Yakuza 0 (First Impressions):

[This first impression contains spoilers]

I played about two hours of this game today. It was wacky and over the top in every way you’d expect of a Japanese melodrama. Yet, its core it had something I wasn’t expecting, a mafia story.

I haven’t played heaps of the game, in fact, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Yet the game very proudly tells me spraying stuff in people’s face while brawling somehow ‘sobers’ them up. Karaoke is a real rhythm mini-game. The combat is bombastic and fun. In fact, the combat in someways feel like a rhythm game of their own.

The voice acting, so far, is really good. It has just the right amount of dramatic yelling, filled with a good amount of pauses.

So far, I’m intrigued. Awesome!

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God of War: The Throwing Axe Simulator

[This review contains spoilers]

When I first started the game, I thought it was perfect. That feeling carried for the first 5 or so hours before cracks started to show. Enemies soon lost their initial feeling of variety, the word opens up, which can break the pacing of the game and the over the shoulder camera can get in the way, making you unable to readily see where attacks are coming from.

Yet that same camera provided the game with such a feeling of immersion, in someways it was worth the issues of combat, for just the feeling of intimacy that it provided to the game.

I really enjoyed the story, a man trying to atone and escape his sins. Trying to raise a son, and causing his illness, by denying the truth to him. I thought for the most part, it was very well done. Except for when ‘Boy’, also known as Atreus, starts to think he’s better than everyone else because he’s a God. I found it to be a moment of tonal whiplash that came out of nowhere, though its resolution was satisfactory. Why did he begin acting like that to begin with? It was rather out of personality.

The mythology of the world truly is what pulls you in, with Kratos interacting with these foreign Gods with a certain disdain. Mirir is truly a highlight, explaining the world around you in a truly organic way.

Kratos’ relationship with his son is also a strong aspect, he obviously loves his son, but doesn’t know how to express it. It’s touching watching him learn how to truly be a father. Also, with his wife’s death hanging over both their heads, it’s touching watching them both mourn her.

The gameplay is also fun. To me this game has good combat, but it can be repetitive. Despite that, it’s satisfying upgrading your character and son. Becoming stronger is noticeable and a welcome aspect to the game.

An easy criticism would be to say God of War is a ‘throwing axe simulator, also known as the land of invisible walls’. Yet that’s be simplifying it. Yes, a lot of the combat can just be throwing the axe, yes, the invisible walls can be immersion breaking, but these are small complaints.

The set-pieces in this game truly are breathtaking, the art direction creates a beautiful and fully realised world. I recommend this game to anyone.

Dragon Age 4: The Hype is Real

I just can’t wait for this game, current speculation is for it to come out in 2021, and I’m like, WHY?!?!

I’ve already waited four years, I mean, I have to wait another three?

That’s too long. I’m still looking forward to it, the hype is still very real.

It’s just, why?

Also, Solas, you betrayer! I will fight you in combat, you’ll be the greatest Shakespearean villain in gaming, if done right.

I’m hoping this game isn’t another Mass Effect: Amdromeda. Don’t get me wrong, I like that game. But please don’t let Dragon Age 4 be a buggy mess, please just let it be awesome.

I’m ready for the game, just, don’t disappoint me BioWare!

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds (2017) Review

[This review contains spoilers]

More of the same is best way to describe this expansion.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I liked Horizon Zero Dawn, I thought it was a good game, and I think this is a good expansion. What I liked most about it was the amount of content you get with it.

This is very similar to amount of extra content that Witch 3 and Oblivion gave you. Most modern games don’t go out of there way to give you this much content anymore. A lot of DLC is throwaway nowadays, so its nice to see something that really does feel like an expansion.

Now one of the biggest issue I had with The Frozen Wilds was the difficulty curb was too hard in my opinion. It also taught me something else, that once you play the ‘new game plus’ mode, you can’t change the difficulty, which is in a word: Bullshit.

