Tag Archives: PS3

Review: Atelier Rorona -The Alchemist of Arland- DX (Switch) ~ Crafting The Adventure With Alchemy.

atelier-rorona-featureWikipedia page

On my top 10 games list of 2018, I talked about Atelier Rorona. I talked about how this game got me interested in the Atelier series. Now, it’s time to give my full opinion on the game. Why did I place this game on my top ten list and why wasn’t it higher on the list? I think it’s time to talk about crafting and exploring. Adventuring and RPG’ing. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Get of your lazy bum

atelier rorona screen 1The story of this game has a simple premise. You play as Rorona, a young girl who is an apprentice at a local alchemy shop in the Arland Kingdom. Her master Astrid is so lazy that business isn’t going well at all. In a matter of fact, she didn’t get of her lazy bum for so long, the kingdom is considering to close down the shop. Rorona doesn’t want this to happen so she takes on the challenges provided by the kingdom. She gets a deadline of three years. During these three years she has to prove that she can run the alchemy shop and make profit. If she fails one of these challenges, the shop will be closed without any further question.

On the surface, the story of this game isn’t anything special. It’s one that has been done various times before. Yet, the story actually changes a lot on your actions. It depends on who you take with you on your journey, how good you craft your items, how you interact with the characters and how you run your alchemy shop. The one that lazy Astrid sort of gave to you because she wanted more sleep but didn’t want the shop to be closed.

This makes the story quite a lot of fun to play through. Because each and every playthrough is going to be different, you will have a different story. This game has various endings that all depend on how good you did during your missions provided by the kingdom. When I had beaten the game for the first time, I got a very generic ending that didn’t give the closure I felt that the story deserved. Because of that, I feel motivated to replay this game with so I can get an even better ending.

The writing of this game makes replaying this game even more enjoyable. While I was playing this game, I posted a short clip on my Twitter showing off the voice acting. The game has a lot of funny and charming moments. I actually fell in love with the characters of this game. Now, depending on how good you play this game, the characters you interact with get more character development.

Now, during my playthrough the story was quite enjoyable. While it didn’t have a lot of moments where I sat on the edge of my seat, it was quite relaxing. Maybe the other endings have more thrilling moments, but over all I enjoyed the story quite a lot. The writing, the pacing and the voice acting make for an enjoyable experience. I can’t wait to see how the game plays out on my next playthrough.

With that said, how do you actually go about saving the shop? For that, Rorona needs to gather ingredients from various locations and craft various items. Depending on the quality of the items, you get better items. Now, I do have one thing I felt mixed about in terms of the gameplay.

Running that shop

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-01-ps4-us-04dec2018

Yes, this is a screenshot from the PS3 version, but the Switch version looks the same apart from the different buttons.

While the story pacing is quite good, the pacing of the game is … let’s just say, strange. Because the game gives of a relaxing and casual vibe, the game can feel extremely slow. But this is very misleading. Because you have a strict time limit; you shouldn’t waste time at all. You have to play every move extremely carefully. The more mistakes you make, the worse your ending gets. The depth in this game is crazy. You do get an assistant in the middle point of the game. This mechanic saved me various times. You can assign this assistant to go and explore for you or craft items for you.

Be warned, the tutorials of this game only scratch the surface of the mechanics of this game. Something I recommend is that you use the save system to your advantage. I had various saves at various points. So, I can go back when I felt I was able to finish the missions with better results.

Talking about the save system, the fact that this game got ported from a PlayStation system really shows in the UI. If you have played a game on a PlayStation you will recognize the typical save and load UI easily. The only thing that annoys me is that I’m unable to name my saves. This would have helped quite a lot.

So, you have to explore, fight monster and craft items. This sounds like your typical RPG fair. You do have side quests that can help you to get a better relationship with a certain character. Some of these side quests have the potential to improve the reputation of the shop which also has a big influence on the ending of the story.

All in all, the biggest challenge of this game is time management. Use your time wisely and try to waste as few days as you can. I always tried to finish the assignment of the kingdom as fast as I could. When I finished that, I used the remaining days to explore new area’s and improve my relationship with the other characters.

The gameplay immersed me quite a lot. I really felt like a shop owner trying to find the best strategy to get my shop up and running and to try to get as many customers as I can. While the game isn’t too difficult to get the most basic ending, the challenge for this game hides in trying to get the best endings.

