Video Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

 

Details: Released by Nintendo in 2017 for the Switch and Wii U. Played the base game without any of the downloadable content. Played for around fifty hours on the Switch.

I’ve seen a lot of review for Breath of the Wild and the majority give it a perfect score. I think this game definitely does not deserve a perfect score. However, I do think it’s really, really fun. Breath of the Wild is an open world game that adopts many of the mechanics already well established in other popular open world games while making a few new additions of its own. Many of those additions are great. Some of them are not.

There won’t be any discussion of the story except whether it’s good or bad, but there will be discussion of game mechanics. I guess that’s sort of a spoiler in a game like Zelda.

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Video Game Review: Super Mario Odyssey

Details: Released in 2017 by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch. Spent over forty hours playing through the game. Played mostly using the Joy-Con Grip. Got all the moons except for three, because fuck jump rope/volleyball/bouncy races. I got a day job and I’m not a kid with summer vacation anymore. Ain’t no one got time for that repetitive shit.

The last Mario game I played before playing Super Mario Odyssey was Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64. That was over two decades ago. I really enjoyed that game and I came into Odyssey with high expectations. Super Mario Odyssey is a fun game. Unfortunately, it is an imperfect and often times a dated game that made clear to me that since Super Mario 64, I’ve gotten older and my tastes in video games have changed.

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Video Game Review: Dota 2

Details: Initially released in 2013, but constantly updated and patched. I have almost 1600 hours clocked into this game. You can play for free through Steam platform on the PC. Current patch is 7.06c. Internet connection is required.

A while back I wrote a lengthy post on Dota 2, but I never gave it a review. A few years have passed and I think it’s about time I gave it a score. Given the constant patches coming out, I’ll try to go a little into the current state of the game. I also plan to write reviews for the other MOBA’s where I’ll go into what differentiate each game from the others, but since this is the first MOBA review, I won’t really do too much of that here.

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Video Game Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Game of the Year Edition

Details: Originally released in 2015. Purchased through http://www.gog.com and their game client. Purchased for about $25. Played on the PC. The Game of the Year Edition comes with all subsequently released downloadable content, including the two expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. Spent about a hundred and ten hours in the base game, around thirty hours in the Hearts of Stone expansion, and about forty hours in the Blood and Wine expansion. Total time spent in the game: about one hundred and eighty hours.

No spoilers, as usual. 

Now that I’ve played this game, I can understand why this game is so beloved. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt does not reinvent the wheel. It does not push some new kind of game. It is an open world, action role-playing game in a time with many, many similar games like Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Assassin’s Creed, The Legend of Zelda, and the Batman Arkham series. What Witcher 3 does do is that it pushes the genre of open world games forward, improving on almost every aspect of the genre and producing a game that can be considered essential if you are a video game lover.

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Video Game Review: Terraria

Details: Released in 2011. Available for pretty much every electronic system I think. Played it on the PC. Purchased on Steam for $5.00. I’ve seen it around ten dollars and as low as $2.50. I’ve spent over two hundred sixty hours playing this game and will likely spend even more time. The most recent version of the game I played was version 1.3.4.4. There have been content patches in the past, but it’s unclear if that will continue in the future.

I’ve done it. I’ve finally done it. After a week of playing the game, I’ve finally managed to beat the Moon Lord — in addition to every other boss in the game — in Expert difficulty. However, that only took me about a week’s time to do. That does not account for the other two hundred hours I’ve spent in the game screwing around, exploring, and realizing all my crazy building ideas.

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Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Knight is the Best Game I’ve Played In Years

The caveat is that I have yet to play the Witcher 3. I’m playing that next. Some details: I played Batman: Arkham Knight for about fifty-six hours on the PC and the version I played was the Premium Edition, so I had all the downloadable content.

So I’m going to do a spoiler free write up first and I’ll write up some bullet points that may have spoilers after the score.

