#Featured

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 – quick impressions

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+, +, +, + Amazing one of a time story, the subtleties, the twists, even time loop, timeline and series references. Great characters and great character motivations. Superb twists. Does a great job at weaving a convoluted plot line and time-line and does some very nice cinematography type trickery in the way it presents the story and reinterprets sections previously played in new lights. Wonderful jump of a few centuries in time + story and world building implications of that.

-, -, – It’s a game built on “bosses are cool” ideas, which for somebody like me, who thinks bosses are the worst, really sucks. Everything from special to multi staged to special condition & challenging bosses, hated all that

+, +, +, + Spectacular value for money. I felt like i’ve been playing the game like forever, so much so i was shocked when it ended as I had gotten used to playing it regularly over many months if not a year, with breaks, sure, but still, it felt endless. I think i finished at least one if not two seriously big audiobooks while playing it in between cinematic sequences

+, -, -, – The game I wouldn’t quite call open world, but for all intents and purposes it is, in the sense that it’s huge, just not really one big area but rather a huge number of interconnected areas so you can get from anywhere to anywhere. Now you might be wondering why this could be a minus for somebody who appreciates big world and quantity of content… well, at least 3-5 times I got completely stuck. This is a game that (i felt) doesn’t hold your hand that much, meaning a bunch of times I didn’t know what to do next, or how, so I’d go into one direction or on a false idea and waste a huge amount of time and often after that I’d just abandon it for weeks on end. A few times I even resorted to looking it up online to get unstuck. I think this is a big flaw to have in a game

+, +, +, +, + The artwork in this game is just spectacular, from amazing 3d sculptures to drawings that show amazing artistic mastery. Everything from the main menu to the help manuals just made me in awe either of the artistic skill or the effort they put into this direction. Some concept art pieces might not have been made by elder masters, but even they were interesting and you could tell thought was put into them and they more than made up when you see how those ideas got implemented into the end-game

+, +, + The music was super good. Sometimes it was so-so, but then there were moments I didn’t expecting and some fantastic orchestral or moving theme would start in the background and i’d be awed and excited

+, +, -, – I loved the medieval and internal mind locations, the castle complications, but there were also modern areas and somewhat futuristic ones. These I didn’t feel fleshed out or original enough and I felt were rather a minus. It worked together well for the overall story, but I didn’t like them.

+, + cool secrets, interesting places, interesting use of varied powers to get to them.

+, +, +, + amazing character & creature design. To be honest i don’t say this often or am i so often inclined to appreciate this… or so I thought, but some of the characters here, when they are presented, totally surprised, both with originality and fictional believability. Even when they “failed” they failed in an original way that inspired my respect. Not only in that ordinary enemies would feel like they had a back story (which they did, at least one two pages!!), but their shape language was original and exuded individual personality

– the game did feel at times a bit hard (even though i think i played it on the easiest difficulty)

+, +, – you know how in games you usually have one type of gameplay and everything done through that, and it’s surprising when they have a 2nd or a 3rd programmed mechanic? This game felt like it had a bunch of them. Multiple times I’d think i’ve seen all the mechanics the game has to offer and then I’d see a new one for some minor place i didn’t expect it. This brings great variety and originality and a feeling of surprise. The minus is that some of these feel somehow contrived or increase the difficulty. I remember for example a section where I had to hide from a boss in a garden, on the one hand it was interesting, on the other frustrating. For a while i thought it was impossible until i thought of new and original ways to use my powers. But it’s not like that same logic was ever useful to me in that way again… still, there’s something to appreciate in all that custom scripting at least from a developer point of view

 

Overall I’d give this one a 2 (on a -5 to 5 scale).  Though in terms of recommending it might only be a 1. What I mean by that is that to me the game left a huge and lasting and quite good impression. That’s because it had moments when it was a solid 4, maybe even 4.5, but then again there were moments when it went even 0 or -1, getting me frustrated, curious about more content but hitting walls of obstacles. Over time I’ll probably only remember the good things, and I’m happy i finished it, and hope for a continuation of the series with such greatness.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider – impressions

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Wooow, this game was like WOW! Great surprise. Finished it in like 3 days, and not because it was short, on the contary, but I get ahead of myself in excitement:

+, +, +, +, + Aaamazing value. Seriously, like what?!?! I mean this was < half the price of a full game, I think I got it for 30 instead of the usual 70 and that on day one. And despite that the content was very rich. I normally don’t see such day one prices except for multiplayer games I couldn’t care less about, and here I had a singleplayer fantastic game doing the same. I wish there were more “expansion” games if this is the level of quality that results. Makes me think of a documentary I saw recently about Fallout New Vegas developed as a “huge expansion”, and ending up for many as possibly the best recent Fallout game.  I wouldn’t go quite as far with Death of the Outsider but definitely the same direction. The content felt like a lot, great, and I still see a lot of replay value in it, I’ve definitely missed some content PLUS choices branching, as well as a smart NG+ choice I saw they made. This game had more game content than many full game, and all so intriguing.

+, +, +, + Great story. I think this might be the first Dishonored game, (and I loved them all) where I read every single bit of paper I found with great interest. And not because I didn’t try with the others, I did, but after a while they would feel samey and I’d just open them only to close them down after scanning for a code or something. With this one I was genuinely curious about what they said, and it helped that a lot of them were about the mythos of this universe. Also even the little paper cinematics at the beginning of missions felt more interesting, engaging in narative and well done dramatically.

