Lucien’s Unpopular Opinion: Video Games Should be More Expensive

This actually is an unpopular opinion among gamers.  But here is where I am coming from on this perspective – games should only be more expensive if it stops microtransactions.  Recent leaked info from EA has it that they are going to start pursuing more and more microtransactions.  After the fiasco with Battlefront II, some people are speculating if Disney is going to pull the license from them.  It took a literal phone call from Disney to get them to take the loot boxes (temporarily) out of the game.  They will be coming back later, it’s almost a guarantee.  Leaked audio from a former EA CEO showed that this is the path they want to follow.  To Hell with the consumer, let’s make video games a money factory that can push their consumers until they squeeze every dime out of them.

I am never buying another EA game.  That’s a fact.  You vote with your wallet, and my wallet is saying that I will NOT give this company my capital when all their games are multiplayer games that can integrate microtransactions.  Nope.  Anyone who gives this company, or Ubisoft, or Capcom your money, this is the mentality that you’re endorsing.  I won’t. I refuse.  For the same reason that I am not spending $60 per episode of an episodic release of the Final Fantasy VII remake.  Nope.  If they won’t sell a game in a complete version and will make me pay a total of $180 to get the entire package, then I’m just not going to buy it.  I’ll wait until a cheap complete version is out that I can get on Amazon.

So some of you may be wondering why I don’t have a problem with games costing more.  All of what is happening right now is indicative of gaming having an issue – it’s too expensive to make games anymore.  Clearly, the market is such that games are now so expensive to make that if there is not some massive influx of capital, the market crashes.  Some people are saying that that’s fine.  Part of me wants to agree.  But I see another option.  The whole deal with microtransactions evolved because the gaming industry has gotten so massive, budgets so bloated, and the hardware so expensive to make.  Everything points to gaming just having gotten too big.  Maybe it’s a sign that we need more AA games that have cheaper budgets, skimp on some of the bells and whistles, and can stand to not be major hits.  That’s another thing.

But I think that we all need to accept that gaming is going to get more and more expensive as time goes on.  Since that’s the case, for a AAA game, I think we need to accept that they need to get more expensive.  If we don’t want microtransactions, which I most authoritatively don’t, then there needs to be something that gives to offset the cost.  To me, that would be a hike on prices of AAA games.  I honestly don’t mind spending an extra $10 or $20 if it means no more of this microtransaction bullshit.  If DLC that isn’t major story expansions can be free.

Look, I get it that people aren’t made of money.  I’m not either.  I have to make hard choices about getting games.  I only get a couple new games a year.  If that.  This year has been pretty quiet, so the only games that I got brand new were Horizon: Zero Dawn and Persona 5.  Both of which were absolutely amazing and showed that AAA games can be single-player only without all the bullshit and still be massively successful.  One of those games is going to be my game of the year.  It’s been pretty cool.  Next year looks to have a lot of major hits, and I am curious to see where it goes from there.

Modern gamers are people in their late-20’s to early-30’s.  We have thin budgets and have to be frugal.  I am not unsympathetic to this.  But AAA gaming is getting more and more expensive.  That’s a fact.  If we are going to avoid all the microtransaction nonsense, then we have to find a way to offset that cost.  Some gamers and game critics argue that the $60 price tag alone is enough.  I know that’s not true.  With the true cost of developing, marketing, and porting games to various platforms, at the end of the day the cost just keeps going up and up.

Now this isn’t a fool-proof solution.  All of this microtransaction stuff also does reek of corporations seeing a new medium to exploit.  There’s no arguing that.  But where you all see anger, I see anger and decisions that have to be made, if gaming is to survive.  There is a crash coming.  It won’t be as bad as some people think.  Gaming is too big for that to happen.  But there will be a crash.  If nothing else of at least the AAA market with companies who are hedging all of their bets on stuff like microtransactions.  These companies all seem to think that they can bilk their consumers more and more of this sort of thing and it won’t have any consequences.  The reality is that gamers are starting to have enough.  EA just had what was supposed to be their high-end release of the winter blow up in their face.  Their stocks took a major hit.  It hurt them.  Disney is now tightening their leash on them because their business and the Star Wars brand could potentially be damaged by their greed.