A normal playthrough of this game will take you somewhere around 20 hours. But, if you want to see all the endings, you will get a lot more out of this game. On howlongtobeat.com, there are reports of players taking 60 to 100 hours to fully complete this game. Now, this is for the PlayStation 3 version. On the time of writing this review, the website has no listing for the Nintendo Switch version.

Now, the meat of this game is in exploration and the crafting. First of all, let’s go a bit more in-depth about the exploration. During your exploration you can take two allies with you. Certain allies require a certain price to hire. This price needs to be paid up front. So, make sure you have enough gold in the bank to hire them.

During the exploration you can go to various locations. Each location has several area’s you can explore that provide different items. These items aren’t randomized, so if you find herbs in a certain area, you will be able to find those herbs every time there.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that you have an inventory limit. If you reach that limit, you have to throw out items. Also, you need to keep in mind that certain items can lose their freshness. For example, if you collect berries and don’t put them in your storage in the chest in the shop, the quality will drop.

During your exploration, you can see certain spots where items can be gathered. In the meantime, you see the enemies roaming around. When you interact with them, you can start a fight with them. The battles are turn-based. It’s the system you see in a million other RPG’s. But there are a few differences.

One difference is that only an alchemist can use items. So, only Rorona can use healing items during the battle. Another difference is that you can use certain characters to defend you and make combo attacks. In each battle, a meter builds up. When that meter is full, you can use the shoulder buttons to defend Rorona. A similar mechanic counts for the combo attacks.

One thing you need to keep in mind during the exploration is that moving between locations and area’s takes valuable time. So, make sure you know which items you need and where you can find them and plan accordingly. Otherwise you might get into trouble and you aren’t able to craft certain items.

In addition to that, keep in mind that you have a limited amount of MP. MP is also used to craft items. And this brings me on the second part of the gameplay I want to focus on, the crafting. This is something I didn’t always paid attention too. Each item can have certain properties that make a huge difference during crafting. Each item has also a quality level that changes the outcome quite a lot as well.

Something I found extremely tricky was looking for high quality items. For some reason, I always found mid tear or low tier quality items. I’m quite sure that this was one of the reasons that resulted in me having a mediocre ending. Now that I know that, I know what I should look for in a second playthrough.

Anyways, the crafting system itself is a bit basic. You can select various ingredients to craft an item. If you don’t have a certain sub ingredient that is craftable, you get forwarded to the craft menu of that item. One thing that I found really annoying was that it wasn’t always clear which ingredients were missing. For example, the icon of the missing ingredient was a flame. But I had a few ores that looked extremely similar. Yet that wasn’t the ingredient I needed. It turns out I needed oil.

Something I really liked was that in the crafting list, you were able to sort ingredients in terms of quality or rarity. Also, you had various symbols that gave information if you were or weren’t able to craft a certain item. For example, a triangle means that you are able to craft the item but you have to craft a sub item first.

One thing that I would like to mention is that this game can be repetitive. It’s quite easy to fall in a loop for every assignment or mission. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. And repeat. Each assignment has a different theme like preparing for a festival or helping to craft medicine.

I didn’t mind too much, but I feel that a bit more variation in the gameplay would do the game some good. For example, a bit more assignments where you needed to defeat a certain number of monsters or collect a certain amount of ingredients would do the trick.

Arland is saved

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-03-ps4-us-04dec2018Let’s talk about visuals. This game looks quite nice in my opinion. While the game could have benefited from a free camera, I actually didn’t mind too much since the camera allowed me to watch the nice city and fun dungeons in great detail. Some enemies suffer from the recolor syndrome, like the slime enemies. There are at least 3 variants and only the color has been changed. I wish those games added a few extra details. Oh well. At least I never had slowdowns during gameplay and I was able to play the game at a decent frame rate.

In terms of animation, this game is good. While the cut scenes would have benefited from some more character animation instead of gorgeous looking 2D artwork. Now, if the game came out in a previous generation, I would excuse this…. oh, wait… that’s right, this game is a port of a PS3 game. Then again, the PS3 is capable of so much more. Oh well.

