Friday, April 28, 2017

Or not

Yeah, I'm not going to play this game any more. Put it on the pile with Bloodborne and No Man's Sky.

Murder on the cheap

I am unfathomably bad at the new Hitman. It it were someone else playing and I was standing behind him the jeers would be relentless and vicious. Every decision is wrong, every turned corner blows my cover, every body is hidden in the wrong place. My Agent 47 would fit in well with the Three Stooges.

What's remarkable is that his Hitman comes with bigger training wheels than previous games, should the player decide to use them. Going into instinct mode shows which NCPs will see through your current disguise. The target is visible on the map at all times. There are even 'opportunities' that can be triggered on the map, literally walking you through the level, step by step. It is even possible to save scum every individual encounter.

It still took me an hour to finish the tutorial mission and another hour to finish the first chapter. I can understand the allure to true Hitman fans: there are dozens of ways to kill each target. I will be happy getting one of them to work and moving on. I think Hitman is right up there with RTS games like Starcraft and X-Com and bullshit games like Dark Souls in the list of games that I just cannot play correctly.

My Agent 47 may not be very sneaky (or very bright) but he will get the job done eventually.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Disappointment

PRESS RELEASE: Three Fields Entertainment

Who?

A team comprised of ex-Burnout developers.

Now I am paying attention.

Are proud to announce 'Danger Zone.'

Iffy name...

A 3D vehicular destruction game.

Uh oh.

The concept is simple: crash for cash by creating the biggest car crash.

NOOOOOOO. That's not a new Burnout! FUCK YOU GUYS!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Right plot wrong game

Livelock has a much better setup than is required for a by the numbers co-op (or not co-op, as I play them) shooter. Scientists discover that all biological life on Earth will be wiped out in ten years by an approaching gamma ray burst. Just to keep you up at night, yes, this is a thing that could actually happen but no, it is doubtful that anyone would see it coming.

In an effort to preserve human life most everyone has the minds transferred into Eden, a giant database that is then stored in three different major cities. Each of the cities is run by an autonomous AI and a fourth AI is sent into orbit to coordinate things. The gamma ray burst hits and is much more powerful than expected, doing quite a bit of damage to each of the AIs. They forget most of their programming and, because they are human creations, go to war with one another in a three front conflict that has gone on for millenia.

The player is a freshly dusted off human mind placed into a robotic body sent to conquer each of the three AIs to do something that is poorly explained. Surprise, surprise, the player is betrayed at the end in a twist that makes little sense and the plot falls apart. Up to that point it could have made a pretty good setting for an RPG.

Oh, the game? Yeah, it's a by the numbers twin stick shooter. Not as good as Alienation but without Alienation's bullshit final level. It passed the time for two evenings which is all I asked of it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Double fault

Often, after I finish a game that I actually enjoy, I become less tolerant of problems and will discard game much more easily. This happened twice over the weekend with games that have had at least some critical acclaim. Not bad enough to enjoy ironically but not good enough, or at least containing something I take issue with, to play for more than a few hours.

Yakuza 0 was the first victim. Issue number one was there being all of fifteen minutes of interactivity in the first two hours. It was literally cut scene, walk for a bit, cut scene, walk for a bit, karaoke minigame, walk for a bit, then you get to punch someone, followed by a few more cut scenes. And the combat was, at least in the beginning, stiff and uninteresting. By the time I was done I had unlocked two other styles but the flow of combat never got any better.

Issue number two was being dropped into an open area with very little hint of what to do next. I was supposed to investigate the murder that I was framed for that was also tied to a fight between the yakuza and several real estate companies over the only remaining undeveloped patch of land in a neighborhood. You read that right, all of the drama begins with a conflict over an empty lot.

Scintillating.

No hints on where to go, not even a direction in which to walk. So I walked, stumbled across a few side missions that were nothing more than extended cut scenes, eventually overhearing a conversation about a property that had just been purchased under duress. The name of the property was highlighted in red so I finally had a direction. I found it on the map and tried to set a custom waypoint. No dice, no custom waypoints. So I fumbled my way there and nothing happened. Then I turned the game off.

People speak in incredibly loving terms about the Yakuza series. I got bored and thought about downloading the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition, then being sad that there will never be a sequel.

Victim two was Torment: Tides of Numenera. I actually feel bad about this one because fifteen to twenty years ago I would have played the ever loving shit out of it for hundreds of hours. The game runs on a modern(ish) version of the same engine that Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale and the original Torment ran on. This means turn based combat, not even the pseudo real time combat of Neverwinter Nights It just felt old. And it looked old, too.

Worse, the game spends all of its time telling the player what is going on instead of showing what is going on. Every interaction, be it with an NPC or an inanimate object, is done through paragraphs of text. This was necessary back in the day when I played RPGs like this on a PC but modern games, good ones at least, can communicate the same paragraphs of text visually.

