Game review: Shadowrun Returns for PC

I got Shadowrun Returns during a GOG sale in the fall and played some of it between my other games. To give context for this review, I played almost all the way to the end in short sessions before starting over for reasons I’ll get to in a bit and rolled up two other characters before playing the whole game in a single session. Then I sat on this review for a long time, debating whether or not I wanted to talk about the game at all. I do need to write more posts here, and I’ve been real bad about putting out new stuff. Still, I kinda feel bad having to shit on what was a passion project for someone who clearly loved the original role play game. Kinda. But with time to think it over, I keep coming back to all the things that really pissed me off and I’d want to share that with y’all. Maybe you’ll play it and won’t have the same feelings. Or maybe you’ll give it a pass and play something else instead. That’s really the better option, in my opinion.

So, here we go: Shadowrun Returns is a complete and utter disappointment to play, both from the perspective of a long-time video gamer and as a player of the original old school pencil and paper RPG. The biggest disappointment is how little it tries to do anything resembling role-play. Like many modern triple A games, it gives you a list of dialogue options to choose from, and with the exception of a word change or a sentence at most, every choice leads to the same result. On startup, the game offers player the choice of various “etiquette” training, and depending on which you choose, you may only get to use it ONCE in the whole playthrough. AND EVEN THEN the response you get by sweet talking will be a single changed sentence before you’re right back on the same railed story as every other player.

This could be the one thing that really rubs me the wrong way precisely because there’s no voice acting. It’s all text scripts. So what it comes down to is, someone cobbled together a husk of a role play favorite and sold that old nostalgia song and dance, but couldn’t be bothered to actually make a role play game. Fuck that. Fuck it in every available orifice, and when you run out of holes, make some new ones and fuck those, too. Continue reading


Book review: The Humans by Matt Haig

This is going to be a shorter review than is typical for me, mainly because I don’t have much to say about The Humans. I went into it with too high expectations based on my first read of Matt Haig’s work, The Radleys (which I loved), and by the blurbs littering the cover with gushing praise. And I should say that yes, I liked the story. But do I think it is “Wonderfully funny, gripping, and inventive”? No. Would I call it “Hilarious”? No. Would I describe it as “A laugh-and-cry book”? No. (I also wouldn’t call it that because ugh, hyphen abuse.) What I would call it is “Somewhat adequate.”

Putting it simply, The Humans is a retread of just about every “going native” story I’ve ever read or seen as a film. It’s the same as the many stories of tourists visiting another country and being bewildered by culture shock, only to eventually fall in love with the people (usually first with just one person) and coming to terms with their unusual habits. It’s Dances with Wolves, and Avatar, and any other number of examples across multiple genres.

The narrator for this book is an unnamed alien sent to Earth to erase evidence of a mathematical breakthrough that might somehow evolve the human race to the point of space travel. Why? Well because even if the claim is made many times that the whole race feels no emotions, they clearly fear the humans. I’m not even going to argue with their reasoning, because just look at what we’ve done with the internet and smartphones, and it’s clear that we do indeed have a problem with our technology advancing far too fast for us to catch up culturally and socially. So even if it seems illogical that the aliens who feel no emotions should fear humans, I can’t fault their desire to keep us constrained to one planet until we’ve had the chance to mature beyond our territorial pissing contest mentality. Continue reading


Game review: Dark Souls II: Sins of the First Scholar for PS4

I just finished Dark Souls II: Sins of the first Scholar last night, having gone through all of the DLCs and beaten every boss, no matter how huge of a pain in the ass they were. Most weren’t, and there were only a few bosses that had me swearing violent threats against whoever designed those encounters. But for the most part, the bosses aren’t bad, they’re just…easy? I think until I got to the very end of the game, 75 percent of the bosses I took down on my first attempt. Even for some of the two attempt runs, it was because I pressed the wrong button and could immediately acknowledge “my bad” before the ubiquitous YOU DIED had appeared on screen. Most of the time, the real challenge to any From Software game isn’t fighting the boss. It’s in finding a route to the boss through all the ambushes and “gotcha” traps. The enemies are dumb as always, so for this edition, someone decided to add more of them to artificially crank up the difficulty. But that doesn’t make it hard. It’s just cheap.

Before I go into niggling details about the good and bad, I need to address an issue. With every video I’ve seen of people playing other From Software games, there’s a constant rant going on about Dark Souls II not being “right,” and I want to put that argument to rest first. This is a Dark Souls game just like the first and third. It takes place in the same general continent, albeit with hundreds or possibly even thousands of years passing between each age of the curse reviving. The game still has the same love of narrow cliff ledges, illusory walls, random mimic chests…it’s Dark Souls, y’all. If you’ve played one, you know what to expect from the rest.

There are a few points that the naysayers make with the ring of truth to them, namely that the game has a lot of samey enemies and a lack of varied environments. This is true. You fight a lot of knights in armor, and there’s not as much variety to this world as there are in the first and third installments.