Now something that bugged me a bit is the rather awkward jumping animation. I think it’s missing a few frames near the end where Rorona’s feet almost snap into place. It also looks strange when you adjust your jump in midair. Since Rorona sort of floats awkwardly. It’s hard to put into words but while the jump works great, it feels off and looks a bit off.

Jumping in itself is easy to do and control. You just press the jump button and voila. I don’t have any complaints about the controls. I really like how there is a dedicated button to cycle through Rorona’s animations. The game controls great and I didn’t have need to spend time getting used to them. The UI explains it so well, I got the hang of it right away. One minor nitpick is that the prompt for running is a tad confusing. When the UI shows a button for “running ON” and you press that button, Rorona actually starts walking. So, that promt in the UI actually shows the status if you are running or not.

Now, the UI has some amazing things I really liked. Like how easy it is to sort items or the great and easy to use crafting system. But I have a few complaints. First of all, I wish I was able to see which ingredients where at a certain location before I actually travelled there. I would have been able to save so many days…

Secondly, while I totally understand why the developers did this; I wish I was able to see how many days it would take to go to a newly discovered gathering area. The reason why they don’t tell you this is most likely for immersions reasons.

And my final and third complaint is when you buy armor, you can’t see if it would increase somebody’s stats or not. This was quite annoying, especially when the armor shop rarely has new items because the game really wants that you craft it yourself.

The music and sound effects for this game are good. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the story quite well. It’s relaxing and rather melodic. It helps to get immersed into the game. I even added the soundtrack to my playlist for when I want to relax. Now, the sound effects are great but I wish there were a bit more of them. For the whole crafting system, the use the same effects and I would love some different ones for food or bombs. Also, one for days passing while the clock ticked over would be the cherry on the cake.

Oh, and here is something nice, you can totally change the whole soundtrack. Yes, while interacting with the book in the atelier, you can change each and every track to another track. You can choose between a pretty long list of other games in the series. Now, this is an amazing feature but it could have used some additional features. Like a reset to default option and one where you easily see which song you have selected since in that menu there is a lot of unused screen space. And the biggest missing feature is in my opinion a preview of what song is currently playing. Oh dear, they were so close.

In that same menu, you can access the different costumes for Rorona. As far as I know these are only cosmetic. You can do save file management and decorate the atelier to a certain degree. You can also access the options menu where you can adjust the sound mix to your liking. In here, you can also change the language of the voice acting to Japanese or English. So, if you want Rorona to greet you in Japanese in the main menu, you can do that.

After you have finished the game, there is a postgame chapter. I won’t spoil what the chapter is about but it adds some additional story. But after this post game, there is no free roaming. So, you can’t experiment with the game… This is a real missed opportunity since I would have loved to try and experiment with the game to learn and have a better run next time. Yet, on the other hand, I totally understand why they did this. Because the game has so many different endings in which different characters aren’t present, it would have been a hell to program.

Interestingly, during me writing this review and posting it; the game got a small update. I have no clue what has been added, but I wanted to mention it, just in case something in my review doesn’t make sense anymore.

With that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave some things out for you as a surprise if you decide to play this game. But, it’s time for the conclusion of this review and my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The jump animation looks awkward.
  • The game can be repetitive.
  • There is no free play in the post content.

The good:

+ Enjoyable story, writing and voice acting.

+ Amazing charm.

+ Great UI.

+ High replay value due to the different endings.

+ Relaxing soundtrack and you can change it to your liking!

+ ….

Final thoughts:

I don’t know exactly how this game compares to other games in the Atelier series. Since this game is the first game in the series I have played. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my time with this game quite a lot. The game is on the surface a relaxing game with a lot of charm. But, don’t get fooled, this game can become quite hectic in a good way.

The game is quite enjoyable to play but difficult to master. You really need to plan every single move to make sure to you get yourself in a difficult situation.

This game is perfect for everybody who is looking for an RPG with a crafting system or somebody who is looking for a shop simulator. While I can totally understand why some people won’t enjoy this game too much, it did click with me.

But the game is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong, this game is quite good but it has some flaws that hinder the gameplay in my opinion. Like the strict deadlines and the repetitive nature of the game.

