Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series – Review

Image via steampowered.com

Of course it’s not as good as the show.

In Westeros nobody is ever safe nor is there time to rest. Follow the plight of the Forrester family as they try to save themselves and their kingdom. The story parallels that of the television show starting at the events of the Red Wedding.  From there the focus is on several members of House Forrester. The brothers are tasked with trying to rule their land while their sister tries to barter alliances in King’s Landing. There is also an arc that finds one of the house’s squires as he is sent to The Wall only to find that it is no safer.

On a technical level the game has issues. The art style is fine and seems to fit the period it is portraying. Where the game breaks is when characters don’t line up in cutscenes. This appears to happen sporadically based on the dialogue choices you have made and how they effect future conversation. It is not game breaking but it is noticeable. The worst part of the game is when you have to actually control a character. Hitting buttons for dialogue choices is fine but the engine breaks a little bit when you have to act for a character. Times when you have to move a joystick in a certain direction doesn’t feel natural and at times feels opposed to what you should be doing. If you think you should dodge left to avoid danger you may be tasked to dodge left to pass the event.

The story itself is intriguing and true to Game of Thrones. There is back stabbing, building alliances, shady characters, everything you should expect from Game of Thrones. The only bad part of the story is the dialogue choices. There were many times where the choice I made did not have the consequence I expected it to. When I thought I was showing empathy for one character I actually told them off quite harshly and ruined any alliance with them. Perhaps I misunderstood some of the choices but I don’t think I misunderstood as many as I found that did not match.

True to being a Telltale game, this game has its highs and lows. There are lulls in the game, especially towards the beginning that make dull enough that some may want to walk away from the game. Sticking through to the end is fulfilling to a point but it was left so obviously at a point which another season of the game can be made. Having played only two episode of The Walking Dead Game but all of the Borderlands game, I would have to say this game is closer to the former than the later but still more worthwhile.

It probably wasn’t much of a coincidence that this game was a PS Plus freebie just before season seven of the the show premiered. I powered through this game across four days. Playing only on episode each of the first three days but once the game got going I played the final three episodes in a day.

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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.

Knack – Review

Image via playstation.com

Get The Knack, just not this Knack.

In a world of humans, goblins, and ancient treasure, Knack is on the human’s side. He himself is a relic found in a cave and brought to life by a scientist named Dr. Vargas. They are working together to fight the goblins who have turned their hostilities towards the humans after fighting each other for years. In this quest they find a traitor in their midst. Turns out that this person is looking to gain ultimate power for himself. Knack is now tasked with stopping this threat and saving the world.

It is with great reservation that I use the word bad to describe a game, or much else for that matter. Yet I find that that is the only way I can describe this game… bad. That term is harsh and I dislike using it because I know people worked very hard on this and are very proud of their contributions. What earns this game the moniker is the sum total of all the parts and the overall product, not any individual contribution thereof.

What little of this game that deserves praise is in the graphics. Even for an early PlayStation 4 game it looks very good. The art and colors are vibrant and inviting. The character models are cartoony but it works for the game’s aesthetic. The stand out is the particle effects used through out the game. Whether it be Knack picking up relics or an enemy turning to vapor it does it with style and detail. Unfortunately, this is where the positives end for this game.

Almost from the very beginning the game goes wrong. Knack feels like it should be a care-free good-time kind of a game but it has issues that jar the player away from that tone. Knack himself the most evident. He is somewhat grotesque and revolting. This only gets more exaggerated when he takes on his larger forms. For what should be an inviting, friendly voice there is instead a growling voice that can only be compared to the main bad guy in the original Highlander film. This is a shame because all of the other characters fit the part of the set but that doesn’t make up for the story itself.

Ah, the story. You start against goblins, then against humans, then against ancient warriors and the jumps between those moments are anything but fluid. You’ll criss-cross the world for parts of the adventure for no other purpose than to change environments. If you bear down into the details you’ll find nuances of things that just don’t fit together that will give you times where you scratch your head wondering if you missed something. Counter that with plots lines that are so telegraphed that it takes away the illusion that anything else could happen.

The game would be more enjoyable if it were fun to play. The mechanics and structure of the game work against this every happening, however. Knack has a basic jump, attack and jump-attack but no ranged attack. The closest you have a ranged attack is the jump-attack but it is substantially less power full than the basic attack. Essentially this forces you to use brawler methods in order to quickly dispatch enemies. Even when you get to play as Knack in his larger forms it is not much better. Sure you are more powerful but then they only ramp up the antics that the enemies can use against you. Then when you are having some fun as larger Knack they manufacture some reason to take it away from you. Such as when an elevator needs activated Knack has to sacrifice the relics he is powering himself with.