A lot of things need to happen, and I would love to have a discussion about whether or not the path I am on is the right one.  However, if we can get companies like EA to stop with this nonsense by being willing to pay a little more for AAA games, I don’t think that is too dear a price to pay.  And maybe this can have Square Enix not wanting to sell their most-anticipated remake ever as a stupid episodic game where each episode is sixty fucking dollars.  That’s madness.

Until next time, a quote,

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” – Edward Abbey

Peace out,

Maverick

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Lucien’s First Take: Left Alive – First Gameplay Trailer (2018)

What do you get when you take some of the creative minds behind the Metal Gear franchise and team them up with Square Enix?  You get a game that is set in another game’s universe, and seems to combine action, survival, and mechs.  The concept behind this game is “action survival,” a unique premise that has a lot of potential.  The world looks grim and depressing, set in a kind of alternate universe Croatia, with multiple EU’s battle for supremacy using mechs.  Not much is known about this game from the trailer, but it’s got me intrigued.  And I guess I won’t have to wait too long.  For just now debuting this game, they aren’t making players wait long.  Hopefully that means some cool trailers in the not too distant future to see what kind of game this is.  Let’s talk about it.

We start off with a quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky.  He’s written many times about the nature of war and man, with the implication always being that we are violent animals and that hope is a fool’s errand.  Nice.  We see this quote is well-used, as we see a violent battle taking place in a snow-filled Eastern European nation.  A giant mech with giant bullet casing falling to the ground is blasting apart a target while a soldier in armor is on foot by its foot.  The text seems to implicate that humanity is nearing its end because we have learned nothing and continue the endless cycle of killing.

From a mech we see a character who definitely looks the part of a haggard Russian stumbling out.  Is this a protagonist?  An antagonist?  Who can say.  The details are spare here.  They definitely seem to be dismayed as they look upon all the destruction around them, only to look up and see helicopters carrying mechs ahead, looking to continue the battle.  Alright, so we got some grim imagery and themes at play about war and the nature of mankind.  You can see the Metal Gear influence here.  I am digging this.  Especially as Konami has decided to have their flagship series now have unicorn zombies.  What a fucking joke.

Then we see what little gameplay footage there is.  A lot of darkness, hiding, and sneaking.  I get the feeling being a tiny human opening fire on a mech is a bad idea.  This is very interesting stuff.  If people who have worked on the Metal Gear franchise are using that sort of gameplay in a game about mech warfare, that can only lead to good things.  Very excited to see what comes out next about the game.  We shall see.

Initial Verdict
Intriued

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Life is Strange: Before the Storm Premier Trailer

I’ve made no secret that the original game is my favorite game of 2015.  Aside from the ending, which is stupid on so many levels that it forced me to do a rewrite which is on this site if you want to look for it, I loved it.  The game is truly phenomenal.  And just like Mass Effect 3, I don’t let the fact that the ending is pants-on-head retarded stop me from loving the rest of the franchise.  However, when I heard there was a sequel episodic series coming out, I was more than a little worried.  I mean, where are they going to go with the franchise?  I had games where I both saved and let Chloe die, so are they going to pick up with Max back in Seattle?  Where could this go?  Are we FINALLY going to get an answer to what Max’s power is and how it works?  That’s the biggest question I have after the series so that could be a little interesting.

But today Microsoft decided to unveil the latest season at their press conference.  And…I don’t know what to think.  Let’s take a look at the trailer and then talk about it.

Okay, so we have Chloe, who is one of my favorite female characters of all time, voiced by an amazing voice actress who I also loved in Horizon: Zero Dawn.  She’s in her room, smoking.  I can see the art style is the same, but it does look a lot more detailed.  The facial animations in-particular, which was my biggest gripe with this style.

