Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How '80s culture trickled down into the design of Crossing Souls


In case you missed it, here is an interesting interview in Gamasutra with the developers of Crossing Souls, an Spanish indie game I reviewed some time ago

If you like the mood of 80s teenage movies is a must ;)

Click here for the Gamasutra article, which includes the video

Friday, July 27, 2018

XCOM 2 (PS4)


Not always, but some months my Playstation Plus subscription has an interesting game for free. This time it was Xcom 2. I played the first one on PC, and I thought "let´s see how it feels on a pad"

In short, it does feel good. Turn-based games often work fine in consoles. Aside from that I don´t remember 100% the previous game but I think both are consistent in the good... and the bad things

On the bright side, the combat system works really well, much like in the previous title. The upgrades and technology research options usually enhance it, offering more abilities and supporting different playstyles. New enemies, new combat behaviors... generally speaking it works like a charm. I think the "conceal" system is new, which is a good addition since you can decide when to start the fight. Visually speaking I believe it has been a big step up (but tbh I don´t have a good eye for graphics)

On the dark side, I suffered the same problem I had with Xcom 1: The golden path is extremely narrow, so much that if you make a minor mistake at the beginning of the game (i.e. lose 1-2 soldiers) you can be blocked hours later and it´d be extremely difficult to  be back to a situation with a chance for victory. You have to rely on save/load A LOT. Likely the top game in the market in this aspect. And loading a saved game can take up to 2 min...

Aside from this, I noticed extreme framerate drops too often, I believe mostly associated to loading the map (really? they aren´t so detailed!) and too many simultaneous particle effects. They were so obvious that made me question the ability of their programming team

Anyway, I certainly recommend it for strategy, turn-based aficionados. Particularly if you´re a bit hardcore you can easily fall in love with this game

Sunday, June 24, 2018

SUBSURFACE CIRCULAR (PC)


Thanks to one of the frequent Steam sales and my wishlist, I gave a chance to Subsurface circular. I´ve heard it was short and very narrative driven. It didn´t disappoint

To be honest, it felt a bit like an over-developed Twine game: All about dialogues and decision branches, you can´t lose in any way and it´s indeed short. Since I´m generally interested in the genre, I thought I´d enjoy it more. Since it delivers what it was promised I cannot say it´s bad in any sense, but there weren´t any novelties in the proposal. Being indie is a bit to take chances, but I didn´t feel SSC took any. It is polished, graphically modest but well finished and plays nice. But the story wasn´t particularly compelling, being so text-based makes it a little tiresome and doesn´t offer much replayability

Still, I´m a believer in short experiences (i.e. 3-4 hours) that cost accordingly. In that sense, SSC is to be praised. And if you do like storytelling experiences you probably won´t be disappointed

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

KILLZONE 3 (PS3)



Frankly I don´t remember how I got Killzone 3. It wasn´t a game I was particularly excited to play not even when it was released. Either someone sold it to me almost for nothing, or was left as "first come first serve" at the company kitchen. Anyhow it´s been waiting at my "Games to play" shelf for months if not years

Some weeks ago - after A LOT of time spent on open world games - I developed a need for some linear experience, so I gave it a try. I´m also trying to finish old games (i.e. PS3) before they become unsupported, servers closed and such. So I said "why not?"

Overall is a solid shooter, but there isn´t anything remarkable on it. The story is fine but can´t help to think the writers had to "revive" the baddies for the sake of milking the franchise cow (didn´t I finish with the Helghast in the second game already?), weapons are satifying to use and AI behaviours and scripting (both enemy and friendly) are adecuate. The scenarios are mostly ok - I presume they reused city assets from the previous game - and even they take you to some new locations for no good reason other than visual variety (which is not bad, though)

There is simply nothing bad on the game, if you like shooters you´ll likely enjoy it. But I struggled to find anything I could find memorable other than some cutscenes and a couple boss fights. In short, a nice experience but a bit of "was it really needed?" feeling. Since they made Killzone Shadow fall afterwards, I presume they made some good bucks out of it, so nothing to complain. Good business is good business

