Monday, September 28, 2015

SOMA: Horror Done Right

Minor story spoilers ahead, be wary, traveler.

     Frictional Games - the creators of the Amnesia and Penumbra series - released their newest horror game SOMA this week, and it is damn good. Though it doesn't follow the market by filling their game with jump scares and gore or terrifying pursuers to try and scare you, SOMA uses psychological horror and the game tackles some hard-to-portray topics very well. From a traditional "scary" sense, this game is good, but from a truly unsettling and frightening point-of-view, SOMA stands out above the others in this genre, though the game does have a few cliché horror tropes.

     Conveying a truly unsettling feeling is something a lot of horror games do wrong, but SOMA does so, so right; the setting in this game is really great. Going under a brain scan helmet in a present day "doctor's" office and waking up in a broken down, submerged lab sometime in the future is only the beginning of the creepiness. You soon learn that you wake up 100 years in the future, where humanity is all but wiped out and whatever people had remained after the disaster had their consciousness transferred into robots. What remains of this facility, though, are decrepit hallways, sinister AIs, and delusional robots - in one case, you meet a robot that actually thinks it is still human. As you go from sector to sector with your AI friend Catherine, avoiding the creatures that are out to get you, you learn more and more about what happened, why everything went haywire, and your fate as one of the last parts of humanity.

     The story of this game isn't something to be taken lightly, it some big issues that can be hard to portray, self-identity and humanity being the ones that stand out. The game has multiple situations in which you have to make big decisions that, at least in my case, you will question whether or not you did the right thing. Without spoilers, I made a choice that I seriously felt bad about, but couldn't take it back or reverse it. You often question "Is being a sentient robot that was a human actual humanity?" "Am I human?" The setting helps convey a story as well as the dialog and random notes/pictures you can inspect. Broken, rusted hallways, decrepit rooms that have been deserted for who knows how long, broken down, and moss covered AI just wondering the depths of the ocean show that, at one point, there was a thriving research community in this once great facility.

     SOMA is at it's best when you are not being actively pursued by some grotesque monster or a shambling robot though the scary parts are truly unnerving, exploring the dilapidated lab is where SOMA shines. Finding out more and more about the story and the fate of humanity and what will become of you. Some of the tropes take away from the experience to me. Oh, you're gonna get on this elevator? Well, I hope you know something will go wrong. Just completed an objective despite being tailed by an enemy? What a great time for a power outage. Those are minor complaints, though.

     Overall, SOMA is by far my favorite horror game, reasonable scares, a great story, and an amazing atmosphere make this game stand out. It stands out not when you aren't being pursued by a crazy robot, but when you are just exploring the history of the facility and what went wrong.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Games of the Year (So Far)


     2015 has been a great year for gaming, arguably one of the best ever. A few games stand out to me as the stars of 2015.

     The first, stand-out game of 2015 came pretty early in the year; Dying Light is one of the better zombie games out there and having never played Last of Us, it is my definitive zombie killing experience. The smooth, parkour-based movement really makes the navigation fun and the satisfying feeling of slicing a zombie in half with EXPcalibur is gruesome but awesome. The release date (Jan 27) helped this game stand out in an otherwise slow time of year. This game was just too long and the story was somewhat meh, along with a few other minor gripes I had with gameplay, these are the only downsides.

     Second on my list is the game that sold me a WiiU. Super Mario Maker is exactly what it sounds like, make your Mario level in the way you envision it. The easy-to-use design interface makes level creating fun, like the little things you can do to change enemies, like making them bigger by dragging a mushroom on to them, or stacking them to make a wall of Goombas. You can go all out and make a level filled with flying Koopas and giant Goombas bouncing off hundreds of springs, or you can make a level that is reminiscent of classic Mario games. This game is not perfect, though; the inability to filter out some types of levels makes the 10 or 100 Mario challenge somewhat frustrating, and you can't make classic Mario games (though you can try to build upon or replicate some).


