Final Thoughts on Ghost of Tsushima

So, I have finally gotten through the entire campaign and gotten through as many of the collectibles as I could stand.  Not gonna lie, the endless fox dens got tedious.  Don’t get me wrong, they are cute little buggers, but after a while, you start to wonder what you’re doing finding all these shrines.  Ironically enough, the most interesting collectibles I was able to find in the game were the haiku spots.  Not only did that offer some gorgeous vistas, but it was peaceful.  Kind of a little zen moment in the game.  They should have nixed some fox dens and put in a few more of those.  There were also the shrine segments, which felt a bit Tomb Raider to me, doing some platforming to get to a specific point.  Kind of surprised there weren’t some actual tombs for me to raid in this game.

After experiencing everything from this game, I stand by my review score of 8 out of 10.  This is a very good game.  It isn’t perfect, it has its flaws, but it is incredibly fun to play and I don’t regret my purchase at all.  I didn’t get into the flaws all that much in my review.  One of the biggest was having to unlock the stances.  They should have had that right from the start, and then let you upgrade abilities.  It just got tedious early on having to be constantly dodging on enemies when I could see from the Techniques screen what the various stances offered.  I know, it’s a nit-pick, but so sue me.  It would have made the early parts of the game less of a slog.

My final thoughts on this are many.  First, I’m desperately hoping that this game doesn’t get sucked into the endless sequel machine that is gaming these days.  I would honestly be happy if this game never gets a sequel.  That being said, I wouldn’t mind a couple pieces of DLC.  Maybe something to go into Japanese history or something.  Like I said, I was shocked that there wasn’t more tomb raiding.  Given the amount of history and personality in this island, some secret areas to find and explore would be nice.  Or maybe a mission off the island, where Jin has to hunt one last target on a part of the mainland.  Just something to bookend the saga.

That being said, since I do see the potential here for a sequel, considering that Jin becomes a legend to his people and unintentionally builds a following who is like an army, it would be kind of interesting for a story about him ending up having the Shogunate after him, and him having to use his wits and combat skills to find a solution to avoid a civil war.  Still, I honestly hope that there isn’t one.  Let this game be its own story and stand on its own.  It would be kind of cool if Sucker Punch did some more historical fiction games.  I read this article a few years back about how historical fiction was one of the great treasure troves of gaming that hadn’t been tapped yet, and with this game I can definitely see where that’s coming from.  There is a lot of potential.  For a while, the Assassin’s Creed games where doing that, but then the whole concept got sucked up by the Ubisoft yearly sequel machine that ruins interesting ideas to make for cookie-cutter games.  One of the things that made Ghost of Tsushima stand out from its contemporaries was that it bucked some of the trends in big open world games.

This was a fantastic game, and definitely made for a good summer experience.  With my medical education stuff happening this fall, maybe it’s for the best that there are no big gaming experiences that I am down for until Cyberpunk 2077.  Need all my focus.  I have a goal – to finish my education, and then pursue a new career away from the land of ice and snow and unending winter darkness.  If nothing else, this proves that while Hollywood is out of ideas, games like Ghost of Tsushima are showing that creativity is not dead yet in entertainment.

Until next time, a quote,

“That’s all I have to say.” – Lyrics, Look to the Future

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Ghost of Tsushima

Thus far, 2020 has been one hell of a year.  There’s a certain feeling of finality to it, if you ask me.  It feels like everything is coming to an end.  We have social media collapsing as it shows its true colors of being pro-rich and anti-public.  We have the Trump administration falling apart.  At this juncture, it’s going to take Trump absolutely demolishing Biden for him to even have a chance in November.  His cult can’t salvage him from the trash fire that is how he handled COVID-19.  Speaking of, that’s another thing.  It feels like the end of the world as we knew it, thanks in large part to this plague.

For gaming, this has been an interesting year.  For me, it started off great, with an expanded version of my favorite game of 2017.  Then a game I was hoping would be great turned out to be a narrative disaster, shitting on characters I loved from one of my favorite games.  Now we get to a summer release that really is outshining its contemporaries right now.  After the bitter taste in a lot of people’s mouths that was The Last of Us: Part II, in comes a game that is a love letter to samurai films from back in the day, and in my opinion does it so much justice.  I love this game so much, and now we’re going to talk about it.

The story of Ghost of Tsushima goes that the Mongol horde invades the Japanese island of Tsushima.  Jin Sakai is one of 88 samurai who ride out to meet them, in a battle that is a massacre.  Jin survives, thanks to the help of a thief named Yuna.  When he tries to maintain his Samurai honor, going to face the Khan again, he is brutally defeated, thrown off a bridge, and left for dead.  Realizing that the way of the samurai isn’t going to give him victory in this conflict, Jin decides to take another route.  He becomes the infamous Ghost, a warrior of shadows, a knife in the dark.  With this new way of battling, he begins his mission to get revenge on the Mongols, and save his people from them.  Along the way, he learns that to become the hero he needs to be, he may end up becoming an even more dangerous monster.

The first thing to talk about with this game is the visuals.  This game is gorgeous!  I cannot even begin to explain how beautiful the visuals are.  Sucker Punch really went all out on the visuals, and it pays off dividends.  I can’t think of a single area of this game that isn’t gorgeous.  The thing that really strikes me is the usage of color, and the way they are able to make it pop.  The first time I went to the Golden Temple, I was in awe of the dappled yellow from the trees there.  Or the foggy moonlight in the swamps.  Even the bitter cold northern regions are still beautiful, in their way.  Each section of this game has its own unique look, and the way they bring that to life is fantastic.  You even have haiku minigames that you participate in that seem to be done just to make the world come to life, with the soothing score of this game in the background.

