Friday, April 15, 2016

Close enough for government work

I tried to get through some of the end game content Nights of Azure had to offer, I really did. Things were going just fine until the boss with an insane amount of health and status effects that covered the entire battlefield. I cannot find a picture so naga-like creature with four arms, clutching a giant stone pillar in its tail will have to do. She also starts off with four generators that constantly spawn tough little minions that distract you, your helpers and worst of all, the camera.

Once those are done she bounces around the area throwing metal discs at you that need to be blocked, not dodged. This leaves time for your servans, if they are still alive, to do damage. The boss will have none of that, so she coats the ground with ice that is both slippery and poisonous. This kills the servans. Quickly. If you bring them back while the ice is still there the poison kills them again. Yes, I know I could grind out money for items that resist poison, but that would be pointless, because read on.

This leaves you all alone, chasing the boss while blocking her attacks. Damage comes in spurts and never amounts to much as finishing a combo leaves you unable to block the next attack. Somehow I whittled her down to around one third health and she removed the poisonous ice. Good, I needed my healer back anyway.

She replaced the ice with an attack that turns your servans against you. My healer healed the boss, back to full, and I was done with the game. This still counts as finished in my book. I got to an ending, if not the ending.


That segways nicely into Stories, a game all about making the wrong decisions and starting over from the beginning. Each mission begins with a choice, usually to go to one of two areas. At the end of each missions, and occasionally in the middle, there is another binary choice. These choices take you down a path that will almost assuredly end in your death. So far I have been stabbed in the back by a traiter (twice), destroyed the entire universe and achieved enlightenment just in time to be set upon and killed by dozens of giant ravens.

Believe it or not this has not killed the game for me because, so far, there have been enough different binary choices that I have not repeated many levels. Starting over at the beginning of the story also does not remove any of your accumulated skills or items, plus new paths are opened as you unlock more weapons. Think Groundhogs Day with big swords. There are four different 'truths' to find before you can actually get a good ending. Having found three I think I have run out of new levels and I need to figure out what order to do them in for the final truth. This is good because the game's weaknesses are becoming more difficult to ignore.

First, the fighting. It is Arkham Asylum combat with even less depth. Counter, attack, counter, attack is about as deep as it gets. Enemy variety is also on the low side and that is being polite (Four. That's it.) When you try to do cooler things, say start fools on fire with your fire sword or steal a shield with your grappling hook, the busy-ness of the graphics and the distance of the camera make it impossible to see what is going on. This leads to encounters that either go just as planned or kill you quickly. There is no middle ground.

Second, well, what do you remember about Bastion? When I think of that modern near classic the first thing that comes to mind is the voice of the narrator, that wonderful, gravelly tone that sounded like the bearded guy sitting at the end of a bar in a western who does nothing all day but drink whiskey and dispense truth. That narrator, whoever he was, took what could have been an annoying feature and made it central to the game,

In Stories it is an annoying feature. The voice is no good and the writing is often terrible. 'The kid' is repeated in the tutorial level so many times that it loses all meaning. Mother fucking pronouns, people! Use them!

I am not annoyed with the game. Yet. Yet.

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