A fundamental problem of this game is its lack of identity. Not the characters within the game but rather what kind of game it is. There is a strange mix of game types ranging from adventure game to brawler to puzzle to platformer. All these types are mixed up in an ineffective manner and on top of that the game doesn’t seem to do any one of them very well. While playing through it felt as if though the creators wanted to bring back old mechanics of games but didn’t know how to do it properly. One of the bad things they incorporated was camera and perspective changes. Not that these can’t used but they were overly used and poorly so. There were times when they would change just so the character could make a turn, ruining the flow of play.

Games should be fun and rewarding, this game is not. The issues with not only the set of controls but the flow of controls will leave the player frustrated. Many times you’ll feel that you perfectly executed a maneuver only to have it end in failure. This comes at a high cost as there is no manual save feature and the auto-save are quite unforgiving setting you back large treks for your failure. Even on easy mode(which I played) there is an alarming number of ways to die instantly with one hit. Those looking to play casually or with youthful players will want to pass on this title.

It’s bad and I feel bad about calling it bad. There have been $5 dollar investments that I enjoyed more, for example Bulletstorm. Having played this game leaves me to wonder how Sony can justify a sequel.

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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.

It’s the Freakin’ Weekend! What are You Playing?

Brad is out of town enjoying a well deserved vacation, so I’ll cover this for him.

It’s a long weekend for me, took Friday off work since I’m on-call for work on the Fourth of July. To me that is a good excuse to stay home and play video games. To that point I bought The Last of Us: Left Behind, Knack, and Arcade Series from the PS Store sale. All that set me back was about $13. For some reason Knack was the most expensive at $5. I started playing it and boy oh boy is that game bad. Makes me wonder how they justify a second game of this. But I’ll keep playing it, maybe it gets better… maybe it gets worse.

I wasn’t done buying games for some reason. After waking up around noon, I drove to the local GameStop to buy more. That trip got me  Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Collection, Far Cry 4, and The Last of Us Remastered. I played Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One, so I didn’t really need to play it but I really enjoyed it so some how in my maniac sense of a mind it was justified. The Last of Us is one of those games that I disagree with people on how good it actually is because I think it’s bad. After all these years I’ll give it another chance. Somehow having bought the DLC, Left Behind, justifies buying the full game even though I already own it and played through it on the PS3. That means that the only game I bought at the store that I haven’t already played is Far Cry 4. I don’t even try to justify this one since I got burned out on Far Cry 3 and haven’t touched the game since.

O’well… I’ll have time on my hands on the holiday and next weekend. That gives me plenty of reason, or excuse depending on how you look at it, to spend lots of time on these games.

What will you be playing???

 

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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.

Nex Machina – Review

Housemarque is at it again with another gem.

Normally I would start a review with a synopsis of the game’s story but this game doesn’t really have one. You jump right into the game with no set up or instruction. Immediately you are thrown into the top-down twin stick shooter with only a gun. Follow your instincts and start killing what you think are the enemies. If you get lucky you’ll get some drops that help you in the way of an upgraded dash or extra shield. The blood-thirsty of us will keep firing our gun at all times and if your luck continues you’ll find a hidden upgrade for your weapon or even a secondary weapon. Keep doing this until you get to the boss and be ready for the fight of your life.

The arcade roots Housemarque have laid in the past are no less than celebrated in this game. For those that have followed the studio, the best way to describe this game is as a cross between Dead Nation and Resogun. The top-down angle and the weapon upgrades are testaments to the former while the theme and particle effects are a give the game a familiarity. Much like Resogun, you are tasked with saving the humans from the alien invaders trying to end them. It is a simplistic and beautiful game that is more challenging than one would expect.

The game play is solid and fun. The action never seems to stop as the only moments you get to catch your breath are those you get while transitioning to the next level. The number and variety of enemies is impressive. The simple enemies are pawns that go down in a few shots while larger enemies can have cannons that take aim at you with sniper-like precision. To make survival a bit easier you’ll want to get a secondary weapon to compliment your gun. You can find anything from a rocket launcher that is as simple as aim, pull the trigger and it will explode when it hits something but there is also a detonator that will float off in the direction you are aiming but won’t explode until you press the fire button again. If you want to get up close and personal, the smart bomb will create a small explosion around you and for those that enjoy slice and dice action go get the sword.

This is where one must give the game one of its strikes. Much like its predecessors, not only does the difficulty increase in the later stages of the game, so do the number of objects on screen at any given point. Although this may be glorious in it own right it can lead to some serious issues trying to keep track of everything on the screen. At times there can be more enemies that you can count, lasers firing across the screen, projectiles that have been fired from the enemies, and the particles of the enemies you destroyed. It may be beautiful most of the time but it can become indiscernible as to  what objects are going to kill you if you run into them. Here is strike two, the dash mechanic. While dashing you teleport, so to speak, and this is how you get by some lasers and other objects. There are stages where this mechanic feels over used and draws the stage out unnecessarily because you can’t shoot to damage anything while you are dashing. The third strike is content. The game is short with only five levels in the arcade mode that can be completed in about an hour, maybe a little more.

