Doors of Insanity (PC, PS4, PS5, SWITCH, XBOXONE, XBOX X/S)

“You’re Dead Bud.”

Doors of Insanity

A thank you once again goes out to Another Indie for sending me out a copy of the first 2021 release I get to review.

There isn’t much a story to Doors of Insanity and if their is it’s not told particularly well but the game can be forgiven for this as story is not really what the game is about. It’s a rogue-like card battler where you progress through a number of dungeons building your deck and equipment in order to beat the next bad guy/s around the next door. Then when you die (which you will do at some point) you start from the beginning with additional perks which can be bought by using gems or level ups collected from your last run.

I enjoyed Doors of Insanity. It is a system that is easy to pick up and gain a sense of competency in, you have a deck of cards with various effects, be them do damage, absorb damage or various buffs/debuffs and a set amount of mana which determines how many cards you can play in your round. Once the enemies are defeted you gain more cards and head to the next set of doors, then repeat. The art style is both cutesy and slightly un-nerving at the same time, reminding me a lot of very early Disney animation (such as Steamboat Willy) and more recently Cuphead.

I did find the character creation to be a bit limited with little choice but sex, hair and skin colour and a handful of different faces to pick from. Although if I did have control over what changes I would make to the game the first thing I would do would be to look at porting the game over to a more portable device. Doors of Insanity to me plays more like a casual game. I’ve sat down and played it a few times but never playing it for more than an hour or two each time before wanting to move onto something else. I feel the game would be strengthened it I were able to play it on my phone if I had a spare 15-20mins be it waiting for an appointment or on my lunch break at work.

So to recap, the game is very easy to get into and easy to play but has a tendency to start feeling a little repetative after a while, which is why I would prefer the games to be available on a more portable medium. Another strong outing from Another Indie and I wait in antisipation for what comes next.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at Fallout 3 (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

“War, War Never Changes”

Fallout

War may never change but the Fallout series sure does. Fallout 3 was the game that revolutionised the series and set up the archetype for the series to follow. The first of many Fallout game to be developed by Bethesda, by taking their formula that made The Elder Scrolls games a success and incorporating it into the Fallout series really modernised the series. This was done in order to streamline the gameplay to bring the game to consoles. Bethesda however kept concepts from the original series such as a focus on non-linear gameplay, black comedy and depravity such as cannibalism & slavery. Although they decided to not include moments that break the 4th wall in order to not shatter the illusion that the game world was real.

Although it does matter how good the story was, how streamline the gameplay was, how immersive the environment was. Reality come crashing down on you as soon as the game freezes and requires you to restart the console. This was my experience with the game. It was a fantastic game but was ruined by having so many bugs that even it’s bugs had bugs. One of the most memorable was one that made everyone’s heads disappear leaving only their hair, eyes and teeth. The image haunts me to this day.

I never played any of the previous Fallout games before Fallout 3, I have since but 3 still as my favourite of the series. I find that without the nostalgia effect the first 2 Fallout’s and Tactics haven’t aged well and feel dated. This really hampered my ability to really loose myself in the games. Fallout 3 & New Vegas on the other hand is one that I still go back and play. I originally bought it on PS3 at release and later bought the Game of the Year edition on Steam so that I could go back to it without needing to find & break out my PS3.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Resident Evil VII: Biohazard (PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

“Welcome to the family, son.”

Resident Evil VII: Biohazard

Now, I am a big fan of the original Resident Evil series (games 1,2 & 3) and to some extent number 4, less so 5 & defiantly did not enjoy no. 6. This downward spiral of quality was why I was reluctant to pick up Resident Evil 7 at it’s initial release, but in fairness the more I heard about it the more praise I heard about it. So once I found the game on sale I picked it up and finally gave it a go, here’s what I thought of it.

Resident Evil 7 takes place in Dulvey, Louisiana. It’s here that Ethan Winters finds himself after he received an email from his wife Mia who went missing 3 years ago. His search leads him to an old, abandoned plantation. It’s here that Ethan finds Mia who at first is glad to see her. She then suddenly attacks Ethan taking a chainsaw to the hand, losing it in the process. Ethan must now figure out what is going on, how cure Mia and how to survive the Baker family.