It hampered my overall enjoyment, despite it being a well made game.

The Frozen Wilds really did make me appreciate one thing though, Horizon Zero Dawn was, and is, beautiful. The visuals are still stunning, even when compared to new game releases.

Another issue I had with the game is that it felt like a rehash, like they didn’t know what to do with the plot; so they just rinsed and repeated what they had before, which just came across as lazy to me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s competently written, and there is nothing wrong with it. This game just could’ve been better.

I mean I liked the characters introduced, like Ourea, that worships an AI like a God, but somehow still befriends her. I always liked how Horizon handled these tribes people explanation of technology as something magical, it’s the contrast between the future and the primitive that’s just so interesting.

However outside that, don’t expect much, like I stated before it’s more of the same. While that isn’t bad, that isn’t a great thing either.

I Fantasise about a Fantasy Game

Witcher 3 was, and is, one of my favourite video games. I’ve played it twice, finished the expansions. I love this game. I also adore Dragon Age: Inquisition. Finished it twice. I thought it was a fun time.

I’ve essentially been waiting for two years for the next big fantasy game to come out and it hasn’t happened yet.

Yes, I could play Final Fantasy XV, but it isn’t a traditional swords and sorcery type games. It’s far more Japanese. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t exactly what I’m looking for. It also technically won’t fully update for awhile, so I want to wait for it to finish. I want to play the best version of that game.

I want to play a video game where I have sword and slay magical creatures. I want a game with a great story, where I’m the hero. Where I can get the girl. Where I save the day.

This is one of the reasons why I loved Skyrim. That game was great, even if it was thin on the story front. I’ll never get over the killing butterfly mechanic. A strangely fun aspect of the game. The vampire expansion was fun too.

Other than Dragon Age 4, I can’t think of another traditional fantasy game on the horizon; and you know, that really sucks. I really want to play another one of those games.

I want meaningful choices. I want an expansive world with it’s own unique lore and intricate cultures, I want to see different people from different places unused to each others customs. I want to feel uncomfortable in certain situations because I’m not sure how to react to these other ways of life.

I want to see frictions between people because their nations are at war.

I want a world that just breathes with life. Political intrigue. Fascinating twist and turns. So on and so forth.

I just don’t see a game that’s anything like that coming out.

It’s probably a miracle that video games like this are ever made, because it’s a tall order. Yet when they are made, it really is a beautiful miracle.

The closest game that I think of that might be like this is God of War. We’ll have to sit on that to see if it really will be that kind of game.

I should probably pick up Dragon Age: Origins. I played it once but never finished it. I might have to give it another go because I have an itch that needs to be scratched. I also am waiting on the Switch, so it’ll be awhile before I can give The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a proper play. Even then I’m still unsure if it’ll scratch the itch.

So Fantasy games, where are you? I’m getting a weird rash without you.

Most Anticipated Games of 2018!

2017 was a great year for video games, but I think next year will be just as good.

Spider-Man:

This is easy to put on the list. It’s a game about being a web-slinging badarse. Why wouldn’t it be here? Is it the greatest looking game ever? No. I like the bright colours and the kinetic energy. The only thing I really wish is that there was more variety of colour. Maybe there will be, we’ve only seen a trailer, but so far so good!

God of War:

I mean you’re a God with an axe! You travel with your son. Nothing can really measure up to you as you stomp their brains into the ground. I see no issues here.

Red Dead Redemption 2:

A cowboy in what appears to be a very compelling, beautiful, open-world. Sounds good to me. I just hope I get a female option and that there are no microtransactions.

Days Gone:

Zombies! Zombies everywhere! I couldn’t help myself. This honestly seems like a fun game, nothing ground breaking, but I don’t think it has to be. So long as it’s fun with a decent story then I’m happy.

Kingdom Hearts 3:

I hope this game isn’t delayed, it looks amazing. I think Pixar as a video game is never something I thought I wanted, but now I do. So again, please come out this year! It’s a really damn pretty looking game.

