Monday, May 25, 2015

Witcher 3, Being The Zombie in Dying Light, Lost Dimension's character videos  

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Welcome back to Coffecola!
Got a couple of quick hits on deck tonight. Let's get to it.

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Witcher 3:  Like many of you, I picked up a copy of The Witcher 3 a couple of days ago, and while I haven't had a lot of time to spend with it, I like what I've seen.

Frame of reference: I played a couple of hours of Witcher 2, and I really couldn't stand it. The combat was bizarre and clunky, I felt like the story didn't bother letting me in on what was going on, and it didn't strike me as something that I wanted to work hard to crack open. That said, I thought the concept of being a Witcher seemed pretty cool and the game certainly had some style, but it just didn't click.


With this new installment, the developers appeared to have taken notice of the criticisms of their last game, and fixed (as far as I can tell) almost everything. The intro does a much better job of introducing the characters and explaining the world, the tutorials are greatly improved and explain the systems at an appropriate pace, and the combat feels much more manageable and intuitive. It's good times!

Speaking of the combat, I've seen quite a few people comment that the fighting is ‘bad’ or not up to the level of a Souls game. Common sentiments seem to be that it gives insufficient feedback for hits, or does not have enough precision. I get that, I do, but it seems a little bizarre to me to criticize a huge open-world game like this for having a level of combat that should more properly be expected from something in the character-action genre. And look at Souls -- Fromsoft clearly spends most of their time and attention on the combat, as that is an absolute core part of any Souls experience. In the Witcher, it seems pretty clear that the experience is about the open world, the story, and role-playing through a scripted adventure. Complaining about lack of precision in combat here  feels a bit like complaining that there's not enough narrative choice in Tetris. It's not what the game is about, so why get hung up on that?

In any event, I'm looking to put more time into it and seeing where it goes. Oddly, it reminds me of Dragon Age 2 in many ways, except that it doesn’t feel like it’s wasting my time and the devs know the proper way to begin a grand adventure… So a win!

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Dying Light: The wife and I just finished the campaign in co-op, and we had a great time with it. While it was a bit of a bummer that the absolute final mission has to be done alone, the previous 99% of playtime was definitely made better with a partner. Not that it’s bad solo (it’s not!) but having someone to watch your back and hold your virtual hand in the skeery parts is always appreciated. If you're looking for a good co-op game, it definitely comes recommended.


Once we wrapped up the game, we still wanted to poke around with it for a bit. We haven’t bought the ‘hardcore difficulty new area’ DLC (I need a lot less hardcore anything in my life these days) and the upcoming arena combat DLC isn’t out yet. However, the “Be The Zombie” DLC was out, and free, so we gave it a whirl.


…And it was AWESOME.

So, in this mode players become a super-powerful "Night Hunter" zombie who's actually pretty analogous to Venom from the Spider-Man comics… He’s really dark, goopy, and has lots of nasty tentacles. He also invades the games of other players.

Now, I'm not usually someone who likes to do PVP come up and I'm definitely not one of those Souls players who get off on ruining someone else’s day, but there are a couple of really cool things about this mode.

First, players have to opt in if they want to be invaded by someone who's playing the zombie. I'm totally on board with that because it means someone has consciously decided to open their game up to this sort of encounter, so I don't have any guilt or bad feeling about crashing in to stab them with tentacles.

The other cool thing is that it's a totally separate game mode, and when I (as the zombie) decide to invade someone, it takes everyone involved to a separate environment so it doesn't interrupt their campaign progress.


Once in this new environment, it's one superpowerful zombie versus up to four human players. The zombie has to kill the humans X number of times, but the humans can win by destroying the zombie’s gross spawn nests. 

1v1means things are pretty heavily weighted towards the zombie, but 1v2 or 1v3 is a lot more tense. While the zombie can drop down from above and has powerful tentacles to strike from long distance (in addition to other powers) the humans have UV lights that cripple the zombie and make him vulnerable to attack. It's a balanced mode and has a lot of exciting back-and-forth, and I really enjoy that the zombie plays and feels so differently than the character from the normal campaign. 

In fact, this mode reminds me quite a bit of Evolve, except that it's a lot more fun and instantly accessible by removing all of the boring parts and getting straight to the action.

