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Agents of Mayhem – Everything I Dislike (and a few things I like)

Welcome to yet another one of my reviews where I list all the things I dislike about something, and a handful of things I like. Since I initially wrote this review on Steam, and eventually ran out of space, I will be keeping my review up to date here. While I am sort of enjoying playing this game, I cannot recommend it at its current price ($60US on the Australian Steam Store as of game release – 15/08/17). Here is a list, that I will update while I play the game, detailing things I’m not happy with, or problems with the game. Most of this is opinion and therefore is subjective, but as a big fan of the Saint’s Row series, and having bought this game due to the developer and their previous work, I am unfortunately mostly disappointed. This review is a work in progress, which means I’ll be changing it as I play the game, or the game gets updated. This article will contain some spoilers, but they are mostly minor.

This review covers release and the small patch a few days after and is up to date as of 22/08/17 additionally I have added a section where I will be moving certain “bugs” as they are fixed or patched.

Note: Most of the things listed in this review will be specific to the PC release only, despite the fact that I’ve tagged this article as both a PS4 and an XBOne article. Undoubtedly, a lot of the things I’ve listed will be platform agnostic, but there will definitely be some things that are isolated to PC only.

Things I Dislike:

  • The dialogue, the characters, everything is extremely poorly written. It’s extremely basic and generic. I doubt the same writers of Saint’s Row wrote this. Edit: Then again they might have. I think I have rose-coloured glasses on for Saint’s Row 3 and 4.
  • The humour misses the mark, hard.
  • I cannot tell who the hell the demographic of this game is, the characters swear, but the game is “safe”, in that a child could play it very easily without hassle, the game holds your hand a lot, the enemies are pretty simple, it is just not challenging, even if you crank up the difficulty. Edit: the enemy difficulty and density gets better as the game progresses…but…so do you. You gain levels, and health/shield which better protect you from the many more enemies thrown at you.
  • There is only one weapon, an alternative fire for that weapon, plus a “special” attack per character. Unlike the weapon wheel full of fun guns SR had, you have to choose a different character if you want different weapons.
  • Weapons auto-aim. You cannot turn this off. Since some people say you can, you can switch it to disabled, and your camera won’t follow your target around by itself, but certain weapons will still hit your target even if your aim is very off. Rama is the best example.
  • It feels like a single player third person Overwatch clone (by clone I mean it shares a hell of a lot of similarities with Overwatch, and feels like it was steered in that direction to appeal to a similar audience, it’s not literally a third person Overwatch) on the SR engine with its skill-set independent heroes you can change around between on the fly. I don’t dislike Overwatch, but I don’t particularly enjoy it either. This feels like I’m playing that without any humans to actually challenge me.
  • When in motion, either on foot or in a vehicle, the camera controls snap back to behind you constantly, even though I have a MOUSE to move my camera around with. This cannot be turned off.
  • The Mayhem ability. It’s your special ability and it’s supposed to be super powerful and ultra useful. It is not. It lasts about 3 seconds, which lets you kill about 3-4 enemies (if they’re spread out, which they usually are) and takes FOREVER* to charge. In a mission you get a chance to use it once or twice maybe. On the other hand the “alternative attack” charges in about 5-6 seconds and it usually much more useful (e.g. being able to launch a grenade that splash damages everyone around it if you’re playing Hollywood) Spending skill points increases Mayhem time and effectiveness, however you won’t end up having those upgraded for a long time yet. *Edit: If you have Hollywood in your team, and his group passive is upgraded, you get Mayhem abilities very often, and some characters are actually useful when their Mayhem goes off. Johnny Gat is the best example in my opinion. Edit #2: It is really dependant on who you’re using in your team as to how effective your mayhem attack is. Some characters just stun everyone around them which isn’t particularly useful compared to actually doing damage.
  • Not a big deal to me, but no cooperative play. You can select three heroes at a time, you would think the game would let you coop with 2 other people, but it doesn’t. I believe Saint’s Row 2, 3, 4 and Gat out of Hell are coop friendly, why this isn’t I have no idea. Edit: The game does have multiplayer, but it’s not story mode cooperative.
  • The character customisation just…blows. The upgrades don’t even seem particularly useful. Edit: most aren’t useful. They’re just alternative methods of play, sort of.
  • Hardtack is one of the characters you start with. His main weapon is a shotgun. A shotgun that does zero damage to anything about 3 metres (10~ feet) away. It just doesn’t connect with anything past that range. It’s the most useless shotgun in any game ever. You can get an upgrade that increases the distance the shotgun makes contact in….but it also decreases it’s damage. Absolutely pointless. Edit: Trying to level up Hardtack really sucks, because even with upgrades his shotgun isn’t anywhere near as powerful as Johnny Gat’s or Red Card’s
  • Hardtack’s triple-jump barely ever works. Edit: actually a handful of player characters triple-jumps seem to work with varying degrees of success.
  • On further observation, almost all weapons have very short range. Much, much shorter than you would expect. Of course, the enemies don’t suffer from this ailment at all.
  • Every single one of the civilian cars sucks. They’re all utterly useless. Edit: there’s also only about…20? different ones. They’re also all as slow as shit.
  • You can’t get into the LEGION military cars, even after the LEGION soldiers get out of them.
  • I don’t have any graphics issues because I updated my drivers. But occasionally a lot of things explode on the screen and my fps dips for about a half a second. Not really an issue.
  • I’m decently far into the game now (edit), and there aren’t any mini-games like Saint’s Row had. There are things scattered around the map that you can blow up, but they’re not really “mini-games”. The one where you put a shield around a person strapped to a bomb then detonate the bomb is kinda fun though, because the person with the shield ends up in a bubble that bounces around the place, and if your physics glitch out (which I believe is intended) they go flying.
  • There are some shitloads of physics glitches. Floating enemies, trucks loaded with cargo exploding once you’re in range enough for the physics engine to kick in, items bouncing around. Edit: The small patch fixed this a tiny bit, but it’s still a problem
  • Cannot fire from vehicles. Which is a step backwards from the Saint’s Row series.
  • For some reason on the “pause” menu, is an option to “Erase all save data”. This seems…well…bizarre, and increases your risk of accidentally clicking it and erasing all your data.
  • Johnny Gat in this game is only Gat in voice and model. He is not the Gat from Saint’s Row. I mean, for one he’s a cop. This is explained by the whole “alternate universe” thing, but still. He definitely has some of the best dialogue in the game though. If you don’t want to cringe much, make sure Gat is your main character. Avoid Braddock (even though her weapon is one of the better ones) because her voice sounds so fake and put-on that it gets old very quickly.
