Lucien’s Review: What Remains of Edith Finch

From the creators of The Unfinished Swan, a very depressing but poetic story comes another tale that is equal parts depressing and poetic.  There is just one major flaw holding it back.  It is nowhere near the artistic rendering that its predecessor was, but that doesn’t do too much damage to it. The problem is that doing a review of this game means that I get to go into more the artistic merits of it than the gameplay elements.  This is a game for those who like unconventional games that take your mind to very strange places.  If that isn’t your jam, trust me, best to just pass.  So now let’s put on my hipster hat and go into a game that I can already see the anti-SJW crowd calling a “walking simulator.”  A title that this game whole-heartedly does NOT deserve.

The plot goes that Edith Finch is returning back to the family home.  It’s a dark house that has as many stories as it does dead bodies in its cemetery. A tragic story of a family that Edith has returned to so she can uncover.  And along the way, she comes to some realizations about this home and what it represents.  Does the mystery come together in a fitting climax where all the disparate elements make sense and you have an emotional catharsis much like the previous work of this company?!  Well…no.  But props to how close they got.

As I said, this game is not a walking simulator.  To call it that is to be underselling how this game plays.  Sure, the story of Edith is pretty much just walking from place to place with basic environmental interactions.  However, each of the narratives that tells the story of one of the Finch family dying incorporates all kinds of gameplay dynamics.  My favorite being where you have to manipulate the sticks on the controller to do different tasks at the same time.  Can get confusing, but that fits with the narrative.  While this game lacks the novelty in the pain elements from the last game, it does at least have something going for it.

When I saw the original promo for the game SJWs fawn all over, Gone Home, this is what I thought I was going to get.  A game where you explore an abandoned home, but there is a definitive creepy edge to it.  While I wouldn’t call this a horror game, its use of atmosphere is truly fantastic.  Without a single jump scare, this game makes the house it is set in very ominous.  As you uncover all the secrets and build up the narrative, the place gets less and less inviting.  Which just makes the fact that it never really builds to anything that much more frustrating.

The best thing about this game is the first three quarters of the narrative.  Sure, the exposition can be a little much, but you learn to roll with it because you think it is building to something.  Which brings me to the thing that I need to talk about.  I will try and avoid outright spoiling the ending, but I will spoil the elements of how it comes together which may set your expectations.  If that’s something you want to avoid, go to the Final Verdict now.

Here’s my problem – the ending.  This game has some pretty great build-up.  Right as we are FINALLY getting to see where it was all building to and if it would be something more, the game just stops.  In the most anti-climactic way ever, it just stops.  I was so frustrated by that.  I mean come on!  We are finally going to know what the mysterious force surrounding this house is, and you stop?!  What the hell!?  I was actually really stoked to see just what it was that had come into contact with this family.  It is hinted that the actual stories being told in this game give the forces at work power, but since you never get to find out what it actually was, you never know!  I hate that this game has so much great narrative tension build, only for it to crash and burn.  Part of me thinks that the development of the game got a little rushed at the end, or maybe they had written themselves into a corner and decided to go with the “you never know what it was” thing, but I honestly think that works against this game.

All-in-all, this is a decent game.  As games purely for art’s sake go, it’s fine.  But I think the lackluster ending really does damage to the whole narrative, and that is a real shame.  That doesn’t make this a bad game.  Just not one that I would recommend.  Do with that what you will.

Final Verdict
6 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Persona 5

First things first – fuck Atlus for their stupid policies about people live-streaming this game.  It’s bullshit, and I guess they don’t like free publicity.  Nintendo should tell them how well that is working out for them.  That being said, hopefully this company’s asinine decision doesn’t ruin your drive to play this game, because this is one HELL of a JRPG.  I haven’t played a JRPG this fun in years.  With how this genre has scaled down to the point that it seems like it’s on life support, for a game this good to come out is truly a marvel.  This is my first game in the Persona series, and hot shit.  This game is nigh flawless.  There is one major thing that just eats away at me, but we’ll get there when we do.

