Friday, October 20, 2017

And my eyes said 'meh'

I try to not make snap judgements about a game on looks alone. 'Try' is as honest as I can be seeing that I purchased an Xbox One S, a PS4 Pro, and 4K television and have an Xbox One X pre-ordered. I like the pretties but I 'try' to not dismiss a game just because it doesn't scrape the film off of my eyeballs with its high resolution prowess. Style and cutting edge visuals are not the same thing. As a recent example, Hotline Miami had style, Ruiner looked better, only one will I remember after more than a few weeks have passed.

Ys VIII looks, and I mean no offense to the handheld loyalists, like a Vita game. It looks like a slightly shiner PS3 game with simply textures, hard edges, characters with limited detail and a lot of repeated environments. Tales games suffer from this as well, but not to this extent. Berseria looked like a late PS3 game and Ys VIII could have been a launch title.

This is a shame because it plays quite well. Smooth would be a fine word to use: combat starts out simple but enemies hurt enough that the player must dodge instead of just eating attacks. The crafting system does not force farming as, at least for now, what is needed is gathered just by exploring the environment. Equipment is sparse but offers meaningful upgrades to stats. It plays like a well polished action RPG that happens to inhabit a series that I know nothing about.

But it looks boring. I have found the map difficult to use as environmental landmarks are few and far between. Characters do not change in appearance as new items are equipped (something else that Tales games are guilty of). Random enemies are small and lack detail. My jaded eyeballs are expecting more. They expect all of the digital power under the hood of the (soon to be eclipsed) most power console available to be used for something.

Sure, the frame rate is solid, but I would expect as much from a game that could probably be run on my discount android tablet and/or my dusty Switch. It's not fair but it is reality. Ys VIII is, so far, a good game, but sitting under it is the Uncharted stand alone expansion, an experience guaranteed to at least temporarily sate my desire for all of the polygons, all of the time.

...

My Coming Soon list is starting to stress me out. I didn't play any of the horror games I wanted to and October is almost over. At the rate it has been moving I will get to The Evil Within 2 and the new South Park some time next year and I know that when I get my Xbox One X I will end up playing nothing but Forza 7 for a week and then possibly dip back into Killer Instinct to see how it looks at 4K 60 fps.

I need to rethink this hobby of mine, all facets of it, from playing to writing this to the podcast.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Civil discourse

Of course one of us does not like Cuphead as much as the other two. How interesting would it be if we all agreed?


Chamberlain and Chance - Two out of three ain't bad

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Not exactly newbs

I finished Ruiner last night and I am still up in the air about how good it was. Upgrade points come at a premium which forces the player to choose skills carefully but respecs are free. It is expected that the player retool their skills to fight different bosses. The bosses themselves are almost never fun to fight but every encounter leading up to them, including a final battle royal that comes full circle to a spoilery plot point, are very good. Not perfect, as enemies that can teleport without warning or tell can fuck right off (especially when they are firing a minigun), but it works far more often than it doesn't work.

Aesthetically it swings from just enough weird, cyber-punk riffing on Akira and The Matrix to far too much, especially when all the nifty lighting effects get in the way of the combat. Honestly, it feels like a first attempt from a developer that has a chance of being very good. Let's check.

...time passes...

I was technically correct. Ruiner is the first game by Reikon Games but they are comprised of industry veterans who have worked on Dead Island and The Witcher games. Not exactly a first outing. More like a first attempt without training wheels. Ruiner mostly succeeds. Another pass with the digital polisher and it might have been better. Ending up in the same mind space as Hotline Miami will always bring difficult comparisons.

...

I played Marvel again last night. It did not go well. Sigma and monster hunter are a problem. I ended up in a casual match again a rank 9 player (full disclosure: I am rank 15, the bottom of the bottom) in which I might as well have not been holding a controller. If I wanted that kind of relentless abuse I would play Overwatch.

Monday, October 16, 2017

I likes what I likes

Having recently been lectured over the term 'guilty pleasure' and being told that if I enjoy something that no one else enjoys I should own it the same way that I enjoy not enjoying things that everyone else enjoys I must confess that I had fun with Knack 2 in spite of all of the characters being shit. It mustered up a sensible false ending, heart pumping climax and reasonable sequel tease, all with writing so terrible that Resident Evil 1 felt better about itself after hearing it.

The game was good. Honestly good. Everything around the game was not.

The first Knack never did enough with scale. Knack ranges in size from 2 and half feet to around 30, depending on what is going on, but the game never felt different. There was no feeling of power when he was big or vulnerability when he was small. Knack 2 turns this on its head by having mini-Knack run around a giant robot, feeling very weak and exposed, and later having 10 foot Knack do the same thing on truly gigantic mechanical spider of death and destruction before coming across a platoon of foot soldiers and massacring them with little effort. It has its cake and eats it, too.

I can see you rolling your eyes, thinking that 'Chamberlain is enjoying this ironically' and that 'this is the same guy who said that Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn were just okay.' I am not comparing them based on artistic quality or technical achievement. Knack 2 is no slouch, it looks quite good running at 4K, 30 fps, but Horizon is one of the best looking games I have ever seen and Breath of of the Wild is a remarkable achievement for a game running on a glorified tablet. What I am saying that is Knack 2 made me smile and annoyed me less than weapon degradation or wandering into giant robot dinosaurs that I shouldn't fight yet.