  • The radio is terrible. It’s just the same electronic background noise on every channel.
  • You can’t ride motorbikes, there are none in the game on the streets, and the parked ones are not able to be ridden.
  • There is no vehicle customisation other than 8 different skins per vehicle (10 vehicles total).
  • There is also no player customisation except for 6 or so skins for each character and then 6 or so skins per character’s weapon.
  • Warping. No one opens doors or anything, they just…warp around. Like straight through the car’s window into the drivers seat. Enemies also warp into the area instead of arriving in vehicles or helicopters. Edit: can be explained by the futuristic setting, but it’s still a bit of a cop-out
  • While driving, vehicles within your draw distance but far away disappear randomly. In fact the draw distance in general is sort of broken.
  • There’s a cooldown on melee attacks. The cooldown is about 3 to 4 seconds.
  • Cash is a bit useless. I never used any until I was level 8, and then I had so much left over after I had bought upgrades that it didn’t really matter. This isn’t really a negative, since cash ends up pretty much worthless in Saint’s Row after a while too, including it in the game just seems kinda pointless. There’s like 5 different typed of resources you need to be running around picking up constantly, which is ridiculous.
  • Apparently everyone in Korea speaks American English.
  • I only really just realised this, but the map is tiny. I’m not sure if I’m into the game far enough yet, or if any more maps unlock, but the map size is about half of Steelport (Saint’s Row 3 and 4) and about a quarter of Stilwater (Saint’s Row 2). Remember when Volition made Red Faction Guerilla and the map was gigantic (albeit empty). Everything to do in this is very close together.
  • Repetitive LEGION lair dialogue over the PA system gets annoying after you’ve heard the same line 5 times per lair, and I’ve done about 8 lairs so far and there are at least that many more to do. It’s funny the first time, but it gets old fast.
  • When you first load the game, or teleport back into the Ark, you are not given control over your character for a minimum of 3 seconds, and a maximum of about 15. Everything has loaded, you just can’t do anything until the game randomly lets you.
  • Friday has really shitty dialogue. It’s just extra shitty and I can’t stand it. She’s also a bit of a creeper.
  • Can’t change the contents of your squad unless you deploy
  • There are “Mayhem Knows” load-screens where some of the characters from the game show up and a soundbite plays detailing something “witty” (see: stupid) about them. This extends the load screen much longer than it needs to be.
  • You CANNOT run over enemies. They either dodge your vehicle, or even if you hit them dead on, they don’t take enough damage to die and bounce off your car. I have yet to kill anyone who wasn’t a civilian (who are easy to kill) with a vehicle yet.
  • There’s no way to upgrade melee strength, so the more you level up, the progressively more useless your melee attacks get.
  • Each time you return to the Ark, the game penalises you by uncapturing one of your outposts you’ve captured, giving it back to the enemy. THIS IS NOT A BUG IT’S A FEATURE AND IS FUCKING MORONIC. THIS IS IN BOLD BECAUSE OF HOW FUCKING ANGRY IT MADE ME.
  • Despite being able to apparently climb walls, most of the heroes suck at actually doing it.
  • While unlocking the vehicles is alright, each vehicle has an arbitrary amount of unlock blueprints needed. No two have the same number. Some cars have 1 blueprint needed, others 10.
  • Everything after this line added on 22/08/17
  • After antagonising LEGION enough to max out their response (like you max out the police in Saint’s Row or demons enforcers in Gat out of Hell, the game throws difficult super soldiers at you. But they are seemingly endless. They keep coming forever, and the only way I found I could get rid of them was by going back to the Ark.
  • Dead bodies jiggle around on the floor a lot, constantly causing me to think they’re still alive and shoot at them.
  • Johnny Gat’s shotgun occasionally does no damage to certain female-only enemies.
  • Some of the “side missions” (like the above-mentioned rescue-the-guy-stuck-to-a-bomb-by-putting-them-in-a-bubble mission) glitch through the floor, making them impossible to complete.
  • When driving, a lot of things are still indestructible, causing your car to dead-stop on things. Especially heinous when racing and the game forces you to take certain jumps that if you misjudge  slightly, make your vehicle stop.
  • Civilian vehicles plough over you without slowing down or stopping. The vehicle-driving AI is terrible, and doesn’t give a shit about you at all. It will absolutely run you down in the street.
  • Vehicle damage is not representative of the health shown on the car’s HP meter. Car looks totally fucked before it is anywhere near it.
  • The game tells you to repair your car and shows locations you can have it repaired…when you’ve got about 10% damage on the car. Even the weakest of the player cars takes a hell of a pounding before it blows up. The civilian vehicles on the other hand are weak and will blow up just by being shot at – but only if you’re driving them. They’re significantly harder to destroy if you’re just shooting at them yourself.
  • Slight Spoiler: A character mission for Kingpin has you driving vehicles to beat an “unknown racer” at certain circuits around the city. The time limits given are long enough that you could probably sprint them on foot if the game would let you, and you’d still make the times with plenty to spare.
  • Doomsday weapons all follow the exact same, boring formula every single time they show up. If they didn’t take pot-shots at you constantly, there would be absolutely no reason to destroy them at all. Unnecessary time wasting bullshit.
  • Your callable vehicles are equipped with an AI. The AI has no real purpose other than to say “witty” things. Instead it’s an annoying fucking pile of wank that says dumb, annoying shit.
  • Terrible FOV (field of view) and zoom. No option to change either.
  • Johnny Gat’s mayhem ability causes him to fire against walls and into the air sometimes as it’s not able to be redirected or aimed at all. It even does so when there are targets out in the open.
  • Joule’s melee often fails to connect.
  • Everything in the game telegraphs, making avoiding things without thinking simple.
  • While doing a lair invasion, the AI on the PA system continuously told the LEGION NPCs to “protect the captain”. It continued to do so even after I killed everyone in the base and reached the extraction point. So did I kill the captain or not?
  • Game occasionally draws objects on top of each other. Example: I was driving as fast as I possibly could, using the nitrous and then stopped dead, the game already had 3 cars parked on the side of the road, and then decided to draw 3 more on top of them, causing them to jump out of the parked cars and explode.
  • Daisy moves about the same speed as everyone else runs…when she has roller skates.
  • You need to rely on RNG (random number generation – where you hope the game “rolls the right numbers” and gives you proper items when you loot the crates strewn around the game) for character/weapon/vehicle skin and vehicle blueprint unlocks.
  • Red Card, a German (and a good guy), seems to ADVOCATE FOR FUCKING EUGENICS. WHO WROTE THIS SHIT?

