Anime Review: New Game!

Details: First aired in 2016. This is a review of New Game! (season 1) and New Game!! (season 2) or the show. There are a total of twenty-four episodes, not including the OVA from the first season. Each episode is about twenty-three minutes long.

New Game! is a workplace comedy/slice of life show about a group of video game developers and their experience at a company that makes video games.

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Video Game Review: Heroes of the Storm

Details: Released in 2015. For PC only. Requires an internet connection. Don’t know how many hours I’ve played since Blizzard doesn’t show that information. My player profile is level sixteen.

I’ve played games in the genre of Heroes of the Storm for a long time. I first started over a decade ago with the first Dota game which was just a used map settings map in Warcraft III. The next game I tried out was League of Legends. I went into this game hoping for something new, some new twist on the mechanics established in Dota. What I found was an inferior clone of Dota. While League of Legends was still better than Heroes of Newerth (which was almost an exact clone of Dota), League of Legends introduced some new ideas, relabeled some existing ideas, and took out a lot of the mechanics established in Dota. In League of Legends, I did not find a new experience nor did I find progress. I found a money-grubbing Dota clone with less strategy, less complexity, and what was overall a lesser game.

Now, years later, I’ve replayed League of Legends and, though there’s some progress, League of Legends still strikes me as an inferior game to what is now known as Dota 2. Furthermore, it fails to push the genre into new territory and offer an improvement or at least a distinction from what Dota is. However, where League of Legends fails, Heroes of the Storm succeeds. Heroes of the Storm is a sufficiently different experience so as to fill a need in this genre of video games that is not filled by any other game.

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Video Game Review: Grand Theft Auto Online

Details: I’m not sure how many hours I’ve played of the Online part, but total time spent including with the single player is about one hundred and fifty hours. At least fifty of those hours were spent in the Online part. Played on the PC. I purchased Grand Theft Auto V a while ago for $35.00. Grand Theft Auto Online came with it. A lot of additional content has been released since the game came out. It’s unclear if more content updates will be released.

I wrote a review for the single player portion of this game a while ago and I’ve finally played enough of the online component to give an opinion.

Grand Theft Auto Online is an online multiplayer game where players can inhabit and play in Los Santos (the fictional city from the single player) with others over the internet. It comes with Grand Theft Auto V.

Grand Theft Auto Online is essentially a free to play game. It is largely funded by micro transactions. They sell in-game, virtual hats and clothes and cars and boats for in-game money. You can buy in game money with real money from their website or your local video game retailer in the form of Shark Cards.

The good part about this is that after the release of the game, Grand Theft Auto Online has released pretty consistent content updates since and they are all free for everyone who owns a copy of Grand Theft Auto V. Usually, subsequent content updates are marketed as downloadable content and given a price. That’s not the case here. The downside is that all the really cool items that you’d really like to own (e.g. a fast car or a new property) cost a fortune. The game is situated to be fun enough to keep playing, but annoying enough to tempt players into spending real money on in-game currency. This gives the game that shitty, Candy Crush-esque feel. It’s a long, time-consuming grind to achieve any kind of progress in the game. An additional negative is the rampant hacking/cheating present which further impedes enjoyment of the game.

There are a lot of things to do in Grand Theft Auto Online, but most of it is derivative of everything in the single player and short-lived (after playing most things once, you’ll never want to play it again). The only things that I think are worth mentioning are the races, the heists, and the free roaming.

Racing in a Grand Theft Auto game is almost common sense and being able to race other players is fun. With the addition of stunts and a battle mode with rockets and other power ups, the game feels a lot more like Mario Kart than a traditional Grand Theft Auto game.

I loved the Heists in this game, but it was disappointing that there are only five and that it looks unlikely more will ever be added. Each heists generally consists of a few setup missions and then the heist itself, which is a big, multi-part mission where each player will be required to cooperate and perform a distinct function in order to complete. The best and worst part of these missions is that cooperation is essential, which is very difficult to find when you’re playing with some random players over the internet who don’t give a shit about each other.