She’s sitting there, smoking, and we see a raven land on her windowsill.  The previous game had a thing about the blue butterfly that Max took a pic with.  Is that the way it is with the raven?  In all mediums the raven has symbolized death.  A theory just came to me, but I want to keep going before we talk about it.

There’s a montage of things happening, and one of the things that gets my attention is her being in a car with her father when he is hit by a train.  Is that a dream sequence?  If it’s not, then it makes my theory have suddenly a lot more credibility.  There are things like a tree burning, and Chloe climbing the steps of Blackwell Academy with a sign about good luck seniors.  More Chloe being angsty and shit, but always alone.  That interests me.  The previous game made it seem like her and Rachel Amber were nigh-inseparable.

Here’s why I’m worried – part of me is thinking that all this is is just filling in Chloe’s backstory before the events of the game.  Why?  We already know what happened.  That would be stupid.  That would be the biggest waste of time and potential ever.  And the worst thing is that I’m going to buy the first episode to find out.  Because I have to know.  I have another theory, and I’m desperately hoping that it’s true.  If it really is as simple and dumb as what the title suggests, then I am honestly going to be nine kinds of done with Dontnod and their episodic games.

My theory is this – Chloe dies in so many of the timelines that Max has.  Whether it be in the beginning when Nathan shoots her, the junkyard where you can accidentally shoot her while playing with David’s gun, the alternate timeline if you have Max kill her when she asks her too, and at the very end if you choose to sacrifice her.  I always believed that the tornado was the alternate timelines Max created coming together to fuck up reality.  It made sense.  My theory is that this game has Chloe in the nether-space between timelines.  Like a space where nothing is real and she is desperate to escape.  Kinda like the world of the Nexus in Star Trek Generations.  That would be fascinating!  No joke, if they go that route then it makes sense why her reaction at the end where she sees Rachel is one of awe.  Like she can’t believe that she’s actually there.

But I am still worried that this is just rehashing a backstory we already know.  To Square Enix and Dontnod, if that is really the route you go, so help me Groj I will make the longest and most nit-picky post explaining why you are wasting gamers’ money that you have ever seen!  Not that you care, I’m sure, but hopefully my audience will care.  And I’m going to make sure all of you are told as fast as possible.  The first episode comes out August 31st.  Your move, Dontnod

Initial Verdict:
You Have My Attention

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Hitman: Season One

hitmanWhen I first heard about this game, I was annoyed.  Here we have a AAA title that is being sold in episodes.  What’s more, in order to play this game, you have to be online.  I was not going to stand for that.  I refused to participate.  Just like how I refuse to participate in releasing Final Fantasy VII remake in episodes.  However, when I decided on a whim to get the disc release of the game, and holy shit, I was impressed.  The wonders of what depression can do for a man.  Here we have one of the most fantastic stealth games ever made, with a few flaws.  All things considered, I am eager to see what comes next, even though I won’t be buying the episodes.

Have you ever wanted a game where you could actually feel like a secret agent?  If so, this is your game.  This game is at its best when you play it that way.  Agent 47 is back in action.  After the insane excess that was Hitman: Absolution, this is such a breath of fresh air.  However, much like that game, one of the biggest flaws of this one is the story.  To be honest, this game would have been so much better served if it nixed the story altogether.  Just have Agent 47 doing missions to kill people.  Play it like a Bond movie and have it be bad criminals doing bad things.  Hell, the game even frames one mission where it’s rich clients who are hiring the IDA to get justice that the legal system cannot give them.  They didn’t need another convoluted conspiracy involving some supranational entity who secretly controls the world.  This trope is so overused that I am genuinely sick of it.

The plot goes that Agent 47 is hired by the IDA as their newest operative.  They are a clandestine organization who works in assassinations.  Rich people, corporations, and even national governments hire them to do wet-work operations against very dangerous people, along with some people who slipped through the legal cracks but have some very violent retribution coming their way.  However, over time, 47 and his handler realize that they are being used by a dangerous individual to attack an organization who secretly controls the world.  To what end?  Wouldn’t you like to know?