Things I Liked:

  • Plays like a Saint’s Row game, which is why I bought it in the first place.
  • Driving is top notch, better than Saint’s Row 4 or Gat out of Hell.
  • Game is smooth as butter, seems pretty well optimised. This could be isolated to my machine, because a lot of people have told me that I’m wrong about this.
  • The world is pretty nicely crafted, if a little…boring? Seoul has no soul. But it looks shiny and futuristic.
  • You can still murder civilians. You can’t seem to kick them in the groin or throw them around, but you can shoot them to death
  • It appears that vehicles from Saint’s Row 3/4 are unlockable by finding “blueprints”
  • The unlocked cars from Saint’s Row have been given a very slight face lift
  • The one-use craftable items are actually useful
  • The upgrade cores actually make your characters a lot better. Except Hardtack.
  • The usual collectibles everybody loves that Volition is known for strewing across their games. (this is half sarcastic, but seriously, it wouldn’t be right if this game didn’t have 50 million collectible items)
  • There are robot cars, some drive ads around, some are utility vehicles. Also robots float around showing ads which is kinda cool
  • There are upgrades after a certain level which show collectibles on the map.
  • Pressing X and calling in your car is handy as fuck
  • The game does get better the more you play it, but doesn’t really reverse anything I’ve listed in the negative section unless otherwise specified
  • The game has NVidia Ansel, which is pretty awesome if you’re into taking super high resolution screenshots with an adjustable camera
  • A bunch of characters (not sure if all of them – Johnny Gat doesn’t seem to have one) have a skin reminiscent of Marvel superheroes (e.g. XMen, Iron Man,
  • Once you get your hero to level 10, it unlocks a secondary trait, so you can lose your weaker characters. e.g. Johnny Gat becomes armour piercing, so you can get rid of Fortune or Kingpin
  • Took me a while to realise that Kingpin is Pierce Washington’s alternate universe alter-ego.
  • Enemy speech has context depending on which hero you’re playing. For example, Braddock was a military commander who trained many of LEGION’s troops before they defected from her command and joined LEGION. They say snarky remarks about the training and joining LEGION out from under her.
  • The game has a very diverse cast of people, which, before someone calls me an SJW, so did Saint’s Row. Instead of having the usual muscular white dude/s it’s got someone from everywhere on the globe.
  • Everything after this line added on 22/08/17
  • Some of the explosive barrels kinda look like Daleks (Okay, not really a positive, but I found it amusing)
  • Slight Spoiler: The Johnny Gat mission with the robot police officers was actually pretty amusing, and enjoyable.
  • The game is actually VERY stable. I have not had a single crash yet in (as of writing this) 24 hours of playing. I have tabbed in and out constantly, and abused the game a little bit and it’s been fine.
  • Each character has unique dialogue recorded for it, for each time one of the mission givers talks to the group. Whoever is your currently selected character will do all of the talking. You can change it on the fly.

Fixed Issues:

  • Game resets itself to windowed each time I start it. I prefer it on Borderless or even Full Screen, but it insists on starting on Windowed.  This seems to have been fixed. EDIT: OR NOT. Sometimes it seems fixed, sometimes it fucks up again.

Even Yahtzee shits on this game.

Mass Effect Andromeda – Everything I Dislike So Far (Part 3)

Another entry in my list of things I dislike about MEA. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m actually enjoying playing MEA a fair amount, but it’s still making me cringe quite often. Also since the last post it updated to 1.0.0.7 and then to 1.0.0.8, so this post will actually be two entries in one – the one I wrote for 0.7 and the one I wrote for 0.8. This post contains spoilers. Also videos for the first time.

Part 1   Part 2

Main Menu

  • Menu takes a long time to decide that a unit upgrade is available.
  • Mouse very, very rarely, ceases to work in menus at all. Game must be restarted

Dialogue

  • You meet new allies, the Angarans. Instead of telling you what they’ve been calling the Kett the whole time, they call them the Kett too. How about telling me what they’re really called?
  • “I need to change your entire planet’s climate so my people can live here, lol” ‘oh OK, but do this task first’
  • Jaal threatens to kill me in my sleep. Hilarious.
  • Sohkaa and Ryder treat each other like fucking idiots
  • “Are all humans so quick with words?” after I went afk and left the screen paused on dialogue for 5 minutes (not really a complaint, but still)
  • “They put every credit they made into my education” how very Americocentric of the writers to assume capitalism would be universal.
  • “niche” said like NITCH
  • “download some movies for me lol, I like bad movies, I’m literally a walking meme” – Liam
  • “just be yourself and the flirts will flow” holy fuck I just lost brain matter
  • “Damn politicians”
  • Using the question-mark option in some conversations throws out a total non-sequitur, making it sound awkward when you put the conversation back on track
  • “tell me more about fighting Kett” needs to be selected constantly, never greys out even when you’ve exhausted all options.
  • “Want us to get out and push?” ‘Veeeerrry funny Ryder’ No.
  • “by who?” “by whom.” fuck off SAM you cunt.
  • “you took out the kett crown jewel” seconds later “we want to hit the crown jewel of the kett” so did I take it out yet, or do I still need to take it out?
  • “what the actual hell” fuck off with your tumblr meme shit
  • What sort of rude fucking bastard ends a conversation with “I’m good for now”?
  • SAM SHUT THE FUCK UP I KNOW IT’S COLD