Vampyr:

I’ll be a vampire. It’ll be total rpg. Meaningful choices. A flexible plot. Sounds great. Sign me up. The graphics could be better, but I’m not complaining.

Skull and Bones:

I want to be a pirate. I heard that the ship combat isn’t the only element to this game. I hope it has a first person campaign, because then it’s got my attention.

Shadow of the Colossus:

A remake of a classic game. I really want to see that. It looks lovely and compelling. I’m on board.

A Way Out:

Couch Co-op! I missed you! EA can’t be trusted, so I hope to God this is a good game!

Metro Exodus:

This really looks like something different. A shooter with a strong element of horror, with a world that just breathes with character. Awesome. I hope it lives up to the trailer.

Octopath Traveler:

An old school jrpg. I love these types of games, it just needs a great story. For me these games live or die by the narrative. So long as that’s good, everything else should fall into place.

Games I can’t wait for that probably won’t be here until 2019:

If 2017 was great and 2018 has that same potential, I think 2019 could be even better. Honestly, I’m not pulling anyone’s leg.

The Last of Us 2:

This is probably one of the most anticipated games coming out in general. If it’s anything like the first game, I think it’ll be wonderful. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

Dragon Age 4:

I really want this game to come out! It’s been too long! I love Inquisition. I love the world, the lore, the characters. So long as this is improves on the previous game, I think that this will be a fantastic ride.

Cyberpunk 2077:

I honestly adored Witcher 3. It’s one of my favourite video games full stop. I hope it’s just as good as it’s been rumoured to be. I honestly can’t wait for this one. I hope we get some news on it next year, because the anticipation is at full throttle with this one.

Persona 5 Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

This is the first Persona game I’ve played and I enjoyed it. I think that this is a good game that could’ve been great. It has some honest strong points, with great characters, a wonderful art style and fun turn-based combat.

Yet the main plot held it back for me. The god bullet was the largest deus ex machina. The plot twist was just strange, Igor (or his imposter) was a giant grail that was filled with people’s life source? Defeating a god was fun and dramatic, but the plot getting there toward the end was nonsensical.

The game basically ended twice. Both of them filled with too much exposition. There was also too much information that was repeated throughout the game. Maybe that’s fine if you play it over a couple of months, but marathoning the game just emphasises these faults. I don’t need hear the same information over and over again.

Also I felt the pacing was off, one second I’m in the largest dungeon ever, trying to bring truth to light of someone’s crimes; the next, I’m being a high schooler. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted. On one hand that’s great, it leave me wanting more; however I wasn’t prepared for the game to take away months from me toward the end.

So I never got to complete my romance, or fulfil all my confidant rankings. That was annoying and unfortunate.

Especially when I felt like that last twenty hours of the game just dragged for me.

Regardless, this is an over a hundred hour game, and I liked most of it.

I liked chilling with Ryuji, he’s brash but loveable. Yusuke is a stereotypical artist. Futaba is an adorable geek. All these characters are just wonderful. I loved getting to know them, and being their friend. I adored the message in this game about overcoming your hesitations and others expectations. How you are literally embodying the spirit of rebellion.

That’s a powerful message.

I also think it’s great that each major dungeon, or palace, is significant to the narrative. They acted as a stage for the characters to free themselves of doubt and fear. To be true to yourself and having the bravery to do that.

To reform society.

That’s another message I love about this game. That things can only be horrible if that’s all we expect them to be. That sometimes adults and authority have it wrong. That they can be dirty and corrupt. That we can as a society recover from that, by exposing the rot to the light.

That anywhere you go, there will be shitty people, but that doesn’t define us. Being complacent and letting it persist, that’s the true failure.

This game has a lot to love, with great dialogue options and good voice acting. An engaging plot, for the most part. It’s just a shame it’s not always consistent on the narrative front. Because I really did enjoy it.