If I were a paid critic my analysis would be a little deeper that 'it made me feel good.' I would talk about how the combat is basically solved once Knack gets the long range grapple move and how playing through the game on Normal left a full one quarter of his skills still locked. I would complain about quick time events monopolizing several key moments (but not the ending) and I would harp on how terrible the voice acting and characters really are. But I am not a paid critic, I am just a guy who plays games, compulsively, that sometimes find it difficult to enjoy them through several decades of accumulated cynicism.

Knack 2 is a solid 7 and I expected a 5. Breath of the Wild and Horizon were 8's but I was promised a 10. There is a big difference.

...

The jury is still out on Ruiner. Game math shortcut because I am lazy:

Ruiner = Hotline Miami + Akira visuals and sound + a dash of Max Payne bullet time.

That certainly sounds good but there are problems. First, the visuals are flashy but are so busy that they can get in the way of the action. Hotline Miami worked because it was sparse and sharp. You could see what was going on at all times. Ruiner has enemies disappearing into lens flare. Second, Hotline Miami had no bosses because they would not work with it style of quick death/quick restart. The bosses in Ruiner are bullshit hard and not as much fun to deal with as waves of gun toting mooks.

Third, the control is seriously over complicated. It starts out as a twin stick shooter but then adds a dash on L1, one special move on L2 (right now a shield), a melee attack on R1, ranged attack on R2, pick up weapons on X and special moves on the remaining three. This means that to pick up a weapon or throw a grenade you have to stop aiming. Time does slow down when picking up a weapon but your motion slows down just as much. This means that you get to see what is going to kill you at one quarter speed.

The dash is also bizarre. Tapping L1 is a dash that can be chained up to three time. You can also hold L1 and set three waypoints with the left stick and R1, then release L1 and jump through the series. It looks cool but I have yet to find a use for it as there is no time for any actions between set jumps.

I will play it more but the coming soon list is seriously out of hand and this was purchased based on snazzy trailer. If it does not get finished I will not shed many tears.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Don't look, just play

There is no denying that Knack 2 is a significant upgrade from the first game. It looks better, making good use of the PS4 Pro. It plays better, giving Knack more abilities to deal with the spikes in combat difficulty that are still present and honestly expected. But is this enough to pull the game up from 'yeah, I played it because I play everything' to 'I am honestly enjoying this in a non-ironic sense'?

Almost. Almost.

When I am playing Knack, just playing it, not paying attention to the characters, story, voice acting, etc, it is almost a good game. The platforming is simple but accurate (enough). The new leveling system makes sense and rewards the player for not taking hits and keeping the shield at full strength. There are enough new moves in combat to keep it fresh and they arrive at reasonable intervals. The first was a power hit that breaks shields and just as I began to think 'this is nice but those archer bastards are always too far away to hit' the game gave Knack the ability to stretch out an arm and grab enemies, pull them in, and then pound on them until they die.

But then someone talks and when someone talks it is unbearable. All of the human characters are dick heads, either yelling at each other or treating Knack as if he were a small child. This might make sense when he is in his smallest state but patronizing a 20 foot beast does not sound like a good idea. Knack just takes it because, since his creation, it is all he has known. If I were smarter I could draw parallels between Knack's treatment and indentured servitude, how his position as property makes me vaguely uncomfortable, but I am not that smart and this is just a family friendly game with surprisingly punishing combat.

Knack is not an allegory for anything, it is just tone deaf to everything.

So is it better? Absolutely. Am I having fun with it? Yes, but this is a tepid yes. I enjoy 3D platformers and they are coming around less and less often. Thankfully this is not a collectathon (I am looking at you, Yooka Laylee), just a romp through colorful, 4K(ish) environments interrupted by punching and getting punched by robots, goblins and robot goblins. I just wish that I didn't hate all of the characters.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Force Awakens The Last Jedi From His Nap

Things we learned from the new Star Wars trailer:


  • Luke is a shitty trainer. Obi Wan levels of shitty. He lost pouty baby Vader and is going to lose Rey. Everything is his fault and he should be ashamed of himself.
  • Kylo Ren is going to kill Leia, thereby saving us from more terrifying CGI recreations of dead celebrities, ala the end of Rogue One. He is the true hero of this story.
  • Finn takes a break from shilling Battlefront 2 just long enough to get his ass kicked by shiny lady stormtrooper.
  • The ground hog from Indiana Jones 4 has mad, mad connections. Co-piloting the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca? That's some serious cred. Maybe Weinstein got to him, too.
  • Snoke was pieced together from bits of Palpatine and, somehow, Frieza.
And now, for the super awesome twist that won't happen, but should:

Rey falls to the dark side. Ren, after killing Leia, pulls a Vader 180. Rey kills Luke. This sets up a wicked double twist for the third movie with Ren being Luke, Rey is Vader and Snoke is, well, he is still Snoke.