As I said, this game is basically making you a secret agent.  Each mission has you infiltrating an open level so that you can take out a series of targets and occasionally take on an adjacent task.  The goal is to go through the level and be invisible.  The IDA values no collateral damage.  You are to be ghost, who kills with perfect silence, and never leaves a trace.  And the game gives you a plethora of ways to get the job done.  Each level has dozens of routes to get to the target.  You can take the direct approach, but shooting your way through a crowd looks bad.  The levels give you a good deal of freedom when it comes to dealing with individual targets.  Some of them have little side-missions associated with them.  Sometimes you can be a ghost and sneak around without ever having to change outfits.  There are tons of disguises and hidden goodies to help you get your mission done.  No one can say that this game is unfair.  The difficulty can be whatever you want it to be, but you are still being given as much opportunities to make the kill as you like.

The best thing I can say about this game is the levels.  Not only are the visuals fucking gorgeous, I mean holy shit, but the vast open spaces let you play around with how you want to get the mission done.  Since I love to make a kill in a way where I don’t even leave anyone aware that I was there, it feels so good when I am strolling out of a place and everyone still thinks that all is well in their world.  My personal favorite was in Morocco, where I got to walk out of the Swedish Consulate and have a massive protest outside, with me not having a care in the world.  I had just killed a guy from inside a TV booth, then dragged his body into a closet where he can rot in peace until some poor cleaning person gets to find him and the knocked-out security guard that I left him in there with.

Everything in the levels of these games plays a part.  If you get made, but are able to disappear, people will be talking about what happened.  If you kill one person in an area, other people will start to notice.  Take actions and you can see the results.  My favorite was in Paris, where I dropped a massive light display on a target and had the entire procession run screaming from the show.  That was cool.  A bit more flashy than I had intended, but sometimes flashy works.  How I dropped the guy’s lover was pretty epic.

The other flaw in this game, aside from the story, is how short it is.  With five missions and the training mission, there isn’t a lot of meat.  This is a game that is meant to be replayed.  To find all the ways that you can ice your target.  You can play each mission a dozen times and still be finding new ways to play.  Whether you go from disguise to disguise, slowly working your way to your intended target, or find a tall tower with a high-powered rifle to blow your target’s head off without anyone ever even seeing you, it cannot be said that this game doesn’t let you play your way.  Reminded me of that line in Leon The Professional, where he says that the best killer can get right up next to their target, while amateurs kill from a distance.

All in all, this was worth the wait.  It sucks that Square Enix has gone this route, but I can’t fault them for the final product.  This was one hell of a game, and I will impatiently wait to see what the next season brings us.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Final Fantasy Summons

Having just gotten done with Final Fantasy XV, I am thinking about the summons in that game.  A pity that I can’t summon them on command, but they are cool all the same.  It got me to thinking about the whole concept of summons in this series.  It has been known for having some cool-as-fuck ones, some weird ones, and a fat Chocobo.  No joke, that is a real summon.  It falls from the sky and lands on the enemy.  That’s just weird.  Let’s get down to it.

titan10. Titan
I hadn’t played a game with this guy in it until XV, but man did he make an impression.  In every game that he has been in, Titan is a gigantic monstrosity that rips the land apart in order to do massive damage to his enemies.  While not the most flashy summon, it is pretty cool.  The fight against him in XV was fucking awesome.  I wish that I had a more interesting reason as to why he gets on the list, but a giant who can rip the land to pieces is all he needs to be.

knights-of-the-round9. Knights of the Round
The most difficult summon to get in VII, instead of getting to have one ally come into battle with you, you get 13.  After winning all the chocobo races and breeding a complete rainbow of chocobos, It is the ultimate weapon, able to defeat almost any enemy.  Each of them are knights who serve under King Arthur, who is the last to strike with the blade Excalibur.  XIV brought them back, only as enemies this time at the end of the Heavensward expansion.  I am hoping that they will be able to be used as an ally again in future games.  Assuming there are any.