If you have Dying Light and haven't tried this mode yet, I absolutely recommend that you give it a shot, especially since the DLC is free. If you’ve never played Dying Light but you’re interested in asymmetrical design or you like the idea of being a powerful predator hunting puny humans, rent the game and try that DLC. It's a pretty wild time, and way more fun than I would've ever expected.

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One final note, Atlus is readying the release of a new turn-based SRPG called Lost Dimension


Don’t know a ton about it, but I dig that genre and these character videos look pretty cool. Seems like it might be a good fit for the Vita… I’ve got my eye on this one.


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That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Avengers, Kid's TV, Splatoon, Darksiders, Race The Sun and Demons' Souls  

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Welcome back to Coffeecola!



For a little change of pace tonight, I’m gonna start with non-game stuff.

 First up, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron!

We wanted to avoid the crowds of opening day, so we waited a good little while and caught it on an early matinee. Not gonna say much about it other than that we had a great time – plenty of spectacle, awesome special effects, and another super-solid Marvel movie in the can. Totally worth the price of admission.


Oh, and about the controversy regarding female characters? I gotta say, I felt like the backlash against Joss Whedon was really, really overblown. Black Widow was kidnapped for, like, 5 minutes (maybe?) and the mutual discussion of fertility with the Hulk felt natural and not-a-big-deal to me.

And as far as Hawkeye’s wife "being in the kitchen" and all that, she's… a housewife. They do exist. She's also the smarter of the pair, and she's clearly the emotional center that keeps Hawk’s head on straight.

Some people obviously disagree, but I felt like nothing in the film was particularly offensive in that regard, and certainly not enough to drive Joss off of Twitter. And, as I mentioned on the day that we saw the film, the very first thing my son said as we left the theater, unprompted, was that "Black Widow rocks". So, I guess to my six-year-old she still seems like a strong, capable woman worth looking up to, and I would agree.



Speaking of things to watch, I asked Twitter for TV recommendations that were fun for both parents and kids. We got a number of really good animated shows name-checked (which was awesome) but I was surprised to see that there were barely any suggestions for live action.

For example, we really like watching The Flash, Face Off, America's Funniest Home Videos, any sort of animal documentary, pretty much anything on Food Network, Dirty JobsDr. Who, Star Trek and so forth… But we’re out of stuff to watch!

Anyway, if you have a favorite show to watch with your kids, drop me a line and let me know… I'm looking for more ideas, and I'm sure there are a million things out there that would fit the bill.



Okay, enough of TV and movies. Let's talk about games.

The release of Splatoon is nearly upon us. My son and I took part in the demo that ran last weekend, and it seemed promising. There wasn't anything to see outside of the team vs team multiplayer, though. It was fun enough for the two hours that we played, but I can't say that I was dying to play more of it. I would be interested in checking out the solo campaign, though. The characters are cute and who doesn't like squids?


That said, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and one of the hosts suggested that if Splatoon had been on any system other than Nintendo, people wouldn't have given it a second glance. I gotta say, I think I agree. If it had come out for $10 on PSN, or as a steam early access release, I doubt anyone would've cared about it, but it's about to become the subject of a lot of attention thanks its visibility and ‘new IP’ status with the Big N.




In case you haven't checked out the free releases for PS Plus members lately, one of special note this month is Race The Sun. I heard about it when it hit PC a while ago, but after having played it on the Vita, it feels like it was made for Sony's handheld.


Basically, the player controls a solar-powered ship which must zoom across the landscape as quickly as possible before the sun sets. It's very minimal, has a very austere visuals (in a good way!) and lends itself to short play sessions. I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first, but after repeated plays I think it's pretty awesome. And, since it's free right now, there's no excuse not to pick it up.



Finally, the wife was looking for some new stuff to play and she decided on a couple of recent classics. The first? Darksiders from the now-defunct Vigil Games.


I liked it a lot when it first came out in 2010, and I have to say it's still pretty incredible. The graphics look great, the gameplay is still engaging, and everything about it really pops. It feels like it hasn’t aged a bit in the last 5 years, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a slightly more adult-skewing Zelda-flavored game.

As I watched the wife roll credits on it, I was (again) struck by how cool the ending cliffhanger was. It sucks that the developers didn't follow up directly and instead went with their Death-themed sequel. I felt that one went off the rails with a bad case of the bloats, but the first one is still dynamite.



After Darksiders, the wife moved onto Demon’s Souls. She's already been through Bloodborne and Dark Souls II (vanilla) so she’s pretty experienced with Fromsoft games these days, and knowing how much of a fan she is, I told her that Demon’s was a must –play. Which it is.

