#Reviews

Rise of the Tomb Raider – quick impressions

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As the credits now roll here’s some random thoughts and memories:

+, +, + a couple of really beautiful environments

+, + great scripted moments

– I did get or almost get stuck a few times in the to me contrived puzzles, leading me to put the game away for a while

+, +, – the game made some attempts at a more philosophical story, with pretty interesting audio logs. Too bad they could only be listened to while doing nothing else

– that Lara has fantastic powers, can jump and fall from amazing heights, kills and takes bullets better than Rambo, all of that I found acceptable/necessary for gameplay, yet some other things I thought broke the plausibility, in particular her use of a bow to pull down great structures… it was one point where i rarely could suspend my disbelief. It was one thing to accept her superhuman strength, but other than that the game transmits the message of somewhat realistic physics and with that I kept thinking how implausible it was that an arrow (with infinite rope?) could grab onto a big structure so strongly, even if she was so strong.

+, + the story themes of ancient religions around immortal(s) and civilizations was quite interesting, reminded me in some ways of the movie The Man from Earth with it’s interesting story

+, +, – there were some interesting special puzzle locations, they felt however mostly forced. Still, some of the best content in the game was in some optional relic locations

-, +, although the game is largely linear it does make attempts at sections of openness, which is appreciated

+ decent soundtrack

+, + impressive graphics technology, and attention to visual detail in this sense (depth of field, blur, particles, lighting & shadows… overall quite impressive on multiple platforms

+ the main story was okay, not fantastic IMHO, but passable and it did manage to surprise a little with the mixture of the supernatural elements while still staying a Tomb Raider game

Overall I’d give the game a +2 on a -5 to 5 scale: a technically competent game with much appreciated experimentation into more openness, it was an enjoyment from the beginning to end, never so that I couldn’t put it down, but always good enough that I knew the next play session would be consistently high quality. A good game overall, with AAA production values everywhere.

Until Dawn – quick impressions

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+, +, + very cinematic experience

-, +, + the story/characters are rather shallow/teen however this is in fitting with this kind of movies so it works in the end surprisingly okay. It’s annoying when they’re particularly stupid or ridiculous, but like with these kinds of movies it ends up making a kind of sense for these particular characters and one can even get attached to their particular curiosities

+, +, -, + The game is built with moments of choice branching nodes. This is great as an idea, though the choices feel strange sometime and forced. In the end though the attempt at this great direction is appreciated and it creates a special experience.

+ the music and sounds are decent, not fantastic music, but supportive of the story. The soundscape was also nice though not mindblowing.

+, +, – the visuals are sometimes remarkable in a an almost fotorealistic way, yet there’s also the occasional non-stellar moment

+, +, +, – the animations are quite spectacular, with at times shockingly expressive faces, but still with the occasional uncanny valley moment where the human eye picks up on strange skin movements we’re not familiar with. Sometimes the movements could be better but the facial capture and the actors behind did a fantastic job. Particularly I was impressed with the acting and am a longer fan and was glad to see the actor behind the psychiatrist, and the character who’s played by that actor from the tv series Mr. Robot was also impressively recognizable. This gives me mixed feelings as I prefer original non-actor characters but on the other hand i realize the necessity for this and it’s impressive to see it done at this new awesome level

-, + the fixed camera angle style does help with the cinematic feeling and the scares but at times it’s particularly weird to control

+, +, +  there’s some nice mysteries and revelations. I was particularly impressed by one major story twist.

-,-, +  the world is very linear, not open, the only exploration feels like in-between advancing in linear corridors. Still, even as this, it’s nice that some optional content is there and, particularly given the consequences of stories and mysteries, the things you can find out can be quite meaningful

+, +, + the story starts out thin but in the end it turns out to have a richer than expected texture, backworld with history and twits and subtleties, as well as well done mysteries.

Overall I’d give this game a 2 on a -5 to 5 scale meaning a quite good game. Maybe at moments been tempted by a 0 to 1 because it feels somehow “ordinary” but then on the other side this game does something truly extraordinary, in ways that feel like a first for the games industry, to tell this kind of a story in this kind of a way or at least this level of polish. So I stick by my +2 verdict given that it does something which in 2016-2017 games is still spectacular and ground breaking both in terms of technology and also in terms of approaching a new type of topic that has been done quite little in games to date (I remember a ps2 game and also an old “Shivers 2” game which was special in its own way). All in all i’d consider it a remarkable game and I’m happy I played it and got to experience what i think is a special moment in gaming history even if it’s not necessarily my favourite genre/subject matter.