Another thing I wanna mention is the narrative.  One of the things I like about this game is how mature it feels.  There are some serious subjects at play.  One of the biggest is the contrast between the man that Jin was raised to be, and the man he is becoming as the Ghost, along with what that is doing to him as a person.  You also have some dark and gripping story-lines that you partake in.  Then there was one that I won’t spoil, but it involved a caretaker of his, and how that concluded actually had me crying.  Not joking, I teared up.  The way they ended that, with no resolution, it felt so heartfelt.  There is a certain amount of restraint with the characters and the narrative.  One that feels fitting for the tone.  Samurai in this game are about restraint and keeping one’s emotions in check.  So Jin exercises that, wherever possible.  It makes the scenes where his composure breaks that much more intense, because you get used to how reserved he is.

The thing that makes this game, though, is the combat.  A lot of the reviews I am seeing point out that there are two major ways to play.  The first is as a Samurai, which involves good sword-play, parrying, dodging, and as you level up, you gain new Stances.  Each one helps you fight a different kind of enemy.  Each of these stances can be changed in real time, so you don’t have to interrupt the flow of battle when you are taking on a lot of enemies, or participating in a big set-piece battle.  You can also play as the Ghost, which involves stealth and using the tools of your ninja trade.  One thing people have commented on is that the AI in this game is dumb as dirt, so cheesing enemies with stealth isn’t exactly hard, and I would be lying if I didn’t agree.  Still, that being said, I love it.  Stealth is my major way to play, and it never stops being fun.

However, one thing I don’t see is that the game gives you the freedom to mix and match skills to craft a battle style you want.  You can have a little bit of everything, and it feels good.  To be in the middle of a big set-piece battle, throwing kunai and using black powder bombs.  Just like the stances, these weapons can be changed in real time, so you have access to all the tools you unlock.  That really lets me craft the Ghost that I want to be.

I want to take a little moment to comment on some of the controversy that seems to be surrounding this game.  Seems that the western games media has decided to white knight for a community of which they are not a part, and lament that a game about samurai was made by western developers.  At first, the coverage was how offensive it is to Japanese people.  However, this game is selling so hot in Japan that they have run out of copies for sale there.  All their press are in love with it.  Then the commentary turned to how this game supports “Japanese imperialism,” which sounds a touch bit racist.  Not to mention how Asian Americans are offended by this.  Do these people not know that the world is not America?  Not to mention, not all Asian Americans have Japanese heritage, and I have seen that the various Asian groups here tend to take their heritage seriously and don’t like to be lumped in with others.  Overall, this controversy is stupid.  This game is a love letter to a style of film, and it is absolutely clear that there was nothing but respect for the culture they were looking at and a desire to make the best game they could.  I commend Sucker Punch for how hard they worked to make this game.

There is a part of me that thinks that some of the controversy with this game is due to salt about how The Last of Us: Part II was received.  I keep seeing that game mentioned in articles condemning Ghost of Tsushima, to the point that it is now very noticeable.  A game that is pro-progressive in all the ways big games media likes is divisive in all the wrong ways by the fans of the original, while a game that doesn’t play politics and just strives to show affection for a culture and a style of filmmaking that it emulates perfectly is a smash hit in all ways.  I can see why some outlets would be salty.

Overall, while this game isn’t perfect, and the early sections of the game before you gain new skills and level up can be tedious, the narrative is gripping, the characters are interesting, the setting is glorious, the combat is slick, and I cannot recommend this game enough.  If you love samurai films of yore the way that I do, then you owe it to yourself to pick up this game.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Persona 5: Royal

For those who don’t know, my favorite game of 2017 is Persona 5.  I said in that review that it was the greatest JRPG ever made, bar none.  So when I saw that they were making a version of the game that is essentially the same game, but with even more content packed in, you cannot imagine how stoked I was.  The original game already had over 70 hours of engaging content in there, so to add in even more sounded like an absolute god-send.  It made it clear to me that 2020 was going to be a gaming hallmark year.  That may not be the case with the plague that’s currently keeping the globe in perpetual limbo while the orange retard in office decides when to send everyone back to work because fuck it, die for the economy.  Still, this game has come out, and let me tell you, the bar that Cyberpunk 2077 has to clear has never been higher.  I love this game so damn much.  It takes all the rough edges from the original game and smooths them out. Lots to talk about, so let’s get into it.

For those who didn’t play the game the first go-around, now really would be a great time.  Especially if you are trapped indoors because of the plague.  What was once a massive game is now so big that I can’t imagine what else they could fit into it.  It’s stuffed to absolute capacity with content.  More content than anyone could realistically know what to do with.  It’s kind of daunting, for those who have very limited time.  However, for those who already have the original game, should you take the plunge of paying nearly full price for basically an expansion?  Honestly, I have to say, that’s up to you.  I am not regretting my purchase.  Especially in this climate.  But some of you may have much tighter budgets right now, so I leave the concept up to you.  As I describe this game, maybe you can make up your mind.

A basic rundown for whoever may not have played the original.  The plot goes that you are nameless protagonist who has been accused of a violent crime and sent away to serve probation after being convicted.  You’re in the city of Tokyo, trying to stay under the radar and serve your probation out, then go home.  However, a series of circumstances have you getting sucked into a cognitive world called the Metaverse, and awakening your inner trickster, and from there becoming a thief who steals the dark desires away from people who are screwing up the world.