Personally, I recommend that you give this game a try. If only there was a demo of this game you could try out and judge for yourself if this game is for you are not. I bought this game because the screenshots and descriptions looked interesting on the Nintendo eShop and I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, I can’t wait to play the other games in this trilogy to see if they improved the mechanics in the other games. Maybe they crafted an even better adventure while they kept everything that worked quite well in this game.

Do keep in mind that I’m not saying that this is a bad game. It’s a good game with some flaws. It’s up to you to decide if these flaws would hinder your enjoyment of the game or not. Since this game has a lot of depth so you will be able to have a lot of fun with this game.

With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a different article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

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First Impression: Ratchet & Clank (PS2) ~ The First One

RachetandClankOriginalPS2Cover.jpgWikipedia entry

Today I want to talk about a game I started playing in my holidays on the PS2. The name is Ratchet & Clank and I’m playing it on PS2. I realize that with the recently released movie, there is a new game on PS4. But I haven’t seen the movie (yet), I don’t have a PS4 and I don’t own the PS4 game either. So yeah. In any case, it’s time to take a look at Ratchet & Clank on the PS2. A game I bought at a garage sale. At that same garage sale, I also bought the third game in the series. Sadly enough, I was unable to buy the second one. But, that game is on my “to look out for” list. And I’m quite sure I’ll find it in the near future. In any case, enough stalling. It’s time to talk about Ratchet and Clank. A game I haven’t finished … yet. In any case, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game. 

The story of sci-fi

 If you read my blog from or when you know me personally, you might know that I’m a big fan of stories in my games. While I do enjoy the characters and the jokes that are thrown around, I feel that the story is taking a backseat to the gameplay. Honestly, the story doesn’t 100% click with me. I think the biggest problem is that the story doesn’t really help build the world and atmosphere.

When I play sci-fi games, I want the story maxresdefaultto explain how certain things work. But so far, nothing is really explained enough in-depth. Yet, there is some techno-jargon that gets thrown around. Take for example an “infobot”. From what I can gather, it’s a sort of advertisement billboard, but I have seen it play recordings of people’s video calls. And what didn’t help is the fact that some infobots have coordinates of where some people are. So, what’s the purpose of an infobot? That left me very confused.

So yeah, while I do enjoy the interaction with the characters and the actual plot of the game, I feel that there is so much lost potential with the story. I felt that the focus was too much on the characters and not enough on the world that they created.

The voice acting of this game helps to bring the characters alive. The jokes of a naive robot Clank work so well in the robot voice. It feels real and genuine.

So, in conclusion about the story, I’m in the middle. Like I said earlier, I do like it, but I feel that they could have gone more in-depth with it. Also, some characters are underused. Like the Captian Qwark figure. He looks like an extremely popular marketing thing, but I have only seen him on one island. So yeah.

Two or more ways to objectives

ratchet_clank_ps2-620x413It surprises me how I managed to fall in love with the gameplay of this game. Usually, I play adventure games like Broken Sword and Monkey Island. I even said in some articles that I don’t like platformers. But this game is something really different. In this game, you have to travel to various planets to finish missions.

But here is the thing. On two planets, I managed to miss secondary pathways that lead to other objectives. While this could lead to frustrating “find the right way” gameplay, I love that the map shows in yellow the places you have visited already. Too bad that it also shows a “?” mark exactly where a trigger for an objective is.

I have one problem with the gameplay that made me put the game down for a while. That are the respawn points. When you fail a jump or die, you sometimes respawn way too far. One time I was on the other side of the planet., and I misjudged a jump. When I respawned, I was back at the start, which was on the other side of the planet.

Also, I find it an interesting mechanic that the boxes and enemies only respawn when you leave the planet. Apart from one exception though and that is when you have a mission where you need to kill for example all sand sharks.

Maybe it might be just me, but the hit detection is sometimes a bit strange. I have seen several times where I was sure I was hit but didn’t lose health. A minor thing I would have changed is that I would have made the health always visible. There have been moments where I though I had more or less life and misjudged a situation. But then again, you can see it easily when you press a button.

The controls of this game are really good. The only thing I felt could use some polish was the grabbing of platforms. That didn’t always work for me. What I really liked is that this game didn’t force the tutorial on me. When you get a new gadget or a new item to play around with, the game briefly explains how it works and you can read it again in the menu. Also, you are able to shut off the help feature completely. I haven’t tested if the help section then still updates or what happens if you use a weapon where the explanation hasn’t popped up for it yet.

