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What Remains of Edith Finch Review

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What Remains of Edith Finch is a game that I have long awaited because it blends the talent at Giant Sparrow with the conceptual value of titles such as Gone Home and adds in a much more macabre element. After all, this is essentially a game where you relive the semi-black humor semi-horrible deaths of each and every one of your family members as you waltz around the nooks and crannies of a lively house. So that right there makes Edith Finch one of the indie darlings of the Play Station 4 this year and adds it to the growing collection of games featuring Inside and all things Playdead as well in terms of dark and engrossing narratives.

Edith Finch very much finds itself fixated with the prospect of death and yet it also proves that there is always something to live for. It is a very interesting and unique take on the human condition in more ways than one and even livens up the otherwise tried and tired concept of walking around a house or other mostly linear area and reveling in your exploration a la Gone Home and Firewatch. Rather than merely be a carbon copy of all things done in the past, E.F. makes its own strides work and pushes far beyond what we’ve seen thus far.

There is still the detailed way in which you must inevitably uncover clues and progress the plot, however the mere way the text is represented and narrated as you watch the words shift and fold onto the screen and on objects of interest makes things interesting enough. As you search the house and come across items belonging to lost relatives or objects of interest the creative ways in which the smoky text scrawl onto the screen and off of it when your perspective shifts are always engaging and imaginative. Although you are playing as the last Finch and the titular Edith, it’s also interesting to note that you’ll be literally living through the morbid ways in which your relatives bit the dust as well through reenactment and reading.

There is an attention to detail in both the narrative and housing situation that constantly wowed me in ways that the admittedly bland games that have come before have not. Edith Finch looks graphically amazing and it also adds a believable amount of clutter to its main setting in ways that Gone Home and Firewatch and other similar title have not managed to do. At its root it is essentially the same type of game and yet with its variety of established characters and rich story it feels radically different as well. Although you will find yourself listening to just as many narrations and dialogues as any other exploration game in the same vein, the way it dynamically draws players in is both admirable and thoroughly worth the investment of a few short hours.

What Remains of Edith Finch is both an experience grounded in reality and one that offers a sublime and surreal quality not before seen in the genre of late. Adventure games are very much making a comeback and in my mind Edith Finch is leading the charge as of right now. There is an ironic sense of childish fantasy overlapping with discussion of adult subjects and overall mortality and morality which is something that remains engaging throughout the morose and macabre environments you’ll explore. The game does a great job of balancing the lighter and darker elements and sometimes they’re quite difficult to distinguish from each other a well.

Although there is a degree of linearity particularly in how each segment where you “play” as another family member pans out, it’s interesting to note that there are still those little instances of openness and ambiguity offered to the player in how you approach situations that eventually lead to the same inevitable conclusion. In some ways it operates as the Telltale brand of interactive storytelling does, albeit without the same level of choice in terms of alteration to the overall narrative. The text-driven narration and the general environments themselves often mesh together in ways that draw your attention from one thing to the next and never leave you feeling out of the action or bored for a moment- something that even excellent AAA games could learn from lengthy audio tapes and collectibles.

There is a certain degree of ambiguity to the game’s eventual conclusion despite the premise being relatively straightforward and to simply ascertain what has lead to the demise of your relatives. That is your main goal and an easily accomplished one, however part way through the story it also becomes clear that something darker and more sinister is also afoot. Although there are hints as to how and why your relatives have been lead like lambs to the slaughter, it’s left ultimately up to players to mostly infer why and how. The saddest thing of all is that this information is purportedly available to you however circumstance dictates time and time again that you’re denied the full revelation and as such culminates in a slightly disappointing finish to an otherwise brilliant title.

At its basest level, Edith Finch is about ultimately exploring the theme of death and immortality and how they go hand in hand. Although each of her seemingly ill-fated and cursed family members has been struck down by death’s chilled hand, each has also been immortalized both in their writings and memories as well as Edith’s own characterizations and representations of them. You constantly learn more and more about the facets that make up each character and as such they are highly realized even if they never necessarily appear in the course of the game outside of their perspective and musings. It’s an interesting way to tell a story and certainly an intriguing method to convey one with such deeply disturbing and empathetic tones as this one.

