Comfort Gaming

We all have things we do for comfort. I mean, there’s a whole category of food called “comfort food”. Every once in awhile (or more often) we need something to just make us feel “good” and give us that invisible security we so desperately want. Some people get it from books, or a certain movie, an album, and so on. For me, it’s usually television or YouTube videos. There are certain people I love to watch and it makes it easy to turn my brain off so I don’t have to think about things.

But occasionally I also seek comfort in certain video games. Most times video games require too much brain activity for me to use them as comfort. But there are certain games require just enough thought to be fun, but also allow for me to zone out.

Silent Hill 3 is a game like that. Alongside Resident Evil 4, they’re both games I’ve played so many times they no longer cause any fear, and the puzzles are easy enough to let me through almost instantly. So I imagine the comfort is in the familiarity. It’s something I know like the back of my hand.

But the game I’ve found the most comfort in is Risk of Rain. It’s a game I wrote about a few years ago and is easily one of my all time favorites. I discovered in on ManVSGame’s Twitch live stream and immediately wanted to play it. It’s a rogue-like, similar to games like Spelunky, Binding of Isaac, and FTL. So you play through the whole game at once, collecting items and making your character stronger. Lose and you start back over. An entire run through the game is maybe an hour at most? So it isn’t all that awful if you have to start over.

More than the genre of game though, Risk of Rain is filled with this melancholy style. The music is easily the game’s greatest asset in terms of that style. But the visuals help a lot too. It’s all pixel based art, but everything is small and neatly defined.

Because of that, it easily lulls you into a zone of sorts. So even though I’ve unlocked all the achievements in the game and have nothing more to “accomplish” the game’s calming effect it has on me is still enough to pull me back in. (Though I’ll admit that it helps kinda that it doesn’t have Steam Cloud integration, meaning my progress was reset after rebuilding my machine. So I can unlock everything again if I really want to)

Witcher 3 is another game that I find myself falling back to when in need of a distraction or something to make my mind off things. In this case it’s the exact opposite reason than Risk of Rain. Here, it’s the writing, the world, the people, and so on that make Witcher worth returning to.

There’s a reason I chose it as my second favorite game of the year (almost #1, it was a fight with myself for sure). But the writing and acting is so good that it’s probably the most realistic a game has been in a long time. There’s something about that, that I can’t help but feel drawn to. Especially when I can’t deal with the real world.

There’s probably a lot more one could say about why certain games are appealing to a particular person in terms of comfort, but I’m not qualified to discuss those. All I can do is give what I think is the reason I enjoy those games “in times of need”. Does the same apply to you guys?

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Fallout 4 Review (PC)

**Fallout 4 Spoilers Ahead**

Expectations are a funny thing. They can turn even the most perfect game into something disappointing. When you think you’re getting one thing and then you get another, there’s going to be some questions there. That’s kind of the mindset I had after playing Fallout 4 for a few hours. By the end of my time with Fallout 4, nearing thirty hours or so, I realized that Fallout 4 was a really good open world shooter, and a terrible role-playing game.

The last time we got a Fallout game from Bethesda was in 2008. In the time since though games have changed a lot. It’s natural to think that Fallout 4 wouldn’t just be Fallout 3 with a shiny new coat of paint on it. But instead of an evolution of the systems and the gameplay, we got some add-ons and bunch of systems simply stripped out from the game.

Fallout 4’s story begins just before the bombs fall. It’s interesting to get a look at what pre-war life looked like, but in the end it doesn’t do much in terms of influencing the rest of the game. The best part of the opening is the character designer, which is easily the most welcome addition to Fallout 4. No longer do you have the most basic of character tile sets. Now there’s a highly customizable creation tool that lets you make whoever you want – male or female. It’s something I hope that other games will steal because its easily the best part of the whole game.

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The main characters are also fully voiced. It’s nice that has been upgraded for the modern days. Unfortunately Bethesda decided to change the dialogue system to something similar to Mass Effect’s. It’s not a wheel so much as it is just four choices where one is almost always “sarcasm” and the others are a random assortment of emotions. Not only does it make it tough to know exactly what your character will say, but it’s impossible to actually be “evil” in the game. You can do horrible things occasionally, but there’s a lack diversity in terms of morality.