Game

  • Dumb fucking escort mission in the Angaran settlement when you first land (Hidden City)
  • The Angarans draw a bead on me the second I take out my scanner
  • What the fuck accent do these things have? Is it African, English, Australian? All three? Why do they have EARTH ACCENTS?
  • Ryder is told the Angaran people get kidnapped. Looks bored as fuck, like he’s about to fall asleep standing.
  • Avela seems excessively enamoured where 5 minutes earlier she didn’t give a single fuck
  • Background plants behind Avela shimmer terribly
  • These aliens I just met are WAY too trusting.
  • I don’t remember picking up a universal translator?
  • Peebee’s writer is a stupid fucking cunt. She is the most fucking irritating piece of shit in the game.
  • The entire crew is unmotivated to do the fucking jobs they’re supposed to be, instead opting to make dumb wisecracks and say other stupid shit.
  • Not even on my second planet and I have a full roster of crew. There are no more companions to collect.
  • Whoever wrote Suvi is a fuckwit. Her dialogue is pure shit.
  • Right-click doesn’t skip dialogue.
  • AWWW DRACK IS ACTUALLY A SOFTIE. Most boring fucking trope ever.
  • Being biotic is literally an oppressed state, like being Black or Asian
  • Talking to Cora again immediately after ending the automatic cutscene changes her mood, her stance, everything entirely.
  • You can call an Andromeda Galaxy alien a BIGOT for calling YOU an alien. IDPOL HAS GONE TOO FAR
  • Cutscenes starting with you standing 30cm behind your chat target like you wanna fuck them
  • Every time Peebee talks I want to shoot myself, or better, her in the fucking head.
  • And her flirting is just absolute fucking trash
  • Not only is she annoying, she’s a thief, a liar, and a menace and should be in a fucking jail cell.
  • SJWs literally wrote appropriation into the script
  • Suvi talks about the least interesting thing about her (not that there is much interesting about her) too much – her stupid fucking faith.
  • SHE BECAME RELIGIOUS IN HER TEENS. HER PARENTS AREN’T RELIGIOUS. SUVI IS DUMBER THAN SHIT.
  • Aliens have weirdly human personality traits.
  • A protester with red hair has hair that looks like it was put on over the top of another hairdo
  • The protesters are ridiculous as fuck.
  • Reporter quest ripped directly from Mass Effect 2/3
  • At least Addison looks less stupid as of 1.0.0.6
  • With the amount of load screens, this game would be irritating as fuck to play on a non-PC
  • Game continually sends me back to the Nexus. That’d be fine if it didn’t take 5 minutes of cutscenes each time.
  • WHY DON’T YOU JUST TAKE A FUCKING NAP MID SENTENCE RYDER, YOU SLEEPY LOOKING FUCKING CUNT
  • Ryder tells Spender he’s onto him well before he has any evidence or even reasonably doubt to be able to have him arrested, making sure Spender can clean up any mess he needs to or disappear.
  • You can leave Voeld in the middle of nowhere which causes a 2 minute fucking leave-the-planet cutscene.
  • After this line is from 1.0.0.8 
  • After rescuing Nillj, his companion speaks to you but is not in range at all, so only her subtitles show up but her audio isn’t heard. She doesn’t seem to come closer either.
  • If you don’t have a weapon drawn, you cannot use melee.
  • Using the remnant elevator causes the game to undraw the AI companions, and then redraw them again at the top.
  • The AI companions act like they contribute to kills during combat. Without mods, they do zero damage and are nothing more than a liability.
  • An item disappears and reappears when using the omintool. Item can be clipped through when omnitool not used. I made a video of it, here or embedded at the bottom of the post.
  • NPC walks around me several times, then walks off. Video of it Here or embedded at the bottom of the post.
  • Addison is probably the most inept, useless, and fucking stupid character in the entire game.
  • You can’t talk to NPCs without them facing you, which gets irritating.
  • Nostril holes look stupid as fuck
  • The whole “sibling in a coma for the entire duration of the game” is pretty fucking stupid
  • There are 5 videocom consoles and you can only use one of them. In about 30 hours of playing, I’ve only used them once, what’s the point?
  • SAM things it can boost the Angaran’s computer power despite not having actually interacted with an Angaran computer before, and not knowing how much processing power they do or do not possess.
  • A graphics glitch made it look like Ryder had a mouthful of metal, like Jaws in 007
  • Some quests marked as complete remain in the menu, and don’t elaborate what else needs to be done to ACTUALLY complete them.
  • Jaal’s clothes blow around like there’s wind when there isn’t
  • Ryder asks Jaal about biology. Jaal fobs him off completely leading me to believe that the writers never bothered actually fleshing out the Angara. Lazy as fuck.
  • WHY DOES A HOLOGRAM HAVE EYELASHES

No doubt there’ll be a part 4 soon, but I’ve already catalogued a lot of the shit that pisses me off, and I’m finding it harder to find new things that aren’t completely dialogue based. Also there are mods now, so I can remove a lot of annoying things. EOF

Mass Effect Andromeda – Everything I Dislike So Far (Part 2)

Since I wrote part 1, the game has updated once again to 1.0.0.6, and some of my critique is out of date, but most of it still applies. Here’s part two. Possible spoilers ahead.

Part 1

Main Menu

  • Still can’t use enter key to select anything from the game’s opening menu

Dialogue

  • “have a Dirty Squirrel” the bar has dumb as fuck names for drinks. Because they couldn’t possibly just use existing names.
  • “Fine, you can be a regular” said to Scott Ryder by the bartender.
  • “Be careful, the snark is strong with this one”
  • DUTCH HAS THE MOST WANKY SHIT DIALOGUE SO FAR.
  • “You can’t deploy and omelette without deploying eggs. And eggs won’t get you steak” WHO FUCKING WROTE THIS SHIT
  • “They’re scanning us!” ‘WELL SCAN THEM BACK’ genius dialogue. 10/10.
  • Ryder snorts in his dialogue, subtitle says he “exhales”

Game

  • NPC bumped through a crate, NPC was then difficult to interact/talk to. Once dialogue was initiated, NPC proceeded to walk BEHIND the player character.
  • NPC fucking asks me to talk to it a second time to start the quest it has.
  • Game breaks 4th wall. Example – an NPC has a quest icon above his head, instead of asking him how he’s going, and then him responding that he has some trouble and could you look into it, your dialogue starts immediately with “is something wrong?” despite no indication that anything is wrong in the first place.
  • Seems almost everyone who isn’t a random filler NPC has a dull, monotonous and very mundane quest for you to do.
  • Pathfinder gets paid for completing tasks.
  • Pathfinder also needs to pay for items and equipment, as if he’s not the most fucking important thing in the entire goddamn galaxy at that point.
  • A quest involves finding ingredients for “new cocktails”
  • Junk, filler quests everywhere. I cannot state this enough.
  • The Nilken Case. The options are black and white. You cannot choose for him to go into community service (although one of the options makes that happen anyway) or serve 3 months in a cell, you can only choose to release him or exile him.
  • Addison randomly talks to herself. Possibly the worst design choice ever, to include this fucking batshit insane character.
  • Brecka’s accent sounds fake as fuck
  • The drop pod/AVP is similar to the Inquisition Powers in DAI (this isn’t a complaint, just an observation)
  • Default load screen times are excessive.
  • Ryder’s face lags and changes in an instant.
  • Kett aliens seem to speak in alternating accents
  • Somehow the aliens damaged their ship without actually attacking it at all.
  • Ryder makes first contact with the Angara by being an arrogant fucking prick. Very American.
  • Aliens speak to each other in English, after starting dialogue in their own language.
  • “Hidden City” not actually hidden at all.

This concludes part 2, part 3 should arrive in the next couple of weeks, since there’s so goddamn much wrong with this title.