Death truly is not always the end and life is such a beautiful thing and should not be taken for granted. What Remains of Edith Finch constantly hammers these points home in more ways than one and is better for it.

Concept: Explore your cluttered and memorable family home and discover the motivations behind several relatives and the choices that ultimately lead to their untimely demise.

Graphics: The game is artistic and beautiful and constantly shifts between realistic and surreal at the flick of a switch. It conveys the tone and the mood throughout the narrative and often reflects what is being said as well as what is being felt in a believable manner.

Sound: At times the voice-work can be quite mesmerizing and is certainly one of the higher points for the game. The sound work is also respectable and shifts to suit the tone of the moment being played out.

Playability: The games controls are easy to grasp and just as easy to handle. Understandably it works quite in part due to the large amount of talent involved with playtesting the game prior to its launch- featuring developers from famous studios and writers for upcoming games such as The Last of Us Part Two for example.

Entertainment: Although Edith Finch’s own dynamic story is at the forefront of the narrative, it’s just as interesting to look to the past and to what tragic ironies and calamities have befallen her relatives. It’s an expanding and shifting tale of changing perspectives and changing outlooks on life and all the more intriguing for it.

Replay Value: Low.

Overall Score: 8.0

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Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 Review

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Sniper: Ghost Warrior has been an interesting if flawed series thus far with three entries to its name. While the first game was beyond mediocre and the second improved upon the formula in many ways but still didn’t offer much in the way of quality, the third time may actually be the charm for City Interactive. It’s by no means a perfect game but it is well on its way to being a decently good one and presumably once the upcoming patches hit and hopefully fix some of the glaring issues, we may finally see a competent modern day stealth-sniper title to rival the WWII and Cold War settings of Sniper Elite.

Game Informer gave the original game a 4.75 and the sequel a 5.0 however the review for the third game, which released on April 25th has yet to hit the web so all I can base general criticism on is that of the other sources I’ve read- averaging about a 5.5 or so typically. I personally gave Sniper Elite 2 a 6.5 out of 10 way back when if you care to read the somewhat broken review here (pictures and whatnot have disappeared). The one thing that can be said about the CI team is that they do put a lot of thought into fixing the series with each entry and in many ways although they didn’t nail things with the first or second games, they’ve made some vast improvements since then.

It has been a few years since we last saw the series (approximately 2013) and yet despite the graphical update some of its ideas are still rooted in the past, which isn’t so much the previous console generation but rather the stealth genre tropes as a whole. It trades in a lot of the linear mission structure for a faux open world which still essentially keeps the main missions linear but offers something along the lines of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s experience- being linear as far as story but offering a plethora of side content. So in that aspect, Ghost Warrior 3 is an interesting look at a stealth genre still dominated by Metal Gear Solid even today.

There is nothing wrong with the typical fundamentals of Ghost Warrior 3’s mechanics- they’re actually pretty standard or at least entertaining and interesting for what they seek to accomplish. Yes, there’s something to be said about originality or the lack thereof, considering the majority of its ideas can pretty much be found in other series such as Far Cry or Ghost Recon, however that’s not to say they don’t still work in this particular environment. What is fundamentally wrong with Ghost Warrior 3 and has always been a sticking point for the series is purely technical in origin. The graphics look okay for the modern brand of consoles yet they periodically crap out and muddy textures and slow animations and cause any number of experience-breaking hiccups. There is also a whole host of glitches waiting to derail your otherwise competent experience.

If it weren’t for the slew of technical problems within the game’s current build it could actually be a potential competitor with Sniper Elite in terms of recently released sniper and stealth titles. However, as it stands right now the only games that Ghost Warrior 3 trounces in that category are the first two in the enjoyable yet extremely flawed (and sometimes broken) series. All the self-same mechanics pretty much from Sniper Elite are here as well- slow motion kill cams, holding your breath and adjusting your aim, and so on.

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If it didn’t feature the prominent technical glitches that it does at times, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 would go up in stock by at least another whole point in my mind because what it does offer is some tightly controlled action and stealth despite the lack of creativity at times. It is an exciting adventure even though the story can and should be virtually ignored as it is irrelevant in the long run. The game’s best asset is the variety of main story missions that it offers- side content aside, the main missions are varied and different to the point that you never feel like you’re spending too much time doing one of something rather than a slew of tactically challenging and engaging quests.