First and foremost, we have to talk about bugs and glitches. When Arkham Knight was released on PC last year, it was a disaster. The game had so many bugs and glitches that it was pretty much unplayable. So how does it play now, one year later? I am happy to say that while there are some bugs still in the game, it did not substantially affect my enjoyment of the game. For me, there were primarily two bugs: stuttering/frozen screen and sometimes the audio would cut out. And I have a GTX 1070, so I’m fairly sure it wasn’t the card. Anyways, while not the ideal scenario, the game was still playable and awesome.

Secondly, the visuals in this game are just amazing. When I started up the game, the first thing I noticed was just how awesome this game looked. This is not just because of detailed textures and graphics engine, but because of everything else. The art direction is just amazing. You can’t help but marvel at the detail that has been applied to this world. It’s clear when you drive through Gotham City’s streets that artists drew and designed every aspect of this city and the player’s experience benefits greatly from it. Furthermore, the animations are just fantastic. Most of the cut scenes are in-game because of how good everything looks and because of camera positioning and motion capture. This game just has a top notch presentation.

In regards to audio, the music is great. It’s not ground breaking, but it’s exactly the kind of dark, orchestral music you’d expect from a Batman story. If you’ve played any of the last three Arkham games, then you will be delighted to hear that familiar Batman theme play again.

Gameplay in this game can be broken down into a few parts. Firstly, there’s the polished, free flow combat system that originated in the Arkham series and was subsequently copied by many other games. At this point in time, the system just feels good and I think most returning fans expect this system to remain in the game, with some minor improvements. These minor improvements include the use of new gadgets during fights, the introduction of some new enemies, and the use of the environment to add variety to combat moves. There are a lot of challenge maps afterwards, and I played through some but not all of them. In my opinion, the main draw of playing some of these challenge maps is to see some locations that you would not see otherwise.

The second part of gameplay involves stealthily clearing a room of enemies. This is also a fan favorite and expected to return. Minor additions include the addition of new enemies that either restrict your use of abilities, enemies who revive fallen abilities, invisible enemies, drones, and those who must be taken out last lest the rest of the enemies be alerted. This game mode was already fun and the small additions are nice.

A minor addition that I enjoyed immensely was the inclusion of Batman’s allies (like Robin and Nightwing) in the combat and stealth portions. I felt like these were so fun that if Rocksteady explored this mechanic further, this could have been the cool, new thing in the place of the less fun Batmobile combat.

Third, there are puzzles. These usually involve gadgets , the Batmobile, and standing on platforms. I’m glad they included puzzles, but the puzzles along with Batmobile combat are the weakest parts of this game. Additionally, some of the Riddler puzzles are so elaborate they kind of break the fourth wall in that it would take years to construct something like this, much less underneath a city of skyscrapers.

The last and newest gameplay addition is the Batmobile. The Batmobile can be broken down into two parts: racing and combat. Racing is… racing. The only thing I will say about racing is that there are certain tracks outside the main game where you can race around in old Batmobiles (like Adam West’s Batmobile, Keaton’s Batmobile, or Bale’s Tumbler) around tracks that seem taken straight out of each Batmobile’s respective show. It’s a fun side activity where you get to hear the theme music from these old movies/shows. Except for Christian Bale’s Batman movies. I don’t think they got the music rights to use the theme from those movies. You get an imitation song instead on those tracks.

Batmobile combat is more complex and if you’ve read other reviews, Batmobile combat is the weakest aspect of this game. Unfortunately, I have to agree to an extent. I certainly don’t hate Batmobile combat. I still found it fun. It just wasn’t as fun as free flow combat or the stealth portions. Of note is that some Batmobile combat portions require stealth, which kind of contradicts the idea of driving this powerful, loud tank.

In regards to the story, it is mostly fantastic. I was worried when I heard Paul Dini did not work on this, but it was just fine without him. I’ll go into it more in the bullet points following the score.

A note about the DLC: I would not buy the downloadable content piecemeal, I would just buy the Premium Edition and get all the DLC at once. While most of the DLC is weak, the ones that are worth it to me are The Season of Infamy and Batgirl: A Matter of Family. The Season of Infamy is the better of the two.

