Monday, April 30, 2018

God of restraint

God of War wrapped up last night. I do no want to steal my own thunder and spoil this week's podcast but I will say that I am not mad but I am also not satisfied. God of War has just a little bit in common with Far Cry 5 in that it is great to look at and play but it is definitely missing something. Before anyone sharpens their pitchforks I will say that God of War is certainly better than Far Cry 5, it is probably the best game that I have played so for this year, but that does not mean that with a little more something in couldn't, or shouldn't, have been significantly better.

God of War games have been built around epic set pieces and impossible encounters with impossibly huge enemies. Just saying 'God of War' conjures up the image of the hydra fight from the first game, the colossus of rhodes from the second and Hades from the third. These are fights that I will always remember through rose, or blood red, colored glasses. This God of War had nothing like that. It is full of quiet moments, personal moments, moments that work on an emotional level but that are not what I came to this party for.

And when this God of War finally gets down to a bit of the old ultra-violence (I am stealing from Alex here, listen to last week's episode) it is a little to ashamed of what is used to be. The kills are subdued. The camera shys away from gorier moments even when said moment is being played for laughs. The series has gone from the skin stretching and tearing as Kratos tears off Helios' head to dad Kratos gruffly saying 'I am going to cut your head off now' to Mimir and the camera panning to Atreus for a reaction shot.

It's missing the edge of the old games. Its blades have dulled as Kratos' beard grew in.

That is all for now. There will be more after the podcast. Instead I am going to play Ni No Kuni II and probably love it.

Friday, April 27, 2018

God of procrastination

Kratos seems to have a difficult time staying on task. For two consecutive nights I was intent on making progress on the plot and on both nights I was sidetracked by dragons and chests and side quests and general exploration. I could not make progress in the game because of the game, which I suppose is not a bad thing, but I have podcasting partners itching to talking about the game in a spoiler filled manner so I need to get this shit done.

Last night I did manage to check a few story notches off and, based on a recent trophy, I am running out of dark alleys to wander into. I also managed to kill two of the eight valkyries, which is a start, but from what I understand they shift from challenging to fuck you with little warning and are not required to finish the game. I have no idea what I will do when the difficulty jump hits. I spent an hour on one challenge in the fire realm before giving up and I do not have the time to fall into that trap again.

Even when I purchase a game it feels like I am playing against a deadline.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The no spoilers God of War podcast

Not to be confused with the spoilercast for God of War, which will me next week.


Chamberlain and Chance - God of no spoilers

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

God of fetch quests

I fought a dragon yesterday. It was a big dragon. Part of the fight had Kratos in the dragon's mouth, stabbing its tongue to keep from getting chomped. It ended with an excellent callout to the hydra fight from the the first God of War and was easily the most bad ass thing to happen in the game.

This was all good. What was not good is waiting around ten hours for something that bad ass to happen. Previous God of War games had this kind of nonsense every few minutes. This does reach a point of diminishing returns but come on, get my blood pumping a little bit now and then.

Who am I kidding, the game is really good and I am reaching.

Monday, April 23, 2018

God of hot takes

Are you ready for Chamberlain's HOT TAKES on God of War? I don't think you are.

(Disclaimer: Of course God of War is exceptional. I am upset that I am not playing it right fucking now. This does not mean that the game is immune to critique. On the contrary, it makes its few failings all the more apparent. No, this is not an entry by that guy. That guy doesn't deserve to play good things.)

Somewhere between the end of God of War 3 and this game Kratos left Greece for the colder environs. He met a valkyrie (not explicitly stated in the game yet, but come on) and had a kid. Not a bad start for a story but instead of getting to see family man Kratos we jump right to mom is dead, kid is broken, Kratos deals with his grief by being a dick to everyone. Why didn't we get to meet mom? The wife character, so far anyway, is nothing more than a corpse wrapped in rags who left very explicit instructions on what to do with her ashes. It is a missed opportunity. A woman who could keep Kratos in check would be formidable indeed and I am disappointed that we did not get to meet her.

Speaking of characters, the game is a bit thin on speaking parts outside of Kratos and the boy. Their interactions are, speaking as the father of a precocious, intelligent, smart assed kid, very believable. Passed them there is the witch of the woods who serves as little more than waking exposition and two dwarves who dole out quests, upgrade equipment and complain. As of the ten or so hour mark, that's it. The stranger from the opening has not returned and there has been no sign of Odin, Thor, Loki or any other members of the Norse pantheon.

There just isn't much happening beyond walking around, exploring and listening to Atreus poke holes in his father's silence. God of War is part action game, part incestious soap opera and all of the lurid drama is missing.

