absolving Us of our Sins

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Today’s post has to do with two games that are coming in the as of yet undetermined future, but supposedly within the bounds of 2017. The first title is Absolver- an action oriented role-playing game seeking to meld concepts of RPGs and MMOs in terms of story and open-world gameplay. The second is similar in design but follows a more rogue-like situation as it is none other than Capybara’s Below. While these two games bear similarities in both initial glances and potential expectations, they couldn’t be more different upon looking at the winding paths they’ve taken during their development and overall tenure in creative production.

I’ll start with Absolver, which is being developed by Sloclap- a studio made up of former Ubisoft veterans who have worked on a number of titles in the past including Ghost Recon. It is being handled on the publishing side by Devolver Digital- more widely recognized for their work on the Shadow Warrior reboot and sequel. In terms of technicality, the game is going to be rendered fully in a version of Unreal Engine 4 and therefore should be pretty versatile in what it can handle and how it can evolve throughout the single and multiplayer components of the campaign and story.

The game is set in a fantastical land rife with martial artists and warriors seeking to prove themselves worthy of admission into a class of peacekeepers which derive their names from the title of the game itself- Absolvers. The game seems to want to meld plenty of preexisting attributes from other titles into an original and inventive experience, which is commendable to say the least. Players will find themselves in 3v3 and 1v1 matchups against computer controlled and player controlled opponents throughout the story as they traverse an open-world setting. While at its core it wishes to be a fighting game, movesets will be determined by collected cards and skills- meaning the more gear and bonuses you desire, the more exploration and combat you’ll inevitably face.

As of right now, the game is set to be initially released for PS4 and for PC, which brings me to my smooth jazz transition to Below- set to show up on Xbox One and PC initially. Below has been in development for what seems like a very long time, and has consistently been one of my most anticipated titles of the year. Luckily, it seems like we may have an opportunity to actually witness its arrival in 2017 and alongside a slew of promising content and activities as well. I’ve already mentioned that it shares some single and multiplayer similarities to what Absolver wishes to accomplish, that it is a rogue-like title, and that it too has an evolving and open world. What also catches my attention is the fact that perspective and exploration play an even larger role in Below than combat and evolution seeks to.

It is, at its root, an adventure title seeking to send your tiny player-character into the world and the depths of caverns and crags in an ever-evolving experience and story. You will very definitely be able to write your own experience and your own narrative in the way you explore and the things you discover. The difficulty and overall mechanics sound very close in execution to Salt and Sanctuary- a title that many have enjoyed comparing to an independently developed Dark Souls, essentially for lack of a better comparison. If you think back to Double Fine’s Massive Chalice, which featured randomly generated worlds and stages and an interesting overarching narrative woven into the player-characters’ survival, you’ve probably got a firm handle on what Below seeks to encompass.

While the finer points and details of both titles are inevitably not going to release until closer to said games’ actual release dates as well, I’d like to think I know what to expect but also am open to welcome advancements and surprises. Below has been a long time coming and even Absolver has been in development for several years now, so it’ll be nice to see how they are received and if they live up to the hype and anticipation. I like to think that indie experiences constantly surprise and baffle us more than their triple-A competition, and that they’re more likely to garner praise and receive cult followings than to be belittled like annual releases and large IPs. I know today’s post has been a brief one but I’ll leave you with a gorgeous picture of Capybara’s adventure title as compensation.

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World-Building in Deus Ex

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As it currently stands, there are four main installments within the Deus Ex franchise. That’s not counting the variety of mobile iterations, versions, or other side content and activities. As with any good universe, there’s also a fair share of novels and fiction in regards to the Earth of the dystopian future depicted in each game. Deus Ex (2000), Invisible War (2003), Human Revolution (2011), and Mankind Divided (2016) are the four canonical entries I will be discussing to varying degrees here. I got the idea for this particular post somewhat out of the blue, and yet it is equally fitting due to the fact the series is going to be on somewhat of a hiatus whilst Square Enix decides how best to handle their new Marvel deal.

Without going into great detail and ruining the stories of each of the aforementioned titles in the series, I will say that each shares similar settings and ideas, especially in terms of overall world-building. Whether you refer to the first two titles or the most recent releases, some things have simply evolved rather than changed as the series continues on. Now what do I mean when I refer to world-building exactly?