Never has the idea that delaying a game until they get it right hold more weight than it did here.  I am so glad this game got delayed.  The polish on this final product is fantastic.  This game is incredible, and I cannot recommend it enough.  Sony really is putting their best foot forward lately.  Seems they are aware of how they are not doing so well, but they have come back swinging this year with two exclusives that are beyond the pale.  And if this is a sign of things to come, I am so stoked for the other exclusives of theirs that I am waiting for.

This game has you playing as the Phantom Thieves, a little band of high school kids (of course they are) who are going into a parallel universe to steal the hearts of people twisted by their own desires.  This game has a lot of REALLY dark themes, and not once do they shy away from it.  In fact, the way this game tackles the dark subject matter head on is actually pretty impressive.  I expected them to get kind of antsy about going this deep into the scary stuff.  But nope!  Not once do they shy away from the twisted shit that is in this game’s villains hearts.  Not to mention some of the darker implications of what you are doing to these people stealing their heart’s treasure.  The moral implications of some of what you do can get a little disturbing.

Which brings me to the acting.  A game this twisted can only be sold with great performances.  Every role in this game is fantastic.  Your character is a silent protagonist, which admittedly isn’t as fun as I would like, but I can overlook that with a superb cast of supporting characters, all of which have their own personalities and quirks that they bring to the table.  Not to mention the relationships that you build up over time and how your actions with each character can change all sorts of variables in the game.

So let’s talk about the visuals.  Oh my Groj!  This game looks amazing!  The use of color is fantastic.  The punk aesthetic that they were going for is all over this game, and bless it for that.  I love every second of the visual candy that I see.  The real world is even pretty nice, with every area having a lot of personality.  But the Palaces are where the game shines the most.  Each one is unique and has a design that will blow you away.

The thing which will make or break this game for a lot of people is the combat system.  If you don’t like turn-based strategic combat, you are going to hate this game.  It’s that simple.  Fighting in this game took me back to Final Fantasy X.  Every move is a carefully planned decision, paying attention to your enemies, your stats, and what Personas you have equipped.  Which brings me to the primary way you will be fighting.  Each of the side characters can only have one Persona, which is fine.  The idea of micro-managing an entire team of interchangeable Personas gives me a headache just thinking about.

You have a TON of customization options in this game.  Whether it be the skills you teach your Personas, the Persona crafting system which has some dark implications on its own, or the customization of your characters and the sheer amount of items there are to collect, you will never find yourself in a position where you don’t have options to play with.  The sheer amount of stuff to do in this game is incredible.  Which brings me to my one and only beef with it.

For coming so close to a perfect score and crashing on this, it is a little frustrating.  This game has a time based system, and here’s the problem with it – the game will often fight with you about it.  Instead of allowing you to make use of your time as you see fit, there are so many points where the game will fight you.  Why can’t I spend a little time at the gym and a little time at the baseball cages?  Why can’t I do a little studying and then catch a movie?  This game’s limiting factor in what you can do is so frustrating.  This is made all the worse because leveling up your personality traits is a HUGE part of this game, and you don’t get the time to really do a lot with it.  I don’t like when this game fights me, and it does that a lot.  To some this might seem nit-picky, but when I have the option to eat ramen and then chill at a bathhouse, I don’t want to have to choose between the two when I could so easily do both!  It is so frustrating at times.

This is not a game for everyone.  The pace is slow, and you will find yourself wishing you could get more side-tracked with stuff.  It doesn’t help that leveling up your personality traits is so fucking inconsistent.  If only I had more time to do the stuff necessary!  But if you love JRPGs, then you owe it to yourself to play this game.  It is a cut above its contemporaries, in every way.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Kingdom Hearts II.8: The Final Chapter Prologue

Kingdom Hearts 2.8Alright, time to dole out some tough love.  Because this is a game that has some good parts, but some horrific and glaring flaws that REALLY need to be pointed out and analyzed.  It’s nice to have a final act to the plot as it’s understood now, however, the cruel truth is that for all the positive elements in this game there are some truly unpleasant realities about this three-pack that I think need to be accepted.  Let’s get down into this.

As with all the other culmination packs, this game is three games wrapped up into one.  Well, two games, really.  Actually, not even that.  One game, a piece of what should have been free demo DLC, and a long-ass cutscene.  That what it is.  Let’s break them down, one-by-one.