Score: 9/10 Loved this game. There is no other game that makes you feel more like the Batman than this. There is no superhero game as good as this. It’s like playing an episode of the animated Batman cartoon or one of the movies. This was a great, narrative driven experience. Easily one of the best games I have ever played.

 

Now for some potentially spoiler filled bullet points:

  • The story for the most part is fantastic and does a great job pushing the player forward. The weakest part of the story was how predictable the identity of the Arkham Knight was and the ending. The ending wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have the impact that the ending of Arkham City had. Since this was the end of the Arkham trilogy, I was expecting more.
  • There are some twists in this story. The one that truly shocked me was the one involving Barbara Gordon. Unfortunately, this twist was predictably ruined by events later in the game.
  • I like that they included decisions in this game. Unfortunately, the only decision that mattered was the final choice in the Ra’s Al Ghul quest in The Seasons of Infamy DLC.
  • Once again, I must praise this game for how details oriented and visually pleasing it was. For example, Batman gets dosed with some fear gas and slowly starts hallucinating more and more Joker related stuff as the game progresses. Sometimes, you will turn away from a statue and when you turn back to look at it, it now has the Jokers face. Just little details like this add so much to the tone and immersion of this game.
  • I like the inclusion of the Joker hallucinations. I love Mark Hamill playing the Joker and I will take his performance any chance I get.
  • The side quests are some of the best parts of this game. A lot of the plot lines planted in prior Arkham games are resolved in the side quests. Some of them are kind of bare, but it’s nice to see these characters in the game. I was particularly surprised by the inclusion of some new enemies from the comic books that fans of the old, animated series would not be familiar with. Professor Pyg in particular was cool.
  • I hoped in my heart of hearts that the Arkham Knight was not who I thought it was. Unfortunately, it was exactly who I thought it was. This was a missed opportunity to introduce a new twist that could have blown players’ minds. Instead, we walk the same, well trodden path that other writers have taken us down before. This sucked.
  • I like how in the Arkham series, you generally get to keep all the gadgets you found in the prior Arkham games. It really helps maintain the narrative integrity of the game and maintain the immersion.
  • I was disappointed that Gotham City is mostly empty. According to the story, the city was evacuated because of the threat from Scarecrow. Which if fine I guess. I would’ve loved to play in a living world with civilians and muggers though.
  • Batman doesn’t kill, but I’m pretty sure that running someone over and shooting them with a tank’s cannon would kill them. Just saying, “nonlethal” rounds shouldn’t be able to magically explain away everything. I do understand the conflict between making driving a tank fun while following Batman’s no kill mandate.

Video Game Review: South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC)

A short preface: played this game for about twenty hours. Beat the main quest and most if not all side quests.

In order to truly enjoy this game, you must first check off two boxes: (1) you’ve watched South Park before and you are a fan, and (2) you like turn based role playing games (especially old Japanese RPG’s). If you fit this criteria, South Park: The Stick of Truth is an incredibly fun game, arguably even a near perfect adaptation of a television show and a near perfect South Park game.

However, it is important to note that the first twenty minutes of this game are a slog. When I first tried this game out, I found it really boring and gave up on it for a few months. I came back to it later and forced myself through the beginning tutorial and I am so glad I did. After that first twenty minutes the game opens up and you get all the South Park humor you’d expect in this type of game.

Speaking of humor, this game exudes the humor of the television series to an extreme, R rated degree. The premise is thus: you are the new kid in South Park and you play a fantasy role playing game with the other kids of South Park when a sudden crisis strikes the town.

While not all of the past South Park characters are present, there are a ton of them. Some cameos include Al Gore, Jesus, Moses in dreidel form, Terrence and Philip and the Canadians. It’s just good fun to see familiar faces, and then see that character used as a magic spell or an enemy boss. For example, (minor spoilers) you get to fight Al Gore and one of his attacks is a power point on the environment which has the effect of putting you to sleep. You can also summon Mr. Hankey onto your side and he casts a poop themed wave attack reminiscent of Disney’s Fantasia. It’s pretty nuts, yet awesome at the same time.