You’re offered just enough main content to appeal to any of the three main approaches you can choose to take in the game- dubbed so creatively as ‘Sniper,’ ‘Ghost,’ and ‘Warrior’ skill trees respectively and covering long range combat and gadgets, stealth mechanics, and all-out assault tactics. Although you could take the main missions and map them out as linear chapters like any other first-person shooter typically would, they’re still spread across the open hub world which also features the occasional other activities we’ve come to expect such as outpost clearing and bounties. There are over twenty-five main missions and these are all well-executed and thought out in comparison to the slew of side content that seems an added thing just for the sake of giving reason to the creation of an open world for an otherwise linear experience.

One good concept that the game employs is the ability to carry out pretty much any mission at any time without having to unlock a certain segment or progress through other side content first- something Far Cry and other games have been guilty of in the past in attempts to get players more invested in side activities. If you really want to just tackle the fifteen hour campaign essentially then you’re free to do so without having to collect the collectibles and take out ‘Most Wanted’ bounties. However, if you are going to be doing a lot of traveling around the decently sized map please be aware that fast travel points will always be infinitely more pleasure than utilizing the horrid driving mechanics that feel stilted and look graphically incompetent compared to the rest of the content.

For largely the same reason that Sniper Elite is an engrossing experience and one that I’ve enjoyed from V2 through Italia, Ghost Warrior 3’s base combat and gameplay are the highlights of the experience easily. This iteration in the series does a much better job of actually making all-out assault a viable combat option and not limiting you to previously sub-par stealth and typical sniping elements present throughout the game. Although the skill trees are relatively limited and not as fleshed out as you would come to expect in an open world title, each of the three different trees does offer some basic improvements upon the experience and makes this the most sound entry in the series as far as gameplay goes for certain.

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Stealth seems to have definitely improved this time around which is a good thing considering it can be the most useful weapon or ability in your arsenal in most instances. The AI has been overhauled in comparison to the eagle-eyed soldiers and crappy AI of the past, however there are still some technical glitches here and there where their attempts to flush you out of cover result in them laughably positioning themselves perfectly in your line of sight for easy takedowns. Despite the mild AI bug encounters, for the most part gameplay has improved in nearly every sense over even the previous iteration.

I feel like ironically Ghost Warrior 3 could’ve used a little more development time despite being delayed here and there, if only to actually live up to its full potential rather than fail to capitalize on some of the aspects it dares to offer. You’re fairly limited in what vehicles you can drive or operate and also in what particular objects and outposts you can interact with which kind of diminishes the point of making the game a living open world and definitely mainlines the experience a lot in a more linear fashion. You are afforded a surprisingly large arsenal of weapons and technical gadgets however I feel like a lot of what is on offer is underutilized and nonessential in the long run as you can easily get by with just your guns and wits.

In terms of upgrades I’ve already established that the upgrade paths themselves are fairly basic and could’ve used some additional work, however the actual upgrades to weapons and equipment are also fairly limited in scope. This isn’t so much a terrible thing since what is offered is fairly decent, however it seems like a missed note and something that could’ve only improved the experience overall as well- a recurring theme throughout this game. Although it was initially supposed to feature a multiplayer system of some sort as well, the game has thus far failed to implement that and as such is largely not as replayable as it could’ve been with more time put into ideal content and additional upgrades and elements.

The graphics are one of the lower selling points as they come in and out of focus as I’ve mentioned and can attribute to some frustrating environmental glitches along the way as well. The two most annoying and egregious technical hiccups are the lengthy load times and prominent crashes in-game. I could deal with Skyrim taking three minutes to load because that was last generation and Bethsoft’s world was truly gigantic and still is even by today’s standards, but I cannot understand why anything in Ghost Warrior 3 should take five to seven minutes to load at any given time. As far as crashing goes, you’d better hope you’re not in the middle of anything important because as far as I can tell the game will crash at any given time and lead to some very frustrating sessions (at least until they presumably patch that glaring flaw).

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When all things have been said and done, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 surpasses it predecessors with ease but still doesn’t feel like it’s quite lived up to its potential or what it means to be a current generation game. It’s a competent and interesting experience and hardly a bad one, however it is remarkably hindered by a lot of technical issues and by the inability to capitalize one what could’ve been excellent additions in both depth and replayability. The main experience is well-done but the side content offers little in the way of recompense for a lack of reason to return once you’ve finished the linear mission structure.