Something that would have improved this game is a sort of indication from where you are hit. I felt cheated when I died because an enemy was attacking me from behind. Speaking of which, some enemies are quite stupid. When you aren’t in range, you can easily kill them with bombs and not having them chase you.

The manual aiming of the special weapons is a big issue for me. I think I’m too spoiled by playing games with a mouse or a Wii Remote. It’s really clunky on a controller. Thankfully, there is a sort of auto-aim feature that works really well.

A big plus in this game is that you are free to explore the game at your own pace. Sometimes you have two different objectives and you choose on which one you focus first.

Planet Life 

the-ratchet-clank-trilogy-playstation-3-ps3-1337694400-011The sound design and the music are pretty decent. I would have changed one thing around to make it a bit better.

I would have given the enemies a bit more sound effects. Now, they can sometimes be soulless. It feels like they don’t have a personality. What I mean here is that, in other games you can easily hear if the enemy is a weak or a strong enemy. That isn’t too clear in this game.

The soundtrack of this game is really fun to listen too. While I feel that the soundtrack doesn’t always fit the world or presentation like a glove, it gets the job done pretty well and it’s a joy to listen too from time to time.

Speaking about the presentation, that’s something I really have to praise this game. I feel that the level design is extremely well done. From what I have seen so far, this game provides moments of action and then moments of rest. This game is a platformer at hart, but it changes things up here and there with some mini-games.

Graphically, this world aged pretty well in my opinion. I love how some things are animated in the background and how ships fly around while you are exploring the world. It makes the world come alive that much more.

I think I have everything I wanted to say about this game for now. There are a few things I want to talk about, but I’m going to leave them for the review. When I have to give my opinion on this game: it’s a really good game but it lacks some polish. It’s an amazing platformer that made me come back for more several times.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and until then… Have a great rest of your day and take care!

Review: Papo & Yo – Artsy Fartsy?

A while back, this game I had never heard of came with the monthly games you receive as a PlayStation Plus member. I played it for half an hour then, but I put down the controller and removed it at that time. I decided to give it another try and I just felt like I had to discuss it.

Because it’s good? No. Maybe. Hard to say. It was fun enough that I played through it, but it didn’t need to be much longer. The game wrapped up in just under four hours for me, but then again, I’m a slow gamer. In wanting to write a review about this, I decided to do a second play-through to gather all 25 collectibles and got halfway in just an hour. Knowing how to solve the puzzles makes it incredibly easy.

So what is the game about? You’re a little kid being transported to a slightly peculiar world, where you meet a little girl who taunts you and runs away. You decide to follow her. Later, you encounter a monster that follows you along the way.

It’s a little hard to explain what his part in all this is, but he’s a part of puzzles. You need to use fruit to lure him somewhere in order to progress, or have him fall asleep so you can jump on his belly. It sounds a little ridiculous, and it almost feels that way at times.

The puzzles themselves are okay. They’re not great or even good, but at least they’re not infuriating. The most difficult – and perhaps aggravating – puzzles are those where the monster is angry, because he ate a frog. Then, it will chase you and throw you around. You need rotten fruit to calm him down again. Yes, really. I’m not making this up.

Graphically, what can I say? It’s an Unreal Engine 3 game. It doesn’t look impressive, and is bugged by frame rate dips and tearing, but overall it’s fine. Just that. Fine. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons uses the same engine and, while plagued by tearing as well at times, looks far more impressive than Papo & Yo does. Especially the worldbuilding and environments.

The controls are good, though. I rarely missed a jump and that’s not always a given in 3D-platforming games, so kudos for that.

My main problem lies with the story. Mind you, I will go into spoilers here, but if you have half a brain, the intro of the game basically tells you everything you need to know. Now if it were a much simpler story, I’d be fine with it. Perhaps a story of a boy trapped in a fantasy world, trying to escape. Think The Unfinished Swan. It wouldn’t need much rewriting either. Or perhaps the girl took something from you and you need to get it back.

The problem is that, to me, it felt like the creators wanted to make a game with storytelling similar to Shadow of the Colossus, but failed. It’s easy to criticise, I know, but it feels like the kind of story a first year student of film school would come up with.