alexander8. Alexander
Probably the most unique of the summons, Alexander is a giant fortress.  That’s right, you get the beat the shit out of your enemy with a living, mobile weapon.  In VIII, it encloses the enemy and them blows them to bits.  In XIII, the fortress first sends down a giant walking golem, but you can call down the rest of it, a series of interlocking walls that use lasers to carve up all enemies.  Such a pity that such a cool summon was in such a mediocre entry into the franchise.  I think my favorite version is in XIV, where it is everything the giant mechanized fortress is supposed to be.

ramuh7. Ramuh
The god of thunder, I hadn’t gotten much experience with this old man until XV.  In every game he has been in, his look hasn’t really changed.  Taking on the appearance of a bearded old man, he brings down the wrath of thunder.  Was hoping to see him in X, but he was replaced by Ixion, who is cool in his own right.  In XV, you have to activate all of his stones.  Once you do, he can only be used once, but that one time is epic as fuck.  When assaulting an imperial base, you call down his Judgment Bolt to destroy the magitech generator.  Watching that happen is just fantastic.  Worth every second.  Sucks that that is the only time you can use him.  Would have given anything to have more time with the guy.

leviathan6. Leviathan
My first run-in with this summon was in IV, when you have to fight the guy.  A being who controls the sea, he wasn’t a summon you could use for the first few games.  Then I got to have control of him in VII, where you can call down the ocean to drown your enemies.  But, of course, the most fantastic version of the character is in XV.  Lunafreya wants to make a deal with it to give its blessing to Noctis.  The ancient beast does NOT like this arrangement, and instead attacks Noctis and the Imperial fleet who comes in to kill it.  The battle that follows pretty much levels the city, but it is spectacular.  Leviathan controls the water to make dragons that lash out at you.  A fantastic battle, in the lesser half of the game.

shiva5. Shiva
Don’t let the delicate femininity of this summon fool you, Shiva is no slouch.  The absolute power of winter, she uses it to freeze and obliterate her enemies.  My favorite version of the character is in X, where you get her at a very pivotal part of the story.  It’s right after you get to the temple in Lake Macalania, and you find out the truth about Seymour being a monster.  He calls forth a monster who we’ll get to talk about pretty soon here, and you now have Shiva to call to your aid.  In XIII, she is in the form of twin sisters, who can combine their bodies to form a motorcycle.  A pity that the game she is in there is so mediocre.  That concept has a ton of potential.  In XV, you see her as Lady Lunafreya’s attendant, secretly hiding who she really is.  But just when everything is at its worst, she reveals who she is, and comes to join Noctis in battle.  As sexy as she is deadly, her Diamond Dust will freeze your bones and rip you up.

ifrit4. Ifrit
Probably the most well-known of the summons in this franchise, the beast of fire is modeled after a fire spirit called Djinn.  It has demonic horns in every iteration, and the chief attack it uses is Hellfire.  My favorite iteration of the character is also in X.  He is the second summon you get.  Yuna calls him forth, being launched up in the air and landing on his waiting shoulder.  In XV, he is the only cool part of the shitty-ass climax to the game.  It seems that he isn’t keen on keeping humanity alive, so he makes a deal with the villain to kill everyone.  In this game, he is much more of a man, using a flaming sword and his flaming powers to destroy Noctis and his allies.  Whatever form he is in, fire is your friend.

anima3. Anima
Exclusive to X, this summon is both badass and scary as fuck, when you think about it.  For starters, her back-story is depressing as fuck.  Originally Seymour’s mother, she wanted to give her son a way to fight Sin, so she turned herself into a fayth in order to stay with him.  But it clearly had some horrific side-effects.  You have to collect all of the hidden treasures in each temple.  Then you unlock her.  When you summon her into battle, a giant chain comes from the sky, reaching into the ground,  You are literally dragging her out of Hell to fight for you.  Her main attack is called Pain.  She charges energy into her eye, blasting it out at enemies, causing either massive damage or instant death.  It is aptly named, since it makes her eye bleed in pain.  But that is nothing.  Her overdrive sucks the enemy into Hell, where her true form pummels the shit out of them, causing massive damage.  A depressing and nightmarish summon, and probably the most powerful in the game.