As expected, she took to it right away and blew through the first area, no problem. In fact, it was quite a long time before she even died, so I think she'll be just fine for the course of the adventure.


I haven't played it myself since the game came out in 2009, so getting the chance to revisit was pretty amazing. Although the graphics are a step down from the more recent releases and some of the systems are still crappy (those godawful menu symbols!!) the game gets a hell of a lot right, and it's fascinating to see how the series has deviated from some of the initial designs.

For example, the opening cinematic and beginning of Demon’s spell out exactly what's going on in the land, and the player’s situation is crystal clear. There are also a ton of speaking NPCs, both in in the main hub and out in the world… I had forgotten how much of a role these faces played, honestly! I'm also still a massive fan of the Nexus… I think it's probably one of my favorite locations in any game, ever.  

I can’t wait to see what the wife makes of the story, as I think it's probably the best-told and most satisfying of the series so far.

The last time I checked, Demon’s Souls was on PSN for something like $5, which is an absolute steal for something that I consider to be a true masterpiece. If you’re a fan of the Souls games and haven’t checked it out, you’re missing what I consider to be the finest one.



Thanks for reading! 

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Mega-Rundown  


Welcome back to Coffeecola!



First up, here are some links to recent content up @Gamecritics:


@RichardNaik’s ‘it kicked me in the balls’ review of Bloodborne

@ApricotSushi’s review of visual novel If My Heart Had Wings

@MikeSuskie’s review of indie headscratcher La-MulanaEX

 @JimB_85’s review of the nerve-wracking Titan Souls

And my review of the micro-mecha Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo


Also, please check out the most recent @Gamecritics Podcast, in which we talk about chocobos covered in Bloodborne. It’s one of our best episodes, I think!

If you need more to listen to, I was recently a guest on the @VideogameBreak podcast, which you can check out right here. It's a really tight, peppy show, and a good one to listen to if you don't like a lot of excess chatter. (I don’t like a lot of excess chatter.)

One other quick note about podcasts -- we will be recording the long, long, long overdue @Gamecritics Monster Hunter 4U podcast this Saturday, so if you have any questions, comments, anecdotes, or anything else, I would love to read them on the air. Tell me favorite/least favorite monster and why? What's your favorite weapon? What would you like to see in the next Monster Hunter? Or, send anything else along those lines. I want your questions and comments!


Attack On Titan
Games: I've been playing Attack On Titan: Humanity In Chains on 3DS for review. It's still under embargo so I can't say anything specific except that I've been playing it…
Although I was not familiar with the license before I started playing, I will say that it's interesting enough to make me want to go watch the show despite several of my friends warning me against it. Apparently it's a mess, although I remember it being extremely popular with certain folks. I may still give it a go, but I'm not one to watch a lot of that stuff these days, so I may have to content myself with the movie clips included in the game.



Lifeline
I don’t play a lot of iOS these days apart from Marvel Puzzle Quest, but I did start playing Lifeline. It’s a text-only game that takes the form of text messages sent to you by an astronaut who’s stranded on a distant planet. I can’t say too much for fear of spoiling it, but I will say it’s the most interesting iOS game I’ve seen in quite some time.



Dying Light
Also, regular readers of this blog may remember that I talked about Dying Light a while ago, and had a really great time with it. Such a great time, in fact, that I planned on completing the game 100%, but review responsibilities popped up and I had to put it aside. In the interim my wife got her own PS4, so I thought this would be the perfect time to get back to my character and do the entire campaign with her in co-op.

It's been a great time so far. Although the game is significantly less scary when you have a friend, it's also quite a bit more fun and having backup wherever you go is pretty awesome. It's also worth noting that the main character has a whole set of animations that you never see if you play solo (the game is shown in first-person) so seeing those moves is sometimes really cool, and sometimes totally hilarious.



Gogmazzers
Other things I'm playing -- not a lot of new stuff, actually. I’m still chipping away at Monster Hunter with the ultimate goal of defeating Gogmazios in G-Rank. Good guys @j_monster and @Discobeaver have been giving the wife and I a huge boost in multiplayer lately, so we’re slowly working on crafting G-level armor and will get to that goal eventually, although it's a long-term project.