There’s not much dialogue in the game, and what’s being said does not sound like any language I ever heard. Speech bubbles do appear next to the characters when they say something.

Now brace yourselves, because you will not see this one coming. Especially not after the intro, and the first flashback about an hour into the game where you see yourself sitting in the back of a car being driven by an adult male. Oh, and there’s a quote, from the game director himself, saying: “To my mother, brothers and sisters with whom I survived the monster in my father”, right when you start the game. The monster is your father, the frogs represent his alcohol abuse and the girl was the person you father hit with his car.

I had a suspicion this game was fairly personal, from the director’s own experience. Looking up some information about the game confirms this. I don’t mine a personal story done well, but I just feel like this game is laying it on thick. It feels like they’re trying to be subtle and use metaphors, but it’s so blatant.

I feel like I’m being really harsh on the game, but in all honesty, it’s not terrible. I’m just very sensitive when it comes to metaphors and artsy fartsy storytelling. Would I recommend it?Perhaps. I know of people who have very much enjoyed this game, so who am I to take that away from them?

What does strike me as odd is that most outlets give this a positive review. The only major outlet that gave it a bad one, was IGN. “The on-paper premise of a traumatic childhood brought to life as a playable short story is brilliant, but the wounded execution can’t quite sell the emotional expression.”, is what they had to say and I tend to agree a little.

I guess it’s a decent game if you like that kind of story, but if you’re looking for interesting puzzles, you’d better look elsewhere. It’s also an easy game for completionists and trophy/achievement hunters, as my two playthroughs gave me a lot of trophies in a total playtime of around six hours.

And the Award for Worst DLC Goes To…..

Fallout: New Vegas- Honest Hearts

I know what you’re thinking: this is bad writing. You shouldn’t reveal the answer immediately. Build some suspense! The reason I chose to do so anyway is not because some people like a tl;dr version, or because I’m pretentious and I do whatever the hell I so desire. No, it’s because I’d like to talk about Fallout first, and why this DLC was so disappointing. Prepare yourselves, because I have a feeling this’ll be a long one again.

In all honesty, I have not played the first two major instalments, though I did acquire them through GOG.com a while back and plan to play them some time. My first introduction was with Fallout 3. It didn’t run well, especially its DLC had serious performance issues, but I revered it nevertheless. It was so much fun. The engine used by Bethesda, its developer, has never been well optimised. Not for PC, not for consoles. Not for Fallout and not for The Elder Scrolls. But this is not a performance analysis, so I won’t go in-depth right now.

I fell in love with the world. Set some 250 years in the future, in a world where people in the fifties thought “Well, this is it: he pinnacle of art, style and technology.” Everything is inspired by old technology and the styling of the fifties. Monochromatic computer screens, old jazz and rhytm & blues music, clothing (what’s left of it), … Even futuristic items seem old. It just oozes with charm.

Story-wise I prefer the third instalment over New Vegas, hands down. I plan on comparing the two in a later article at some point in the future, so I’ll keep it at that for now. I even liked the five DLC-packs that were released. Broken Steel continued the story. It wasn’t incredible, but it was serviceable. Operation Anchorage was fun and brought a tonne of nice, new items to the party. Mothership Zeta was interesting and fun, though the story didn’t grab my as such. Point Lookout was my favourite, with it’s unique swamp location, barely touched by the nuclear bombs, and interesting storyline. And The Pitt was my least favourite, though still well above the quality of the DLC in New Vegas.

In New Vegas, we have four DLC packs, instead of the five in Fallout 3. I maintain that I prefer quality over quantity, so I didn’t complain from the start. But neither really rocked my boat. Maybe I felt less invested, because I find the world of New Vegas less intriguing to begin with, but regardless I should have had some investment.

The first two I played were Dead Money and Lonesome Road. The former annoyed me so much, I considered dropping out of the game entirely. Nothing else in both games gave me this feeling, ever, but this story was uninteresting, and the location was highly unappealing. I take it it was the intention to look unappealing, but it should not be revolting or appalling. I was relieved to finally finish and return to the Mojave.

