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.

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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.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

This review has been sitting in my drafts waiting for a slow day for the past 3 months. However now that the games are starting to dry up So with that lets get down and dirty with our Witcher (in all aspects of the term).

In The Witcher 3 we return to the story of Geralt of Rivea, a witcher which (for those of you who don’t know) is a monster hunter for hire. After reuniting with his on-again-off-again lover, the sorceress Yeneffer. She tells Geralt that he has been summoned to an audience with the Emperor Emhyr ruler of the Nilfgaardian Empire. The Emperor tasks Geralt with finding his daughter Siri who is being pursued by the Wild Hunt. Given that Siri is also Geralt’s adopted daughter after having been awarded her when he evoking the Law of Surprise after saving Emperor Emhyr’s life in the past, he accepts. Geralt then travels the land picking up Siri’s trail and confronting the Wild Hunt on the way.

As previously mentioned in my Metacritic post all those moons ago, I didn’t have a lot of past experience with The Witcher series before playing the game, a couple of hours with the original game and binging the Netflix series. So I knew enough to get me through the first module but no where close to achieving my Bachelors in Witcher Studies. This was fine however, the game seems to understand that it was going to bring in new players to the series so the game includes a handy glossary detailing important people, places and events for the unknowing, forgetful or slightly confused. It broke up the flow of the game a little, like having to stop and read the ingredients list of each item I put in my trolley when I do my monthly shop, but the upside was I didn’t feel as if the game was shunning me for not being one of the cool kids. This is also true with the first area of the game being one long tutorial detailing every mechanic of the game and giving a feel to how the rest of the game was going to unfold.

All this contributes to one of the strongest aspects of The Witcher which is it’s ability to create an interesting and engaging gaming experience. The world is teeming with background and lore, which makes you want to explore each of the small villages between Novigrad and Babylon in order to learn more about the world, as well as finding more quests and things to do/kill. Truly immersing you into the Ronin-esque lifestyle of a witcher. Strolling into town, bartering your loot, tracking down the local monster that’s been terrorising the locals, kill it, mount it’s head on your horse, get paid then mosey on out of town without nary a wave or tip of the hat. Along with the addictive card game of Gwent and the treasure hunts; The world is packed full of things to do and see. Plus if you ever get tired of dicking about there is always the main story which is encapsulating and very well written, everything about it from the characters you meet to the monsters that you slay feels like it belongs in the world, nothing feels out of place.

That being said, just like every time I go out for ice cream, it is possible to have too much choice. The combat is a good example of this. There are so many bells and whistles that just serve as extra baggage. There’s a whole assortment of potions to brew with various effects as well as a multitude of spells and sword techniques to master. However, I managed to get through most of the game using mostly quick attack, dodge and the fire spell. If I needed healing I’d had enough food I’d bought from my travels between inns to open a small chain of restaurants. It must have got to the point that by the time I got to the end of the game I must have eaten enough roast chickens to label them an endangered species. Although I did start to use the weapon oils around the end of the game, mind you it was only because it wasn’t until I’d upgraded them to max level that they really had any major effect. Whist I’m ranting a bit, what are Geralt’s swords made of? I know one is supposed to be steel and the other is silver but given how quickly they break they might as well be made of polystyrene wrapped in wet newspaper. To finish off my list of gripes I have about the game, there were one or two technical issues I had with the game bugging out now and again, mind you they were no where near in number or severity of that of Fallout 3 (which is my go to example of buggy games) but there were enough to get my dander up.

Besides my small tirade of niggles the game really is one of the pinnacle open-world action adventure RPG’s, which is quite the praise especially given how dense I mentioned the genre is in my Horizon Zero Dawn review. It delivers the goods exactly where it needs to and does it with such gusto it’s not hard to see why people are calling it “The greatest game of all time”. I disagree with the statement but I’d defiantly place it much closer to the top of the list than the bottom. Overall I don’t think I could have bettered the levels of enjoyment I got from The Witcher 3 for the £13 I spent on it, except maybe with the exception of some Nitrous Oxide and the Black Books box-set.

The Last of Us Part II (PS4)

Finally. A fat, juicy AAA title to sink my teeth into that wasn’t a reboot. Sure it is a sequel but that can be forgiven as it is a sequel to one of my previous Game of the Year winners. Let us re-join Joel & Ellie in their post-apocalypse fight for survival in The Last of Us Part II.

Just before you proceed, thought you ought to know There will Be Spoilers.