For anyone who says that Hideo Kojima has written some convoluted narratives, you don’t know what Kingdom Hearts’ story has become.  The first game is Dream Drop Distance.  In it, we have Sora and Riku taking a mastery exam to become true Keyblade masters.  They enter a dream world where they have to open seven keys that will unlock seven sleeping worlds.  In doing so, they will somehow prove that they are masters of the keyblade or some shit.  Yeah, the narrative is bunk.  This was a cash-grab game.  And as cash-grabs so…it’s pretty standard.

We have our two iconic characters reprising their roles.  We even have a ton of the extra case reprising their roles from the other games.  Really hoping that we get to have Axel’s iconic voice and tagline in Kingdom Hearts III.  Got it memorized?  Though, it seems that Hayden Penettiere didn’t want to reprise her role as Kairi.  Bummer.  I was really hoping that would work out.  Jesse Carter comes back as Roxas, which I love.  Dying to see him come back as Ventus in the last game.

Which brings us to the gameplay.  Anyone who has played Birth By Sleep will get this combat sequence pretty quick.  It’s not hard to follow.  We get these little spirit creatures that you can create who mix things up, but it really isn’t any different from Birth By Sleep.  Add to that more worlds that are so damn empty.  Why are all the worlds in these games devoid of npcs?  It’s so weird to me that in 2017, with limited level space, we have so little happening.  If that’s the case in the third game, I’m strangling a bitch.  This game widened out the areas a lot more, which just made it that much more noticeable how there is no one in these places but the main characters and villains.  Weird to watch Quasimodo at the center of the Festival of Fools and have it be nothing but empty space.

However, when the plot of this game rears its ugly head, it drags its ass so hard.  Granted, I am happy to see old chums from previous games coming together to kick ass.  Seeing Axel fighting against his old comrades is pretty sweet.  However, it’s not worth the painful exposition-dumping that this game has all over itself.  But the worst offense – the parts that shine of brilliance and go nowhere.

For example – anyone remember what I said would make for an awesome Kingdom Hearts III?  I said that there should be a world like Fantasia, where it’s nothing but music, without dialogue, and you get to just take in the visuals and gameplay with it.  They did it!  They fucking did it!  And I was in love!  Each of the areas themed after the areas in Fantasia were awesome!  For those scenes, I was enraptured.  But it’s so short!  Give me some Rite of Spring!  Give me some stuff from Fantasia 2000!  Go nuts!  Or even worse, you go to the world of Tron Legacy.  And they have one of the most fun segments in any of these games – light-cycle fights!  You alternate from the awesome energy ribbons to laser guns.  That was amazing!  More of that!  But then it’s done, and you can’t even play it like a racing game later!  What the hell?!

This game had a ton of potential, and there are a few moments that truly do realize it.  Then others that go fucking nowhere.  It’s such a shame.

Speaking of, let’s talk about Birth By Sleep 0.2, the second “game” in this collection.  Although, I am going to come right out with it – this isn’t a game.  It’s just not.  It’s a tech demo for how the third game will play.  And just on those merits, it is actually a lot of fun.  No joke, I had a hell of a time just going around and getting a wow out of the crazy awesome visuals in the game.

The plot goes that Aqua has been wandering the Realm of Darkness ever since Terra was taken over and Ventus’ heart was lost to the darkness.  Now she is trying to find her way to her friends, but time has no meaning in this place.  She’s been wandering for almost ten years, and it’s worn her down.  You can clearly see that she is tired of this endless drifting through shadow, and wants to go back home with her friends.  However, when the darkness beckons, and destiny comes into play, we get to see Aqua do random shit that goes nowhere.

As I said, it’s a tech demo.  A very pretty tech demo.  On visual and gameplay merits, it actually is a lot of fun.  If this is what to expect in the third game, then color me impressed.  However, the cruel reality is that this game clocks in at under 3 hours long, and the plot is weak as fuck.  This game should have been DLC for $5, or a free demo for the third game.

