Tales From the Borderlands – Review

Image via telltale.com

Everything that is Borderlands but without the looting and shooting.

In the post-Handsome Jack era, everybody at Hyperion is trying to get their piece of the action and climb the corporate ladder. Rhys is no exception, he and his friends finally think they have made their big break. As per the usual back-stabbing of Hyperion, Rhys finds himself on the short end with his boss being killed and Rhys’s nemesis taking his place. Rather than taking the demotion to janitor, Rhys and friends decide to stab back at their back stabber by highjacking a deal he is making. This is the start of a path that will take the team to Pandora where they will meet people and situations that they never dared to imagine. Luckily they meet up with Fiona and her sister Sasha whom become allies, unwillingly at first, in their quest for revenge and fortune.

Having not liked The Walking Dead games from TellTale, I was hesitant, to say the least, to even play this game. However, the price was right(free from my PS Plus subscription) and a friend(Mr. CheapBossAttack himself) gave it a high recommendation.  My fears were unfounded and I quickly came to enjoy this game.

This game gets right many of the things it needed, not only in the sense of being a Borderlands game but just being an enjoyable game in general. A lot of people still don’t consider this game a “Borderlands” game because it is not in the action-shooter genre that the series is known for. I will give it that distinction because not being an action-shooter is the only thing it lacks for being included the Borderlands universe. It does a great job to tell a story that fits perfectly to the universe along with bringing back familiar characters while mixing in new ones. To further prove that this game belongs, consider the humor and art. The witty/smart-ass banter is in true tone with Borderlands when giving the choice of telling someone off or telling them how it is. The most obvious attribute of the game is the graphical style and it is done in true Borderlands style with a subtle but distinct flavor of TellTale.

Watch where you put that hand!!!

Of course I won’t say the game is perfect. There are a few continuity errors, some more minor than others. The worst ones came near the end of the game when I was given choices of characters that I clearly shouldn’t have, whereas I didn’t have characters available and had no idea why. There were little things like parts of dialogues scenes not matching because of the choices you had made. Through out the game characters would slightly jump from one place to another because the scene was rendered differently based on different choices. It may be a minor complaint and one some would never see, when using sub-titles there was an annoying little thing they do when they type out above a choice wheel then completely disappear when you make your choice only to start typing completely over. This sometimes lead to the scene being out of sync with the sub-titles themselves.

The game is fun to play for numerous reasons. Fans of Borderlands will love the humor, characters and story, even without the gunplay and loot. Those that don’t want action and want more story will easily be appeased by this title. It is also not too long and not too short. Total play time is about ten hours and it makes that most of that.One part of the game that I will praise is their use of music. The blending of sight and sound in this game reaches back to that of the original game and exceeds that of the sequels. The last episode is likely the weakest of the five entries but it does do well to tie everything together and give closure to the game.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

NieR: Automata – Review

It had its moments, some better than others.

In the distant future, humanity doesn’t live on Earth. It was lost long ago when aliens attacked and humanity fled to the moon. For centuries humanity has been trying to reclaim their home by sending androids to fight the machines that rule the Earth. In this never ending struggle 2B is paired with 9S. Their task is the same as all other androids, to defeat the machines so the Earth is safe for humanity once again. This task sounds simple but it has never come to pass.  2B and 9S will do everything they can to be successful but they are going to find some surprises along the way.

This game is both awe inspiring and awful in so many ways. The things that it does well are brilliant and fantastic, whereas what it does poorly is absolutely dreadful.  This game is very different from games I normally play and that was taken into great consideration before writing this review. It was a welcome step out of my gaming comfort zone. The consensus on the internet is that three play throughs of the game gives you the most complete version and that is where I likely will leave off. In those three play throughs, I’ve seen so many nuances that it is hard to know if I even caught all of them. Here are some of them that I did: family, obsession, unrequited love, sexuality, self realization, depression, self loathing, creationism, being a recluse, establishing a monarchy, religion, isolationism, culturalism, humanity, self image, pacifism, cannibalism, suicide, self sacrifice, and loyalty.

