GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplay (PS4) - 24 Jun 2024 - by dkirschner immediately reminded me of Sunless Sea, but it's simpler and friendlier. You are a fisherman who finds himself in a Lovecraftian sea, taking up the job of an angler at a local village. Not all is what it seems: at night, the fog rolls in an strange, terrifying creatures roam the water. Soon, an enigmatic figure calling himself The Collector sets you on your main quest, to find five sunken artifacts. There are, conveniently, five island areas on the map, so off you go from one to the other, fishing, upgrading your boat, and finding sunken things. What I liked the most about Dredge was how it sucked me in to its simple gameplay loop. You go out, fish, return to town, sell fish. Use money to upgrade your ship, go out farther, fish, return to town, sell fish. Repeat. To fish successfully, you need specific rods for specific types of biomes (shallow, volcanic, abyssal, etc.), and faster engines to go farther. So, you can't explore unless you upgrade things. There are also messages in bottles, which you need to find to understand the story, special mutated fish (worth more money!), ship parts, treasure, and other things to find. You've always got a couple things you're looking for, always discovering new fish (I discovered about 50% of the total number, so there is WAY more out there!), or dredging up something useful. There is also the underlying dread that keeps you moving. You generally only want to be out during the day; at night, things get dangerous. The dread made me cautious, but caution worked, in that I may not have experienced some of the more unnerving things in the game. That is, apparently if you don't sleep at night, you'll start seeing things and more weird phenomena will happen. But I almost always slept, and definitely never went two nights with no sleep, no nothing got too nightmarish. I wonder how nightmarish it gets? The game itself is easy, with just the right amount of aforementioned dread, which helped lull me into its gameplay loop. You'll run into some rocks, see and hear other ghostly ships at night, and at the last island be harassed by swarming fish, but you probably won't die. I died one time from taking too much hull damage, and it just reloaded my last autosave from a couple minutes earlier. The story is compelling and, along with the constant upgrading, kept me interested in moving forward from quest to quest, island to island. Each island has one main character on it, whose issue you have to resolve, whether it's finding their dead crewmates or reconciling a conflict between two brothers, before you can get to the main quest's artifact. I actually explored every single island on the map, sailed around looking for new characters, docks, shipwrecks, and other points of interest. There are some secrets scattered around, some shrines wherein you must place specific types of fish (I solved one and got an awesome crab trap), and some mysterious black rocks that never did anything for me and I have no idea what they were for. Finally, I would also add that this is (weirdly?) an inventory management game. Since you're out fishing and collecting things, you will run out of storage space. All the objects are like Tetris pieces: you can rotate them and pack your hull just so. This was more satisfying than I thought, as in a typical game where I have to manage inventory space--say an open-world RPG--, I get frustrated. Making the inventory basically like a Tetris mini-game was a good call! It also helps that you're never far from somewhere to sell things. Your trips out to sea are always quick, so if you fill up, no problem. There's no penalty for going back and unloading, and it just takes a minute (plus, you'll get to sleep, and I was usually able to time my trips during the day). Definitely enjoyed this one! There is plenty more to do if you want to collect all the fish, fully upgrade your ship, complete all the side quests. It's engrossing and tells a good story. dkirschnerMon, 24 Jun 2024 07:28:58 UTC of Tsushima (PS4) - 24 Jun 2024 - by dkirschner went into this with almost zero knowledge of what it was. Within 10 minutes, after opening the map for the first time, I was thinking, “Oh no, I do not want to play another Assassin’s Creed game right now.” I played Odyssey a year-and-a-half ago and am haunted by question marks on a map and a ridiculously long (nearly 100 hours!) main-plus playtime. Ghost of Tsushima absolutely has Assassin’s Creed / Witcher 3 DNA, but it also innovates in some interesting areas. After finishing Odyssey, I wished for a “mere” 40-hour Assassin’s Creed game. Well, Ghost of Tsushima was basically that, but I realize that it’s not just the length of Odyssey that I disliked, but that the open-world formula is stale, even when it’s set in as beautiful a place as Tsushima. So, I’ll talk first about the game’s biggest success. Sucker Punch created a cohesive feel to this game. Everything about it flows like the wind. When you are standing on a hill, looking out over a field of trees and brightly colored flowers, and the wind whips at your back, and you feel calm and peaceful and meditative, that feeling permeates the entire experience. The wind, the wind! How many games have tried to do something different in place of a traditional minimap with quest markers? I can think of none