Like all Bethesda stories, the main quest is lackluster. I won’t go into details on it but let’s just say it’s somewhat similar to Fallout 3 for the first half of the game. There then becomes a point where you can choose between one of four factions and doing so will net you a different ending. The issue is that with the way the quests unfold, you’re driven down one path without ever knowing that the others are available. The game does very little to communicate this to you. I had to look at a guide to find out myself.

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The inability to communicate is a theme that runs throughout the core of Fallout 4. The game does very little in the way of teaching you how to play the game. After the tutorial teaches you the absolute basics, you’re turned out into the world and left to your own devices. The issue is that the game doesn’t tell you how to use important things like VATS, or how to use the settlement system whatsoever.

The settlement system, which is ultimately pointless and has very little impact on the rest of the game, is full of complexities and little intricacies that the game almost goes out of its way to avoid telling you. It’s sad because it can actually be kind of fun to build your own base, even if it means nothing in the end.

Moving along, one of the improvements Bethesda made to the Fallout series are the companions. They’re no longer lifeless entities that are designed to hold stuff for you and shoot things. They have personalities and opinions, and are actual characters. You even have the option of romancing them, which typically results in a very sweet exchange of words, and then an extra perk. It isn’t much, but it’s a step in the right direction (for those wondering, I chose Piper. Because she’s the best).

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The best.

Much of Fallout 4’s world is lifeless and that isn’t because of nuclear fallout. It’s a world that doesn’t feel very lived in. More to the point, many of the quests are super boring. The writing is simple and they all end up in a shoot out. The number of side quests that can be resolved without violence can be counted on one hand. It’s sad because Betheda games are supposed to be about letting you play the game you way you want to. But this game feels like they built a shooter, so they needed people to shoot things as much as possible.

That isn’t to say the shooting is awful. It’s actually miles better than both Fallout 3 and New Vegas. But that’s about the only thing. The skills system has been completing stripped out and now the perk system has been reworked to include some of that stuff. In the end it waters down the ways people can customize their character. And even though the game offers to ability to spec for different types of playthroughs, the game itself really only wants you to take things that make it easier to kill stuff and harder for you to die.

Fallout 4 also comes with the “expected” set of glitches that Bethesda games usually do. The game crashes, doors don’t open, quests don’t end, and so on and so forth. For me the biggest issue was when I couldn’t actually get the ending I wanted because the next Minutemen quest I needed refused to trigger. So I had to take another route just to see what the end game was like.

In the end I felt like I had kind of wasted my money. I came into Fallout 4 expecting a game full of interesting RPG systems that would help me build the character I wanted and experience the world of the game in a unique way. Instead I got a game that felt like Borderlands set in the apocalypse and the shooting wasn’t as good. Considering how excited I was after waiting seven years for a sequel to Fallout 4, getting something like this was crushing.

Fallout 4 has some redeeming qualities to it. It looks great, the companions are improved, and the character creator is the best in existence (sans maybe Black Desert?). But those don’t outweigh the fact that the game isn’t really a role playing game anymore. It’s a shooter set in an open world with RPG like elements. Ultimately, that’s a bit of a bummer.

2015 Game of the Year Awards Day “3”

Alright let’s finish this! Here are the final five games of my top ten list! There are spoilers buried in there somewhere. So read carefully if that bothers you.

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5. Rocket League – When I first saw footage of Rocket League, I was hooked. I hadn’t even played the game and I wanted it to consume my life. Talk about a game that’s designed its physics to perfection. Despite being endlessly frustrating, Rocket League is one of the games I’ve had the most fun this year. The only reason it’s so frustrating is because I’m actually really bad at it. Rocket League is that game where everything is your fault. It’s a game made up of skill and rarely random chance.

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4. Life is Strange – When I started Life is Strange, I had no idea it would take me on the emotional roller coaster that it did. The journey of Max Caulfield is one to remember. The game is stressful, not only for the moments designed to be so, but it also showcases the loneliness of being an awkward college student. It was a game that reminded me of my own past in more ways than one. I was able to connect to it on a fundamental level. It’s probably the closest I’ve come to crying over a game.