Mass Effect Andromeda – Everything I Dislike So Far (Part 1)

I bought Mass Effect Andromeda about 2 weeks after it first came out, and I’ve played through as much of the first planet as it would let me (which wasn’t all that much). As I’ve played the game, I’ve wrote down what has annoyed me. Here I will detail what has annoyed me about the game so far. POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD

Main Menu

  • mouse highlights wrong item on hover (fixed – sorta) after update 1.05
  • Game loads for a significant amount of time after exiting character creator back into the main menu

Dialogue

  • Almost all the dialogue listed here will be goofy. As a general rule, if the dialogue isn’t goofy, it’s flat fucking boring.
  • “I feel like a 600 year old popsicle” after coming out of stasis.
  • “since when do rocks float” ‘just go with it’ when flying above the first planet you come to, to complete the tutorial level, Liam and Ryder have this exchange.
  • “it’s like they didn’t finish building it” after it was stated that the Nexus wasn’t built.
  • “can you tell me where the welcome party is hiding” after boarding the Nexus and seeing no one around
  • “you’re a BRAVE PIONEER” don’t blow smoke up my arse, NPCs.
  • Liam continually mentions the Nexus is vacant
  • “Unknown Error” spoken like VI has never spoken either word before
  • MEMES LOL
  • “14 months and you start stooping to poetry”
  • “ugh goddamn poetry”
  • Tann’s voice actor seems to be playing a “character” and is doing it badly.
  • Scott uses “uh” to answer questions
  • Suvi sounds fucking stupid
  • LIAM SPEAKS IN MEMES
  • “oh you know things? good for you, I know things too” Wow, Peebee you sure showed them
  • “We nearly died!” “YEAH BUT IT WAS TOTALLY COOL” – definite seizure probability.

Game

  • textures shimmer
  • blank, non-moving faced weird fucking NPCs (noted as fixed with update 1.05, but not actually fixed)
  • Ryder’s hand passes through an item he is grabbing hold of in a cutscene
  • too easy to cut off dialogue/dialogue doesn’t complete often
  • clunky movement at times (but combat is very satisfying)
  • Rocks. Are. Floating.
  • animation of shooting at corpse doesn’t contact
  • dopey, clueless expressions POST 1.05 update
  • Scott Ryder seems overly happy immediately after his dad’s death
  • Foster Addison is excessively stupid. Holy fuck.
  • Female Krogan – goofiest fucking Krogan in the galaxy
  • Numpad keys are totally randomised
  • Not much difference between selection colours – already chosen dialogue very slightly different hue from unused dialogue. Gets really fucking confusing during times where you revisit a character.
  • Animations do not match voices
  • Textures popping in and out during interviews
  • Weird model tooth overlap
  • Vetra is an atypical turian
  • Two audio files from the same NPC can play simultaneously, creating some weird fucking shit
  • only 2 squadmates compared to 3 in Dragon Age Inquisition (minor annoyance)
  • 3 different NPCs talking over each other…
  • Peebee is an annoying fucking Mary Sue who speaks in Tumblr memes.
  • Pretty sure they won’t be calling it “3D printing” so far in the future
  • Quests with no clear objective
  • After selecting to land on a planet, the decision CANNOT be cancelled.
  • Weapons loadout cannot be changed at the ship without leaving the planet.
  • Pee(nis)b(reath)ee walks like she’s shat in her fucking pants
  • No choice of whether to recruit or abandon new team mates, they are automatically added.
  • Ore remains behind after being picked up, instead of disappearing.
  • Game flickers yellow in certain areas, due to the ingame filter having a certain boundry the camera crosses
  • Group dialogue reads/plays out like a fucking terrible sitcom, without a pathetic laugh track
  • Game arbitrarily forces you to leave Eos. No real reason at all, just so you don’t exhaust all the content on that planet straight up.
  • BORED ALREADY WITH NO DESIRE TO PLAY ANY FURTHER.

Hopefully I’ll end up playing more, so I can make a part 2, but until then, this is all. EOF

Hope, Dark Souls, and “Seriously, it’s not that bad.”

Yes, I am saying that the grim and often grueling adventure series… isn’t not hard, and that it’s a terrifically positive game. No, I’m not claiming to be “that good”.

For the unaware, there is a series of video games, the “Souls series” that is lauded as being the epitome of difficult, punishing, hardcore gameplay. Each entry follows a single undead protagonist through beautifully sprawling ruins and varieties of opponents and giant foes, acquiring magical weapons and armor and spells, meeting interesting characters to help and hinder their journey… and ultimately, possibly saving the world… by some definition, for a moment more.

To me, it’s got a lot in common with Zelda games. You know Ganondorf is going to rise again in the next Zelda game. But nobody claims those games are grim. They’re about courage triumphing over evil power. And hookshot acrobatics. And treating each boss as a puzzle until you figure out how to actually damage it without getting stomped into dust.

Failure in Zelda means… you have to walk back from the start of the dungeon… but you’ve already opened the doors, and solved the puzzles. Then you start the fight over again and try not to lose again.

Dark Souls, you’d lose your rupees in a wee sack in the boss room. So you’d run back and usually manage to retrieve it. Once in a while, you might get killed first, and you’ve lost them all, and have to collect more at some point.

But in Zelda, if you lost all of your rupees… that was not a big deal, was it? You spend most of the game either saving up for one or two big upgrades… or running around with a purse so full you can’t fit anything more into it… because there wasn’t anything to spend it on.

Dark Souls games… you can buy better stats, improved weapons, spells, equipment… and that way, losing the currency does have a sting to it. But… you don’t lose things… only currency is at risk.

And like Zelda, if what you’re doing when fighting a boss isn’t working… you should probably try something else. Try out that magic wand you got a while back, load it up with something dangerous, and give that a fling. Or maybe keep the foul beast at spear’s length… or get a big shield… or dance so close to the devil, he thinks you’re his own bad knee, and fears to step on you.

Many games have those bad moments though. Those frustrating times when you can’t quite tell when to move where to not die… or something you didn’t expect trips you up and you’ve got to try again for the 47th go around… now, in Zelda, or Mario… you have extremely limited options. You don’t get to head off to another castle to save up and buy double fire flowers. You can’t make the fireballs a little bigger. You can’t change into lighter boots and jump away farther. I can do that in Dark Souls. I can make the things I’m doing more effective even while I develop the skill to use them better. Or to try something else that doesn’t involve trying to circumcise a dragon from between his toes.