 

PS: Thank you very much HaikuHunter for this great gift! We had an eye on it for a while  so it was a particularly cool surprise. Thank you!

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – HaikuHunter Review

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With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo has done something absolutely incredible and amazing. And after more than 70 hours and beating the main story of the game, I am still not quite sure how they did it.

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I was never a fan of the 3D Zelda games. Even Ocarina of Time was not able to keep me interested throughout the whole game back in 1998; something that is still true to this day. I also don’t like open world games that much. So what were the chances of me even liking Breath of the Wild? Yet here I am trying to convey the brilliance of a masterpiece to you without even realizing the full spectrum of it myself.

For the longest time, Nintendo has been infamous for ignoring most of the industry’s achievements and instead focusing on itself. This has been true since Nintendo entered the US market in 1985: 2 years after the breakdown of the game industry, nobody wanted to get into videogames; except for Nintendo, which was able to resuscitate a dead industry with games like Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda. Decades later, their ignorance of the HDTVs and after the failures of the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube, which not only lost the market leadership to the less powerful PlayStation and PlayStation 2 from SONY but also struggled against the industry newcomer from Redmond, led Nintendo to the Wii. This time, it was the company itself that rose out of the ashes like a phoenix. But it wasn’t so much the games defining the success but rather the movement control technology. Nintendo, assured that their ignorance of the rest of the industry would led them to new innovations and even bigger success then went on to present the WiiU. A critical failure that started a transformation of this industry heavyweight leading to many improvements in the way Nintendo developed and develops their businesses and Breath of the Wild is one of the products reflecting this transformation.

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Breath of the Wild is influenced by many games with more or less open worlds. Aonuma himself explained in interviews that many of the younger designers at Nintendo play a lot of games from other companies and the influences for Breath of the Wild include Minecraft, later Far Cry games, Assassins Creed, Skyrim and the Souls‘ games. But rather than just taking bits and pieces out of those games and throwing them together, Nintendo assessed and transformed them; and by doing that it created something that isn’t afraid to let the player roam free, explore everything that it has to offer and experimenting with crazy ideas that – and this is to the game design’s credit as well – most of the time work out as the player expects.

The first striking thing about Breath of the Wild is its pace in the beginning hours. You wake up, you get your Shieka slate and then you’re sent to the entry of the crypt in which you were sleeping for over 100 years. To leave the crypt, you have to climb and it’s there where the game for the first time introduces a mechanic that we have all seen in other games before but never so well implemented and put to such good use as in Breath of the Wild‘s kingdom of Hyrule. The whole introduction to the player’s toolset takes about 2 hours in which you acquire the Shieka slate‘s different powers, learn how to protect you from environmental hazards and how to use the game’s manifold system’s to ambush enemies and create paths to places formerly unreachable; or you skip all of that. Although the game is never shy to show you how useful certain objects or skills are, it also rarely forces its systems onto the player with the exception of the weather system – but more about that later. This leads to playthroughs in which players travel all the way to the final boss only equipped with sticks and apples. Having beaten the game’s final boss I can’t imagine this to be much fun but I also didn’t complete even 30% of the whole game so maybe the time will come when I have completely mastered this game and am in such a dire need for one last challenge that I will try to save Hyrule with nothing more than my boxershorts and twigs. The game would let me do it and this feels empowering. Not only for a Nintendo game but in general.

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The story seems to be your run-of-the-mill Zelda story at first: rescue the princess, defeat Ganon, defend Hyrule. And while all of this is true, the way it is presented this time adds much more to the mix than what we got in previous Zelda games at least to my knowledge. I don’t want to spoil any major plot points, but if you follow the story as closely as possible, you’ll see that this Zelda‘s story is not only about a boy saving a kingdom. It’s about a group of heroes that trained their whole lifes to defeat the most dangerous menace glooming over their homelands only to fail miserably. It’s a story about self-doubt, hidden love, rivalry between comrades and recrimination. There is a hidden warning of technologic progress for progress’ sake and a hint at sex discrimination. All of that could have been carved out more for an even bigger impact, but it is there for the player to discover as well as the ruins scattered throughout the world telling tales about that day 100 years ago when the heroes failed their mission.