By the way, just when I had finished the campaign I tried to play MP and found out the servers were closed 2 months ago. Yay

Sunday, May 20, 2018

TACHYON PROJECT (XBOX ONE)





I don´t recall having played many dual stick shooters in my gaming life. Maybe a bit of Geometry Wars years ago. Thing is a friend and former workmate has a small indie studio called Eclipse Games, and he released some time ago Tachyon Project, his own interpretation on this genre

In short, it´s very similar to Geometry Wars but with an extra RPG layer - You can choose between different weapons, and some powerups. It´s a dual stick shooter that plays well, the balance is adecuate and it´s definitively enjoyable. To add an extra twist there is a short story and some replayability options. After finishing the campaign, I even spent some time grinding achievements, they´re reasonably easy to obtain

The price is cheap, it´s fun and you´d be helping a small studio. If you´re interested in the genre I personally recommend it

Sunday, May 13, 2018

MAD MAX (PS4)


Thanks to my PSplus subscription I got Mad Max for free. When it was released I was moderately interested in the game since it´s based on a movie IP I mostly enjoyed, but not so much as to buy it. But if it doesn´t cost a penny then what the hell

The game enjoyed good reviews but not superb. It was criticized for being repetitive, but it does have enough gameplay findings to make it enjoyable. I think both points are accurate:

On the plus side, I appreciated how the world and gameplay fit the IP core elements. You do feel into the Mad Max world, and even though the character model is a bit generic you feel like playing the leading role of one of the movies

Car fights are fairly good implemented, and some of them are challenging. The game characters are also very consistent with the IP: Post-apocalyptic punk enemies, crazy visionaries, desperates of all sorts, lone survivors, helpless kids, people who lost everything and expect very little from life... The story itself is not particularly punchy, it´s just a kick prior to let you free-roaming, not unlike most other open world games

And to be honest, the game is a completionist paradise. There are all sort of collectibles and you´re properly informed where to find them and when you have completed a location. It is much appreciated and probably the reason I decided to finish the game

On the minus side well, it can be indeed repetitive mostly on optional goals. Main missions have some variety or enough eye-candy scripted events to make them stand out. But anything else (camps, scavenging, races, etc) feels like a copy-pasted template dragged around all game areas to fill up content as cheap as possible

The combat system is a decent clone of the Batman´s series melee fights, and thanks to not being over-used it does serve its purpose better than it did in Ryse (works better when it´s supposed to fill up 30-40% of the total gameplay time, but if you try to stretch it longer than that it starts to feel repetitive). Still I´m not too hot about combat because:

  • It didn´t feel completely responsive, some UI prompts were actually not usable until animations had finished
  • The camera often left enemies outside from my view
  • The “Fury” subsystem – a damage buff you get after doing certain combat actions – often triggers too late in the fight, and not because of the player´s direct decision
  • After you´ve obtained all upgrades, combat prowess is irrelevant since you don´t get any more rewards. I don´t think the progression design had the end-game in mind-        
I can´t be sure about it but I suspect the game loops were originally conceived to be more punishing but the final balance lowered the difficulty: The game does contain one of the distinctive elements of the IP - Food/Water/Gasoline are scarced – and the player is supposed to manage them. However in the shipped gameplay you practically don´t have to worry about them at all. I think the designer who conceived them was left heart-broken to favor a more “casual” approach

I can´t help to think the game world could have had some more visual variety. Don´t get me wrong, the wastelands look awesome and very detailed… but after 100 hours of playtime you get bored of the same dune/rocky mountain stravaganza. I know, the movies don´t go much beyond that, but I think they should have pushed the boundaries a bit more with abandoned cities, huge scrapyards, etc


Other than that, the game plays well, it´s fairly enjoyable and if you like open worlds or the Mad Max series you should consider it. And if you like both then it´s a must

Sunday, May 6, 2018

NINTENDO´S CREATIVE PROCESS

An interesting article over the commonly unknown creative process in Nintendo (click here):

“The thinking that guides us is: what can we do to pleasantly surprise players? It’s not that we’re consciously trying to innovate; we’re trying to find ways to make people happy. The result is that we come up with things other people have not done”