On the surface, the game starts out being about a robot samurai lady and her partner. How this game does the story and the characters is where it really stands out. The main characters quickly go from shallow robots to deep, nearly human people. Some of the inner growth of the characters seems oddly paced, as if it is happening to quickly or unnaturally, but the pay off it gives is well done on almost all counts. How quickly the two androids become attached to each other seems awkward but the relationship becomes a pivotal point of the game. How the game is built is even part of its unique nature. When you save the game you are actually uploading your conscience and when you change abilities you are actually changing chips in your character.

Stylistically the game is all over the place but in the best of ways. Jumping from third-person slasher to 2-D runner keeps the game moving and somehow invigorating. Some of the parts I enjoyed most were the 2-D shooter sequences. From a story aspect, it goes from saving humanity to falling in love and everything else possible as I’ve mentioned earlier. I don’t know how else to say it but this is a very Japanese game. It makes me feel like I spent almost forty hours playing an anime but loved every minute of it. Admittedly, the third play through was my least favorite of them. The story was intriguing but constantly jumping in between characters broke down the continuity of the game.

Then there are some bad things. Graphically it is somewhat less than what can be expected on the PS4. Granted that some of the environment and characters are made they way the are from a stylistic choice but seeing grass and other parts of the environment render makes the game less enjoyable. As far as the upgrade systems, well…, not knowing where to get materials and then having to grind for them isn’t much fun to say the least. Maybe there are systems built in to aid in this but I did not find them. The worst part of the game, for me anyway, was the combat. I couldn’t get a handle on the range of weapons nor could I get the timing of the evades right. Early in the game I switched the difficulty down to easy, this removed a lot of my frustrations and allowed me to just enjoy the story.

What exactly it is about this game I liked is hard to put my finger on. I know I liked the characters and the story but I’m not sure why I like the overall game as much as I did. Given that I did not like the combat takes the game down a bit for me. Although it is still high in the running of the best games of 2017 so far. One step behind Horizon Zero Dawn but miles ahead of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Video – Prey Demo: Opening Hour

Image via prey.bethesda.net

Prey isn’t out yet but the demo is.

Having no familiarity with the original, this version doesn’t do much for me. Maybe I am not as into Bethesda games as others and this is just another case of that.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Passing Thoughts – Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Image via loversinadangerousspacetime.com

Lovers in love and the other run away.

I would describe the premise or the plot of this game if I had any grasp of it. You and other lovers are in space but somehow something like hate has made it into your world. Now your base is destroyed and you must fix your universe. I didn’t pay the greatest amount of attention when the game was going so I probably missed a lot.

What I did get was seeing an interesting and stylistic co-op game. Unfortunately I was playing solo and I think that hampered the experience. Although I will say the AI for the companion was one of the better ones I’ve played with. When I told it to go somewhere it went there, when I told it to shoot something it shot it.

 

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Overwatch: Uprising

Image via playoverwatch.com

 

Nearly a year after Overwatch’s original release the game still has a loyal following and diverse player base. Blizzard hasn’t let the game just sit around though, it continues to give it’s players something to come back to.  Not content just to do patches and fixes, they have continued to drip new content into the game. There have been several characters added and special events have been held. The latest special event, named Uprising, is a yet another goodie.

The event is set in a time preceding that of the main game itself and tells the tale of Tracer’s first Overwatch mission. The game mode has a fixed cast of warriors to send with Tracer, those being Torbjorn, Reinhardt, and Mercy. The task at hand is to handle a robot uprising in King’s Row. To do this the team must infiltrate the area, secure several key areas, escort a payload, and then defeat enemies on your way to extraction.

After the intro movie, which players can vote to skip, Uprising plays out much like a Destiny strike in that there are stages and steps you must complete. You must go to an area, capture a point while defeating enemies and then move on. Then at one point you must escort a payload just like in the game’s regular game mode.  There are several different enemies that you must defeat. Of course there are robots that will attack you directly but there are also some that will attack your payload. Be careful of these later ones as they will destroy your payload causing your mission to immediately fail.

