Sunday, March 26, 2017

In March 2017

March: Zelda, Defense Grid 2, Ratchet and Clank, Overwatch, Far Cry: Primal, Super Stardust Ultra, Gems of War.

After some initial doubt about whether or not I could get Breath of the Wild, I finally nabbed it off Amazon a few days after release (for that sweet $48.)
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However, I have sinned, readers. I played Zelda: Breath of the Wild for about 4 hours and put down the controller. However, let me redeem myself, cause this was just a case of bad timing.

I joined Gamefly this month, and they have a promotion for 2 games at once for 2 months for $20 total. My first rental was Far Cry: Primal: a sandbox game with hunting, stalking and crafting. Also recently released and on my list is Horizon: Zero Dawn, which has hunting and stalking. Zelda: Breath of the Wild also has a great deal of...hunting, stalking and crafting. So, I will hold off on journeying through Zelda until I put some space between other games that are so similar, to give Zelda the proper attention and respect. That said, let's get on with the latest game pursuits.

Far Cry: Primal was a super-enjoyable easy platinum that was just long enough. I'm not a big fan of sandbox games because they're usually too big. The nonlinear story was probably 5 hours, with plenty of distracting side missions and collectibles. Luckily, you only need to collect slightly more than half of all them, plus they give you XP to help you level. If any developers are reading this: do what Far Cry did and make your collectible items tied into the gameplay, and you get a permanent thumbs up from me: art galleries for finding 100 items are so anti-climactic.

Whatup, Sayla?
Also, the game is gorgeous. The terrain is very uneven, there are plenty of ways to get from A to B, but as large as the world is, there are very little obstructions: an unscalable cliff usually only takes 30 seconds to sprint around, which I feel encourages you to explore. Most other games would require a key, item or vehicle to let you access things like that. You can also slide down walls for most steep descents, which is another way to keep travel going smoothly. Finally, the game has almost no loading time, which is crazy considering how big the world is. It's hard to imagine that all sandbox games are this tightly constructed in that you don't need 200 hours to fully explore every nook and cranny to get dat platinum. Also, bonus: hot cavewomen.

Sweet, sweet graphics!
Next up is a rental I completed in 3 fun-filled days: Ratchet and Clank. These adventure platform games are always a win, with quality voice acting and funny scenes that aren't too intrusive to the gameplay. The levels have lots of enemies, explosions, and creative weapons that get stronger the more you use them. For example, instead of the freeze ray, the equivalent weapon pixellates enemies, turning them 2D. Instead of stopping, you throw a disco ball that pacifies enemies by making them dance, complete with music and all. These features, plus great graphics and sound design made my two playthroughs very very enjoyable.

Defense Grid 2 is a tower defense game and easy platinum that took a bit longer than I expected. There are 20 levels, but to get the trophies, you have to replay a lot of them under different conditions. However, the are many ways to win, so you can play pretty creatively. It took me about 15 hours, and I finished 1/3rd of a season of Star Trek, so the repetition was easily overcome!

Everyone needs a game that cuts to the action, and Super Stardust Ultra is it. No story or cutscenes, SSU is a twin-stick shooter with awesome graphics and bumpin electronic music. Sometimes you're caught at a rough part of your main game, or a part of an RPG is just dragon on (yeah, that's not autocorrect). SSU scratches the itch and breaks the monotony, and playing it loud and inebriated makes it that much better.

Side note that a long-locked trophy on Overwatch finally popped for me. Since OW is completely online PVP, the trophies were easier to get when it first came out and everyone sucked at the game. Now that it's been out 9 months, between skilled gamers and Blizzard trying to keep trophy boosters out by constant rotation and strict idling rules, you have to git gud 2 git trophies. I had actually done what was required in the first month of having the game, but Sony didn't recognize it. Well, Can't Touch This is mine, now!

Gems of War is still free to play, and got another update and trophy package. Get you some!

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

February Game Buster

I used all 28 days in February to put in work on my Gaming Goals in 2017. First up: Axiom Verge. This game rules so hard. If you liked Super Metroid, you'll love this game. It's got a slick 16-bit look, complete with a fitting, atmospheric soundtrack, non-invasive storytelling and tight controls. My first play-through was on Hard, and I also wanted to collect all items, scattered throughout the map. There is no in-game indicator of hidden items, like Super Metroid/Castlevania's white map dot, or like Metroid Prime's item hum. Instead, you get a dot when you've collected all items in an area, which is really only handy when you're in the last parts of collection cleanup. All this took me 17 hours, and I was shocked that my subsequent play on a lower difficulty didn't feel much easier. The last thing I'll say is that the game is great in its own right, but the art, programming and music were all done by one talented Tom Happ. Bravo, mate!
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The second game went on sale for $5 (frugal fist-pump) the week after I wrote about wanting to play it: Life is Strange. This interactive story has very little action gameplay, as you primarily examine objects and talk to people. Whereas Mass Effect, Chrono Cross, and other choice-influenced narratives had a lot of gameplay and production value, this game has a much smaller scope, but is richly produced. For me, Mass Effect had scenes that fell flat because awkward voice acting, animation, or maybe I was just not in the right frame of mind. Plus, for all the choices to make, the handful of similar endings was infamously lackluster. Chrono Cross had 12 different endings which were vastly different, and may have been a better execution of an evolving story, but the 40 characters were too much to handle. Instead of saving the world or galaxy, Life is Strange wins significance for exploring a part of life that everyone can relate to: high school.
Rip it, Chloe!
This game is probably the most linguistically modern thing I've ever played. There is a lot of swearing, the collocations are alive and cracking, and the NPCs feel like real people. While you go through some pretty mundane experiences, like building friendship via friendly conversation choices, there is a hint of supernatural, and the end product is pretty compelling. It's definitely one of the easiest platinum trophies out there, but challenge wasn't the point of Life.

As a bonus, the last day of the month saw Defense Grid 2 go on sale for $1.50! This is another game from my 2017 list! (So, double-arm frugal fist-pump). Go-go-tower defense!

Lastly, one surprise is that I fired up the free-to-play MOBA Kill Strain for the first time in a while, just to get the 2 remaining silver trophies (and thus platinum) in one very lucky round! That brings a 6 month platinum path to a close.

Update: I made a video about Kill Strain!

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