I am aware that Torment is a kick started title with a budget many times smaller than most AAA projects but that does not exempt it from being compared to other modern games. Small budget does not mean relying on text for everything. Look at Hyper Light Drifter, a game that I was honestly lukewarm on: it tells a whole story with zero text. This is not possible with a game like Torment but when something specifically visual happens, like figures disappearing into a mirror with a liquid surface, fucking show me, don't make me read it.

Again, in my youth, when I had neither children nor the need for much sleep, this would have sat right alongside the games it celebrates. I cannot rewind my tastes back that far. Torment was turned off in two hours.

So what did I do instead? I retreated to a reasonable twin stick shooter that came out last year: Livelock. It's fine. I can shoot things, they explode, I am temporarily satisfied.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Headspace occupied

So what is Aaero besides impossible to pronounce? It is equal parts rhythm game and rail shooter. Gitaroo Man plus Rez with a dash of Tempest and a soundtrack comprised entirely of dubsteb. My subwoofer has not gotten this kind of a workout since college.

But is it any good? Yes and no.

The last rhythm game I played, the self important rhythm violence title Thumper, was appropriately skewered for being too difficult, too long, visually uninteresting and having a boring soundtrack. None of these things are acceptable for a game about doing things to music and I never finished it. Aaero is less slave to the beat than Thumper, its rhythm sections are just following a ribbon around the outside of the levels that shifts along with the music (this is more difficult than it sounds) but this is augmented by some simple rail shooter action right out of Rez or Panzer Dragoon. Neither part is ground breaking but they do make sense together.

Aaero is also much prettier to look at than Thumper. Each set of five levels shares a theme but are different enough from one another to keep the player from getting bored. Each area also has its own boss instead of the recycled scary flower thing in Thumper. There are also each a good length, around three to four minute apeace.

The soundtrack is also varied and interesting. Not good enough that I am going to run out and obtain more music by the artists but replaying a level to gain an extra star or two does not wear on the ears too quickly.

So why don't I love this game? Simple: it invites comparison to one of my favorite games, Rez. I will never stop loving Rez and have purchased it no fewer than four times. It bothers me that I no longer have a physical copy of it and I don't keep physical copies of anything. Aaero makes no attempt to hide its inspirations, even using the same sound as Rez when a target is locked on, but it never comes close to equally it. The whole time I was playing Aaero, and I did finish it on Normal, I thought 'this is good, but I could be playing something better. Something with better music, better levels, better shooting, and actual narrative. I could be playing Rez.'

It is not a far thing to do. I am aware of this. It's like going to McDonalds and bitching about how mediocre the burgers are. The two games are so close together in my head that I cannot separate them, I cannot keep Rez from crowing out any affection that I may develope for Aaero.

Also, one piece of advice to Mad Fellow Games: when I ask you how to pronounce the name of your game have a god damn answer.




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I must be fair

Personality covers a great number of ills but that does not mean that I cannot find little things about which to bitch.

First, I have already mentioned Velvet's outfit. It was terrible in the beginning and near fifty hours later it is still terrible. Disheveled, not caring about how one looks because one is no longer human, I get that, but that much underboob is not physically possible. The is Dead or Alive levels of cheesecake and Velvet deserves better. Just give her a shirt and some pants that would actually cover something.

Second, the combat is far more complicated than it needs to be. There are mechanics, specifically defensive ones, that I have not used since the tutorials. Why include three different dodges and a counter attack if there are never required? Perhaps they are on higher difficulty levels. Based on Normal, most all of it is extraneous. Options are good but there are too many.

Finally, the last dungeon is too long. Tales games have a habit of throwing gigantic final areas at the player. I spent two hours working my way through Innominat's domain last night and I think that I am about halfway done. It's too much and not visually interesting enough to warrant the investment.

That's the best I can manage. This is a very good traditional JRPG. It is not an good looking at Final Fantasy XV or breathlessly stylish as Persona 5 but I have enjoyed all of the time that I have spent with it and will miss it when it is done.

For a little while, anyway. There are always more games to play. Shit, Guardian of the Galaxy came out today...

Monday, April 17, 2017

What is this warm feeling

I could have finished Tales of Berseria last night. The final dungeon was unlocked and I was a boat ride away from the confrontation with the big bad (or badder, Velvel is still pretty bad). But I didn't go. Instead of I checked my quests list, saw that a bunch had unlocked, and set about cleaning up the list. What the hell?

Either I am getting soft or the absolute blandness of Final Fantasy: NSync edition has left me desperate for characters that I enjoy being around. The main cast in Berseria is not large - only six. That has allowed each to have their back stories and motivations explored in relative detail. All but two are honestly evil, either blatantly or in a self serving way, and have chosen to remain true to themselves in spite of multiple opportunities to turn themselves around.

