Game Review: Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt for PS4

My time in Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt can be summed up as vast chunks of time spent skipping through the woods picking flowers and admiring the countryside and clouds, intermittently interrupted by occasional bouts of what-the-fuckery. Sometimes, these bouts were events one should expect in a fantasy game, such as accidentally kicking over a ghoul’s nest or tripping on a griffin, but I often came across glitches or outright crashes that gave me pause. Other times, I had troubles with the controls, or with the sometimes dumb rules of the crafting system. None of these are really deal breakers that make this a bad game, but they will be brought up in my review. So if you’re looking for a totally glowing review, this won’t be it. No, I’m here to get nitpicky and anal, even as I admit this here is a pretty game. Oh so very, very pretty.

Before I get started, I will admit this is sort of my first foray into the Witcher world. I say sort of because hubby has played the previous two games, and I sometimes watched over his shoulder. I can’t say much about those games because what little I saw didn’t pull me in and make me want to play them. But I do distinctly recall the moment that I saw one of the early game play trailers for Witcher 3 and watched a pack of wolves moving together to cut off Geralt’s escape, and I thought, “Well if that’s in the actual game, it’ll be brilliant.”

And it is, to a certain degree. (Even if that trailer completely lied and wolves never do what they did in the trailer.) Enemies of all types feel like they have actual intelligence, working together and planning attacks to flank and back stab in a way that makes every fight feel tense and challenging. So I rather like that, and I feel I should bring it up right away. It’s a shame this does not carry over to allies, but I’ll get to that later. This praise also doesn’t apply to enemies that suddenly glitch and become derpy, which happens frequently enough that it should be mentioned. The combat controls too will deserve their own separate rant. This is a long review, is what I’m saying. Continue reading

Game review: Puzzle Quest 2 and Plague, Inc. for Windows Phone

What? TWO game reviews in ONE post? Yeah, this may not always be the case for phone game reviews, but in these two cases, the games are just so simple that there’s not much reason to devote a full post to each of them. One I liked, and the other did nothing for me. I didn’t dislike it, but I also don’t find myself wanting to play it any more.

First, let’s cover Puzzle Quest 2, which is definitely my kind of game. The Puzzle Quest brand is turning into a big licensed property franchise, and a Kotaku review of the latest version sporting Marvel characters felt it was weak, and stated that the best in the series was the second game. I grabbed my phone, hoping that maybe, just maybe, there would be a Win Phone version. (Game makers, please don’t say a game is coming out on all mobile platforms when you mean just Android and iPhone. It gets my hopes up and then crushes them cruelly.) There was, and so I bought it and spent a long, LONG time playing it. I might still be playing through the story quest now, but after level 50, the game just erased my character and dumped me back to the beginning. I think eventually, I’ll start it over because I love puzzle games, but that loss of progress was more than a little hard to take.

What Puzzle Quest 2 is, is a match 3 tile puzzle with some context added to the turns-based struggles with AI opponents. They could have just made the game without the fantasy story and it would have worked just fine for me. But the idea is that each opponent is a different monster with different spells and defenses. As you progress down through this dungeon, you come across bigger and badder enemies, and each time you have to revise your playing style to counter theirs. You fire off your own spells by collecting gems of various colors, but you can also collect little fists to gather action points for using a weapon, or you can match skulls to do damage directly. And that’s pretty much it. Continue reading

Book Review: Bite Club by Rachel Caine

I knew it had to happen eventually in a series this long, finding a book I didn’t like. But I don’t just dislike Bite Club. I hated it. I actively loathe it, and I had to struggle to finish it. I’m now no longer at risk of reading the rest of the series one book after another. If anything, it will now be a struggle to read the books I’ve already bought. That’s how badly this book screwed the pooch. It’s so bad, my give a fuck meter plunged off the chart. The whole town could burst into flames and kill everyone, and I wouldn’t care. That’s a major league fuck up, y’all.

There’s a lot to hate, but the number one cause of this falling out is Shane’s first person perspective intrusion into the book. This series has ALWAYS been third person singular, and it’s always been Claire’s story. That’s why I liked it, getting the story from this outsider who’s slowly becoming a bad ass and building her legend in this town. So here’s Shane, most of his early intrusions going, “Hey, I’m a walking dick, you know? Let me tell you why it’s okay for me to be a dick. Because…well, because I’m a dick. Man, dicks are so awesome.”


And yes, there is a reason for his behavior revealed later, and yes, I guessed it early on. But having to read his stupid thoughts flat out ruined the book for me. Continue reading

Game review: Invisible, Inc. for Steam

I got Invisible, Inc. pretty soon after it came out of Steam’s early access based on glowing praise from Angry Joe. I was a little wary of it because it’s from Klei, and Mark of the Ninja didn’t impress me. But I figured I’d give this a chance because it’s got a very different game play method and seems to be better at allowing players to make it through the whole game without killing anyone. This can be a compelling selling point for me all by itself, so that was my main reason for picking this up.

The thing is, I played maybe three missions before realizing I’d made a tactical error early on and couldn’t continue my current game. I deleted the save file, and for several months I procrastinated getting back in for another attempt. I knew I should just push through because it is a pretty short game, and yet, I always found something else to distract myself with. But at long last, I’ve sat down with the game and given it a full spin. Was it worth it? Uh…well, yes and no. Mostly yes, and I admit I enjoyed this quite a bit more than Mark of the Ninja. But that ending…

I’m getting ahead of myself. Allow me to digress. Continue reading

Book review: Devil’s Paw by Debra Dunbar

Devil’s Paw is the fourth book in the Imp series by Debra Dunbar, and it’s both a fantastic read and a frustrating one as well. It builds on previous stories and makes Sam’s growth as the Iblis a major part of the plot. Angel Gregory shows up with another drained demon, and with more victims piled up, including an angel. Sam’s got her hands full trying to solve this mystery while at the same time dealing with problems with Wyatt’s “half-sister” Amber. Sam has also managed to swing a deal with the elves to find Wyatt’s biological sister, Nyalla, and free her from a life of slavery in Hel. On top of all this, she’s still got a stack of paperwork to fill out over the humans she’s killed in the past.