So we start the game with the ending of the previous game conveniently retold to us by Joel and the massacre he made of the Fireflies in order to save Ellie from being dissected in order to find a cure for the Cordyceps fungus pandemic. Fast forward 4 years later and the two have settled down to life in Jackson, Wyoming. During a scouting mission Joel and his brother Tommy rescue a survivor Abby from a hoard of infected. Abby takes the two back to Abby’s group who unknown to the brothers are remnants the Fireflies who ambush the brothers. Ellie finds Joel just in time to watch Abby beat Joel to death for killing her father, one of the surgeons who died in Joel’s massacre. Ellie swears revenge against Abby and sets out to Seattle in pursuit of Abby and her gang.

Now I like to think that someone somewhere at Naughty Dog read my review of The Last of Us and thought “Yes, we must fix those niggles for our next game”. I think this because that’s exactly what they did. Unlike the first game I really managed to get absorbed into the game and feel immersed into the world. The stealth aspect that felt as thought it was at times either too sensitive or not sensitive enough has been evened out too. The game looks and feels superior to it’s predecessor.

From the very onset of the game the visuals are absolutely stunning. The detail of the environment and the fluidity of the characters movements and facial expressions show that a lot of time and effort has been spent polishing the game to such a finish that even Rhianna would complement it’s shine. This enforces the immersive capabilities of the game. You can’t help but feel tense as you sneak up on an enemy as you hope to your preferred flavour of deity that the poor bastard doesn’t turn round.

The immersion is also helped by the depth of the characters in the game. You get a sense that these are real people, feeling real feelings and having real struggles. However, I failed to sympathise with either Ellie or Abby during the game. Ellie’s sole goal is Abby’s death because she killed Joel, but Joel did a shitty thing and kinda deserved what he got. On the other hand Abby did a particularly shitty thing in killing Joel so kinda deserves what’s coming for her. All my sympathy was spent on the horses having to stay out in the cold as long as they did and later on getting blown up and shot, despite the fact they never killed anyone (that we know of). This makes the message of cause and consequence in regards to revenge and taking a life that the game is so obviously wanting to portray somewhat weaker with each enemy Ellie makes new neck holes for.

So we have established that the combat is good (actually looking back I haven’t, btw the combat is good, done, moving on) and the story telling is good. However, the parts in between them are a bit of a slug-a-thon. These are the parts in films that are usually skipped over, like how you never see James Bond browsing through duty-free as he waits for his flight to be called to continue to where the rest of the plot is happening. Usually these parts consist of move in said direction for a while, except for the little open world bit where Ellie must roam the central district of Seattle looking for gasoline.

So if Naughty Dog are reading this (as we’ve already established, they are) recommendations I would like to make for The Last of Us Part III are in short: a) More open world explore and b) A bit less Ludo-narrative dissonance please. Aside from them just do more of the same please.

Hades (PC, SWITCH)

I almost yearn for a day where games stop being about ancient Greece and the mythos surrounding it. Sure I understand that it’s culture and it’s stories were very well documented and preserved, making it a very easily accessible idea barrel for writers of all kinds. However, when the same games are set around the same fables doing the same thing it makes the whole pot a bit stale. Hades on the other hand, does things a little different.

In Hades you play as (as you would expect) Zagreus (got yah!) the son of Hades who has grown tired of lazing on his father’s infernal sofa eating Doritos and playing GTA and instead wants to go outside to play with all the other deity atop of Mount Olympus. Hades (the god, not the place) is very nonchalant about Zagreus decision to leave, probably because he believes Zagreus will give up trying to cut through the legions of the damned that guard the way. This is because Hades is all in favour of serving life lessons, he could just tell Zagreus no and send him to his room with no dinner after Zagreus tells him that he hates him and that he’s an asshole but nobody would learn anything, Zagreus would just hate his dad and still hold a desire to leave. However if he lets Zagreus try to leave only to find how difficult it is to do and have him return home with his tail between his legs, then that desire would be gone. Anyway, enough of deity parental strategies and lets get back to the game.