Helldivers
Also, still playing quite a bit of Helldivers. It's tough to find two extra people to make a full crew of four that’s needed to unlock all of the higher-level stuff, but we’re chipping away at it. If you haven't played it yet, I strongly recommend you do so… It's most likely going to be my multiplayer game of the year. I really can't imagine anything topping it at this point.



Airmech Arena
Also, I was glad to see that AirMech Arena finally hit PS4 last night. I downloaded it immediately, and it looks great on current hardware. That said, I need to stop getting into games which are multiplayer-focused and have no real ending, but dammit, I have a weakness for robots and an even bigger weakness for robots that transform. Plus, despite the fact that I'm not a big fan of RTS, I like this action-focused approach, and it's simple enough for someone like me to be able to handle effectively. It's free to play so anyone can check it out, and the developers give a pretty good amount of stuff for free to begin with, so no complaints there. I do plan on buying some extra things when I get deeper into it, tho.



Tron Bonne & Co.
Also, just a heads up that The Misadventures Of Tron Bonne is now available for download on PSN. The last time I checked, this game is going for something like $250 on eBay, so this is another Suikoden II situation where an old-school classic is now available for pennies on the dollar. I love Tron and her Servbots, and they’re some of the best characters to ever come out of the Mega Man franchise. If you've never played this game (and I'm guessing that's most of you out there) it's well worth the six dollars they're charging. Go for it!




Toren
Oh, and one quick note on Toren, the female-led adventure game coming from Brazilian developers, Swordtales – It should be hitting PS4/PC on May 12. It looks a bit rough in this early trailer, but I dunno… Kinda got a good feeling about this one.


Finally, I'm sure you know, but the P.T. demo has been removed from PSN. You can't download it anymore, but if it's still ON your hard drive, it's still playable. For the moment, anyway. So don't delete it!!! 



Television: The family and I have been continuing to watch the first season of The Flash (only one episode left!) and we're still loving it. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we decided to check out Arrow after seeing him guest-star in a couple of episodes. 


I’ve known about Arrow for a while, but I wasn't interested in checking it out… I heard that it was dark and moody, and it didn't seem that interesting to me. That said, after seeing him with Flash and wanting more of this television-based DC universe, we jumped in. Although there are certain parts that I don't like (way too many rich douchebags so far) we’re going to hang in there and see how it develops.

Speaking of which, I'm quite amazed at how well DC comics come to life on TV. I know that DC is hot to create their own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I really haven't really cared for many of the DC films. However, what they’ve done on the small screen so far is quite awesome, and I've been shocked at how many superheroes they've been able to work into these programs. I'm just getting started on Arrow so I don't know how many will pop up there besides Black Canary, but on The Flash we've already seen Gorilla Grodd, Reverse-Flash, The Atom, Firestorm, and more. More shockingly, they've all been pretty cool, and I've become keen to see more of this growing collection of superheroes. It's interesting that filmmakers have totally failed to make something like this happen, but the CW (!!!) has captured something about these properties that doesn't work elsewhere.

Thanks for reading! 




***************PR/NEWS/INFO***************



Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced that the Mortal Kombat X Jason Voorhees Bundle will be available for download to Kombat Pack owners. The Jason Voorhees Bundle includes playable character and Friday the 13th icon, Jason Voorhees and the Horror Pack, comprising of three horror-themed skins including Vampiress Mileena, Kraken Reptile and Pharaoh Ermac. Those who do not own the Kombat Pack can purchase the Jason Voorhees Bundle beginning Tuesday, May 12 at the PlayStation Store, Xbox Marketplace and Steam for $7.99. Jason Voorhees and the Horror Pack will also be sold separately for $4.99 and $3.99 respectively.

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The Evil Within: The Consequence DLC is available! Pick up where you left off in The Assignment with these concluding chapters, featuring a balance of stealth-action and gunplay.  

In The Evil Within: The Assignment and The Evil Within: The Consequence, players take on the role of detective Juli Kidman, Sebastian Castellanos’ mysterious partner, in a concurrent story that looks to answer some of the questions surrounding her whereabouts during The Evil Within. Along the way she will encounter disturbing new enemies, discover new mysteries, and uncover new horrors. The Assignment and The Consequence give fans of The Evil Within the perfect opportunity to discover detective Kidman’s hidden motivations and her mysterious connection to Mobius, the shadowy group thought to be behind the gruesome events of The Evil Within.   