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3. Tales from the Borderlands – While Life is Strange was an emotional journey in terms of sadness and loneliness, Tales from the Borderlands made me laugh more than any game this year. The writing is so good, throughout all five episodes. I was glad that I waited until all five were out before buying the set. Because playing one right after the other made it so easy to stay on the high each game left me in. The game isn’t perfect, there are some weird plot things, but the characters are amazing. Fiona is one of my all-time favorites.

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2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – This was so tough. It took me so long to choose between this and the next game. Witcher 3 is a wonderful game. It’s world is full of life and feels like a place that people exist in. Unlike something like Fallout or Batman, they don’t shy away from putting people in their world that aren’t meant to be your enemy. The world is just as dark though. This is not a good time for the people involved.

The writing spectacular, some of the best I’ve seen in gaming. The story takes you all over the world, each place feeling completely unique with its own culture. The characters – especially Ciri and Yennifer – are fantastic and are easily two of my favorite characters in the game. Ciri especially is such a great character. Not only is she different from Geralt in terms of personality, she also plays very differently (and is way more fun in my opinion). I liked Witcher 3 so much that after playing it on the PS4, I rebought it again on PC just to replay it with mods and grab the expansion packs.

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – Alright, here we are. In the end I chose MGS V because of what was going on behind the scenes as well as the game itself. Ignoring the Konami nonsense for a moment, this was billed as the final MGS game. Now whether or not that meant to be the case, it is now. This is the last true MGS game we’ll ever see. So knowing that as I went in, there was a bittersweet sense of this being the grand finale.

And boy was it a finale. The game spreads it story thinner than previous Metal Gear games and I was okay with that. It made me super excited to see what was at the end of each mission. The cast of characters is as eclectic as ever. You have Kaz, who’s the grumpiest person in the world. Ocelot is a cowboy, Huey is a bastard, and Quiet is a psychopath. Then there’s Big Boss.

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Or is it? Not really, as we find out. Instead he’s Venom Snake, a soldier brainwashed into thinking he was Big Boss in order to draw heat off the Big Boss. It’s an insane, Kojima level twist. Personally, I loved it. There were many other moments like that I loved even more.

Despite the grossness that surrounds Quiet physically, her character is easily one of the best in the game. She says next to nothing for the entire game and yet she has more development than most of the cast. Because of that, it makes her ending of the game even more potent. There was certainly a hole left in my heart when her ending came along.

Lastly, the greatest moment in the game comes when there’s a viral breakout in the quarantine base. Big Boss is forced to go in and take out his soldiers lest they spread the plague to the rest of his men. It’s a morbid level, one where your own men scream out for mercy as you execute them. But that’s not even the most haunting part. That comes later, before you leave. You come upon a section of soldiers who were waiting for you. They knew what was going on. They understood. So you know what they do? They don’t scream, they don’t beg for mercy. Instead they stand and salute you. And they tell you it’s okay.

2015 Game of the Year Awards Day “2”

Here are the first five games on my top 10 list! D:

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10. Super Mario Maker – It’s not often that Nintendo actually hits the mark on something people are excited for. There’s a very large change that Nintendo would screw this one up. After all, it involves the internet. But instead Super Mario Maker has become something of a singularity in terms of Nintendo content. It’s so inspired and simple, yet filled with complexities should you choose to look for them. As examples of prime content, look no further than the “feud” between Kotaku’s Patrick Klepek and Giant Bomb’s Dan Ryckert.

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9. Ori and the Blind Forest – There’s a lot about this game that screams pretentious hipster. The hand painted visuals, the somewhat solemn tone, the paint by numbers pretty music, all contrasted by extremely hard gameplay. That said, it’s that gameplay that made Ori worth coming back to. Though it made me more frustrated than any other game on this list, there was nothing quite as satisfying than pulling off three minute’s worth of movement combos while freaking out that certain death is right behind you. Gaining new abilities and being able to go back to areas that have been made easier is such an amazing feeling.

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8. Binding of Isaac: Rebirth/Afterbirth – I’m a huge fan of rogue-likes. Games like FTL, Rogue Legacy, Risk of Rain, and others are something special. Binding of Isaac’s remake – and then expansion – was this year’s highlight in rogue-like gaming for me. The addition of new modes, new characters, items, bosses, and more continue to make playing this game a fresh experience. Even though I’m legitimately terrible at it, there’s something to be said for that moment when you take a character that starts out with one health and run him through the entire set of levels – and through some of the secret ones too. I can only hope that they keep adding on more and more content to this game, giving me even more reasons to return to it.