-, + There is a tiny bit of content reuse, but it’s the good kind, not just for enlarging the world and anchoring it but more importantly they do the smart thing I’ve been wishing for many years of taking the same environment and showing it at different moments in time with logical lived-in alterations having had changed it

+ Surprisingly interesting main character, which was unexpected to me as I liked the previous 2 protagonists quite a lot. It helps that she doesn’t say enough to be bothersome for the immersion.

+, +, + They took some wonderfully brave but well thought out game design choices, made sometimes subtle but sometimes radical tweaks to the powers and progression that actually had me thinking in new ways and playing in new ways within the (to me) well known concepts

+ Interesting side missions

+, + The occasional quite fantastic story scripts, many times I would be into doing something, even knocking out an NPC  and then he’d start saying something so interesting I’d change my plan just to find out what happened.

+, +, + The entire environment felt somehow like a big puzzle, but unlike other games it was wonderfully integrated, to the point where the puzzles felt well a part of the world and fitting. And as soon as you’d figure out one type of puzzles and were expecting boredom they’d put some other type of puzzle to figure out that made you think differently.

– the end location, while also beautiful and original, they go back to that lazy old style game design, with a frustrating ramp in the difficulty curve and that trial and error gameplay familiar from the past where you’re not given enough tools to deal with new complications of the situation in the first goes so immersion breaking trial and error results. It’s a shame that it puts a shadow at the end on the past experience although the location idea could’ve been good and it was well set up.

+, +, +, +, + There’s a lot of branching. And different ways of doing things. This is ‘UUUuuuuge, really. There were even moments when I couldn’t figure out some puzzles despite struggling a lot, yet I was still super curious to go into some areas, but then I figured out some other puzzles and managed to see the area after all.

+, +, + The sense of “scale” is quite amazing. I can’t think of many other games where 3-5 rooms could keep me busy for an hour or more… like they would feel like a universe of their own. You’d think “what can I do in a few rooms, I just wanna move past them?” but this game was so rich in content in them and they were so complex in figuring out their spacial placements and many interconnections that I was multiple times amazed for how long I had been in a few rooms just and my brain still found it fascinating to figure them out and how they work together.

Overall I’d give this game a 3,9 on a -5 to 5 scale, making a truly excellent game. What it may lack in comparing it to a big huge new game this game makes up in density of content, good story and originality, as well as really unbeatable value. This is half price for a FULLL game, truly.

PS: I’m sad to predict that probably this game won’t sell well, this was as far as I can tell the worst marketed great game in recent years or maybe forever: even I, a person who’s been following and waiting for it almost missed it, it wasn’t advertised anywhere, not on the web, not on youtube, not even on the PS store page, everybody just acted like it didn’t exist. Should you think you might like it/want more of such games I think the devs could really use the signal of early buyers despite this bad situation. I rarely advocate so strongly for a game but this one I really feel it would deserve it and I’m saddened to predict this will go unnoticed until it will be too late.

Mafia 3 – impressions

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+, +, +, +, + My favorite thing about the whole game was the world that it brought to life. Maybe i wouldn’t have gone with the same sepia/desaturated look at all times, but i gotta admit it worked, this being just one on top of a million other things that made this world/period/location incredibly real feeling. Even after finishing the game, as many times before I just started the game just to be in this world, the whole atmosphere, the houses, the streets, the people, the cars… everything seems to work so wonderfully together… A great world to simply BE in.

+, +, -,  + I came into this game with high story expectations from Mafia 2, particularly in the story department, and this game totally managed to live up to them. There were little bumps where it felt a bit stretched but the overall story, atmosphere and world it creates is spectacular

+, +, +, + Amazing soundtrack. Full of old classic period songs of the highest calibre. Not all my favourite but  it definitely adds and keeps a lot of mood, from the great menu music to the wonderfully responsive moody action music which adapts based on player actions and even performance, and down to pleasant background things.

+, +, – I didn’t particularly love the radios/presenters/shows, felt a bit too much of the propaganda views of our times projected into those, however it was great to have them there and a delight to hear the abundance of content, weather while driving or while walking past radios

-, + i can’t fully object to the people who called the gameplay structure a bit repetitive, but yet for some reason it never really upset me, never dragged on for too long and it was generally enjoyable.

-, – I had a section around 70% through where i just didn’t figure out what to do next… i can’t remember weather it was because some objective was not seen on the map or it had to do with taking over missions… Still, i passed it and it was okay. Still, those icons and the  way you choose them, how they’re still there after being completed and not super clear when they’re selected… gave me a bit of trouble.

+, +, +, -, + the story itself, as in the main cinematics was quite good, written with twists greys and nuances, I quite enjoyed it. Where it fell a bit short, not in content but in presentation were the dialogues with some characters where they weren’t animated/they were rigid, ingame and static, in those moments i felt it broke a bit the immersion because they were so stiff, but then there were superb cinematics both ingame and prerendered which more than made up for it. And the story overall dripped with believability.

– although i thought Lincoln was a very cool character and his story a great gangster story there was something that kept bothering me about it, this feeling of “positive racism”… like it’s all good and okay when a black guy kills self justified white people with some hints of race, but of course such a movie would be buried alive if a white guy would kill black people in these ways. In this this, the game follows the typical mainstream of our times, with branding of southerners as religious fanatics whites (there’s for example a mission like that where they have a union flag and in a church and they sell slaves). I mean I find it’s totally okay for a story, just saying that it plays to the prejudices and tabus of our times… but then again if it didn’t it wouldn’t have been allowed to come out… so I’m happy they did if this was the only way to make this game/world/story.