Which brings us to the final part of this game – Back Cover.  A cutscene that decides to fill us in on the events which led up to the original destruction of the world and the Keyblade War.  As well-voiced and beautiful as this digital film is, the cruel and honest truth is that it isn’t a game, and I could have watched this shit on YouTube.  Hell, most people will do that.

I am trying to be nice here.  I really wanted to like this.  However, the unfortunate truth is that this collection was INSANELY over-priced and not even remotely worth what they are asking for.  If you want, wait for the price to go down if you are truly a die-hard Kingdom Hearts fan.  For the rest of you, just skip it.  A YouTube synopsis will get you caught up the rest of the way if you have gotten this far.

Final Verdict
5 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XVAfter ten years in development, the final product that is supposed to breathe new life into the franchise has been released.  Sorry this review took so long, but I was working to make it through as much content as I possibly could, in order to give the best review possible.  To that end, my initial verdict is that this game is many things.  Some of them very good, others pants-on-head retarded.  Was it worth the wait?  Did it live up to the hype?  There is a LOT to talk about with this game, so let’s get down to it.

This game begins with one of the problems.  It just throws you out into it.  There is NO lead-in to this game.  There is no world-building.  It expects you to have seen a lot of the extended content, which is a real shame, because I get the feeling that there is a lot of really interesting narrative to sink one’s teeth into.  Noctis and his three friends are sent out by King Regis to go meet with Lunafreya, in order to get married and cement an alliance that could help them save their country.  From there, the plot gets all kinds of ridiculously convoluted.

Originally, this game was said to be a fantasy based on reality.  I took that to heart.  I really did.  Back in the days when this was Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Tetsuya Nomura wanted this to be a game about a fantasy world that you could believe exists.  Part of me is DYING to see what the game that he envisioned would have been like.  The cruel reality is that the game that I saw in those old trailers looked 1000X better than what we got here.

Let me put it to you like this – I have the EXACT same opinion of this game as I do Metal Gear Solid V.  When you are playing, it is so much fun.  The elements of exploring the vast, open world and chilling with your buddies, going on the endless side-quests, that part of the game is more fun than I have had with an RPG in a long time.  However, there is this retarded story that keeps poking at me to do what it wants.  And you know what, I wish it didn’t exist.

This game was marketed as a road trip game with Noctis and his buddies going from place to place and getting into all kinds of crazy fantasy hijinks.  And you know what, when the game is doing that, I am in love.  Everything leading up to when you leave the country to basically go on a completely-linear second half is truly special.  Why couldn’t this game have stuck with the road trip?  I can’t help but think that Nomura’s original vision eschewed a lot of the grandiose bullshit, in favor of a game that is more of a story about fighting to reclaim the prince’s kingdom?  Like, have him going around, getting allies, making some pacts with summons and gaining allies by helping people in various places?  Then, the game wraps up with Noctis taking the fight to the Empire to reclaim his home.  Sure, it isn’t the most epic story, but since when does all fantasy have to be about saving the fucking world?

I suppose I should actually talk about elements of the game, but I needed to get all that out there for when I make my last point.  First thing to know – this game is beautiful.  There’s a reason that getting to wander the countryside is so fun.  The landscapes are nothing short of spectacular.  Getting to travel around in your car (which is mostly on rails) is a wonderfully immersive experience, just getting to take everything in and listen to your friends talk.  Then you get to camp out, and each time you do, it feels like a new experience, partly due to the unique animations you get to watch as you level up.

Then there is the combat system.  Here is where a lot of people’s mileage will vary.  I loved it.  This isn’t the kind of game where you just press attack and win.  There is a ton of real strategy that you have to use if you want to do well in this game, from knowing when to block, how to react quickly to parry strikes, and moving around enemies to get the perfect strike on their blind spot, which can sometimes be very difficult to hit.  The magic is a bit different from other games.  Instead of having magic powers you unlock, you craft magic in this game from elemental gems that you can charge up magical energy from.  When you combine magic with items, you can make casting spells also have curative powers.  The mixing and matching of magic to items feels a lot like alchemy, and it is very fun.

For those who saw the summons in the game’s trailer and thought that you will be getting to play around with them, don’t get your hopes up.  You don’t.  The only time that you are able to use summons is at VERY specific points in the story.  But they are still fucking epic, don’t get me wrong.