I don’t know if I mentioned in my review of the original game, but the way you are going to actually enjoy this game is if you are the type of person who played the Mass Effect games and your favorite thing was talking to your squadmates.  Because while there is some amazing action, the VAST majority of what you will be doing in this game is talking to people.  The story of this game is verbose, to say the least.  For those who like JRPGs, it’s got most of the trimmings of such narratives, with a more mature edge.  Actual violence, deaths, and some dark subject matter.  But it makes the relationships you forge that much better.

All the same things about the last game are true about this one.  The visual design is the best.  If anything, it’s only gotten better here.  On my PS4 Pro, the color pops!  What’s more, they have updated lots of the visuals so they are buttery-smooth and even more distinct.  This game has so much of its own style, both visually, musically, and even in the writing of characters.

So, rather than retread old ground and talk about how great all the things in the original game, let’s talk about what’s different.  Because there is a lot to talk about.  For starters, there is the addition of a couple new characters.  The first is a young gymnast named Kasumi.  At first, you are a little confused, but eventually she gets weaved into the narrative.  The second is a counselor character named Maruki.  Just like Kasumi, I was a little confused at first.  But stick with these characters, because MUCH further down the road, they enter the story in one of the most engaging ways ever.  But we’ll get to that.

Another thing they changed is the growth of the relationship with Akechi.  It was a big complaint I had, how paper-thin the relationship with him is in the original game.  Here, if you want to unlock the best story with him, you have to actually work at it.  Same with the former two characters.  There is a HUGE narrative reason to actually build up all your relationships.  More than there was in the original.  My favorite scene is when you build up the relationship with Akechi to a certain point and there is some genuine relationship-building between them that does admittedly make his betrayal of him later a little weird.  That’s not a spoiler, by the way.  It was in the original.  Plus, during the part of the story that I’m dying to talk about, the dude comes back and he just grew on me so fast.  Anti-hero Akechi is just my favorite thing ever.  He’s such a sadistic asshole, but you can’t help but love him.  He became a fixture of my party very quickly.

There are also some little things that were added, like a couple new areas, like Kichijoji, which becomes a fun stomping ground with games you can play with your teammates that comes into play in actual battle.  Then there’s the aquarium, which is nice to look at and a cute date spot.

However, the biggest addition is a whole new segment of the story that was added on.  I’m not spoiling anything by saying that.  The marketing for this addition said that they would be adding the third semester from the end of the last game that was cut out back into it.  And holy shit!  This stuff is awesome!  I mean REALLY fucking awesome!  Part of me desperately wishes that the initial ending of the game was scrapped and this was put in.  It is so much more engaging than the initial ending was, with a plot involving a character that is both dark and makes you think.  Plus, it was where my adorable bromance with Akechi started.  And it’s where a ton of weebs will get to have all the shipping art they want to make of two characters.  Won’t spoil who.  The story is dark, engaging, and adds a whole new depth to the Metaverse that is actually really fun.  Plus, we get to learn about a bunch of characters.  I will say that the way that it ignores the relationships you’ve built in terms of romance is a little frustrating, but whatever.  That’s a nit-pick.

Overall, this game really is the original, but with more stuff.  It takes some of my biggest gripes, like how you would have that damn cat telling you not to craft things after a mission when it was just wasted time and got rid of that.  There is a whole new element.  For those of you who loved the original but have a stretched budget, you may want to wait until it drops in price, because how much mileage you get with the additions may very.  But for me, I think this game is even better.  Now more than ever, it’s the greatest JRPG of all time.  It’s now one of my favorite games of all time.  I love it, from the bottom of my little black heart.  Hopefully all of you do too.

Final Verdict
10 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

What an absolute marvel this game is.  To think that game in this franchise with EA’s name on it is so fucking good!  It blows my mind how this game feels more like Star Wars to me than anything since Revenge of the Sith.  So much of what has been missing from Disney’s absolute abortion of this franchise was in this game, and it’s amazing.  The story simple, with likeable characters, good gameplay, fun set-pieces, and that visceral feeling that I have been so missing from this franchise’s films.  I have so much to talk about with this game, so let’s not keep you all waiting.

The plot goes that Cal Cestus is a lone Jedi hiding after the purge following Revenge of the Sith.  Burdened by guilt he feels, and fear of those hunting him, he makes a living as a scrapper.  However, after using the Force to save a friend, the Inquisitors are on to him and a new potential ally emerges to help him.  It’s a plot that actually feels like something from Star Wars, and that’s only the beginning.

Most of what I have to talk about is how much I love how great this story is and how well it’s told.  But to talk about some other stuff before I gush, the gameplay here is challenging.  This game is basically Dark Souls mixed with Star Wars.  It’s challenging, to say the least.  But for those who like that style of gameplay, it’s good stuff.  Mixed in with that is a lot of puzzle seeking.  This is a metroidvania style game, in the purest sense.  Back-tracking and revisiting world with new powers to find secrets is fun.

It’s worth mentioning that this game has NONE of the EA bullshit staples.  NO microtransactions.  None.  Nothing blocked off behind paywalls.  It’s a complete game, from start to finish with no nonsense.  What a magical thing.  To say that about an EA game just blows my mind.

Another fantastic thing is the visuals.  Every world in this game is unique, and they all have their own visual style.  Sometimes you just sit back and take in the scenery.  It was a wise decision for them to use the Unreal Engine.  Plus, for some truly fantastic boss fights, you can get sucked into the set-pieces.  My favorite was with the AT-AT walker.  It was in the E3 demo, but so what?  Fantastic stuff even without it.

Then there’s the music.  At times, it can seem a little standard for a video game, but then there is some of the FANTASTIC uses of original film score, and set-piece music that makes everything pop.  Which is where we get into the gushing.

