Thursday, November 19, 2020

UNDERTALE (PS4)

 


One of the most prominent recent “indie darlings”, Undertale was praised as a contender for the GotY award back in 2016. Based on the videos I watched I wasn´t that hot for it so I passed. Thanks to Steam sales I got a PC copy and played a couple of hours, but again not super fan

Recently it was put on sale again but on PS4. I have a tendency to favor console versions because I am an achievement hunter, and somehow suspect they´ll be more permanent if obtained in a console. Just finished it and… well, my opinion certainly improved, but I´m still not convinced the game is that historical cornerstone as it was sold to me back in the day

Overall it´s a great indie game. You expect them to be risk-taking, unconventional and rule-breakers, and Undertale certainly is (but not a lot, I´d say). The fresher aspect of it is the possibility of finishing the game either by killing all enemies or sparing them. I wasn´t aware when I started that the ending would be so vastly different depending on that choice (being the “pacifist” run way more complete in terms of content) so I just killed my way through the game… to find out a slightly bitter end. The game mechanics are simple but imaginative - and you cannot expect much more from just one developer. The story has some interesting characters and the level design offers more variety than you can expect, wisely taking premises to a quick end instead of cloning ideas for the sake of cheap content. There is also a lot of unexpected details that shows caring for the project and the will to always surprise the user. You definitively feel the creators really wanted to go the extra mile to keep your jaws open

On the other side – and we might be entering subjective territory here – I didn´t feel engaged by the setting (a monster-ruled dungeon. Wow, never heard of that), the story is not that hilarious as the creator probably thinks it is, the monster roster is too hectic to have logic for my taste, and not a huge fan of the old Final Fantasy “Stop and fight, you just got attacked by an invisible pack of enemies” approach

Anyway, I strongly recommend the game especially if you´re looking beyond the mainstream experiences that most AAA games offer. It has its own flavor, charm and does try to do something different. Few devs do these days. Respect

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

GRAND THEFT AUTO 4 (PS4)

 


I briefly played GTA4 when released (2008) and it didn´t impress me. I always felt it was one of the weakest games on that IP. At some point I got a PS4 copy and left it rotten in the shelf for years. Just recently I felt my gta levels in blood being too low, and gave it a try. Guess what? I still think it´s the weakest I´ve played, but still enjoyable

I have to give that to Rockstar: Driving around the city feels hypnotic, you just focus on the traffic and let it flow. And it is indeed a more detailed world than the previous installments. Generally speaking it just works: You have your "good at heart who does horrifying things because of reasons" guy, there is plenty of content, the usual array of semi-comical characters and a fair amount of freedom to do as you please to whoever you choose

However, I miss something memorable. A unique selling point, if you will. There is nothing wrong in the game, it´s just that all novelties are meh. Sure, there are more graphic details in the city, and some standard multiplayer options... but that doesn´t feel a big jump for the IP. GTA5 for example allowed to play 3 characters at will, and a MP mode that felt unique

And the NPC friends, oh my god, so annoying! They constantly ask you for dates in the most inconvenient times. I kinda felt sorry for them, always rejected. And the mobile phone UI was less than efficient to understand the options you had, and how to trigger them

Some more: The radio stations seem to be based on B-side songs. The story and in-game economy are - commonly in the IP - absolutely not in sync: Your character commits all kind of crimes in the name of money, when your wallet is obscenely full. The story had some interesting moments but overall it wasn´t as satirical/funny as previous games 

But I did finish the game. Once you get into the rhythm you wanna see what´s next. I won´t try to get the platinum (as I did for GTA5) but I´ll try to complete the reasonably-accessible trophies. It´s not 5-stars shit, but sometimes 2 stars will do

Sunday, August 16, 2020

ASSASSIN'S CREED REVELATIONS (PS3)


 After 6 years, I finally completed the game

Why did it take me so long to finish it? Good question. First of all, there is nothing wrong with it. It´s a very decent AC game, with its strengths/weaknesses. I think the issue is what I call “gameplay fatigue”. I´ll explain:

Most games nowadays are somehow forced to have 15-20 hours of content. However creating new challenges is costly, hence most projects – particularly open worlds – create gameplay templates which are copy-pasted into each region of the game space

To be fair, they commonly add small twists to the cloned content: A new enemy type, a new fortress layout, different enemy combinations… but at the end of the day you can identify the patterns and they end up feeling less and less unique. This leads into a certain boredom that makes you feel unexcited to play more

This has happened to me in several games after 5-6 hours of playing. There is a point where you start thinking it´s all same old same old, and wonder if you shouldn´t try that other game in the library. In AC Revelations I played around 60% of the campaign until I became disinterested, and abandoned it for years

Thanks to the PS3 hard drive´s ridiculously small capacity, I had to delete all I could, plus finish any ongoing game before I could consider installing any new one, which eventually gave me the gentle push to complete it. I even went for a bunch of small trophies just so I could truly say “I´ve done all I wanted to do in this game”

Aside from this, like I said the game is very decent and if you like ACs you should enjoy it. It is the end of the “Ezio Auditore” trilogy, and it might be a good compilation of all that is good and bad of the IP up to that point:

On the plus side it´s a new and interesting location (Istanbul) and the team successfully built on top of previous titles to add new options, and discard those that didn´t completely worked out. There is a fair amount of variety of things to do (at least initially) and it does feel like a quality product in all its aspects

On the minus side, I felt the controls painful (high/low profiles never worked for me, plus mapping item selections on the trigger makes it to open unwillingly all the time). It features too many options for the player in my opinion (you end up not using many of them). And as usual in AC the story is just meh, good enough as a skeleton for gameplay but not as much as to make you really feel excited about what´s coming next