The best part of this game is that it realizes a dream that Grand Theft Auto fans have had for a long time: we get to inhabit the same city with other players. We can help each other, hurt each other (usually hurt), drive, shoot, or just screw around, all within a persistent virtual world. It’s just fun to be in a virtual world that allows you to do whatever you want while others play in that world with you.

Overall, GTA Online is a fun little distraction that can be fun for hours if you let it. The biggest flaw and best feature of GTA Online is that many of the most fun aspects of the game require a preexisting group of friends who own a copy of the game and will play with you. Otherwise, GTA Online is kind of short-lived and will get boring fast. As a standalone game, GTA Online isn’t great. As an online game bundled together with the Grant Theft Auto V single player, the game is great. I don’t recommend buying Grand Theft Auto V for the Online component alone. I do recommend the purchase if you want to enjoy the single player and already have a group of friends who own Grand Theft Auto V and want to play GTA Online with you.

Score: 6.8/10

Video Game Review: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Details: Released in 2014. I purchased the Game of the Year Edition (comes with all downloadable content) for the PC for $6.99. The main game took me about nineteen hours to beat. The Lord of the Hunt DLC took about two hours to beat. The Bright Lord DLC took about three hours to beat.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a Lord of the Rings story that takes place before the movies. It concerns how the Ring was forged and who forged it.

Gameplay is a combination of the Batman Arkham series and Assassin’s Creed. Combat is similar to the free flow combat established in the Arkham Series. Stealth is also similar. There are towers to discover and lots of collectibles like from Assassin’s Creed.

What differentiates this game from the Batman games and Assassin’s Creed are two things: the Nemesis system and the branding system. The Nemesis system is a persistent enemy system where enemy bosses hold positions in the enemy army and remember encounters with you. For instance, say you come up against an enemy boss (he will have a name and an introduction). You fight him, but lose and die. That enemy boss will now become stronger, perhaps being promoted, and will remember you the next time you cross paths. He will even insult your death the last time. It’s not revolutionary, but it is really fun and gives you an incentive to get revenge on these guys. On the other hand, let’s say you’re someone who never loses their fights. In that case, it’s still fun to go around killing lieutenants, captains, and everyone else up the persistent hierarchy of the enemy army.

Even with the nemesis system, I found the game somewhat boring however. That changed about halfway through the game when the Branding system unlocked. The Branding system is essentially mind control. Halfway through the game you unlock the ability to mind control enemy units and make them fight for you. This mechanic also extends to enemy bosses. The result is that you can effectively take over the entire enemy army by branding all the enemy officers. This was really fun and I wish there was more of this in the game and more systems related to this, like taking over territory or something similar.

Voice acting is fine. The music was fine and what you’d expect from a game in the fantasy genre. Visuals were surprisingly good for a game a few years old. Animations looked good.

The art direction needed work. Most of the game takes place in Mordor, which means a lot of gray to look at. Halfway through you get to place with more vegetation, which meant lots of green to look at. It is still a fairly unappealing landscape to look at however. There are no cities, details, or anything that would add color to the environment and immersion. It’s all just a big area filled with nothing but enemies to fight. I can understand why most people would  be okay with that though since the game is mostly about killing orcs.

The DLC was fun, but I wouldn’t buy it individually. There are a lot of skins and other DLC, but only two that add story. Lord of the Hunt adds story and mostly concerns animals and riding and hunting them. The Bright Lord adds story and deals largely with the Branding system and allows you to control orcs and territory.

Overall, I enjoyed the game and recommend it if you liked the combat from the Batman Arkham series, like climbing towers and collecting things from the Assassin’s Creed series, like Lord of the Rings, and can get the game for under ten dollars.

Score: 6.8/10

Video Game Review: Final Fantasy IX

Details: Originally released in 2000 for the Sony Playstation. Purchased for $10.00 on Steam and played on the PC. Played for about fifty hours.

Many years ago when the most recent Final Fantasy game was Final Fantasy X, I asked my cousin which of the previous Final Fantasy games was his favorite (he’d played all the prior games). His surprising response was Final Fantasy IX, not Final Fantasy VII. Years later, I now get to see what he was so crazy about.