Where has this kind of story been in this franchise?!  Oh my Groj!  A simple premise about a tortured hero being called to adventure, with companions who all have their flaws.  The group of them gradually overcoming them over the course of the adventure.  This is what a good Star Wars film should have. And it’s something that ALL of Disney’s films have lacked!  Rogue One came the closest, and what do you know, it’s my favorite of the Disneyverse films.  This feels like it belongs in this franchise so much.  I’ve missed having a story that hits this close to home in the Star Wars universe.  Cal is a likeable protagonist who grows over the course of his journey.  Cere is a tortured companion who overcomes her pain in a believable and likeable way.  She doesn’t feel like some token black character the way Finn does.  Mirrin is a cute and likeable obvious love interest for future games, but you are okay with that because her and Cal have good chemistry.  Greez is kind of an asshole but you like him because of it.  And BD-1 is fun and cute.

But one thing that this game has that the films have been missing for so long is the visceral feeling!  When you are fighting some of the bosses, like the Second Sister or a secret boss that I won’t DARE spoil if you haven’t played it, and you see these character attacking each other, you can feel the emotion.  Sure, the pacing is fast, but it doesn’t have the cheap choreographed feel the prequel trilogy had so much.  When characters are going at it, you feel their passion.  When they are afraid, you can see it.  Where was that in ANY of the fights in the Disneyverse trilogy?  No-fucking-where!  Those movies suck.

I remember when this game was first announced, how skeptical everyone was.  The SJWs being all butthurt that the protagonist is a white guy.  Well, having played the game, I can say that they can all shut the fuck up.  This was a great game.  If there was something I’d say as a detraction, it’s that it’s a little short, and there could have been some more enemy variety.  Still, those are nit-picks.

Overall, this is a fantastic game.  It is the first time, in years, that I’ve felt like I’m playing an actual Star Wars game and seeing a real story in this franchise play out in front of me.  If you are like me, and so dejected by this franchise’s films, you owe it to yourself to pick this title up.  I really did feel like a Jedi Knight.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Best Game of 2019

As the year is wrapping up, it’s time to think about what came out this year.  It was a very ho-hum year for gaming.  Whether it be games coming out later than expected, or ones delayed until next year, it seems that 2019 is the year that is gearing up for the swan song of yet-another console generation.  Next year has so many games with confirmed release dates that are going to blow the effing minds out of people, and it’s clear that major companies all want to finish as strong as they possibly can.  With that being said, what is the game that has most stood out to me this year?

I will say that 2019 is the year of sleeper hits.  Games that came out of nowhere and really impressed me.  AA projects that were more reserved, and as such made the most of their limited resources.  The game that has stuck with me the most out of those is the one on this post, my favorite game of 2019.  So, without further ado, my favorite game of 2019 is…

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Just recently, I caught up on all the extra mission DLC that was in the Season Pass I got for this game, and man that was fun!  For those who were unaware, I think that fighter jets are the raddest thing ever.  It’s the reason that Top Gun is such a guilty pleasure to me.  As corny as it is, the film had jets being awesome fighter jets.  So when I saw the trailers for this game, bringing flight sim combat back to a new generation of gaming, my thought was – oh hell yes!  Give me the most beautiful fighter jet in the world – the F-22 Raptor!  Then it got released, and all my expectations were blown out of the water.

I will say that there was nothing about this game that was subtle.  The characters aren’t subtle, the action isn’t subtle, and the plot is as bombastic as it gets.  But man, getting into the cockpit of a fighter jet is oh so satisfying in this game.  Whether you choose to play this like a classic arcade fighter sim, or go very realistic with it, this game has a ton of neat mechanics for you to work with, all of which are super fun.  For my part, because I grew up on fighter games like Star Fox 64, I tend to play it in an arcade way.  But it doesn’t take my appreciation for the kind of game it is away.

Everything in this game is smooth.  Flying is smooth.  The framerate is high on my PS4 Pro, which is essential for a game where you are flying through the air and taking on enemies in fast-paced dogfights.  Every jet has its own personality, and getting to know them all is part of the fun.  While the Raptor is my girl, there are plenty of other jets I love.  Most notably, the F/A-18 Super Hornet (Navy love, Hooyah!), the F-35 Lightning II, the F-14 Tomcat (RIP, you beautiful jet), and the F-15 Eagle.  Each of them is fun to fly.  Dog-fighting is great, keeping on the tail of your enemy until you get missile lock, then waiting until they aren’t in a position where they can maneuver around your shot and taking it.  There’s an art to being great at this game on high difficulty.  It’s magical.

Sure, the story of this game is dumb.  I found that while I was playing the DLC, I got so much more into the story.  Not just because it was during a part in the main story where I loved the characters, but also because the narrative in the cutscenes corresponded with the narrative during gameplay.  It made it connect so much more, whereas in the main game, it seems so disconnected from whatever you’re doing.  Perhaps they can learn from this in whatever the next iteration of the franchise is.

If you love fighter sim combat games the way that I do, you owe it to yourself to play this game.  It flew under a lot of radar, and it is a throw-back to a style of game that is pretty much dead.  It’s so strange to me that a lot of my favorite games in recent years are unsung heroes.  Back in 2017, it was Persona 5, a AAA JRPG.  The fact that such a thing exists and was as spectacular as it was astounds me.  In 2015 it was Life is Strange, an episodic game with a style and attitude like an Indie film.  Were it not for how the last episode ended, it would be so much more loved by me.  There are games that are doing some neat things, and I like to see that Sony is helping to foster this.

Hopefully this isn’t the last time I will see this franchise take flight.  I can’t imagine what the next game will be, but I will be there to get behind the wing of my jet again.  See if Raptor and I can’t do some crazy stuff again.