+ A lot of interesting characters

+, +, – the retrospective/storytelling mechanic i might not like as much as i would’ve liked a “we’re there/then” approach, but as it is it still works great to create a strong atmosphere.

+, +, +, + While (maybe through the filter of nostalgia?) i still think there was “more story” in Mafia 2 (something that probably isn’t true neither in time length or subtleties), this game does something more remarcable  in making the world open, so interesting and full. of so many lovingly crafted corners.

– , +, +, + while i felt a few moments that some content was a bit “stretched thin”… in fact there was SO MUCH content, not just the amazing world but a story that kept on giving, and giving and giving… that overall I’m very impressed with the length and quantity of this game, to tell such a great story/world and to keep it up for so long… i didn’t expect that.

 

Overall I was very very impressed with this game, even more so than I expected, and I still wonder at some of the subtleties of storytelling, in characters, in developments, and find this world one which i enjoyed every moment breathing it and I probably will find myself starting the game in years to come too just to “be there” again. In fact the game was so good that although I might not have expected with such a long and meaty game, I look forward to buying the DLC expansions, which afaik are all story oriented and i look forward to seeing their story and through their excuses to see the world again. So, despite the occasional thinness, and a world not super decorative, my impression still is a spectacular 4 (on a -5 to 5 scale) because of it’s great story, lengthy story and great realized open world.

 

7 games in 7 years

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This article is not so much for gamers, as for people who enjoy artwork in all it’s forms. The kind of people who pick up a good book and look forward to the magic how with every page they sink deeper into the wonderful world it describes. To people who like to see amazing paintings that fire up the imagination, and marvel at the beauty of sculptures or wonder in awe at amazing architectural monuments that come to us through time and across the centuries, telling stories of ages past. To people who enjoy listening to immersive music, weather classical or modern, quiet ambiental or engaging, music that moves and creates a great atmosphere. And to people that enjoy movies, with great characters and fantastic adventures, and interesting story twists.

To all these people I write, as I am sad to know that some of them still avoid games even today. Maybe it’s because they have never seen how all those things are present in (some) games of our times, made by possibly the best artists & creators of our generation. Or maybe because they say they don’t know of such games, and all they’ve seen are time wasters where people test only their reflexes or are only worth experiencing when having fun with friends. Or maybe they feel like they don’t have time for the many games, even just to pick the good ones out of the sea of mediocrity and wouldn’t know where to begin this huge field. My attempt to help is to create a list of one game to play per year. Since we are in 2017 I’ll try to thus name 7 years, from 2010 to 2016, with the current year still incomplete. If in each of these years you had experienced just this one game, I believe you would’ve already tasted something fantastic from this great new world we live in and I for one would already consider you cultured in this field where so many are sadly still illiterate. Also I am hoping that going back in time over many years, besides the fun of the journey, there will be games that anybody can play, even people with older computers, access to older consoles only, or simply people who only have a less then powerhouse laptop around to play with. I will also try to name for each year a second-best, in case the main proposed game isn’t found, doesn’t work for you or you simply would like something different… or maybe you feel you could play more than one game per year ?!?

Obviously the list is subjective and is just my best attempt and there are many other great ones, but one’s gotta start somewhere. Each of the titles I picked I think realizes something extraordinary, spectacular for that year and enduring for many years later, a unique experience that you shouldn’t miss if you are lucky enough to live in this wonderful 21st century, where magical worlds exist just for you to explore, worlds more fantastic and more real, more beautiful and more complex than the best best novels of centuries past, painted down to every detail, just inviting you to experience them.

 

This game is a great bringing to life of an old wild west type movie, managing to have a lot of interesting characters, some wonderful story twists, and to tell a moving story from the age when the American wild west was slowly beginning to be swallowed by modernity, but the old world still continued, thus having also that kind of book’s conflict between worlds and ages story.

Backup: Fallout New Vegas. It tells a retro-futuristic post apocalyptic story, the story of a messenger who unwittingly gets involved into a series of events much bigger than himself, and through his eyes you get to discover a whole world, destroyed yet abundant in opportunities, full of choices, including some quite difficult morality questions.

 

Though part of a bigger series, worry not, it’s it’s own encapsulated story and world. And yes, it’s enough to last you a whole year should this be the only game you manage to pack with yourself before you get yourself stranded on an island. The story here manages to be modular enough to allow you to go in any direction and explore anything you want in this original high fantasy world. There’s everything from major story arcs to minor series of stories, to tiny narrations told through journals of text found in lost caves you might wonder into in your curiosity imbued exploration

Backup: if you feel like travelling to the beautiful 16th century Constantinople, at the edge between the western and the Arab world, I’d invite you to try out Assassin’s Creed: Revelations while if you feel like exploring a much darker purgatory-like world and are willing to experience even atmospheric frustration Dark Souls was a gem that appeared in this year, a world in which your own struggles while playing mirror the struggles of the character in this world, all bathing in implied deep philosophical themes.

 

Creating a memorable original universe, happening in a mixture between an artistic vision of a distorted victorian industrial revolution mixing with supernatural elements, this game is remarkable in many ways. The stylized visuals with impossibly high proportions makes one feel like he’s moving through a painting at times, while the fiction creates a wholly original mythos.

Backup: Farcry 3. Essentially a brutal “growing-up” story, the game tells the experience of a group of rich spoiled young people who in their partying travels to a beautiful exotic island find themselves hostages and forced to be either victims or to fight back forgetting their civilized education. The beautiful island, complete with amazing locations and plant and wild life is just as much a character as the friends and their charismatic antagonist.