First thing’s first, the game does not feel like a Resident Evil game of the past. A lot of moments, especially at the beginning of the game feel less survival horror and more just plain horror. Also compared to a lot of other more modern horror games, the games does it really well. For the first half of the game I was absolutely bricking it in fear of what my be lurking around the corner. The game oozes atmosphere and coupled in with the new 1st person camera you get a real sense of immersion. There was even a couple of times I had to stop and mentally prepare myself before heading around a corner. After about an hour though the feeling of dread did subside as enemy appearances became more predictable and I became better equipped to deal with said enemies.

There wasn’t a lot I didn’t like about Resident Evil 7. My main gripe with the game was movement of the player. There was a lot of times where I felt Ethan wasn’t moving with much urgency, especially when I’m wanting him to turn around a corner. I understand that Ethan is just an ordinary guy and as such hasn’t received any kind of special training, but still in a house of super mutant murder hillbillies I’d expect him to move like his life depends on it rather than like he’s having a lovely stroll through the woods.

Speaking of lovely strolls through the woods, The scene at the very beginning of the game bared both a lot of similarities and contradictions to the start of What Remains of Edith Finch. Both start out as walking simulators where the player is walking through the woods, however where as in Edith Finch there’s a sense of adventure, wonderment and tranquility RE7 fills the player with tension, suspense and anxiety as to what the player might suspect. I think it’s quite interesting how two games of very similar mechanics can distill opposing feelings.

Back to the topic at hand, I would recommend Resident Evil 7 to those who enjoyed the Silent Hill games or in fact any kind of horror game. Although I wouldn’t to those who are die hard fans of the Resident Evil series. In that respect it reminds me of Silent Hill 4: The Room, they are both great games but they also both feel very disjointed from it’s series lore, both feeling very off cannon. I just hope that Resident Evil doesn’t fuck it up the series again by trying to bring the cannon back in newer games… What? Chris Redfield is in Resident Evil Village? I guess some people just don’t learn.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Kingdom Hearts 3 (PS4, XBOX ONE)

“Prepare to face Keyblade Hero 3!”

Kingdom hearts 3

Continuing with the backlog, this was a game I played at the tail end of 2019 but never wrote about it because at the time I was playing Marvel’s Spider-man, God of War & Resident Evil 2 and all 3 of them were much better games with so much more to talk about. This was also back when I was a little less serious about my blogging and a lot less routine. So with the amount of time available for me to write increasing but the amount of time I have to play games staying the same, I’ve taken the decision to write about some of the games I’ve already played and not yet had a chance to talk about. Hence why I’m digging up Kingdom Hearts 3.

Kingdom Hearts 3 takes place after Dream Drop Distance, in which Sora has lost most of his powers due to the events of the previous game (as to what they are I don’t know) Sora must travel with Donald & Goofy through several Disney & Pixar movies in order to find “The Power of Waking”. Meanwhile, Mickey & Riku are in the realm of darkness looking for Aqua one of the past keyblade wielders while Kairi and Lea (the original persona of Axel) are training to become keyblade wielders.

If you got to the end of the previous paragraph and still have no idea what the hell’s going on then, don’t worry because you’re in the majority. The plot at this point in the series is so convoluted and disjointed I’d be surprised even if the writers knew what was going on any more. It’s something Hideo Kojima would have written had he been locked in a room with a Disney box-set, a bottle of tequila and a space hopper. Not to mention the plot kept jumping between consoles just to keep you on your toes. The OG Kingdom Hearts was on PS2, then Chain of Memories was on the GameBoy Advanced, then Kingdom Hearts II was back on the PS2, then Coded was on Mobile, then 358/2 Days was on DS, then Birth by Sleep was on the PSP, then Dream Drop Distance was on the 3DS, then Kingdom Hearts χ was a browser game, finally we have Kingdom Hearts 3 on the PS4. So unless you were rich enough to have all the aforementioned consoles and handhelds you found it difficult to follow the plot consistently from start to finish. True, they did release all the games in sets on the PS3 and later the PS4 but by this point I had abandoned the series because I was so far behind in the plot.