Until next time, a quote,

“What happens when two singularities go up against one-another?” – Analyst North, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Death Stranding

After years of waiting and being teased along, with Kojima never revealing more than he wanted to about it, his first project after breaking away from Konami has finally been released, and man does this game leave me with a whole bunch of mixed feeling.  When I saw the polarizing nature of critics who first reviewed it, I knew that there was something special about this game.  After all, it isn’t the first time Kojima has done this.  When Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty came out, critics were unbelievably harsh to it.  It’s a testament to his dedication that Kojima decided to own the backlash instead of running from it.  Right out of the gate he said that this isn’t a game that everyone is going to like, and I can see why.  This game has some genuine moments of brilliance that are fun as fuck, in a narrative that can get pretty heavy.  The problem is that it also has some really ugly bits that hold it back from greatness.  Let’s talk about it.

The story goes that some time after a huge event called the death stranding, the world of the dead was able to get mixed in to the world of the living.  The results of this have been catastrophic, as humanity is teetering on the edge of oblivion.  The story follows a man named Sam, played by Norman Reedus.  He makes deliveries in this wasteland, as he has a hardcore phobia about being touched.  An organization called Bridges shanghais him into helping them with their mission of reconnecting the country, but he has his own reasons for going along with it.  What follows is a bittersweet story of loneliness and connection.

Here’s my statement about this game, if you don’t want to read all the rest of this.  When this game is fun, it is really freakin’ fun!  There are some spectacular boss fights and some hardcore terrifying set-pieces in an in-between world that Sam gets whisked away to, where he sees one of the true architects of the reason the world is going to shit.  The problem is that when this game is not fun, it REALLY is not!  There are some horrifically-repetitive missions that have you wanting to tear your hair out.  For those of you who want to stick with me, I will get into specifics.

The central plot of this game seemed like a complete red herring to me, and kudos to my instincts, because I knew that there was more to it than just getting Amelie away from the Demens.  One of this game’s strong-points is that there the central cast all has their own agendas, and this fact often finds all of them in a really horrible situation that there seems to be no escape from.  When you finally get into the plot, and really start breaking things open, this game is so damn fun that it’s hard to describe.  Throw in a genuinely hate-able villain like Higgs, brilliantly voiced by Troy Baker, along with Mads Mikkelsen, whose villain character is not as simple as one person, and you have a conflict that is pretty fantastic to dig your teeth into.

Then there are the boss-fights.  Right from the first, I knew that I was going to be in love with this game and how they did these battles.  Every boss is creative, along with how you take them on.  It keeps you on the edge of your seat because Sam isn’t a super-soldier.  Being stupid can cost you pretty quickly.

You also have some beautiful venues to explore, which makes some of the more zen places where you are on the move that much more engaging.  I remember when people were talking about how this game was going to be a walking simulator, and you know what, the areas where that is the case don’t bother me.  Not at all.  Something about traveling through a beautiful and barren landscape with the game’s soundtrack coming on is really peaceful to me.  Though, this ties into one of my biggest gripes with the game.

As I said, when this game is not fun, it is REALLY not fun.  Here’s the issue.  This game has you playing as a delivery person.  Which means your primary mode of getting from A to B is because you have stuff to deliver for the various parties you want to bribe onto your side.  More often than not, this isn’t so bad.  The issue is that your journey to reconnect the world is so often hindered by the endless BTs that drift around and consistently make your life harder when you are trying to do your thing, and make something that is already not a short task due to how big the game’s world is take that much longer.  It’s draining.  One mission in-particular where I had complicated task after complicated task for this asshole who was being a giant dick-mule to me had me wanting to go beat him to death.

It’s a fact that this game’s narrative can get bogged down by the central elements.  The red herring nature of the central conflict is also something that drags its ass getting you to it.  Finding out the truth about Amelie and what Sam’s connection to it all is genuinely engaging, but it doesn’t help that Sam is a bit of a wet blanket through a huge part of it.  Reminded me of Keifer Sutherland in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.  You just thought to yourself – when are they going to give this guy a personality?  Like I said, you do get there, but the journey takes far longer than it should have.  Kojima easily could have cut a couple hours out and made the pacing so much better.  Because I do love when you finally get to the plot because it is pretty hardcore.

Overall, this is not a perfect game by any stretch.  I get why lots of people don’t like it.  But for me, I think that it’s pretty engaging stuff.  Were it not hindered down by some genuine problems, I think this game would have been among the all-time greats that I’ve played.  Definitely glad I got it, and for those who can look past the pacing issues and some of the more tedious missions, I think you will find a lot to like here.  I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: A Plague Tale: Innocence

A Plague Tale InnocenceThis is a game that really flew under the radar for me, but I’m glad that it finally got my attention.  Apparently this snuck up on a lot of people, and as such leads me to believe that sales are not going to be especially good.  Which is a bummer because this is a game that is really worth your time if you’re like me and looking for a good story.  The comparison has been done between this and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, but while I don’t totally agree with the comparison, I see how people got there.  It’s a AA game, with a price tag to match, but with gorgeous visuals and a LOT of heart.  Let’s talk about it.

The story goes that Amicia de Rune is a noblegirl living in 14th Century France.  It’s a nice day until a mysterious force kills her dog and the Inquisition come calling, forcing her and her little brother Hugo to flee.  Now, with only her little brother and the various allies she meets along the way, Amicia has to find a way to stay alive, stop her little brother’s sickness, not get eaten by nightmare-inducing plague rats, and get back at the people who took her life away from her.