Finally, and most damning, is the new combat mechanics. They are not bad, they just don't feel like God of War and they often make Kratos feel weak. The opening fight between Kratos and the stranger sees him open up ravines with his punches but later in the game if you open the wrong dimensional right he gets one shot killed by a nameless flaming zombie. His progression feels off, maybe a little slow, and the combat requires so much caution, so much planning, that it just doesn't feel very Kratos.

Perhaps that is the point. Kratos tells Atreus that he is not ready (for what, who knows) when Atreus loses his temper and stabs the corpse of a giant they killed together. Kratos has learned was unbridled rage will get him and has for the time being abandoned it. I miss it, though. I miss the just past button mashing nature of the blades of chaos. In previous games I could through Kratos into a mass of enemies and come out slightly injured and victorious. In this game doing the same thing leads to an untimely death.

It's a very, very good game but I wonder if it would not have been better as new IP. There is so much baggage that comes with Kratos, so many disparate expectations, that going back to the rage well may have been a fools errand.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Warning, salt inbound

Before you go any further head over here and read Chance's review of Minit. He also spoke about it in glowing terms during this week's podcast. I grumbled that it sounded like something I would hate and he posited the opposite, that it could be a gateway into a subgenre of games that I avoid, the Souls games and their vile ilk. He said that the bite sized nature of the game would lessen my negative feelings towards unavoidable death and backtracking.

So I played the game. For a while. Then I shut it off. Then I turned it back on and looked up how to get passed where I was stuck because I ran out of fucks to give fifteen minutes in.

Let's do some math. The entire point of Minit is that, after picking up the cursed sword, you only have sixty seconds to live before dying and respawning at your home base. As the game progresses more basses are unlocked and there is eventually fast travel between them but the game's hook never changes: you are always less than sixty seconds away from having to start over.

Of that sixty seconds only the second thirty are useful as the first thirty are spent walking back to wherever you died. Nothing new is gained in the first thirty seconds, no new scenery or story or experience. Half of the game is literally walking back to where you left off.

I do not care that the game only took about ninety minutes to beat. Forty five of those minutes were absolutely pointless. Half of the game had nothing to offer and no reason to be there. It was profoundly annoying. Honestly, I think that Minit is more infuriating because there is no skill based way to avoid the pointless death and repetition. In a Souls game you can get good, or so I have been told. In Minit there is no getting good, you are going to die and half of your next life is spent returning to the scene of your expiration.

Without this asinine mechanic Minit would be, at most, an hour long excursion better suited to existence as a browser based flash game. I would have, if not enjoyed it, tolerated its existence. As it stands Minit is the annoying hipster of Souls-likes, scoffing at your other modern games and all their silly advancements that make them more enjoyable. 'Back when games were good' it muses over artisanal coffee and a conflict free bagel topped with vegan cream cheese substitute, 'we played half the game for twice as long and we liked it.'

I was there, fuckers, and the only reason we liked it is because there was nothing else to play and we didn't know any better. Silly restrictions on play time were there to pad game length. Some games, like Minnit, refuse to accept the lessons learned over decades of growth.

This is not an indictment of indies or of the sub 8-bit visual style. I would be a fool to say that smaller budget games have nothing to say or that a retro-graphical style cannot be used to great effect. Minnit does neither. It strikes me as lazy on the part of the developers and was a complete and total waste of my time. All of the time, not just half of it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Antici...

The few days prior to an anticipated release are always very awkward for me. I don't want to indulge in reviews of videos of a game that I know I am going to play anyway. I don't want to start anything new that I won't be able to finish in time or not feel bad walking away from. Days like these used to be filled with fighting games but as of today I am still retired from that nonsense.

I am speaking of course of God of War's impending release. There were a few evenings to fill after wrapping up the excruciatingly boring Gravel. What was I going to do, not play video games? That's crazy talk.

So I trolled through the games that I have purchased but not yet played and found Hand of Fate 2, a sequel to a game that I never finished. It is a pitch perfect follow up game in most regards: looks better, more cards, new skill and chance based games, bigger world to explore. You name it, there is more of it this time around.

The one thing that didn't evolve was the combat. Hand of Fate 2 uses the Arkham style of combat that was all the rage a few years ago. It is literally the same: an attack button, a block/parry button, a dodge and a bash to break defense. Here is the problem: pressing the block/parry button does not interrupt the animation of any previously pressed buttons. If you have already begun at attack and decide that no, you would like to block instead, too fucking bad, you are eating that attack and liking it.

This is especially a problem when enemies no sell your attacks and start their own combos in the middle of yours. Combat is simply more difficult than it needs to be, especially in the first four or five challenges out of twenty plus. It should have waited until closer to the end to be unfair, like its predecessor did.