In my mind, it is interesting to examine how a developer approaches crafting a living and breathing world for their players to exist within and for game-players to explore. This includes all of the lore in a fictional setting, the overarching design of the world and its environments themselves, the characters and how they are affected by or impact the environment, and any other details that fall into one or more of these categories. While this may seem like a complicated and extensive subject to handle, I am going to keep things simple and merely hit a few points here and there that remain largely constant throughout the series.

Deus Ex is so much more than the aesthetically pleasing triangles and grey tones that it seems to be nowadays. Rather it is a much deeper experience and one that oftentimes mirrors machinations and political or corporate ideology in today’s world as well. It is very much about corporations and secret societies influencing the general populace in efforts to exert some form of control over the world or another. And for this reason, as with the show Black Mirror, technology can be a strange and terrible thing- whether posing as an ally or used in corrupt schemes. Deus Ex is about alteration and advancement- as much of the human element as of technology.

There is such a degree of choice offered even from the getgo in the original Deus Ex all the way through Mankind Divided which released last year, that in many ways players can shape the world as much or more than the attributes of it have been altered or provided by the developers themselves. It is very much a living, breathing environment at all times and as with the augmentations that progressively alter the human race itself, the environment can be largely unrecognizable by the end of a game. Although you could boil down much of the chaos and change in each game to the Illuminati or other cabals’ influence, the player and player-character is largely the most influential aspect of all in and on the world.

In order to understand the majority of the worldview and built up infrastructure and integrity of the franchise, one must first get a handle on how each game fits into that structure chronologically. While Deus Ex and Invisible War are the first two titles, they are the last two on the chronological spectrum as it stands currently. Meanwhile, Human Revolution and Mankind Divided fall somewhere earlier on the spectrum. While the exact years are not necessary in order to understand this thought-blog, HR and MD take place in 2027 and 2029 respectively whereas DE and IW take place in 2052 and 2072.

In the world of Deus Ex, augmentation is no new thing. Both chronologically and chronologically in terms of release date, human augmentation has been an existing thing in the universe. It becomes bigger in Human Revolution and Mankind Divided, yet it is also a key component of your character in Deus Ex and Invisible War. It is more of a side-note in the original games, yet it becomes a very ethical and important factor as you progress through both of the most recently released titles. Technology rules the world and whomever owns that technology therefore owns the world- this is definitely a constant theme that Deus Ex seems to push and often goes to extremes to enforce and keep relevant.

In many ways, Deus Ex has some blanket themes that constantly overlap in both lore and actuality within all four titles. HR and MD both hint at much of the coming strife and activities of the original two titles, as would make sense in games that act as essentially a precursor or prequel to the events of the first two. Without spoiling much, there are underlying themes and additional lore to be found around the world that constantly hints at things to come. Whereas the Illuminati has always been a major player in the series, player choice largely depicts whether or not the world is plunged into anarchy and chaos, whether or not technology is heralded or despised, and how plenty of other equally monumental and important player choices pan out.

In terms of aesthetics and mechanics, the series has definitely evolved from the same core elements and still features such aspects as inventory management, gunplay, stealth, and choice-driven gameplay today. And in many ways, this ties into the whole world-development thing as well. There is a larger ability for players to determine not just the outcome but the evolution of the narrative and world today than there was when the series debuted, and yet that’s always been a constant. Whereas the original two titles largely focused players on determining the eventual endgame, Human Revolution and Mankind Divided continually place players in situations that demand determinations to be made on the fly and with unknown consequences potentially hovering down the road. Few things are what they seem and even the best of intentions, as in reality, can lead to dramatically unforeseen consequences.

Deus Ex has always fascinated me in ways that System Shock and Bioshock have managed to as well- largely due to the fact that their worlds are intriguing and believable, even for all the fantastical nonsense they also offer. Deus Ex has perhaps the darkest and most readily believable overtones, especially nearly two decades later as we come closer and closer to potentially seeing the effects of such globalized corporations and hegemonic entities today. And largely for that reason on top of the entertainment value of the series itself, the world, world-views, and choices intrigue me more than ever.

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