Concept: City Interactive crafts their third entry in the Sniper: Ghost Warrior series and brings the series into both the current generation as well as the thoroughly over-saturated open world shooter market.

Graphics: Although it utilizes a version of Crytek’s CryEngine, Ghost Warrior 3 features some prominent graphical hiccups despite having really realistic and well-done visuals whereas weather and some environmental aspects are concerned at times.

Sound: For a game about stealth, sound plays an integral role in the experience at least in terms of gameplay. Outside of that however, there isn’t much to be said for the soundtrack itself although it does ratchet up the tension at some appropriate times. The sound design isn’t the best as far as voice acting goes but the sounds of bullets dropping and weapons and gadgets clicking isn’t too shabby.

Playability: It’s fairly simple to grasp the fundamentals for a basic runthrough of the game. As far as the controls themselves go, the game handles surprisingly smoothly and fluidly despite technical hiccups breaking up the pacing here and there at any given time.

Entertainment: Despite its flaws, Ghost Warrior 3 is as entertaining as games like Far Cry and Sniper Elite have proven to be for many of the same reasons. It’s not altogether original in what it seeks to accomplish and yet it seems to have aped the correct gimmicks and elements of those respective games enough to present a varied and entertaining main campaign.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 7.0

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The Greatest (Un?)Intentional References in The Witcher 3

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The Witcher 3 is still one of the greatest games of this generation and perhaps once you really get into it one of the greatest and most ambitious projects of all-time as well. As with any expansive quest to combat evil and save loved ones, there are plenty of popular references along the way- harking both to previous adventures of Geralt’s as well as to things that exist in other worlds entirely. I will only be discussing two of these references today- one of which I’ve talked about at some length previously either in comments or my other Witcher 3 discussion blog which can be found here.

The first reference is perhaps the deepest and potentially even completely or mostly unintentional in its origin and yet still altogether interesting whatever the case may be- me reading too much into it and nerding out or otherwise. I must warn you first and foremost, if you’re reading this post then know that I will be shamelessly discussing things of the spoilery nature that pertain not only to The Witcher series (although are predominately limited to Wild Hunt), but also to popular fiction and other mediums. The first reference I have comes in two very simple words and is in fact related to the name of one Gaunter O’Dimm- a non-playable character whom Geralt first meets in White Orchard at the onset of the game but becomes shall we say more important in the Heart of Stones expansion.

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Yes, that’s the guy right there. Now, you may be wondering how it is that a simple thing such as a name can in any way, shape, or form be a huge pop culture reference. Well, this one goes pretty deep so just bear with me as we descend into a rabbit hole of sorts and I try to make sense of the startling revelations I’ve been having lately. Gaunter O’Dimm seems to be a little bit off but it’s not until you really get to know him that you begin to realize that being off is just the tip of the iceberg- he’s obviously some sort of djinn or conjurer or demon as Geralt himself deduces.

Now here’s where I do a bit of conjuring of my own and send your brain into oblivion with my next few words: Gaunter O’Dimm can be related in more than one way as a reference to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. BAM. Didn’t see that one coming now did you? Oh yes- I assure you there is at least marginal ground for this presumed assumption whether intentional or not. You see, In the fifth book of the main novel series (Wolves of the Calla) there is a character referred to as Walter O’Dim- or Randall Flagg for those of you into Stephen King who recognize the demonic presence in both The Dark Tower series and The Stand.

So in essence this is pretty much a reference within a reference within a ton of references- confounding, I know.

The reason I say there is very definitely at least some sort of relation here is mainly because of some of the elements that make up Flagg/O’Dim’s character and contribution to the story overall. In many ways the devious and devilish acts that O’Dim and O’Dimm try to pull off are vaguely similar in scope and design. Plus they have semi-similar existences and inevitably come to about the same conclusion in terms of character arcs as well. Just as Walter O’Dim toys constantly with King’s Gunslinger in the series, Gaunter O’Dimm toys constantly with Geralt of Rivia in Wild Hunt- often working with him as much as against him behind the scenes as well as completely out of the shadows.