 

Yes, you’ve probably heard of these games, and if all you know of them is that lame friend who’s just enjoying driving cars and blowing up things I can understand your scepticism to see this game on a list of artistic games. But the reason despite the prejudice that I’d still put this game here as the one special game to play if through some horrible time travel accident you found yourself in 2013 (or hardware of that time) is that on top of all that simulation is built a truly memorable story, with 3 characters which each stand out in his own way. From the old movie loving, problem husband and father, middle age crisis Michael to the more than disturbing chaotic personality of Trevor each of the 3 characters has his own view of the world, and together they go through an adventure worthy of the best action movies, while still managing to have many insightful social and political commentary at modern life.

Backup: Bioshock Infinite. No longer the underwater dystopia of the original Bioshock, this new game manages to tell the story of another man made paradise went mad.

 

You know I was almost about to write down 2014 as a year where nothing truly remarkable came out. I couldn’t find it by year because this game didn’t get the best reviews due to it’s buggy launch, but now if you go back to it, and even then if, like myself, you cared more for the spirit of this almost too ambitious an attempt, I think you may find this is a truly worthy title for the year. Where else do you get to travel back in time and get to see 1789 Paris during the French revolution, complete with buildings that don’t even stand today. The story is good, but it almost pales in contrast to THE CITY, the time, the people on the streets, their clothes, the great monuments, the shouts on the street (IMHO best experienced in French should you know it). And it’s a world that keeps on giving, even past the main game and the great locations, even down to the intriguing little detective stories with subtle hints that you can solve as a total side project. But above all, the city, oh, what a city, what a time… every once in a while I jump back into this world just to wander the streets and to marvel at the beautiful churches and the dynamics of the crowd.

Backup: A split between Shadow of Mordor where you get to experience a personal nemesis simulation in the setting of the Tolkien created Lord of the Rings universe and Alien Isolation, a bringing to life of the kind of story/world that the 1979 invented in the eponymous Ridley Scott movie.

 

A world deeply rooted in the novels of the polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, worth experiencing and exploring due to the the many rich stories and multi-faceted characters. The main story arc, the many secondary and incidental stories, and even the many tens of pages in writing found in little notes and books and writings found across the world, are all worthy of literary greatness. All through one can sense the refreshment of the medieval fantasy through what to me felt like a sense of east-european scepticism and moral choices which are not of the super simplistic black and white variety, but rather often present difficult tradeoffs. Countless stories prove to be deep, for example I particularly remember that of the baron, which manages to touch on difficult themes from familial violence to alcoholism mixed with familial love, and even impossible subjects like abortion, all while keeping it’s medieval atmosphere. And should you find the game too “autumn rainy” it later (2016) even blooms in some wonderful expansions of which “Blood And Wine” particularly impressed by managing to maintain serious stories even while going to brightly coloured lands. But even without that this should be enough for the year.

Backup: Bloodborne. Here we have what may be to date the best materialization of the spirit and mythos inspired by the many wonderful books by H.P. Lovecraft, weather you take movies or games, as even cinefiles have jealously complained. The narrative is told more through experience and mystery than words, but yet one can feel the well developed mysterious lore backdrop that feels consistent even if it took a large online community to dig up the less obvious secrets.

 

For this year we have a split between these two sequels. Neither revolutionizing, or innovating enough to deserve the title alone but both polishing the ingenuity of the predecessors. Dishonored 2 continues in developing it’s universe mixing dystopian industry and magic, whie Dark Souls 3 reunites the existential themes of civilizational and philosophical cycles of it’s predecessors, in some ways polishing, while in others simply returning to roots. Should you in 2016 have had only time for one game, I’d suggest tossing a coin over which, or better choosing based on weather or not you got to experienced/enjoyed their predecessors.

Backup: Hitman. Again just a a return to old form of this Hitman’s story, but a pretty decently done one with good variety of locations and social situations.

2017 … ?

As for the year in course, 2017, we’ve already had big titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, the story of a tribal young girl in a post-apocalyptic nature overrun world set on a path to discover what happened to earth before her birth, or Prey, a story that takes you onto a satellite research station in space in typical classic sci-fi fashion, only to discover what went wrong, imbued with themes of questioning self identity and the nature of one’s change of self through learning, in this case machine/alien enhanced sudden flash learning. But the year is young, and traditionally the best games come to us towards the end of the year often just in the holiday season, so I have greater expectations for the year to come.

Conclusion

So, this would be the list of games I would personally suggest if you had but the opportunity to play just one game per year for the past seven years. Surely others might pick others, maybe for different story themes, better gameplay, or more social involvement, and luckily we have a lot of choice, but these are my picks for creating fantastic worlds, for excelling in multiple forms of artwork, from storytelling to visuals, be it painterly or sculptural/architectural, all on the backdrop of memorable soundtracks and giving one of a kind experiences. Given this special one game per year limitation I have also chosen meatier games, games that you can sink your teeth into and chew on for a while, with worlds that you can can go into again and again, for weeks, nay months, in the knowledge that each time you go in you will be rewarded by fresh new stories to read or live, places to see and unique emotional experiences to experience.

Did you already play these games in the past years? Then I salute you with respect and look forward to many interesting conversations. If not, may I invite you into these wonderful worlds? Even if you don’t normally play games, and even should you just play one of these games per year… I believe if you give them a chance, you have 7 great years of incredible amazing experiences to look forward to! What a privilege to be living in the wonderful year of 2017!

