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

Sunday, March 29, 2020

DETROIT BECOME HUMAN (PS4)


The year I spent working in Paris was in Quantic Dream, and the project Detroit become human. It was a weird experience because of the company – and particularly its owner, David Cage – idiosyncrasies, so I tried to stay away from the game once it was released to avoid bad memories. Some time ago Playstation Plus gave it away for free, and recently I felt enough emotional distance with that period as to play it objectively

Overall I liked it. After all, that was the main reason why I accepted the job, I like QD´s games. You could say it´s Heavy Rain with a more interesting setting: A futuristic Detroit, reborn from the ashes as the manufacturing capital of intelligent androids for the world markets. On the bright side the characters and story are interesting and keep you engaged until the end. The art direction is adequate – scifi but not too much as to not relate to today´s world – and the UI/AR is elegant. It all piles up to a good combination

On the minus side, gameplay wise is more of the same, compared to previous QD games: Over-abundance of QTEs and environment interactions; Branched stories rich in sad moments/decisions (don´t expect any comedy) that keep you in a constant melancholic mood since no matter what you choose, it always makes you feel a bit miserable; and a certain feeling the more you approach the end that the game loses a bit its focus and delivers sub-optimal closures, likely due to lack of time and too many potential outcomes

All in all I can recommend it if you like interactive storytelling. The setting might be among the best the company has created, and if you buy the gameplay proposal you can find it time well spent, and maybe even enriching

Monday, February 3, 2020

BLACKSAD UNDER THE SKIN (PS4)



Blacksad is a series of noir comic books I´m fond of, by Spanish creators Guarnido and Canales. Pendulo Studios is a small Madrid studio specialized in graphic adventures for the last 20 years. Seemed like a good fit for them both to work on the videogame adaptation and I was very interested in seeing how it´d turn out. Could have been the break-through opportunity for Pendulo to get access to bigger markets and become the Spanish Telltale

They won´t, I´m afraid. At least, based on the PS4 version I played. The game was plagued by critical bugs that made it simply unplayable. A couple of weeks after the release a patch fixed some of the issues, but not all. I still had to go through some crashes, barely functioning puzzles and frequent visual glitches. On top of that, there is a number of design decisions I found at least questionable, some of them – collectibles, I´m looking at you – actually detracted from the overall experience

I won´t recommend to buy it, but I have to admit once you lower your standards in terms of stability, I got very involved in the plot and really enjoyed it. Visuals are a little less than adequate but mostly work, and the controls and game mechanics – similar to other storytelling titles – do the trick to let you move forward through the story, which does have some interesting twists and branches. I might even play again in a future (maybe it´ll be patched further?) to have a look at some options I discarded

I could also use some help from internet walkthroughs to complete some trophies, but couldn´t find any available. I fear the game has had so little impact no living soul wants to share their exploits. Can´t blame them, you need to put a lot from your part to make the experience work