Book review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh, my God, a book review! FINALLY, I finished a book and can issue my report on it. I know at this point the Goodreads Challenge app is extremely disappointed in me for my crappy reading numbers. I’m 9 books behind schedule for Pete’s sake! But this year, reading and retaining anything hasn’t been my strong suit. It’s damned hard to read for pleasure if you don’t remember what you’ve read just a few minutes later, yanno?

The Raven King is the last book in the series that started with The Raven Boys. I actually got this on the day it came out, and I’ve read whenever I could manage to get my brain to play along. Was the ending worth the wait? Um, that’s kind of a loaded question.

In the previous books, the big bads for each book were always kind of a letdown. It’s more of a series about four private school friends and their relations to a certain public school girl named Blue. With this last book, a lot happens in the build-up that suggests that these big bads are really different. People are dying left and right. Every member of the Raven boys are being attacked by the forest they love so much. Blue gets a badass scar in a shocking fashion. So yeah, as the book reaches those final chapters, there’s a building sense that these big bads are the really real deal, y’all. Continue reading

Game review: Far Cry 4 for PS4

“Wait, Zoe, how can you do a game review RIGHT AFTER you said the Watch Dogs review would be your last for a while?” you may ask. Well, silent commenter who may potentially live in my head, I took the rest of my old games up to ye olde game shoppe and traded them in for a pair of “new” games because with the change of seasons, my brain isn’t up to the tasks of reading or creative writing. The alternative was sitting on my couch all day blowing raspberries, and while I like raspberries as much as the next random non-offensive example person, I can only do that for an hour or so before it becomes tedious. “But you lied to me, Zoe!” you say. “How can I ever trust you again?” Well, helpful commenter who helps keep these things moving along, life is full of bitter disappointments. For example, there’s Far Cry 4.

There’s so much in this messy little package that left me groaning “this game sucks,” and I did so often enough that my long suffering hubby was asking “then why don’t you stop playing it?” And that’s a fair question, but once I’ve got a game, I’m honor bound to see it through…no, wait, honor bound isn’t the right term. I’m flat broke and can’t afford to drop a game right after I buy it, even if I hate it. On the plus side, it means you get more reviews out of me, and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

I started out by doing the so-called secret ending, which isn’t much of a secret and hasn’t been since the day after it came out. That more expedient ending provides some much needed context for everything else that happens in the proper game. You are Ajay Ghale, a young man tasked by your dead mother to return her ashes to Lakshmana in Kyrat. You’ve barely crossed the border into your home country when your bus is detained and you meet the king of Kyrat. And cue the secret ending. (To get said ending, just wait a few minutes when the king tells you to stay put. Yes, it’s boring, but it is quite enlightening, too.)

If you play the game right, you will spend almost the entire romp thinking Lakshmana is a location. Not so. For those who hate spoilers, let me stop you now. After the cut, I’m going to spoil this game like a spoiling thing left on the kitchen counter to spoil forever. Or something. Continue reading

Game review: Watch Dogs for PS4

This will likely be my last game review for a while, and not because I’m flat broke. I have a huge stack of old games I could trade in for something new. The problem is, I haven’t seen anything new or used that I want to play. This last review is for a game I was tepid on to begin with, but decided to get it because it was steeply discounted.

Watch Dogs got a bad rap right after release because Ubisoft gave it a graphical downgrade from the demo shown at E3. Personally, I feel like bullshotting is so common among the big publishers that it’s not worth my anger. HOWEVER, there is something that pissed me off about this game, and that was the fact that it doesn’t work with the rest mode on the PS4. On all my other games, I could put the console to sleep and come back the next day at the same spot I left. But no, this game would shut down and drop whatever mission I was in. More infuriating was the intrusive U-play sign up. I actually have a U-play account, but I didn’t want to use it. I had to skip the setup on every. Single. Startup. UGH.

So, with that out of the way, Watch Dogs is a wannabe Grand Theft Auto with some phone “hacking” puzzles thrown in. This is hacking in the same vein as that 90s movie was, but I actually liked the puzzles, even the ones on a timer, and you know how I feel about timed missions. (If you don’t know…I hate them with the burning passion of a thousand supernovas.) The driving is mostly decent with some caveats that I’ll get to later, and despite the graphical downgrade, the world looks pretty damned good.

It’s a pity I can’t praise the story, because the story is pure shite. A lot of the blame is on main character Aiden Pearce, who is a tool in many different ways. He’s a tool in the sense that it’s impossible to like him, and he’s a tool in that everybody uses him so easily. The writers want me to believe this guy is so smart and capable, but in the story he is so stupid that he deserves everything that’s happened to him. But he can’t take all the blame for this. The other characters around him all hail from the book of action movie cliches, and every time the story went, “Ah ha, here’s a twist,” I sighed and thought, “Yep, saw that coming from the intro.” This is a clumsy string of delaying tactics, and as the story progresses, they just get more and more stupid as they go along. Continue reading

Game review: Mad Max for PS4

I know, I’ve been away a long while, and in the last few weeks I dusted off the Xbox to play every Bethesda game from hubby’s collection to completion. (We’ll just skip those reviews, m’kay?) I’ve played Fallout 4 six times now, and I finished that last run with a melee build and took a stack of games to trade them in. I got Mad Max because I guess I’m not totally sick of post-apoc games, but I felt like maybe they were missing some driving quests. So, what would I define this game as? A real shit show, that’s what.