Uprising is not a PVP event like most of the game’s matches. This is a PVE only mode and it makes the most of it. With the previously mentioned enemies, combat can get hectic even on Normal which is its easiest setting. Most of the enemies aren’t hard to kill, with the exception of one that has a shield that requires some extra time and attention, but most of the time you are exposed causing you to fight enemies in all directions. Near the end of the match there are some harder enemies but careful strategy will get you through, be aggressive but not too. My experience has shown that those playing as Reinhardt tend to get a little too deep into combat and get into some dangerous situations. Sometimes it would be better if the Reinhardt’s held back and protected rather than attacked. Also, players seem to concentrate too much on killing enemies and neglect the need to stay close enough to capture the objectives. Many times I was the only person in the zone to capture objectives. During most of my matches I played as Mercy, which I do so for my main gameplay as well, finding that there is somewhat of a chaotic art of healing and buffing across the other players at key times as they get in and out of range. Resurrecting teammates can be the difference between success and failure at times with the chances of multiple teammates being down at any time.

There are things about this event that show me how subtly brilliant Blizzard can be. First of is the trickling of story content into the game. Not only does the intro set up a key point to one of the most beloved characters, you get more if you listen to the dialogue between the characters through out. Its these little nuances that make the game seem even more brilliant. As far as game design, there is also another mode that opens up the hero catalog to all heroes. Doing so shows how well Blizzard can balance a games because allowing a mix of any of the heroes was the only times I failed missions. When I played in the main mode with the set characters I never failed to my recollection. To me this shows that Blizzard takes great attention to note and account for role balance in this game.

Uprising has been fun. I played enough to get all nine loot boxes. What I got from those loot boxes wasn’t great but I’m okay with that. Not being one to seek after certain skins or such, it didn’t really matter what I was getting. It was more important for me to feel connected to the game after not playing for weeks and have fun. Accomplishing both was fantastic and makes me look forward to playing more in the future whether there are special events or not.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

A Tale of Two Games

Playing Horizon: Zero Dawn and Mass Effect: Andromeda has presented me with case of starkly different experiences and level of enjoyment. These are the latest two games that I have played through the main story lines of and they feel worlds apart. Exactly what transpired to make either of these games what they are will never be known to those outside of the respected developers, in fact it may never be known with precision to them either.  What I and many others are left to do is ponder what we see and experienced with both games then try to piece out why they were so divergent to us.

The Set Up

Horizon: Zero Dawn came out to much splendor and wonder when it was released. This new IP from the people that made Killzone was almost completely unknown but it looked to be so far different from the studio’s past works that many were questioning if they could pull it off.  We knew so little of it for so long and even at its release many were unsure what lay inside of the game. Of course the Sony marketing machine was pushing it hard as a console exclusive so that it could give even more reason to buy into the PlayStation platform for those that have not already. For those that have, it was another entry on the console that got a suspicious look since Sony has offered successful exclusives like Bloodborne but also tragic flops like The Order: 1886. Luckily Horizon is showing to be more like the former and not the latter.

Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced after after fans had reluctantly said goodbye after the conclusion of the title’s original trilogy. The way in which that series ended left many to wonder where Bioware could go with a new entry in the franchise but they slowly revealed how they planned to do so and it sparked fans’ imagination all over again with what they may be doing or where they may be going. There were little doubts that Bioware could deliver a solid title to an existing franchise since it had a hardy fan base and the studio has proven its quality with other franchises as well. This game didn’t need marketing because it already had a loyal fan base just waiting to play more in the game universe they loved. In a sad and unfortunate situation, the game is not what many were expecting but some are still hoping not all is lost.

Technical

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Working in a brand new engine seemed like an added layer of risk that was unnecessary but proved to be worth it. The game looks fantastic in every way, whether you are running through a jungle or across a desert the game rarely falters at rendering the world in all its splendor. The art that was created for this game is displayed in stunning fashion through out the game.  The one knock that works against the game is the lipsync issues in almost every single cutscene.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Working in a different engine may have been a risk that did not pay off. Whether or not the transition from Unreal to Frostbite was the culprit will never be apparent. What we can see is the effects when cutscenes fail to load, NPC’s lock their bodies into a t-formation, game progress stops because the next stage won’t activate, and the list unfortunately goes on. The art work is fine in the game and some of the vista looks gorgeous. In fact, the galaxy map and all of the planets are quite impressive indeed. The technical issues of this game could have been overlooked a bit if there were not so many of them and did not occur with the frequency in which they do.