The latter started very promising, in what looked like an abandoned nuclear missile silo. It was slowly paced and there were very few enemies. It almost seemed like this was created so the player would get invested in the story and atmosphere. A mostly non-combat DLC to teach us more about the world. But things quickly turned around once I progressed and got out of the silo. More combat, a mysterious figure that I couldn’t care less about on the radio, and nothing innovative in terms of world building. Like an Olympic diver performing a perfect reverse two-and-a-half somersault and landing flat on his stomach; promising, yet disappointing.

Then there were two more: Honest Hearts and Old World Blues. The latter had an interesting world in which scientists were isolated in a crater full of interesting locations, where not-so-ethical experiments had been performed. The story was decent and the “fifties-mad-scientist” vibe was fun, but after having been let down by most of the rest of the game, I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I probably should have.

 

Which brings me to Honest Hearts. Set in Utah, an area barely touched by the nuclear war of before, it had a decent setting. That part reminded me of the Point Lookout DLC from Fallout 3. What’s the story like? I couldn’t tell you. I beat it and I have no idea what it was about. How’s that possible? I’ll tell you: poor game design.

Let’s go back to Old World Blues (and in essence, every other map in Fallout for that mattar) for a second. Fallout has always been about exploring, as have all the Elder Scrolls games been. You could freely walk around the map and explore. You’d find new locations and some gave me new side quests, but none of them interfered with the main storyline of the game or any of its DLC.

(Map of Fallout 3, with all discoverable locations)

In Honest Hearts, I immediately became confused when the party I was travelling with all died within two minutes of arrival, and not ten minutes after first being introduced to them. I failed about half a dozen quests because of that, so I decided to load my previous save and try again. They all died again and the same thing happened where I failed a bunch of quests. Slightly aggravated and confused, I decided to look up if I was doing something wrong. Turned out it was a scripted event and could not be prevented, which means it was part of the main storyline.

Now why would I fail half a dozen quests for that? Why would the developers give me the impression that all the members in my party had little side quests they could’ve given me? The only quest remaining right now, was (verbatum) “Recover the map of Zion Canyon.”, pointing at a location all the way in the utmost North-Eastern corner of the map, with me all the way down South.

Everything felt like this was created by a fan or something, not by the actual developers. A mod, maybe. The writing and phrasing of the quests felt off and confusing. And then, a colossal error in judgement… The maps in the DLC are usually not that big, with thirty or so locations, allowing you to explore them in only a few hours. So as I often did, I explored the whole region first. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Especially considering the only quest available right now was “Recover the map of Zion Canyon.”

This has never been an issue. EVER. Not in Point Lookout, not in Old World Blues, not in any of the huge maps of the main storyline of the game. On my travels through the map of Honest Hearts, I encountered a few NPCs who had specific names, not just “Raider” or something else vague. Usually, these are people who are important in some (side) quest. Now in the main game, or any the other DLC packs, if you encounter a place where you find someone with a specific name, they will rarely attack you before engaging you in conversation. This makes sense. It allows you to get involved in some quest or back out of the situation, without killing that person and locking yourself out of a quest.

Not in Honest Hearts, though. I encountered two or three people with an actual name, who all attacked me on sight. I had little choice but to retaliate. They didn’t have any important items on them, like notes are keys to something, so at first I figured they were just minor characters. Why would I assume otherwise, when this game and its predecessor have never worked like that? I figured wrong. They were vital characters; leaders of local tribes. So when I finally explored the whole map and recovered the map of Zion Canyon, my screen went black. I thought the game crashed for a second, until a video started playing about how I had influenced Zion by killing these characters. Tribes disbanded, influences changed, and so on. It talked about everything I had done and I hadn’t done anything yet but explore and recover a map!

FNV

I can’t be the only one who explored before continuing the quest and be surprised by a sudden cut-off. Guess what, turns out I’m not. Turns out more people were kind of angry and confused. Turns out that in the beginning of the story, right after your party members have been killed, a character important to the storyline is somewhere behind or among the attackers and shoots one of them in the back (on the picture above marked with a red box). Me, being all worked up because of the battle, not realising he’s important and since he’s some distance away, I shoot him down. Since this is in the middle of a fight with half a dozen of people at the same time, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that he had a specific name. Killing him causes his tribe to turn hostile and in turn creates a ripple effect throughout the whole community of tribes, causing their leaders to attack me on sight too.