Final Fantasy IX is an old video game and a classic example of a Japanese role-playing game. Although there are some mini-games and puzzles, gameplay consists largely of active time battles. What generally happens is that there are areas where random battles occur (like a dungeon) and areas where they do not. When the character you control walks into one of these battle areas and a battle occurs, you then enter a separate screen where the characters you control take turns attacking, defending, casting spells, or using items to defeat and enemy. Instead of being turn based, the battles take place sort of in real-time in that a gauge is constantly filling. When it fills completely, you get to take an action. Then the gauge empties and you wait for it to fill again so you can take another action. This system is called the active time battle system and is present in a lot of Final Fantasy games. The characters you control in battle can level up and each plays a different role with different abilities and spells to cast. It’s like any role-playing game in that regard.

Like Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII, the game is divided into four acts/parts. At the time, the games were divided onto four data discs so it made sense to do it that way since you had to change discs as you progressed through the game. Accordingly, the world of the game generally changed each time you entered a new act/part and new quests would appear accordingly with developments in the story.

As with many role-playing video games, the weakest part of the game is the gameplay. It is still fun to level your characters and become more powerful and see the animations for new spells, but the primary motivator in a role playing game is its story. The story here, as judged by modern day standards, isn’t terrible for a video game. If you love classic Japanese RPG’s, then you will likely love this game far more than someone who doesn’t.

The premise is this: Zidane and a theater troupe filled with miscreants is hired to kidnap the princess of kingdom. This leads to a chain of events that require Zidane and friends he meets along the way to go on an adventure towards saving the world.

It’s a lengthy story and took me around fifty hours to get through. It’s also a story the Final Fantasy franchise is known for and the kind of story that fans of the series have come to love. Another aspect about the story and this world you get to explore is the mixture of magic and technology. It’s a fantasy story with many elements of a science fiction as well. This is likely one of the main reasons why nerds of the highest order have loved these classic Final Fantasy games.

Visually, this game looks pretty bad. I’m playing on a 1080p monitor and it’s clear that instead of increasing the resolution of the textures, they just stretched them out. The result is a game where most things are very pixelated and it’s hard to make a determination of whether this game looks better or worse than the original version on Playstation. Still, I learned to get used to it and enjoyed the game regardless.

The music in this game is great. This game is one of the last few games that Nobuo Uematsu (longtime composer of the Final Fantasy series) has fully scored. I really enjoyed a lot of the melodies here and, as usual, a lot of these memorable songs stuck with me after the game ended.

Overall, a fun game, though not the best looking. It’s old. I would not recommend this game to anyone though. I would recommend it to someone who loves the Final Fantasy series (specifically Final Fantasy VII) and to someone who loves classic, Japanese role-playing video games. Otherwise, I think you can skip this game.

Score: 6/10

Video Game Review: Undertale

Details: Beat the game in around eleven hours. Played it on PC. Purchased the game on sale from Steam for about $5. No voice acting, all text based.

Undertale is an independently published video game, funded on kickstarter.com, and was centered on the idea of a traditional role-playing game where no one has to get hurt.

Firstly, the visuals need to be addressed. If you are intolerant of the look of old, 8 bit pixellated graphics, then this game is not for you. Watch the trailer to get an idea of what you’re in for. If you can tolerate or enjoy these kinds of graphics, then I thoroughly recommend this game, especially at the five dollar price point. Furthermore, this game isn’t always a true 8 bit visual experience all the time. The game plays with your expectations and sometimes does things with the visuals that an 8 bit game should not be capable of.

Speaking of overturning expectations, the story does a great job surprising the player over and over again. The premise is this: you are a child who has fallen into down a hole into the kingdom of monsters. You have to make your way through the kingdom of monsters and get back to the surface. There are a lot of interesting characters in the game. Despite a lot of dramatic moments, this game is mostly a funny game and draws from many places for its humor, like from internet humor.