Of note is just how far this game goes. There is nudity in this game, even though it is cartoon nudity. In fact, one boss fight takes place in the middle of a bedroom while two persons engage in sex. The battle ends with one of you getting hit by a boob while the other gets hit by a nut sack.

In regards to gameplay, it is a fairly simple form of turn based role playing game reminiscent of Super Mario RPG and old Final Fantasy games. There are a lot of spells and attacks that involve timed button presses, which can be annoying. However, I’m okay with these since they do at some interactivity to turn based combat.

Visually, the game looks just like an episode of South Park, which I loved.

Score: 8.2/10 Loved this game. It captures the spirit of the show so well. It’s like playing through a really long episode of South Park, yet even better because of all the references and cameos from old South Park episodes. If you like the show, playing this game is a no-brainer. This game is perfect for a rental or to borrow from a friend. There is also no replay value to the game after beating the main quest and side missions.

Video Game Review: Grand Theft Auto V (Review of the Single Player Mostly, played on PC)

When I first started playing this game, I was worried that it might be kind of crap. I know the reviews have generally been positive, but the idea of splitting the single player campaign into three separate characters sound like a hassle that would slow down or break apart the flow of the story. I am happy to say that my fears were unfounded. The best part of this story is that it is told from three, playable points of view.

There are three protagonists in this story: Michael, Trevor, and Franklin. Michael is a retired bank robber going through a mid life crisis. Trevor is a user and dealer of crystal meth. And Franklin is your stereotypical gang banger from the ‘hood. Through various events, they come together to form a criminal team and try to pull the biggest heists they can find.

It’s a great crime story. Each character is distinct and the ability to see an event from differing perspectives adds a lot to the narrative. But what really adds to the story is the humor and the way the game offers an R rated parody/critique of real world things like Facebook, the entertainment industry, and corruption in law enforcement. If I were to try and describe this game as if it were a movie, I would say it is a crime/heist movie with some hilarious commentary on real world events.

Gameplay is exactly what you’d expect from this franchise. While you can play from first person perspective, I prefer the default view of third person view. You run around, drive and shoot your way through missions given by a colorful cast of characters in a very large open world setting. The city this iteration of the franchise takes place in is based on Los Angeles and is filled with details and landmarks reminiscent of the real city. The controls are familiar and driving is just fine. Nothing to complain about here.

The most noteworthy aspect of the game play to me is that you can switch between characters during a heist, performing each role necessary in the heist. The general rhythm goes like this: a few missions to prepare for the heist, then the execution of the actual heist mission. During the heist mission, you play as each character based upon the job that character was assigned. For example, you will first go through a portion infiltrating or robbing the target, then you switch to the shooting character who fights law enforcement, then you swap to the getaway driver for the escape. It’s a really fun way to tackle single player heists by letting a player play all gameplay aspects of a heist, rather than locking him/her into the getaway driver, shooter, etc. In retrospect, tying the ability to switch character both narratively and gameplay-wise is just genius.

Visually, for a years old game, this game looks amazing. Especially the way the city looks after a rain. Man, that water reflection looks good.

The legendary Grand Theft Auto soundtrack returns with more familiar tracks that you’d expect to hear on the radio. Lots of familiar songs on the radio.

In regards to the voice actors, they are spectacular and do an amazing job immersing you into this world.

I’ve played some of the multiplayer and it is fun. I just haven’t played enough to really have a full opinion. It does seem a little grindy though. Racing was fun, too.

Score: 8.6/10 With regards to the single player, this game is insanely fun. That they developed such a lengthy multiplayer is just icing on the cake.

Video Game Review: Dragon Age: Inquisition (Game of the Year Edition, PC)

Score: 8.2/10. 

I recently played this game, a long time after it was originally released. Visually, the game still holds up. I love the art style and the design of the characters. They look slightly cartoon-y, but still realistic. Face animations during dialogue are also great. Skin is textured real good. The design of the world is also full of details and great to look at.