Two evenings until God of War and one of them is a short one as we are recording tonight. As long as I don't buy anything else between now and then... What Remains of Edith Finch is on sale?

Shit.

Monday, April 16, 2018

At the mediocre games carnival

BEHOLD - The most generic off road racing game that has ever existed!

YAWN - At the acceptable but unremarkable controls and slippery but not entirely terrible drifting!

SIGH - At graphics that run at a reasonable frame rate but would have been more at home on the previous generation's hardware!

IGNORE - The silly announcer as he repeats one of three phrases and the four tracks of Muzak worthy rock!

WONDER - Why the camera angle obscures the track behind the top of taller vehicles!

EXAMINE - The state of your hobby that playing such a game to fill time until the next release is required to stave off the lack of game tremors!

PRAY - For Friday when we get to see if God of War really is damn near perfect game!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Damn, I do have feelings, after all

I need to take back some of my complaints about Life is Strange Before the Store. Teenage girls are still more interesting when they have time manipulation powers but the final chapter of Before the Storm is absolutely heartbreaking in a 'I'm not crying, you're crying' way. This cannot be explained without spoiling both the original and the prequel. So that is exactly what I am going to do.

THPOILERTH!

Three quarters of Like of Strange is Chloe using Max and her powers to try and find Rachel, a girl who befriended Chloe when Max moved away and cut off all contact. They do find her, well her body anyway, buried in the junkyard that became Chloe and Rachel's hideout, murdered by the new photography teacher who takes a shot at Max later. It was devastating and built very well towards the final choice.

The game began with Chloe being shot in the school bathroom after a drug deal gone wrong. Max was there and reversed it before she understood what her power was. For five chapters shit gets stranger and stranger as Chloe's continued existence begins to tear apart the world. She was supposed to be dead and the universe is not pleased at the change. As a giant tornado is about to destroy Arcadia Bay Max is forced to choose: let Chloe live and sacrifice the town or go back and allow her to be shot in the first place.

A good choice in a game like this should divide the player base. I let her die, as did around 50% of everyone else.

Knowing the ends that Chloe and Rachel come to makes the happiest bits of Before the Storm difficult to take. It is a story about how two lost souls find each other at just the right time. Chloe is still dealing with the death of her father and Rachel discovers that her real birth mother has been looking for her for years and everything her family told her is a lie. Through a few fairly believable twist and turns Rachel is stabbed and Chloe find Sera, Rachel's mother.

Sera is a drug addict and while she wants to meet Rachel she understands that doing so would destroy Rachel's idyllic life. Sera tells Chloe to reveal nothing and leaves. Chloe returns to hospital for the final choice: tell Rachel that her father had paid to have her birth mother killed and that her birth mother left again or lie and tell her nothing.

A good choice should divide the player base evenly. I told Rachel everything, along with about 50% of everyone else.

What follows are scenes of a budding relationship, of two very young women getting sick tattoos and falling in love. And after the credits...

Give me a moment.

Ahem. In the first game Max finds the photographers 'dungeon' under an abandoned barn. In it he drugged young girls and took pictures of them at varying stages of consciousness. It had a very distinct, dark, plastic covered look. The scene is obviously in that room. Rachel's phone is on a table, ringing. 17 missed calls, all from Chloe.

Ok, fine, maybe I didn't need time manipulation powers to stay interested, after all. Before the Storm is a swift kick in the fellas but I am glad I finished it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I never replay games

But if I did, and I had the time, look at this shit:


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Paging Miss Burch

I didn't talk about the first Life is Strange. It was played while I was enamoured with the concept of the Switch and was thinking more about what I might play in the future than what I was playing in the moment. For the record, I am still enamoured with the concept of the Switch, but in practice it has become the oft neglected weakest sibling in my family of consoles.

From what I remember, Life is Strange was filled to the brim with angsty teenage girls but tempered with an interesting time travel mechanic. Max, the protagonist, could travel back in time by looking at polaroid pictures. She later grew more powerful and could insert herself into the picture even if it was not of her and alter the past. This led to some very interesting detective work, depressing alternate histories and some surprisingly dark scenarios.

It turns out that everyone's favorite character was not Max but her childhood friend turned rebel stoner drop out, Chloe, ably voices by an almost unrecognizable Ashley Burch. One of the endings left her alive and could have led to a sequel and the other, the one I view as canon, did not. Deck Nine, the new developer, esques both and has created a prequel.