First things first, I love the art style and visuals of the game, it makes it feel like an animated heavy metal music video which scores many bonus points in my book. I also very much enjoy the looping gameplay mechanics the game offers. It seems to play with the idea that everything in the underworld is already dead, therefore cannot die. So each time you do “die” you get revived back in daddy’s lovely country villa with all your level ups intact and all the previously defeated enemies re-spawning. That’s great because it means that with each death the difficulty curve flattens a bit making the difficulty feel a bit more adaptive meaning you’ll never find yourself getting stuck at the same place for too long. The not so great thing about it is the slogging through of early areas to get back to where you were previously. What does make it interesting is you can randomly encounter other deities along the way who will lend you special powers to help you through your journey, These powers however do disappear when you die. The rouguelike-ness-ness-less-ness of the game means the maps regenerate every time you die too which in turn randomises the enemies and the other deities you meet. This keeps the game feeling slightly fresh as each play though is unique to the one before, even if only slightly. The gameplay is by far some of the best I’ve experienced this year. The controls felt very fluid and I could easily get Zagreus to do what I wanted him to do when I wanted him to do it. I could start firing a volley of arrow at my target and in an instant dodge any incoming attacks. This fluidity of controls becomes very important as the number of enemies increases.

If I have any gripes about this game it would be that the mechanics and rewards can be a bit overwhelming when first starting the game, it’s attempts to educate the player fall a bit wide of the mark but once you start playing the game and experimenting around with different types of weapons and level ups then they become a little less daunting and the variety that it creates adds to the games charm and fun. Later on in the game as you come across more enemies in each room the visual effects can obscure the view of the player somewhat and yes I am scraping the bottom of the niggle barrel to find something less than good to say about the game.

Overall Hades very much has a “Just one more” factor on it’s side which will keep players engaged for longer and longer the more powerful you become and the further you travel. It is most defiantly a game I will most defiantly continue playing after I finish my review. It also great for both those all day sessions and those moments where you only have a few minutes to spare whilst you’re waiting for your lockdown banana bread to bake.

Vigil: The Longest Night (PC, SWITCH)

Before we begin I’d like to thank the guys over at Another Indie for sent me a copy of the game to do this review for them. It’s the first game I’ve been sent to review, which makes me feel more like a professional than a hobbyist, so to me it’s quite a big deal. In return for their generosity I’m promising myself not to fuck this up. So, here goes.

Vigil tells the story of Leila, a more than capable Vigilant warrior. Who upon arriving back in her home village of Maye after years away discovers her sister to be missing and as such sets off to find her. Whilst there Leila discovers that all is not right at home. Shadowy figures appear and terrible happenings occur to which Leila must get to the bottom of in hopes that it will reunite her with her sister.

One thing I would recommend is if you are playing it on PC like I did, use a controller. The game feels like it wasn’t designed to be played using a keyboard, I felt like I was all fingers and thumbs a lot of the time, especially when trying to access my equipment or levelling up. After a while I managed to get to grips with it but I did have to change the dodge button because I found my game would minimize when continually mashing it with Windows asking me if I wanted to turn on ‘Sticky Keys’ which got quite frustrating, especially during boss fights.

There are 2 major niggles I have about the game that I found hard to overcome. The first of them is the map, I look at the map and the term, “Cluster Fuck” comes to mind. Speaking of cluster fucks this brings me to my second niggle, the story telling. I felt like a lot of the story was lost beneath a bombardment of text boxes. I get where the team were going with this, flesh out the world with lots of decryption in a Dark Souls-ish way but I don’t know if it’s a problem with me or not but I don’t think Dark Souls games tell a good story and Vigil suffers in the same way. Both games do a great job at crafting and defining the world in which the games are set but I did spend most of the game wondering around the map wondering why I was doing any of it.

Now lets get into what the game does well, first of I really enjoyed the art style, it resembles Briad if it were made by Tim Burton, both beautiful and grotesque in equal measures. I thought the animation of Leila was quite fluid but the enemies in comparison seemed a little clunky at times which impacted my ability to get immersed into the experience. I compared the game to Dark Souls earlier and in a true Dark Souls-esque manor, I died and I did so a lot. When quick loading it never took very long to get back into the game which is a positive but especially with the first boss I found the nearest save point was quite a ways from the boss fight itself meaning I had to needlessly repeat the same section over and over again. Having save points closer to the boss fights would be a huge improvement in my belief.

Overall if felt like I experienced a game of two extremes. The visuals and the attention to detail on the graphic art are brilliant but then on the other hand the story was so confusing and poorly told it might as well have not existed. It’s all shirt, no pants; Just like Winnie the Pooh. However; Despite all the negative points I’ve made the game is engaging and made me want to play on. It’s nowhere near a perfect game but it’s still an experience worth having if you enjoy a darker gaming experience. Well done to the teams at Glass Heart Games and Another Indie for a job well done and I wait eagerly for your future endeavours.