So enough about the series as a whole and lets look specifically at Kingdom Hearts 3. Graphically, the game is much improved from the rest of the series. Then again KH3 is running on a much more powerful system then the rest of the series too so that’s kind of a given, still everything is crisp and detailed. However there is a smoothness about it all that makes me feel the characters are made of modeling clay, I’d assume this is so Sora and the gang fit to the aesthetics of the CGI Disney worlds they are visiting this time around. Speaking of the new worlds, the story behind the majority of the worlds you visit are just rehashes of the films and how they would play out if Sora was contracted to have a significant part in every single one. Your usual Disney B-List TV voice actors have amassed to replace some of the bigger stars who just couldn’t be bothered, didn’t care enough or wouldn’t get paid enough to reprise their roles (I didn’t expect Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, John Goodman or Johnny Depp to make an appearance) and it shows, although most of the original Frozen & Big Hero 6 voice actors showed up which made those worlds feel a bit more authentic.

As far as game-play is concerned it’s the same as Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 but with a few tweaks and additions. The main one that got right under my skin was the special attack moves based off of attractions at Disney’s theme parks. They were overly available, needlessly long and arbitrary. They are nothing more than needless advertising and gave me nothing but disdain for the game.

Kingdom Hearts is a series I like the idea of, Square-Enix RPG with Disney characters? A marketing departments wet dream and works great on paper. Sadly, paper is a flimsy thing and doesn’t tend to last very long when played with. You needn’t look any further than my D&D character sheets for proof of that. It’s a series that has been ruined by baggage and lack of direction. As a final word if you enjoyed any of the series then this is just more of the same, if you’re coming fresh into the series don’t both with it. It’ll either confuse you, annoy you or both.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

“That’s right! Run you bastards! I’m coming for you all!”

Tomb raider

Yes, the only reason I am review this is because it was free for PSPlus users back in January. I thought I would just get that out there. Since I am still without anything new to play and still without a PS5 to elevate my gaming into the next generation (not that there are many PS5 exclusives available). I’m still going through my backlog of games of at least minor relevance still. So to that end here is the 3rd installment of the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise. Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider still follows Lara Croft, still saving the world from the bad guys at Trinity who are still trying to use the worlds ancients doomsday devices to be up to no good because otherwise there would be no plot device. This time around for a change it’s Lara who accidentally starts the Mayan apocalypse before Trinity can do so, Lara must then take it upon herself to undo her fuck up and stop Trinity from capitalizing on it.

My relationship with the new Tomb Raider games have changed with each installment. If anyone would care to remember my original review of the Tomb Raider Reboot despite my gripes about it I did enjoy it. 5 years later we’ve seen some marginal tweaks, a few scenery changes and very little else. With the 3rd installment what felt like a breath of fresh air originally is now starting to feel a bit stuffy.

In the first game a lot of my problems with it were due to me feeling like I was mis-sold the experience. Going into the game I felt like it was going to be a lot grittier than the game ended up being. I was expecting a greater fight for survival, having to scavenge and hunt for food, find shelter from the elements and in essence do what was needed to survive. In the end all we got was some scavenging and hunting for resources for the arbitrary crafting system all games seem to require these days. Fast forward to the third installment and I kind knew what I was expecting. I went in expecting more of the same and that’s sadly what I got.

My main problem especially in this and the previous games is that of Lara herself. She has absolutely no growth as a character, she’s just as vanilla at the start of the game as she is at the end. At least in the original reboot she showed glimpses of evolution even if it did come with a truckload of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance (for more information on Ludo-Narrative Dissonance see link). At least in the original series Lara was a seasoned archaeologist and that’s exactly how she acted, the new series tries to make her relatable by making her more “girl next door doing what she needs to do to survive” but she’s scaling impossible cliff faces, shooting like a seasoned professional and absorbing mental trauma with absolutely no signs of PTSD. Therefore I must conclude that Lara Croft is either a sociopath or a psychopath.

