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

Sunday, November 3, 2019

WHAT VIDEOGAMES ARE FOR THOSE WHO DON´T PLAY THEM



An interesting - and not too long - youtube documentary (click here) about the non-written rules of videogame design, and how untrained people will perceive them. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

LEISURE SUIT LARRY - WET DREAMS DON´T DRY (PS4)


There was a transition time in the late 80s when home computers (mine was an MSX) were replaced gradually by PCs. There weren´t so many games available, one of them being Leisure suit Larry in the land of the lounge lizards, an erotic-themed graphic adventure. I was in high school at the time, and this combination of hormones and games shortage made it immensely popular for my friends and me

Since then, the Larry series has managed to keep going. With ups and downs, different platforms and slight IP changes, but generally speaking keeping the essence: Larry is an aspiring womanizer who generally fails miserably at his attempts to hook up with all women he can find. Frat house humor and graphic adventure systems complete the cocktail

Talking about old games with my friends, I found out a new Larry game had just been released. I was taken by nostalgia, and purchased it on PS4. Looks like it´s now being developed by a German team who´s betting on a classic point-and-click approach. Overall it works, the tone is consistent with the IP and if you like graphic adventures you´ll enjoy it

On the plus side… well, I wouldn´t recommend the game to anyone who´s not into the character and juvenile humor. But if you are, it´s funny and there is even some mild criticism of the current society and social media you can find refreshing. There are a couple of nice twists when you replay a small section of the first game – with 1987 visuals - or an verbal confrontation with Donald Trump (I would have moved both earlier in the game, for bigger impact)

On the minus side I had real problems navigating the UI menus, some of them felt broken to me. Otherwise it has the same issues than any other graphic adventure: Likeness of getting stuck, weird item combinations, users resorting to talk to NPCs until they repeat themselves… Also it might be just me but I didn´t like the “Flash” visual style, it felt a bit cheap to me

I admit that – to avoid frustration – I decided to cheat and played using a walkthrough: The platinum trophy seemed achievable and I knew it was unlikely I would ever play the game again. In order to not miss anything I simply read an online guide and try things only when I knew I could not miss anything. I kinda like it, tbh, it saves a lot of the “I don´t know what the fuck to do” that is inherent to this genre

Sunday, July 28, 2019

THE DIVISION 2 (PS4)


Being TCTD2 a live game is not easy to decide when you´ve truly “finished” it but it´s a tacit understanding you can claim that when you´ve completed the story campaign

Anyway, although I did complete it some time ago, I´ve been trying to get some of the low-hanging trophies and follow-up on the end-game activities. There are plenty of them, actually, since it was a conscious decision to make the game particularly rich in that sense. I´m still on it

TCTD2 is kinda unique game for 2 reasons: First it´s a semi-MMO, adapted to consoles. Second is one of the first games in Ubisoft conceived as a mid-term GaaS: You do pay for the box, but there is a myriad of new content afterwards, plus updates and fixes across several years of post-launch

As such, sometimes you feel in uncharted territory when working here, since we need to come up with standards that don´t exist in the company (maybe in the industry?). Naturally, adaptation and flexibility becomes a must, which brings its own challenges

Reputed to be one of the best “looter shooters” in the market, if you like the genre and/or Tom Clancy´s political fiction you should give it a try

Sunday, June 30, 2019

FRAMED 2 (iOS)


Framed 2 is as good as the first game, for better and worse. That means the concept of rearranging comic frames still feels fresh and engaging, but there aren't many novelties to claim this to be enough development for a sequel. Since it's also around 2-3 hours long, it feels more an extension pack rather than a stand-alone game

Ok, that sounds a bit worse than it should. Make no mistake, it's a good game and more addictive than you might think. And being short is not a problem for me, I'd rather pay for an intense experience that keeps me engaged over an artificially stretched game that repeats itself. Framed 2 does have some little iterations over the original concept such as (if I remember correctly) managing 2 characters simultaneously and the collectibles. But again they fall short to make you perceive the game as more than an extension

Visually speaking it has a firm and unique art direction, and I personally find the asian noir a nice twist that adds value to the overall product. But I can´t forget it crashed 3 times just before I was about to complete a scene successfully. Mi iPad is old, but still if l can purchase it, it should run smoothly

In summary, if you liked the first game you should try this one. If you didn't don't bother. If you didn't try it start with the first ;)