Friday, November 27, 2015
Welcome back to Coffeecoloa, and happy (belated) Thanksgiving!
Before getting to my usual game stuff, I just want to take a minute to express thanks for everything that I have - my wonderful family, a source of income, a warm place to live, enough food to eat… things like these aren’t a given, and not everyone is fortunate enough to have them. I mean, I know a lot of people who struggle in just getting by, and here I am, lucky enough to spend time playing videogames and writing about them… It's an absolute luxury to be sure, and I'm very aware of that. And I am thankful.
Anyway, I also hope that you have good things in your life, and I hope this holiday was a happy one for you. Now, on with the show!
>Witcher 3 The last time I talked about it, I was just getting back into it after deciding that Bethesda's latest was too boring to stick with, and in the time that's passed since then, I actually completed the game. It seemed like it was going to go on for infinity at times, but there actually is an end to the main storyline, and after wrapping up the entire game, I can say that I'm genuinely glad I came back to it.
Overall, I think the writing was outstanding… Probably the best writing in any game I played this year. Also, many of the quests were interesting and varied, and so much work was put into every aspect of the experience that it's just a monumental effort.
I also thought that the female characters were particularly well done, and I do think it's a great example of strong women in games. Although some people who played the previous Witcher titles said that the devs did quite poorly with their women (and maybe they did) they’ve clearly learned some lessons along the way because the ladies here are fantastic. They’re strong, they have their own motivations, they don't play second fiddle to Geralt, and they feel like well-rounded characters. Great stuff.
Of course, the game does have a few issues. The biggest one is that the pacing is a little insane. The main quest is incredibly long and takes the number of turns. A lot of interesting things happen -- and that's great -- but these days I find it hard to buy into the "urgency" of a main quest when a game takes so many detours. It was also a problem for me because so many of the sidequests were genuinely good, and I didn't want to miss any of them. I felt compelled to do as many as possible in order to avoid having any automatically fail by advancing the story. I realize that there are story events that had to happen in order to have the finale that the devs wanted, but I think it would have been possible to restructure the game and make it a little less arduous to get through.
It's also worth noting that the game takes a few weird stumbles at the end. @SparkyClarkson raised this issue in his second opinion at @Gamecritics, and I think he's absolutely on the money. The game rises to a crescendo with a fantastic battle at the Witcher home base, and rather than ending things there, there's still quite a bit left to do afterwards, except none of it is as compelling or as exciting as that battle. In fact, it even gets a little bit nonsensical, with a last-minute MacGuffin showing up to lead into some some quest stuff that just don't make a lot of sense.
Those are pretty forgivable things when looking at everything else the game gets right, though, and it gets a hell of a lot right. It's a fantastic experience from start to finish, and although it is a significant commitment of time, I do think it's one of the few games that is worth investing in despite how long it is. The developers have absolutely raised the bar when it comes to writing and worldbuilding, and we are now living in a post-Witcher world. Any developer wanting to cover the same territory really needs to bring it.
>Bloodborne: The Old Hunters While I plan on doing the Witcher DLC, I need to take a short break before pushing on, so I decided to drop back into Bloodborne and give the Old Hunters DLC a try.
To be fair, I'm not the biggest Bloodborne fan. The story is a mess to me, I think some of the systems don't work as well as they could, and I don’t think much of the aesthetics. The hunters look great, but the world is too monochromatic and too cluttered with garbage and statues and all sorts of stuff that just ends up being visual noise. So, while I’m definitely not one of the hardcore BB devotees, I am a Fromsoft fan and I was curious to see what they would bring to the table with this new expansion. Unfortunately, what it looks like they brought is an insane level of hardcore difficulty.
Look, I'm not the best player out there, but I think I can generally hold my own and I am quite experienced when it comes to Fromsoft and the Souls games. And besides, I got through Bloodborne by myself with only a few difficult spots here and there, so I thought I would be well-equipped to handle this, but the developers are trolling pretty hard… They've really jacked up the difficulty.
While there are a few brutal enemies (the shark giants in the Fishing Hamlet are a nightmare) and there are a few too many ‘GOT YA!’ moments for my taste, the bosses are the worst offenders. Many do a crazy amount of damage and they're just straight-up difficult to fight. My friend @MikeSuskie (in his review) says that there's no real trick to finding these bosses, the player just has to be good enough to beat them, and I think he's correct. Unfortunately, I think the devs have taken it a little too far this time.
As for the rest of it, well, it's just OK, I suppose. It's interesting that they put an absolute crap-ton of new weapons in this DLC (clearly in response to complaints that there weren’t enough things to choose from in the vanilla game) but it's ironic that in order to get these weapons, players have to be good enough to survive the areas where they are…
which means they have to be high-level…
which means they have to have already been through the game.
Since leveling up weapons takes a lot of resources that aren't just laying around, most of the weapons people will find won't be any use unless they do a lot of farming, or start a new game in order to re-harvest resources. I’d love to try some of these new things out myself, but some of them I just can't equip because my stats aren't set up properly, and the rest are too low to do me any good. I ended up collecting them, putting them aside and using my old standbys. It seems like a missed opportunity here.
Also, a heads-up to anyone who did what I did and missed the first shortcut that leads back to the very first lamp in the Hunter’s Nightmare. I have no idea how in the world I missed it, but I did, and there’s a very important NPC which hangs out in that shortcut… He has quite a bit of information about the world and ends up giving the player a weapon at the end, so if you plan to play this DLC, make sure you talk to that person before moving on. He's at one end of the large bridge spanning the bloody river that's in the starting area. Once you see the giant flea monsters, go up to the bridge and go in the hallway at one end… He's down there.
Overall, I'm feeling pretty mixed about The Old Hunters. On the one hand, I want to keep supporting From as I've been a fan of theirs for a very, very long time. On the other hand, I don't think Bloodborne was that great, and this add-on feels like it's hard for the sake of being hard. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people who struggled to get through the main game will be absolutely destroyed by the level of difficulty here, and I just don't see the point of making it so crushing.
>Random Just a couple of quick notes before I wrap up…
First, I want to give a shout out to Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash! on 3DS. I haven't heard many people talking about it, and the people who have talked about it don't seem to think very much of it, which is a shame. I'm a fan of the character, and I think that this is a pretty solid outing for him. It’s certainly better than the last game he was in.
There are a few weird choices and it's not the sort of thing that you want to marathon for hours on end, but I think it's a lot better than people give it credit for, and it's really cute as well. If you're a fan, it's definitely worth picking up, and if you want some solid platforming action, this is a good one to check out.
Finally, I haven't fired my WiiU up for ages, but I've been pretty curious about Xenoblade Chronicles X, out on December 4, and while I’m not going to cover it for review, I am going to pick it up to see what it's all about.
It looks like it has a Phantasy Star Online vibe to it, and I'm a sucker for anything with giant robots. Some reviewer friends who already have been through the game have told me that they think I'll hate it -- which is very likely possible -- but it sounds like an interesting project that warrants investigation… I'll have more to say on it later.