Which brings me to the characters.  The four main characters who the game is centered around are pretty awesome.  At least for the parts that you can travel around the countryside.  They play off each other brilliantly, and it feels like four friends out on a road trip.  Noctis is a bit broody, but not to the point that it’s annoying.  Ignis is my favorite of the bunch.  He’s kind of a Mother Hen for the group, and his dry sense of humor just makes my day, every time I hear it.  Gladiolous is something of a meat-head and is brash, but you enjoy his company like the lovable big brother.  Prompto is kind of the reverse.  He is the scrawny little brother, trying his best to be a good friend and fit in.  Those four are the driving force, and for that much the game is fantastic.  You even get these little bonding sessions with each character, and all of them are fun and shed light on how likeable they are.

And then there’s the villains.  They are the driest, must under-developed video game villains I think I’ve ever seen.  Their motivations are…well, you never really know.  They are all gone because plot reasons and you never see them again.  Hell, the entire empire that you’re fighting crumbles all the sudden and that’s it, all for a REALLY forced message about saving the world can happen.  It’s bad.  Really bad.  Like, the absolute worst.  Ties back in to what I was saying about some parts of this game being awesome, and others being bad.

The reality is that this is NOT the return to form that Square Enix was hoping for.  Wrapped up inside a very bad plot is a very good game that is a ton of fun to play, up until you have to leave Lucis and the whole thing devolves into bullshit.  It’s such a shame that such a fantastic concept and some truly amazing gameplay is wasted on a story that I was rolling my eyes at the whole time.  Again, it’s just like Metal Gear Solid V in that regard.  What a shame.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Abzu

ABZÛ_20160802132811

My favorite Indie game is, without a doubt, Journey.  The current crowning achievement of thatgamecompany, I am eager to see what their next project was going to be.  What I didn’t know is that one of the lead creators of that game and its predecessor, Flower, left the company to make his own company.  This game is his first brainchild flying solo.  Does it measure up to his previous works?  In ways you can’t even begin to imagine.  For those of you who don’t like art games, you won’t like this.  For those who do, you will be in love.  Let’s get to it.

There’s no reason to try and give the plot of this game.  Like Journey, the narrative is vague.  And believe me, I am going to do some unfathomably-pretentious Critical Examination of this game’s narrative because I am so in love with the way its completely open to interpretation.  In case you haven’t noticed, these kinds of art games are my jam.  I love me a game with a great story, don’t get me wrong.  It’s why I game.  But these sorts of games make me happy for the medium, to show what it is capable of.  That’s just swell.  What a digression that was.

You play this game has a nameless diver who is exploring an unknown underwater world, to accomplish tasks for an unknown purpose.  Really, it isn’t the why about what you’re doing, it’s the journey to do it.  And man does that journey take you to some cool places.

Let me lay to rest the worry that probably many of you are having.  The problem that people have with underwater levels in games is that they almost-always have TERRIBLE control schemes.  The makers of this game saw ahead on that issue and made this game with a very simple control scheme that doesn’t take much time to get used to.  And you can adjust the camera settings as you like, to make things easier.  This is not the kind of game that is going to have you feeling all annoyed.  There is also a mechanic that will allow you to hop on for the ride with the larger of the animals in this game.  So much fun!  Something about hitching a ride of a sperm whale just takes the cake.

Now, given that there wasn’t an especially large amount of things to do in this guy’s previous work, the amount of stuff in this game is deceptive!  I found there were so many places to explore.  Because that’s what this game is essentially about – exploration.  You are exploring this underwater world and finding out the secrets to the abstract narrative.  You are also finding out lots of stuff about sea life!  No joke, you can learn the names of all the fish and other kinds of life in this game.  There are these neat spots for “meditation” where you can go to different forms of life and learn about their names.  This was so fun!  I am all about the ocean, so getting to chill out and learn about different kinds of fish was just tops.  Each level had new forms of life to learn about, and I took time to get to know them all.  It’s been a fun afternoon.