This game has a lot of things going for it.  The first is the visuals.  This game is gorgeous!  It’s fantastic use of setting and both ambient light and ambient dark is just phenomenal.  There is also how they animated the endless hordes of rats.  Those things are equal parts creepy and vivid.  There isn’t a single area where I would say this game’s visuals faltered.  Every character is expressive and looks the part.  The setting looks harsh as you’d expect from the 14th century.  Thanks to books like Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series, people tend to romanticize that time period, when in reality it was pretty awful.  Kings by that time period were not living the kinds of lives you think.  So yeah, it looks amazing.

Next up is the performances.  This game is pretty damn solid.  Both in English and French.  I wanted to play in the latter for immersion’s sake.  Get that whole feel for being in a French story.  But English is pretty fantastic as well.  Amicia definitely steals the show.  You can see her transition from a sister who has a responsibility put upon her to someone who genuinely cares for Hugo.  Speaking of, he also isn’t that bad.  Apparently it was a young girl who did his voice, and she’s no slouch.  Child actors is always a risk, because FAR more often than not, they suck.  Like, a lot.  But in this case, they nailed it pretty well.  I believed that this is an actual little kid.  It’s not perfect, but given the competition, they are definitely bringing their A game.

The side characters almost all have a lot of charm to them.  We don’t get a huge amount of time to know them, but the three that stuck out to me most were Milia, Roderic, and Lucas.  Milia and Amicia’s banter makes me think that they could be actual besties, if things hadn’t have ended the way that they did.  Hopefully they find each other again.  Roderic is just such a lovable thug.  Just this adorable, lovable thug.  But the biggest side-character who stands out is Lucas.  He has this obsession with being an amazing alchemist that you can identify with.  He’s quirky but smart.  And the relationship he develops with Amicia makes me wonder if one day they could be a thing.  It would be charming.

The mechanics of this game are where your mileage can vary.  See, here’s the thing about Amicia – she’s a teenage girl living in a time when most people battle you with swords and arrows.  As such, she’s definitely at a hardcore disadvantage.  And when I say hardcore, I’m not kidding.  One hit and she’s dead.  That’s it.  At no point does she gain more ability to take damage.  As such, the tool at your disposal is stealth.  This is a stealth game through and through.  It’s all about using your sling, alchemy, and the environment to your advantage.  And enemies are not completely oblivious.  What’s more, it’s about using the very rat hordes you are trying to avoid to your own advantage.  It’s also in your best interest to make the most of your surroundings and search everywhere, since there is crafting loot in the strangest of places, but worth your time to check.  You can also find neat collectibles that have their own stories.  For my part, the only frustration was when you are forced to defend a point from attackers and you still can only take one hit.  That got frustrating pretty quick, since you only have your sling as a weapon and that has wind-up and cool-down.

One thing that is always fun is the boss fights.  I know, in a game where you can literally take one hit, that sounds like a recipe for disaster.  But you learn to use your surroundings to your advantage, and be strategic in how you play.  There is a fantastic mechanic you unlock later that makes two of the fights just so fantastic.

Another thing that caught my attention in the game is the sprinting mechanic.  It looks so ridiculous.  Hugo has it worse, but Amicia is no better.  They look like wind-up toys.  It’s a little nit-pick, I admit, but you do have to do it often, and it never stops being funny.

Overall, this is a pretty fun little game.  It’s middleware, and I’m okay with that.  I miss the days when there were the big AAA games, and AA games like this where devs could take risks and really do something unique.  If you think this is up your alley, I’d recommend checking it out.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: South Park: The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole

So, I’ve been really lonely and depressed lately.  What this usually leads me to do is game.  The last time I was like this, I played through the Mass Effect games (the first three.  We don’t talk about Andromeda) so much that I know all of my favorite character’s dialogue by heart!  No joke, that’s how much I know those games.  This time, I decided to see if these two games based on the South Park universe were any good.  I’d heard good things, especially with the first and less for the second, so I figured I would see for myself.  And let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, they exceeded my expectations in every way.  I’m gonna do reviews for both games here, so this will be kind of long.  Let’s get to talking about it.

First up, we have Stick of Truth.  A game that is riffing on fantasy RPG games, it tells the story of our voiceless protagonist, New Kid.  You create this character, but they never speak.  Something that is made a point of ruthlessly in the game, riffing on games that do that.  Our new kid just moved into town, and just happens to get roped into a struggle between Cartman’s Kupa Keep, and Kyle’s Drow Elves over a mythical object – the Stick of Truth.  A stick that can enable you to do anything.  However, it seems that New Kid is harboring some secrets of his own, and all of it plays together in a narrative that only the creators of South Park could tell.

There is a lot to talk about in this game.  The visuals are just perfect for something set in the South Park universe.  It really does feel like you’re watching an episode of the show.  Since all the voices are pitch-perfect for what you expect from the characters, the role-playing of this felt great.  Part of me really gets why the animation style of the series meshes well to video games.  Since it is done on computer, I have to figure there wasn’t a whole lot they had to tweak.  Though, getting to see Canada as an 8-bit world with 8-bit gaming music was adorable.

Combat in the game is basically a Final Fantasy game, with a few caveats.  Your character chooses their own class, and then you play through the game getting to add on to it as time goes by.  The amount of abilities you get is limited, and you can only change so many things.  Leveling up is also pretty basic.  That’s the thing about the game – it’s pretty basic in the controls and how you play.  Combat does incorporate QTE segments in both offense and defense to either get extra damage or extra defense, respectively.