yojimbo2. Yojimbo
Another summon unique to X, he is also the most unique of the game because of what is required to get him to fight.  You find him in the hidden temple in the Calm Lands.  He is the summon that killed the first summoner that Lulu was with.  Getting this summon lays some of her problems to rest.  A very subdued swordsman, in order to make him fight, he must be paid.  And how much you give him will affect what kind of attack he does.  Give him a couple hundred gil and he will either have his dog assist him, or he will throw knives at the enemies.  A few thousand gil and he will use his blade to attack either one or all of the enemies, virtually guaranteeing instant death.  However, if you pay him over 10,000 gil, when his overdrive gauge is full, and he will call forth the Zanmato blade from the dark abyss that Anima lives in.  This blade is so powerful that it will cause instant and immediate death to whatever enemy he attacks with it.  You actually see lesser enemies get cut in half, with blood spurting out.  This is one samurai that you do NOT want to fuck with.

Some of you may see the #1 pick coming from a mile away.

bahamut1. Bahamut
This summon is not only very powerful, but it is arguably the most iconic if the franchise.  A Final Fantasy game isn’t complete unless we get to see this dragon.  My favorite iteration of the summon is, as you may have guessed, in X.  It’s my favorite Final Fantasy game, so sue me.  But that doesn’t mean he isn’t badass in the others.  In some iterations, he is a being with two wings, four wings, or six.  Then there was the retardedness in XII where he is a giant airship.  Yeah, that was dumb.  The iteration of the character in XIII was kind of dumb too, but that’s par for the course with that game.  As I said, my favorite version is in X.  He is one of two summons with Break Damage Limit as part of his repertoire.  Because of this, his regular attacks are deadly all by themselves.  However, when he charges up the Mega Flare, it is understood that anything he is shooting at won’t be alive.  I will say that I don’t hate the version in XV.  He is a giant humanoid in dragon armor, who can call a massive storm of swords from the heavens.  Only available at the fight with Ifrit, he does make an impression.  The greatest dragon in the entire franchise, he is my favorite summon.

So, what are your favorite summons?  Let me know in the Comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“Will you fight with us?” – Yuna, Final Fantasy X

Peace out,

Maverick

Final Fantasy Versus XIII vs. Final Fantasy XV

For the last two weeks, I have had my nose buried in Final Fantasy XV.  I just did my review, and let me tell you, my feelings were mixed.  I did that review after having just got done with the very end of the story, and throughout the entire final act, I was rolling my eyes and just wanting it to be done.  All of the plot momentum was gone.  All of the character development was dead.  Hell, almost the entire cast of villains was just gone, killed off-screen.  The main villain was boring and predictable.  As if I didn’t see what was coming from a mile away and just wanted the game to get the predictable plot over with.  It got me thinking back to the trailers for this game back when it was Final Fantasy versus XIII.  Take a look at this, and tell me what you think.

You see the opening to that trailer, and what is the first thing you see?  “This is a fantasy based on reality.”  Then you see Noctis, in a car, driving down a street that looks like it is part of a world that we could live in.  But in the distance, there are fantastical ships floating in the air.  A fantasy, based on reality.  This leads me to believe that it wasn’t just meant to be a game with a car in it.  It was a fantasy that was based on the real world.  So it wasn’t going to be another one of those stupid games where the goal is to save the world.  This was going to be something more close and intimate.  The characters in this world wear suits and ties, go to parties and drive in cars.  I loved that concept!  A fantasy-realism idea in a video game.  How I have ACHED for such a thing for so long.