Most of these subplots fall by the wayside without resolution because the mystery of who is draining demons and angels must be solved before someone tries to frame Sam as the culprit. (These problems are actually covered in spin-off books in the series, but I haven’t read those yet, only the blurbs.) Sam and Gregory go globe hopping to track down a suspect, and while Gregory is satisfied to call it a closed case, Sam goes off on her own to keep looking for the real mastermind behind this plot.

This is where things get frustrating because there’s a recurring trait in that Sam never really takes anything seriously until she’s half dead. It’s all fun and games until someone’s soul is disintegrating, you know? That’s been the case several times before, but this time around, the way Sam stumbles into this mess and almost gets herself killed had me groaning, “how do you even survive a week?”

The book concludes with something of a cliffhanger, and yeah, I’m very much invested in seeing what happens next. But I sometimes wish Sam’s slow growth would eventually include an improved survival instinct.

Anywho, I give Devil’s Paw 4 stars, and I’m looking forward to Imp Forsaken.

Game review: Fallout Shelter for Android

Let me begin this review with a bit of full disclosure: I do not like Bethesda games. I’ve given almost all of them a try because my husband buys them, usually even multiple copies so he can have one for his computer and one for our console. So yes, I give their games a trial run, and each time, what amazes me most of all is how very little effort they put into anything they do, and how very rabid the fan base responds to their games. “Game of the year!” they cry, despite the fact that a dozen other candidates come out with better graphics, game play, writing, stability… *takes deep breath*

So anyway, hubby found an app called Bluestacks that allowed him to download and play Fallout Shelter on his computer, and after playing it a few days, he said I should check it out. I watched him play, and because I’d been standing behind him for nearly an hour, he said, “It’s kind of hypnotic, isn’t it?” And it is, so I decided to download it and give it a try. What I found is a game that I simultaneously like and loathe at the same time. All the reasons I hate it can be summed up in the same way, that it’s a Bethesda game, and like all their games, they put just enough effort into it to make sure it didn’t crash constantly. But beyond that? Beyond that, it’s a wonky piece of shit.

I have a long, LONG list of complaints about this game, but I should get out of the way the things I liked, which were strong enough to keep me playing until I finally unlocked the Nuka-Cola plant, the last room you can build in your vault. For starters, I like the basic premise of building your own vault and either luring in dwellers or convincing your people to mate and make new dwellers. I like the gathering of resources, and as my hubby says, it becomes hypnotic to just click on items as they become available, or to ding through the various objectives assigned for the rewards of bottle caps (the game’s currency) or lunchboxes (the random loot crate that can be won for free or purchased for real money. More on that later, and on why you should NEVER give money for these boxes.)

I like the graphics, from the cute designs of the dwellers and their enemies to the rooms in their three levels of production quality. I like how detailed everything is when you zoom in close, and I like how the rooms have a kind of depth and perspective that changes as you move around the screen. I like the goofy conversations the dwellers have with each other and how the same questions or comments often have multiple responses to keep conversations from getting stale too quickly. If all the game involved was gathering resources and watching dwellers interact with each other, this would probably be the first Bethesda game that I grudgingly called good. Continue reading

Book review: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant is a book I picked up based more on complaints than on praise, having seen a number of reviewers say this was nothing at all like Ishiguro’s other works. I have not read anything else by the author, but I do not consider a change in style to be a bad thing. I thought perhaps I might start here and later on read more books to form a basis for comparison.

Coming into this story, it begins somewhat ambiguous and hazy, and as I read on, I found that every single last character is an unreliable narrator. Part of this is explained in the story itself as part of the over-arcing plot. Part of it has to do with the roles two of the characters have to fulfill even as they speak to each other like allies and friends. Ultimately, this ambiguity and unreliable narration make for a slow and sometimes irritating read, because even as the characters confess that this time, they’re really telling the truth, you can’t be sure, and yes, it’s revealed that they’re lying once again. The ending is equally ambiguous and feels like just another lie, and so what seemed at first like a triumphant victory is instead a dreary opening to more and more tragedies.

This is not to say I did not enjoy the journey. All of the characters are interesting, and the setting in the times after the death of King Arthur is a welcome change of pace from my usual modern reading fare. But the hope I invested in the characters feels wasted by the ending, in which every good deed is done not to ensure peace, but to bring about more hatred and animosity between all people. And this elderly couple I’ve followed with some hope of resolution to their past is instead denied, their fates are left in the hands of yet another unreliable narrator.

“But the ending is ambiguous,” one might say. “It is open to interpretation.” No, it isn’t. The very early chapters establish the working routines of certain characters, and knowing their methods, it becomes quite clear the last narrator is lying not only to the characters, but to the reader as well. Thus, a story that begins in hope of redemption ends in destruction, death, and isolation.

Not every story has to end happily ever after, and I did enjoy the story, even if the ending left me feeling cheated. So I’ll give The Buried Giant 4 stars, and I can say for certain that this will not be the last book I’ll read from Kazuo Ishiguro.


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