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7. Until Dawn – I love horror games. So it shouldn’t surprise you to see at least two of them on this list. I was unsure about Until Dawn in a lot of ways before I finally played it. It isn’t actually very scary, but the fact that it harkens back to the era of PS1 and PS2 horror games. It has fixed camera angles! That alone is enough to land it on my list. But the idea that any character can die at a given time amps up the stress about each individual choice. The game’s central concepts rests on the idea of the butterfly effect and it actually worked out in unexpected ways. I’m really excited to see what Supermassive Games does with a sequel. Also Peter Stormare.

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6. SOMA – Well, I said I liked horror games right? SOMA is right up my alley with sci-fi horror. I’m also completely terrified of the deep sea. Like, unreasonably so, so I had to play this game with a guide on my iPad because I’m a pansy. Even so, the guide LIED TO ME AND SAID THERE WERE NO ENEMIES IN THE OCEAN SECTIONS WHEN THERE TOTALLY WERE! Anyways, the more important thing about SOMA was its story and it totally came through on everything it promised. There are a few moments that don’t fit into the rest of the grand design, but by the end of it you’ll be left feeling a little gross inside. And that’s totally the idea.

The last half will be put up tomorrow!

2015 Game of the Year Awards Day “1”

So it’s that time of the year where people who fans of video games put together top ten lists and the like. Since I have nothing better to do with my time, I’ll be doing a list as well. The issue is that I haven’t finished writing it up yet!

Shocking, I know.

So in the mean time, here are three additional “awards” that I came up with so I could talk about certain games. I’ll also post a list of all the games I played and finished throughout the year*.

  1. Ori and the Blind Forest
  2. Life is Strange
  3. Shadow of Mordor
  4. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
  5. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  6. Fallout Shelter
  7. Hearthstone
  8. Mirror’s Edge
  9. Dishonored
  10. Rocket League
  11. Rising Thunder
  12. Hitman Absolution
  13. To the Moon
  14. Batman Arkham Knight
  15. Specimen: A Game About Color
  16. The Old Man’s Club
  17. The Last of Us: Left Behind
  18. Until Dawn
  19. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  20. Diablo 3
  21. Spec Ops: The Line
  22. SOMA
  23. Tales from the Borderlands
  24. Super Mario Maker
  25. Fallout 4
  26. Emily is Away
  27. Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth
  28. DmC

*As finished as certain games could be. For example games like Rocket League and Hearthstone don’t hand endings to them.

And now for the “awards”.

Most Disappointing Game of 2015: Batman Arkham Knight

I’ll start by saying that I played this game on the PlayStation 4. So I never experienced the whole fiasco everyone the PC did. Despite all that, it should say something that this game is still one of the disappointing of the year. At first I thought about putting Fallout 4 here instead of Batman. But in the end the things that went wrong with Batman far exceed everything else this year. The fact that most of the game was taken over by what is probably the worst controlling vehicle in all of gaming is probably the most glaring issue. But then there’s the predictable story, filled with plot threads that just get dropped, and big moments that turn out to be complete fake outs. The entire thing feels like a sad attempt at finality, but written by people were too afraid to go all the way. Overall I hope this is the last of the Arkham games. I believe it’s time to give Batman a break.

Game That Used to be Fun But Isn’t Anymore: Hearthstone 

I could go on and on about the numerous issues that are plaguing Hearthstone nowadays. But in the end it boils down to the staleness of the meta. The Grand Tournament expansion did little to shake things up and that set was filled with over a hundred and fifty cards. It wasn’t until the latest single player expansion: The League of Explorers that things began to change, albeit very slowly. Unfortunately the expansion continued to highlight long time problems of Hearthstone, such as the entire Shaman class, and the fact that very few new cards from each set penetrate the main game. With occasional exception, you see the same decks run in and out and that’s made the game a bit boring. My hope is that with further tweaking and perhaps the removal of some cards that are used as crutches, the game will become fresh once again.