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The gameplay emerges from a complex system of cause and effect. The player can discover a broad range of tools to manipulate wind, use fire, create ice, move iron objects magnetically, cause explosions and even freeze objects and enemies for a short time in which every kinetic energy will be preserved and unleashed as soon as the freeze ends. One can swirl smaller enemies through the air the same way a sailing raft can be forced to move. Use bombs to unveil caverns with treasures or even shrines in it or use them to log trees or even do some dynamite fishing. Lay an ambush by setting dry grass on fire so the wind will led it to circle the enemy group. The game lets you play freely with its systems most of the time but uses one way to remind you that this is still a wild land that can never be tamed completely: through its weather system.

Breath of the Wild‘s weather system needs and deserves its own mention here because it is something that players need to keep in mind when planning their activities. The most brutal way the weather system can rain on one’s parade is if the player plans to do some abitious climbing. Climbing will drain your stamina and once the stamina is used up, Link will faill to the ground like a rock attached to an iron ball. When it’s raining, surfaces will become slippery which will change climbing in two ways: first, more stamina is used for climbing; second, there is a chance of slipping, causing the player to lose some of the distance covered. It can be brutal and will teach you to always keep an eye on the weather forecast when planning to do some extensive climbing. Apart from simple rain, there are also heavy storms with lightning and thunder and those can wreak havoc if one is not careful. You should stay away from trees, ideally get some cover and you should unequip every weapon, bow and shield made from iron if you don’t want your gravestone to tell people you’ve been struck by lightning. On the other hand, a metal weapon thrown into a group of enemies can yield some nice and fast results and I managed to wipe out a camp of enemies more than once by throwing a metal blade towards an explosive barrel at the right time. I could go on and on about mechanics as an enabler of player freedom but I would probably never finish this review. Just know that this game is filled to the brim with options and possibilities to roam the land, fight enemies and discover (NPCs for example follow their own agenda and meeting some of them at the right place at the right time may lead to something unexpected).

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For all the game throws at the player though, it’s also forgiving and supportive. It lets the player pause on all occasions to consume some food for regaining health or stamina and the progress can be saved everywhere (although loading a saved game in a shrine will set you back to the shrine’s entry but your progress will still be saved). There are 120 shrines and beating 4 of them will give you the option to either increase your health or your your stamina. You can also find 900 so called Korok seeds that will enable you to increase your weapon, shield and bow storage. You can find and buy different outfits that provide special perks like letting you swim or climb longer (both activities use up your stamina), increase your attack power or letting you sneak up to enemies faster so you can use the backstab mechanic of the game more often. The game really does a great job to support different play styles and encourage the player to try them out, but it never forces the player to.

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Technically this game is a very nice sendoff for the ill-fated WiiU. But we’re living in a Switch world now and this is also the platform I (and most other) play this game on. The elephant in the room is of course the hardware power that a device like the Switch can provide compared to the PS4 and XBox One. Let’s get it out of the way: this game is neither Rise of the Tomb Raider, nor is it Horizon and it was never going to be. Still, with clever use of a pastel-inspired artstyle and an art direction that focuses on the vastness of Hyrule the game regularly managed to make my jaw drop. Climbing a cliff only for the camera to rise above the cliff’s edge and reveal miles of woods and mountains is just one of the occasions where Breath of Wild made me lose myself completely in the game world. Effects for lightning and fire are also put to great use and the way this game visually supports the underlying ruleset of the game world is top notch. The only issue I had with the game were occasional framedrops in places where you wouldn’t expect them. Since the Switch is supposed to be much more powerful than its predecessor I expected a bit more than just a bump from 720p to 900p in docked mode with slightly better but still not perfect performance. Nintendo already released a first patch that significantly improves performance and since there is DLC coming for Breath of the Wild this will hopefully not be the last performance increase we see for the game. Whenever performance was important to the gameplay however, the game delivered so framedrops never affected my enjoyment of the game.

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Conclusions: 5 (on a -5 to 5 scale). Scoring this game has been the most difficult part of this review. Breath of the Wild is not a perfect game, but no game will ever be. On a -50 to 50 scale, I’d probably rate it 48 but that is not possible on a -5 to 5 scale. Apart from the score, to me this game is a masterpiece of exploration, empowerment and option. I enjoyed all the time I spent with the game so far and I am looking forward to finding more shrines and secrets and I am curious what interesting things Nintendo will do with the DLC. I mentioned that Breath of the Wild is a reflection of Nintendo‘s current transformation, a transformation that hopefully is all but finished. When the credits of a game roll, I usually try to catch the names of people who – in my opinion – did a very good job as well as people who did a very bad job; you could say I try to channel my admiration and aversion during the credits. When the credits of Breath of the Wild rolled, I wanted to shake the hand of each and every member of the development team and bow to them. It truly is one of the best games ever made.