     My next game will be a lot of outlet's Game of the Year (not mine for sure, though, I still have a lot to play) and is well deserving of the title. Hell, it might even be some people's Game of the Decade. This game is really fun, the stealth mechanics are tight, and the mission freedom makes for awesome strategies and different ways to beat. Emergent gameplay in this game is unmatched by anything out right now, and the endless combinations of gear and companions allow for taking a different approach to every mission. It felt a little grind-y, though, and it's having trouble keeping me in.


      The Witcher 3 is CD Projekt Red's crowning jewel. An expansive RPG with seemingly endless side quests and a great story backed by 2 other games and a few books. The characters are great, and even the city commoners have something to say about Geralt. The Ciri portions of the story added a different, quicker style of gameplay, and just when I was getting tired of the Geralt slow, methodical combat, a Ciri part would pop up. The deep, methodical combat is another reason this game stands out among the rest of the 2015 releases, but this game struggled to keep me in, and the skill tree seems to lack any truly meaningful skills.


     But, Devin, this game released in 2014! I know this, but The Taken King is a true reinventing of the skeleton of a game that was Destiny. Destiny 2.0 revamps the loot systems, missions, and UI. It added a ton of new content, including a new race, weapons, public events, a new area, new strikes, and a new raid. TTK is what Destiny should've been at launch, it comes with a lot of welcomed changes, and is as fun as always, the gunplay is truly unmatched by any other shooter on the market now. 

     Bloodborne, as of right now, is tied with The Taken King, mainly because once I beat Bloodborne for the first time, I felt no need to go and play NG+ like I did with Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. Other than that, Bloodborne is really a masterpiece. The 3rd person action gameplay is better than anything else out there, it is fast and responsive. The trick weapons are really cool and add a depth to combat, as well. Enemy and boss design are terrifyingly awesome, and area design is ingenious, it is more comparable to Dark Souls, where there are interconnected areas and shortcuts that you wouldn't expect. I really look forward to getting the DLC in November. 

Honorable Mentions:
Shovel Knight: Though it came out last year, this year is when I played it on PS4 and Vita. A really good homage to classic action platformers. Its soundtrack is also fantastic

Apotheon: I've played a little bit of the story, but couldn't find the time to play more in depth. The local multiplayer is great, though.

King's Quest (Part 1): A fun puzzle/exploration game, great dialog and personality, albeit a little frustrating at times (I kind of suck at puzzle games, though.).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Destiny 2.0 (The Taken King)

     This weekend, me and a friend played through the entirety of Destiny 2.0, we played through vanilla, The Dark Below, The House of Wolves, and the reason I got back into Destiny; The Taken King. Now, I've put around 300 hours into vanilla and The Dark Below, but quickly fell out of it after beating Crota (The Dark Below raid boss), due to other games being released and the lack of content. Over the year we've had of Destiny, I've been addicted to playing, completely done with the game, and everything in between. The Taken King has once again roped me back into Destiny, and I'm sure I'll play for a lot longer.

     Playing through the entire game (raids and strikes NOT included) took me and a friend about 24 hours of play time. The new quests and dialog add new personality to Zavala, Ikora, and Cayde-6, the 3 class leaders, and it really shines in The Taken King, it seems Bungie added new life to these previously bland characters; they also gave the Ghost redux (Nolan North) more dialog. Ghost was missing in The Dark Below and House of Wolves, so hearing Nolan North's awesome performance as Ghost was a welcomed enhancement.
     The story of The Taken King is very obviously the best, a sinister end-boss with intentions of taking over the universe, complete with an army of Taken (basically every enemy in the game given a new, creepy look and new weapons and powers). The 3 class leaders play their biggest part in the story yet, with Eris Morn helping us along the way. The new mission design is great, taking us through old raids and giving us recycled mechanics to play through alone (recycled in a good way)

     The new Quest page in your pause menu adds a little bit more insight to the story, along with streamlining the mission system. Rather than simply unlocking the next mission right after beating the previous one, you hop back to the tower (still a process that takes slightly too long) and talk to Cayde-6, Zavala, Eris, Ikora, or any other leader, and gain a little insight as to why you're doing what you're doing. Bungie has also added a lot of new class-based quest, which consist of killing things or doing things under one of your subclasses. They've added a revamped UI complete with faction ranks; explanations of Strength, Intellect, and Discipline; new Bounties section, among other things. You can now turn bounties in without warping back to the Tower (this is fantastic). They've also given us more vault space, added ghost shells, emotes, artifacts, and useful class items. Along with all of those things, the Light system was revamped. Gone are the days of gaining levels with better gear, instead, levels 1-40 are earned by experience, as it should be. Light is now like WoW's and other MMO's "Item Level" system.

