Destiny 2 – Review

Image via xbox.com

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing people he didn’t exist. The greatest trick Destiny 2 will ever pull is convincing people it is a good game.

The last city on Earth is being attacked by a zealot Cabal known as Ghaul. He and his Red Legion have arrived to take The Traveler and its light from all of the Guardians. It is up to you, guardian, to fight the Cabal, free The Traveler, and return the Light to all of the Guardians.

The opening of this game is strong but the game quickly wanes. The first mission is familiar to anyone that played the beta and it used to setup the rest of the game. You’ll loose all of you abilities and gear that you and have to start over from scratch. The mission does well to setup the direness of the situation only to have it immediately trivialized by the rest of the game. The next thing you do is get your light back just like Stella got her groove back. Your tasked to go to where a piece of the Traveler is and commune with it to get your Light back. It is unclear how or why this part of the Traveler is here or what it does to restore your Light.

The story continues to unravel as it progresses. For whatever reason you receive your Light back, other Guardians do not. Why they can’t simple go to the Traveler shard like you did and get their Light back is unknown. Seems like they should be able to since you keep going back to it to unlock you other subclasses. The idea of you being the only Guardian with Light breaks the premise of much of the game. While all the characters in the story are now afraid of death, you and your fireteam are just fine. Yes, you are the only Guardian with Light and the ability to resurrect, that is until you join up with other players and then they are also somehow good with Light.

If part of the premise were the only problem with the story that would be fine but the game also doesn’t tell a good story nor does it do it well. Those that played the original Destiny will applaud at the story in Destiny 2. Step away from that and one can see that it is still a bad story. Bungie falters back to it prose of telling a story by not telling it. Ghaul comes out of nowhere and for no reason. There is little backstory given to him or his motivations. Near the end you get a touch of his story but not in a meaningful way. The addition of cutscenes and dialogue are an improvement over the original game but this sequel is still lacking a decisive narrative. By the end of the main story one is left to wonder why events transpired and what they mean to the overall world. There is less of the missions of running somewhere and scanning something but most if not all of the missions turn out to be go to a place and shoot all the bad guys.

After finishing the campaign there are a lot of things to do, unfortunately most of them are empty tasks. The open world is there to explore and patrols are provided for something to do. These feel like cookie-cutter rehashes of the original game just on new backdrops. Most players will spend their time in either the Strike or Crucible areas. Strikes are for the PVE players and this quickly becomes repetitive. With few Strikes to rotate through there is little to experience in this mode other than grinding for loot. The Crucible it the PVP area for those that want it. The biggest change is that teams are now four players instead of six as in the original game. The modes have changed a bit and that at least makes games play out differently.

One thing you can’t do after finishing the campaign is replay it. There are no markers on the map to go back to a story mission. There is no daily story mission to do as there was in the original game. The only way I’ve noticed to replay story missions within your character is to get them from Ikora as Meditations. Doing these will get you some rewards and increase your reputation with her. The strange issue is that she will only give you three of them and they do not reset on a daily basis. Likely this is a weekly reset and you’ll have to wait until then to replay any other story missions.

If you’ve ever heard it said “the grind is real” then this may be the realest grind you can get. The never-ending quest for better gear will have you chasing loot through all the activities. Along with these you’ll be getting reputation with NPC’s to get you even more loot. The power levels tend to taper off at a point and the gear you are getting will not be any better than some gear you already have. This can become a frustration when you don’t make any progress for all the time you can easily sink into the game.

The things the game does well it does extremely well. The first thing you may notice is the graphics. It is as if though removing the shackles of the previous generation console has allowed Bungie to create much richer and more detailed textures. Also, most if not all of the draw in animations are gone. With the absence of Paul McCartney and Marty O’Donnell the music has surprising improved. It sounds fantastic and helps to augment the visuals and moods. A major improvement to Destiny 2 over original Destiny are the maps. Not only are public events visible with countdown timers there are now fast travel points to different parts of maps. This drastically improves the playability of the open world part of the game.

Even with all of its improvements, Destiny 2 is still a shallow game. The story is barely more than surface deep and most of a player’s time will be spent replaying activities over and over. Not only are the activities a grind, Bungie also repeats missions and strikes over the same game space. Marked improvements over the original don’t fully justify the game if you didn’t play its predecessor. Players new to the game will likely recognize its flaws more readily than those returning from the original.