It’s an interesting relationship that both sets of characters have and one that dynamically affects their respective stories as well. Another interesting note is that whereas King’s O’Dim is an evil wizard who also maniacally permeates the very fabric of fourth wall breaking time and appears time and time again throughout King’s works as a minor yet outwardly evil presence, O’Dimm is as far as anyone knows “evil incarnate” and can manipulate both time and souls on a whim. Needless to say both are incredibly terrifying and powerful forces of nature and not to be trifled with.

Although their relationship as far as references go mostly stems from very similar names and highly suspect powers and intentions, it’s interesting to see that two well-known and well-respected worlds of fiction should share such amazing entities that are startlingly similar after all.

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I’ll leave you clinging to your seats with a little glimpse at at least one incarnation of the infamous Walter O’Dim of King’s legendary series…

But now we must really be moving onto our second and most interesting in-house reference, at least as far as CD Projekt Red productions and games go. It is not secret that the talented minds behind The Witcher series have been putting their respective time and effort towards a new, much more modern (but no less dark and gritty) world. Cyberpunk 2077 understandably strikes a lot of Blade Runner-esque chords and looks entirely too promising not to be an interesting next project for the team.

Although there have been recent stories in regards to the nature of the proposed trademark and how it might affect others attempting to create games in the cyberpunk genre, which has been around long before CDP deigned to craft their role-playing adventure, I believe we are in much better hands than the whole Scrolls debacle between Mojang and Bethesda seemed to be industry-wise. Potential scandal and news tidbits aside, there is an interesting relationship between both Wild Hunt and Cyberpunk 2077 and it stems from a direct and quotable source within the confines of Ciri and Geralt’s adventure. Literally- there’s dialogue support of such a reference and even lore to back things up.

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Later in the story- actually, shortly after you rescue some dwarves (or leave them to die, your choice really) from a misty island filled with plenty of nightmare-inducing creatures, Ciri will be reunited with Geralt and there will be plenty of ensuing dialogue. At one point, Ciri will mention offhandedly that she traveled to other worlds (as is well within her power) with Avallac’h and one of these worlds boasted flying carriages and people with metallic heads and something of the general futuristic-y kind of noire vibe essentially.

Well, if that obvious and blatant references doesn’t just light the signal fire for Cyberpunk 2077 then I don’t really know what will. As The Witcher 3 is probably Geralt’s last huzzah at least for the foreseeable future and a completely appropriate end to an amazing generational character arc, the next project predominately on CDP’s plate is of course none other than 2077. As such, it would only make sense that they include some kind of passing of the baton and what better way to do it than to actually confirm that both The Witcher and Cyberpunk actually exist in the same universe/multiverse? Actually, it’s quite brilliant from a developer perspective and even gave them an excuse to build in other worlds (showcasing their design abilities and unique ideas) as well as time bending mechanics into Wild Hunt as well. Really, well done CD Projekt.

Although the first of these two references is of course a lot grander and perhaps more farfetched than this second quite brief one- both are thoroughly interesting to ponder and the mere thought of Geralt and cyborg ninjas (or whatever) existing in the same dimension is mind blowing to be honest.

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I don’t know about you, but I’m sure Geralt has always wanted to travel between worlds and get attacked by what Stephen King would eagerly refer to as massive “lobstrosities” as well. Well, you’ll have more than one opportunity to travel to other realms and not all are as sunny and forgiving as this ruined desert world that echoes of human vanity and global warming and other issues prevalent in our culture today. For example, you may find yourself in a future where the Wild Hunt has decimated Gearalt’s world with the White Frost and the mere touch of snow chills you literally to death.

Or in another instance if you descend from suitably safe platforms and into the fern forest below then you suffocate and die thanks to toxic fumes. Really, Avallac’h and Ciri were lucky to wind up in a dystopian future rather than the places that Geralt was spun all around creation and quite literally through time and space for. The man just attracts bad luck and worse monsters like no other, it’s true.

Anyway, it’s been a long haul and I’m sure some of you have thoroughly fired your brains by now with at least one of these supposed references- real or otherwise theorized. I do hope you’ll share your comments and questions or even discuss some of the other spoilery intricacies of The Witcher 3 with me either now or in the future. If you cannot tell, sometimes I’ve just got to nerd out. Cheers.