NieR Automata (PC/PS4)

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As a fan of Platinum Games this game was a day-1-purchase for me. Unfortunately the PC version’s got some problems with the AMD RX400 series right now (when using a newer driver) so I can’t play it yet. A shame, because the game seems to be as good as I hoped it would be (at least the devs announced today that they are working on the issues).

Styx: Shards of Darkness

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Seems positively surprising for a smaller title, amazing when considering a budget price. Amazing to see a new IP rise out of left field even with a lower budget.

Carmageddon on Android/Amazon Fire

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To my surprise i found this game on Android not just for free, but better from my perspective than the ps4 version I bought or the Steam version I prebought to encourage development. I’m surprised how much I played it as I normally only play on ps4 in recent years, and also don’t get it how it can be completely free and of such high quality. Also amazed how today a cheap cellphone can be more powerful than my old homebase big Pentium 200Mhz + video card, and in fact it’s even a bit too powerful at times as the game actually felt too crisp at times (except the wheels which are still not round enough for such a foreground element). I’m still impressed with how many years ahead of it’s time this game was in terms of level and game design, with pretty much huge open world game, encouraging exploration, the “race” itself being <30% of huge and interesting maps I just want to explore even again and the points and generosity of maps gives a freedom of choice that’s uncommon even in 2017 in terms of where you want to play (for example i generally prefer the sunny/beach maps). Also great balance in that the race is just long/short enough that you have a reasonable chance of enjoying the chaos of tha AI drivers and have a chance of getting them. Tried it on different sized phone/tablets, thinking i’d prefer a bigger one, or at least the intermediary sized Fire one (I was surprised it was on that shop too, not free there, but still), but in the end enjoying it on my phone-turned-tablet 5″ size (i think). I particularly admire how well they translated keyboard input into touchscreen input. As in the old day the physics continues to be a lot of fun. Oh, and did I mention the level design is fun-tastic? So much variety and invitation to explore, you almost feel happy when an opponent crashes you off the street into an unexplored area.

Impressed overall, I hope to finish it.

 

PS: loving the music! It’s very old school, I felt vibes of Prodigy back in the “Fat of the Land” 1997 age with a metal tendency. Some really surprising and enjoyably energetic sound moods.

Artsygamer top 5 games of 2016

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A little late, but thought I’d post my top 5 games of 2016. It was a tough fight but the winners to me are:

1) Dying Light: The Following

2) Dishonored 2

3) Far Cry Primal

4) Dark Souls 3

5) Witcher 3 tied with Hitman

Obviously the choices are subjective though as to my reasons their respective reviews/impressions hopefully explain at least partly my choices. As an honourable mention I’d put in Layers of Fear, a game on a much lower budget but that still managed to impress.

Please leave your top 5 in the comments and I’ll edit-it in here in the post. (games of 2016 as in when you played them, even if they’re older)

————————— Firefish

1) Dark Souls 3
2) Dishonored 2 tie with Dying Light: The Following
3) Far Cry Primal
4) Uncharted 4
5) Hitman

————————— Jaco

1) Uncharted 4
2) Dark Souls 3
3) The Witcher 3
4) Ori and the blind forest
5) Inside

————————— P3tty

1) ARK Survival Evolved
2) Broforce
3) Firewatch
4) Sniper Elite V2
5) Dishonored

————————— Michi

1) Sherlock Holmes – The Devil’s Daughter
2) Uncharted 4
3) Shadows of Mordor
4) Dishonored
5) Tales of Monkey Island

————————— 47crows

1) Halo 2 for PC
2) Life is Strange
3) Hitman – Blood Money
4) Terraria
5) Brutal DOOM

————————— Bossti

1) DOOM
2) The Last Guardian
3) Mafia 3
4) Overwatch
5) Inside

————————— Player347

1) Teeworlds – timeless online 2D shooter, highly addictive
2) The Last Guardian
3) Waking Mars
4) FOTONICA – 1 button game, loads of fun
5) Shelter 2 – open world animal survival, mother lynx hunts and feeds baby lynxes

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.