Both The Assignment and The Consequence are available as part of The Evil Within’s Season Pass. Priced at $19.99, the Season Pass offers savings on all three add-ons for the game, including the third DLC, The Evil Within: The Executioner, and is available on PSN, Xbox LIVE, and PC. Pricing and release dates may vary by territory and/or platform. The Consequence is also available for purchase separately and is priced at $9.99

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Agatsuma Entertainment Co., Ltd. is proud to confirm the North American digital release today of Sayonara UmiharaKawase + on PS Vita.

Easy to play, difficult to master, ‘Sayonara UmiharaKawase +’ is a totally unique ‘Rubbering Action’ physics based puzzle platform game with over 20 years of gaming history.

Developed by the creators of the original game (Kiyoshi Sakai and Toshinobu Kondo) and available for the first time globally on the PlayStation Vita, this cult classic was a Japanese indie smash hit before the rest of the world knew what a cult classic was!

Completely re-envisioned for the PlayStation Vita, play as `Umihara Kawase` - a 20 year old backpacking Japanese sushi chef armed with a fishing rod, a rubber fishing line and a fishing hook. Avoid fish-like enemies, conveyer belts, spikes, watery pits, time travel and more. The deeper in to this dream-like game players venture, the more challenging the solutions and the greater the time pressure becomes.  Along the way, look out for shortcuts and secret exits and unlock bonus levels.

As a special bonus for fans, the first ever title in this gaming franchise ‘UmiharaKawase’ has also been included. UmiharaKawase was originally released way back in 1994 for console.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bloodborne and The Failure of FromSoft Storytelling  

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As a long-time fan of FromSoft, I'm quite familiar with their work and had been looking forward to Bloodborne, which released to widespread critical acclaim a little less than a month ago. I completed the game last night, and after rolling credits, I felt incredibly unsatisfied with the story and ending… Probably more unsatisfied than with any other game in the Souls series.

(And yes, I realize that Bloodborne is technically a new IP, but for the sake of this post, I'm going to lump it in with its predecessors.)


For those who haven't played Bloodborne, it's built on the core of the Souls series (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 1 & 2) but instead of slow, methodical dark fantasy, it offers significantly sped-up action with a Victorian edge and lots of Lovecraft. However, what hasn't changed is the cryptic, piecemeal storytelling that has become synonymous with Souls. This obfuscated narrative has many admirers -- I’ve enjoyed it myself to various degrees in the previous games -- but in Bloodborne, it’s at an all-time minimum and tougher to parse than ever.

At the beginning of the game, the player’s character (the hunter) wakes up in a clinic and receives a blood transfusion. From that point, they’re set loose in a dark city to hunt. There's no backstory given and it's not explained who the hunter is, what the player is supposed to hunt, or why. I had no problem exploring the environments and slaying the beasts that came across my path, but I never felt any motivation or logic for what I was doing.

When I bring up these concerns, the Souls faithful inevitably raise the same defense: this lack of specificity is a metagame of trying to figure out the plot with others. I can agree to a certain extent, but in this case I feel like the developers held too much back. Things start off in a haze and the lack of direction only gets worse as the game progresses. By the halfway point I had given up on hoping to figure out what the point of the adventure was, or why my hunter was doing anything. And the ending I got? An utter head-scratcher.



Don't get me wrong -- I'm not asking FromSoft or Bloodborne director Hidetaka Miyazaki to abandon his mystery-laden methods and switch to typical Western-style storytelling, but in this case just a little more clarity and context would result in a more satisfying adventure overall. The gameplay is enjoyable, the level design is excellent, yet without something making it all stick together for me mentally, the experience fails to be what it should. It’s not the first time concerns of this sort have been raised, either. Both Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 received DLC and patches that greatly expanded on their storytelling, and I think most would agree that the games were better for it.

…So, about piecing that story together.


While there are a few brief cutscenes which generally don’t explain much of anything, the bulk of story and lore information comes from item descriptions. Whenever a player picks up a sword, a piece of armor, a consumable, or anything else, they can go into the menu and click a button to see some flavor text. By taking these snippets, players extrapolate meanings and do their best to make sense of it. However, I've got a big problem with this.

First, I'm not a believer that a player should have to go online and do research in order to enjoy a game. Of course, it's quite possible to go through Bloodborne and get value from the kinetic, brutal gameplay, but there's clearly meant to be some kind of a story going on that frames it all. Without tracking down summaries on fan wikis, huge chunks of worldbuilding will be missed by most, and precious little is given during normal play.


image courtesy of @lcferrarezzi

As far as the item text itself goes, I have a real problem rationalizing its existence.  When my character picks up an item in the game, there's no hand-written note attached to it. When you pick up a sword, it's just a sword. So, where do these item descriptions come from? They don't appear to exist in the game outside of the menus, and there's no NPC who's telling my character about this information… So where does this information come from?