It’s hard to know where to begin in listing all the problems with this game. I feel like all the work went into making the game look as pretty as possible, but actually being fun or diverse wasn’t on the checklist. And to be sure, this is a game designed by checklist. It’s got an open world, (check) pointless side quests, (check) endless piles of collectible crap, (check) completely forgettable NPCs, (check) and copy pasta enemies and bosses. (check, check, checkity check.)

The story starts off with Max losing his car again, something consistent with every one of the movies. The big bad, Scrotus Scabrous, takes a chainsaw to the brain, but somehow survives. Max gets led by the boss’ cast off dog to a hunchback named Chumbucket, who has a plan for building the ultimate car, the Magnus Opus. Off to a good start, so how could this possibly go wrong? Every way possible. Continue reading

Game review: Adventures of Mana for PS Vita

I know what you’re thinking. “Where the hell have you been, Zoe?” I’ve been here, actually, and I’ve been busy writing. How busy? I’ve written 100,000 words in two weeks, and averaged about 9,000 to 10,000 words per day. That kind of dedicated work doesn’t leave much time for anything else, but as I’ve gone three seasons without writing anything new, I had to take advantage of this sudden productive streak and hold onto it for as long as I can.

But I did spend a few minutes here and there gaming as a reward for meeting chapter goals, and my game this time around was Adventures of Mana, which was ported over to PS Vita from the iOS/Android version. At this point, that makes it a port of a port of a port, and the game itself is fairly old. So, how does it stand up after the passage of time? Not well at all.

My experience with the Mana series stops with the SNES title Secret of Mana, a game I liked so much that a few years ago I got a ROM and emulator to play it back through. In playing Adventures of Mana, I can see the story attempting to hit some of the same notes, and it doesn’t do a very good job of it.

Right off the bat, the hero (who you can name or go with the default choice) is a slave gladiator who after fighting one exotic beast is told by another slave that the tree of mana is in danger, and that he must seek out the last of the Gemma Knights to learn how to SAVE THE WORLD. Rrrrrrrriiiiiight. Additionally, someone a room over from this trite death scene totally heard this guy’s last gasping whispers and suggests that the hero can escape during his next fight because the gate the fighting animals enter the arena from leads directly outside to the front of the castle. (Which has no guards or traffic to notice an escaping slave.) I don’t care how generous you want to be, this is a level of stupid so powerful it generates its own event horizon. Continue reading

Game review: Downwell for PS4 and PS Vita

Downwell was the game I got while waiting for Mighty No. 9 to finally release in the European PS Store. At this point, Mighty No. 9 has finally “shipped” and I played it for a day and deleted it with no intentions of reviewing it. I’ll only say that the game has about as much to do with Mega Man as a Snape/Potter slashfic has anything to do with Harry Potter. Sure, there are surface details that seem similar, but once you scratch the surface, it’s all squick and nausea below.

But so this is my review for Downwell after a week of playing on both my Vita and my PS4, and while it has some interesting ideas, overall, I ended up deleting it as well.

Downwell is another indie retro title, but while most retro games pay tribute to Nintendo, the graphics in this feel like they’re reaching even farther back to the days of Atari or perhaps Amiga and Commodore. The controls remind me of those old days of imprecise joysticks with a single fire button, there’s only three colors in any palette, and any two objects occupying the same space will result in one dithering or vanishing entirely. The object of the game is summed up in the title. You fall down a well and use your “gunboots” to shoot enemies. Doing so will make them release gems of various sizes. Along the sides of the well are occasional pit stops with a force field around them. Once you hit that field, time stops. Your enemies freeze, and you get a chance to rest and collect extra gems or guns. After passing through the first well barrier at the bottom of level 1-1, another hole in the walls appears with shops holding three items for sale in exchange for the gems you collect. Also, completing each level gives you access to an upgrade item, some of which have very helpful qualities. Continue reading

Extended review: Fallout 4 survival mode (PS4)

Having played on all the difficulty levels besides the easiest, I can safely say I know Fallout 4 inside and out. The previous survival mode wasn’t quite the challenge I’d been hoping for, so when talk of a new harder mode came out, it had my attention. As more details leaked, I only became more intrigued. Ammo and crafting supplies would have weight. Food and beds would be much more important, and there were new challenges in the form of management of fatigue and even diseases. Yes, this all sounded much more challenging.

And for the most part, it is, but not in the ways that I’d hoped. The added challenge of only saving when I can find a place to sleep was certainly interesting, or at times frustrating when I couldn’t find a bed and ran into major trouble. But that was a rare occurrence because it often seemed like I could find beds and sleeping bags every hundred yards or so. They were even scattered out in the open in places that were highly unlikely to say the least. But for a large chunk of the game, there was an added difficulty because my character was tissue paper weak, and could usually be killed with one shot. In this way, even a single stray bullet could send me back a half an hour or more.

Another part of the challenge had to do with carrying enough food and clean water to keep myself in fighting shape, and having all those supplies severely limited what I could pick up. It also limited how long I could travel without restocking, and most of the caps I earned early on in the game had to be spent on food, water, and bullets. I’d say a great deal of my time in the first 18 levels was spent micromanaging my supplies and that kept pulling me out of the game to worry about my inventory more than the enemies I was facing. Continue reading