Horizon Zero Dawn (PC, PS4)

Last week I mentioned in my IMDB “Must Play” post that Horizon Zero Dawn is a must play on PS4. Upon reflection I thought that this would be a good opportunity to evaluate on this statement. Also taking into account that the game was released not too long ago on PC, It does make the review a bit more relevant, so without further or do lets get on with it.

Horizon Zero Dawn tells the story of Aloy. A young female hunter who’s tribe is attacked by a cult wielding corrupted machines called Eclipse due to her resemblance to an old world scientist. It is then that she is told of the strange circumstances of how she came to the tribe. Aloy then sets off to discover her past, what part she plays in the fate of the world and the truth behind Eclipse and what they are planning. Throughout her journey Aloy must face the perils of the environment, savages as well as that of the robotic wildlife roaming the wilderness.

The game set less in a post-apocalypse world and more of a post-post-apocalypse. The world is bright, luscious and vibrant, with wildlife galore. Although to be fair not all of it is made up of flesh and bone, but we’ll get to that later. The scenery is varied (maybe even too varied) as in easy access by foot we have rolling green fields; towering, snow capped mountain ranges; vast, rocky deserts; dense, thick woodlands and overgrown, old world ruins. With how visually stunning the environments are I can’t help but think the game is just showing off wanting to show off it’s range of landscapes.

Like most AAA games these days, Horizon Zero Dawn is an open-world action adventure with RPG elements. This means you know what to expect, optional side-quests, collectables, crafting, un-lockables, combat choices so on and so forth. Although as far as combat choices go, you have 2. Either put your stats in ranged and stealth or die a lot. Although to be fair I thought this would have been a given in any game involving fighting large robots. Anyone that thinks it’s a good idea to charge at a towering robo-saurus is either a psychopath, completely fearless, a moron or d) all of the above.

Speaking of our heavy-metal adversaries. They feel very much like the selling point of the game. The meat between the bread and butter in our open-world action adventure with RPG elements sandwich, sadly though it’s not quite enough to make us a hearty lunch. As much fun as it is to separating a Thunderjaw from it’s beloved disc launcher then proceed to give it a taste of it’s own medicine it’s hardly enough to hold the game up. The story as intriguing as it is, is just bland. The same way as finding a hobnob in your pack of rich teas is intriguing but it’s hardly going to get you a New York Times best seller.

The main problem that Horizon Zero Dawn faces is that although it is a good game, it’s not a great game. What the game does well has been done better by other games before it. It just can’t compete with games like The Witcher 3, Mass Effect or Zelda: Breath of the Wild which stand head and solders above other games of a genre so dense it’s close to critical mass. The game is at it’s best when it’s not trying to be another face in the crowd. When you pull off a perfect slide dodge followed by an instant kill shot or scraping together the last of your resources to finally take down that Stormbird that’s been holding up your progress. Those moments are unique to this game are when it comes alive and reveals it’s true colours. So I guess the moral you can take away from this is that it’s best to be yourself rather than a knock-off of someone else.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

Now for anyone who knows me on a personal level you’ll have some idea of how excited I was for this when it was teased all those years ago back in E3 2005. Despite all the “will they, won’t they’s” for the following 10 years after that before finally being announced that it was happening in 2015 to it’s release a few months ago. We finally come to the moment. Final Fantasy VII: The Remake.

Just before you proceed, thought you ought to know There will Be Spoilers.

As I mentioned all those years ago when I originally did a look back review on the original Final Fantasy VII. The game holds special meaning to me, as it was one of the games that I have replayed and re-bought on several occasions, I can’t recall the number of summer holidays where boredom would set in and I’d fish the game out for another run. So to play through the same experience with a current-gen overhaul could only enhance the experience, it would but that’s not quite what’s happened.

As far as I see it there are 3 types of remakes:

  • Remaster: Where it’s the same as the previous game but with graphical upgrades (e.g. Command & Conquer Remastered)
  • Re-imagining: Where the game significantly overhauls the game-play or story but follows common motifs(e.g. Resident Evil 3)
  • True Remake: Where the game is rebuild using more modern means to resemble the original, possibly with a few minor tweaks or improvements (e.g. Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy)