The answer is that it comes from the developers and goes straight to the player. Not the player’s character, but the player. Looking at what's actually happening in the game, my character is never privy to this info. There’s no way they could know any of it. As such, I find this method to disrupt my immersion in the game’s world, and acts as an awkward, inelegant way of communicating something that should be illustrated during the course of play.


For example, following the semi-hidden sidequests of Alfred or Eileen (both speaking NPCs) does a great job of giving the player a good sense of certain things, and encountering a speaking boss late in the game accomplishes the same. None of these instances go over the top with exposition, and they’re consistent with the world. Unfortunately, examples like this are very few and far between, and after completing the game, I felt like I’d only received an eighth of the tale that should have been there. 

The developers at FromSoft seem interested in making their work more accessible in some ways -- after all, anyone familiar with Souls can see that the design changes in Bloodborne are significant, and apparently quite successful in reaching a larger audience. However, the storytelling technique that was so notable in the past three games falls short this time around. 

There’s just not enough of it, and what’s there doesn’t say enough. 

While I did enjoy Bloodborne in large part, there's so much richness and potential left untapped. As my friend Jim Bevan said in one of his recent reviews, minimal storytelling does not mean incomplete storytelling. I agree. FromSoft needs to take a hard look at what they're doing -- while they may have reinvigorated the gameplay, their narrative techniques are overdue for a touch-up.


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Monday, April 20, 2015

Review Links, Bloodborne, Airmech Arena, and all the TV I've been watching!  

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Thanks for once again tuning into Coffeecola! Let's get the show rolling…

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Games: First, here’s a collection of links to all the new reviews that @Gamecritics has posted in the last week.


>Dragon Ball Xenoverse also by @InsrtCoins

>Over 9000 Zombies! by @Hawk_SE

>Summon The Apgrod by @ODellHarmonJr

>Aaru’s Awakening by @RetroRedemption

>Diablo 3: Reaper Of Souls by @KayinAmoh


Now, looking at the games I’ve been playing… Well, it’s not a whole hell of a lot. Most of my free time has been taken up with Bloodborne, and a reliable source tells me I'm getting pretty close to the end. I'm probably not going to replay the game, so I want to see all of the stuff that I can do in one run, and my playtime is being a bit inflated by I making sure I’m hitting all of the optional areas and doing as much as I can.


What do I think? Although I'm not totally finished yet and a fair amount will depend on how the game wraps up, so far I’d have to say that it's been a pretty mixed experience. I like a lot of the concepts -- the trick weapons, the Lovecraft influence, the semi-Victorian flavor -- and the faster action hasn't been entirely unwelcome.

On the other hand, it feels like the game isn’t totally dialed-in for me. While I'm enjoying it, it’s definitely not the best From experience I've had. 

I was thinking about it over the last day or two, and one big thing that really sticks out for me is that I don't have any real motivation as to why my character is in this world, or what they're doing. I'm going from area to area because it's fun to play through them and that’s what you do in a game, but there's nothing that really explains to me what the point of it all is, narratively. Maybe that will change after the ending (after all, quite a bit of information was detailed at the end of Dark Souls 2) but in the recent From games, I at least had a vague notion of what was going on.


In Demon’s Souls, I was a character coming to a ravaged land in search of whatever remaining power that was left to grasp. In Dark Souls, I was a ‘chosen one’ picked to fix the problems of the land, and in Dark Souls 2, I was a character who was looking for a cure for a curse before getting wrapped up in the secrets of the kingdom. Hell, most of the King’s Field games even gave the player an initial kickoff to the story as well. I may not have understood all the intricacies of those stories at the time, but I understood enough to know who I was, and what I was doing there.

In Bloodborne I know I'm a hunter, and that's pretty much it. It's not entirely clear who I'm hunting apart from the fact that they're obviously monsters, and I'm not clear on why I came to this land in the first place. This lack of narrative impetus on even a base level combined with the visual sameness in architecture (so… many… statues…) and heavily muted color palette (so… damned… grey…) make me feel like a lot of the game is just washing right over me.