I thought the dungeons were well designed. I like how gaining more confidant ranks impacted combat. I thought the art was just dripping with style throughout the whole game. I enjoyed the gameplay, it was strangely nostalgic whilst also mixing up the formula.

Is this a game for everyone? No, it’s too long to be for everyone, but it is a good game. An easy recommendation for JRPG fans, and something I think most gamers should at least consider.

A Video Game About Video Games

I know, it’s super meta, but the fact is many fans of video games (including me) aren’t exactly certain about the process that goes into developing and creating one.

I know it can involve tireless ‘crunch time’, that there are coders and artists that don’t always see eye to eye. That these things can take years to make, ect. But I don’t know how it works in detail, the process, the time, the budget and where it goes, so on and so forth.

I think that this would make a great game that could not only be fun, but teach people how to games are actually made. How would it work? Is it even possible to have a ‘teach me game’ and make it fun. Sure, and it’s been done before, just not in this industry.

Shirobako is great example of this. It’s a show I’ve yet to watch, yet it’s influence on the anime community could be felt by fan’s everywhere (and on most forums). It’s a show about, you guessed it, creating anime. It had such an influence that people would reference it in discussions about how anime was made, and it was as much a work drama as a show about ‘how to make anime’.

And this is how this game would work! Make a work drama about making a video game. Hell anime already tried to make this show with New Game! (another one I might have to check out?).

It could start with a young person (man or woman, depending on your choice) who’s a college drop out that has no clue where to go from here. They thought they wanted to be a lawyer, but after two years of barely passing tests and a recent death in the family (their grandmother?), they don’t see much point to it any more. They’re lost in their life.

Well while walking to the store for some milk, they see a flyer on the ground in a puddle, ‘programmer wanted: no experience required’. They pick it up, and it starts raining. Running home, they realise, ‘I don’t want to keep cooped up in my room any more’, so they make a call.

Who answers but a twenty-something that never finished high school. A person with artistic talent, a dream, and a need to make a game. You meet with them at their house where you find four other people. Everyone who at some point lost their way, so you agree to help them make a game. You’re quick to learn and the drama is never ending.

Maybe someone ends up pregnant, someone else recently quit a dead end job; and the other girl of the group is a stay at home mother that just needs some time in the week away from her kids. And the choices you make either help this game to finish or never get completed. You don’t even need to ‘really code’ in the game.

It could even all be in the same graphic level of Pokemon Gold or Undertale. My point is, I think this is just one example of how a game like this could be made and I’d love to see it. I hope someone makes a really cool game about game development, because I think it’d be a great way to know this stuff. So that there isn’t this great divide between a developer and a fan. So there is just a bit of understanding to be had, and hell, it could just be a cool game too!

Gaming’s Reputation (is it going down the drain?)

Microtransactions are becoming an issue in this industry, and not because they’re creating a profit. For companies they’re great. They’re a passive revenue stream that is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’. For the companies, that is.

For the customer, they’ve become a leech. How many times can you purchase a game? It’s impossible to tell how bad this is going to get. Just this year NBA 2K18 made you pay for a different hairstyle. I mean, buying the game isn’t enough.

Battlefront 2 had issues with microtransactions that have become well publicised, so did Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Assassin Creed: Origins and even Overwatch is starting to get backlash. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Ubisoft is making more money from ‘player recurring investment’ than their ‘digital distribution’. They’re making more money from their ‘live service’ model and the revenue has only grown year on year.

Sony is looking into it, with their CEO John Kodera stating ‘appropriate exploration and decisions taken in the future’ in reference to microtransactions. I think PS Plus is bad enough, but this is getting excessive.

There is only so much blood you can get from a stone.

Games have an ‘entrance fee’ of a certain amount. In America it’s generally $60. Then consoles expect you to pay for online multiplayer. In most games you don’t have the option of couch co-op. Then you now have to pay for things that used to be unlockable content, or in the worst case scenario, gameplay features.