The visuals in this game are incredible.  It isn’t insane fidelity, but a sheer level of artistry.  The use of color is fantastic!  My jaw was on the floor at so many times at how beautiful every single level in this game was.  Color was used to perfect effect.  From the explorative blues to the reds that showed that you are in danger.  Not one time did I think that the visuals were lacking . Every frame of this game is packed with cool stuff to see and interact with.

But the thing that truly sets this game apart from its contemporaries is one thing – Austin Wintory’s score.  Holy shit!  I am in love with this soundtrack.  It’s perfect.  There has never and likely will never be a score that goes so perfectly with every part of the game that it’s in.  The instrumentation, the use of choral backing.  It’s all so flawless!  It’s my favorite soundtrack in any game, to date.  The bar has been set pretty damn high.  Gonna look into buying this soundtrack.  Good music must be supported if we are to see more of it.

What about the negatives?  Surely I have a few.  I will say that while the controls of this game aren’t difficult, constantly having to hold down the right trigger to swim can get one’s fingers a little sore.  And like its predecessor, this game is pretty short.  I think it should be priced about $5 less, but I still think that I got a lot of bang for my buck.  Games like this aren’t supposed to be long anyway.

All-in-all, this was a fantastic follow-up to Journey, and the best Indie game on the PS4 to date.  Loving that Sony has more of these coming out.  It’s a good sign of how they have embraced the community.  This game is zen to the max.  So if that’s your jam, then dive on in and go exploring the ocean.  I promise that you won’t regret it.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Firewatch

FirewatchWe live in an interesting age for gaming.  I remember reading a comment from someone where they were lamenting video games nowadays, saying that all they are is interactive movies.  They might be right.  But if you’ve been reading my game reviews for a while, you know that I game for stories.  All of you might lament the days of Contra and games that were all about challenge and didn’t feel the need to have a narrative.  But that’s not me.  That will never be me.  There are times that I wish it was.  But it’s not, so here I am.  Firewatch is a game that tells a very emotional story where the choices you make affect not just how the story ends, but how it begins as well.  Thanks to some absolutely  amazing voice acting, and a great premise, you will have some major feels going on.  Let’s talk about it.

As I said, you not only get to affect how it turns out, but also how it begins.  This game tells the story of a man named Henry.  While you get to shape the forces that got him there, the fact is that he has taken a job at a firewatch tower, which calls out when forest fires are happening.  He’s trying to get away from his problems and clear his head.  But all is not as it seems there. Not just because there’s a mystery, but because he finds another person who helps him come out of a dark shell he’s made for himself.  Maybe, just maybe, this man can find his ability to live again.

The first thing to talk about is the fact that this game looks AMAZING!  I am loving these games that allow you to have fantastic visuals with a very minimal approach.  Eschewing the need for cutting edge visuals to just have something that looks and feels rustic and homey.  Given the narrative and the tone of this game, the fact that it goes this route works.  There are also the little visuals like these drawings that look really good.  But when this environment wants to shine, it does.  In every way possible.  Not only does that just look nice, but there are some context-sensitive times that it helps the narrative too.

Next up there’s the music.  I ADORE this soundtrack!  It’s used sparingly, but when it is used, it sounds fantastic.  You have the haunting strings that make you feel right at home in this wilderness.  Each time it’s used, it accentuates the emotions of the story in such a fantastic way.  Which makes me wonder if it would be so good outside of those moments.  Never mind.  It’s still amazing.  Chris Remo clearly took some cues from the soundtrack to The Last of Us, which is just fine by me.

However, all of that is an aside.  This entire game hinges on the voice acting and the relationship between Henry and the woman at another tower across from him named Delilah.  These two not only are acted in a way that I haven’t seen since Life is Strange (albeit with infinitely-better dialogue.  It’s the emotional energy I’m talking about), but have fantastic chemistry.  Depending on what you say to each other, of course.  Their relationship hinges on the conversation options you pick.  It’s pretty great that way.  I love these two characters.  You wouldn’t think that playing as a middle-aged man in the woods would sound this good, but it does.  Given the tragic circumstances that have Henry there, it makes how you interact with this person that much better.