Velvet lives for revenge. She wants nothing more than to murder and eat the man whom she believes (wait for it) killed her brother.

SPOILERS! BIG ONES!

Velvet's brother, Laphicet, actually volunteered to be a sacrifice to Inominat the Suppressor. He wanted to help Artorious revive the old god to create a world without pain and, on the more evil side, without free will. He is consequently reincarnated as Inominat and, at the world possible time, reveals himself to Velvet. Her reaction? She has a psychotic break, first embracing him and then futilely stabbing him in the chest over and over.

It takes time but Velvet pulls herself back together, embraces her title of Lord of Calamity, and decides that killing god is still on her to do list. She will not admit that it is to save the rest of humanity from having their minds stripped away, instead insisting that Laphicet's betrayal is just as bad as Artorious'. Yes, she is a bad ass.

Each main character has the same depth. Eizen is a malak pirate who, because of the reaper's curse, can never visit his sister without putting her in terrible danger. Instead he writes letters that his sister never replies to. Rokurou was so obsessed with defeating his brother that he became a demon and forged a pact with an ancient swordsmith (another demon in the form of a headless set of armor) to create a blade strong enough destroy him. The swordsmith forged himself into a sword and Rokurou killed his brother after sharing a drink.

Magilou's heart was broken by abuse from her adopted father/teacher who happens to be one of the four big bads. Eleanor started out as an exorcist but had the sense to travel with a bunch of demons when she figured out that the abbey wasn't much better. Even Phi, the annoying child, is on a journey of self discovery after being freed.

Every character is likeable. I will not say that the writing is any good (translation issues ha ha) but I have played enough JRPGs to ignore that problem. These are characters, not stereotypes, putting it so far ahead of Final Fantasy that it isn't even fair.

So instead of finishing the game last night I wandered, taking care of things that should have been done long ago based on the rewards. It didn't matter, it was just a little more time to be with my motley crew. There was even a cameo from Tales of Xillia: Jude, the protagonist, showed up. He had been turned into a penguin for some reason.

I kicked his ass anyway. That is just how Velvet rolls.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Now they are just showing off.

I purchased a new received because I made a mistake with the last one (did not support the newest HDCP) and decided to go in a little harder for Dolby Atmos support.

I purchased a 4K television in advance of the PS4 Pro and Scorpio releases to be prepared.

Damnit.



That's not even remotely fair! It supports something that sounds cool, assuming I understand it correctly, that doesn't actually exist yet! The Scorpio is not going to be cheap, is it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

It's what is inside that matters

Berseria almost made a fatal error last night: it almost introduced a fishing minigame. Of all possible minigames fishing is the worst. Fishing for real is pointless as I could go to the store and purchase just about any kind of fish that I want. Plus getting drunk on a boat is tremendously overrated. Why would anyone want that cluttering up a game?

There are already several minigames that I have never touched as their rewards are all cosmetic. Putting funny hats on characters is a staple of Tales games, one that I have never paid any attention to. My time is spent killing things and watching amusing scenes, not playing dress up.

...Final Fantasy X-2 doesn't count. Playing dress up was a gameplay mechanic in that one.

Thank heavens the fishing nonsense was just an extended cutscene, a funny one at that. One of the characters, Eizen, suffers from the reaper's curse, a magical version of murphy's law. He deals with it as best he can and warns everyone he meets that people who travel with him rarely live longer than three years. This character of course loves fishing and convinces the rest of the part that the best way to capture a potentially magic (and very important) fish is to go fishing on the open ocean.

And what do they catch? A pair of horns, a plastic mustache, some funny glasses and a fancy pot filled with angry octopuses, water logged zombies and a bad attitude. The pot itself was a boss fight. For a game filled with terrible things and characters who live for nothing more than revenge this kind of levity is welcome.

This comic relief is also done without breaking character. Velvet is dour and bitchy all of the time. She complains about fishing and then complains about the magic pot she catches. She is the absolute straight man in every interaction, up until she is called on to be the straight man in an in game comedy routine, at which point she gets stage fright and storms off the stage (presumable to kill and eat a dozen homeless orphans).

Tales games have never looked the part of the bell of the ball but god damn do they have personality.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lots of JRPGs this week

They come in bunches but you aren't allowed to show anyone what you are playing.


Chamberlain and Chance - Oh Japan

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Don't ever change

I picked up the final member of the party last night: a human exorcist who failed her way into losing a duel with Velvet and pledging to follow her orders. She of course plans on betraying Velvet as soon as possible and is going to kidnap Laphicet (on orders of the main bad guy) only Velvet knows that this is her plan because she saw her talking to a glowing ball. Velvet's plan is to make her miserable, but not kill her, because is she kills the exorcist then Laphicet will turn into a demon.

Yeah, I'm a little confused, too.