I’ve noticed myself I’ve not really done much talking about Shadow of the Tomb Raider specifically. This is probably because there’s nothing about this game that is particularly good or bad, it’s all very safe. Crystal Dynamics seem to have a formula for the Tomb Raider series, it’s not a winning formula by all means but it’s one that’ll get anything they make across the finish line. In doing this they have made the series boring and generic. It’s OK, if you enjoyed the previous games you’ll also enjoy this one but you won’t gain anything from it. You won’t leave the game with a lasting experience, just something to kill some time between now and the grave.

As I’ve said previously and I really can’t say it enough, the series could have been so much more. It was there in my minds eye when I saw the trailer for the reboot. I saw a darker, grittier, more realistic Lara Croft where she would be fighting for survival and barely holding her head above the water, not just against her enemies, but against the elements and the very environment itself. Have her need to find food and fresh water and if she doesn’t make it so she can’t run as fast or climb as high, have her need to suture bad gashes, create splints for broken bones or find different medicinal herbs with different properties (e.g. pain killers, antibiotics, ointments etc.), have her need to find shelter and warmth to prevent hypothermia. These things would have improved Lara’s story immensely and as such build her as a character because you’d be able to really see her struggle and watch her come out the other side a changed person. Make her a true survivor like the games advertise her to be.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at The Sims (PC)

“Uhh shamoo ralla poo”

The sims

Can you believe The Sims has now existed for 21 years now? I surely can. The Sims was a game that I put in a fair amount of my teenage years being the somewhat of a social outcast I was. I thought with the original game now old enough to drink in the US it would be a good time to look back and reminisce about a simpler time.

The Sims was brought to us by Will Wright and his crew at Maxis & published by EA (before they became evil personified). For those who aren’t aware of the original PC meth addiction (pre World of Warcraft) The Sims allowed you to create and live your own little slice of suburban SimCity. You send your Sims to work or school, feed them pizza, put them to bed, bathe them, set them on fire and drown them. A typical Thursday. As your Sims worked, got promoted and made money you could improve their living conditions give them better shinier gadgets before they shuffle off to the grave.

When The Sims was released in 2001 it was an instant hit with a lot of different gaming demographics. From casual gamers to hard-core gamers, it seemed everyone was playing The Sims. I think it’s popularity lied with it’s simplicity to play. Anyone could sit down in front of a computer and pick up the game quite easily because of it’s simple aesthetics and ease of use. I too was drawn in by the simple charm of The Sims. My enjoyment continued into The Sims 2 as well, although by the time that The Sims 3 came around both me and the series had grown apart, becoming different from the people we once were.

It was about this time that EA’s corporate greed and contempt for humanity started to show. It seemed where most series would expand and incorporate new features. The Sims in contrast did the opposite, narrowed it’s field of household objects and creation tools. All in the name of packaging it up into DLC packs and charge the same price as the core game EACH!!! I wouldn’t mind it so much if there was 4-5 DLC packs but the sheer number of DLC packs is mind boggling. The Sims had 7 DLC’s, The Sims 2 had 18 (8 Expansions & 10 Stuff Packs), The Sims 3 had 20 (11 Expansions & 9 Stuff Packs). The Sims 4 currently has 37 (10 Expansions, 9 Game Packs & 18 Stuff Packs) with more still being released. So I’ve done the maths (so you don’t have to) and to buy The Sims 4 and all of it’s DLC’s at full price it would cost you over £600 for the privilege.

The Sims and to some extent The Sims 2 are a reminder of a time when EA actually wanted to market games that entertain and spread enjoyment. Although I can’t help but think that The Sims as a series is a victim of it’s own success. Maybe if the The Sims & The Sims 2 weren’t as popular as they were and made as much money as they did in DLC’s then EA wouldn’t try and ring as much money out of their clientele as humanly possible without resorting to muggings.