Every time I fail in Dark Souls (when I’m not falling off a cliff or something) I get back to what I dropped and I’m in the same place… with a few more souls saved up. Or I get a sharp lesson to go a bit slower, prepare a bit more carefully. But I can get through. Eventually, I am going to win. I can wear down the mountain.

Now, whenever I get killed in any Mario game? I could be back at the start of the level, with nothing. If I came in with a powerup, that’s gone now. I’m in worse shape, and facing the same obstacle. That’s brutal. Anybody remember getting thrown off the mountain in Mario 64? Having to not only climb back up, but having that boss at full health again? And knowing, no matter what, it wasn’t ever going to get easier?

Dark Souls isn’t half that bad. At least when it puts a dragon in turtle shell armor, it doesn’t ask you to do it barehanded.

Mars: War Logs – Review

It’s pretty good. Something of a Bioware clone. Efficiently delivers the standard action-rpg experience. Some voice acting is bad. Overall, though, I felt good about the presentation, and always felt as though any reasonable action I could take in a given situation was decently covered. Steam clocks my playthrough at 20 hours, although some of that was spent paused and pondering a couple branches. I will replay half of the game, changing faction, so it’s likely about 20 hours, for a $20 rpg with okay depth and reactivity. If you just wanted the quick & dirty opinion piece, you can stop here. The rest of this is going to be in-depth about what impressed me, and this is your only spoiler warning.

The mechanics of the skill system… are kind of awesome. The three skill trees actually synergize. The technomancy ability to charge your weapon with electricity can be specc’d out to up critical hit chance, and so can your basic combat talents, and further in the renegade section, for anyone facing away from you. The only skills not available to you after the prison escape are the capstones of each tree. Everything else is available instantly… but at the lowest power. Every level, you get 2 points to spend. And every point has weight. There are a few pre-reqs that are a little… underwhelming. I didn’t really want to upgrade, for example, MP recovery rate before upgrading the power of the damaging attacks. I never did put any points into throwing sand in anyone’s face… but it was still a pretty nice, quick maneuver that worked just fine on anybody without glasses or stormtrooper helms. The system also avoided the question of item power. You never got more effective health potions (they can call them infusions, I don’t care, it’s a recovery consumable), but the renegade tree let you make them more potent. Or upgrade your “homemade grenade”… which was faster at knocking a squad of soldiers on their butts than anything else at my disposal, and gave a precious second to buff up. Because these consumables never went bad, and weren’t crazy-hard to build, I actually did use them. Which tends to not happen in this kind of game unless the combat is particularly dire. Generally, if I was having trouble in a fight, I wasn’t using half my abilities. And the game has that perfect option: You hit one button, and it almost pauses the action, letting you target, give orders, and activate any of your abilities. You can have a few hotkeyed, but it was generally better to use the menu, just to plan another second or two, and be quite sure you have the right target.

 

Separate from the skill system is a feat listing. You get 1 feat point per level… and almost nothing is that cheap. Unlocking the crafting options was the most helpful. Every chapter or so, you’d get to access another tier of moddable weapon, and be able to fit it with slightly better mods… with quite a list of options to arrange as you like. You could make your weapons gain extra damage when buffed, or more crit damage, or a bit more defense. Your armor gave some tradeoffs with damage mitigations, regeneration, and I… went with the Techwarrior mods for the electrical resistance. Sure, most foes do physical damage, but who wants to have no defense against the guys who fling lightning? The system gives the player a lot more than you… could need. Early on, you will scrounge. Later on, you can recycle components you’ll never use into stuff you might like, and have enough health boosts, grenades, and ammo to gun down an army. Other notable feats allow for more xp from combat and more loot. Your reputation as a good guy or an ass also grants you a couple free ones. Bad guys get a slight boost to wound chance and critical hits. Good guys get 50% off at the shops. So, you can buy whatever you like at the shop… if you needed anything. And didn’t want to wait to find the free stuff. Great guys get +50% companion health and damage. You only really get 1 npc follower at a time, with very brief exceptions. And this is the difference between your friend being able to keep 1 of the 4-5 enemies off you… and being able to hold out against half of them until you’re free to help clean up.

 

Now… I like these systems. The feat system is perhaps the least impressive aspect. You’ll get most by the end of the game, so you’re mostly picking the order, and none of them (except the crafting) are actually necessary. The thing I like about this is that it’s got no direct connection to your combat abilities. The +10% boosts to combat xp seem like a lot, but I don’t think the difference is going to total even one level over the course of the entire game. The looting bonus seems great, but in the middle of the game, not only do you have a ton of resources, but you can farm enemies. I think, outside the crafting (again, seriously, I quite liked that one) only the option to recycle primitive components was worthwhile, and then only because a lot of what I made used up my leather… without touching a ton of cloth I had no earthly use for.

 

Outside of combat, you have the usual adventure gamer system of quests and side quests. There were a lot of potential problems with the conversation system, as you select one of usually three very short phrases, and having your character expand on the concept. Frequently, this sort of thing leads to massive frustration as your character says something very different from your expectation. M:WL avoids this by putting a lot of effort into making the hero sound intelligent. Most other characters are not so snappy. There is a fair bit of reactivity to your choices, although a lot is… rather on rails. Only a few of the things you did in the prison matter outside of it. But then, it’s a prison break plot. After that, the game opens up dramatically in scope, in side-quests… and then, after you choose a faction and depart the city… you are back on rails. The game advertises a high degree of reactivity, with everything you say mattering… I’d qualify that some, as most of the payoff is in how a few dialogs play out.

 

You can never fully forget that this game is more of an indie title than AAA. The romance sub-plot was… thoroughly perfunctory. “Oh, I’m less horrifically maladjusted as a person now. Wanna… date?” “Eh, sure.” The final assault, running with the general to have a “chat” with the leader of the guild/nation… the general doesn’t have a nicer weapon than the usual salvage clubs? Some of the enemies have tasers, or guns more dangerous than the PC’s nailgun. (Which is solid enough with a few skill points.) I don’t care if he’s not a good fighter, the man should have something to swing that might not be an embarrassment in an armory.