Velvet threatens to eat people often but rarely follows through. She did tell the exorcist that is she ran that she would gnaw off her arms and legs. The exorcist needs to be alive, but mobile. I really want Velvet to follow through on the awful things she says more often. Berseria is quite close to being a very dark game but it will only get there if Velvet actually is as evil as she says she is.

She talks a big game but hasn't eaten anyone is days. In fact she is getting nicer, something that will remove the only interesting thing about her. Velvet's selfishness is all that makes her unique. Once that is gone she is just a generic JRPG tough chic with a terrible outfit.

...

I am very much looking forward to Scorpio info tomorrow morning. While I do not hate the PS4 I would sooner play multiplatform titles on the Xbox for both epeen and controller issues.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Such evil Much terrible

I am waiting for Tales of Berseria to go soft, to turn Velvet back from her path of vengeance. So far she treats everyone equally poorly, party members included. She has attacked a member of the party for not doing what she said to do, switched rapidly between treating the child she stole as a surrogate brother and as a tool that she might eat at a moments notice, and generally is a jerk to everyone she comes in contact with.

The child is the only member of the cast with any redeeming features. The pirate is cursed and, in one breath, encourages people to do what they want to and then says that doing what they want to may mean that he has to kill them. The witch ritualistically abuses her familiar, The swordsman at least has some loyalty but it is only there for as long as his goals mesh with Velvet's.

Laphiset (the child) is the moral center and no one pays attention to him.

This is a bleak game. On top of the revenge theme there is a nice dash of goddamn slavery. An entire race of beings has been enslaved, three of which are in the group, and Velvet sees them as the same kind of tools as their erstwhile masters.

Velvet and her crew are, for the moment, the 'bad' guys. The 'good' guys may have done some terrible things in the name of the greater good, things like sacrifice Velvet's brother and sister to the old gods and suppress an entire race, but other than that things are working out pretty well.

I take that back, there are no good guys right now. After the blandness of the Final Fantasy XV boy bad it is quite refreshing. Now if only the game looked like it belonged in this generation. Or the last one.

Monday, April 3, 2017

#thankyoutaker

This blog is, for the most part, about video games. The vast majority of my leisure time is dedicated to it, I have been doing it for a long time and I know enough about it to be, on occasion, jaded as fuck. I am not a 'fan' of video games, I am a somewhat bemused addict.

Wrestling, though, I am just a fan. A fair weather fan who knows just enough to be interested but not so much that I am never surprised. I do not follow wrestling in a very comprehensive manner. In fact my interest is limited to around two pay per views a year, maybe three is there is a promise of good beer and spicy wings. Last night was one of the two: Wrestlemania.

I don't think I have missed a Wrestlemania in a long, long time. There have been good ones, some bad ones, a lot of mediocre events (like last night) but all of them had one thing in common: The Undertaker had a match. Not all of them were good, in fact they peaked in 2012 and quickly declined after, but they man had been doing it since 1991 so I, and just about everyone else, cut him some slack.

Last night his match against Roman Reigns more resembled an old man being beaten up by some young punk high on meth than an actual wrestling match. Not quite a squash match but not a good time to behold. It was obvious where this was going - this was Undertaker's curtain call and he was doing the right thing: putting some younger talent over.

(Regardless of anyone's feeling about Roman, this was the right thing to do.)

My little group of four had moved from paying close attention to making fun of things about an hour before the match started. It was a long ass event and there had been a little drinking. We perked back up for the main event but one sidedness was not compelling. Roman won, his pyro went off, and he left. Undertaker did not move. He laid flat on his back for quite some time.

Someone joked 'check his breathing, the old man had a heart attack.'

Eventually he sat up and was handed his hat and coat. He took one step through the ropes, stopped, and turned back. Then did this:


Oh shit. It's actually happening. There had been rumours of his retirement for years, but this... No one was ready for this. He took his sweet time leaving the ring, stopped to break character (something that never fucking happens) to kiss his wife at ringside, and began the long, slow walk up the ramp. His face softened, his eyes widened and then he was gone, vanished in a cloud of smoke.

No one in the room spoke. Someone, maybe me, cleared his throat and sniffed.

Undertaker was the oldest of the old guard, respected by everyone in the industry and adored by fans new and old. His gimmick was and is ridiculous but still worked. It had worked since 1990 when he first appeared. And now he is done.

Wrestlers do not usually retire well, Hulk Hogan and Rick Flair (and Terry Funk and Mick Foley and Jerry Lawler) have remained ring active much longer than they should have. Undertaker probably should have done this a few years ago, but the difference is that he is not coming back. No comebacks, no behind the mic work, nothing. He gave it is all and now he is going to walk away.

The arena emptied and the crew started to break the set down. There was something that no one wanted to touch, a little shrine to an ended era:


Wrestling is cool.