Lucien’s First Take: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2017 E3 Gameplay

I meant to talk about this months ago, but I am finally getting around to it, because there is a lot to unpack.  Here’s the thing about probably 95% of superhero games – they suck, or are really mediocre.  Especially the ones licensed to films.  Licensed games are the worst thing under the sun.  After the SNES and Sega Genesis, they were all nothing but crap.  So when I heard that Insomniac is making a Spider-Man game that is officially licensed by Marvel, I was groaning.  I mean, Insomniac games are awesome.  They made the Ratchet and Clank games, which are awesome.  But a superhero game to come directly from Marvel?  This has bad idea written all over it.  This year at E3, however, they released a gameplay trailer that has taken all my skepticism and destroyed it.  It looks awesome, so let’s take a look at it now.

Right out of the game, the visuals for this game are amazing.  The level of detail is just perfect.  It’s pretty standard, for a modern console game, but you know what, it’s great.  Definitely hoping we can either customize or get new suits for the web-slinger, but I do like this suit.  Not too worried about that.  Switchable suits has been a standard for Spider-Man games since their inception, so it’s all good.

The control scheme for this game looks pretty simple.  I can clearly tell that almost all of it will be about staying above your targets.  The stealth elements look absolutely phenomenal.  One of the things I always thought was kinda dumb about Spider-Man games is that they don’t take advantage of the elements of getting enemies from above.  Sure, his suit ain’t exactly made to sneak, but you can still hit an enemy from above without them seeing you coming.  Since Spider-Man never kills his foes, we don’t have to worry about non-lethal runs of the game.  Exciting stuff.  The controls for getting back up to beams or on top of objects are taken right out of the Arkham games.  No problem with that whatsoever.  It’s totally fitting for our friendly neighborhood hero.

We also get to see some potential gadget stuff in this game.  Another thing I am digging that seems to have come straight out of the Arkham games.  Desperately hoping that they don’t just copy that formula beat-for-beat though and give you some freedom to customize the stuff you use and be able to craft specialty stuff.  Really wondering how the leveling up system is going to work.  You also can use the environment to fuck up enemies!  That’s awesome!  I love it.  Later on we get to see that done even in combat scenarios.  Manipulating the environment in active combat and not just for stealth is a break from the mold they clearly are going off of, and I think that’s a great one.  But the stealth aspect of this game is really something.  Not gonna lie, the more potential I have to be stealthy, the happier I’ll be.  It’s my favorite way to play a game, and it looks like I get to scratch my itch here.

Then we get our first peek into the combat.  Now here’s something where I want to elaborate on how this game is using the Arkham formula.  A lot of people are saying that that’s unoriginal, but you know what, I think it’s goddamn brilliant.  There’s a reason why.  When you fight, it’s clear that you are using the same kind of system they used in Arkham to dodge enemy attacks before they happen.  To me, this formula makes even more sense for Spider-Man than it did for Batman.  Why?  Because of the Spider Sense.  That talent gives him the ability to see what’s about to happen when danger is close.  He gets an almost perfect ability to perceive incoming problems and react to them.  So the indicator system from the aforementioned series is perfect for that!  It also lets you dodge machine gun fire, which, for those who read the comics, is something that Spider-Man could do when he’s at his best.  Since this game isn’t attached to any film or thing like that, keeping it true to the comics is kind of awesome.

From there we get some stuff with a helicopter that shows this game is also taking cues from the old God of War games with quicktime events.  Not gonna complain about that either.  Clearly they are doing the concept right.  Kinda curious to see what all this “HEX” stuff in that clearly is some kind of energy.  This should be interesting.

This game went from being something I figured wouldn’t be worth my time, to one of my most-anticipated games of 2018.  That’s pretty awesome.  Let me know what you all think down below.

Initial Verdict:
Hyped!

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Observer

I find myself in a very strange position – having a game where there is nothing wrong with it in terms of appearance, gameplay, or performance, and yet I was totally and completely bored by.  This is a game that has nothing fundamentally wrong with it.  I just got so bored playing it.  How is that possible?  Maybe it’s just not the kind of game for me?  I honestly don’t know.  There could be a lot of self-reflection in my future as I think about this game and what it represents to me.  This review may end up with me just stroking my own dick as I think about why I didn’t really enjoy this game as much as the Steam community seems to, but so be it.  I do want to talk about it.