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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.

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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – Review

Image via naughtydog.com

You know you want more Uncharted, even without Nathan Drake.

The quest for fortune can make strange bedfellows. Case in point Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross. Chloe a former flame of Nathan Drake is seeking one of the world’s greatest unfound treasures, one that was her father’s obsession. Nadine is in a bit of a slump, she lost her private army backing a group that ultimately got taken down by the Drakes. Both want the money that the treasure will bring them but both are looking for something more than material wealth, a redemption of sorts. These ladies go through the highs and lows of pursuing their fortune as well as becoming tenuous friends. The adventure ahead holds their dreams but also some of their nightmares.

Originally announced as DLC to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, it becomes clear to see why this became a standalone game. Clocking in at around ten hours, depending on how much time to take to explore or look for collectibles, the game is very substantial for its $40 price tag. Most of the game is true to the Uncharted series but at times it feels wholly different.

Gone are Nathan and Sully but here are Chloe and Nadine. The later are well tailored replacements for the series former stars but they take their places without being carbon copies. Chloe and Nadine have characteristics of Nathan and Sully but are also very distinct personalities on their own. Those familiar with Chloe will feel comfortable with her as the wise cracker to Nadine’s gruff but wise ways. Even though both characters had appeared in previous games the story of The Lost Legacy slowly reveals more about each of them. This story is about both of them moving on from their past and accepting their future, be it apart or together.

Naughty Dog takes a hard swing with this game’s narrative and nails it. The game uses all the established aesthetics and environments of the Uncharted franchise. Although the game is set in India alone it looks like it could have been a chapter in almost any previous game. At times the location is as much a character in the story as another, whether it exploring for treasure or solving puzzle to progress, and it is an active part of the game. One thing that was quite unique compared to other games was the open world aspect employed in one of the chapters. Uncharted is known for its linear gameplay but this chapter allows players to explore and progress at their own pace. It is the player’s choice to go straight through the story or explore all the nooks and crannies they can get to.

As the story plays out, the tale of Chloe and Nadine is an equal part of the narrative as their joint quest is. There is a cycle of the two earning and losing each other’s trust and friendship that makes the game have weight. The human element of trying to understand each other is a key part of this relationship. There is no shortage of both heartbreaking and joyful moments.

Building on the prowess of their previous effect Naughty Dog has made a very gorgeous game. Even with the limitations of an original PS4 the scenery was awe-inspiring enough to make regular use of the game’s photo mode. There were times that not only the view but the game play were reminiscent of not only the titular Uncharted series but games like the modern Tomb Raider and Horizon: Zero Dawn.

Every rose has its thorn and this game’s biggest issue is its most familiar – combat. Always the bane of any Uncharted game, the combat is clumsy and clunky at times. One can get infuriated when you want to take cover but end up vaulting or jumping to your death instead. Not only are the mechanics not ideal, it sometimes looks like the character is jumping to try to break a brick Mario style. Perhaps all the motion-capturing budget was used on the cinemantics.

If the question posed is “can there be an Uncharted without Nathan Drake?” then The Lost Legacy is a resounding “yes” for an answer. Not only did it stay true to the feel and formula of the series it helped it move forward in meaningful ways. It would be more surprising to not see more of Chloe and Nadine. The only concern is that it may not come from Naughty Dog due to their other commitments but then again they seem to have a commitment to quality rather than turn-around time on games.

 

Enjoy some more pictures….

I like pizza.

 

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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.

The Last of Us: Remastered – Revisited

Image via blog.us.playstation.com

If you are faint of heart and don’t like people talking down The Last of Us then you may not want to read beyond this point. However, if you’re willing to hear me out I’ll tell you why I didn’t like the game when it first release but this edition has somewhat turned me around on the game as a whole. Spoilers….some?

Releasing in mid 2013, The Last of Us was one of the final hurrah’s of the PlayStation 3 era. Just a year later the game would be remastered to be sold to owners of the PlayStation 4. Sony knew well that there were plenty of people that had not played this game and with the PS4’s success this was their chance to get them to buy it. The timing worked out well since there wasn’t much coming out on the consoles given that summer is the normal slump in the gaming cycle and the current crop of games weren’t lighting up the new consoles. Naughty Dog took to the task in typical fashion by showing off their wares as best they could.