     The gameplay is as good as always and is arguably the best shooter out on the market right now, the new Warlock subclass is very fun, and the missions surrounding it are pretty good as well. The Dreadnaught (new area) is really interesting, with chests and other things needing keys in which I know nothing about, lot's of random events going on, like a war between Taken, Hive, and Cabal, and of course, the regular chest farming routes. Strikes, as always are fun team-based activities, but now they go by a lot quicker and give better rewards. Raiding, though I haven't done Prison of Elders or King's Fall, I highly anticipate increasing my Light level and finishing each of these raids.

     Overall, Destiny 2.0 (The Taken King Expansion) is filled with very welcome changes, improvements, and additions. The gameplay is as strong as always, and I'm sure with the additions of new weapons and mechanics, will only get increasingly better. The story was taken more seriously this time around, adding personality to characters that, before this release, were just bland merchants. The UI overhaul has helped streamline leveling and menu navigation and has also helped with questing. The new content is truly the best the game has to offer, the new story missions being fun and engaging, the strikes having new mechanics with bosses that aren't simple bullet-sponges. I look forward to putting many more hours into this game, The Taken King has roped me back in, and I'm not even mad.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Konami Quits Games (except PES)

     Konami announced earlier today that they were dropping out of AAA game publishing, except for their soccer game PES. This means a few things; no more Metal Gear Solid, no more Castlevania, and no more Silent Hill. Metal Gear Solid was their staple AAA game, and earlier this year, with the firing of Kojima, it seemed all was lost, and now with the director of the Fox Engine quitting along with this announcement, it seems to be the end of Metal Gear. Castlevania's last release was 2014, but its legacy still exists in Symphony of the Night (released in 1997 on the Playstation and Sega Saturn), and we will never have another true Castlevania. Silent Hill's latest game was to be directed by Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro, and the only thing we saw out of it was P.T which was taken off the Playstation Store and then Silent Hills was cancelled.

     What is to come of these beloved franchises, though? Should Konami make their last buck off of selling the rights to the games to other developers? Would Kojima buy the Metal Gear license and continue to iterate on the franchise and make even better games than we saw with Metal Gear Solid V? Should Igarashi buy Castlevania and make another game as good as Symphony of the Night? Should Guillermo Del Toro look to create a great Silent Hills movie? These are very unlikely, it is more likely for Konami to keep and bury these video games. Sadly, these licenses will probably live on through Pachinko machines and nostalgia.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Super Mario Maker

     This past weekend, I bought a WiiU, just for this game. I obviously had very high hopes going in, and really was not disappointed in the purchase; considering this is the first time I had bought an entire console for one game. Mario Maker is everything it sounds like it is, all of your classic memories of Mario, multiplied to the umpteenth degree with countless new levels and endless combinations of classic enemies, objects, and styles of map. Sadly though, the games largest appeal is also its greatest downfall.

     The level creation is open, you can design anything you want whether it be an iteration on a Ship level from Mario 3, your very own Automatic Mario stage, or a hell hole of Flying Koopas, springs, and invisible blocks; the combinations are almost infinite. It is really fun to create a map in your vision, and then see if you can beat your own map (you need to be able to beat it before you can publish it for others to play).