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In Five Minutes or Less: Little Nightmares

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Before I begin this semi-review, semi-not-a-review post in earnest, allow me to state the obvious: you’re undoubtedly going to hear Little Nightmares in the same conversations you hear about Limbo and Inside in some ways. Ignore that chatter. Little Nightmares may strike some similar chords to what Playdead has done with their past titles, however it is in no way striking the same tone or note in what experiences it attempts to convey.

Yes, there are the similar tropes that come with dark games and brooding environments featuring dire and grotesque consequences for any unwary and unwelcome traveler. There are ultimately gruesome ends your adorable character can meet and plenty of equally gruesome foes to send her there. Environmental hazards and puzzles come in equal numbers and the mere use of light and darkness is more than enough to set the tone for each stage of the short yet endearing exploration.

If you’re into platforming puzzle titles that also feature palpable amounts of ambiance and relevant horrors and low-key fears that will probably make you cringe once you realize the extent of their depth and attention to detail, then Little Nightmares will rock your socks off. Or knock them off and freeze you with fear. Perhaps the most exciting component in the game is that it leaves pretty much everything except what you see with your own eyes quite ambiguous in an almost ‘Souls’ sort of way (of handling lore)- minus the bloody scratch marks on the ground everywhere.

Ambiguity permeates the entire experience and makes it a more convincing and exceptionally interesting one for that matter. You aren’t even given so much as maybe the occasional hint to rotate the camera around if you get stuck, however the rest of the controls are never exactly specified and so it’s up to you to learn the ropes. The experience perfectly meshes both two-dimensional and three-dimensional perspective into a very well thought out 2.5D platforming puzzler.

Although you are very definitely little and dwarfed by the surroundings you will encounter, there is nothing little at all about the immense nightmarish rogues you will inevitably face or flee. Because you cannot fight back in most cases, there is always an air of tension and terror whenever these foes enter the picture and you must fly through some puzzle or another and make it to the next area. I’m still quite shocked at how well thought out each room is and how each area ratchets up the tension and the screen literally crawls with the sound effects and slight background happenings as well.

Little Nightmares is a game that will easily catch you if you pay too much attention to your surroundings, but will ironically let you escape its clutches time and time again should you not find yourself entirely caught up in the warped reality it presents. For the most part the puzzle and platform gameplay never gets too difficult and so the entire experience is perfectly accessible, enjoyable, and entirely worthwhile in my opinion. The presentation itself will pique your curiosity and then the events themselves, as they unfold, should firmly grasp it and drag you into the experience.

The vivid imagery and scenes steal the show almost when coupled with the eerie and daunting soundtrack accompaniment. Oftentimes you may stumble onto a new area and not even notice the body dangling from a rope overhead with its feet just barely visible or the faint outline of a shadow shuffling hurriedly in the background. It’s the moments like that that add to the feeling that someone is always watching and that every skittering motion on screen is some new devilish foe come to rend your flesh or curdle your blood.

Needless to say, Little Nightmares isn’t your typical horror game and it’s much better for that fact. Ambiguity is the name of the game and the game itself will wear you out each and every time you think you’ve understood its nature- right up until the very end. You can feel free to stop and stare at the beautiful surroundings any time, however it still has a relatively run time and as such is a compact and entirely artistic and expressive experience.

If I were to apply my typical review material and run down the brief checklist of everything I tend to go through in those lengthy posts, Little Nightmares would be getting no less than a 9.5 out of 10 from me. It’s entirely deserving of that and a highly replayable experience if only to see the little touches that you’ll pick up with each runthrough here and there.

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Nier: Automata Review

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Totally dependent upon how you view it, I’ve either spent an impressive amount of time with this game- which released roughly a month ago, or I’ve dedicated far too much to an oddly compelling yet confusing adventure. Nier: Automata is stylized as a successor/sequel to 2010’s Nier, which was just as oddly compelling and yet quite confusing from a convoluted plot standpoint- something which did not impact the cult following it has obviously procured. Without spoiling too much in terms of either games’ story and pacing- whereas the first title takes a humanistic approach to things, Automata drives things the other way and focuses not only on non-human playable characters but the failure of humanity and threat of extinction as a whole.