The problems I have with this game unknowingly started before I even played it. The excitement I had for this game was likely on parallel with many others. Given my affection of the Uncharted series, the idea of playing a zombie game from Naughty Dog was enticing. Yes, I knew it was not exactly a zombie game but that is what it most got compared to. Turns out that was not a good comparison. This game is truly more a survivalist narrative. Eking out an existence by scavenging for resources while fending off foes is not exactly what I anticipated. Maybe I expected it to be a little more like Left 4 Dead and that was wrong but I tend to think that that was a marketing problem. This game was easier to sell as a “different zombie” game than the story driven struggle that it is.

Exposition is generally tough to pull of in a video game and this game seemed to avoid it at times. For example, when the outbreak first happens and even after the story picks up twenty years later there is no explanation as to what really happened. This can be taken as a story device to say that it is still unknown but it feels more like it was treated as a passing thought just so that the concentration could be on the characters being presented. There were also times where jumps in the timeline left much to wonder. ***Spoiler*** Far into the game when Joel is gravely injured there is a jump cut to some weeks(?) later where he wakes up in a garage to find Ellie missing. Players had just played as her and know her situation but what happened to get to this point is missing. In the remastered edition, buyers get the Left Behind DLC that somewhat fills it in.  Even that doesn’t answer all questions, particularly how Joel get patched up. ***Spoiler***

Game mechanics are a large part of any game and they can greatly influence a player’s experience. Not only do you have to scavenge constantly and consistently to get the resources you need, you then have to craft them into items. This can be a bit frustrating when you can’t find the parts you need for the item you need to craft. Can’t find that one rag you need for a health kit? Too bad, keep looking. Getting in and out of the crafting might have been one of the most frustrating points just because you had to do it so many times. You could carry a decent amount of materials but you could carry so few crafted items. Maybe this was part of the survivalist mechanics of the game but it felt somewhat punishing and not fun for the player.

The environment is probably the star of the game. When the game released on the PS3 I felt like anybody would be hard pressed to make any game look better even on a PS4. Not only did it look great, but every environment had a fantastic feel to it. ***Spoiler*** I live nearby to Pittsburgh and when I got to that point in the game I was amazed not only at how they captured certain landmarks of the city but just how they captured the sense of the city and added the level of decay the events of the game have caused. ***Spoiler*** Then playing it again on the PS4 showed me just how much better it could be, even early on in the PS4 life cycle Naughty Dog was able to press the edges into something great.

Then there is the overall story. With the previously mentioned time skips already interrupting the game, the game constantly pushed forward the fact that people are the real monsters. Through dialogue and combat you are constantly inundated with the idea that the infected aren’t the real threat, rather it is the other humans. Going completely against the idea that the best of people will come out in a crisis is not a new idea but it felt almost beat into the ground throughout this game. Combat became particularly miserable when you fought humans more than infected, especially when you were expecting the opposite.

When the game initially released I played through it once and never wanted to go back. What possessed me to buy the remastered edition I do not know. However, I think it was for the best and tempered my view of the game. The second play through of the story has revealed several small things that I missed. ***Spoiler*** One particular moment in the game that I saw in the second play through that I totally missed in the first one was when you come across a grave near a river with a teddy bear on it. There was a dialogue exchange that I had never heard before. ***Spoiler*** Little things like this showed me some of the nuances that made the game what it was. It wasn’t completely about the entire story but rather it was just as much about the small moments within it.

After it is all said and done, I’ve gone from disliking the game to being ok with it. If you had to put it on a five star scale, I would have had this game as a two star but now see it as a three star. To me that means it has its problems but it was still a good game and worthwhile playing. I still do not think that it was the game of the generation for the console it was released on. There is the thought of playing it again just to see if there were more of those little things that I missed. I almost wish there was a wanderer’s mode that took out all of the enemies of the game and had fast travel to points just so I could walk around and explore the environments. There doesn’t need to be anything to get or do, just let me walk around and use photo mode.

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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.

Upcoming Games for 2017

There has already been a good crop of games this year, and bad ones for that matter. Even though we are over half way done with the calendar year, we may just be getting started with the games. We are getting into a massive amount of releases and I took the time to look forward at the games that will be assaulting my wallet.