There are multiple endings to the game depending on how you play the game. As per the core idea of this game, the primary choice to make is whether you want to hurt your enemies or spare them. I’m not going to go into it further because there are a lot of twists and surprises in this game. If you are unsure whether you want to play this game, I will write a minor, easily missed spoiler at the bottom of this post which will give you a taste of the surprises in store for you if you play this game. I enjoyed the story greatly and found the ending I got surprising and satisfying.

The music in this game is one of the best parts of this game. It is some of the greatest 8 bit soundtracks I have ever heard, perhaps even the greatest. The music is surprisingly complex and catchy for this kind synthesized soundtrack.

The weakest part of this game, like in most role-playing video games, is the gameplay. Gameplay consists mostly of puzzles and combat. Puzzles vary, but were not too difficult to me. Combat consists  of controlling a heart-shaped icon and dodging obstacles that come at you. Think the Space Invaders video game, except expanded. This takes that idea of dodging icons and ramps it up much further. Even still, it’s kind of boring and difficult at the same time. I died a lot of times in combat and found myself frustrated at times. Sometimes, I just wanted to quit the game because not only was the combat hard, it was boring and repetitive.

Overall, this was a fun game with an engaging story. I would recommend Undertale if you can tolerate the old-fashioned visuals and can get the game for five dollars or less.

Score: 6.8/10

 

 

 

SPOILERS BELOW

So when you first start the game, you’re found by a motherly, talking cow who takes care of you. When you try to leave her house, she obstructs your way and you have to fight her. If you figure out how, you can spare her and not kill her. The first time I fought her, I just killed her. I felt bad about it afterwards and reloaded my save file and figured out how to spare her instead. In my second play through and before I fought her the second time, I took a nap in a bed and dreamed about how I killed her the first time, something that did not happen in the prior save file. After sparing the talking cow, I encountered a talking flower who confronted me and told me that he saw me kill the talking cow in my last playthrough. He asked if I thought no one had seen it and if I had thought I got away with it by reloading my save. The flower went on about the flower had a similar power to save and rewrite reality, similarly to how I had reloaded my save file. This encounter freaked me the hell out and changed how I played the rest of the game. What’s amazing to me was that if a player did not kill the cow and reload the game, then they would likely have never had this encounter or at least had different dialogue when they met the talking flower.

Discussion: My Thoughts On DOTA 2 – Not a Review, Just a Recommendation

There are few things as painful as playing an hours-long game of Dota only to lose at the very end.

For those who don’t know what Dota is, it is a video game that is free to play on the PC. The only things that require money in this game are vanity costumes which serve no purpose other than to look cool.

The game centers on two teams of five players trying to destroy the bases of the enemy team. Each player controls a character, known as a “hero,” and pushes lanes with waves of computer controlled units, known as “creeps.”

Here’s IGN’s review which may better explain the concept.

Over the last couple of years, Dota 2 (and games that belong to the MOBA genre generally) have skyrocketed in popularity and are played by millions of players in almost every time zone at all times. More recently, Dota 2 hosted the highest paying video game tournament of all time with a first place prize pool of ten million dollars (USD), largely funded by fans. It was an impressive feat.

In regards to my personal experience with the game…

If I include the very first iteration of Dota, which came out around a decade ago, I have played some form of Dota for over the last ten years. Countries rise and fall, as do buildings, corporations, and relationships, but this game has remained constant. Actually, this game has grown ever stronger.

In my opinion, the appeal of Dota 2 can be expressed in two main points.

First, this game is hella’ deep. There are so many damn aspects to this game that it is overwhelming for most new players, and likely what turns them away. After ten years of playing this game, there are still things for me to master and things at which I suck at. Even now, professional gamers (people who make their living winning video game tournaments) are still constantly learning and adapting, especially considering that new rules and characters are periodically implemented.

Secondly, this game is free. The only cost of entry is owning a computer that can run the game, which most computers are capable of. In contrast to Dota, League of Legends (the most popular MOBA game currently) requires money or an inordinate amount of time playing the game to unlock characters to play, among other things. Dota drops all of the game on you from the beginning, resisting the urge to construct artificial roadblocks to try and squeeze money out of the player.

Furthermore, there is a third reason. I don’t consider this reason as one of the main two reasons because it is irrational. It is irrational… how incredibly fun this game can be.