Using this as our guide I would put FF7R into the Re-imagining category. I understand that this decision was done as a true-remake would alienate new players to the game, but it does mean that to fans of the original game, more of it feels new than nostalgic. For example the bombing run at the beginning gave me chills of nostalgia but later on before the second operation I felt annoyed and disheartened. In this section you have to infiltrate a Shinra warehouse with the help of Wedge, Biggs & Jesse. This section was so disjointed and felt out of place with the rest of the game. Although learning about Jesse’s past and her motivation to join AVALANCHE was refreshing. However Roche annoyed me to no end. He felt like that guy that always tries so hard to be cool in order to be liked that they come off as obnoxious and arrogant, dancing around with all the subtly of a fireworks factory exploding on what might as well have been a motorbike made of flubber given how many time it defied the laws of gravity. The section ends with another terrorist cell appearing and taking Wedge, releasing Wedge, Biggs pulling down Wedges pants and staring at his ass (yes this does happen) and then the group parachuting back into the slums within the space of 10mins.

The combat system is a change that doesn’t offend me. You get to do physical attacks in real time but in order to use magic, abilities and the like you need to fill your ATB gauge before you can use them. This system felt a lot more organic but I must admit that the friendly AI could do with some improvement. A lot of the time they don’t act with any kind of sense of urgency, It might just be me misjudging the situation but I would have thought the fact that they were in a life or death situation would bring about some sort of sense of self-preservation. Apparently not.

The game ends when the gang prepares to leave Midgar and set off into the world. For anyone who hasn’t played the original this point is about a third of the way through the first disk. Given that the original game is 3 disks we are probably about 10% through the game as we know it. The game feels like it’s far too excessively padded for it’s own good, if some of this was thinned down I recon the game could have got us to the boat out of Junion without feeling rushed. Then again I suppose in doing this Square-Enix have created an audience for the next 7-8 instalments of the game that will be coming our way if the amount of faffing about remains the same. I thought the whole point of episodic games were so that shorter games could be released at lower prices and more frequently, Square-Enix has so far missed all 3 of these targets and has missed them hard. So as it stands if the next instalments are just as padded as this one we can see the whole development time being about the length of the Bronze Age, the game would take an average person their entire life to complete and would cost somewhere comparable to the debt of sub-Saharan Africa.

On a final note, I can see glimpses of the game that I loved so dearly though it’s obscured by excessive padding and needless content that adds nothing/very little to the story or depth of the game. It doesn’t improve anything, it doesn’t add anything and that infuriates me. In fact the part that received the most of my ire had to be the dance-off between Cloud and Andrea at The Honey Bee Inn. I mean WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK JUST HAPPENED!? The section was so out of place and so infuriatingly needless I had to quit the game afterwards and fold some washing to take my mind off it. I didn’t play the game for the rest of the day after that. If I’ve learnt anything from playing games as long as I have it’s that if a game does something to make you not want to play it, then it’s doing something wrong. I would love to have been in the committee meeting where that idea was brought to the table so I could shut it down with as much flying furniture as I could muster before it got traction. I’m not against mini-games, like the squats. They make sense, Cloud would have trained hard in the military so would be physically fit enough to do a series of squats without problem, but where outside the realms of Greace and Foot Loose would Cloud learn how to dance so professionally? What will he surprise us with next? My money is on a fishing mini-game being inserted somewhere before the end of the story. Why not? It’s only gotta be copy and pasted from Final Fantasy XV.

God of War (PS4)

With things being a bit slow at the moment it’s given me the opportunity to make up for lost time and get something down for the most recent games I have played. With Spider-Man being the game I’m currently still playing, I’ll make my way down the list of past games. For my next trick we are in Midgard following the adventures of our favourite blood thirsty Spartan and his sprog. Here is God of War.

Our story starts with Kratos and his very manly beard cutting down trees for his deceased wife’s funeral pyre with his son Atreus, afterwards the pair set off on an adventure to fulfil her final request and scatter her ashes from the tallest peak in all the realms and in true God of War style if any deities happen to die on the way, so be it.

I was quite late to the God of War party, I didn’t play the first 2 until the HD editions were released on PS3 then played no. 3 as soon as I completed both of them which would have been a year or 2 later. However, you don’t need to have played the previous games in order to enjoy this one, you may miss a few easter eggs but nothing critical. The game has done rather a lot of growing up since the previous instalments, much like Kratos himself (and not just his luscious face bristles). The game play feels a lot more coordinated rather than the mash square and dodge now and again tactics of the past.