 

Still, I’m incredibly impressed by what is present. Because, while it has clearly achieved the minimum necessary in several categories… it doesn’t fall farther. Yes, the companions could have some more dialog, and discourse, or react to one another in ways that would allow you to bring more than one along at a time. But that would be quite a bit more expensive. It scales geometrically with the number you bring, and the budget for this title capped at one. So we get to hang out with our choice of not-quite-trustworthy oddball, and hear them interject when it’s not entirely inappropriate. The zones are broken up by doors and ledges that not only allow for subtle terrain loading (more helpful on the consoles than my PC) but also teleport your companion to you, and are skippable cutscenes. It’s easy to get your companion pretty lost otherwise, because they stop moving when you sneak… so as to avoid screwing up your chances at ambushing most of an area. AI’s functional, although, if you bring the technomancer, and she’s getting ready to fire the shockwave… DODGE. The game makes her take longer on that for your benefit. They can’t make the AI smarter on the cheap. It can’t stop an attack queued if you finish a foe before it gets back to its feet… but they can give you warning for the one attack that’s friendly fire. Keeping your buddy AI from getting stuck if you stealth over half a map and then stand up. But it can move them to you when you go through a door. Cheap solutions to thorny programming problems.

These clever dodges combined with a system that very cleverly expands the scope of your abilities without the linear scaling issue of the usual RPG… a combat system that is fluid, modifiable, and tactical… with a reason to bother, as you are outnumbered and can be staggered… a plot that’s fairly sharp, and not quite as predictable as I’d imagined… and you have a game that’s about half as deep as the average Bioware game, with a lower price tag. A good buy, with the only caveat being some rather lame voice acting in some of the tertiary cast. And a terribly shrill potential love interest. Still better than ye olde Resident Evil.

Alan Wake: Review

You know… “horror” is a very hard thing to produce. Sure, you can give people tension. You can give frustration without even half trying. Humor’s well studied, if a bit hit-or-miss. But horror has one major problem when you try to put it in a videogame… specifically, you can’t die.  The absolute worst thing that will happen to your character if you badly err is that you will have to make another attempt at the section. No amount of ambiance, nor shock, nor exposition shall ever change this aspect of gaming.

Now, for a more complete review, I did play, not just the basic game, but the “Nightmare” difficulty level. This is coloring my perspective, as I wasn’t going to sit through every cutscene, read through every bit of exposition… I just bulled through in the version where the monsters had about twice the health.

Now, when I first played this game through, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Okay, it’s ripping off the primary gameplay mechanic of “Obscure” with monsters that have shadow-based armor and light strips it. And even the insane “boosting” of flashlight beams. As combat mechanics go, it’s not exactly overused. Although there is certainly some room for refinement. In this case, the enemies do not lose health from being shot until light strips off their smoky armor. To remove it, shine a light. Make it bright. When it’s on target, a bit of faux lens flare shrinks until the armor goes out with a bright flash. Also, there’s a high-pitched hiss as it’s burned off. Bit like nails on chalkboard. This rather replaces any ambient music you would normally have to indicate combat.

Adorably, the enemies do not like having light shone upon them, and will back away, strafe… and eventually put an arm up to shield their eyes and advance on you anyway. This is actually a fairly useful way to stun them briefly without wasting precious ammo. Just remember to turn down the high beams when they put their arm up so they’ll drop it and you can blind ’em again. 😀

There’s a nice, brief variety of tools. Flares for extra light that forces foes back as it dents their armor. Revolver, shotgun, pump shotgun, hunting rifle… because making the horror vulnerable still means you have to kill it! And then we get the useful weapons. Flashbangs that you throw badly that are like IFF-capable grenades. And a flare gun that works a lot like a missile launcher, and leaves a flare effect at the point of impact. And the odd explodable tank that can be shot for a nice firework effect… a few searchlights that are a bit like machine gun emplacements… and tons of generators that turn on one light to save your ass.

The most fascinating aspect of the game’s limited weapon system is that they take it all away from you frequently. Since you can’t be sure (on the first playthrough) how long you get to hold those nice weapons… use ’em or lose ’em. This forced me to play a lot less conservatively than my usual. And made the game a lot easier. I usually try to get by as much as I can with pistols, melee… whatever won’t run out of ammo soon. This is, of course, stupid, and gets you killed when you’re facing more than one foe.

The plot rather rips off In the Mouth of Madness. Fun little flick… about a writing project gone inadvertently eldritch, surreal, and omnipotent. You find pages of the manuscript that controls and foretells the game events as you play, and so do other characters. This is at least a new form of the old audio log exposition method. It rewards the observant player with information on scenes not visited, or yet to occur.

The bit that truly surprised me about this game; was its writing. The characters get good lines, the voice actors deliver well, and the overall intent is for you to enjoy meeting these folks. Your colorful sidekick isn’t a worthless idiot, though he is used to comedic effect. He’s not a bumbling fool, but a good-hearted friend to your character. The brief stretches of the game where you have companions, they’re armed, carry flashlights, and kick ass.

Although, the game premise of having the plot written by a sleep-deprived, madness-touched author in one week does excuse some of the comically lampshaded bits, like the sheriff brushing off your inquiry as to why she has a key to the bookstore (you have to go through, the roads are blocked!). Though it does suffer from a few instances where the characters absolutely must go the long way around because there’s a 3′ fence in the way.

There are a couple bits that disappoint. First, after beating the game in either normal or hard mode, you unlock Nightmare. Which gives the wee perk of letting you collect the rest of the manuscript. A few pages in each level just aren’t there in the lesser difficulties. After collecting them… I can’t see why they bothered. Half were song lyrics and poems already in the game… only a couple really added anything. It was a bit like deleted scenes on a DVD. Some of them, you can see exactly why the darned things were deleted.

Next disappointment, is in the DLC. One’s out. Another’s due. And the thing that’s going to be put in the one that’s not out yet? The ending.

No, seriously. An ending. The game we have so far is, like a lot out of hollywood, cut off at the climax. No “happily ever after”. Well, it’s actually horror genre. Make that no “Oh no. Please for the love of God no!” ever after.

The first DLC adds a chapter. Couple cute gameplay elements with shining a light on floating words to create things… like a minefield of “bad words”. The problem is that the plot never really goes anywhere or resolves anything. It’s a fantastic production of… filler.

Curiously, we have a story about a horror story with the ending not yet written… and the ending to it hasn’t yet been written. : So… incomplete review, for now. I’ll just have to leave you hanging in-

Amnesia: The Dark Descent review

Yes, this is another of those cliched tropes where the main character starts out with a bad case of “WTF just happened to me?” At least this time around it’s not the product of a blow to the head. It’s self-inflicted, via… well, magic potion, basically.

But for a good reason.

No, seriously. There was a good reason for your character to drink a vial of “fuggedabowdit” and leave a note saying “If I can still read English after that, I need me to kill the guy that owns this creepy-ass castle. He’s in the Inner Sanctum. Best of luck. Trust me, I’m you.”