Most Anticipated Game of 2016 (So Far): Uncharted 4

As of this writing, I’m not hugely excited for a ton of games coming out next year. Gone are the days where I would pine for months on end waiting for a game to hit release. Instead I more or less meander until I remember that a game I want is coming out in two months (or weeks… or days). But if I had to pick a game that I’m looking forward to grabbing, it would be Uncharted 4, at least right now. God only knows what might be announced in the next few months. But I’ve always been a fan of the Uncharted series (2 is way better than 3!) and so I see no reason to not be excited for what will hopefully be the last entry in the series. Plus I’m a sucker for aging heroes who are ready to hang up the cowl. My only hope is that this is a true ending, and not something that will be passed off to another studio where they can continue to make “Uncharted games” that no one really pays attention to and doesn’t count among the real series (remember Golden Abyss? I didn’t think so). Now if only they’d stop delaying the damned thing.

So yeah, that’s day one. If I’m not super lazy, day two should be up tomorrow and will be the first half of my top ten list.

Happy holidays!

Let’s Talk About Blizzcon

It’s been a week since I was at Blizzcon. Kind of amazing how time flies, no? It’s hard to imagine that on Sunday I was flying back to home from LAX. Of course the fact that I left my iPad on the plane kind of cements the memory in my brain… but let’s not focus on that.

Instead we’re going to talk about the convention itself! I have plenty of “con” experience under my belt. It all started back in 2005 when I attended Celebration III with my brother and father. From there I’ve gone to two Wizard Worlds, four Comic-Cons, and four PAX Easts. So I was certainly curious to see how Blizzcon ranked among these.

In terms of scale, the convention was bigger than Wizard World, but definitely smaller than the rest. The whole thing essentially takes place on the expo hall. Panels, tournaments, signings, food, and booths are all on the same level. There were a few exceptions to the rule, such as the Hearthstone Tavern and the cosplay area which were on the second floor. But aside from that practically everything was in the same room.

IMG_1661I wondered at first how you’d be able to hear the panels over all the noise of everything else going on. Shockingly though, everything went smoothly. The expo hall was large enough that everything seemed to have enough space. The panels were small and in little corners so they weren’t interrupted by the noise of the crowd going back and forth throughout the hall.

Since Blizzcon is a single company convention, they don’t exactly have a lot of products to market. At the moment Blizzard has six different franchises and with the exception of Diablo, all of them were at the forefront of the show. That said, it also didn’t mean there were a ton of “absolutely must be there” panels. Apparently everything interesting that’s going to be announced at Blizzcon is going to happen at the opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony is basically the keynote at a PAX or a Hall H presentation at Comic-Con. It’s at Blizzcon’s biggest stage. President Mike Morhaime came out on stage and basically spent an hour going over all the announcements for Blizzard’s products. Now here and there other people would come out on stage, depending on the game, but he was more or less our host for the next hour.

IMG_1668The announcements were mostly sub par. None my friends and I are fans of World of Warcraft so all of the Legion announcements flew right over our heads. Though the cinematic they showed was well done. The StarCraft 2 stuff was basically a reminder that the Tuesday after the show was Legacy of the Void’s release date. Diablo was completely absent from the opening ceremony – and most of the convention itself actually. The bigger announcements came in Blizzard’s latter three products.

My friends and I had spent the prior days speculating about what kind of Hearthstone announcements Blizzard would make. An expansion seemed to be the most obvious thing, but we had hoped for more. Maybe a second player mode? They’d just experimented with co-op Tavern Brawls so that didn’t seem too far-fetched. Maybe some kind of tournament mode? Maybe something more than the obvious…?

Nope. The League of Explorers expansion was all they announced. New cards are fun and all but the game has been stale these past few months. Frankly the latest expansion they put out – The Grand Tournament – did very little to change things. So I have to wonder if Blizzard pushing this out so soon is an act of desperation to keep the game fresh.

The other stuff was for Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. I don’t really play Heroes but the idea of a hero played by two players seems interesting. I just hope he doesn’t turn out to be more of a gimmick than anything else. Overwatch was revealed to be a paid product, with a $60 edition having extra skins and some other goodies. The fact that Tracer is going to be added to Heroes of the Storm gets me interested in a game that has otherwise bored me.

IMG_1673And that was… kind of it. It seemed like a lackluster year for the most part. I wonder if next year will hold stronger announcements since Overwatch will be released and Legion will have been out by then as well.