As you can tell from the art cover, Kratos has ditched his Chaos Blades of the past in favour for his cool looking Leviathan Axe, which has the power to be thrown and return to the wielder as well as the power over ice. These abilities make for interesting puzzles to solve in order to progress through the game, usually to do with hitting far away switches and freezing cogs. You also have Atreus helping you both in and out of combat, in combat he will use his bow hitting enemies from afar as well as using different magics to conjure different spirit animals to help either offensively or defensively. Outside of battle he will usually be used to crawl into small spaces or be thrown onto higher ledges to either drop a ladder for flick a switch.

Kratos has changed a lot in the gap between games, you can tell he has grown. He’s become more responsible for his own actions and has stopped blaming others for his own wrong doings, almost becoming ashamed of the person he was previously. A lot of that seems to be due to his son Atreus, you can tell that Kratos only wants the best for him and pushes him to be the best he can be in full Spartan style, this can be seen as Kratos being a bit cold to Atreus or harsh on him but as the story progress you see their relationship grown and develop, as Atreus proves himself and Kratos opens up to the ghosts of his past.

The world itself feels more open and reactive than the earlier games. Where previously you had a single route you must travel and one direction you must go in, in this one there is still one main route to follow, but there are several offshoots to visit option areas and take part in optional quests as well as being able to back track to a lot of previous areas either because the story demands it, to gather the collectables or beat optional bosses.

Now my final thought, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game and do recommend anyone play it, even if you weren’t a fan of the original series. The game has so much more depth, is more well rounded and is a lot better written than any of the others. The characters are relatable and more human (strange given as most of the characters aren’t humans) and graphically is visually beautiful, I played it in 4K and was stunned by some of the scenery. Not only is the best game of the series, I’d would have probably named it my 2018 Game of the Year had I still been posting last year. So what are you waiting for, go play it… NOW!!

Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

New site, new review. It’s been a while since I last posted, life has kind of got in the way of these things, but that’s what having a full time job and commitments will do. I would love to do this full time but sadly I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills and to be honest I don’t think you guys would be too bothered if I were more regular in my content. Any-who, lets crack on. This time we delve into super-villain soaked New York and follow the adventures of our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

The story is set in it’s own Marvel Universe (Earth-1048 I believe). Our adventure starts (funny enough) with Spider-Man doing what Spidey does best, fight bad guys and swing through New York city. During the tutorial mission at the beginning Spidey takes down Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin) and has him carted off to Ryker’s. The rest of the game is spent dealing with the aftermath that comes from the created power vacuum, coming face-to-face with some of Spidey’s most well known foes such as Falcon, Scorpion, Doc Ock and many more.

I remember not really being a fan of Spider-man during my youth, I watched the 90’s TV show but not religiously. Didn’t read the comics but did watch all the live-action films. Not that I didn’t like them, I just preferred doing other things, mainly playing video games. Although with the introduction of Spider-Man into the MCU I developed a fondness for the guy, plus the game was getting some pretty good reviews so I borrowed a copy and got to it.

The game is created by Insomniac Games, the same guys that made the Infamous games and you can tell with the way the game plays. Swinging around the map feels very similar to the grinding the rails in inFamous. It feels very natural, easy to pick up buy difficult to master (as some drone and pigeon chases will show). Building climbing is much easier than in Infamous, rather than having to jump from ledge to ledge you can just run up the side of the building and start swinging. Then the map itself is small enough that you don’t have to rely on fast travelling (I’ve played for about 20hrs and have only used the fast travel once) but big enough that map still feels big. You can spend enough time exploring and finding landmarks and collectables without getting bored.

The combat reminds me a bit of the Batman Arkham games. I don’t think it’s as fluid as Batman but then again they are in my opinion the best combat mechanics in recent history it’s not exactly a mark against it. There is a plethora of different combat skills and gadgets you can use but honestly I was quite happy against the minions using mash square and dodge now and again, however when it comes to the big baddies the game does want you to defeat them in a certain way, but given that you don’t really meet them until the end of the game you’ve got plenty of time to practice your fighting styles before you get to them.

Now for my final thought. It’s a decent game that will keep you entertained and engaged if you are already interested in the Marvel franchise but I can’t suggest that it will bring new fans to the Marvel Universe. The length of the game is just long enough that it will keep you busy for a few weeks but doesn’t have the replay value of any of my 100+hr games like Skyrim, but that’s ok. I was only looking for a short excursion rather than an expedition. Doing a quick look on the internet I found people saying the game can be Platinumed in about 20-ish hours which after playing the game sounds about right. So if you enjoy the Marvel comics/movies/video games/branded yogurts then I’d say you’d more than likely enjoy this too, if not you’re not really going to be missing out on much.