I’m sorry if you read this expecting a nostalgic return to a game that was much loved and was well deserving of that love and instead got a hate speech on the evils of EA. Although I do have a lot more to say about EA I’ll wait and dedicate a whole piece to them.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

<pre class="wp-block-syntaxhighlighter-code"><a href="https://cdnjs.buymeacoffee.com/1.0.0/button.prod.min.js">https://cdnjs.buymeacoffee.com/1.0.0/button.prod.min.js</a></pre>

Death Stranding (PC, PS4)

Hooray for PS Store sales. This week we will be delving into the weird and wonderful mind of Hideo Kojima (emphasis on weird) the mastermind behind Metal Gear Solid as we bring you one of his first works following his divorce with Konami. So here is what I thought of Death Stranding.

Death Stranding takes place in a world not to dissimilar from our own where the worlds of the living and the world of the dead have melded in an event known as the Death Stranding. This has caused creatures called “Beached Things” (“BT’s”) to swarm America that explode when consuming corpses (voidouts), this along with the Timefall, which is rain that causes anything it touches to rapidly age. This causes society to collapse into a few isolated pockets, downgrading from the USA to the UCA (United Cities of America). You play as Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) a courier who travels between these cities making deliveries. He is tasked by the late president to travel from the East coast to the West connecting cities he meets to the UCA.

If you managed to get to the end of that paragraph and not think to yourself “Nope, I’m out” then you might just enjoy the game. As expected from anything with Hideo Kojima’s name, the game is polished to a high finish. Graphically the game is very impressive, both the characters and background rendering are visually stunning. The level of detail the game goes to would extraordinary if it were anyone other than Hideo Kojima. For example, it’s not just the weight of the load Sam is carrying that can put him off balance but the way the load is balance can do it, for example if heavy parcels are stacked higher than less heavy ones it’ll cause a greater moment so require Sam to control his balance more. It’s more than likely purely coincidental but I enjoy the similarities that the Death Stranding has to the COVID-19 pandemic that escalated just months after the games release. Themes of isolation, fear and disconnection.

Game feels like it needs to do a better job of defining what the point of it all is. All the gameplay details are great and all but sadly the game is let down by being really boring. For the most part you are traversing a blank wilderness ladened with parcels from point A to point B with the occasional ghost attack to break up the monotony. The added mechanics do nothing to improve the enjoyment and seem more a practice in showing off.

I can’t get past how shameless the game is. The games tactless brand dropping for Monster Energy drinks. Going back to the idea of showing off, I can’t help but think Hideo Kojima is name dropping and showing off who his famous friends are, with big names such as Guillermo del Toro, Mads Mikkelsen & Léa Seydoux to name a few.

Although I do have to admit that there is something cathartic about successfully delivering a small mountain of parcels across challenging terrain to their destination and thanked by a hologram of someone who may or may not actually exist. It’s moments like this that make me believe that I would enjoy a postman simulator game.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Solasta: Crown of the Magister (PC)

Time to relieve some of 2020’s backlog. This was one that I didn’t have rated as game of the year material so put it on the backburner whilst I played The Last of Us Part II. With resemblance of normality restored after the Christmas period it’s back to it and with it one that may have slipped under most people’s radars. The game comes to us from Tactical Adventures; an Indie Developer from France. After a successful Kickstarter campaign they bring to us Solasta: Crown of the Magister which is currently on Early Access on Steam.

Solasta is an table top adventure based in the mythical land of Solasta. You create a party of 4 adventures and send them out on various adventures encountering different creatures, beasts and monsters. The game has been licence to use the Dungeon & Dragons 5th Edition rule set which gives it an ere of familiarity to those who have played D&D before.

My experience of the game was very polar, there was lots I enjoyed about it but then a lot that I didn’t like too. Starting with the positive, the combat. The combat is tight and well constructed. It’s turn based in the style of XCOM but with Wizards and fireballs instead of aliens and grenades. It works very well and feels true to the rule-set. Another positive I took away from the game was how well presented the environments were, especially some of the lighting effects and rendering. The light being cast by campfires or torches especially in some of the darker environments feel very realistic. I was running the game on my slightly dated gaming PC (4th Gen i7, duel GTX1080) and it was looking brilliant.