I don't want to sound too negative -- I'm very happy that From has found such great success, and I do think they’re an extremely talented studio. This might not be their best work, but their not-best work is a lot better than what many other studios can turn out on their finest day, and it says something that I actually care enough to Bloodborne all the way through, compared to the other games that I have no problems tossing aside unfinished.

Long story short? I guess the jury is still out.



In terms of other games, I haven't started in on anything else with any seriousness, although I have been playing a bit of AirMech Arena with my son. I downloaded this free-to-play game on 360 a while ago, but never got around to it. It originally grabbed attention because the developers are local to Seattle, and I had seen their game a few times at local shows… Plus, pretty much everybody knows what a sucker for mechs I am. I’m glad I finally fired it up, though. It’s been a ton of fun.


Basically, it's an updated version of Herzog Zwei with MOBA and RTS elements combined. The player picks a mech which can transform between robot and aerial modes at will, and they then proceed to set up bases and ferry troops back-and-forth across the map while engaging in combat.

I haven't spent any money on it yet (it’s F2P, remember!) but the initial offering is more than enough to play around with for a while, and it seems like there’s a good chunk of the core content available in one $20 package. There are other things to buy past that and I was just about to drop a couple dollars when I heard that it's coming to PS4 and Xbox one, so I held off on any spending to wait for those versions.

From what I can tell there's been no official release date announced other than ‘spring’ of this year, but when it comes to PS4, I'll be all over it.



TV: Although I wouldn't say that I watch very much television overall, I've been catching a few episodes of this and that here and there, and ironically, I just finished three series within a couple days of each other.

First, Season Eight of Face Off just wrapped up, and that's always a fun watch for the entire family.


In case you haven't seen it, it's a competition where the contestants are special effects makeup artists creating costumes for various challenges every week. This particular season’s lineup of contestants were probably the weakest that have ever been on the show, and although there were a few standout pieces here and there, I can't say that I was very impressed. Even so, it's still an incredibly entertaining show to watch, and I loved seeing the creature features each week. 100% looking forward to Season Nine in July…



I've also been watching Kroll Show for the past couple of months, and we just watched the final episode of the series tonight. 


It’d a bit tough to describe it, but it’s sort of like a sketch comedy show where the characters were all in their own TV shows. Sadly, it only ran for three seasons, but Nick Kroll, the man behind the show, came up with so many interesting characters (so quotable!) and his particular brand of meta-commentary on television and American culture seems like someone could probably create a college course out of it.



The final show we finished tonight was Daredevil on Netflix. I was pretty hesitant about it before we started watching, but now that it's all said and done, I think the creators did a fantastic job.


While the program is very clearly set in the same Marvel universe where the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy take place, the focus of the show was much smaller and more focused than those epics. It sounds bizarre, but Daredevil was mostly about a lawyer taking on a crime boss engaging in payola and really crappy tenant policy, with some ass-kicking sprinkled liberally throughout. This worm’s-eye-view of a world populated with superheroes was something we haven’t seen much of in Marvel lately, and I ate it up.

A special shout-out has to go to Vincent D’Onofrio for his portrayal of the Kingpin. I wasn't sure what to make of him at first, but he brought a real sense of broken humanity and complexity to the character, and rather than being a stereotypical super villain, he was relatable -- even sympathetic at times. He's easily the best villain in any of the Marvel properties so far, and it was fascinating to watch him -- maybe even more fascinating than Daredevil himself. That said, I think everyone in the cast did a great job, and DD has always been one of my favorite characters ever since I started reading comics way back when, so I'm thrilled that this interpretation turned out so superbly.



Speaking of superheroes, we haven't finished the season yet, but we've also been watching a lot of The Flash lately. 


Thematically, it's probably the complete opposite of Daredevil with the hero being the classic do-gooder type and most of the enemies being cartoon characters, but the show has a great energy, the special effects are excellent, the cast is wonderful, and I love having a show that’s safe and interesting enough for the whole family to watch. I thought it was going to be pure cheese when we started watching, but it turned out to be the best kind of cheese, and I’m becoming a real fan.

Also, kudos to the show for making one of the main police characters gay, and absolutely not making a big deal out of it whatsoever. It's not a plot point, it's nothing that causes drama… The guy is just gay, and nobody blinks twice as they get on with the rest of the show. It's a little detail, but one that I appreciated.

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That’s it for this week. Thanks very much for reading!!



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