     The community designed levels are pretty fun, most of the time, with a lot of cool, off-the-wall designs, people really have put time into making the level they always wanted to play. Then there are the bad ones; blind-jumps, levels filled with enemies, instances where beating the level takes a jump that is so precise many won't get it, all with the allure of "I'll bet you can't beat this level," and yeah, that is fun, to an extent. For people trying to play the 10 or 100 Mario Challenge, these maps are just a waste of lives, and I wish there was a way for these -admittedly pretty unique- levels to be omitted from those two game modes.The unlock system in this game is pretty limiting (unless, of course, you just do the exploit). It makes you have to be in the Create mode for at least 5 minutes over a 9 day period, which honestly kind of sucks, if you wanted to jump in and create a Super Mario 3 level right off the bat, you're out of luck.
Aside: Don't get me wrong, the community levels that are super hard with precise jumps and stuff are fun and creative, but if I'm doing the 10 or 100 Mario Challenge, it's just not something I want. Yes, I know you can skip, regardless though, it is just something that is a slight quality-of-life thing.

     Overall though, everything that is "bad" about this game is easily looked over. The game is really fantastic and totally justifies my purchase of a WiiU, I look forward to making and uploading my own creations, and playing others' as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

GTA Freemode: Leaving Last-Gen Behind

     The newest GTA: Online update will drop on PS4, XBone, and PC on September 15. Notice anything weird there? If you didn't read the title, Rockstar is leaving behind last-gen consoles, this is a good thing. Though Rockstar didn't specify why they're leaving behind last-gen, one could assume it is due to graphical/processing limitations. This update brings in ambient, open world challenges with no lobbies, loading, or menus, they just pop up in the open world spontaneously (in this case, spontaneously means every 12 minutes or so). In the game's biggest update since Heists, Freemode adds 6 new and random game modes, where they will pop in -as previously specified- with no loading screens or lobbies.  You can opt in or out of these game modes seamlessly, which is pretty cool. This big update will also add the Rockstar Editor to PS4 and Xbone.

Metal Gear Solid V

     In the months leading up to release, Metal Gear Solid 5 seemed to by surrounded by controversy; Konami unexpectedly parting ways with the series's creator Hideo Kojima, removing P.T from the PSN Store and cancelling Silent Hills and removing Kojima's name from the box. Despite all of the bad things that happened around this game, Metal Gear Solid V emerged a great game. It is already the best-selling game in the franchise already selling three million copies, and surely will be a lot of people's Game of the Year (and deservingly so).
      A few days ago, it was revealed that the game had some cut content ( a whole chapter's worth of it) and it's believed that Konami didn't give Kojima enough time (and probably money) to finish his end-all-be-all Metal Gear. Even without the content, the game is still huge and has plenty to do. Build your base, gather resources, roam around Afghanistan and Africa looking for bases to take over and things to fulton back to Mother Base, among other, more violent things. This game is truly the shining star in the Metal Gear franchise gameplay-wise, but story wise it seems to fall short. Now, I'm not exactly engulfed by the story of Metal Gear and my knowledge of the overarching plot is minimal, so I can't attest to these complaints, but they seem to be brought up in every review and in other places among the internet, so there must be a problem. In the same article I mentioned earlier, it was shown that a final cutscene and act was missing, so that could be what is missing, story wise. 

     Gameplay is this game's shining star in the end. Controls are tight, and the stealth mechanics are very good. I don't play stealth games often because I suck at them, but this game has kept me in and interested, there are enough mechanics to approach every base in a different way, whether it be all stealth, or just a run and gun, kill everything strategy. The AI is good, although they seem to be a little, deaf, and blind (not really a bad thing), but they're better than any other stealth AI I have interacted with. The guns and gadgets you can unlock by building your R&D team and earning money are fun to experiment with too (C4 is my favorite because it's explodey and loud).

     Progression of unlocks, base building, companions, and everything else are what truly keeps me wanting to play this game. They're constant enough to make it feel like I'm achieving something even if I only take over one small outpost before flying back to mother base. Even though I haven't unlocked the good majority of gadgets and upgrades I look forward to spending the time to unlock and upgrade everything. Mission freedom in this game is really unmatched by any game out right now. Mission structure is basically "We need you to do this thing, do it in whatever way you deem necessary", really, you can approach the whole game with complete freedom.