The reason this is irrational is because there are few games as painful as this game. I’ve screamed racial epitaphs because of this game. I’ve lost FRIENDS because of this game. This game has taught me a kind of anger I have not felt in any other situation. The closest feeling of anger akin to what I’ve felt in Dota would probably be the feeling of anger I’ve felt driving through bad traffic.

But I keep playing. I keep playing this game because when it is fun, it is so. Damn. FUN.

It is SO damn fun during those moments, those few fleeting moments, when you’re dominating the other team, and they are angry and yelling at you worse than an angry Samuel L. Jackson, but it doesn’t matter, because you are so powerful they have no chance whatsoever. And you crush them.

Or when you’re getting slaughtered by the other team for the last hour, and somehow, by some miracle, you and your team turn the game around and make the comeback to end all comebacks!

Or when you are playing with some people and… you just mesh. You all just understand each other and this game. You think it, they do it. They need it, you provide it. And you understand the magnificent miracle that is… teamwork. You realize that there are some things in life you can’t do yourself and you learn how great it is to have someone reliable in your life when you need them… to win at Dota.

Dota… a true microcosm of life. Fierce competition. Cooperation. Joy. Malice. Hatred. All of these things are present. However, there is one more thing I want to communicate.

For the most part, I do not recommend anyone play this game. I do not recommend anyone play games of this genre. And more specifically, I do not recommend anyone play this game with ME.

Because no matter how fun this game is, no matter how great those great moments are, they are buried under an even greater number of shitty moments that torture the mind and soul.

It is said that human beings define the world based on what something isn’t. For example, something is hot based on how not cold it is, and vice versa.

I only know the joys of Dota because of how mind-fuckingly awful this game can be. I know the true joys of cooperation and team work because Dota has taught me the true pain of relying on someone who fails you. Someone who then curses at you. Someone who is an incompetent idiot.

Dota is joy. Dota is pain.

And while I would not recommend this game to 99.99999% of people, there is a small minority to whom I would recommend this game.

I would recommend this game to those who are willing to try their best. And by “best,” I mean their absolute, play-dota-or-kill-yourself best.

I’m referring to people who have the time and energy to invest all they are into this game and its mechanics. People who can spend hours watching professionals play in hopes of gleaning some strategy or method to improve their own tactics. People of tenacity and grit. People who will not give up no matter how much the other players start to resemble pieces of shit.

In conclusion, Dota 2 is a game whose fun is only meant for the chosen few. The few who can push past the racial slurs, name calling, and verbal hurt inflicted by the toxic Dota 2 community. The few who can learn and memorize the characters and the many tactics associated with the game. The few who can and do sacrifice time spent in the real world for time in this cruel, violent, and harsh game.

Dota 2 is difficult. If you are strong, if you are smart, then I recommend you play this game. If you are weak, if you are stupid, then walk away.

Walk away and live your life, because there is no place for you in Dota 2.

Video Game Review: Tomb Raider (2013)

Details: Played on PC for about sixteen hours. Mature rated action adventure game.

What a brutal game.

I must have watched Lara Croft die around a hundred times, each time more horrific than the last. Below is a video of some of those painful moments.

It was awful. But it was also the main motivator of doing well in the game. The fear of having to watch Lara go through anymore of this horrific nonsense was terrifying. I felt the uncontrollable urge to protect her. Which I failed at. Excessively.

In regards to gameplay, the game was surprisingly fun. I went into the game not knowing what to expect, but was surprisingly entertained. There’s stealth portions, platforming, lots of shooting, puzzles, and lots of collecting for the obsessive compulsive of us.

I should also take note of Lara’s appearance. Historically, Lara was really a tomb raiding stripper. She had breasts that defied the laws of physics. In this game however, the design of Lara Croft is refreshingly practical. There can be some elements of sexiness if you want to read that into the character, but the story and design of her character set her up more as a survivor and a fighter. It’s a nice change from the Lara Croft of yesteryear who was essentially a porn star with guns.

Score: 7/10 Fun game. Lara Croft’s deaths made this game more horror than action adventure.