Gameplay is your standard massive multiplayer online RPG style, which is that you run around, number keys apply to different spells, and mouse 1 does your normal attack. It’s somewhat fun. They should’ve adopted final fantasy-esque ultimate or something, to break up the monotony of battle.

Another element of gameplay that’s worth a mention is the War Council. It’s basically a click on a quest, then wait in real time for it to complete on it’s own, then get bounty type of thing. Kind of pointless and unnecessary in my opinion.

An element of the gameplay that was not pointless and I wish there was more of was the Sit In Judgment. In these optional parts of the game you get to judge a character you fought against and captured prior. It’s fun and adds a little more to the story.

Music is fantastic. Classic orchestral stuff you expect for the fantasy genre.

And in regards to the strongest part of an role playing game — the story — Inquisition has a great story with a number of very big decisions. You still generally walk down a preordained path set by the game developers, but there are sufficient options to make it feel like your decisions matter.  Dialogue is the real shining point of Inquisition.

Noteworthy story elements that I am a fan of are the romances, humorous moments (Iron Bull), character development, and someone trying to assault the castle with a goat.

The DLC’s were better than I thought. With the exception of Trespasser, they are generally unnecessary and you don’t miss out on much if you skip them. I did find them fun regardless.

Finally, a common complaint I read online was about how many of the side quests were fetch quests and this lowered the quality of the game. These complaints arose during the release of the Witcher 3 and quests which were more meaningful in the opinion of many. Personally, I don’t hate that this game was loaded with so many fetch quests. Yes it is kind of tedious and turns the game into a kind of checklist rather than an immersive narrative experience. However, I’d much rather they keep this content rather than throw it out. It’s an issue of boring content versus no content, and I will also side with having content even if it’s not as exciting as the main story. Additionally, I enjoy collecting stuff so it was fine for me.

Score: 8.2/10 Spent over one hundred hours in the game. Great game. Great visuals despite its age.

Video Game Review: Valkyria Chronicles (2008)

Details: Played on the PC for about forty four hours.

Valkyria Chronicles is a tactical role playing game release back on the Playstation 3. It was re-released recently on Steam for the PC and I picked it up. I was ecstatic when it was released because I wanted to play it back then, but I didn’t have a PS3 so I gave up on it. Now I get my chance. Additionally, all the PS3 DLC is included in the PC version.

The story is great, as it should be in any RPG. It takes place in a pseudo Europe in a World War II type time period. The empire is invading and it is up to you as leader of the militia to defend your country. There are a few twists and turns as well as sad moments that genuinely moved me. It’s a great story with a satisfying ending.

Visually, it definitely holds up despite being released so long ago. It only supports wide screen ratios so you should think about your screen resolution before purchasing. The style is really what keeps it good. It’s an anime, painterly style with a kind of scribbly matte for texture. It looks just fine.

The audio is fantastic. The game provides English dubs and Japanese voice work with English subtitles, which will be greatly appreciated by those who enjoy anime. The music is also great and I still get chills when I hear that orchestral song during the intro.

To sum up the gameplay, it’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but with anime. You are assigned missions and you can choose your squad for these missions. There’s potential perma-death if a squad member dies, which always adds tension. The power of soldiers is sort of rock-paper-scissor-ish. Certain units are effective at fighting certain units. You get experience for your missions and you can level up your soldiers as well as purchase new equipment. It’s turn based and every turn, you get a certain number of actions. You can move a soldier, tell him to attack, defend, repair, etc. Missions are varied and there are multiple narrative and gameplay developments during missions, so you have to adapt and change strategies as the missions progress.

The only downside is Alicia Melchiott. She is way over powered and if you figure out how to use her right, you can finish most missions in one or two turns. Otherwise I love the gameplay.

Score: 8.9/10 Great. After I finished the game and it’s fun DLC, I really wanted to play the sequels. Here’s hoping they port the sequels to the PC. This game also regularly goes on sale on Steam, so keep an eye out for those sales.