But you don’t come to this game for deep mechanics.  You really, really don’t.  If you are playing a South Park game, you came to play for the experience of being inside an episode of the series, but longer.  And this is a long game.  I ended up having a good 24 hours through just the story.  Which brings us to this – is the humor on point?  Yeah, for sure.  It’s absurdly violent at points (the abortion clinic scene was so unbelievably grotesque.  I loved it), unbelievably raunchy (the scene fighting the gnome under your parents while they’re fucking is just too good), and doesn’t pull that many punches.  That being said, it is pretty standard for what the average observer would expect from a game in this genre.  Like one of the early season episodes.  That’s not a bad thing, but it does have you having to check your expectations.  And how it all ends is just too funny.  It’s so stupid that it’s perfect.

Overall, this is a solid RPG riffing on games in this genre, along with the fact that it is a South Park game.  Trey and Matt definitely didn’t take things too seriously, and that’s for the best.  I like that they have no problem making fun of their own work.  That’s mature, and while this game is decidedly not, if you wanted to play through an episode of this franchise, this is the perfect way to do it.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

The first game got a TON of praise.  Just tons of it.  People loved it across the board, save for the moralizing people who don’t like any game anymore because you can’t please those people and it bothers me that now Sony is actually trying to.  However, the sequel got a much more tepid amount of praise.  People seem reticent to pile it on for this one, which I think is genuinely unfortunate.  The Stick of Truth was funny.  The Fractured But Whole was fucking hilarious!  This game too so much more risks, and dammit if that didn’t pay off.  At least to me.  I can see why people would be hesitant to say nice things about it in mainstream gaming journalism outlets.

See, in the last couple seasons, South Park riffed on PC culture and it wasn’t nice about it.  Hell, it fucked it up the butt and when people were yelling, they just shrugged and went about their day.  This game is following in the vein of those episodes, and it’s funny to watch.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot goes that a year after the events of the previous game, New Kid is still the King and all is peaceful in the Kingdom.  Until their game is interrupted by The Coon, who tells our hero and his friends that there is an opportunity to get their superhero franchise off the ground.  Now our young hero is thrown into a new world, and a new plot that gets more and more ridiculous as time goes on.  All for the purpose of saving a cat and getting $100.

Some people were complaining the combat in this game was kind of dumbed down from the previous entry.  I would disagree with that.  While you don’t have much of the QTE stuff, it made things harder by making it so you have fewer choices when you are in combat of what to do.  In the last game, you could use healing items and then attack in the same turn.  Here, you have to make choices, and since your enemy can hit for a TON of damage and healing items don’t just fall out of enemies every minute, you have to be smart.  What’s more, most summons only have the specific number of times they can be called into battle, and then they are done.  This game makes you think on your feet, but thankfully, give you a much bigger toolbox to play with.

See, you get superhero powers, and as the game goes on, Cartman keeps adding to your increasingly-ridiculous back-story which gives you a bigger toolbox to play with, that you can customize to whatever play style you want.  What’s more, before every battle you can do this.  So if you fuck up and die, you get another shot to change up your roster, you skills, and the augmentations you have.  There is depth here, just different from the last.  And if you ask me, some of that stuff did need to be toned down.  The streamlining of things in this game made it much fun for me.

But just like the last game, you didn’t pick this up because you wanted deep mechanics.  You did it so you could play an episode of South Park.  In that regard, this game does the formula even better.  Never have I felt more like I was in this world with these characters than I did in this game.  What’s more, since your character can customize their character sheet, You can change how you get interacted with.  Role-play-wise, this was a great game to get sucked into with the universe.  Plus, the narrative is so much better.  Stick of Truth was fun, but here they go all out.  Everyone is foul-mouthed.  There is PC culture that is seamlessly mixed into that world because it basically takes place where the episodes of the series have already happened.  You have to mesh with the madness, and hot damn!  It’s too funny. They take real chances with some of the stuff they go into.  My favorite of the Lovecraftian monster that is horribly racist, with racist cops feeding black people to it.  Their black characters have a bad habit of being urban as fuck.  They riff on the whole cis/transgender stuff.  There are no punches held back, and the game is better for it.

What’s more, there is something about how the narrative turns out that had me in stitches the first time because it felt so South Park.  When you have Stan at the end asking everyone “you be taking this seriously,” it feels like the best episodes of the show, where him and Kyle are trying to get everyone to see reason, but Cartman still wins in the end.  Plus, we have that great child-like naivety of Cartman combined with the diabolical master-mindedness of him that is just a joy to watch.  I will say that the final act does get draining as it is one boss-fight after another, but that aside, it’s great stuff.

I genuinely do love both of these games.  They both are charming and funny and great to play.  But this game is the better of the two.  Without a doubt, it does the formula better.  What’s more, it feels like it genuinely continues the narrative from the first game.  It doesn’t just forget that that stuff happened, and there were plot threads that were unresolved.  The whole narrative comes to a nice conclusion.  I don’t know if there are any plans for a sequel, but to be honest, I’d be okay if there weren’t.  This game ends on a nice note.  You really are doing a disservice to yourself if you haven’t picked these games up.  But if you wanna start here, I don’t blame you.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Persona 5 The Royal Japanese Trailer

For those of you who didn’t know, my favorite game of 2017 was, hands-down, Persona 5.  It was close between that and Horizon: Zero Dawn, but that game scraped by on a razor-thin margin.  It is the quintessential JRPG.  It’s the Gold Standard.  There is no other one in its class.  Not even remotely.  This game showed me just how perfect these games can be, and that makes me so damn happy.  So when I heard that they were going to be releasing an extended version of the game, with new characters, new areas, new combat mechanics, and even looking at the third semester that the game glosses over, I was squeeing like a 14 year old girl.  There’s a fun image for ya.  A trailer has finally been released, now let’s talk about it.