Lawbreakers– 8/8 – I’m curious about this game but I don’t know if I’ll drop $30 on it. Hard to believe that it snuck up like it did and it releases today. Hard choice to try out Cliffy B’s new game but I may need to conserve the money give some of the other games on this list.

Agents of Mayhem – 8/15 – Unfortunately this one will probably hit the cutting room floor. As much as I love Saints Row, and how much this looks like it, I’ll likely not put $60 into EPIC Games’ latest release. I may  change my mind depending on how the reviews start showing.

Matterfall – 8/15 – Housemarque next game looks great but that should come as no surprise. The things they do they have always been done well and I’m sure this game will be no different. Chalk up $20, already spent.

Uncharted: Lost Legacy – 8/22 – A definite purchase. I’ve loved every entry, to varying degrees, in the Uncharted series and there is no reason for me not to play this game. Chalk up $40.

Destiny 2 – 9/8 – Even though I have not decided on a platform yet, I’lll be buying this game. Why deny it? I spent hundreds of hours in the original game with all the things I loved and loathed about it. Chalk up at least $60, maybe $100.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole – 10/17 – The Stick of Truth was an unexpected joy. Given all of its problems it turned out to be a blast. The Fractured But Whole has had similar problems and I’ve not been watching the show like I used but I still want this game. Chalk up $60.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds – 11/7 – Absolutely loved this game and want more of it. $15 already spent.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 – 11/17 –  Despite the issues the first game had, I still want to play the new game. They’ve added a story mode, which was sorely missing from the first one. Chalk up $60.

Days Gone – TBD – I’m on the fence about this one. It looks like it has great potential but they need to make it clearer what the game is really about. My fear is that it will be a survival game like The Last of Us and I didn’t care for that game. It all depends what more they show of this game. I expect more information around PAX West.

Detroit: Become Human – TBD –  This is another game that needs to show its identity before I commit to buying it. Every time they show more detail on this game it seems to contradict the previous reveal. Just not sure where this game is coming from.

There are other games that I want to want but just don’t. Call of Duty will have its annual release but I feel no need to pay much attention that game. Maybe I’ll rent it but I won’t buy it. Then there are all the games for the Switch that I won’t buy, because I don’t have a Switch.

The plus side here is that I don’t think my wallet is going to get assaulted as badly as I originally imagined. Also, after an initial burst, the purchases are paced out.

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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 – Nex Machina

This is a video of a full play-through of Nex Machina. It really isn’t very long but I wanted to work with a different video editor and I already had this recorded.

There are things I missed and will do better next time.

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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 – Destiny 2 Beta

Image via store.playstation.com

The word that comes to mind is underwhelming.

Be it fair or not, the Destiny 2 beta pales in comparison to the original Destiny beta. Not only in the size of it but also what it showcased to the players. This beta feels like a tiny sliver  with only one story mission(which you can’t replay unless you start a new character), one strike, and two competitive modes. There initially was no social space but late in the beta Bungie opened up the unfinished Farm social area, which I did not bother to explore. Completely absent was any of the open world to explore except for a few of those brave souls that glitched their ways into them.

What was sad about the beta was that it was nothing new. It was the exact content that players have been seeing since the initial gameplay reveal and the game’s time at E3. The only difference with the beta is that the players could play and not just watch. This was nice but there was so little content that one could play through everything in less than two hours. Playing multiple characters garnered nothing more than a chance to play the different classes and subclasses.

Players like myself who are on the fence on whether to buy the game or not probably found little if anything to sway them into purchasing. The content was already known since none of it was new, therefore that was not a motivating factor. The game’s controls were as crisp as Destiny has ever been but that has never been the game’s problem. What I still wonder about is the story the game will tell and how it will do it. This one story mission seems like a marginal improvement with how the story is delivered but it sinks right back into the problem the first game had, never explaining anything…anything.

If this is the best Bungie has to show for the game then I have some big concerns. I will admit that I am a Destiny player ever since its alpha and I’m a little jaded about the experience overall. With that said, there was nothing in the beta that showed me that anything has changed or greatly improved. This was such a hollow experience I would be surprised if it helped convince anyone to buy the game, rather it may cause some to rethink the decision to buy the game or not.

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.

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.