better than Ghost of Tsushima. The wind guides you to your destination, whatever you have set as a waypoint on your map. Flick the touchpad up and the breeze blows, indicating the direction toward your goal. I only looked at the map to set waypoints and to fast travel; otherwise, the wind immersed me in the journey. Speaking of fast travel, it’s somewhat counterintuitive that they immediately let you fast travel through one of the most beautiful open worlds I’ve ever seen. Most games, for progression reasons, but also (I always imagine) to force you to look at the environment they’ve created, restrict your movement and fast travel until you earn it. Ghost of Tsushima says nope, everything about this game is going to flow, so players are immediately going to get a horse, be able to move as fast as they ever will be, and will be able to fast travel to any location they have previously visited. I appreciated this so, so much. Another way the game flows is in your ability to go in and out of active quests, or “tales.” It reminded me of something I loved about MMORPGs, when you could run around collecting quests, then do a giant loop completing them all, then return to the questgiver area and turn them all in at once. You don’t “collect” quests like that here, but you can always just walk away and pursue something else of interest if you are in the middle of one, even a main story tale, and then return to it. This encourages exploring the environment. Often, I would be doing a tale, and I’d hear the bark of a fox, stop, find it, follow it to its shrine and pray; or hear the chirp of a golden bird, follow it to a new area of interest; pass by a torii gate to a mountain temple and detour to scale the cliffs, earn a charm, and take in the view from the top; then return to what I was doing. The game doesn’t punish you for exploring when you want to. It’s neat how integrated the map question marks are in your exploration. There are multiple ways to be alerted to, and to find, those areas of interest. You can walk around and explore; you can complete an action that removes fog of war and discover new question marks from the map; villagers will alert you to tales and places of interest; the golden birds will randomly swoop down and chirp and guide you to somewhere you’ve never been; the fireflies will guide you to collectibles in town; the sound of crickets chirping in graveyards leads you to them; etc. And there are visual symbols for many such places, too: yellow glowing trees for fox dens; steam rising from hot springs for baths; tall banner flags for duels; torii gates for mountain shrines, etc. This bundle of modalities for finding areas of interest sometimes results in silly moments, though. You’ll obviously be going to a specific place, have it tracked on the map, and a golden bird will swoop down and “guide” you to it. For example, one time I was swimming out to an island—the only thing I could have possibly been headed toward—and the bird swooped down from over the ocean and started flying toward the island. Did it think I didn’t see it?! Obviously, I was going to the island! There were also times when the golden birds would lead me somewhere where I couldn’t figure out what it was trying to show me. Or when the golden birds would lead me somewhere, and I didn’t want to do whatever was there, so I’d leave, and then the golden birds would keep trying to bring me back there. Minor annoyance in an outstanding navigation system! Many of the places you find on Tsushima yield peaceful, meditative moments. You can sit on a rock and compose a haiku, for example, and meditate on “perspective” or “loss” or whatever. Instead of forcing you to walk everywhere, inviting you to sit and meditate is how the game encourages you to appreciate the beauty of Tsushima. They worked it into the story, into the setting; it flows. Finally, the combat flows. It is exquisite, of the “easy to learn; hard to master” variety. It took a while to get comfortable with because it helps if you are observant and calm, not easy for an action game. In many games, you can button mash, but Ghost of Tsushima rewards precision. For example, if an enemy is doing an unblockable attack (indicated by a red flash), you need to press circle just once to sidestep (then counter-attack!). If you press it twice, you’ll roll too far away to counter. There are a lot of combat toys to play with, from various types of bombs, arrows, knives, darts, things that distract enemies, stances that counter different enemy types, and so on. I will say that the stances seemed unnecessary, unless I was fighting a boss-type character. Enemies come in four flavors: sword guy, shield guy, spear guy, arrow guy…I feel like there was a fifth. And there are some easier and harder versions of each. The stances give you some special attack power against whichever enemy type, but once you learn to parry and dodge, you can kill enemies of all types just as quickly. I must mention two fantastic elements of combat: duels and standoffs. It’s a samurai game, so of course you can duel. These are cinematic! They are always boss (or mini-boss) fights. They were difficult at first, but became much easier by the end, so much so that I killed the last two bosses without dying. There is one annoying thing about the duels though: your health doesn’t refill beforehand. You don’t always know when you’re going to duel, so it’s not like you can just heal up in preparation. And once you start a duel, as far as I could figure, there is no way to quit (unless you saved it beforehand?); you just have to keep trying. A few duels began with me at almost zero health and with no resolve (resource used to heal and use special attacks). Those ones resulted in me having to perfect the fight, at least until I could generate enough resolve to heal myself. On the plus side, I got really good at the combat. I imagine this was done on purpose to increase the player’s resilience or perseverance or something related to samurai values. The other awesome combat mechanic is the standoff. When you approach a group of enemies, instead of charging in or going stealth mode, you can challenge them. You hold triangle and release it when the enemy attacks for an instant kill. Later, enemies start feinting, and I lost my fair share of standoffs from being too trigger-happy. You can upgrade an ability such that once you win the initial standoff, you can one-shot the next two or three more enemies who come charging at you. I really enjoyed entering combat with a standoff instead of sneaking around. The stealth in this game is passable, and there’s really nothing else to say about it! The main downside of Ghost of Tushima for me is that the pacing is weird. I mean, it’s not a downside per se, but made me single-mindedly pursue completion by early in the second act. In the first act, I pretty much completed all the side quests and explored every “?” that I saw (though by no means did I explore the whole map). At the end of the first act, therefore, I had unlocked most of the sword techniques, all but one stance, and upgraded all my weapons most of the way. One thing that really helped with that latter achievement was the charm that doubles the amount of resources that you find. Once I found that charm, I was in Upgrade City. So, by the second act, I didn’t have much more to upgrade. The side quests aren’t all that compelling. The larger arcs follow your main companions’ personal stories, and the smaller quests are just “go here, kill Mongols.” They are often set up like they might be in the Witcher 3, like people are being dragged to their deaths in a murky lake. Whereas in the Witcher, you’d discover some cool monsters with compelling intrigue, here it is always bandits or Mongols. Always. You might think there will be something supernatural going on (the villagers are all superstitious), but there isn’t. It’s always bandits or Mongols! The main story tales are the main attraction, so by the beginning of the second (of three) act, I just plowed through those and finished the game. In the second act, I was still doing incidental question marks, but by the third, I ignored everything else. The “blue” tales yield special weapons and armor, but they generally took a while, and I realized that whatever armor I got from the main story was better than all the special quest armor anyway. So, that’s the Ghost. It’s got everything you expect in an open-world game, with a tight theme and nice flourishes, like the wind guide. The main story is interesting, and you effectively are put in the shoes of a 13th-century samurai who struggles with tradition, honor, and family. If the story’s presentation were as great as the presentation of the open world itself, it would be even better. But, even though I enjoyed the story, I found the characters forgettable, probably because the voice acting and animations are pretty stilted. I said the story was interesting, not exciting (save for the massive act-ending battles). Some levity (besides the one sake trader) would be nice. If you are into open-world games, I’d recommend this one as a gem that goes at a slower pace than you might be used to; it’s often meditative. People who are into samurai stuff will no doubt enjoy it. For me though, I think I appreciated it thematically and in terms of a lot of design stuff more so than I loved the experience. Like, it was cool, but I don’t want to play more of it (and, indeed, I opted out of the DLC island).dkirschnerMon, 24 Jun 2024 06:43:10 UTC (PS5) - 23 Jun 2024 - by jp finished the game! The "down a corridor" linearity definitely let up once I got to the first "city" area...and while there are other sections that are tightly restricted, I would say that while the game is linear (it's a narratively-led adventure game where you collect clues and complete tasks for NPCs in order to progress), the experience of playing it does not feel quite as constrained as I had initially thought it was. It's weird to me how I had a strong idea that this was a "cyberpunk" game set in a city - but it's just robots instead of people, and the game doesn't feel like that at all to me now. Yes, there's neon and such - but the major cyberpunk (as genre) themes aren't there. It does tell its own story, and it's really quite sad. It's post-apocalyptic in the sense that humans are extinct (or other wise gone as far as we know), but there's also the idea that this is a world that has recovered (in the nature regrowing sense) from whatever it was the apocalypse was about - it's not clear to me why humans holed up in the underground cities in the first place (and they then all died in a plague, oh, and then they unleashed something intended to solve problems but it mutated and has since run amuck - thus trapping all the robots inside the city). And through all this - you - a cat - have not only survived but made it through. Overall, yes - I did enjoy it, and I appreciated the brevity. But also, in terms of it's game design, it's pretty "light" (by this I mean it doesn't stray far from expectations and it does everything right). So, no special highlights in my mind here - but the navigation and UI work as they should. I guess I could say that I thought I'd get lost a lot easier (there's lots of vertical navigation in addition to horizontal) but it helped that the game's spaces are small even if they are well "dressed" with objects and details.jpSun, 23 Jun 2024 14:09:57 UTC Effect (PS4) - 17 Jun 2024 - by jp think it's now super fair to say that I'm not very good at playing Tetris. Mostly because I make lots of mistakes pressing the "drop now" button instead of rotating a piece or something like that. I've also never been particularly drawn to playing Tetris, even if I've dabbled for years now...almost since it came out. But, I was curious to play Tetris Effect - in VR - because it was described as such a different experience. And it is. I'd describe it as the Rez version of Tetris. So, it's still Tetris, but it's Rez-like in how the music is a much more integrated part of the experience, in a good way. So, I enjoyed playing the campaign - with different areas with art, sound effects and so on...and the experience really is much more immersive - in a good way - than "vanilla tetris". For me at least!jpMon, 17 Jun 2024 12:49:38 UTC Become Human (PS4) - 14 Jun 2024 - by dkirschner Become Human was a really interesting game. I’m not sure how I overlooked it when it came out, since I’ve played every other Quantic Dream game and even worked on a research project with someone using Beyond: Two Souls. Anyway, thanks to this summer’s Playstation Plus subscription, I have access to it and other PS4 games I never bought! It’s set in near-future Detroit, where the city has repurposed its manufacturing infrastructure to produce androids. The androids are designed to look identical to humans, minus some clothing markers and the only external physical thing that differentiates them, a little processor indicator on their temple, which was a brilliant touch. As the player, the processor conveyed information about an android’s cognition and emotional state: blue (normal), yellow (moderate stress), and red (extreme stress), as well as “spinning” animations to indicate thinking about something (their eye movements aligned with this to indicate thinking; incredible animation work all around!). So, by making androids basically indistinguishable from humans (and they pass the Turing Test), Detroit doesn’t dip into the uncanny valley. This makes sense in terms of the story, where the androids (and the game beats you over the head with this) become human and fight for their rights. It touches on all sorts of philosophical questions: What is consciousness, and can non-humans attain it? What does it mean to be human (in terms of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, morality, agency, etc.; i.e., where’s the line between human and machine)? Are struggles necessary for self-determination? The most ridiculously impressive thing about Detroit is that you get to shape the lives of three androids, determine their fates, the fate of all androids (and therefore of humanity too), and in doing so, offer your perspective on the game’s philosophical questions. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game with such an intricately branching storyline…or three storylines that intersect, one for each android. To say it’s complex is an understatement. I read that there are technically 85 endings. I got…one; replayability is a feature! Another cool thing about Detroit is that it’s transparent about the branching storyline. After each scene, you can see the narrative flowchart, as well as the percentage of players who made the decisions you made. This is something like what Telltale games did, where you’d see what % of players aligned with you, except here you see how different choices lead to subsequent events. For most of the game, after any given scene, I saw I’d unlocked most of the storyline. Towards the end of the game though, as major events happen (and your characters can die!), I was unlocking single-digit percentages of scenes. And who knows how many scenes I never saw at all. It felt exponential how complex the story became. The more decisions you make that have different outcomes, the more considerations the writers had to make for how following scenes could begin and progress. Often, I would see that there were like 10 potential beginning states for a scene. The three androids are Kara, Markus, and Connor. Each has numerous paths they can follow, but general character arcs where they “become human.” Kara is a domestic android, meant to cook, clean, and take care of children. She has a sad life with an abusive man, and after a really scary interactive domestic violence scene, runs away with his daughter. She (is programed to have? develops?) a maternal bond with the child (I have some seriously unresolved questions about their relationship though). Markus, on the other hand, has a happy life, android and son-figure to an old, ill, wheelchair-bound artist. The artist encourages Markus to express himself through art, and in another violent scene with the artist’s actual son, Markus realizes he isn’t actually free. These two become what the game calls “deviant” (they deviate from their programming). In the game world, more and more androids are becoming deviant, inflicting violence on humans (often in self-defense, but the Detroit news agencies are biased!), and it becomes quite the problem for law and order and the general functioning of a society that has incorporated androids into its basic functions. The third android, Connor, is an advanced police android created for the purpose of hunting deviants. It was thrilling the first time I realized that the androids’ storylines intersect. The other two are deviants, and Connor is meant to hunt deviants, so of course they would, right? As I learned about the characters, I started trying to shape their trajectories. For Kara, I wanted her to protect the little girl—I liked their bond—, and by the end of the game, regardless and perhaps in spite of what happened, I was fully invested in having Kara stop and nothing to get her and the girl to safety, even if this meant doing unethical things. Markus’s storyline was my least favorite because it was so over-the-top. Detroit attempts to fit a full-scale android revolution into the game, with Markus at the helm. It seemed really implausible. Markus also goes from servant android to revolutionary leader in the span of like five minutes, and leads all these complex “operations” with a handful of random other deviants. I would buy it if they were military androids or something, but a servant to an old man and a sex robot creating an elaborate scheme to hack the city’s news network from the top floor of a corporate tower, including rappelling up a skyscraper, delivering a televised “we have a dream” speech (the game loves to draw parallels between the androids’ fight for self-determination and the Civil Rights Movement), dramatically escaping with parachutes, etc., was eye-rolling. Anyway, my Markus was shot while peacefully protesting, and I didn’t really mind. I was more upset the first time my Connor died (he comes back), destroyed by some sort of industrial rototiller while chasing a deviant. Connor is tasked to partner up with a grizzled, alcoholic cop named Hank who hates androids. I tried and tried to build a relationship with Hank. It was easy to say something to make Hank fly off the handle. Eventually, though, I decided that I wanted Connor to counter the other two characters and stay true to his programming, never becoming deviant, insisting to the end that androids are just machines. This was partly because I found Markus and his revolutionary android story annoying, and also because Hank does a 180 on his feelings toward androids. He said he changed his mind because Connor took a bullet for him, which proved that Connor had empathy. That’s not why I jumped in front of him though; I did it because (a) I knew that Connor would come back if he died and (b) I figure, given that, a police android would be programmed to save its human partner, not out of empathy but out of directive. So to me, Hank’s premise was wrong. Why didn’t he consider this? Why would someone who hated androids with such passion make the leap to “he saved me because he has empathy; ergo, he is human” instead of “he saved me because he is a machine and programmed to do so; ergo, I resent him even more.” The latter is what racists do, reducing behavior to biology and then framing the characteristic negatively. So, I ended up playing a cold, machine Connor who (like how I did with Kara) stopped at nothing to achieve his objective. According to the flowcharts, a tiny minority of players did this! Admittedly, I enjoyed the earlier game and the final segments more than the mid- and late-game. The longer it goes on, the more holes there are. Some holes were relatively nonsensical storylines (a lot of what Markus’s ended up becoming), questionable plot twists (e.g., Kara and the little girl), and disconnected events. I am sure that some disconnected events can be chalked up to making this or that decision and therefore missing this or that piece of information. But there were a handful of times where a scene would start and it would be like, “We have arrived at this place to see this person!”, and I’m like, “Who?!”, as if I should have known who this person was already. These disconnects were filled in easily enough though, but it was weird. Anyway, the overall experience of playing the game was excellent. I found it thoroughly engrossing and thought-provoking, even if its weaker plot lines could have been better written. It doesn’t ask all the questions you might think about and it hits you over the head with Civil Rights comparisons. But there’s plenty here to prompt you to think, like 85 endings’ worth of impressive, interconnected, branching storylines. And I didn’t even touch on the utility of the game for developing moral reasoning or social-emotional learning. As you play, you’ll unlock extras. The videos are totally worth watching. There are teasers, features of the characters (including Chloe, the “menu screen android,” who brings novel elements to the game), and mini-documentaries about the “making of,” the soundtrack, and more. Probably 30-45 minutes of video content all told that provide great insight. Definitely recommend this. dkirschnerFri, 14 Jun 2024 09:24:44 UTC (PS5) - 13 Jun 2024 - by jp'm surprised by how linear the game is in the beginning. I think I only just got to the part where it opens up a bit? It is fun to explore as the cat - but the beginning was just following along (and enjoying how pretty everything looks and wondering -ooh, what happened in this world?). I wonder if I'll ever reunite with all the cats I was handing out at the beginning of the game before I fell "into" the "city"?jpThu, 13 Jun 2024 00:18:12 UTC VR (PS4) - 13 Jun 2024 - by jp is an odd game, but I did have fun! (despite stuff) First, the game includes the game and what they call "episode 2" - the first is called "Gungrave VR" and the second is "Gungrave VR U.N". I did not pay attention to the back of the box, and played the "U.N" one first (for no reason other than perhaps it was on the left side of the PS menu bar?...and it's really short (only three missions! not too hard, which is fine, and it looks pretty bad - even for a VR game. I was about to move on, when I though, huh..I wonder if the other game was the main game and this one was the "DLC"? (because it was so short!) So, I booted up the main game - and I was forced into doing the tutorial again - it's the exact same tutorial! - and the main menu is also exactly the same! But, when you go into the mission select area, things are different (new missions). AND, the missions in the main game look a lot better! By this I mean there are better character models and textures. It's almost like the DLC was the "prototype art version" with the main game the "final" art. I'm not saying the art was great (though I did like some of the enemy designs), it's just that the difference in quality of the art assets was really noticeable. Wierdly a lot of the geometry in the DLC was destructible, but there was no point/benefit/drawback to destroying stuff... As for the game - I can lump both together, mostly... It's wonky, the controls have a weird delayed response, aiming is pretty inexact and imprecise..but, the game is still fun enough (and yes, I was grateful for the brevity - the main game only had 5 areas) despite getting repetitive in terms of goals and enemies. BUT...and this is where it's a weird game, there are some pretty cool ideas I thought were interesting (and good design choices). a. The game has a lot of variety in perspective. Sometimes it's first-person, othertimes it's 3rd person, the DLC even has side-scrolling areas, sometimes you're "locked in place", other times your not. This variety kept things fresh AND also reduced the physical strain of playing in VR - mostly because at times I had to do certain movements with the head, and others had different head movements. b. I thought the sidescrolling levels would be dumb and not work - after all you could only fire left/right (but up/down on the left right if that makes sense). Aiming is with the head (where you look you aim) and if you the character was facing right - it was placed on the left side of the screen which meant you were kind oflooking to the right, so I had to remember to look left a lot because enemies would creep up behind the character (and when looking right you could not see what was on the left too well). So, there was lots of looking left/right (like a tennis match!)...and, this was enjoyable! Here, the looking really gave me more to see (rather than just looking to aim) c. Some levels I you have to really look up (almost behind as you look up) which I thought was interesting - there's gameplay on the edges of your motion capabilities - which is risky (camera loses sight of headset - this is PSVR!), but interesting as an experience - straining to look up and almost behind felt interesting! d. I kept on losing the final boss fight - mostly because one of its attacks was to slam you with a giant hand/arm. The game locks you into place - you can't move or dodge...and I didn't see a way to avoid the damage and kept on dying (after getting hit a few times). So, I looked online for a guide - perhaps there's some secret to the dodge and my timing was off? or there's something else I missed? Could not find a find. But, did watch a video - and the person playing in the video lost a few times but eventually barely made it. So, I tried again - maybe I was just too inefficient with my shooting and I needed to do more damage before getting hit? Well, that didn't work - so I went back to the "lets try new things". When the arms swing down they have reticules/targets on them (several) and I had tried shooting one to no effect. So, I decided to try shooting them all - and, IT WORKED! (it was hard to hit them all because there's no feedback of a hit AND the last target is on the hand which is above/behind you when you start shooting (from the shoulder up the arm, elbow, forearm, hand). I don't know if the order matters - it might be easier to start on the hand and strafe to the shoulder? - BUT, I felt really clever/smart to do something better than in the video! To be clear, the game is quite mediocre in terms of quality, polish, gameplay, etc. BUT - it was still fun enough that I enjoyed it (and here the brevity might be a benefit, since I didn't get tired/bored of it).jpThu, 13 Jun 2024 00:16:27 UTC Effect: Andromeda (PS4) - 12 Jun 2024 - by jp! I decided to commit to two things before moving on (which took ~10hrs). First, finish the story - which was more fun and interesting than I expected. The last few missions were similar to the first few - more dramatic, little cut-scenes in between, more action/adventurey... So, all around good. Second, I wanted to get all the planets to 100 viability. Partly this was because there was a trophy attached - but mostly because I enjoyed driving the rover around and I thought it wouldn't take too long (I was wrong about the second part). Overall, I really enjoyed it and could have easily enjoyed spending more time on/with the game. I decided not to continue mostly because I have a drawer full of other PS4 games (too many) I also want to play and this is the time of the year during which I can make the most progress whittling down that backlog... Looking back, this game is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination - there's plenty of weird wonky stuff, bugs here and there, inconsistencies in the story and characters, etc. BUT, despite all these little things, the core was fun enough for me to engage with and play. So, I really do feel like it's a good game and I'm glad I played it. Design-wise I think that what surprised me the most (in a good way) is how much variety and variation there is within an easily understandable goal framework. So, for each planet I knew I had to "activate" 3 towers and then visit a vault. The first planet I did this on was pretty demanding on this - the vault was a whole mission with lots of steps and so-on. It took time! So, I was kind of dreading what would happen with the other planets. Oh no, that's four more vaults at X time each...this will take forever! But, it didn't. Some vaults were pretty short/easy. Some of the tower activations were similarly short/simple. And I really appreciated this! Each planet had it's own flavor/style/innovation/difference within the broader structure. The last planet I did (Kadara?) was the one where things were more political - I had to talk to NPCs, do stuff for them and so on. Other planets were more "complete tasks at certain locations". So, lots of variation and variability within the overall goal structure and - my sense - one that generally favored the player. So, mostly, I felt like "oh, nice - that took less time or effort than I assumed" rather than the opposite. Fun things from the ending: a. You can continue playing and doing tasks and so on - but the game forces you into a little "celebration task" that is mostly you talking to your crew about "winning" and them leaving the door open to finishing tasks that are still pending. I thought it was a nice way to combine long cut-scenes with the ending AND the fact that you'll probably do more stuff. Many games sort of ignore the fact that you "beat the game" and you keep on playing as if nothing happened. b. My in-game inbox filled up with messages from NPCs thanking me for "winning". Nice touch! I read some but not all of the messages and it definitely contributed to making the "win" feel more impactful. To be fair, I was mostly ignoring story stuff and kind of zipping around completing tasks - so, not playing the game with a role-player story-first attitude. Despite this, the game's story did start to grow on me! And, I think it's pretty cool how it's really set outside the Mass Effect continuity (happens both during ME2 and 3 and long after 3) with a sense of loss. The game takes place 600 years after ME3 (aprox) because that's how long it takes to get to Andromeda. And, while you can get some communications from when ME3 was happening (oh, the reapers are attacking!) you don't really know what happened. As far as you know - the Milky Way galaxy is "over" (reapers won, life set back). Supposedly you could have a ME: Milky Way? (where people from Andromeda head back to the Milky Way to recolonize it? (assuming ME3 ended poorly, of course).jpWed, 12 Jun 2024 18:45:17 UTC Wars: Squadrons (PS4) - 10 Jun 2024 - by jp tried to play online with no luck. (as in, I got bored of waiting to match up - but I only waited a few minutes). So, I did the tutorial for the online modes, and it was ok - the main mode is a sort of "push objectives" to get to the last objective (destroy the star destroyer if you're rebel) - and things can swing back and forth (5v5 but they also add AI pilots on both sides) since there's a sort of tug-of-war system (morale I think it's called) in which you win points for destroying things (fewer points for AI than other players) and lose points when you get destroyed. I think the enemy gets the points - rather than your side loses points? Anyways. I played a few rounds of this - started to level up - and then realized...ugh..this wasn't THAT fun, and I can't unlock the "real" mode (ranked play online) until I hit level 5. And I was barely at 3... So I bailed on the entire game. This was mostly because I'm looking at my drawer full of games and realizing - I think I got what I wanted from this game and I don't care to learn to fly the other ships and stuff...and I'm also a little bit tired of Star Wars in general?jpMon, 10 Jun 2024 23:43:29 UTC Fantasy VII Remake (PS4) - 10 Jun 2024 - by dkirschner but drawn out nostalgia machine, with the experience hampered further by the context in which I played. This is, as the title suggests, a remake of FFVII, and I think that unless you've been playing the OG recently, you will experience it as a very different beast. FFVII is being split into three full-length