      Only about 4% done with this game, I know I have a lot more to see and unlock, and I really look forward to sinking even more time into this game, as it is already a strong candidate for my Game of the Year, and it is already one of my favorite games of all time. Mission freedom and really great gameplay are where this game stands out and it is a shame that Konami didn't give Kojima means to finish his greatest game.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fallout 4 Season Pass Announced

     This morning Bethesda announced that Fallout 4 will drop with the option to buy a season pass that will cost $30, but here's the catch: not even they know what will be part of it. They assured people that it will be about $40 of DLC, like Skyrim, Oblivion, and Fallout 3, and that it will be coming early next year along with the Mod and Creation kit for PC. Bethesda will also be release regular updates like they did with Skyrim.

      Since Evolve and Arkham Knight, people haven't taken too kindly to devs announcing season passes before the game's release, and Fallout 4 seems to be the exception to this mistrust. I don't expect there to be an uproar because people trust Bethesda (unlike Turtle Rock and WBGames) and Bethesda hasn't really let us down with DLC before. Bethesda says in their blog "Since we're still hard at work on the game, we don't know we don't know what the actual DLC will be yet..." I like this approach, and even though I don't support season passes and won't be buying it, I still look forward to what Bethesda has to offer us.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Rocket League Report.

     As I type this there are 25,000 people Rocket League and it is number 14 on the Steam Concurrents chart, not bad for a game that didn't really have any publicity surrounding it (that is, before PSN backed it and made it a PS+ game). In an earlier post, I stated that I feared its longevity as a game, I thought people would eventually get bored of it. Well, I was kind of right and kind of wrong. I made a quick poll a few days ago regarding the play habits of about 250 people; the results were a little different than I had expected by I still was surprised by its outcome.  I had four different options: Every day, Every Few Days, Once a Week, and Almost Never.

     81 people (32%) said that they played every other day, this seems to be the people who like the game but also have dedicated time to bigger games. 72 people (29%) said that they played every day, more than I expected, but from what I heard, the people who did said that they had a dedicated team of friends they'd play with or that they hadn't got the platinum.  52 people (21%) said they played almost never, and 48 people (19%) said they played once a week (I fall into the almost never category). This seems to be attributed to the game being released at a great time. It was a good enough time after Witcher 3 and Arkham Knight, and before big games like Metal Gear Solid V and Mad Max. It was also free for PS+, which opened the game up to a lot of people that wouldn't have paid to play it. The results are saying that a lot of people play the game quite often but are showing a little bit of a drop off since the games release 2 months ago when the hype for this game was at maximum. This drop is natural, though, and the hardcore players will probably continue playing for a long time. There is also an eSports following, and the first MLG tournament was held 2 weeks ago, so, this game seemingly has some legs!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Games Go Digital

     Digital downloads have made new and old games easier than ever to play. No standing in line to wait for the midnight release of the latest Call of Duty, no worrying if your local game store has a copy of Ocarina of Time; digital downloads have opened the industry up in a lot of ways; any game you want, any time you want (taking into account download times), and sometimes, for way cheaper than you can get anywhere else. There are, however, a few downsides to digital-only gaming, the biggest, most noticeable one is limited storage space. Both new consoles only come with 500gb of storage, which, as of late, seems to consist of about 10 AAA games (realistically, depending on the games, could last years, but hey, who ONLY plays AAA titles...) Though, they both let you upgrade to larger HDD's, there will never be enough space. The other problem is licenses. Digital stores like Steam only sell you the license of the game, so they can take away that license regardless you paying or not. We saw Rockstar do this with GTAV and "cheaters", on man reported that he had been using mods offline, then got banned, and had his game license revoked, so he couldn't play the game he had purchased. He wouldn't have hit this snag had he bought a disc based version of the game. Another revoking we've seen is the P.T demo from the PSN Store: after the cancellation of Silent Hills, Konami pulled the demo from the store, and if you hadn't had it downloaded onto your PS4, you wouldn't be able to get it at all. The fact that game publishers can take away your rights to play their game is very bad, regardless the game being free or being $60.