Dying Light: The following – quick impressions

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This review has been slow in coming not because the game is bad, but because the game is faaaantastic. So much so that after finishing it I felt i wasn’t done with it. And then played portions of it again, and then again some more. And i’ll probably go back to this world because it’s so good. In fact it’s my choice for game of the year 2016 among heavy competition, so looking at it back now there’s now way I’ll do it justice but here’s some random memories:

+, +, +, +, +, + aaaamazing environmental storytelling through props and locations. Finding a set of otherwise ordinary items in a remote location that was totally optional but everything arranged in a way that told a story, that gave me the feeling that somebody had thought about what happened there, about the story of the place before you arrive there… just blew me away so many times. A mattress and a laptop and some headphones in some locked up place suggesting how the poor person was stuck there in the last moments without electricity and tried to get some comfrot from the music, many many such locations made the whole world alive, everything working together to tell a bigger story, a story not of people but of a world. I was very impressed

+, +, -,  + amazingly big world. I was expecting not to like it as much as the original because i hate it when first person games introduce cars and I was sceptical that they could still make a dense enough world on such a scale yet it surprised me. Sure, I missed a bit all the tight environments that didn’t need a car from the original, but still it was pretty interesting and at each place I arrived to I got the feeling of all the glory of the original

+, + still great soundtrack. Just discovered it’s on amazon prime too, yeaayy!

+, + interesting characters and stories with variety

+, + lots of interesting things to do, interesting character progression

+, +, + a lot of fantastic optional stuff

+, +, +, +, + some really amazing visuals, be it beautiful high cliffs in the sun or wet caves with underwater entrances, many many times my jaw just dropped

+ interesting original user content coupled in

Overall I found the game fantastic, played it multiple times and I’m sure I’ll get back into the world in years to come, bought the game again just for that. Definitely my game of the year 2016, and that despite strong contenders and the fact that it launched in january-february, a period where most games are afraid to launch as nobody remembers them for the nominations of november/december… but yes, I think this is a huge gem of a game. Every time I see a game of they year list where it isn’t at least nominated I’m saddened for all the people who didn’t experience this fantastic gem. Warmly warmly recommending it. I’d give it 4,2 on a -5 to 5 scale, making it fantastic.

Dishonored 2 – impressions

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Quick thoughts on credits:

+, +, +, +, +, + amazing environmental attention to detail, from the way old objects clutter to witches having a cup of tea and discussing among themselves on a chandelier until/unless they notice you

+, +, +, + again that amazing level design full of amazing secrets, wasn’t easy to find all the runes but it was worth it. Granted for one of them after trying a bunch of things had to look online. Otherwise however I have to say I loved their subtlety and logic, I like they d again like in Dishonored that they had a physicality to them, making sense somehow and not resorting to cheap tricks

+, +, + nicely deeply thought out universe with rich background and in-character storytelling

+, + great artwork, like it’s predecessors

-, +, + it felt very much like the original Dishonored. For the time passed it felt like there weren’t enough leaps either in technology or quantity of artwork. I mean it was better, but I was sorta expecting more. That being said the artwork was very good.

+, + this the game on the ps4 came with the original Dishonored + the expansions, which made me veeery happy. Although I’ve played them (shockingly) multiple times I look forward to replaying the brilliant expansions once more and their generosity of including it with the ps4 version brings me great joy and to somebody who hasn’t played them could potentially bring value in my opinion almost equal to the game itself despite the passage of time

– on the ps4 pro there were a lot of weird bright edge jaggies, where tiles in the walls met, not a big deal, and most of the time they weren’t there (maybe they even disappeared at some point)

+, +, +, + the infested houses were just aaaamazing, that mixture of luxury furniture and musical instruments with nature invading and the stories in there, told both by environments, and bits of journals… aaamazing

+, +, + some amazing sculptures!

+, + they took in artwork and style as well as original ideas from the 2 brilliant expansions to Dishonored, which were IMHO even better than the original game

– with the art style in the menus i felt it was a little step back from the excellent artists’ work shown in the original game, I also felt less impressed by the faces/expressions of the main characters, they got imo a bit too plasticy instead of that stylized cut look they used to have

+, – you can play it with two characters. This may introduce some extra replayability for some people, for me though, playing Corvo, this probably was the cause why it felt very much the same, with abilities being too similar.

+, +, + a lot of replayability coming from the amazingly interesting locations and events, also many interesting dialogues

+, +, + delightfully many paths through the environments

– At times it felt a bit difficult, or at least strangely balanced difficulty, with first escape mission being really tough while some later missions being almost silly easy

+, +, + path breaking approach with that time-travel map, that’s like 2 maps in one! easy to not appreciate that wonder enough. If they make a whole future game like that it’ll be truly a leap forward, and i consider this a very successful prototype.

Overall I think it’s an excellent game. I’d consider it above the original Dishonored but not quite the level of excellence of the 2 expansions. I wasn’t suuuper impressed simply because the bar was set so high and while the new game met it it didn’t (i felt) rise it in the same way as the original did. So overall I’d give it a 4 on a -5 to 5 scale, making it an incredible amazing game that I very warmly recommend!

Farcry Primal – impressions

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It’s amazing it took me like 8 months to finish this game despite loving it so very much from the launch date. Here’s my quick thoughts:

+, +, +, +, + Aaaaaaaaaaaaaamazing world, so very very big and open and fascinating to explore and beeeeeeeeautiful!!!