But put that aside because really, the places you go really do look lovely. Take Brightstone Cove Tseldora as an example. It’s an inhabited aquifer brimming with glowing flowers. The first time I arrived there, I just hung out by the bonfire, taking in the view. (Enjoy the silence, by the way. The rest of this area is pure bullshit troll tactics.) (EDIT: I’m in my second run through the game and now notice that the area is the second bonfire for Shrine of Amana. Sorry for the mix up, but to be fair it is a really big game world.) And even the many castles have a sense of wonder to them on my first playthrough. I might lose that later, after my tenth run to try out all the possible build and weapon combos, but I can say with my first run through all the pretty that this games looks much better than the first, and the first looked pretty good to me. Continue reading


Game review: Let It Die for PS4

Y’all, I want to apologize for this review taking so long, and for not being able to finish Let It Die. I have only nine floors left to reach the end, and yet the thought of playing even one more time fills me with a creeping boredom so intense, I was making up house chores to avoid playing. I have fallen asleep while playing despite having just had a nap. The grind is so dreadfully boring that I actually went back to play Bloodborne, a game I swore I wouldn’t start over because the grind was so dull. I just reached a point where I said to hubby, “If I’m going to be grinding for days on end against cookie cutter clones, I should at least get rewarded with unique boss fights every now and then.”

Before I go on, I want to say that the makers of Let It Die quite often patch the game both to fix problems and to add different events. This has also made reviewing it harder because a lot of what bugged me when I first installed the game was fixed only a couple days or weeks later. This might seem like a good thing, but even the patches create their own problems that I’ll get to later. But I bring this up because within a month of this review going up, it’s possible some of what I’ll criticize won’t be in the game anymore. If you pick it up later and want to comment, “Nuh-uh Zoe, that isn’t how it works,” I’ll rebut that it was how things were when I played, and the patched version you have fixed it.

But I’m relatively confident that the game’s biggest problems cannot be fixed, and that’s the monotonous grind combined with an overly repetitive design.

Oh, also, this is a very long review. Consider this a fair warning that you’re gonna be here a while to finish this post. Continue reading


My thoughts on the weapon durability game mechanic…

Zelda: Breath of the Wild has a lot of people raving about how good it is, and watching people play on live streams, it certainly does look fun. And yet, there’s a problem that even people who like it have called out, and that’s the introduction of weapon durability. The problem isn’t that it’s a part of the game, though. No, the real problem is the exaggerated fragility of the weapons.

I’ll have to wait quite some time before I can play BotW, but I have played a number of games recently where durability is a mechanic in them, and I think it’s a good idea if it’s done right. For instance, it’s mostly okay in Dark Souls III and the original game (I still haven’t played the second installment so I can’t say how it is, but it’s on my “want to play” list.) while it’s decidedly more frustrating in Bloodborne, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Let it Die.

In particular, Let it Die has constantly annoyed me with how fragile the weapons are, especially in the higher levels. I can carry a supply of four or five swords for one level and still not reach the next floor before I’ve used up my supply. This is a problem for many reasons. One is the high cost of the upgraded weapons, requiring a half a day of grinding for cash just to afford a decent supply. But even with cash on hand, the game blocks additional purchases of the same weapon type with a timer, so gathering my arsenal requires upwards of two hours sitting around and doing nothing. So imagine the “fun” of wasting a whole day to buy a weapon cache, only to have said cache be wiped out in twenty minutes. Continue reading


A “Where the hell have you been” update…

Yeah, I know, I’ve been a very bad writer lately, but I want you to know, it’s not just you blog readers left isolated out in the proverbial cold. I’ve been just as horrid keeping folks in the loop on Twitter and Facebook, and if you think you’ve got it rough, the poor souls following me on Tumblr and Wattpad haven’t heard a peep from me in over a year. I would love to say things will change for the better for all parties soon, but I can’t quite make a promise because things here are still iffy. But with warmer weather coming, I hope my health will recover somewhat, and then I can devote more time to you lovely peoples whom I love, respect, and admire. (You’re looking very good, by the way.)

With butt smooching and apologies out of the way, I finally have the brain cells to sit down and whack out an update to let you know where I am and what I’ve been up to. First, I should explain that this winter has been pretty damned nasty to me, with several bugs tag teaming me like some kind of sadist Wrestlemania of flus and colds. I’d just start to get over one thing when I’d get something else, and so I spent a lot of time on my couch.

In theory, that should have meant another game review for y’all, only Let It Die has proved to be a lot longer than I would have expected from a free game. That’s not an issue with the difficulty, though. It’s the absolutely dreadful RNG for crafting item drops, leading to instances where I have spent whole weeks looking for one fucking item to upgrade a weapon ONE level, and then I got to look forward to hunting for that same rare item twice or even three times. I’ll talk more about this when I can finally do a proper review, but I’ll just let you know, I will not be kind to the grind of this game. Like, at all. Fucking hate it, actually. Continue reading


Pre-review: Nioh Last Chance Demo (PS4)

I’ve got this pre-review and a new game review coming in the near future, and this is possible because both games were free. I’m looking to publish a new book in the coming months, so that may help the financial crunch that’s keeping me strapped and gameless. (and bookless)(guh, being broke sucks)(I am incidentally attempting to go overboard with parentheses))

But so let me digress and talk about Nioh, which put out a last chance demo over the weekend. It is a demo and a beta, so there’s no guarantees that some of what I’ll talk about will be in the actual release. And in breaking with tradition, I’m going to give a verdict upfront. When the demo locked me out at 1:00 AM on Monday, my first question was “Would I buy this if this were the finished product?” The answer is yes, but I will probably wait a few months in the hopes of finding it at a discounted price. That’s more to do with me being broke and needing to be choosy about what one game I can buy in any month, and as Horizon Zero Dawn is also coming out in February, I would much rather get that first.

I played through the first mission twice and had two very different impressions of the game as a result of RNG. Given that the second playthrough was far more favorable and less negative, I kinda want to talk about it first. But some of those impressions won’t make sense if I take them out of order. So just be aware that while I’ll initially have a lot of bad things to bring up, eventually this review will get around to saying something nice to balance it all out. Continue reading