Oh boy.  Oh fucking boy.  I cannot begin to describe to you how utterly stoked I am.  That looks awesome!  Praying that the final game is in English.  Don’t you “sub-only!” fuckers start with me.  I don’t wanna hear it.  I don’t watch anime in Japanese, I sure as hell am not gonna play my JRPG in it either.  The English version of this game was part of what I loved so much anyway, so yeah.  So much to talk about.

We start with the scene in the basement of the police station.  We have our main character in there, when he suddenly gets pulled into the Metaverse to hear someone calling out to him.  Is this friend?  Is this foe?  Well, because the trailer had no subtitles, I guess we don’t know.  But to be honest, I prefer it that way.  I don’t want what’s coming spoiled to me.  Part of the excitement is not knowing.  Why Americans want everything in movies and games spelled out to them eludes me.  It really does.  It’s why I have loved how Kojima is handling the marketing of Death Stranding.

Then we get back into the jazzy soundtrack with the game’s signature style.  I love the aesthetic of this game.  It really does feel smooth and fun.  Then we get into the gameplay.  Seems we have a new stomping ground to explore – Kichijoji.  This is a very different kind of place.  One of the things I’ve liked about all the parts of Tokyo you visit is how each one has its own flavor.  Like it’s its own thing.  Really hoping to visit Japan one day.  This part of Japan has a very cramped and claustrophobic feel.  I can get into that.

On to the metaverse, it seems there is a new mechanic being introduced into the game – a zip-line to be able to get around.  It seems this new version of the game is expanding on Palaces to have new things to find.  I love that.  The fact that they are doing so much to make the game more engaging really makes me happy. Later on we see the mechanic being applied in other parts of the metaverse, so yeah.

Then we have the introductions of new characters.  First is a strange, enigmatic young woman with red hair, wearing the school uniform of our hero.  Who is this woman?  Her voice is the same as the one on the screen in the opening, so I’m guessing she has a big part to play.  Just how far does that go?  Hard to say.  We then see a doctor.  Who is this guy?  He seems tight with Ann.

We shift gears to the combat.  It seems characters have a bunch of new powerful moves at their disposal.  What are these moves?  How are they going to mesh with the characters?  It appears like some of them combine characters actions.  Perhaps these are combos like those you can unlock when you grow relationships with your Confidants?  Lots of questions, few answers.

Our new redhead is making nice with the protagonist.  This could get interesting.  Who is this new person?  Then there’s some stuff where we have our characters chilling with Joker, doing my favorite part of the game – hanging out.  Spending time together and getting to enjoy one-another’s company.  There’s also this pretty spectacular fish tank that you are chilling in front of with Yusuke.  It also appears you can shoot the shit with lots of characters at a very American-looking bar.  Throwing darts, shooting pool.  I like this.  My genuine favorite parts of the original version of the game were getting to chill with your friends.  Getting to do more of that sounds pretty great.

We finish this up with more combat.  Including seeing our mysterious redhead in action!  So she’s someone we can fight with.  Who is this woman, and what is her connection to the story?  So many questions, and I genuinely cannot wait for them to be answer.  What’s more, it seems I don’t have to wait all that long.  It launches on October 31st!  Halloween is when this game drops.  For the first year since I lost someone important to me, Halloween isn’t going to suck.  That’s pretty great.

An expansion of a game I loved, in a year with lots of cool stuff dropping, and the very real chance that at E3 we are gonna get to see a release date for Cyberpunk 2077.  I said before that this was going to be a hallmark year for gaming.  I don’t think I’m wrong.  My eagerness is off the fucking charts.

Initial Verdict
Now!  I want it now!

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: MediEvil – Announce Trailer

Something I’ve been really enjoying are these complete remastering of classic games that I grew up with.  The Spyro original trilogy is coming out soon and I can’t wait to play it.  There was the remastering of the original Crash Bandicoot games, which was fun, albeit with some of the same flaws intact.  The dedicating to keeping these games in the spirit of their originals but with visuals that are out of this world has been admirable.  Now it seems that another game that I loved from yesteryear is getting the same treatment- MediEvil.

This is a franchise that I figure a lot of people have forgotten about.  The quirky adventures of the derpy knight Sir Daniel Fortesque, I remember first being exposed to the original in the form of a demo on my cousin’s PS1.  It was so much fun!  Taking a lot of cues from The Nightmare Before Christmas, the aesthetic and gameplay were great.  It has a style all its own, but was forgotten about by gaming, until now.  The remaster has been announced, now let’s see it.

We begin with the upbeat, lively music.  These games were never self-serious, and if you took them that way, you’re doing it wrong.  And nowhere is this more apparent than when our hero makes his entrance.  That derpy face.  It’s adorable.  I love this guy.  The trailer gets right into showing us the action, which is nice.  I prefer trailers with gameplay.  This game is a hack-and-slash, which is conveyed.  The environments are just great.  The aesthetic from the original hasn’t been lost in this remastering.

Next up, we have some great back-to-back shots showing the original versus this version.  It’s glorious!  Just like the remastering of Spyro, I cannot praise the visuals enough.  This game looks fantastic!  Even the puzzle-platforming has gotten a boost in the looks department, which is just fine by me.  A montage of the action, and it finally ends with a cut to the title.  Then we get to hear Sir Daniel’s derpy voice.  I love this guy.  He’s too adorable for words.

I am stoked!  This game has already gone to my list of Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2019.  Working on that for the end of the year.  So much to be excited about.  Back to a classic hack-and-slash adventure with one of gaming’s forgotten heroes.  Can’t wait.

Initial Verdict
Arm up, Sir Daniel!

Peace out,

Maverick