-, – too bad it didn’t had voice over. I mean in a way the primitive old language is charismatic, but on the other hand it breaks the immersion a bit not to understand it and it makes it feel a bit like a more “indie” budget title, which it totally doesn’t feel otherwise

+, +, +, + deep and complex story with a lot of moral grays. Many times I was surprised how they dared to be so “politically incorrect” with the kinds of things they said in the game, and the story. I’m used to seeing stories in which the hero is camouflaged for modern tastes and values yet in this game the story and the world is much more unapologetically tribe-vs-tribe, and even in this the game manages to surprise with complex tensions and interests, and even the major villain being presented in a way that made me go “WOOOW”, humanized through his child and brain illness, and even in the mutual deadly hate there is a place formed for mutual respect

+, +, + a nice variety of approaches, locations, from stealth to using animals and to full on spectacular action

– after the initial 20h of great discovery my interest plateaued for a while because of same world, yet what a world

+, +, +, + beautiful graphical engine, beautiful day-night cycle

+, +, +, + spectacularly realized vegetation, in looks, in color spectrum, in variety, in organic distribution

+, + an interesting approach of handling cold weather resulted in wonderfully dynamic experiences and emergent gameplay situations. I remember this one time when I was trying to silently take a village in the snow, yet I was freezing, so i would try to sneak past bonfires

+, +, +, + great variety in the terrain and locations

+, +, + a masterpiece in handling the animals, they are beautiful

+, + I was very surprised how many interesting and unique places to discover they’ve managed to create, with unique looks and atmosphere, world events, caves, ritual sites, villages…

+, + gripping level-up system with a lot of skills and objects to acquire while learning the land

Overall I’d say this is an underrated masterpiece of which i hear way too little of. I’d give it an amazing 4.5 on a -5 to 5 scale. I wish it had had dialogues but otherwise this is a one of a kind experience that totally took me by surprise, I really reeeeeeeally hope they’ll make a Primal 2 or even better further experiment with translating the formula through history.

Layers of Fear – impressions

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Finished it. It was a just one day experience, but it definitely was a memorable surreal one. We got the game not knowing what to expect, possibly nothing special, but after 1h of play I was so impressed with the quality of the historical elements in the environment that I went and got the addon on the spot (haven’t played it yet). Here’s quick thoughts while the credits are rolling:

+, +, + , +, + some amazing surreal moments of dream and paradox that I think would’ve had both Escher and Dali impressed. And some changes are so subtly and beautifully integrated that it’s amazing, like one moment you’ll be looking around a room and the next seeing it’s got an endless ceiling, but wonder if it was like that before, or turning around a room to find doors where you remembered walls… or things floating, just amazing moments.

+, + interesting mystery atmosphere, told through small things, placements of things, indirect letters, that kind of stuff

– there were also moments however when it felt like it had too many “booo!” scares… though I got quickly immune. The suspense stuff was better though.

+, +, + at times amazing soundtrack

– Though some story was there I wish there was more story and a bit less of the ‘gore’… just a bit, it mostly worked but it could’ve used IMO more monologue or something

+, +, + loved the historical household objects

+, – the classical paintings in the game were a perfect disturbing fit and wonderful in their ways. The only problem was there was too few of them and they repeated breaking a bit the great immersion.

+, + at times it looked technically very impressive, both as engine and at times even in terms of environment asset quality, there were moments I felt I was playing Bioshock, which is an amazing achievement for what I assume is a team/budget that’s much smaller

Overall I’d give this game a grandiose 3.5 on a -5 to 5 scale: a truly unique and extraordinary experience. Had it’s moments when it was harder to push on but overall it surprised and delighted in a way in which games rarely do and tends to be more the domain of movies: a constant journey of change, change in subtle ways, story always advancing almost without failure and failures turning into development and surprise. This game has greatly surprised me.

PS: though lacking that amazing tech this game is I think a worthy inheritor of the title of what P.T. might have been had it actually been developed into a (good) game. I definitely felt Silent Hill echoes in the game and a ton of ton of H.P. Lovecraft influences. What an impressive pedigree!

Doom 2 quick re-impressions

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Rating: 4.0/5 (1 vote cast)

A funny game to play for Christmas, I know, but I was so excited to find it released on the ps3 as a collection I had to buy it and play it a bit, and one thing lead to another, great fun ensued for days… and i finished it again. So, this is interestingly enough a review… 20 years later.

+ very interesting game designs, variety in level designs

-, –  some puzzles feel a bit arbitrary, and some I found totally unreasonable, being about as hidden as a secret level, except being mandatory for the main game

+ original puzzles making use of gradually built up previously introduced elements. One example that comes to mind is the original tunnel of barrels level which forces you to think of a quick and alternative solution to not be caught in the chains of explosions

-,- obviously very aged graphics for somebody who’s never lived those times

+ i would say the game aged pretty good, still being fun in 2015, of course if one is willing to look over the huge graphical changes in these years

+, – I didn’t remember the game had so many puzzles. I mean i remembered the shooting, but not how often i got stuck and wondered around either aimlessly or trying to figure out things. This is a plus as it creates pacing, moments of quiet to emphasize those of action, but can also be a minus as some puzzles are in my opinion a bit too hidden

+ pretty decent midi music

-, – inconsistent use of visuals: some textures sometimes signified they can be triggered/would move, while at other times the same things didn’t do anything and were just decorative. I understand the need but it was confusing.

+ a lot of content to explore. I didn’t remember there was so much to explore, even stuff that felt optional, and alternate routes! Impressive!