I guess, “technically”, it’s my fault for not paying attention to every single person on screen during a battle and thinking “Ooh, is he an enemy or someone important?”. I apologise for being kind of busy fighting for my life while bullets whiz around my head. I also apologise for having been confused by the demise of my recently acquainted party members, including the leader, who I though would be integral to the story and with me for the most part of the game. I should have played this open-world game more linearly, and I’m equally sorry I could not resist the urge to explore first, rather than ignore the world the developers have so painstakingly created around me, and just hurry through the quests.

Oh wait, no I’m not. This is crap and they should be ashamed.

EDIT: This, of course, is not the worst DLC ever and I’m sure plenty of people enjoyed it, but it felt really frustrating, and I do maintain the beginning of this DLC is highly confusing from the beginning and that little mistake at the beginning ruined the whole storyline for me. That’s what bothers me most and it’s poor design.

Eighth Gen Talk – Continued Thoughts and MGS2

A while ago I wrote a 1600 word behemoth talking about my thoughts on the current generation of games consoles and the state of gaming. I recently played a game that made me feel even more strongly about this. Basically, it concerns the second-to-last paragraph talking about innovation in games. I’d like to talk just a little more about that. I promise: this article will be a little shorter.

Image result for firewatchThis all started last week when I was talking to my cousin about the seventeen minute gameplay video of Firewatch. That game looks incredible. Even if it’s not open world and more linear than it appears, I cannot wait for it to come out. If you don’t know what Firewatch is, I’ll briefly explain. It’s a game about you, some guy, starting a job as a forest overseer in the eighties, and things happen in the woods which you have to deal with. The gameplay video looks like I could absolutely loose myself in that world.

After our discussion about the video, I talked about my favourite game series of all time: Metal Gear. It had been a while since I played through all games, but I picked it up a few weeks ago and I’m up to Metal Gear Solid 2 as of now. Even though I have played this game several times, I was really intrigued by it this time. It has never been one of my favourites in the series, but in light of recent developments in the gaming industry, I now look at it with a whole fresh perspective.

The first section of the game takes place on a large tanker ship. It is here that I started to pay more attention to the game’s mechanics, looks and details than before. The first thing was the lighting. This game uses dynamic lights and shadows in many places. When the enemy is close to you and the flash light on their weapons shine on you, it appears like there are light shafts and your body interacts with it. I am sure this isn’t a true volumetric light source, since that technology was not in place in the early 2000’s and is very computationally intensive, but it still looks impressive. Especially considering this game was released in 2001. Let that sink in for a second. That’s fourteen years ago.

Sure, this game doesn’t have the most incredible graphics by today’s standards, but at the time (and especially for an early PS2 game), this game looked incredible. Frankly, I still think it does. It has an aesthetic, which is more important than graphics, and it’s what a lot of modern AAA-games seem to miss.

Truly impressive, though, are the details. On this tanker is a crew lounge filled with lovely little details that make the worlds feel so much richer. There’s a plasma TV playing and when you shoot it, it breaks. The screen doesn’t just go blank; it starts to go black in a circle around where the bullet hit and goes outwards until the whole screen is black. A magazine rack is also present. If you shoot the individual magazines, they fall on the floor. They might be upside down, open or lying on the front page, and when shot again, they change position.

There’s a pane of bullet proof glass (seen above), but when shot about twenty times, it breaks into a million pieces. Again, like the TV, it starts to break where you last shot and it goes outwards from there. In the corner of the room is a bar (also seen above), stocked with glasses and bottles that all break and fall differently. Shoot at the plants, and leaves fall off and they wiggle.

Later on there is a boss battle with a female character named Fortune. The explosions in that fight cause the lights on the ceiling to swing, making the shadows on the ground change and again adding to the believability of this world.

These things are not new in modern games, but they were then. This game tried to push a new system further than any other game of its time. Mind you that this game did not compromise on its resolution and played at 60 frames per second. Knowing this, makes it look even more impressive.

The current generation seems to rely too heavily on things that have been established in the generation before (PS3/360), and to some extent even the one before that (PS2/Xbox). Aside from looking prettier, there seems to be little new. Little that is pushing better hardware, and that’s sad.