A prequel with all of the teenage angst but none of the cool time travel bits. Life is Strange Before the Storm is more Hallmark Channel than SciFi and, not be the target audience, is really annoying. Not only is the only interesting mechanic from the first game gone but the Ashley Burch is missing as well. I may not have noticed her presence in the first game but I certainly notice her absence in this one. Chloe's voice is all over the place, jumping from defiant to complacent between sentences.

At only three chapters it will be easy to breeze through. I don't know if I could take sixteen year old attitude for more than that, anyway.

Monday, April 9, 2018

No so Far Cry

Ok, Far Cry 5 is in the books and I am of two minds regarding its quality.

I stand by what I said in last week's podcast: the game has tremendous bones. It is streamlined Far Cry, all the shooting with none of the crafting. The new perks system rewards exploration instead of farming kills for XP and is paced well. I did not have all of the upgrades when the game was done. I had all of the upgrades that I wanted but there was still room to grow and a reason to finish all of the prepper caches I could find.

It is the best looking Far Cry in terms of fidelity. Photo realistic textures at 4K are what I want from this generation and that is what I got. Artistically it is a little boring, almost too familiar, but that is because I could drive north or west for an hour or two and find places that look exactly like Hope County, minus the mountains. Not necessarily minus the weird cultists.

But there are significant problems. The tone is all over the place. One minute you are killing a bull while it is fucking to get blue balls for the annual testicle festival and the next one of the guns for hire is telling an awful story about being fed her parent's toes by 'the cook'. There is a bear named Cheeseburger and a quest about presidential fetish tapes and Hurk makes an appearance (because of course he does), all of which are fine, but then Joseph Seed tells a story about killing his newborn daughter by pinching a breathing tube closed and the game delivers tonal whiplash to any players who aren't skipping the long, boring, compulsory cut scenes.

The Seeds and their followers do terrible things but the Seeds themselves are not intimidating. Or interesting. They are boring, flat characters and that is without comparing them to the utterly fabulous Pagan Min or the bizarre locals on Primal. Having a quality villain gives direction to an open world game beyond pick a heading and cool things will happen. Playing that way does work in Far Cry 5 but without a character, or hell, a story, to anchor the cool things to I am going to forget all of it in a matter of weeks.

And the ending? No spoilers today, but seriously, fuck that ending. And the other ending. Both are equally stupid.

Far Cry 5 is the best forgettable game I have played in a while, equally brilliant and pedestrian. It was a lot of fun in the moment but it had nothing no say and no one to say it so none of what it did well is going to stick.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Agreement?!

We haven't been this much on the same page since we both hated Hellblade.


Chamberlain and Chance - Disappointing agreement

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Take it for what it is

Twenty one hours in, two of three areas complete. Far Cry 5 is a narrative free sandbox in which cool things happen, often an random, and I am continually tempted to skip story cutscenes. Individual story missions are fine, often interesting, but getting preached at again and again but a shirtless Joseph Seed is neither interesting nor intimidating. It's not even interesting. It's boring and a Far Cry bad guy should never be boring.

It is hard to complain about a game in which the following occurred: I inadvertently threw a chunk of bait at a jeep filled with three or four cultists instead of a grenade. Realizing my error I attempted to switch from my bow to my rocket launcher. During that animation a bear shows up out of fucking nowhere and attacks the cultists, holding them at bay long enough for me to kill all of them, bear included, in an explosion that would make Michael Bay cum just a little bit.

Far Cry 5 is a good game, mechanically, it just isn't as good in any other way as any of the previous games. All the money and time was spent getting the game to run at 4K, 30 fps, which is awesome, but the characters needed more time, or a few more rewrites, to fit into the game. It's miles and miles wide but only a few inches deep.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Opinion verified

Around seventeen hours into Far Cry 5 and yes, I can confirm that it is definitely a good game. It may not be my favorite Far Cry but it still is a prime example of the Ubigame and its ability to make changing the color of pips on a map more than enjoyable, downright addictive. I have finished one of three map sections and have not slowed down yet.

One of my consistent complaints about previous Far Cry games as this you run out of skills to unlock long before you run out of map to explore and side missions to complete. Far Cry 5 remedies that by no longer having any sort of XP system. Perks are unlocked with perk points that are found in prepper shelters and the occasional random building. The game better controls the player's rate of improvement preventing the final hours from feeling empty.

At least I hope so. I will let you know when I get closer to the end.

On the down side the plot and setting continue to be uninteresting. I found myself wanting to skip a cut scene last night, annoyed that it had interrupted my base raid and then relocated me when it was done. I want to play the game, not live the game, which is not a good sign for how memorable it will be. This falls completely on boring villains. They aren't evil enough to be reviled nor are they clever enough to be interesting. It's just a doomsday cult based on a twisted version of Christianity

You know, like people who watch Fox News.