But all that stuff is such an aside, for me.  The thing that has truly stuck with me, throughout all of this, is the emotional energy in this story.  It starts right off, letting you feel the weight of each decision you make.  When you’re forming the narrative, the choices you make have real consequences.  And I’m not gonna lie, in the opening bit, my stomach was all over the place.  I was almost tearing up.  Henry’s story is not a happy one, and I helped choose how unhappy it got.  That’s a lot of weight to put into a story like this.  But you know what, it was worth it.  This game was so worth it.  Going through the summer with these two characters gave me such an intense feeling.  And since I didn’t find the conclusion I reached very good, I am eager to go back and see how else the story could have turned out.

This isn’t specifically a walking simulator.  There is a lot of stuff you’ll end up doing, and lots of things to keep track of.  Like a more complicated version of Gone Home?  I know, you all just rolled your eyes.  Maybe I have some hipster parts of me in denial.  I hope not, since I despise hipsters, but I think there’s more to this story than that.  Or maybe I’m just getting older.  I don’t know.  I’ve given you all I can.  Now you have to choose for yourself.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: The Witness

The WitnessThe first game of 2016, and hot damn is this showing that this year is going to be awesome. Last year was one of the best in gaming, and this year has shown that gaming companies aren’t about to slouch.  They want to make gamers happy, and there are some people on the Indie scene with crazy ideas that are all kinds of fun.  Like this game.  Made by the same people who made Braid, this is a game that had some people a little riled up.  Partly because of how it looks and how it seems to play, and also partly because of the fact that while it isn’t a full-priced game, it isn’t super cheap.  However, take it from me, this game is worth every penny.  I am still having so much fun, going through and solving all the puzzles.  There are hours and hours worth of brain-taxing content here.  If Bloodborne was a game where the difficulty came from the unforgiving combat, this is a game where the difficulty comes form the utter lack of hand-holding and being thrown out head-first into a massive island landscape to figure out puzzles that are more than literal.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot of this game is almost nil.  Or I should say, you start this game having NO idea what the plot is.  You wake up as a nameless and faceless protagonist, in some kind of underground structure.  You work your way to the surface and then have this huge island to explore.  It’s clear that some kind of cataclysmic event happened here, but what that event was and who the people here are is something that you have to sort out on your own.  And the clues you get are more than a little vague.  This island is strange in so many ways.  The mystery is part of this place’s charm.  However, the plot is nil for a reason.  This game isn’t about that.

Let’s talk about the visuals – this game is beautiful!  It’s very minimal as well.  The color and depth is so nice to look at.  It is so pleasant to wander this island and take in all there is to see.  There are some truly wonderful environments that will make you want to pause and take in the scenery.  Which is good, because this game’s feel is laid back in the extreme.  There is no rush to do anything, and that’s fine by me.  It’s a puzzle game.  I like that it lets you sort things out.  However, with this game’s visual beauty, there is a dark undertone.  Something was going on, and you have to think about it as you go along, because these puzzles are tied in to elements of this world.  Not much more I can say about it than that.

Another great thing about this game is the fact that there is NO music of any kind.  At all.  That goes with the fact that this is a chill game.  It’s a zen game.  It’s the kind of game that you can take at your own pace, and I love that.  There’s no rush.  Hell, you can even walk away and come back to puzzles as you like, which is good because that decreases the rage-quit thoughts when you’re stuck.  And you will get stuck.

Which leads me to the game’s primary drive – the puzzles.  This game is hard.  Really hard.  And it does NOT hold your hand.  You are given a very brief tutorial about the controls, and left to figure things out on your own.  There are some places that introduce you to the various puzzle types, but they don’t have any help.  I will admit, and this does shame me, I have gone to the Internet once or twice.  There are even some secret puzzles you can find, which are even harder than the others.  The more you do these puzzles, the more of this island opens up.  Everything incentives exploration.  These puzzles merge so seamlessly with the environment that it just adds to the zen feeling.

There isn’t much more to say about this game, honestly.  Is it worth the price?  Absolutely!  If you love puzzle games, or you want a game to chill out to on a quiet evening home from work or just a weekend where you want to let your mind wander, you owe it to yourself to see just what this game has to offer.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick