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So I got so many wonderful games from fellow GWJers during the Steam Sale that I started posting reviews of the first hour I played of them (give or take an hour) to let the givers know that the games were appreciated and enjoyed.
At your suggestion, I've made this it's own thread. Did you get a Steam Gift? Want to tell the world that you actually did play it? Here's your thread!
Have at it!
For those of you looking to jump right to the reviews, here's a handy list (thanks Taharka!)
Airport Simulator 2014 (tanstaafl)
Alien: Isolation (Aaron D)
Aliens: Colonial Marines (Farscry)
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (MrDeVil909)
Bully: Scholarship Edition (Gravey)
Bully: Scholarship Edition (McIrishJihad)
Call of Duty: Ghosts (JillSammich)
Call of Jaurez: Gunslinger (McIrishJihad)
Call of Juarez Gunslinger (Tetranomad)
Card City Nights (Bubs14)
Child of Light (Gremlin)
Cloudbuilt (Godzilla Blitz)
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (Gravey)
The Counting Kingdom (Bubs14)
Craft the World (Godzilla Blitz)
Crazy Plant Shop (Bubs14)
Crazy Plant Shop (danopian)
Crypt of the NecroDancer (Bubs14)
Death Skid Marks (JohnKillo)
Deception: Blood Ties (Taharka)
Destiny Beta (Taharka)
Divine Divinity (doubtingthomas396)
Divinity: Original Sin (Aaron D.)
Divinity: Original Sin (Farscry)
Divinity: Original Sin (Taharka)
Don't Starve (Bubs14)
Dragon Age: Inquisition vs. Witcher 3 (Taharka)
Dust: An Elysian Tale (Eleima)
Electronic Super Joy: Groove City (Bubs14)
Elite: Dangerous Beta (Taharka)
Epic Battle Fantasy 4 (Bubs14)
Euro Truck Simulator 2 (doubtingthomas396)
Euro Truck Simulator 2 (Danopian)
The Evil Within (Taharka)
Fairy Fencer F (mantid)
Far Cry 2 (McIrishJihad)
Feeding Frenzy 2: Shipwreck Showdown (danopian)
Final Fantasy XIII (Taharka)
Game Dev Story (Mrtomaytohead)
Game Dev Tycoon (Bubs14)
Goat Simulator (Bubs14)
Goat Simulator (Eleima)
Grid: Autosport (Gravey)
The Guild II: Renaissance (danopian)
Hard Truck Apocalypse/Ex Machina (doubtingthomas396)
Hydrophobia: Prophesy (Taharka)
Infested Planet (UMOarsman)
Irisu Syndrome (Mantid)
Just Cause 2 (McIrishJihad)
Kairo (PC) (Bubs14)
The Last Of Us (Remastered) (mrwynd)
Lichdom: Battlemage by Taharka
Lifeless Planet (Taharka)
Marlo Briggs and the Mask of Death (doubtingthomas396)
Master Reboot (Taharka)
Midnight Club LA (Fastmav347)
Neighbors from Hell (1 & 2) (doubtingthomas396)
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razors Edge (Cceserano)
Noir Syndrome (Bubs14)
Odd World: Munch's Oddyssey (PC) (colonelrambo396)
Omega Quintet (Mantid)
One Way Heroics (Bubs14)
Orcs Must Die (imbiginjapan)
Planescape Torment (JillSammich)
Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus by Taharka
The Road Not Taken (imbiginjapan)
Rogue Legacy (Eleima)
Rogue Warrior (doubtingthomas396)
Runespell: Overture (Katy)
Scania Truck Driving Simulator (Gravey)
Secret of Magic Crystals (doubtingthomas396)
Secret of the Magic Crystals (Gravey)
Shift 2 Unleashed (Gravey)
Sid Meyers Railroads! (Danopian)
Sleeping Dogs (Gravey)
Space Hulk (BadKen)
Spacebase DF-9 (AndrewA)
The Stanley Parable (Bubs14)
Star Wars: TOR (JillSammich)
State of Decay (Badken)
Steamworld Dig (Malor)
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure (Bubs14)
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure (Eleima)
Super House of Dead Ninjas (Veloxi)
System Shock 2 (Taharka)
Takedown: Red Sabre (doubtingthomas396)
They Bleed Pixels (Taharka)
Ticket to Ride (Godzilla Blitz)
Trucks & Trailers (Gravey)
Type: Rider (Bubs14)
Ultimate General Gettysburg (UMOarsman)
Valiant Hearts (AndrewA)
Viscera Cleanup Detail (doubtingthomas396)
The Void (Taharka)
War of the Human Tanks (Mantid)
Warriors Orochi 3 (Taharka)
Wasteland: The Original Classic (Godzillablitz)
MMO Roundup by Taharka
Yes, you can cancel Darksiders, but only by using your Sony Golds. Which, while pretty good, aren't a patch on Zelda.
I'm A Steam Curator!
One thing that really turns me off about the Witcher 3 talk I see some places (not here, thankfully) is that it reminds me of the way people talk about From Software games. I am thoroughly convinced that anyone who goes on and on about how great From Software games are is suffering from a seriously advanced case of Stockholm Syndrome. They are all masochists. There is no way I would enjoy a game like Dark Souls or Bloodborne. They are the antithesis of what I find fun in games.
So when I see that level of worship being laid on The Witcher 3, it worries me. I wonder if the kinds of quests and character choices and world building people are praising are dark, grim and gritty for the sake of being dark, grim and gritty. I like my heroes to be heroic, not clawing their way through ten layers of evil only to find their actions have given birth to yet another layer of evil.
Some people like their video game characters to wallow in despair, but not me.
The talk about gameplay worries me, too. I can't play games that are too reliant on reaction time or the player's physical prowess. I'm too old for that. My reaction time is not up to the task. I have had to stop playing more than one game because I couldn't keep up with it even on the easiest difficulty. I also lack the patience to learn, if required by a game, some specially timed sequence of attacks or commands that will ensure success in a given encounter.
I suppose I'll find out when I play it.
Gravey: "Feels weird to do it with something other than a finger."
Employee Profile | GOTY 2018 | Chumpy: Pineapples
One thing that really turns me off about the Witcher 3 talk I see some places (not here, thankfully) is that it reminds me of the way people talk about From Software games. I am thoroughly convinced that anyone who goes on and on about how great From Software games are is suffering from a seriously advanced case of Stockholm Syndrome. They are all masochists. There is no way I would enjoy a game like Dark Souls or Bloodborne. They are the antithesis of what I find fun in games.
OK, thanks for the psychoanalysis. It seems a little bit over the top but maybe you're joking? Is it not possible to enjoy material that is challenging on multiple levels without being psychologically damaged? I venture to say nobody would say that about literature or film (not that the Witcher 3 is comparable in writing quality to great books!).
I will bow out now, as I don't want to derail but maybe we can debate elsewhere.
Steam: http://steamcommunity.com/id/biginja... | XBOX/PSN: BigInJapanGWJ
"DO NOT HUMILATE IN FRONT of FIFA 14 Coins and OWN PEERS!!!" - Spambot wisdom.
Game: Massive Chalice
Sponsored By: Peer pressure.
TL;DR Review: Just go play X-Com.
Today, I bought Massive Chalice knowing almost nothing about it.
No, seriously. All I knew when I bought it was that it’s a turn based, isometric, fantasy game. That’s it. I only bought it because so many people in the Steam Sale thread were talking about it. So this review can largely be attributed to peer pressure.
What I found, after playing it for a while, is that it’s basically X-Com: Enemy Unknown... only worse.
Ok, that’s slightly unfair, it’s also got this weird breeding system which X-Com didn’t have. But I’m serious when I say that the game seems to have ripped X-Com off completely, then changed just enough to avoid getting sued, only everything they changed was changed for the worse. Which really makes me disappointed. Double Fine has some of the most original game ideas out there. I mean, look at Grim Fandango and Psychonauts! Making a game that's such a blatant rip-off of another popular game feels beneath them.
The game starts with this massive stone chalice (ah ha! I see what you did there, title) talking at you with two beams of light. So either the chalice is magical and has split personality disorder, or it’s being very ineptly manipulated by two people from behind a curtain, Wizard of Oz style. Probably the former, as the chalice tells you that you are now the commander of a military base pre industrial fantasy world who has to send 5 hand picked soldiers warriors out on missions to beat back aliens “corruption” (which takes the form of alien-looking monsters) that cause panic corruption in the various countries areas, which will withdraw support be lost to the corruption if you don’t beat the corruption back and a base castle management system where you research upgrades upgrades to make your warriors more effective in combat.
You’re also immortal, conveniently, which means that the action can take place over a period of years rather than days (or months, really). Might be a really interesting change, if it didn’t mean that all your good warriors, whom are not immortal, keep dying, whether you mess up in battle or not, forcing you to bring in new level 1 noobs constantly.
“Well,” I hear you say, “That keeps the challenge fresh, right? That means that the difficulty can ramp up as higher level monsters face low level warriors.”
Not really, I’d reply. Because the monsters never seem to get more powerful. I played long enough to see a few new monsters, but they were all roughly the same strength with roughly the same HP as the first ones in the game, because the game has to compromise itself for the batch of newbs I’m forced to bring in. So the challenge level is set at the beginning and isn’t going to significantly change.
And because the warriors are constantly getting replaced, I have no investment in them. If one falls on the battlefield, I didn’t care, because she was 65 and going to die of old age soon anyway. In X-Com, having a soldier at low health was tense, because I really didn’t want to lose my best Heavy. In MC, if my Caberjack was at low health, I would just keep throwing him at the nearest enemy. Death was completely meaningless. The classes themselves have also been cut down. X-Com had 4, MC has 3. Oh sure, on paper MC has 9, but 6 of those are just slight differences on the base classes. The hunter, trickshot, and enforcer all sit in the back and snipe, the alchemist, brewtalist, and boomstriker all throw grenades, etc. But since there’s no support class that can heal, it’s good that I’m not invested in my warriors.
Research has been similarly emaciated. You can still research weapon and armor upgrades, but there’s only one upgrade path per class, and you don’t manufacture individual pieces... upgraded items just get applied to everyone automatically. In X-Com (again), I would frequently only have one upgraded weapon, and it would be a decision with some thought as to who I gave it to.
“Sounds like the game has been streamlined” would be the obvious retort here. But is that really what X-Com needed? X-Com was a master class in weighty decisions and risk vs. reward gameplay. So much of that has been stripped out in MC that it feels like a 13 year old lion with arthritis and no teeth. Looks pretty, but doesn’t do anything interesting and can’t really hurt you.
Let’s move on to combat briefly, shall we? Combat is turn based and isometric, with each warrior getting two action points... just like in X-Com. But it’s not a straight copy, because the cover mechanic from X-Com didn’t come over.
“Maybe it shouldn’t have!” you might say, “If this is a fantasy world, there’s a lot more melee, right?”
Not really, actually. A few enemies and one of your classes are melee based, but everyone else uses projectiles. And now you can’t hide behind cover, (which didn’t stop the game from including cover-like objects in the world) so get ready to be hit repeatedly! The game can poison you, just like in X-Com, but it’s unfair about that. A warrior standing in a poison area gets the initial damage, initial poison damage, damage at the end of the enemy turn and damage at the start of the warrior’s turn! On more than one occasion, I lost a warrior to poison because he or she hadn’t moved out of the affected area, only I never had the chance to get out, because the game killed him or her with poison damage first! MC also gives you a handy “to hit” chance, just like in X-Com... only it lies a lot. When I see 75% chance to hit, I expect to average out to hitting 3 out of 4 times. Only when I started keeping track, that ratio was reversed. “Maybe that was just bad luck” you comfort me. Maybe, but I also had an instance where I had a 100% chance to hit and still missed. Maybe there’s some other mechanic going on behind the scenes, like the traits from the breeding system screwing up the shot, but if that’s the case, I’d like the displayed “to hit” chance to reflect those traits! Similarly, the displayed damage range lies, and I frequently did below the displayed minimum damage. Again, maybe armor or something else was affecting it, but I’d like the game to reflect that. And here’s a little tip, if your game is anything like mine, don’t bother attacking with melee. The benefit of melee is that it always hits, but has a chance to glance, doing one damage. If my game is any benchmark, “a chance” apparently means “every time”. I stopped bringing in the caberjack (and related) classes, because they never did any damage.
The only new mechanic in MC compared to X-Com is the whole breeding system. Put a keep in a zone, and you can install a regent and partner, who will have children that eventually join your army to replace everyone who died. In theory, parents will pass on their traits to their children, except that the game takes a slightly realistic approach to genetics and adds a dash of randomness to the process. So you can put the two most perfect parents together to make the best hunter ever and still somehow get a myopic klutz who’s as slow as molasses and just as thick. I stopped trying to find perfect pairings, because it never seemed to matter.
All in all, I’ve played 94 minutes, 90 of which were spent wondering why I didn’t just play X-Com instead. My biggest quandary right now is whether or not to keep playing in hopes that it gets better/more challenging, or return it and buy something else while the sale is still going on. I’m leaning towards the latter because really, this game is just X-Com: Enemy Fantasy edition, and X-Com was just plain better.
Link for Doubting: Massive Chalice (Taharka)
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." - Cheshire Cat
Game: Skyforge Open Beta
TL:DR Review: Not bad, some interesting ideas, but fairly imbalanced and embarrassing to play.
TLR: Hey there MMO nuts. I want to ask you a question. Do you play Tera? It's ok, you don't have to admit it out loud, or post in this thread, but just mentally imagine that game in your head (or click the above link, if you honestly don't play Tera and have never seen or heard of it before).
Congratulations, you no longer need to play Skyforge.
Skyforge is a new MMO being developed by a Russian email company (no, seriously) that, at best, takes inspiration from a bunch of other games and at worst, follows them down dark alleys, beats them up and goes through their pockets for loose ideas.
So you have a very pretty MMO with the visual aesthetic and character design from Terra, a leveling/abilities system from somewhere between FFXIII, FFX, and The Secret World, and story/plot from the heavily weathered book of story cliches. It's a game without any original ideas in its head and some serious balance issues for extra measure.
But is Skyforge a bad game? Not really. I find it mindless, but that's not really a bad thing. If you want something you can play without needing to focus on it, so that you can also listen to podcasts, watch a movie, read a book, etc., then I heartily recommend Elite Dangerous.
Or Skyforge, if you prefer MMOs.
I was introduced to Skyforge at Quakecon. I saw a guy in another row playing it and stopped to chat about it. The game bills itself as having complete class freedom, which I thought was a really cool idea when first discussing it, but now think is laughable. Skyforge's so called class freedom comes from its exceptionally FFX leveling board where you have a bunch of nodes, each belonging to a different class and each unlocking new abilities or stat increases, or a second node board that unlocks classes. You unlock the nodes by spending "sparks", of which there are multiple varieties (much like FFX's Spheres/AP). And at any time (well, any time not in combat), you can switch between any class you have unlocked, meaning you can change at will between DPS, Tank, Support, etc. But at the end of the day, you're still locked into specific classes during combat (the only time you'd want to change classes), and all you're doing is changing out your roll, much like FFXIII.
Indeed, the class freedom thing would be a very interesting idea, if The Secret World hadn't done the same thing but much better by allowing you to literally build your own class. Or if FFXIII hadn't done the whole "switch between any class" thing but also in combat, so you can adapt on the fly. The way that Skyforge handles classes really just means that you have many times more gear and sparks to gather, if you want to be effective at multiple classes.
Oh, and you know how FFX handled their sphere grid so that after every combat or two you could probably move someone along the grid? Well Skyforge, being an MMO, decided that the best thing to do in order to pad out gameplay is to make each node so expensive, and give you such a small amount of resources after each mission (each mission taking 15 - 30 minutes), that you'll be grinding for months if you want a class that's a bit father away on the 2nd sphere grid thing. Each node costs somewhere between 100 and 200 resources, but each mission gives a base of about 50 - 100 resource... see the problem?
Story is interesting in that it's both cliched and hardly there. You were a male warrior in a futuristic technocratic society before embarking on the technological equivalent of Custer's Last Stand and dying. Then you come back to life while lying on a corpse pile for reasons that aren't explained (so it's like the setup for Kingdoms of Amalur, only worse), and become "immortal". It's at this point you can change your gender, appearance, and class, and you're introduced to the quest givers of the game, a handful of gods and goddesses, whom might actually be divine or might just be so technologically advanced that they reached another state of being (game doesn't really specify). These quest givers tell you that, now you are immortal, only YOU (you and every other immortal PC) can save the world and the poor mortal sods that you should take pity on. And I would take pity on them if it weren't for the fact that every last mortal NPC stands around waiting for you to save them yet doesn't have the thought of getting the hell out of a war zone, making them slightly less intelligent than the local wildlife, all of which seems to have fled. So far, so generic, but after a little while, the story just kinda disappears as you have to start grinding for the above mentioned level/class advancement resources.
Then there's the character design. Now I realize that almost every MMO, and indeed almost every game has problems with female design, but Skyforge takes the Tera route of embracing the whole male gaze thing and panders to it. The majority of female outfits (which don't affect stats, so feel free to switch between them in a game of pretty, pretty mmo dress-up) are cut very... finely... in that they a) wouldn't protect worth beans and b) couldn't lose much more cloth before becoming a sex aid.
My final point is going to be about the balance in the game. There isn't any. It doesn't seem to matter what my stats and equipment is, I do roughly the same amount of damage at all points. Probably because you can replay missions that automatically get set to harder difficulties as your stats increase. And enemies mostly do the same amount of damage to you at all points. I say mostly because every so often I'll suddenly die out of nowhere. That's because, if you pay attention, most enemy attacks take off piddling amounts of health, but then you get this random attack that takes off 7/8ths of your health, doesn't look any different to normal attacks, and isn't limited to boss monsters. But since death only carries a minor inconvenience of getting back to where you were with no penalty and no respawned monsters, it's just a time waster.
But again, Skyforge isn't necessarily a bad game. If you want something to pass the time and can get past or embrace the male gaze design, then go for it. It's free to play right now, since it's in open beta. And if this review sounded incredibly negative and nitpicky, that's because it was. When you pay attention to the game and what it's doing, then all the faults shine like supernovas. But if you unfocus your eyes and mind, throw on a TV or Podcast series, and let a thin line of drool run down your chin, you can pass hours without realizing.
But if that's all you're interested in, I still recommend Elite Dangerous instead.
Link for Doubting: Skyforge (Taharka)
Hm, there's something different between the male and female outfits, I just can't put my finger on it... (click to embooben)
She forgot to zip up her jumpsuit:
Her boobs help her aim. Also, Liefeld inspired belt design.
Hey the male monk and berserker are showing full man boobs.
If you could turn the characters around, it would be worse.
And of course, you play 90% of the game while looking at your character from behind.
Game: StargazerSponsored by: Aristophan
(because, as some of you might know, Stargazer is the surname I've adopted for my alter ego Eleima)
**Spoiler warning for the first hour or two**
TL;DP review: Not as awesome as me.
Full review in all its luminous and glittering glory: Yup, that's right, this is another RPG Maker game. And that's not a bad thing, per se (just take a look at the most brilliant To the Moon), but there are so many bad RPG Maker games out there that nowadays, it makes you cautious.
Stargazer starts out with a very straightforward premise. A young man named Zach loves astronomy. So much so, that he spends most of his nights out in the forest looking up at the stars. His nickname, predictably enough, is the Gazer. Until one day, a star falls from the heavens, and Zach hurries over to the crater. Except it's not just a lump of red hot rock, it's a blonde young woman called Aura. Nicknamed Star. The town is ruled by an evil old man called the Chancellor, and of course, he's after the star. So the pair decide to flee and tour the world, visiting all the summits they can to go look at the stars from an elevated height. To do so, they smuggle aboard a pirate ship.
Sorry, just give me a second, I'm having Stardust flashbacks.
As gameplay goes, it's nothing to write home about, pretty straight forward turn based JRPG style. You equip your characters with gear of varying stats, and everyone takes a turn to whack at the baddies, whether that's badgers, bears or foxes. So far, I've only recruited the Star and the Gazer, but I hear there are few more, that your characters interact, and you can even have weddings in your party.
So far, there's been very little to grab me, to be honest. For starters, the premise is such a huge déjà vu, but the developer adds insult to injury by sending you on a series of fetch quests in the first hour. The fetch quests are a bit grating, as they reinforce inane stereotypes. You play as Aura and she runs into a young girl who immediately wants to recruit her into her club, the Princess Butterflies. And of course, surprise, surprise, the girls are at war if the boys who keep slinging mud and teasing them. The girls' response? To steal a "prized item" from the boys' hideout and to capture the leader and kiss him. I don't even know where to start, there are so many things wrong. Predictably enough, Aura gets into a heap of trouble, arousing the suspicions of townsfolk after being specifically told to lie low. I'll grudgingly admit that without this, the game would lack impetus, but I can't help but wonder if there could've been another way to get this storyline moving. The Chancellor's goons tracking Zach and Aura from the crash site to his home, perhaps?
As it is, the game doesn't have any major game breaking flaws, but it's a series of small and not so small offenses that are its downfall. All in all, I didn't *hate* my time with Stargazer, and it certainly filled what little game time I had this weekend adequately (for those of you who don't know, I'm away from my rig on weekends, and must content myself with games that will run on my father's old Dell Inspiron 1720 which he bought back in 2008). With some many other wonderful games waiting for me in Backlog, however, odds are I won't be returning to it.
Link for DoubtingThomas: Stargazer (Eleima)
Adventure Game Club|Goodjesday Book|2018 GOTY
Eleima is wise, smart, and right. You should listen to her.
That was a good read, Eleima.
Backloggery / Bag of Games
Sorry, the legacy of the surname turned out to be mediocre. I like to think that the disgusting playground tropes are incorporated in games because the developer is trying to invoke a sense of childlike whimsy, but it comes across really gross. I'll steer clear of this one.
Retro Review: The Bloodrayne Trilogy
Sponsored by: Rose Colored Glasses
TL:DR: Rose colored glasses in full effect, captain! Also, long review because summers at work are dull, captain!
Long Review: The first two Bloodrayne games were games I played when I was a teenager, much more oblivious to the idea of gender politics, or the rampant objectification of female characters. As time has gone on and my eyes were opened to the issues we’re dealing with today, Bloodrayne always remained in my mind as fun little games with some interesting ideas and a few flaws.
So they sat, gathering rose tinted dust in the corner shelf of my mind. Occasionally thought about, and then immediately forgotten.
Until recently, when I discovered a way to play PS2 games on my PC. This amazing technology opened up a massive library, all but closed off to me because, while I still have my PS2, and even still have it connected to my TV, I can basically count each individual pixel when trying to actually play a game. My computer monitors, being of smaller size, don’t stretch the image, break immersion (well, not as badly), and generally cause me to quit after 10 minutes.
And so begins my odyssey through the wasteland of memory, revisiting old games I remember fondly and probably destroying my childhood in ways 4chan could only dream of.
The first game, or games, I picked up were the Bloodrayne games. (They’re actually also available for the PS3, if you’re interested.)
... I have to say, replaying these games one after another makes for an interesting study of game progression. Bloodrayne 1 has a decent story, but is marred by such blindingly frustrating combat, that I’m not sure how my younger self ever got through the game! I must have been much more patient back then. Meanwhile, Bloodrayne 2 vastly improves on the flaws of 1, if only to make way for some new ones.
Let’s start with Bloodrayne 1, though. Combat is your basic hack-n-slash variety, but there’s no combos, so you just mash attack over and over and over. There’s also very little feedback to tell you if you’re actually doing damage to the enemies or even connecting the hits. Some enemies introduced in the second chapter block every attack you throw at them, unless you attack from behind. But, whereas a modern game might give you an audio or visual clue your attack was blocked, Bloodrayne 1 gives neither, leaving you free to wail on these guys until your thumb falls off. Also, Rayne does not turn with the left analogue stick, but faces in the direction of the camera. So if you want to attack someone to your right, you have to swing the camera around.
And enemies don’t get stunned or retreat, despite having some very large blades cutting through them. They simply stop attacking when they die, usually in an explosion of blood. This kind of makes sense in the beginning, when the enemies are zombies and insects, but after the first level, when you start taking on normal human Nazis...
Oh yeah, did I mention this game is about Nazis hunting down occult items? What’s that? Wolfenstein? Never heard of it.
Anyway, when the Nazis don’t retreat either, and you can have a half dozen or more, some shooting at you, others beating on you, combat becomes both confusing and a health sink.
Fortunately, health regeneration is one of the areas that Bloodrayne shines. You don’t automatically regenerate health, nor are there health packs... not in the traditional sense, anyway. Instead, you, Rayne, are a dhampir (the mortal offspring of a vampire father and human mother), and as such, you can regain health by sucking it from the necks of any human you’re fighting. You’ll need to do that once or twice with pretty much every fight because the Nazis have guns with seemingly unlimited ammo, you have two blades that can’t block and a few guns that run out of ammo very quickly. So you’ll lose a lot of health every fight, but since you regain it quickly when feeding, it never seemed to matter. After a while, I stopped worrying when my health got low, a strategy that led to a few frustrating game overs, since checkpoints don’t seem to have been invented when this game came out. You get one save point at each level transition, and if you’re most of the way through the level when you die, you get to go all the way back and start over.
So combat is kinda a mess, but at least the story is interesting...
Well, functional, anyway, which is still more than I can say for Bloodrayne 2’s plot.
In Bloodrayne 1, you are on a quest to hunt down and kill officers in the G.G.G., Hitler’s Elite branch of Occult-hunting Nazis. As plots go, it’s not exactly deep, but really we’re just here to ambiguously hack-n-slash our way through the entire German Army... and some monsters for good measure.
Bloodrayne 2’s plot is the same thing after being put through Word’s find and replace function a few times. Instead of Nazis, you’re fighting vampires. Instead of hunting down G.G.G. officers, you’re hunting down the children of your father so you can commit fratricide en masse. The plot would be more engaging, since it’s more of a personal story to Rayne, except that the developers decided to forgo characterizing anyone, or giving anyone a backstory, in favor of upping the gore and titty factor (I’ll come back to this). Bloodrayne 1 may have been a blood filled romp through a linear succession of identical clones, with the occasional color-swapped clone as a boss fight, but at least we weren’t presented with the base for an interesting story that never comes around!
Bloodrayne 2 is still the better game, though, because while the story doesn’t go anywhere, the combat is much, much improved.
Still not very good compared to modern hack-n-slash games, but better than Bloodrayne 1.
For 2, the developers seem to have looked at the (relative) success of 1 and asked themselves, “what are two popular aspects of the first game we can improve for the second?” The answer apparently came back as “combat” and “sex appeal”. Combat received a massive makeover, giving Rayne the magical ability to lock onto individual enemies, block, and have combos, making combat about 500% better. Guns received an upgrade too, going from “whatever you can find lying around” to “magical guns that turn blood into bullets and have multiple firing modes”. The new guns are kinda hit and miss, though. It’s nice that I don’t need to pick up new guns every alternate step, which also means that most enemies no longer carry guns and therefore can’t snipe you with perfect aim from halfway to Neverland, and it’s nice that ammo now takes the form of blood, which you can get from enemies by letting the guns feed, or yourself if you just keep firing after you’ve run out of ammo (at the cost of health). But this does mean that, where Bloodrayne 1 had you feeding once or twice per fight, Bloodrayne 2 might as well become a succession of feeding on enemies. You see, Rayne still loses health quickly in fights, with only a hit or two needed to take off 2/3rds of her health. And since both you AND your guns need to feed, AND since enemies you feed on obligingly don’t fight back, AND since nearby enemies also obligingly stand still while you feed, there’s very little reason to do anything else. In fights with normal enemies, you can feed your way through the entire group and not get hurt. So the blade and kick combos are nice (though they still have the ambiguous nature of being unable to tell if you’re connecting or doing damage), but feeding is both faster and easier. To alleviate this, and to up the gore as well, Rayne now has a repertoire of feeding fatalities, i.e. very bloody ways to instantly kill enemies you’re feeding on. There’s an alarming number of them which get pulled of with different button combos, and leave you invulnerable while you do them. So it’s kinda like taking Mortal Kombat to the extreme of having lots of quick fights where the only moves are fatalities.
And I like them. Sure, they’re over the top and unrealistic (how, for example, does a blade cut all the way through someone lengthwise, without pause? I think there’s a few bones in there might give some problems, vampiric strength notwithstanding), but they’re meant to be visceral, so just enjoy it for what it is, I suppose.
Then there’s the sex appeal. Oh the sex appeal... In Bloodrayne 1, Rayne was about as sexy as a small, low-poly model you mostly saw from behind could be, but for 2, they went all out. They started by upping the poly-count, giving Rayne more... definition and... physics. They changed her standard clothing to show off more flesh, and they gave her alternate, unlockable outfits (including several low cut dresses and a schoolgirl outfit with very short skirt).
But I don’t necessarily mind that for two reasons. 1) Rayne is never presented as someone you should aspire to. She’s rude, crude, haughty, and really rather malicious. She’s not a role model, she’s just a pin-up. Which is point 2) Is it really fair to criticise a game that intentionally pandered to the male audience in a time dominated by male gamers? The developers of Bloodrayne 2 set out to turn Rayne into a pin-up girl with posters, teasers, and artwork, even working that aspect into the core of the game. Can I really say it’s a bad game for doing exactly what they wanted to do? I don’t think that Bloodrayne 2 would do well in today’s enlightened times, which is probably why Bloodrayne 3 was 180 degrees different. But still, criticising Bloodrayne 2 for having too much sex appeal feels like trying to criticize a hentai game for having too much sex. It’s certainly a very troubling game, in terms of the depiction of women, and I’m slightly embarrassed that my younger self enjoyed it so much, nor is it a game I’d really want remade for modern technology (at least, not an exact remake), but I find it hard to be angry at Rayne. She’s an icon, nothing more.
Which may be a problem in itself, of course.
Now, the 3rd game in the trilogy, Bloodrayne: Betrayal, I haven’t talked about much. That’s for a few reasons. First, it’s not exactly a retro review, since it came out in 2011. Second, I haven’t finished it. And third, other than a few named characters, it bears so little resemblance to previous Bloodrayne titles it might as well have been called the Adventures of Commodore Cuts-a-lot. You still get Rayne, and you still get the blood, but Betrayal is a 2d side scrolling hack-n-slash with flat, anime style art and heavier Metroidvania style gameplay... plus the sex appeal has been toned down. It’s pretty much unrelated, probably because it was made by a different developer (same developer that made the Vita Silent Hill game, interestingly). And really, if you know the gameplay that comprises a Metroidvania game, then you know how Betrayal plays. The plot in Betrayal is even flimsier than 1 & 2, because really, we’re here for the challenge. Fighting your way through innumerable bad guys, performing acrobatic combat and perfectly timed attacks to get a high score is the meat and bones (and blood) of Betrayal, and that’s a good thing.
It’s too difficult for me to get through, since it relies on timed and technical button taps, but it’s still a good thing.
In fact, if I had to recommend one of these three games for people to play, it would be Betrayal. Because, despite my excuses earlier, the extreme male gaze of 2 takes it off the recommendation list, and the incredibly poor mechanics of 1 takes it off as well. Betrayal is hard, but fair.
Glasses off Thoughts: So in the end, what are the Bloodrayne games to me now? Are they still, “fun little games with some interesting ideas and a few flaws”? Well, yes and no. Bloodrayne 1 is incredibly frustrating to get through, and really rather bland, visually. I seem to have forgotten those points in the years since I initially played the game, but I doubt I’ll forget it now! 1 isn’t worth going back to play again, though between 1 and 2, I’d actually rather see 1 updated with modern mechanics and graphics.
Bloodrayne 2, however, is still that fun game with some flaws. Something I’ll go back to and play when I want something visceral and mindless. Turn on god mode and sit back to enjoy the blood and gutsapolooza. It’s far closer to what I remember than Bloodrayne 1 was, and for that, it gets the Accurate Rose Tinted Glasses award.
Link for Doubting Thomas: Bloodrayne Trilogy (Taharka)
Game: Sanctuary RPG: Black Edition (3.7 hours, all on work time)Sponsored by: Steam Summer Sale 2015, my own lack of self-control, and a lame duck job with less than two weeks left
Bomb Shelter Review
Colorized ASCII-art retro-style CRPG roguelike. Need I say more?
Notre Dame Review
I need say more.
It was bad enough trying to work here when it felt like no one cared. But to not work here when it feels like no one cares, that's brutal. I can only watch Slingbox and send emails so often. I installed Steam and this game on my Surface, since I figured it would be resource-light enough to play without sapping all of the battery in an hour. Turns out to be a neat, accessible little roguelike RPG.
Plot's very high-fantasy: some evil big bad called The Matron is threatening the world, and the character of your choosing is destined to stop her. The path ahead is fraught with danger, though, so keep your eyes open, your armor buckled tight, and your weapon sharp.
Gameplay is as retro as it gets: it's all done by answering menu choices. You decide where to go and what to do from a list of options. Reminds me of a "choose your own adventure" game I wrote in C during a summer camp; the lesson was about "state machines", pretty clever little exercise. This is what you can do with a simple set of options and an RNG, and not limiting yourself to an adventure game. You can soldier on your quest to defeat evil, or you can visit various establishments for support: the Blacksmith makes weapons, the Market sells items, the Temple is a meditative place (where you can boost enemy strength in return for more XP and items), the Library has books to read, the Tavern is a merry old dive, the Colosseum is a place to fight progressively-scaling enemies and procedurally-generated dungeons, and the Campground is where you can establish a base and craft your own items. Inventory is very limited: you can only have one weapon, one armor, one shield and one charm. Every time you find a new equippable, you have to either equip it right away and "salvage" the old one into raw materials, or keep your current one and salvage the new one. The raw materials can be used at the various establishments, particularly the Campground to craft new items (the minigame is tricky, but if done correctly can be very effective). Combat is - wait for it... - turn-based! Select your move from the list, watch the enemy's health bar go down, make sure yours doesn't hit zero. This is a true roguelike, so death is permanent, and saving is only to come back later. There is a "Softcore" mode without permadeath, but it is not recommended, and they discourage it by lowering the item drop rate by 20%. There are six classes, I've only played two so far.
The stylistic assets are a mix of old and new. The graphics are all ASCII. All of them. It's got a retro feel, but there's color mixed in, hence it's a bit mixed. The sound is also a mix: it's all very high-quality, but done with an 8-bit feel to it. Some sound effects sound very crisp and modern (the "metal striking metal" effect during mining and crafting comes to mind), others are more retro-sounding. There's a bit of silly wit thrown into the writing for good measure, lots of gratuitous references to potatoes, and apparently something about romancing a cow.
It's remarkably complex, very much in the style of roguelike RPGs, but the difference I sense is the difficulty curve. With most roguelikes, you're thrown into the center of the pool and it's "sink or swim". Here, the game actually walks you through a tutorial to explain the combat system (which does have some interesting intricacies, such as debuffs, positioning, chained attacks, combos and Ultimates) and segments each zone with level ranges, like MMOs. I got nuked the first time because I didn't realize how quickly the zones were scaling relative to my character's level; you can hold your own in the higher zones against the "commons", but the boss is another story entirely. Another nice thing is that you don't have to fight to earn XP: reading books at the Library and serving patrons at the Tavern can provide XP. However, the non-combat options, including things like the Blacksmith's inventory (which is "buy on sight or it's discarded"), are on a daily cycle: they refresh as time advances, but time only advances by adventuring or doing some other things like "Research" at the library or sleeping at your Campground.
Will I need more shelter?
Most likely. Still got five more days at work to get through, and the replay factor is pretty high, with the different classes, and a locked "Endless" gameplay mode that requires beating the game on non-Softcore difficulty. There's a "Lunatic" mode with bonus item drop, but it's not for beginners.
How strong is the barricade? (Dark Souls/Bloodborne)
The fact that they give you so much information is already miles ahead of most other roguelikes. As long as you use your common sense (best thing I've ever read in a car service manual, for the BMW 7 series, concerning working on electronic components in bad weather), you'll be fine. Hell, I accidentally got drunk in-game, which masks your combat options, but I remembered the typical combat progression order and managed to win two plot-relevant fights.
[.... ] (4/10)
Link for front page
Sanctuary RPG: Black Edition (Bubs14)
Thank you for the kind words, Hyetal & Log_in_Lain! AgOnst my better judgement, I've gone back to the game this weekend and realized a couple of things. The first thing is the total absence of a map or even a minimap. Honestly, I'm kinda over tracing maps as I play.
The second thing - and I can't believe I didn't realize this sooner - hit me as I was checking my badge progress to see how many card drops were left. All the main characters, including those that join up with the duo, are white and have blue eyes. Honestly, I found it kinda creepy. Not to mention hugely problematic. I did run across a black NPC in a town (and I remember this because I was struck by how cool her dress are hair looked, whereas Aura is quite plain), but... Yeah, that's an issue.
Retro Review: Rule of Rose
TL:DR: Can it really be a retro review if I never played the game when it first came out?
Full Review: So in my last review, I weakly attempted to justify Bloodrayne’s appearance, saying that intentional over-sexualization was fine since the game was deliberately pandering to the male gaze. But what about intentional over-sexualization from the opposite perspective? Where the sexualization isn’t used to pander, but to disturb? And the violence that so often goes along with sexualization isn’t for mindless gratification, but to horrify?
Rule of Rose is a game I’ve wanted to play for almost a decade, but have been unable to do so due to cost. The game was met with terrible reviews on launch, didn’t sell well in America, and as such, you can’t find a copy these days for less than about $85 (and usually $150 or more), which is a bit pricey to me.
And now that I’ve had the opportunity to play it, I can kinda understand why. Rule of Rose is one of those games without an original idea in its head, which seems weird, because it was published in America by Atlus, they of Persona fame, and Atlus is a company I deeply admire for their unique works. But here it is, a Silent Hill and Haunting Ground knockoff, with plot based heavily on Lord of the Flies (though the developers deny that) and symbolism.
In fact, what surprises me most about Rule of Rose is that it’s on the PS2. If you did a side by side comparison of Silent Hill 1 and Rule of Rose, you’d be hard pressed to notice any differences. Mostly, that’s because both games cover the screen with either darkness or fog, though again, in Silent Hill 1 that was probably for technical limitations, while in Rule of Rose, it was to be like Silent Hill.
The similarities continue with the color pallet being remarkably similar, as is the exploration aspect (multiple doors, a number of which are broken and many of the remainder requiring keys which only occasionally resemble actual keys for you to hunt down), movement controls (tank), the combat (clunky and difficult), and even the enemies themselves (symbolic bosses that are spawned from NPCs, and the Imps being remarkably similar to the Grey Children).
Not that the copying, or ‘homage’ is a bad thing! To compare it to a modern game, Shadows of Mordor also didn’t have an original thought in its head, yet it was a really fun, enjoyable game. And part of why I like Rule of Rose is because I like the atmosphere and psychological aspect of the first few Silent Hills. It’s a slow paced, thoughtful, spooky game with a story that unnerves you and has you questioning what is real as you play. It gets in your head, messing with your mind even as it shows you another disturbing scene. Never once does rely on jump scares or chainsaws, it just builds you up and up until you’re too tense and miserable to keep playing.
Exactly the way I like it.
The plot is probably the most unique element of the game, though it does read a lot like Lord of the Flies, right down to individual characters. You play as Jennifer, a recent orphan who is sent to the “Rose Garden Orphanage” before becoming involved in the “Red Crayon Aristocrats”, a hierarchy of young girls that torment and bully all the other children on the airship.
... Did I mention that this game quickly starts making you question what is real? The game starts with a quaint (in that Silent Hill sort of way) English orphanage, but swiftly transitions onto an airship, where much of the game actually takes place. The more the plot unfolds, with interludes, cut scenes, and documents and conversations which reference things slightly disconnected from current events, the larger the question looms.
Anyway, the girls of the Red Crayon Aristocrats use their positions to dominate, abuse, and hurt the children not in the Aristocrats as well as those who are, but of lower level. And considering that a main plot element involves “Stray Dog”, a monstrous “beast” that kidnaps and eats children, the Lord of the Flies analogy is unavoidable, no matter what the developers say.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the specifics of the plot, since this is a game I think people should go play, but needless to say if you’ve played Silent Hill and read Lord of the Flies, you’re going to be hit with a remarkable feeling of Déjà vu.
But let’s return to the first full paragraph of this review by talking about everyone’s favorite topics, sexuality and violence.
I find it easier to justify the sexuality displayed in Rule of Rose because its intent is to disturb, and the over sexualization of underage girls is certainly disturbing. In a scene part-way through the game, each of the girls in the Red Crayon Aristocrats curtseys to you. Two of the three girls are wearing skirts that would be considered highly prudish at the time (1930s), though their curtseys are normal, while the third girl is wearing a modest full length skirt that she slowly lifts up and up and up, the camera cutting away just before the point of indecency to the girl’s knowing smile. In another scene, one girl presents a rose to another, a sign of affection, before the second girl gently takes the first’s hands and forces the first to prick her finger. Then the second girl sucks on that bleeding finger. And again, all of these girls are under the age of 18 (though their specific ages are never mentioned). Several scenes and character design features suggest sexual abuse by the one adult male character, but it’s all shown through the lens of childhood innocence and misunderstanding, though incredibly warped.
Indeed, much of the symbolism suggests seeing without comprehension, mistaking what any adult would understand for something more childlike and innocent, or else completely surreal. The violence that these girls engage in ties into the plot element of ‘loss of innocence’ too, with the extreme sadistic cruelty displayed by the girls not matching the childlike games everything is presented as. The “Red Crayon Aristocrats”, the “Princess of the Rose”, the “Beautiful Butterfly”, the chapters presented as titles from fairy tale books, complete with Grimm brothers-esque text to read (“The Little Princess”, “The Clover Field”, “Sir Peter”, “The Goat Sisters”), etc.
And as a tool to disturb and horrify, it works remarkably well. Everything ties together nicely to create an overall feeling of unease and wrongness. And that’s the only time the word nice can be used when talking about the game’s plot.
But I do understand why reviewers of the time would pan the game. It’s disturbing in a way that Silent Hill wasn’t. It’s one thing to have a little girl run off into a creepy town while a desperate father lovingly searches for her while confronting Lovecraftian nightmares, but quite another to show that little girl as a sadistic, abusive, hate-filled child who’s also being sexually abused by the solitary father figure. Personally, I think it’s a matter of how easy it is to compartmentalize the horror. Lovecraftian nightmares and a cult trying to summon satan? Pssh, easy to disregard. The horrors of human nature and forceful loss of innocence? That’s a lot harder.
Glasses off Review: So does Rule of Rose hold up to my decade old mental image, now that I’ve played it? Absolutely. I went in expecting an old-school style horror game, and that’s exactly what I got. At first, it was difficult to get past the clunky controls and murky graphics, but after a while I adjusted, and those two negatives started adding to the sense of despair and unease the game wants you to have. Combat is genuinely tense, the graphics make me melancholy, the plot disturbs me, as does the symbolism. It’s not gory, like FMV horror games from a decade earlier, nor is it overtly sexual or pandering. It gives you just enough information to start you on the mental path, then lets your mind fill in all the horrific blanks.
It’s a horror game in ways I haven’t seen for a while, and it’s a horror game that genuinely horrifies me. Jump scares are all well and good, but they don’t stick with you for long.
The horror of human nature, though, that stays with me much, much longer.
Link for Prince of the Thread DoubtingThomas: Rule of Rose (Taharka)
Gravey, I'm never sure, on a scale of 1-10, just how serious you are when you post. – Minarchist
Ha! Love that formatting.
I picked up Hacknet as well based on the Idle Thumbs endorsement.
A couple hours in and oh man is it great!
Send your email to [email protected].
Ha! Love that formatting.
I picked up Hacknet as well based on the Idle Thumbs endorsement.
A couple hours in and oh man is it great!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on it too!
I also noticed I misspelled it as Hackent once, which would be an entirely different, but potentially quite interesting, game.
That was very cool, Gravey!!! Don't think that one's for me, but was very cool reading your thoughts! Well done!
tl:dp (too long, definitely played): Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
Short Review: This is probably the best Metal Gear game so far.
Long Review: This is probably the best Metal Gear game so far, go out and get it.
Dark Souls Scale: This is probabl...
Ok, ok, I’ll do an actual review, but if you’re on total media blackout for this game, don’t read it. I’ll go into a few minor spoilers and I won’t be adding the spoiler tag (because they’re seriously minor).
So let’s take a break from the retro reviews to talk about a current game. I’ll get back to my retro reviews soon, though... Plenty of rose tinted memories left to shatter!
I should probably start by saying that, while I enjoy the Metal Gear Solid games, and have played all of the ones that aren’t on portable consoles, I’ve never been that much into them. Mostly that’s because of the plot... it’s the Japanese version of a Spanish soap opera... totally incomprehensible. Which is why it’s so refreshing that the plot of TPP is both direct and understandable. Sure, it relies on you knowing the whole history of Big Boss up until now, but they’ll also spend enough time rehashing the important points for you that you shouldn’t be too lost. It’s a plot I actually understand and motives I can comprehend. What is Big Boss trying to do? He’s trying to build a private mercenary force that doesn’t fight for any one nation or ideology, while also trying to get revenge on/break the secret organization running the world from behind the scenes... Finally! A MGS plot I get without resorting to cliffsnotes!
When I first started playing TPP, I expected to get burned out by the sandboxing and horse travel, like I did in both Dragon’s Age: Inquisition and Witcher 3 (incidentally, what is it with the latest entry of a series suddenly going open world?), but that’s not the case. TPP manages to strike the right balance between necessary horse travel and map collectables/objectives. Collectables and enemy bases aren’t too close together that you’ll only be on the horse for a few moments, constantly hopping on and off like an indecisive bus traveling tourist, but also aren’t far enough apart that you groan in agony at how long you’ll have to travel. And if you really don’t want to travel, and have the spare money, you can always call in a helicopter to take you closer. I never get bored roaming around the map, which is good, because each map is pretty massive! In fact, if there was one phrase that described TPP, it would be “Strikes the perfect balance”.
Combat strikes the perfect balance. You have the normal stealth tools, including silenced weapons, but if I ever got bored with the ol’ stealth/tranq/knockout route, I’d just get a supply drop for my sniper rifle and enjoy picking off people from afar. Or a rocket launcher and blow everyone to Narnia. There are even a few missions where you’re on a timer, and stealth really isn’t an option, which I like. Before I started TPP, I was having flashbacks to MGS4, where I did an entire run “no kills, no alerts” and I started shivering and muttering something about “F***ing alerts”, but really, there’s no serious benefit to not killing or not alerting soldiers, unless you want that S++ rating (which is just a bragging rights thing, no tangible benefit). Even if you kill a soldier that you really wanted for your base, soldiers infinitely respawn when you come back to an area, so you’re likely to find someone of similar quality or better.
Enemy AI strikes a perfect balance. I really like how soldiers adapt to your tactics. If you mostly stealth around at night, they’ll start equipping night vision goggles. Get a lot of headshots, and they’ll start wearing helmets. Hold up a lot of people, and they’ll start traveling in pairs. Use a lot of smoke grenades, and they’ll start wearing gas masks. It makes the experience more organic for me, forcing me to adapt my tactics, instead of falling into a routine. And no matter how much you scout the base with binoculars in advance, tagging enemies and collectables, you’ll always miss a few, meaning you still have to pay attention while actually infiltrating, lest you turn the corner and face plant right into a soldier. But what I really love is that you can mess up the stealth without feeling like you messed up the game. The only other game series, in my mind, to pull that off is the Batman series. If you mess up the stealth, you get a few seconds of “reaction time” where you might be able to take out the alerted guards before they can sound the alarm. And even if the alarm does go off, you can still run and hide or just shoot your way out. Even though I do mess the stealth up more than I’d like, I still feel like a bada**, legendary mercenary when I come through an extended firefight, surrounded by a mountain of corpses and can continue on my way without feeling like the game is shaking its head in disappointment.
The AI support, or “buddies” strike the perfect balance. I love that the buddies are varied and each useful in their own way. The horse lets you travel quickly, even over rugged terrain. DDog sniffs out soldiers for you, letting you stealth better. Quiet (who we’ll come back to later) is a master sniper, letting you thin the ranks in advance. And the DWalker is a mobile weapons platform, perfect for crashing the gates. No matter who you chose, there are benefits and drawbacks to each, meaning you have to weigh the options carefully, and I like that I need to put thought into my choice. (quick PSA, if you do use Quiet, don’t use her in missions 29 or 42. There’s apparently a game breaking/save corrupting bug if you do)
Base management strikes the perfect balance. It isn’t the most in-depth sim-esque out there, but it’s both necessary and pretty enjoyable. You need to build platforms for your base and extract soldiers, supplies, and equipment (like mortars, guns, cars, etc) from the field to staff it. Then you get to run around and see the little world you built. You can develop weapons and tech from anywhere, but what you can develop depends entirely on your base and the ranking of the different groups within it. There’s even a gameplay benefit to going back periodically, besides story points and R&D, because you get bloody and dirty in the field, which lowers your combat potential. But if you go back to base, you can shower and recover. As a whole, it’s just in-depth enough to not feel like a completely vestigial feature, but not too in-depth that I feel overwhelmed. I’ll spend a few minutes or so every hour doing some base management before sitting back and enjoying the fruits of that management.
But no game is perfect, (it wouldn’t be balanced otherwise) and TPP definitely has a few flaws. The most frustrating is the controls. There are just too many button presses required to do anything. Press the x button, and you’ll toggle between walking and crouch walking. Hold x and you’ll go flat on the ground. Press square and you’ll throw yourself flat on the ground. While on the ground, press triangle to, somehow, go even flatter (basically lowering your head) and somehow become “more stealthy”. You can’t hip fire, instead you have to hold L2 to ready your weapon, then R2 to fire. And if you want iron sights instead of the reticule, press R1 after L2 before R2. But the biggest gripe I have with the running controls. Snake runs when you click R3. D-Horse runs when you hold square. And since R3 doesn’t do anything while on the horse (that I know of), I see no reason why clicking R3 couldn’t have made the horse sprint too! Maybe then Snake wouldn’t have been shot so many times when a sudden firefight breaks out and I accidentally fling myself on the ground instead of sprinting to cover.
Another big complaint for me is that it takes far too many resources to do anything. Building up your base, which, as I mentioned, you need to do, is expensive. Calling in supply drops is expensive. Calling in a helicopter is especially expensive. Resources in the field infinitely respawn, but only after some time elapses, and don’t come in large quantities. In some ways, this is a good thing, since it forces you to think about what you really need to develop next and what can wait, but in other ways, having a little more income would have been better and meant that I spent less time going over and over the same areas for resources.
Then there’s Quiet.
You know, It’d be nice to go a review or two without coming back to blatant sexuality in gaming, but, short of doing a retro review on Sonic the Hedgehog, that’s obviously not going to happen any time soon. If you’ve somehow missed the hype, backlash, and press pictures, Quiet is your female sniper specialist who never speaks and wears a bikini... even on deployment. Kojima said that it was an intentional mocking of the way games handle female characters, as nothing more than eye candy, but there’s no evidence of that in game. Every time there’s a cutscene involving Quiet, the camera makes a point to sweep slowly past her anatomy before resting on her face. It doesn’t mock anything by, say, putting up big stop signs or having an in-game character call you out for it, the game just plays right to the visceral nature that Kojima is claiming to mock. Even the in-game explanation for Quiet’s clothing is hollow. She can’t wear clothes because she breathes, drinks, and eats through her skin, and more clothing would literally suffocate/starve her. But when she undoes the back of her bikini while laying face down in the manner one might to get an even tan, ostensibly to “eat” (through photosynthesis) despite the strap being maybe an inch wide on an otherwise bare back, it sounds like plot justification for the character’s appearance, rather than character’s appearance following plot. Each of the four buddies has unlockable/developable gear, but while the other three have clothing options that seriously affect gameplay, Quiet’s clothing options affect nothing and are just there for visual appeal. I may have felt that Bloodrayne’s appearance was justified since that whole game centered around the visceral nature of sex and violence, but TPP is an excellent stealth game that’s getting distracted by blatant sexualization. Here was an opportunity to have a strong female character (something severely lacking in the MGS universe), but it’s just wasted by needless pandering.
Yet, despite these complaints, TPP is still an incredible game worthy of the praise it’s gotten so far. It’s got a lot of different small parts, but manages to juggle them all so well, I never feel any part is extraneous (except some of the controls, I mean... come on, how many different buttons are needed to go prone?) The plot, at least at time of writing, is so much more understandable that I feel Big Boss is the more relatable character (over Solid Snake). And all in all, this is a perfect swan song for the series, bringing us full circle back to where MGS started. Maybe the series as a whole is a little bloated with dialogue and random 'out of left field' plot devices, but The Phantom Pain is a worthy crown on top of the whole pile... a genuinely enjoyable experience that’s leaving me immensely satisfied.
Dark Souls Scale, for real: That kinda depends on your personal psychotic level. If you desperately want to get that S++ rating, expect to have to work for it and replay missions over and over before you can pull them off. Perfectly stealthing is really hard. But if you let go and content yourself with C - A rankings, then it’s much more manageable.
Will I keep playing? Yes! Most definitely!
Link for Doubting Snake: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Taharka)
Quick follow up regarding female characters in The Phantom Pain.
And this one I will spoiler, since it involves a plot important character:
Turns out there's a second female character in The Phantom Pain... Paz.
That's right, the girl who, ostensibly, got blown up at the end of Ground Zeroes...
Brushing past the Deus Ex Machina/Retcon that her appearance brings, you only meet her while she's in a hospital room in your base. She's even wearing a hospital "gown", complete with the correct sterile green color.
EXCEPT THAT THE GOWN HAS BEEN MODIFIED INTO A BIKINI!!!
No, I'm serious. Ok, it's more of a tube top and hot pants... but this is a hospital room! Come on, Kojima! Her clothing appearance makes NO SENSE and isn't given any justification!
I don't care what you do later with her character, and I'm assuming there will be some sort of twist (this being a Metal Gear Solid game), it's just needless.
Thanks for the very thorough write up, Taharka. As for Quiet and your spoiler... **Sigh** I just don't even know what to say anymore...
Game: Ephemeral Fantasia
Sponsored By: Rose Colored Glasses
TL:DR: Ohh... I see what they did, now. It only took me 15 years.
Long Review: Finally! A game review where I don’t have to talk about the blatant sexualization!
Oh wait... I’m still thinking about Sonic the Hedgehog. That doesn’t happen in Sonic, but it most definitely happens here.
So Ephemeral Fantasia is one of those games that got away. I rented it from my local Hollywood Video (gives you an idea of how long ago this was), and played a fair way into it, but between when I returned it and went to check it out the next time, it was gone. And so the game has grown in my mind, gradually growing red with nostalgia, over the years as a really enjoyable, really unique game. Since then, I’ve had a chance to play two games which shatter that rose tinted view. The first is Ephemeral Fantasia itself, and the second is Majora’s Mask on 3DS (That’s the new, XL 3ds. Not to be confused with the old 3ds nor the new, small 3ds...)
Suddenly, I see exactly what Ephemeral Fantasia is. It’s a hasty cash in. Let’s see if any of the plot of Ephemeria Fantasia sounds familiar to those who have played Majora’s Mask... You play a mute character of unknown origin who travels to a land currently under the threat of an all powerful being, and the hero must repeat the week over and over, gathering party members and resources by interacting with them at specific times in the week, until the hero is powerful enough to defeat the powerful being and free the land... Aside from the fact that Ephemeral Fantasia is taking place over a week rather than three days, and it’s not the moon that’s smashing into the area, the two games are very similar.
Only Majora’s Mask was very well designed, and Ephemeral Fantasia was not.
It’s difficult to say what, exactly, differentiates a homage from a knockoff, but I’d say that one of the defining characteristics is the usage of the same or similar mechanics to somehow improve upon the original (i.e. Bloodrayne Betrayal), or to tell a new story (i.e. Rule of Rose). EF does neither, and manages to mess up the mechanics so badly that it’s near unplayable.
Let’s start by diving into the mechanics. Both MM and EF have a time looping mechanic. In MM, however, you have three days that are divided into two segments each, and the events you have to complete can be done within one or more of those six segments, giving you a nice, large window to complete them. With EF, you have five days, not divided into large segments, and you frequently only have a few hours to be in the right place to complete the event before it’s gone until the next cycle. In MM, they give you hints and clues about where to be, when, even including a notebook to help you keep track of everything. In EF, you just have to know where to be, meaning a lot of trips to a wiki. In MM, you can control time, to a degree, by speeding it up, slowing it down, or restarting the cycle early. EF has none of those things, so if you missed the two hour window to get what you needed (a very easy thing to do, considering the convoluted map and lack of direction), then you have to wait five days to try again. MM had both a smaller world and a fast travel system, making it much easier to be in the right place at the right time. EF’s world is large, convoluted, and has no better way to get from one place to another than by running there. And as this is a JRPG, you’re bound to get into a bunch of battles along the way.
Even removing the comparison to MM, EF is a bad JRPG. The map is too large, and you can’t map it by walking around or buying a map. You have to find the map fragment for each of the 49 areas, otherwise you’ll be running around blind. And the world, even the main town, is more akin to a labyrinth than an island. Maybe it makes sense for the caves to twist and turn on themselves, but not the village. You can go in almost every single house, regardless of if they have items or people, meaning you have a lot of exploring to do. The houses that are important aren’t differentiated from the ones that aren’t, leading to both confusion and trial and error. And even if you do have the area map, it’s so vague that you may not be able to tell how to get from one area to the next, or to the correct path within the area.
The party members you gain each have equipment to manage and skills to gain, which is done by participating in random battles and leveling up. It’s not unique, but is at least functional, and fairly typical for JRPGs and works reasonably well. And is probably the only part of the game that does work well.
Graphics are terrible, and could have been done on a PS1. In fact, this was originally slated to be a dreamcast game, and when the console changed, they don’t seem to have done anything to the graphics. The most notable being combat areas: blocky and bland with bad texturing, which is at least consistent with the rest of the game, but the rest of the game uses a wider camera angle, so you don’t really notice it.
And then there’s the female characters... oh the female characters....
There’s a lot of ways that blatant sexualization can get a pass in a game. Make the entire game center on the sexualization while including functional, if anemic mechanics like Bloodrayne. Make the sexualization a central plot element to explore and discuss the topic, such as with Rule of Rose. Even including the sexualization just for the sake of sexualization, but having an extremely strong game surrounding it, like with Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. But Ephemeral Fantasia takes the completely unjustifiable route. It panders to the male gaze with all the worst parts of blatant sexualization such as clothing, dialogue, and characters, without having a decent or original game holding it up. EF really feels like the developers wanted to make a visceral movie, a direct to DVD thing, but were pressured into making it into a game, so they bolted on borrowed mechanics in the vain hope of justifying the sexualization.
Every female character in the game is in a revealing outfit. Every one. The captain of the guard wears a thong bikini, the princess wears a cut-off tank top and bikini, the scientist doesn’t bother closing her lab coat all the way. At first, I thought that at least the underage girl character was going to be tastefully dressed throughout the game, but then they reveal that she has this alternate persona, who’s dressed as a playboy bunny and casts spells by shaking her butt. NPCs, party members, it doesn’t matter. If it’s female, it’s in a revealing outfit. And no one tries to justify it, like Kojima did with Quiet (though plenty of lewd comments are made, so it’s at least acknowledged... if in totally the wrong way). It really does feel like every female character is something to be ogled. It’s insipid and disgusting, unjustified and unjustifiable.
Glasses Off Review: So does Ephemeral Fantasia hold up? Is it still a, “really enjoyable, really unique game”? There really aren’t enough syllables in the word ‘no’ to adequately express the no-ness of my answer, and as this is a family friendly forum, I can’t use the more profane phrases that spring to mind. Even taking out the gender politics, like if every female character was appropriately dressed, it’s a crappy game. Majora’s Mask did everything that Ephemeral Fantasia did, but better. Final Fantasy 7 and 9 did everything Ephemeral Fantasia did, but better. I cannot find any reason to recommend Ephemeral Fantasia. Even if you enjoy the male gaze aspect, and want to ogle some 2000 era 3d characters, just go do a Google image search, spare yourself the awful game mechanics.
Link for Doubting Thomas: Ephemeral Fantasia (Taharka)
I'm going to pinch Takhara's format since I liked how it flowed.
Game: Toy Soldiers: War Chest
Sponsored By: 80's Childhood Nostalgia
TL:DR: Nostalgia does not absolve all sins nor can it hide a mediocre tower defense game.
I am a sucker for G.I.Joe and Cobra, also I had a ton of He-Man toys as a kid. You can't just put those characters on a box cover and offer it at my sweet spot ($30) and think I won't pick it up. Of course, I don't really care for tower defense games, but I hate RTS and loved Dawn of War because it was well done, I love Warhammer 40,000, and it was a game that rose above it's genre. That last point is something I should have remembered as very few games are just so good that you can enjoy them when they are the kind of game you typically hate.
The game starts with one of those long drawn out tutorials that I despise. Basically making you play through each control when all I really needed was the basics and then let me play through the advanced stuff. I think we all get how to move and look around now. This two stick controller thing has been around awhile, right?
Still, the setting and set pieces are just fantastic. I love the feel of toys coming to life and fighting epic battles and it gets even better having some familiar faces in the fight. The first time you earn Duke and he starts ripping off cheesy 80's dialogue it seems like a game you can love. Then he disappears from the battle far too soon and you're left with a kind of blah tower defense game where nothing ever works quite as well until you take direct control of it yourself and there is no challenge until the game basically cheats and throws stuff at you that you can't counter or places the map in such a way that you can hardly defend your toy box.
Let me back up. The only characters you get to control directly are either your turrets or the commanders. The commanders only appear when you fill up a bar by destroying enemy units and the bar decreases when you are not killing anything, so there are times it can be impossible to fill. Then, units you can control directly have a time limit on them. So you may have a tank on your side you can control or you may control the commander and they are really powerful but poof away when you need them the most. In theory you should be able to fill up the bar to get a "barrage" attack. What that does is beyond me since the bar depletes so fast and it is so long between waves that finding out seems impossible.
The armies are kind of cool. The base came comes with a World War I German Army motif, an obvious riff on the 80's Rainbow Brite/Strawberry Shortcake/My Little Pony/all things girly girl army, a sci-fi action army that meshes a little bit of Mecha, Halo, and Star Wars all together, and a homage to Dungeons and Dragons. They are all pretty great in their own right. The War Chest edition of the game also comes with the DLC armies, which includes G.I.Joe, Cobra, He-Man, and....Assassin's Creed? I want to know who buys Assassin's Creed separately for a game like this? You decide to buy a toy themed tower defense game but your experience isn't complete until a bunch of guys in funny white suits are running around? It is a weird anomaly where the other licensed properties actually feel right at home alongside the more generic non-licensed toy armies.
What got me was mission 4 where you are winning the entire time, as usual, but the game then sends two waves of bombers to destroy all your turrets and then hits you with a supertank that easily takes up 10% of the map and you no longer have any anti-armor turrets or artillery to take it out. After two tries and ALMOST beating it I decided I had enough. If the only two modes are "easily kicking the AI's ass" or "The AI has to do something cheap to win" then there isn't much of a game here for me. I see how to beat that mission, but play times are too long to keep bothering.
Which is why there is no way this is an "hour" review because one mission can easily take 30 minutes and I think most of them were closer to 45. That would be fine except you spend most of that time sitting in a turret waiting for the next wave to roll through. I think I spent more time watching timers then actually fighting. The game needs a button that sends the next wave in if you're ready for them rather than waiting another 30 seconds to a minute. If you're frantically setting up defenses that 30 seconds seems to go by in 3, but if you're all set it is just a bore. Check my other posts, I don't do boredom well.
Also, if I play a match for 45 minutes and then you just cheapo roll a supertank across my toy box in the last 30 seconds and make me start from the beginning, that is a special kind of bullsh*t. There is a place in hell reserved for game designers that do that. It's shared by child molesters and people who talk in movie theaters. (According to Shepherd Book anyway. I am no theologian.)
Deactivated Nostalgia Mode Review:
You slapped 3 characters I loved on the cover of your game and got me to spend money. Well played, Ubisoft. This is still just a so-so tower defense game at best and the source material deserves better. Tower defense fans will likely not find anything great here but if they are hit with the nostalgia bug they might actually like the game. For those that don't like tower defense, the inclusion of 80's icons is not going to help you enjoy the game.
Link for Doubting Thomas: Toy Soldiers: War Chest (Botswana)
Wow, I feel so much less alone now... I never do multiplayer! - beeporama
Nice review, Botswana. I was moderatly interested in that game, but not so much now!
Game: Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Quick PSA: If you're at all interested in P4:D, you should go now and grab the free DLC (two costumes and two songs). You can grab the DLC even if you don't own the game, and it won't be free forever.
Short Review: An excellent game that's a worthy successor to Persona 4, and though marred by some issues, none of them are dealbreakers. If you're at all interested in rhythm games, or tangentally interested in rhythm games but very interested in Persona 4, then you should pick this game up. I fell into the latter category, and I'm really enjoying myself.
Long Review: Let's take another step away from nostalga reviews and cover something modern. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't played a lot of rhythm games. I played Cytus a bit on both Android and Vita, but didn't care for the music. I got more into Demo on Android, but rhythm games in general, I don't seek out.
However, my love of Persona 4 made this a must buy for me, so I grabbed it yesterday and have been working my way through it.
My first impressions were fairly good. The visuals are great and keep with the general asthetic of Persona 4, the music is interesting, pulling from the Persona 4 soundtrack, along with a few remixes that are interesting, and thankfully, none of it is the same j or k pop that drove me away from Cytus. The story seems like it will be quite interesting, and a worthy follow up to Persona 4: You and your friends are acting as backup dancers for Rise in an upcoming multi-idol festival thing. You're quickly introduced to a second idol group, the majority of which disappear just as quickly.
Overall, the plot revolves around the "Midnight Stage", which you get dragged to if you watch a video that appears on a particular website at midnight, the video in question supposedly being made by an idol who committed suicide. And that aspect of the plot is simultaneously the strongest and weakest part of the game. The game starts strong, with the video idol hanging herself in front of an elementary school fan, just to show you it's not f***ing around, and continues strong with the idol group that disappeared all having on-stage persona's based around succulent meats which they invite you to eat. To call it strange is an understatement. They don't really dwell on either of those plot points, but they certainly set a creepy tone. Which I like, it reminds me of Persona 4's plot. But at the same time, it's just a little too close to Persona 4's plot, like taking the same cake, scraping off the icing and adding a new design. I get that P4:D is trying to tie itself to the original, and throwing the characters we already know and love back into a similar setup is the obvious answer, but I would have liked to see a more divergent story. Even the idol's plot line, about how their fake onstage personas are the only ones the fans see or want to see, causing them to lose sight of their true selves, is a copy of Rise's story from Persona 4.
The dancing aspect comes because the Midnight Stage has been created, according to a disembodied voice, as a place where everyone can share their interests, without hate or violence. As such, when the investigation team try to summon their personas, they can't. The only way to defeat the shadows in the Midnight Stage is to overpower the shadow's song and dance. Do really well with your dance, and at the end, you summon your Persona who summons an instrument, which they play for 3 seconds to destroy/free the shadows. It's a kooky setup, but it works.
I do have a few other problems with the game overall. It starts super slow, and is more of a visual novel, so while there are a few dialogue choice segments, I don't think they actually effect the game. There are no social bonds to build, nor stats. Mostly you'll be reading and hitting x to advance the dialogue. And it takes far too long for a dance segment to come up. They tease you with a few places that definitely could have been dance segments, but aren't. Once the plot gets rolling, though, all is forgiven as the strong writing and plot get moving, and you are given more actual activities besides hitting the x button.
Another problem I have is with the mechanics. It's my understanding that the button presses should be timed with the music, to enhance the rhythm (hence the genre title). But while most of the songs do follow this creed, there are enough songs where the button presses have no resemblence to the rhythm, which breaks the flow. Also, while the visuals are excelent, and each song has an entire well choreographed dance routine going on in the background, you can't actually watch the dance because you have to focus exclusively on the outer inch of the screen, to time your button presses correctly. This problem is aleviated somewhat because after you clear a song, you can either watch your own replay, or watch a "perfect run", which let you actually watch the dance (and take screenshots, if you want).
The dialogue that plays during the songs is also iffy. There's an ongoing commentary by all the characters during the songs, but there are far too few lines which get repeated way too much. And 100% of the lines are fawning, positive reinforcement: "You're so pretty, Yukiko Sempai!", "You're doing amazing, Rise-chan, no wonder you're everyone's coach." "You guys rock!" Etc. I get that these characters are great friends who went through a traumatic event together and aren't likely to berate each other, but fewer lines would have been better and grated less. Fortunately, you can turn off the dance dialogue, and I would recommend doing so.
In fact, the positive reinforcement problem is endemic to the whole game. There are four ranks for each note you hit: Perfect, Great, Good, and Miss. But only Perfect and Great add to your combo meter. Both Good and Miss will reset it. This makes no sense to me, since if you're doing good, you're still hitting the notes. But the game seems to want to steer away from any sort negative feedback, like "poor" or "bad". I suppose it ties into the theme that they're building about friendship and happiness, but it's so saccharine.
Since I've covered sexualization in pretty much all of my other reviews, I suppose I should mention it here. It's not nearly as bad as some of the other games. Sexualization does come up in the plot, but it's following the Rule of Rose method and making it a discussion point. The only blatant sexualization are some of the outfits you can buy. All of the characters have swimsuits which you can have them wear duing free dance. But even that's not really male gaze material, since it's handled really evenly. Both the male and female characters have swimsuits, and both are handled neutrally. The female characters do have really expensive "end game" costumes that are revealing, but it's so minor, and you have to work so hard for it and you have to intentionally purchase and activate them that I don't find it a problem. It would be one thing if the girls had nothing but skimpy outfits, but 95% of the outfits are normal, everyday (or every schoolday) things.
But really, all of my issues are minor in the end and Dancing All Night is a really fun game that keeps me wanting more. The only issue that would have driven me away from the game, the dance dialogue, was fine once I switched it off. The songs are strong, the plot is strong (if on a slow boil), the visuals are strong, the non-dance dialogue is strong, the characters are great and reasonably well rounded. It really is a Persona game in the form of a rhythm game, and I highly recommend it.
Dark Souls Scale. Story mode difficulty is locked in at the beginning, and if you pick the easier option, there's no real challange (at least, not as far as I've gotten). Similarly, the free mode's easy and normal difficulties aren't difficult, but the hard mode is kicking my butt, and I can't get through even a single song. So there's definitely a challange there, if you're seeking it. Let's call it a 3 out of 5, huh?
Link for Dancing Thomas: Persona 4: Dancing All Night (Taharka)
Well, I was curious what Person 4: Dancing All Night was about and now I know. I also know to stay far far away, just like any other Persona game.
Nothing against them, just the typical Japanese Weirdness.
But while most of the songs do follow this creed, there are enough songs where the button presses have no resemblence to the rhythm, which breaks the flow.
Ya'know, I'm starting to think rhythm games aren't as easy to make as I've been led to believe.
Retro Review: Primal
TL:DR: Sooooo close. So very, very close.
Long Review: Finally! A game where I don’t have to talk about the rampant sexualization of female characters! No, seriously! And I’m not talking about Sonic the Hedgehog!
Jen is appropriately proportioned, appropriately dressed (considering she’s supposed to be into the heavy metal scene in the late 90s), she’s strong and self confident, capable, her dialogue is intelligent, and while she’s going to rescue her boyfriend (reverse mario style), she’s not doing it because “she can’t live without him” or “she needs him” or anything sycophantic like that. She’s going to rescue him because she has the opportunity to do so, and it’s the right thing to do. But at the same time, she’s not portrayed as a tomboy or “butch”, she’s just a very capable woman. She really is a female character in video games I could point to and say, “Look! This is how you do a realistic female role model! You don’t throw a bikini on a lingerie model and try to pass her off as a military specialist while she never speaks (cough, Kojima, cough)”
The reason you’ve probably never heard of Jen before is because the game surrounding her and her sidekick is mediocre at best. Sigh. Just can’t have everything, can we?
But let me back up for a moment. Like Ephemeral Fantasia, Primal is another game that got away. I rented it, got as far as the second world before returning it and it disappeared. I didn’t remember much about it, other than I liked the two main characters and the story was interesting in a dark fantasy kind of way, so jumping back into it years later, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Well, it turns out that my impressions were right on the money, as well as filtering out all the bad parts. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.
So what is Primal? Well, the basic plot is that Jen’s boyfriend has been dragged off by the lord of chaos, which will, in some way, help the lord of chaos overthrow the balance and take control of all the realms from the lady of order. Jen is put into a coma by a demon, and a sentient gargoyle, Scree, pulls your soul out of your body so you can travel with him to the magical realms to restore balance and rescue your boyfriend. Along the way, you’ll acquire the aspects of four different races, which enhance your speed, damage, or are used for puzzle solutions. The gameplay takes the form of brawling with some puzzle elements thrown in. But I’ll come back to the gameplay later.
And the first thing that strikes me in replaying Primal, aside from how relatable Jen is, is how good the voice acting is. I can’t think of many PS2 era games with unequivocally good voice acting, but not only are all the voice actors excellent, even the bit part players, with Jen and Scree being exceptional, but the dialogue is engaging and witty, even if it relies on sarcasm for Jen a bit too much. In fact, even by the standards of today, the voice acting exceptional and it kept me going for quite some time after the gameplay started annoying me, because I just wanted to hear the next conversation.
The second thing that struck me is that the lore is engaging. Not so much the overarching story, which is kinda dark fantasy generic, but the lore for each of the individual worlds you go to (of which there are 4). The first world is in turmoil because the king of the race of hunters has not turned the throne over to his son and burnt himself at the stake like he was supposed to, which is upsetting the natural order of the lands, causing it to start dying. It turns out that the son has been kidnapped, and the queen is possibly in on it, so Jen and Scree are off to find the son, convince the king to immolate himself, and restore order. It ties in nicely with the voice acting: the king sounds regal and strong, but also old and pained, troubled by the disappearance of his son and desperate to find him. And every world has that kind of depth and complexity, it’s remarkable.
The third thing that struck me is how dark the worlds are. Not just the lore (ritualistic self-immolation, anyone?), but the level design as well: all crumbling gothic buildings, dying forests and rot eaten caves. There’s next to no light in the levels, and the monsters you fight are all frightening in that Grimm Brothers way. It ties in nicely with the desperation of the overarching story, trying to restore the balance between order and chaos before everything is destroyed.
The fourth thing that struck me is how crap the game mechanics are. There are two movement speeds, fast walk disguised as jogging and agonizingly slow walk. There’s no way to run, which is a shame, because you’re going to be moving through an awful lot of open space with nothing standing in your way. The combat can go plant itself under a bus too. I thought that combo-based brawler games had worked out their mechanics around the time The Bouncer was released, but Primal wanted to be innovative, so combat happens with the four shoulder buttons. These buttons do not flow well, and each blow feels laborious, with it being remarkably easy to get stunlocked by enemies. The puzzles are all linear and obvious, once you have all the pieces. And was it really necessary to give us an unskippable 10 second cutscene EVERY TIME Jen changes her aspect? Show it to us in full once the first time, then something fast after that. Everything that isn’t dialogue is annoying, frustrating, or insipid, sadly.
Glasses off Thoughts: It really is such a shame that the mechanics are so bleach-drinkingly awful, because there was so much promise in the characters and world! As much as I wanted, and still want, to find out what happens next and to hear the conversations, especially between Jen and Scree, that kind of involvement only gets you so far, and I found that my interest just died off part way through the second world, about where I stopped last time, too.
More than any retro game I’ve reviewed so far, Primal is the one I think most deserves a Tomb Raider: Anniversary style remake. Keep the character designs (though update the polycount), keep the story, keep the dialogue verbatim, but fix the atrocious mechanics and level design, and I think that Primal: Enhanced Edition could be a very serious contender for top 5 games in whatever year it comes out. It’s just so refreshing to have a female character that isn’t simple eye candy, but is treated as a person, with hopes and struggles, even more so when you consider it came out of an era that pandered almost exclusively to the male gaze.
Sadly, Primal was made by a company that’s now a division of Sony, so I doubt it would ever see a remake. But one can hope.
Link for Primal Thomas: Primal (Taharka)
Thanks for revisiting Primal, Taharka. I was particularly fond of it back in the day, particularly for the voice acting. Worth mentioning that Jen was Hudson Leick (Callisto from Xena), Scree was Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar from Babylon 5), and Sean Pertwee's in there too. I'd love to see an (all-too-hypothetical) remake, as long as they used the original voice tracks.
Yup, Sean is the son from the first world of Primal, and is currently playing Alfred in the tv show Gotham.
I loved Primal back in the day - I actually finished it too. I don't remember the mechanics being that terrible, but that might just be the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia talking. The voice acting and character design were, indeed, superb. I'd buy a remake in a heartbeat for that alone - though sadly I doubt something like that is even being considered.