Category Archives: Video game

Game review: Horizon: Zero Dawn for PS4

You might think from some of my less favorable reviews that I love to complain about everything. And that…is probably true, but what I really want is something to gush at y’all about. I want something I love so much that in writing my review, I have to go back and edit it to reduce the length or cut out spoilers. After waiting so very long to play Horizon: Zero Dawn, I can happily report that this is something I love, and I must curb my enthusiasm or risk spoiling the story for you.

Before I cover anything else, let me just say, the story is easily the best part of this game. In most games, the story seems to be built around the game’s mechanics. Stories in those games feel like they came somewhere late to the development, like, “Okay, we’ve got all these other parts working…so, what’s the plot?” But Horizon: Zero Dawn feels more like the story was developed alongside the rest of the game. It also helps that most characters (with one glaring exception that I’ll talk about later) you interact with could be real people. They’re charming and funny, and I mean really funny, not Easter egg/pop culture reference funny. There were often times that I would laugh at a line, pause the game and relay it to hubby because the dialogue is so, so good. I would love to give you examples, but that’s spoiler territory, and I want you to play this game and experience all its charms for yourself.

I will at least have to do minor spoilers for the beginning of the game. The main character is Aloy, an orphan branded an outcast at birth and raised by Rost, another outcast. The start of the lengthy tutorial has you controlling Aloy as a young child of seven or maybe eight. During this sequence, she falls into a vault-like structure where ancient humans used to live and finds a Focus, essentially a personal computer with a holographic interface. Or in other words, this game’s version of Detective Mode/Enhanced senses.

And I’ll be honest here. Most of the game’s mechanics have all been staples of other games for a long time. Some reviews and gamers have complained about that. “Oh meh, we’ve seen and done all this before.” Well, with all due respect to those opinions, I don’t feel the same way. Yes, these mechanics are familiar, but that also means I don’t have to struggle to learn a new way to play. I’m almost instantly “at home” with these controls and mechanics, so I can get right into the two things that make this game so much fun, fighting stuff and watching the story unfold. Continue reading

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Game review: Dragon’s Dogma for Xbox360

Dragon’s Dogma is yet another game that I initially balked at playing due to near unanimous reviews talking about how difficult it was. I have always considered myself a mediocre gamer at best, so buzzwords like “insanely difficult” have always turned me off. But in the last two years, I’ve discovered that most of the games billed as “insanely difficult” really aren’t. It’s not that my skills as a gamer have gotten better with time. I still suffer from wrong button syndrome with most controls schemes, and I can screw up even the simplest missions by going the wrong way for upwards of an hour or two. But what I’m discovering is that I’m in pretty good company in the mediocre gamer wagon, and a lot of these people talking about games as “insanely difficult” are just really bad players.

Having conquered all the Dark Souls games as well as dusting off some older games and cranking the difficulty slider up to maximum, I now feel more confident in choosing titles, and so Dragon’s Dogma became a viable choice.

As far as Western Fantasy goes, Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t take any risks. You create a character who is a simple fisher, but destiny pushes them to become “the Arisen,” a fighter of monsters and slayer of The Dragon. Only, you’re not really slaying it so much as giving it a dirt nap before it comes back again. This same story keeps playing out every few years, so your character’s role as the chosen one isn’t all that special.

Similarly, the story playing out isn’t anything special. It’s a serviceable plot, sure, but there’s only one major surprise, and the rest is just your stock standard fare. Continue reading


Game review: Rain World for PS4

Hoo boy, where do I even begin with this game? Let’s start with this. Before playing Rain World myself, I watched several YouTubers try it out and quit early on, some of them ending in tearful apologies for not being able to go on. Let that sink in: this is a game that has reduced grown men to TEARS.

Rain World had the potential to be a great game, something iconic that we might all collectively look back on with fondness and nostalgia. But it is consistently hampered by the decision to marry demands for perfection with a control scheme that frequently ignores inputs and does whatever the hell it wants.

I feel I need to justify myself in your eyes before I can even get into the review. I have unlocked several trophies in this game, among them a trophy called Dragon Slayer. This trophy requires killing one of each type of lizard from the green, violet, blue, white, orange, and black varieties. (There is a red lizard, too, but its rarity is such that the game doesn’t require killing it for the trophy.) To even find orange and black lizards requires making it to the farthest end of the game’s many levels, and at the time of my winning this honor, 0.6% of players had managed this feat. I’m in some rarefied air for having made it to the end of the game. AND YET, I could not actually reach the end.