This won’t last forever.

People aren’t made of money and soon they’ll stop playing; or, and this is worrying, it’ll turn into the mobile gaming market. Yes, there will still be good games, with indie games being particularly healthy in this regard, with just an ‘entry fee’. Or as it used to be known, a purchase.

People may continue to pay enough microtransactions to justify this move, but I don’t think it’ll last. Gaming will get the same reputation that mobile gaming has. All it takes is for enough teenagers to ‘accidentally’ spend their parents money for a real issue to occur. Or a spouse to spend too much money for their significant other to really blow a gasket.

It’s a ticking time bomb. In a few years from now, if all games require additional purchases, how long will it be before people decide gaming, or to be more clear AAA gaming, is just too damn expensive? When a parent looks at a kid and says, I already bought the console and the game, what else?

It won’t be what a parent remembers from their youth. It could stop lapsed gamers from ‘coming back’. It also doesn’t help that the practice of microtransactions are being compared to gambling. It’s an unflattering look.

It’d be different if games updated consistently with new free content to offset this ‘cost’. Titanfall 2 did it a little bit, Overwatch did, so did Arms, Witcher 3 and Splatoon 2. Three of these games you only had to spend money on once (the last three). When Witcher 3 had additional content for sale, it was worth it. The expansions were so big, they were ‘games’ on their own (in terms of length). Even Horizon Zero Dawn had an expansions in a similar vein.

But generally speaking, this isn’t happening.

Gamers are a stone that’s been bled dry. I’m convinced that if it keeps going this way, in a few years, they’d have killed the golden goose. And gaming? It’ll have a reputation that it just won’t be able to shake.

What Ever Happened to Couch Co-op?

[This article may contain spoilers to everything]

Remember when multiplayer meant handing a spare controller to your friend? I do. What happened? That’s what I think whenever I boot up a game like Titanfall 2. Don’t get me wrong, I like that game, a lot. But I can’t play the campaign mode with a friend. That cuts down the re-playability to me from hours of fun to 0.

If I wanted to play with a friend, we’d both need two TVs, two consoles, two wifi connections (if you’re in separate houses), two controllers, two copies of the game, ect. That’s not even including potential other costs like microphones, headphones, and so on. This doesn’t even count paying for online multiplayer. It’s ridiculous.

I’d like to play games on the TV with one console. Thank you!

Before you say that the current consoles don’t have enough power, what about Halo 4?

Halo 4 still looks like a game that came out this generation, but it was out on the Xbox 360 when that hardware had become ‘obsolete’. Yet that old piece of hardware is more capable than a PS4 and Xbox One when producing a great looking game with traditional split screen functionality?

I’m just not buying.

I’ve seen people get around this by having two TV’s and the whole set-up with two games and everything. So that they can play on the couch together. That’s far too much effort to just simulate split screen. It shouldn’t be that hard, especially ‘in the future of gaming’. It should be as easy as putting in a disc and handing your friend a controller.

Now there are some modern examples that break the trend, mainly indie titles and stuff from Nintendo (like Arms and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, both coming out this year). It’s nice that the Switch seems to be at least trying to bring it back. But these are more and more becoming the exception, not the rule.

Is this because companies make more money selling more versions of their games this way, while Sony makes you pay for PS Plus for the privilege of playing with your friends? You know, it’s very possible.

I remember when consoles really did have an advantage over the PC and it was the fun that was couch co-op. Now I’m not saying it can’t be done on PC with mods, ect. But it isn’t the same, it not as accessible or as simple as it should be.

It’s not something that as a console player I want to be meddling in. I want it to be simple, I don’t want to work at getting the experience I had with gaming a decade ago. Especially if the mod doesn’t work and I’ve got to figure out why, it seems like too much to ask for something that used to be so easy.

So slip screen, where are you? I sincerely hope you don’t go the way of the Dodo.