The rest of the convention was spent meandering around the expo hall. There were a few non-Blizzard booths, mostly hardware manufactures. Nvidia, Corsair, Gigabyte, and more were there. They’d have cosplayers at photobooths and give away dumb little buttons or pins. The other areas were booths for each of Blizzard’s games, signing areas, and theaters for the panels.

I spent most of my time getting my poster signed. Over the course of two days I got about forty signatures or so. It looks pretty awesome and once I get it framed I’ll be sure to post it here for all to see in its glory. I also played the first level of the Hearthstone expansion. It’s out now, so the only interesting thing was seeing some of the cards in action.

IMG_1709I went to some panels as well. They were all voice acting focused. I was surprised by the amount of people I recognized there. Many of them were there for World of Warcraft, so I certainly knew them from other projects outside of Blizzard.

At the end of each panel there were signings. These were run a bit differently than usual. You actually got time to talk with each actor for a few minutes before going on to the next person. This was great when you were up there, but if you were in line then you’d be waiting quite awhile for your turn. In some cases, the actors would have to leave before you got up there. This was frustrating when I knew that if people had been just a bit faster then I could have gotten there. Anyways, the actors were great and a ton of fun to meet. That’s the important part.

I also got to play Overwatch. Even though the line was huge, it only took about forty-five minutes to an hour to get through the whole thing (normally I would have guessed it around three/four hours). This might be because it’s a team game and you can get six people on one team. It just so happens we were a group of six, which meant we got paired together.

Blizzard also had all of the PCs networked with voice chat so we could all hear each other during the games (some more than others, apparently two of us had mics that were off originally. Oops!). But because we all knew each other and had a general sense of how to play the game, we destroyed the other team. I might write up some more in depth impressions of the game later, but after playing it I really wished that I had beta access!

Overall the show was a blast. The only complaint I have is that Blizzard doesn’t list their panelists on their program. There’s no way of knowing who will show up until the panel starts. It’s a little frustrating because I’d like to know where I should spend my time beforehand. So hopefully that will change with Blizzcons down the year.

The Road to Blizzcon: Part 3

Starting tomorrow we will be exactly one week away from me flying Virgin Airlines to the city of Los Angeles. My phone was gracious enough to remind of this fact by telling me that I need to start packing. I’m glad I had the foresight in April to set a phone reminder for this time.

So now I’m basically putting together a list of things that need to be brought. It’s rounding out at about 25. Which sounds like a lot, but when you list everything you’d usually bring separately it’s easy to reach that number. I just want to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.

Of course the end of my trip is filled with Blizzcon. The schedule opened up some time last week and while the panels aren’t all that exciting, that’s not what I was looking for. Instead I’m all about the expo hall. There’s gonna be merch and hopefully some autographs and plenty of parties and meetups. That’s really what I’m there for.

In the mean time I’m trying to figure out what 3DS game I should bring on my trip…. >_> So far most of the suggestions have resulted in: Fire Emblem. Which I’ve been considering for a while now…. buuuuut I still want something else. I really wish a Pokemon game had been released this year. I would have jumped on a grenade to get that game.

Anyways, the point being is that I’m super excited for this trip. The past couple of months have been rough. Taking 18 credits of college courses is not easy, apparently. So this trip has been a light at the end of the tunnel for me. I just need to make it through seven more days.

…I can do this.

Until Dawn Review

Until Dawn, developed by Supermassive games, is something of a sleeper hit. Published by Sony and released exclusively on the PS4 just a few days before Metal Gear Solid V, it wouldn’t have been a shock to hear you might have missed it. But the truth of the matter is that Until Dawn is totally worth picking up.

Clocking in at about ten hours or so, Until Dawn is full of your typical teen horror cliches. The difference here is that Until Dawn knows this and revels in it. Each of the characters fits the role you’d expect. There’s the hero jock, the sex obsessed blonde, the slightly off kilter guy, and the final girl. There are more characters than that, but that’s the gist of it.

One by one you’ll play as each character through various chapters, each of them being an hour “until dawn” when everybody believes they’ll get rescued. Throughout each chapter you’ll do some light puzzle solving, and do your best to not kill the character you’re playing as – or the person you’re with.