It also had a neat little dichotomy playing.  Like they took Shakespearean ideas and applied them to a video game world.  You had King Regis squaring off against a king in another land, with the implication that he was being betrayed, perhaps from within?  Maybe some Hamlet ideas playing out?  There is also Stella Nox Fleuret, whom Noctis meets at the party celebrating the signing of the peace treaty.  Two star-crossed lovers, unable to truly reconcile the fact that they are on opposing nations, yet have feelings for each other.  Some Romeo and Juliet elements, then?  A fantasy based on reality.  Taking the fantastical and applying it to the real world.  So much endless potential, and as I watch that trailer, part of me can’t help but wonder what could have been.

But that wasn’t what we got, was it?  Nope.  What we got was something ENTIRELY different.  What we got was a game that I swear had two different development teams.  There was the one who did the open world sections.  I like those people.  They made this huge, gorgeous area that I could drive around in and do fun quests in.  There were also the occasions where you find a hidden dungeon.  Those were great!  If the entire game had just been Noctis and his pals just driving around on a road trip, this game easily would have won my favorite game of this year.

However, then there was the story part, which just crept its way back in.  Part of me is dying to know what the story if with Nomura, who was spear-heading the game originally.  There must have been some arguing with him.  The man initially had this as his baby.  There was talk of how insane his ambition was with this game.  Perhaps it makes sense that Square Enix pulled him back from it.  However, what replaced it was a story so by-the-numbers that I was looking at my watch as to when we get to the part where this or that happens.  Then, as if the game was in a rush to get done, we have the entire second half take place away from Lucis and be basically a linear corridor up until you get to the point where you can go back in time and go back.

Holy shit, I figured it out.  It’s the reverse of XIII!  Anyone remember how in Final Fantasy XIII the first 30 hours or so were all a linear corridor, with only the last third opening up into something more open?  Something a lot more fun, with side-quests and stuff?  In XV, we have the reverse happening.  We have this wonderful open segment that is really fun, with tons of side-quests and stuff, for the first 30 hours or so.  Then, the game suddenly becomes a linear corridor that is really boring.  I can’t believe it.  How did you manage to do this, Square Enix?!  It’s almost impressive how bad this is.  I don’t know what I expected from you, but certainly not this.

A lot of people think that I hate Final Fantasy XV, and I really don’t.  Take out the parts with the plot, and you have a fantastic game that could very well have been a fantasy based on reality.  The road trip parts of this game felt like just that.  But when you pair it up with a cookie-cutter plot with some of the most boring characters that act like they want the game to be over, it just makes me think that maybe Nomura’s ambition should have been allowed to run free.  I honestly wonder what he would have come up with.

It feels lately like games are kinda throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to long games with really intricate stories.  Kojima threw out his long cutscenes in places of boring tapes that you can find in Metal Gear Solid V.  He didn’t need to ditch his cutscenes entirely, just shave them down to something manageable.  Though, if Konami had let him run wild with his ambition, who knows what the final product of that game would have been.  Or what else could have been… (Silent Hills, anyone?)

Moving forward, here is what Square Enix needs to do – don’t make a cash-grab sequel to this game.  Start over with a new idea for the next one.  Make it one of the numbered games, with a whole different world and whole new ideas.  And flush out that world too.  I don’t know anything about the world of this game, outside of bits and pieces characters talk about.  I don’t know the story of Nifelheim’s rise to power, which probably was interesting.  I don’t know what the story is with the Emperor and what he wanted.  Or any of the knights in that room with him, since all but one of them was dead or mutated off-screen.  This game had good ideas.  Take some of those ideas and run with them.  Like how I could go to a restaurant and order food for boosts to my stats.  That was awesome!  I had a lot of fun with that.  It was very immersive.  But next time give us a world that I can dive into.  Don’t ask me to see a ton of peripheral material, like that god-awful movie that came with this game.  Don’t ask me to watch some anime.  Make the story be part of the actual game.  And for fuck’s sake, do NOT have major plot events happen off-screen!  That was so annoying!  There were so many times that a TON of stuff happened that I never got to see.  What the fuck, Square Enix?!

Until next time, a quote,

“You guys were the best.” – Noctis Lucis Caellum, Final Fantasy XV

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