+, + something that i miss in modern shooters, i loved that all through the game there was a lot of advancing and exploration, covering huge distances. (yeah, i feel there’s a drought in such shooters, i’d love to play more FPSs)

 

All in all I’ve had great fun replaying it, of course largely due to the memories, but to my surprise I found that having forgotten >60% of it i also had a large feeling of discovery and surprise, which was very enjoyable. Compensating for the huge time elapsed since launche and/or with some nostalgia sprinkled on top i’d give it a 2.5 on a -5 to 5 scale. Those who are willing to give it a chance might have some fun.

Asssassin’s Creed Rogue – impressions

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+, +, + some really amazing environments. I’ve seen some forts which could’ve even been a Dark Souls level location, with multiple winding paths and secrets and beautiful attention to detail. Very impressive

+, + a brave, interesting and original story!

+ nice music

+, + finally says some things from the other side of the fence with commentary on many of the dubious actions of the assassins. It still tries to morally justify some of it’s own stances, but at least there’s a balance seeing the other side

+, + it was interesting seeing the british empire perspective

+, + it’s really nice how this story ties into Unity! Having had played that before i got the shivers when i realized the link. Brilliant.

+ I wasn’t a huge fan of the ship sections in Black Flag but here i found them much more okay because the locations seemed to have much more personality, they felt less generated and more worked on by good level designers

+, + some reeeeeeeeeeeeally beautiful locations, shockingly enough even optional ones, I remember this one place with bits of ship hulls in ice walls and among ice cliffs…

 

Conclusions: 2.8 on a -5 to 5 scale. This is to me one of the best assassin’s creed games I can think of… i guess many of them are great, but this one brings such a breath of fresh air it even manages to compete in some ways with the epic Unity despite that having much more epic artwork and and decorative locaitons on more powerful hardware. Long story short, I was quite impressed by this one. I gotta say this was much much better than I thought. The environments in particular got a lot of love and good design, with multiple paths and even interesting secrets.

CoD: Black Ops 2

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+, +, + the story is always moving forward, with high production values

+, +, – some locations are pretty cool, while others not so much

+, + nice variety of locations

+ good music (they even have Trent Reznor. Good choice)

+ there’s even some choice moments

+, +, – pretty good story, it has it’s cliche moments but overall it dares to even be controversial at points, which is much appreciated

– there’s a not so nice mission with some tanks or something like a strategy element, luckily it can then be avoided

Overall: A surprisingly good game. I enjoyed Black Ops too, and this one manages to continue the trend with some nice story line pickups and more importantly with some new cool Elements. I’d give it a decent 2 on a -5 to 5 scale, so quite a good game, even if now a bit outdated by the new genera.

PS: as usual i’m writing this while the credits are rolling, and man was i rewarded with some cool extra cinematics. Another point for the game. I’m bumping it up to a 2.5, as I was on the edge anyway, making it an excelent game.

God of War: Ascension – impressions

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+, + very high production values from beginning to end

– didn’t like the rendering style at the beginning, felt like shiny wax somehow, realistic but weird

+, + but then later on it sorta changed and with amazing artwork I came to love the visuals

+, +, + amazing setpiece moments

-, +, +  the story is a bit confusing at the beginning, but then the loops and stories within stories really give a big payoff in the end(s).

-, +, + same old gameplay, but what an amazing gameplay it is, and new moves and new original puzzles, and the fighting felt somehow fresh and different… or at least weird different, but definitely different and that was good

-, +, + the puzzles were sometimes way too hard, with no clues, but man were they mindbreakingly amazing, timetravel elements, complex puzzles with no handholding, to be honest i’m shocked they’d be so cruel to their customers, but on the flipside once you do them somehow (even with online or in my case genius wife help) man do you feel cool and impressed.

+, + weirdly enough towards the end, after a number of times when i had to force myself to push on, especially with stuck moments, i got a kind of excitmenet that i haven’t felt since GoW2 & Gow1, a sense of discovery and amazement

+, + the scene placement creates such a buildup, sections tease future sections, as you see from afar where you’re going, and doing complex things, and by the time you get there it feels so epic you think the game will end, but then it doesn’t and this happens again… and then again (especially going up the huge statue)…. amazing scene setting

+, + superb environments, really superb

+, +  fascinating creatures

+ good character development

+ interesting secondary characters

Conclusions: I’d give it an epic amazing legendary 3.5 on a -5 to 5 scale because it has such high production values. So much innovation in so many ways. I didn’t expect this. Just bought it because i thought the demo was “good enough”… Color me impressed!

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

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+, +, +, + aaamazing environment work

+, – okay but not fantastic story

+, + beautiful level variety

-, – too difficult at times

+ good music, always in atmosphere, sometimes mixing it up even with modern styles but still surprisingly well fitting

-, – bosses, bosses, bosses, oh how I hate their frustration and repetition

+ just as I was thinking the story is a bit cliche they did some quite weird yet interesting things with it. Sometimes they broke the fourth wall of immersion and took some liberties, but it was all done with taste and surprisingly well fitting. The way a barn raises out of a swamp when the storyteller mentions it, or a story/location is changed based on the bar discussions would have been things I would have thought i’d dislike with their slight humor even at games, but it’s done in moderation and well polished visually so it’s even interesting

– badly named: i say this simply because the name is so long I only remember the first part of it and there’s too many of them, I’m still struggling to remember their naming. Bad branding IMHO.