Mechanics

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Combat is smooth and crisp only getting better as you obtain more abilities and weapons. Switching weapons and tactics to attack various enemies is nearly seamless. You will be doing a fair amount of crafting if you plan to keep you bag full of traps and potions. Also, be prepared to do a lot of collecting to be able to craft all the things you need especially early on. This gets a bit cumbersome in and of itself only to be exacerbated by constantly hitting the limit of items you are able to carry. Once you start gathering quest by talking to people and working through the game, it will be necessary to decide which ones you want to pursue and it can be unclear what quest you should pursue and when.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

In a somewhat odd twist for a Mass Effect game, the combat is one of the best parts. Any encounter can be approached in any style or combination of guns and abilities. Your squadmates are aggressive almost to a fault and the enemies don’t just sit in cover but will try to flank you keeping the gameplay lively. There is also crafting and looting in this game but it seems less important as the game can be completed with doing a minimal amount of each. Inventory restrictions are a concern as well but a patch has somewhat alleviated this . At a certain point you start getting inundated with side missions to the point it is overwhelming. The only way I found to avoid this was to stop talking to NPC’s for a while so you can clear out your mission list a bit.

Narrative

Horizon: Zero Dawn

You start with a handheld intro the game’s world but are quickly set loose upon it. Characters feel dry and void at first but as the story progresses each reveals layer of personality and motivation. The development of the main character is one of my favorite aspects of the game and it was very well done how the writers grew her from an angry child to a thoughtful young woman. The context of the world and the story behind it is laid out piece by piece in such a satisfying fashion and pace that it is easy to lose track of how long your session has been going. Even though I finished the main story I longed to go back and complete some if not all of the side quest. The cauldrons were fantastic and offered rewards for completing them so they felt worthwhile.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

You’re literally pulled out into a world in chaos that just keeps spinning. As you are meeting people along the way they try to offer expositions of their background and why they are there with you but with few exceptions these back stories are dull and lifeless leaving the characters you are going to be dealing with for many hours nearly devoid of interest. Whether you play the male or female character, little circumstance is apparent from the choices you make and the weird, quirky character you start out as is pretty much what you end up as in the end. The mysterious vaults that you are tasked to revive feature diverse but have muddling mechanics that only lead to be further frustrating when you do complete them and don’t feel much sense of reward. You’ve progressed in the story and made a world more livable but the moment falls flat.

Conclusions

Neither game is perfect by any means. Comparing the two though I must give a strong nod to Horizon: Zero Dawn in all categories listed above. It is my feeling that Mass Effect: Andromeda still could turn out but has many issues to overcome in order to do so. The technical issues are are going to be the easiest to correct but I can’t even begin to imagine how they can correct the narrative issues. It is not that the story is bad but a bit jumpy, dry and takes to long to deliver something to connect with. There is potential with Andromeda to move forward and continue the series if they can fix their issues. Whereas Horizon leaves me in a quandary.  They put far more story into this game than I expected and sewed up the story fairly well but left an opening to continue. What they left open, however, makes me wonder if a second game would feel as good.

At this point, I am still playing Mass Effect: Andromeda but wondering why. As I keep playing I keep hitting the beats, seeing what they were trying to do but just not feeling it. The need to somehow bring meaning or redemption to this game is either my enduring love to the original trilogy or just plain stubbornness on my part to not know when to give up. When I can break myself of this, I will return to Horizon: Zero Dawn. There are a few quest I have that I want to see the conclusion of and I know that I have not completed all of the cauldrons yet.

In the end I feel that Horizon: Zero Dawn benefited from what could have been it Achille’s Heal – nobody knowing what it would be and delivering a beautiful, breathtaking story and world. Whereas Mass Effect: Andromeda may have suffered from what people came to expect from the previous games versus what could have been done with this one.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Video – Nier: Automata Demo

Nier: Automata has been out for a bit but I haven’t played any of it… until now.

The demo is a short slice of the game and it good considering how small it is. I’m not certain that it was interesting enough for me to invest in the full game immediately but maybe when I see a price drop I’ll hop on it.

dudewantshisrug-profile

Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.