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That’s the real kicker of Until Dawn. Unlike a typical horror film, you get to decide if the characters live or die. Everyone can live, they can all die, or somewhere in between. It’s all up to you. Some of the choices are obvious, others are sneaky. The best part is that you’ll have no idea when some decision you made in chapter two will come back to haunt you (no pun intended).

The story takes a few interesting twists and turns, but over course of the game the story begins to delve into other horror genres. The issue here is that it does nothing to justify their inclusion in the story and eventually everything gets turned inside out. At some point you’re not even playing the same type of game. One minor character is literally included just for exposition of the new story elements before getting killed off. It’s an unfortunate inconsistency given how fun and interesting the first two acts of the game are.

Until Dawn also brings back some motifs from old horror games. The movement controls are reminiscent of games like Silent Hill, but upgraded for the modern age. Fixed camera angles make a wonderful return. Things like this help the game call back to its predecessors in the genre. It makes me hopeful for the future of the horror genre as well that these older mechanics have a place in modern games.

The scares in Until Dawn are few and far between. The game does its best to create more of a creepy atmosphere and only occasionally throwing “monsters” at you. This works to an extent, but becomes an issue late in the game when you know you have nothing to fear until the game says otherwise. A smoother balance would have been appreciated.

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That said, one of the most interesting aspects of the game are these sections where you’re removed from the action and placed in the office of one Doctor Hill. Here you will answer some questions and participate in a few of the activities the good Doctor has developed for you. Doctor Hill is playing by Peter Stormare in something of a revolutionary performance. In fact out of all the characters, he’s the most interesting one. Again, it’s unfortunate that he disappears towards the end of this game.

You may be sensing a theme here with the third act of the game. But that shouldn’t discourage you from checking out what’s one of the most conceptually interesting games of the year. It’s certainly unlike most AAA titles being released nowadays, and the faults of the game’s ending don’t damper the fun that’s to be had in the first two thirds of the game. If nothing else, this game might be the start of a new path for horror games to build on.

Fast Thoughts On Diablo 3

It’s been a while since I last posted. Apologies, I just haven’t had anything interesting to say. Hopefully over the next week or so I’ll have a slew of posts on recent games I played. In fact, that’s what this post is about.

I actually bought Diablo 3 when it first came out. I got it to play co-op with my cousin in NY and because I got swept up in the hype of a sequel to game that hadn’t had one in ten years or more. Back then the game had the auction house and the balance of the game was far from perfect. I hit act 3 (of 4) before quitting. The game just wasn’t fun. I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere and by God the story was dull.

So when I heard they rebalanced things over the past several years, dumped the auction house, and introduced a bunch of fixes, I figured it was time for me to jump back in. Oh and my Diablo obsessed friend convinced me to reinstall for the sake of possible co-op.

Big mistake.

While I leveled a lot faster than I did before, the game really wasn’t any more fun than it was before. The story was still terrible and the voice acting was even worse than I remembered. The story was filled with cliches and whatever “twists” the story thought it had could be seen from miles away. Even so, I powered through. I hoped that at some point I would figure out what makes the game so popular.

You see, to me the idea of collecting loot for the sake of collecting loot makes zero sense. In most games – RPGs mostly – the loot is a means to an end. You get it so you can beat the next boss and continue on with the story. In Diablo 3, the game is so easy that after I finished it, I was still able to breeze through it on the first level of Torment (the highest difficult unlocked after beating the game).

To contrast this with a similar game, I rather enjoyed the first two Borderlands games. The idea is roughly the same except 90% of the loot is just guns. But at least the world was interesting and the story of the second game was vaguely interesting… the first time around. At least I was compelled by it to see what would happen next. Diablo 3 was more of a chore.

To Blizzard’s credit though, their cinematics are cool. Very pretty looking. It’s too bad no one there can write a story worth of their fidelity. But I digress.

People dig Diablo. I am not one of those people. End of story I guess.

Also for those wondering, many people have told me that Reaper of Souls is actually the “real Diablo 3” and is much better than the main game. Unfortunately I’m not willing to spend $40 on an expansion to a game I despise. So maybe when that content because $10 it’ll be worth wasting my time on, but until then I’ve more than had my fill.

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