The story goes that you’re in a 1980’s style dystopian future horror movie.  Everything about the aesthetic screams old school horror films.  This game seems to have taken some cues from Alien: Isolation in that regard.  You play as Daniel Lazarski, voiced very well by Rutger Hauer.  I like the voice acting from this character.  Rutger isn’t known for being able to boom.  He plays the broken down old man very well.  He is an Observer.  They’re a new kind of law enforcement who can go into people’s minds and take information that they don’t want to give up out of their heads.  It’s a dark concept, that admittedly has a lot of potential.  Now he’s on the trail to find his son, with whom he is estranged, and gets involved in a plot of murder and deception, all inside the heads of the dead or dying.

This game has a very unique look.  I liked the retro feel of the tech in this game.  You have all these holgraphic displays, mixed in with computers that look like they were coughed up from the 80’s.  It’s cool stuff.  Seeing games willing to eschew the modern film convention of making all the technology super advanced is really refreshing.  A pity Hollywood can’t seem to do that.  The problem here is that since the game really doesn’t take a large amount of time building the world it inhabits, I didn’t find myself getting into this beyond the most basic “that’s kinda cool” sorta way.  Which is really unfortunate because there was a lot of loving detail put into the environments.

Hacking into people’s minds brought me to another game that this one clearly took a lot of cues from.  Well, not really a game so much as what could have been a game – P.T.  After the death of Silent Hills, a TON of games have been trying to take that concept and run with it.  To extremely varying degrees of success.  In my opinion, this game didn’t seem to rise to the ambitious goals Hideo Kojima was trying to do the way others appear to be.  All the intricacies of P.T.’s environmental puzzles connected to being in a single hallway are lost on this game.

Then we get the sections that it’s clear they took from a previous work, Outlast – the moving around and hiding sections from a monster that you can’t kill.  These sections got very tedious, very quickly.  It was so easy to predict where the monster would be, so all the tension that could have come from hiding from the creature was lost in a nano-second.  I found myself wishing that they could have just ditched those entirely for maybe more creative environmental puzzles in the world of people’s minds.  For all the potential the idea of jacking into people’s heads has, they really seemed to not want to take any crazy chances with it.  I can think of 100 ways to make it a surreal nightmare all off the top of my head that they didn’t even try.  I kind of want to see this idea done again by a studio that is a little more ambitious.  Maybe Kojima can take a crack at it after he is done with Death Stranding?  Just a good idea.

Which brings me to the fear element – this game isn’t scary.  At all.  They really should have ditched the fear side.  I guess the fear is supposed to come from the idea of what it means to get into people’s heads and how that is violating their minds.  But here’s the thing – 99% of everyone you jack into is dead.  This concept could have been made immediately more disturbing if you had living people who are desperately fighting you in their minds from getting to their secrets.  Like maybe have an investigation where the Observer is so desperate to get to the answer that he’ll do all sorts of crazy shit in people’s head.  As I said, this is a really neat concept, that I want to see done better.

I guess my biggest problem here is that this game feels like a ton of potential that wasn’t wasted, per se, just not taken far enough.  If they wanted to make a game where the implication of what you’re doing is supposed to be the scary thing (which I like on a VERY large level), then why not go all the way with it?  I mean REALLY fuck with the player.  Make it so that the player feels like they are partly to blame.  Have them also so eager to get to the answer that they are pushing the main character to do all these things.  Maybe some Fourth Wall moments where you put on the player that what they’re doing is wrong.  So much potential in this thought process.

This is not a bad game.  I just got very bored by it.  To me it feels like a game that is riffing off other games and doesn’t go out of its way to be its own thing.  Which is a bummer, because the kind of game I described above, I can see Rutger Hauer being an amazing addition to.  Hopefully this isn’t his last foray into video games before he passes.  He is quite old.  It will be a shame when he goes.  He’s a great actor, and has the chops for great voice acting too.  But that’s just my thoughts.  Let me know what yours are below.

Final Verdict
6 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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