Sadly though we come to the less brilliant parts. The character creation is very limited. I went into the game with a rough idea of the party I wanted. An Half-Orc Barbarian, A Half-Elf Warlock, A Halfling Bard & A Human Rogue. Although I managed to get the Rogue the game does not allow for the Barbarian, Warlock, Bard & Druid classes. The Sorcerer is not currently available but will be available as free DLC when the game is released. As far as races goes, only the common races and half-elves are available (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings), so no Half-Orcs, Teeflings or Dragonborns. Even the races that you can choose have limited choice. For example, there is only 2 choices for Dwarf beards. I’m going to put this down to the game still being on Early Access but I’m hoping for some more customisation options before it’s release.

Another thing I didn’t enjoy was the dialogue and animation. The dialogue felt cheesy and cliché. With it being a French studio maybe the writers weren’t native English speakers but in any case it ruins the immersion, as does some of the animations. When a characters mouths are moving and they don’t match to what they’re saying you get a sense that things are off and stops you getting absorbed into the game. Again this could be a localisation issue.

Overall there are some nuggets of brilliance in the game but overall the game still lacks in a couple of areas, but given that it’s still in early access there is still time to fix these issues, so watch this space.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Crusader Kings III (PC)

It seems like it’s been forever since I reviewed anything fairly recent (The last one being my Tony Hawk remake almost 2 months ago), but now I’ve managed to get some use out of those Christmas Steam vouchers and decided on a toss up between this and Baldur’s Gate 3 I decided on this, mainly due to the price & the fact that Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t ready yet. So we set off towards the known medieval world in that of Crusader Kings III.

I’ve had an interest in the game since it’s release. First off I am a huge fans of strategy games such as the Total War series, Age of Empires & Civilisation so given the game at a glance seems quite similar to the former I was intrigued. Second, the game was scoring excellent reviews from all over the place which made me interested & finally third I money burning a whole in my pocket. So with the trifecta in place I made the purchase and I have to say I was not disappointed.

First off, I did find the game to be rather complicated. I completed the tutorial but found it to be more of an overview of the games systems and mechanics rather than an actual teaching tool to play the game. I personally thought it could have done with at least a voice over explaining everything, but these are just tiny nit-picks. It took a bit of trial and error and a few restarts when making some game ruining mistakes, but 2-3 campaigns in I was getting the hang of things, however this is hindered by the sheer number of choices the game gives you. For example, The game gives some recommended campaigns and their relative difficulty but even in the vanilla version of the game you have the option to choose from almost any ruling house in Europe & North Africa all the way to Indi & Mongolia.

The game puts you in control of one of the middle ages many ruling families at one of three levels of rule, Earl, Lord or King. You control the head of your chosen house and rule the land as you see fit, to help in this endeavour you have a choice of 5 different lifestyles. Diplomacy, which is about making friends and gaining respect; Marshall, which is about having the pointiest stick; Stewardship, which is about making money; Intrigue, which is about spies and espionage & Learning, which is about knowing stuff and piety. The different styles of gameplay mean that each game is never the same as the one before it.

Overall, if you need something to scratch the strategy itch, something with a massive scope and masses of replay-ability and attention to detail then you can’t go much wrong with Crusader Kings III.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Final Fantasy XV (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

As I write this it is currently coming up to Christmas and with needing to buy presents for everyone as well as earning just enough to stay poor, the flood of new games has crawled to a stand still. As such I am catching up on the backlog of games I have played that I can review, putting them in reserve for a later date. This time around another Final Fantasy in the form of number 15.

“Not so Final” Fantasy XV takes place in the world of Eos, you play Noctus, Prince of Lucis whom at the onset of the game is traveling to Tenebrae for his arranged marriage with Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. This being a condition of Lucis armistice with the Niflheim Empire. Accompanying Noctus on his journey is his royal guard and bestest-best buddies. As expected inn true Final Fantasy style not everything goes as smoothly as planned. Whist away from the capital the armistice signing is ambushed and Noctus’ father, the King is killed. It is then up to Noctus to gather the royal arms of past Lucis kings and take back his home & kingdom.