Anyway, I can´t help to think I would have enjoyed it way more if it would have been only 6 hours long, but that´s how games are made these days. Maybe that will change in the upcoming next gen?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

TITANFALL 2 (PS4)


I wasn´t excited enough to buy Titanfall 2 when it was released, and I think I was right to. But when given out for free in Playstation plus, I thought it was time to give it a try

Overall it´s a good game, done by an experienced team. A satisfying shooter, you clearly see that team had done others before (most team members used to be at Infinity Ward when the CoD modern warfares were done). It also has a fairly good level design, and a couple of relatively fresh unique selling points (mechs and parkour). I particularly liked the collectibles design - visible from the main path but you need to solve a little environmental puzzle to get them

On the minus side it´s not memorable. There is nothing absolutely new about it. If you are a hardcore shooter gamer you should like it. Otherwise if you only have time for “revolutionary” games (as opposed to “evolutionary”) you´ll probably experience it as falling a bit short. I actually stopped playing 2 years ago, and only thanks to the pandemic lockdown managed to finish it

Still, it´s a very competent shooter and easy to enjoy - particularly for that genre´s lovers

Sunday, June 14, 2020

THE HEX (PC)


I currently use Steam mostly for indie games. Quite often you won´t find them in any other platform. I believe The Hex is one of them. I knew about it from a long time, but the game premise wasn´t totally enticing to me: A group of videogame characters had to solve a mysterious murder. Still, I kept it on the wishlist hoping to give it a chance it the price dropped substantially

And it did. Then I discovered the game was way more than its marketing. The Hex is basically a metagame: A game about games. The murder is a mere excuse to put together 6 different mini-games, all tied up by a fictional game developer who went through different troubles while making all those games, the feedback he got on each case (often displayed on-screen as game elements) and how that affected the lives of the main characters

A bit confusing, isn´t it? Yes, that might be the case. Sometimes it´s a bit like those pretentious "auteur" 70s movies with references within references. Kinda like a videogame adaptation of "Six characters in search of an author". Still you won´t see many games - or entertainment products in general - willing to go that route, and for the most part makes you think about what it means to create games, how you relate to the character you control, and the creator of the game in general

Each of the mini-games are not great individually. Graphically speaking is ugly, and it´s clear they didn´t have a great budget for animation / art. But the main proposal works very well, and you can get a good 10 hours of varied gameplay that makes you think a little. You can´t ask for more

Saturday, June 6, 2020

HORIZON ZERO DAWN (PS4)


For a while Horizon was in my "to-do" list, but I had a good bunch of unfinished open world games in process. I eventually found a gap to give a try, and my intention was to play 4-5h to get a sense of what the game was about... and I ended up getting the platinum trophy

I remember reading about the story setting, and feeling skeptical about it: Robots vs cavemen? How are they going to pull that off? After a couple hours of playtime, the story was enticing and mysterious enough to keep me engaged as to decide to keep playing, and see where that´d take me. Admittedly, there was a huge section in the second act - the one about tribal frictions and lore - that made me question if it was worth it. But focusing on the main story, and thanks to the low difficulty of most secondary challenges, I found it satisfying to play, and kept moving forward

The game is not perfect, though. To start with, it succeeds and fails in the same areas than other similar open worlds: The main character falls constantly into what I call "the good samaritan syndrome" (you go around the world helping people you don´t know and don´t care for, often doing menial tasks for them that make no sense for an epic world-savior), there are many "template-based" gameplay elements copy-pasted across all regions, and traversing can be often frustrating. On top of that, the visual design of most characters is too Tenerife carnival queen to my taste. The UI is functional, but a bit too crude in my opinion. Some 2D artists could spend some time to spike up its appeal

On the other hand, for a company who´d been known for linear shooters the change of genre is always a big challenge, and they completely succeeded at it. The game has an innovative unique selling point (Beast-like robots), a good combat system taking advantage of the specifics of those enemies, and a good story that keeps enough hidden elements as to keep you interested until the end. And as I said, the game difficulty is not layered like many other games nowadays (meaning you have different challenges, each more daunting that the previous, to please all sorts of players, from casuals to hardcores) and seems to be happy to offer easy content just to keep you playing

Overall a good game, great way to start a new IP and if they can build upon this foundation we can have a great franchise for many years. Good work, Guerrilla

Monday, April 13, 2020

THE DIVISION 2: WARLORDS OF NEW YORK (PS4)


Last week I finished Warlords of New York (WONY), the last project I worked on. Technically it´s an expansion, but you could also call it a small new division game due to the relatively new setting (at least compared to TCTD2) and the scope

One of the main goals of the game is to resonate on players who enjoyed the first game. It´s not just the scenario (actually it´s kinda different, since TCTD was based on a snowed NY, while WONY takes place on a humid Summer. If you know about game development, that means most graphic assets are completely new!) but also characters and plot are follow-ups from the original title. But there is more. As said in Pulp Fiction, “it´s the little things”: You might not notice it, but we also brought back head models from the first game, so players can have the same visual customization if they please

There is a number of gameplay novelties as well, not only new skills but also how you acquire them and the whole progression system. On top of that, we believe the community would be interested in story-based content. Most of the patches we´ve done in the past are new game modes and rewards, but making the plot advance is something we have done in small bits so far, let´s see how people reacts to a big story jump

All things considered, this (above) is why I refer to WONY as a small new division game. It´s certainly more than just an expansion. I still have 3-4 trophies to obtain, see you around Wall Street :D