Or at least that’s somewhat the simple gist of it, if it’s even remotely possible to boil down the extensive and surprisingly in-depth lore of the series thus far and of the expansion this game represents as well. I’ll admit, a lot of the coverage and footage I saw for and of the game didn’t exactly blow me away- I was never really impressed by the expansive yet empty world that I saw or the often repetitive encounters with too-similar enemies. While some of these issues remain to a degree, Automata also provides enough base content that it never made me feel that any one element was too overdone or too much of the focus. To a certain degree this means Automata is quite the jack of all trades and genres, however it also fails ultimately to master any one segment because of this.

There is certainly a predilection towards combat- as Nier is at its base a hack and slash adventure game with role-playing elements and other unique gimmicks littered somewhere in between. However I was actually blown away by the fact that certain parts of the game which I would not have immediately expected to be as important or to have such an impact drew me in more so than the solid combat mechanics and exciting locomotion maneuvers themselves. Whereas I thought the environments looked lifeless and bare upon first glance, I completely understand how this ties into the plot and lore and why that’s actually the exact direction the game should’ve and could’ve gone. Couple this desolation and loneliness with an equally melancholy musical score and you have a truly moving work of art.

A lot of this expansiveness adds to the ability for players to take time to think alongside their android character, reflecting on the calamities leading to the ultimate destruction of the human race and life on earth. Although every character you will encounter is in some way machine-related, not all of them will be killer robots or robot clowns and quite a few emulate historical context and interesting caricatures in ways that would put even Fallout’s founding father bots to shame. Such pensive moments as I experienced within many of the quests and plot lines of Automata were a complete contrast to my expectations and honestly raised the bar that much higher for me when it came to the bleak story being told. Somehow, against all odds I became that much more invested in the characters and the universe that I’d previously seen as two-dimensional on paper.

To delve into other aspects of the game and push off from the story and some of the periphery of the game and its moments, as this is a Platinum Games title it boasts an impressive array of combat features and upgrades. There are definite ties to the first Nier title to be found if you know where to look, yet this game serves as an easy stepping on point for newcomers looking for a thrilling and contemplative adventure as well. Combat is kept simple and precise and yet still offers the complexity of some other flashy Platinum Games titles as well- affording players the opportunity to utilize several classes of weaponry suited best to their style of play, while also keeping upgrades and additional unlocks to a minimum so as to keep things comprehensible. There are light role-playing elements here and there, but I’d say they’re few and far between.

One of the most intriguing aspects of gameplay at least stylistically stems from the change in perspective that litters some portions of the game. Typically you play in an over-the-shoulder third-person format, yet on occasion the game shifts to on the rails and top down perspectives for intense firefights utilizing your full android arsenal and party. While ultimately even the bullet-hell segments of the game boil down to eliminating your enemies and clearing the area in search of any interesting lore or story progression, I still found combat and the nice pace of breaking things up a suitable way to keep the monotony of most hack and slash titles to a minimum. The combat is solid enough that there honestly doesn’t need to be too much done with it that is flashy or gaudy and the enemy encounters and boss fights are memorable enough and frenetic and entertaining as is.

The few complaints that I would have do touch a bit on what repetition there is actually present within the game and that comes largely as a narrative and strategic thing. Your character will be afforded the opportunity to deck themselves out in the occasional rare bonus here and there, plugging in a special upgrade chip that boosts stats in certain areas and are hard to come by. Ultimately this adds some strategy to the game, however there isn’t much diversity outside of a health or damage boost and so it isn’t as interesting as it could be in terms of use. Another case I would like to make is that Automata falls heavily into the Dragon Age II camp of adventure titles- meaning there is plenty of lore and content there and it isn’t a bad game at all, however you’re likely to retread many of the same or all-too similar areas for the duration of the campaign and throughout your quests. Although encounters will be varied and narrative progression unhindered, it’s a sort of lazy game design flaw that bugs any and everyone.

The world and lore is entirely too intriguing for it to be limited in some of the ways it is- perhaps not literally as it is quite expansive, but in terms of scope and use as a character in and of itself. All things considered, if you played the previous installment then you’ll probably agree that Automata is certainly a leg up on the original in nearly every single way possible. The combat encounters are fun if not always diverse, the lore is handled quite well and manages to promote some intriguing plot lines, and the gameplay mechanics are quite solid and rarely offer any hiccups to halt the fluidity of the game. If you’re looking for an experience that has the ability to be a comprehensive one but doesn’t force you to explore it as deeply as you could, then Nier: Automata is for you.