Final Fantasy XV was one I was quite excited about since it’s days as FF Versus XIII. It seemed like it was going to be a darker, more serious game than FFXIII. Although I was right on the money with this it still falls short of some of the other games in the series. One of my main grips with the game is the combat, when I say that don’t get me wrong, the change to a real time more fast pace combat style is defiantly a step in the right direction but in doing so they over simplified it. I managed to get through a fair portion of the game by only using attack and dodge, I didn’t bother with any of the magic crafting and barely used any of my team mates abilities. The game also suffers from an ailment I like to call “Fahrenheit Syndrome”, the main symptom of which is the game shitting it self halfway. In the case of Final Fantasy XV the game goes from having such an open expansive world to being coming a completely closed off corridor-fest. Although the game does have an expansive lore (e.g. The Astrals), it’s very much unexplored by the party during the events of the game, only accessible by reading books found in the game. This isn’t helped by the fact that later on the lore becomes a pivotal to the plot and unless you’ve been reading and learning along the way the meaning behind a lot of the happenings seems very nonsensical.

Now that I’ve gotten that over with lets get on to the better points of the game. To start with despite the group having as much character depth as a puddle on the pavement, there does seem to be a great chemistry between the 4 four of them. Their varying personalities makes each character unique and makes for excellent banter between them. Gladiolus is the stoic protector of the group, Ignis is the tactician and brains of the operation, Prompto is the ‘happy-go-lucky’ one & Noctis is a whiny bitch. The character design outside of the main party as well is worth a shout out too, each character feeling very unique with their own distinct personalities and quirks. The Kingdom of Lucis in which the majority of the game is beautifully varied, from the deserts of Leide, to the plains of Duscae to the rocky mountains of Cleigne. This sense of open luscious scenery however disappears once to leave Lucis, past this point the vast majority of the world is closed off to the player. I personally love a game where I can explore the world, finding new and interesting places (which is why games like The Elders Scrolls & The Witcher resonate with me so well), this longing to travel was sated for the first half of the game, be it with great annoyance as when I first played the game as off-roading wasn’t unlocked at that point. Upon leaving Altissia there was no more opportunities to explore despite being in a whole new land which judging by the map must be at least 50% bigger than Lucis being stuck to see the arid wastes, luscious green mountain ranges and icy vallys as the pass by through a train window.

A lot of my complaints about the game (besides the final third of the story) comes from material that seems to be missing from the core game. Depth of character for instance, each of Noctus’ companions motivations never get any deeper than “Because he’s my prince” & “Noctus is an entitled asshole”. I believe that the reason this game suffers is due to the developers desire to create the Final Fantasy XV Universe without creating a series of games. This means a lot of the material would be taken from the main game is taken and re-deployed in other media. Going back to the character depth, a lot of the characters background and motivations are found in the Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV anime and in the DLC packs. This waters down the main game and ruins it’s overall appeal as a single unit, it’s like being making an extremely weak glass of Ribena then have them hide the rest of the cordial in an abandoned library on a completely different plain of reality. From a marketing perspective I get it, “If you want the whole FFXV experience you must play all the games, read all the books, watch all the TV series, eat all the branded yogurts etc.”. This train of though breaks down when the core game (the gooey caramel centre to the whole story) doesn’t interest me enough to want to go beyond the core game. This was the same story with FFXIII. Final Fantasy X on the other hand was a game that stood up on it’s own but was enhanced by the introduction of X-2. The difference here was Square-Enix went into both XIII & XV wanting to create a universe with several elements or using several different mediums, but with FFX the aim was to create the game, it was only after the game was complete and on shelves did they start on FFX-2. Although this meant longer production times and costs but meant that the end products were better for it. This can be seen by calls for fans for X-3 18 years after the originals release, while nobody is asking for another FFXIII game.