Hitman – Season 1 – quick impressions

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+, +, +, + Great variety of locations, with a couple being really great but a few mediocre and one and a bit actually frustrating <cough> Colorado <cough>

+,+, –  felt like a return to old form, particularly in the direction Hitman: Blood Money, which I liked, however the mechanics and number of options did not feel like they got enough improvements for the many years passed

+ the story was pretty interesting with implications, though not a lot of it

+, +, +, + a huge amount of dialogues and events making it feel like quite alive places

+, +, + the general writing of the ingame stories was very good

– the menus were somewhat confusing, a mixture of the unit structure of each episode maybe? For a long time i couldn’t figure out where to load when starting up

-, -, -, – i really disliked their push for “online”, i suspect that’s also what makes the loading/saving so slow and the menus so unresponsive, in general I resented the tendency to take freedom from the customer and give themselves more power through this.

– sometimes too hard due to crowds. This revealing problems in lacking skills for creating diversions and other quirks (is it so hard to carry extra coins?)

Each episode had it’s own little particularities so here’s some separate thoughts for them:

– 1) Intro : mediocre, interesting idea with the test but boring location

+, +, +, + 2) Sapienza great surprisingly living little town, great variety of locations, probably my favorite. If you’re gonna get just one episode I’d recommend this one

+, + 3) Marrakesh Interesting political insights and interesting location.

+, + 4) Bangkok Beautiful location, too bad it felt so constrained and small and some of the most beautiful places like that beach couldn’t be visited

-, – 5) Colorado, to me mostly uninteresting visually, inviting to fighting in a game not suited for it, involved a lot of frustrating save&loading which discourages experimentation

+, –  6) Hokkaido  the idea is interesting but the many locked doors create a narrow corridor constrained feeling.

Overall I’d give it a 2 on a -5 to 5 scale. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next one, but because the locations and experiences were so uneven I’d only get the next episodes when the whole season is out/on a sale because as much as I liked some locations others were not so great and would leave a bad taste for me to wait another couple of months to was hit.

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!

Hitman Season 1

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I was impressed with the passion of this review. I’ve avoided it so far because of the online and challenge components getting me skeptical… but after this review it’s totally on my radar.

Mad Max – impressions

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No, not the movie, the game, confusingly carrying the same title though being quite different.

+, +, + amazing visuals through a beautiful graphics engine, beautiful artistic sunsets and the dunes, looking at times spectacular

-, – infantile often downright stupid story with not credible world, and adolescent namings. I wanted to believe in the world, and I could’ve totally seen made it at least half credible in a Fallout kind of sense but it seems just down right silly

+, +, +, + amazing level design, by that I mean many camps and locations which although reusing assets are each lovingly designed in a way that invites exploration and discovery, each having it’s own specific character.

+, – passable but “meh” music

-, – the occasional frustrating “boss fight” locking you in and not allowing for open world solutions or alternatives

+ decent progression and leveling

+, + some genuinely interesting and memorable locations

Overall I’d simply say the world looks great and the level layout with a beautiful engine but destroyed by a worse than mediocre story. I’d give it a 1 on a -5 to 5 scale: worth playing for the world and discovery but showing many other problems. Still i think it’s a game worth mentioning because i suspect behind the unidimensional almost caricatural world is a team of people who put a lot of love into the game and it shows.

 

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!

Battlefield 4 – impressions

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As usual, my thoughts are just for the singleplayer as I don’t care much for the multiplayer (might try it out at some point for 30 minutes, but not what I bought it for). So, here’s my thoughts:

+ decent music

+, -, – Really big open spaces. This is beautiful at times, but most of the times it feels “a little empty”.

– sometimes it lacks direction, easy to get lost in what you’re supposed to do next. At one point I spent many minutes (even in high story tension) trying to figure out what arbitrary thing I’m supposed to do next.

+, +, + some quite fantastic setpiece moments

+, +, +, + great variety of environments

– otherwise feeling a bit generic

+ a bit of a between soldier story

-, -, – I already mentioned how the world feels pretty empty and uninteresting (or rather overstretched), this is reinforced by lots of time spent in lock counter fire, easy to die, you’re forced to advance very slowly.

+ I guess with the right frame of mind (but I only managed to get it sometimes) you can enjoy the realism of slowly advancing

Overall I found it a generic AAA war fps, goes through the expected steps, in a kind of formula, with art assets that are passable but not incredibly memorable Still, decent enough to play and finish it which says something, so I’d give it a 1 on a -5 to 5 scale. The artwork may not be great/incredibly original but it’s consistently good and with some setpiece moments and great engine it sometimes even made me go “wow”, and the other times it was interesting to see all the military equipment which I’m assuming was research based on the real world.

 

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