Keeping that in mind, let me backtrack to the beginning, which is so much easier to explain. Rain World starts with a slideshow introducing the player to a family of slugcats. These cute little critters were migrating from somewhere when a sudden rainstorm sent the parents scampering for cover, and in climbing a ruined building, a little slugkitten slipped and fell off its parent’s back. That’s who you’re guiding then, a cyoot widdle slugkitten who got separated from his totes adorbs family. From there the game starts, and a very short tutorial guides you through the basics of the game play. Find food, find shelter to get away from rain, rinse and repeat. Here’s how to do a charged jump, oh, and you can throw stuff in straight lines to the right or left. Aaaaand good luck surviving! Continue reading


Game review: God Eater 2: Rage Burst for PS4

I have mixed feelings about God Eater 2: Rage Burst for several reasons, all of which require explaining what this particular package offers. Like God Eater: Resurrection, Rage Burst is a repackaging of the original game plus two DLCs that add to the story and provide closure in a way that’s more satisfying than just playing the first “episode.” Before I talk about anything else, I will say the story here was just as satisfying as the first game. It’s just that unlocking the story through missions is a lot more of a chore this time around.

Resurrection was repackaged after Rage Burst and features new moves that are not available in Rage Burst. Because of this, playing the second game feels like a downgrade. It doesn’t help that the animation of the aragami feels choppier, with monsters often popping from one pose to another without any fluid animation in between. These two factors often make Rage Burst feel less polished than the previous game, which is kind of weird, but is likely the result of Resurrection being upgraded after Rage Burst.

Some of the things that bugged me about the first game are here as well, and the one I failed to mention in my prior review is the way aragami ignore physics whenever it’s inconvenient for them. My character can’t walk through an aragami or my teammates, but they can walk through each other. They can also park themselves partway through walls, often preventing you from attacking their weak points while getting pummeled by their stronger bits. Continue reading


Game review: God Eater Resurrection for PS4 and PS Vita

Having sunk a little over 1,000 hours into all three Dark Souls games, (No, seriously, over 1,000, making it the longest I’ve played anything since Diablo II) I decided to trade them in at the game shop, and it turns out Horizon Zero Dawn still isn’t available for trade. On a whim I got God Eater Rage Burst 2 because I’d recently seen it praised on a gaming site. The game came with a lovely thank you letter from the director, a classy move somewhat similar to The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. BUT, this letter also included an invitation to download a remastered version of the first game and play it to get introduced to the world and characters. That’s double classy. As an added bonus, this is a cross-play AND a cross-save game, meaning the same save file can be shared between my PS4 and my Vita, which doesn’t get nearly enough love these days. (I don’t mention it anywhere in this review, but the PS Vita version plays just as superbly as the PS4 version. No shock, as this was made for the PSP, the other Sony portable that Sony gave up on. Le sigh, and I digress.)

So what could possibly go wrong? Well, there are some missteps here and there, and I’ll tell you now, this is not a game for the casual crowd. It starts off tough and only gets harder through its three story arcs, for reasons that I will explain a bit later. I’ll get to the problems in due time as well, but first, let me cover the story, the controls, and the various game elements. I should mention that while I’ve beaten all the story and free missions up to Difficulty level 13, there’s still a crap ton of extra missions and challenges available after the story is done. I’ve put in 162 hours, and this is for a free game to get me into the next game. Hot damn, that’s a lot of game, y’all.

Starting off, this is a very anime game. The characters are supposedly an elite military corp dedicated to saving the world from monsters, and yet their uniforms are pretty skimpy in the fabric department. Cry sexism if you like, but several of the dudes are showing off as much skin as the women, so to me it’s an absurd form of equality. Or something. Later on, I was able to unlock an outfit that actually looked like something a military officer might wear and used that most of the time. But I was playing a girl with blue hair and black cat ears, and one of my male companions wears a vest and shorts even in missions with ankle deep snow. There’s also a costume to unlock that will let you cosplay as a pink teddy bear with a giant frickin’ sword. This is not a game that’s taking itself too seriously, is what I’m saying. Continue reading


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


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