Even though the game is short it is very enjoyable. There is replay value so don’t be too discouraged. Even playing on the lowest difficulty, rookie, is a challenge and if you like scaling things up there are three levels above that to help keep your stress up. Even playing through on rookie had its moments of “wow, I can’t believe I survived”. Beyond higher difficulties, there are other modes like arena. In this mode you try to hit a certain score and are rewarded with in game currency. With this currency you can then buy cosmetics for your character if you so choose. If you happen to have a couch buddy there is also local co-op.

For $20 this game was worth it. I had just hit a lull in my games and this was a hit. The little things I don’t like about the game are outweighed by the things I do. At the final boss fight I was down to one life which if I had to continue would have reset my progress. When I managed to defeat the boss without dying I felt a sense of accomplishment and triumph that I rarely feel in games. Much like Resogun, just jumping into a level every now and then to see what you can get your score up to is fun, so it has something that keeps me coming back.

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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.

Marvel Heroes Omega Beta – Review

Image via marvel.com

It’s still a beta, that explains some of it.

The heroes of the Marvel Universe are working together to stop Doctor Doom. He is using unworldly powers to amass an army and stop all the heroes. All of heroes must criss-cross the world to stop Doctor Doom and his allies.

This MMO has been around for a few years but was on PC only.  There was a closed beta prior to the open beta which makes the quality of this game quite puzzling. Since it is still a beta I can forgive some of the technical issues like frame rates dropping and the game choking a bit when there a ton of effects happening on the screen. These are things that have fixes.

Things that are not so easily fixed are what worry me more about the game. The user interface is a near carbon copy of its PC original which can feel clunky at times when navigating with a controller. Along with the navigation is the readability of the game’s text. There is a fair amount of text in the menus, on items, in cutscenes, and so on, it can be difficult at times to read the text not only because of its size but also its font and color. Remember that most console players sit back from the screen, several feet away on a couch is normal, not within arms length of the screen as PC players do.

Marvel Heroes Omega_20170604165624

As for the game itself, it is a mixed bag of fun and frustration. The characters range from Black Widow with her guns and The Hulk with his smashing. This give variety and allows you to play any style you may choose. That’s nice but it also thins out the gameplay in a strange way since all the enemies are pretty vanilla and don’t take too much finesse or variation to dispatch. This takes away some of the games fun especially later in the game when most of the enemies effectively become bullet sponges. Late in the story mode of the game I felt like it was expecting me to be a higher level and have better gear than I had but that seems counter to what I wanted because I feel that I should not have to grind if I don’t want to.

The game is free to play but there are options to pay and you can pay a lot if you so choose. There are options to pay anything from $5 to $100. Most of these are characters packs and are completely optional. One thing that I did find annoying at least and downright outrageous was the inventory system. Not only was it extremely limited, causing tot leave stuff or go back to base to store something, you could only expand it with in game currency that you have to buy and cannot earn. That is not a fair thing to do in my mind, make someone pay to fix an annoyance in a game that there is no other way to address, to my knowledge.

Not being a fan of MMO’s made me want to leave the game sooner than I did. In fact I had played the game on PC over a year ago and playing through now shows me that I didn’t make it as far as I thought I had. After finishing the story mode, there isn’t much interest left however. I went through and played a few of the legendary events that open up but they all felt like more of them. Making me replay a story mission just making the enemies harder to kill only to get a mediocre reward at the end offered no interest to me. If you’re are looking for a free to play game that you can endlessly sink time into than maybe Marvel Heroes Omega is for you. I think with a few improvements, particularly the inventory system, the fun factor  could raise this game up a level and be more fun.

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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.

E3 2017 – Passing Thoughts

Image via e3expo.com

This year’s E3 conferences felt mild if not dull with the exception of a few moments.

Microsoft’s conference in particular was low key if not boring. The leading punch going on and on about the poorly named Xbox One X was almost enough to put one to sleep.  For reasons that may never been known, there was an uncomfortable about of time “announcing” the console especially the overly long rattling of technical specifications. This part of the show should have taken about two minutes and summed up with “it ships on November 7th and it costs $499”. I think the price point is right on target but I don’t know that it is going to be a big seller. Hardware hasn’t been much of a driver since this generation of consoles launched and Microsoft would have been better off focusing on games. Don’t get me wrong, they did talk about a lot of games, over forty in fact but there wasn’t much to get excited about. The console exclusivity of PlayerUnknown’s Battleground felt like a fore-drawn conclusion and the biggest cheer of the night seemed to be when they announced backwards compatibility for original Xbox games. This conference lack much enthusiasm and was poorly pace.