Concept: Guide your android comrades in the eternal war against the machines. Quite literally, rage against the machine.

Graphics: While you will see ultimately a lot of the same, what is there is rendered quite well and there aren’t too many muddy textures involved.

Sound: The melancholy mood that permeates the soundtrack and the narrative itself lends to the experience overall and is a strong selling point.

Playability: While it has some quirky features and abrupt changes in perspective at times, the gameplay handles excellently and fluidly throughout your adventure.

Entertainment: There are often hidden depths to be found but the main draw lies in the fact that the experience is totally what you make of it and there are many interesting facets to the characters and the world and conflict themselves.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.5

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Games I Didn’t Review in 2016: The Division

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I’ll admit it outright- I was more than hyped for the release of Tom Clancy’s The Division in more ways than I can possible explain. The basic premise of an unforgiving romp through a devastated New York City struck chords favorable to Crysis 2 within me and that was fine by my standards. Add to that the fact that it was the first Tom Clancy game I’d been thoroughly excited for since Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and you’ve got yourself quite the hype train rumbling down the tracks.

What transpired is something altogether different than I’d initially imagined and envisioned, although that’s not to say it was terrible or that it hasn’t evolved over time to become a closer image to what I expected. As with any MMO/RPG, The Division fell into many of the same traps that Destiny did in the year or so before. The saving grace for these games is that the developers can take this into account and slowly update it enough with each new patch or content release and bring the game closer in line with what players expected or asked for. The disappointing part is that this takes time and not everyone has the patience to wait for a game to become what it should’ve been from the onset.

Once you eliminate some of the ironically farfetched aspects of the game and its gameplay and factor in the realism and attention to detail, The Division is quite the grandiose picture of a devastated NYC after all. The environments are certainly one of the stronger aspects both in aesthetic pleasure and tense action forced upon you by harrowing conflict in close quarters with an adaptable enemy. The cover system is quite progressive and you’ll certainly need to utilize the variety of environmental protection as you take the fight to rioters, looters, and heavily armed militia forces attempting to make the most of a bad situation. The enemies you’ll face are some of the smartest in terms of functioning thought processes, even if they’ll often open themselves to easy dispatching as well.

When I think of the Tom Clancy brand of games I often immediately think of action-packed tactical outings such as Splinter Cell or Ghost Recon. Truthfully, in the last few years the TC games we have seen have either been a disappointment or fallen somewhere outside of this traditional category. We have had wonderful additions to the Splinter Cell family, but the newest Ghost Recon titles have been far from great in terms of following the tactical baseline. I’m all for trying new things out and The Division is a testament to that for the TC label and surely an influence ultimately for Ghost Recon: Wildlands as well, seeing as it shares the same genre type. What I mean to say is The Division has broken some new ground for better or worse- it does what it states and no more or less, considering the fact that it sticks to tactics and ultra-realistic firefights.

While I recognize that even now it still has its flaws, if I had to recommend whether or not to purchase the game I would definitely say to go for it if you can secure the complete package- DLC and deluxe items or whatever else may be available to you. Microsoft, Steam, and Play Station Network all often offer deals on titles that have been out for some time and packages as well so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find on any main platform. Whereas Rainbow Six: Siege is a great game bogged down by paid content and premium status packs and an initial barebones game in terms of content, The Division only really offers three major expansions and the rest of its paid content is mostly cosmetic. I’m glad that Ubisoft has foregone some of its typical shenanigans concerning paid and premium content and followed more along the lines of Bungie and Destiny.

Ultimately if I were to assign the game a score it would have to be somewhere in the 7.0-8.0 range, even as of now. I’d certainly lean towards the 80% mark rather than anything lower than 75% however, but I cannot say the game doesn’t still have its fair share of glitches, bugs, and design flaws at times. What is there is approachable and definitely enjoyable, it’s just a matter of persistence and patience as well. I definitely enjoy the frantic feel of combat both against computer generated enemies and player controlled foes in the PvP/PvE Dark Zone. The Division is certainly an interesting take on hybrid shooters, that much is certain.

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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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Milly Schmidt

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