games, and this is the first third, which takes Cloud et al. until their escape from Midgar. Most of the main story beats are the same as the OG, but Remake expands everywhere it can--both fleshes out and pads. I generally appreciated the more in-depth look at existing characters close to or in the party (e.g., Biggs, Jessie, and Wedge; they were great!), but disliked plenty of the additional content because it often didn't add anything compelling. That is, the story would have been the same if we didn't have to learn so much about Don Corneo and his pimps, or watch Hojo scheming, or spend a few hours in the sewers. The Don Corneo part was straight up cringe (minus an amazing dance scene). We are treated to Cloud dressing up as a woman, which I remember being much funnier when I was 14. In 2024, we get a one-liner on gender expression, identity, and fluidity from a dancer, which was nice, except that the game then represents stereotypical exaggerated femininity of gay-coded male (and/or trans?) characters (like the squat champion bodybuilder), and Corneo is trying to fuck Cloud until it is revealed with a change of clothes that he's really a man, and Corneo is disappointed (if we're practicing what we preach about gender fluidity and whatnot, perhaps Corneo would be into the representation of femininity, no matter male or female; there is no nuance or exploration there, negating the one interesting thing the game said about gender). We know Don Corneo's a lech. We know Hojo is deranged. Making players run around doing quests for Corneo's pimps doesn't add anything; making players spend forever in Hojo's endless labs doesn't add anything; making players operate slow-moving robot arms to solve simple puzzles in a greatly expanded sewers section doesn't add anything; etc. The side quest parts, though optional, are neat for expanding on the lives of citizens in Midgar, but are dull in terms of gameplay (usually, go find these things or go kill these monsters). I did like the proximity-based conversations between NPCs. Instead of clicking on them to talk, you listen in on their conversations when you approach them, and they're often talking about whatever has just happened and its effect on them and their lives. Despite the long and sometimes padded parts, the game was highly engaging. The presentation of FFVII Remake is amazing in every way. It's visually stunning, especially the many, many cut scenes; the music is evocative; it's really well-written; the combat is fast and fun. I definitely did not take advantage of min-maxing weapons and materia, or re-slotting materia to suit the situation, or controlling all the characters in my party. I would have liked to have been more motivated to master the combat. It's interesting how they took the first chunk of the OG and made it 40 hours. That means they had to put all the materia, summons, weapons, leveling up etc. of a full 40-hour RPG into what used to be like 5 hours of game time. But knowing that this is only the first third of the full game, I felt like I didn't want to spend time maximizing materia, doing side quests, fighting coliseum battles, and so on. Like, it felt like a waste of time to do more than I needed to given that I could pick up the next game tomorrow. This is part of what I mean when I say that the context in which I played hampered the experience. If there is a (more highly rated) sequel, I am not motivated to spend time beyond the main story on this one. I would rather spend my time on the next one (although the next one will have the same problem, because by the time I play it, the third and final game will probably be available). What would be awesome is if the three games were released in a package and you could play them as one...kind of like...FFVII. I know that you start back at level 1 with no materia and whatnot in the next game; they're all self-contained. That also makes me worried that it'll feel like playing the same thing three times (different story, of course, but if the gameplay is the same, it'll get repetitive). The other two contextual things that affected my experience were: (1) playing on a time crunch. I played on a PS Plus subscription, which ends in 5 days, and I still have 3 games I want to play in that time. I was rushing to beat Remake, so the longer sequences were getting frustrating. I thought I would finish the game on Saturday afternoon because I had entered the "there's no turning back now; are you sure you want to continue" part. I didn't finish it until SUNDAY afternoon, like 8 gameplay hours later, because the end is so dang long! There are actually three "there's no turning back now" points. Three! And boss fight after boss fight after boss fight at the end. I mean, totally epic, but I felt the time crunch. (2) The other thing is that the room I was playing in has no air conditioning, and it's summer in Georgia. This weekend, it was about 90 degrees. Two fans blew on me, increasingly hot air as the morning turned to afternoon, and I was physically uncomfortable. (After beating the game, I moved my PS4 and beanbag into another room with AC.). SO, despite my playing in less than ideal conditions, and the game feeling longer than it needed to be, it was undeniably epic. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to playing (and hopefully getting more out of) the second one. dkirschnerMon, 10 Jun 2024 05:59:53 UTC