Sony doesn’t get a pass either in my book. If there were a way to walk the safe path, tow the line, and use any other cliche about playing it safe it was this press conference. To open with Uncharted The Lost Legacy was pretty limp-wristed since it is an existing IP, we already knew it was coming, and it’s not very innovative given that it is just Uncharted but with chicks instead of dudes. Then there is Days Gone that looks less interesting every time they show it. One high point was the Monster Hunter reveal even tough I’ll likely never play it. The VR section was a mis-mash of stuff but good on Sony to keep supporting it. The Destiny 2 exclusive content wasn’t a surprise, just like the Spiderman gameplay wasn’t.

All the other conferences were just as middling with one stand out. I didn’t even watch the Bethesda event since it was on at midnight in my timezone. The only take away I noticed was the confirmation of another Wolfenstein game(which I didn’t play the previous). The EA conference was the standard fair of Madden and FIFA. Ubisoft didn’t really announce much but I enjoyed the enthusiasm they had during the show, maybe the pending Vivendi takeover has them stepping up their game. To me the Nintendo event was the best overall. It was a typical Nintendo direct and was paced as such but they did the one thing that every company should have done – showcase the games. The talking point were quick and mostly succinct even though there were a few stumbles. In 25 minutes Nintendo showed a ton of games, almost none of which I care about, and got me more excited than any of the other events. That closing number with Super Mario Odyssey was like a mind trip but in a good way.

Surely this is a ton of stuff that I didn’t even touch on. E3 itself is still ongoing but most of the major announcements have been made. I’ll be interested to take a look back at the end of the week and try to tally everything up.

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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.

Breaking Bad – Review

Image via imdb.com

Breaking brilliant.

Walter White is a meek man. A mild mannered high-school chemistry teacher working an extra job at a car wash to provide for his family. Not that having a teenage son with Cerebral Palsy weren’t enough, add on your wife becoming unexpectedly pregnant all while you are getting ready to turn fifty. Although he greatly loves his family and they seemingly love him back, things only get worse. Walter finds out he has lung cancer. Faced with treatments that he cannot afford, he forgoes the generosity of friends and makes a decision that will send him down a path of darkness. To provide a legacy for his family Walter White makes the fateful decision to employ his knowledge of chemistry in the most profitable but most illegal manner imaginable… cooking meth. This is but the first of many decisions that seals Walter’s, and his family’s, fate.

Even though this show ended almost four years ago I will not be discussing spoilers. This show was good enough that I feel it should be properly experienced by watching it rather than reading about it. To that end, no spoilers are to come and I will only speak of moments in the show in the most vague terms possible.

From the start, Breaking Bad leaves no path unexplored. As soon as Walter makes his decision to cook meth the show makes no hesitation to follow any path. Whereas other shows would steer towards or tease something that could possibly be the worst outcome, this show would walk straight down that path stomping its feet directly passed the point you thought it would stop then turn around and tell you to hurry the $@*& up and keep up with it. If you ever think that there is no way they will kill off a character you had better prepare yourself. That is the only warning I will give you.

Beyond the total arch of Breaking Bad there are moments that stand out. The moments that stand out to me may not necessarily be the ones that stand out for others. There are the moments that were well known or noted in popular culture while the show was on air. Things like “I am the danger” and “say my name” took on statuses outside of the show. While those were notable moments I tend to think there were more impactful moments. When Walter is talking to his son and telling him about the only true memory he has of his own father it not only gave depth to the character but demonstrated the range of Bryan Cranston. He made you forget it was just a show and drew you into that time and place, not just that of a father talking to his son but that of Walter in that moment with his own father. There was also the moment when Walter reveals his true motivation to his wife and the look on Anna Gunn’s face of disbelief conveys a level of despair and release that gives the scene more gravity than the words and context themselves. If you take the time to watch the show to the very end, you’ll see the end payoff in spectacular fashion when sight and sound merge to a singular point of brilliance just before the final credits roll.

The investment of hours in this show are well exceeded by the return you get on them. By the time I finished the final episode I already wanted to go back and watch it all over again. The show draws you in so much that on a particular Sunday I started watching at ten in the morning, had Netflix press me if I was still watching several times, and finally realized that at eight in the evening I had done nothing else with my day. The only bad thing I will say about this show is that it makes me wish that other shows would live up to its level of quality. I know full well that this is unlikely to happen but I can’t help but think that some shows just aren’t reaching their potential based on what I’ve seen in Breaking Bad.

What I have left after watching this show is moving on to Better Call Saul. I watched the first two seasons of that show before watching Breaking Bad even though Better Call Saul is a prequel to the former.  There were serious considerations on my part to not watch Breaking Bad until Better Call Saul concluded but given that that show is only in its third season I just couldn’t wait. Also, I wanted to see how the producers would blend in the events of Breaking Bad into the show.

In conclusion, watch Breaking Bad if you haven’t already.

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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.