+ nice subtle touches in the story, narrative tricks

+, + did I mention the environments are quite beautiful? So much love, so much attention to detail, from the interestingness of objects to dexture detail and even game design helper touches like say a wooden plank of a different color placed at a crossroads to show you subtly the way you’re supposed to go. Amazing. Or little dust or particle touches at the right place. Superb mastery.

Conclusions: All in all i was blown away by this game. I can’t believe how fast I finished it, it was just that gripping! I’d give it a 3 (on a -5 to 5 scale). The bosses and difficulty repetitions still left me with a bad taste, but the amazing environments make me still go wow, and the story was pretty decent, even with a bit of subtle humor. I’m having more and more respect for the company Techland. They have such amazing artists and I’m finding so many of their games just blew me away, weather it was Dying Light, Dead Island or the Call of Juarez series.

 

PS: i’ve instantly went and ordered Call of Juarez The Cartel, I hope it’s gonna be as good as this!

Assasin’s Creed Unity – impressions

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+, +, +, +, + it brings to life Paris in the 18th century. And it lets you explore it pretty freely surprisingly quick into the game! An amazing world, amazing recreation, not just locations, fantastic buildings, AND period costumes, but also streets full of people which seem surprisingly alive, with things they do, and all so beautifully lit and with atmosphere

+, + the animations of the people on the streets, even their voices and the things they talk are SO SOOO incredibly many! it is truly amazing that somebody actually made this game

– the main story is pretty “meh”. Templars are evil, assasin’s are good even when they kill hundreds of people, and a romantic main story full of foolishness and absolutely no player choice

+, +, +, + the environment artwork is just AAAAMAZING, for the first many many hours in the game I just walked around to see the places, and even close to finishing it not only did I not see everything and will be going back but as I was playing the game I kept seeing and noticing new and interesting things, be it a building, or a loaded cart or a pile of fascinating rubbish

-, – the ending boss fight conditions are quite arbitrary & silly (things that have always worked don’t work, others do, and you must keep trying with hints that can actually confuse

+, +, + there’s a lot of secondary stuff to do. I’m very excited to see the AC series going in the direction of an open world RPG. With the mini-quests there’s absolute freedom in the order you do them, many characters to meet

+, + surprisingly even the multiplayer was cool in this game… and I am a brave fighter for the cause of singleplayer. I guess it’s because the multiplayer missions (that I liked) had cinematics like a singleplayer one, except set in different time periods, and it was thus just singleplayer with other people doing their thing too, sometimes even surprising you pleasantly

+, + quite good music

+, + at some point it actually surprised very wonderfully with an interesting time travel into the 19th century… too bad the other one wasn’t that interesting

Conclusions: all in all i must say this game surprised me way above expectations. All ACs have had admirable production values, but with such a well done open world city, many quests and a total lack of frustrating ship battle grinding this one has made a particularly good impression. I hate to say it, because all ACs I find quite beautiful in their way but the beautiful beautiful open world with all the detail and the historical period recreation might make even me join the choir saying this might be the best AC… and I find this hard because I found the first one particularly original, and the Venice location I found fascinating as well as Constantinople… but Paris had such SUCH a density of beautiful architecture and amazing attention to detail in the crowds and even junk on the street that it really passed a threshold of realism. I really wasn’t going to give it such a high mark, but as I’m writing and try to find faults I see how hard it is so I guess I’ll have to give this one a 3.8 [on a -5 to 5] scale just for being so incredibly polished in everything. I’m not giving it more just because I’m reserving higher scores for games with moral choices, more play choices and also first person. Still, it even started to show some choice of strategy choices of the Hitman type.

+, + even after finishing the main story I plan to play it some more, something that has never happened to me with an AC so it’s fitting that I add this after the conclusions

+ i hear the game had a troubled launch, but for us this turned out wonderful as Ubisoft was incredibly generous and thanks to that historical fact which never affected us we got a really huge DLC addon!!! AAAAmaazing!

PS: I can only hope all future ACs will become more and more open world RPGs, hopefully even introducing choice someday!

Dying Light – impressions

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+, +, +, +, + navigating an open world like I’ve never seen before! All first person games will from now on have to live up to the standards raised by this level of freedom in navigation. I mean of course I don’t expect all games to become open world exploration games, but just like how Assassin’s Creed revolutionized the 3rd person genre by showing that one shouldn’t be stopped by shoulder high barricades and even houses, that’s how I hope this game will raise the bar for all 1st person games

+, +, + very interesting open world to explore

+, – the main story is not horrible but not great either

+, +, + however there’s a ton of secondary quests with great stories. There’s also a couple which are a bit more silly, but in the end they were not as many as I initially feared and I guess it makes sense that some of the survivors would be a bit ‘special’ after the horrible things they’ve gone through

-, – the moment when the game disappointed me was when it pulled out the first story mission with a timer for failure. Before that I played it immersively and felt responsibility for my choices, tried not to do too risky stuff, but after totally arbitrarily being forced to do something with a timed bomb, stuff I couldn’t have possibly known without trying and failing, again and again… well it was disappointing

+, +, + amazing length, great value!!!

+, + quite cool music

-, –  no dialogue choices, no story branching

+, + some quite beautiful locations!

+, +, +,+ amazing attention to the environments, the items tell such amazing stories, rooms places, items. Just amazing!!!

 

Conclusions: 3.7 (on a -5 to 5 scale). Best PS4 game so far from my point of view. Amazing game, I couldn’t wait for the next day after work to play a bit more, to explore the fascinating world!!!

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