Now, being the clever fellow that I am, I stared at that for a while and realized my character’s prior self was a bit of an idiot. No map whatsoever to navigate through this crumbling castle. No confidence on his part that there’d even be much of a mind left to follow instructions…

And it hit me. Whether or not my mission is a success or not is immaterial to my past self. He wasn’t trying to win. He was trying to commit suicide by killing who he had become!

And on that, you embark on a horror game, a quest of discovery and redemption… taunted by semi-hallucinatory revelations and memories… and an encroaching unreality as the world itself grows grotesque crimson tumors that hurt to touch.

This isn’t your typical survival horror game as brought to you by… Capcom. How Resident Evil ever became the brand name for the genre escapes me. This game has atmosphere. It has style. The voice acting is good. The writing is good. (Not great, but good.) RE games give you “horror” by giving you barely enough ammo for an action game. I call BS. This game gives you NO ammo. No weapons. You aren’t a fighter. You aren’t capable of going up against even one shambling horror from beyond. You are just barely up to hiding in a dark closet and praying the bad thing leaves on its own.

The key question to me, with this type of story, is whether or not the payoff lives up to the buildup. And it has actually a very good buildup. Unfortunately, what’s difficult to detect is that the actual payoff/climax is in the final scrap of diary that explains why you took the amnesia tonic. The three endings available to you in the final confrontation are simply a choice and three sets of consequences… and this being a horror game, it’s fair that even the best ending is not necessarily good.

Unfortunately, this sort of game is not for everyone. The… I hesitate to say “combat” with reference to the frantic scramble that follows an encounter with a monster; from the perspective of the monster, it is combat, so we’ll go with that. When you see a monster, your vision blurs due to insanity effects (the mind does not wish to see!) and your only hope is to shut a door between yourself and it, then hide for a bit.

So the most action the game has to offer, really, is you staring at the wall of your hiding space, hoping you don’t give your position away, and hoping the foe leaves before you go insane or it kills you.

Needless to say, while this is quite effective at producing tension, after you figure out good hiding spaces in the level, it’s boring as fuck.

Of course, when you find out your hiding space is inadequate… then you get shaken out of your boredom quite effectively. The atmosphere, noncombat mechanics, and sheer deadliness of everything that isn’t you combine well to induce adrenaline in those moments. And since this trick only works when you’re not used to it, the paucity of foes keeps it pretty fresh.

The puzzles are generally along the lines of finding things in one area and using them to reassemble something in another area so that you can reach the next area. With a few twists here and there. The game has a physics engine, but seems to leave it for immersion instead of puzzles. It was refreshing to see a barrier in the form of a raised bridge… and to simply throw a rock at the chain holding it to release it.

Those puzzles that are tricky to solve typically have nice “hints” in the various papers lying about. Either they refer to the plot or puzzle solutions. So if it’s not disturbing, it must be useful!

That covers the important bits. The game’s big “I’m different!” draw is the use of the mouse as a sort of physics gesture tool. You want to open a drawer? Click on it and drag it out. Same for doors, levers… everything, really. Need to break loose a pipe? Bend it back and forth a bit. Need to crowbar open a stiff door? Set the crowbar and PULL.

The not-so different, your character is afraid of the dark. Understandable for a number of reasons. You have 4 options. Stay in well-lit areas. Pull out your lamp with limited oil. Use a tinderbox (a WHOLE tinderbox) to light one unlit item in the area. Or run through and accept the “temporary” loss of sanity. Insanity mostly just makes the screen shift a bit, and late in the game, you get effects like bugs crawling in the monitor.

Is it worth getting? Well… that depends on your character. If you need violence in your videogames, avoid. If you like horror and being made uncomfortable through good storytelling, come on down!

Risen! PC Game Review

I’d like to take a moment to tell you about Gothic. Crazy German RPG from a few years back, with an amazing take on action-adventure-rpgs. It wasn’t trying to be an RPG. It seriously had the bare minimum. You had hp, mp, strength, dex… 4 weapon skills, and a handfull of one-off abilities you could buy up like lockpicking, or harvesting trophies from critters. The weapons did get better, but the wielder is what was deadly.

The focus wasn’t so much on the RPG elements. It was on the world. You were set loose on a valley without any reason to care about anyone in it. Your quests often had multiple outcomes based on who you were willing (or eager) to screw over.

There was so much to do that you could play for days without even needing to mess with the main plot. Before you ever had to embark on saving anyone, you got to know the world.

The sequel, Gothic II, was a masterpiece. Sidequests were deep, varied, and kept cropping up throughout the game. Which makes sense, since you really can’t drive off robed mystery men from a man’s home until after they’ve invaded. It even had a good reason for playing the same character back at level 1 again… it took a few weeks to rescue you from the first game, and you were half-mad and half-starved from being trapped in rubble.

The 3rd game in the series… first change in the engine… and it sucked. The combat was tied to the animations, and they couldn’t change the animations by the time they figured out they’d built a set of rules where a wolf could juggle a seasoned fighter to death. Players feared barks, and would be relieved by a mere combat with dragons. They fight fair, flamethrower notwithstanding.

A few too many corners were cut. The game had clearly shipped on time, but at a brutal cost. Still, the quests kept their depth. And if you were willing to put up with a horrible combat system, the game did yield a truly impressive level of control over the fate of the world. Be a champion of light? Dark? Or go with the bright idea the necromancer has and kick all the gods out of the world, and forget this whole “every thousand years” war BS.

This brings me to Risen. Clearly by the same guys that brought us the first Gothic game. Since the combat isn’t broken by bad animation, it’s a much better game than their next most recent offering. But it does have a few problems. I can’t complain about the combat system, although it’s gotten a bit more depth. There are now 3 melee weapons skills to go with the 2 ranged ones, and raising skill gives you more maneuvers and lets you use a shield with even two-handed weapons.

The quest log has a button you can hit to see map locations for any given quest (if given). Always a nice touch.

The problem I had with the game wasn’t the combat, or the magic systems… or the (limited) crafting.

The problem I had was with the sidequests. But it’s a difficult thing to address. You have to understand that this is a game that gives you an open world at the outset. The only limitation to where you can go is what’s going to kill you. A bit of training and a lot of prudence (and cunning use of sheer cowardice) can allow you to go virtually anywhere from the beginning. So it’s quite simple to end up doing some parts of some quests quite out of order.

And that means that, while it doesn’t really break a plot to have you gather up vital macguffins ahead of time… the game does give you the quest update whether or not you’d started it. It’s not a terribly subtle way of saying “This seems important!” Also, it’s not possible to cover absolutely every permutation… so you get some very odd responses if you do things in a particular order.

One very beautiful quest line involves a pirate’s daughter. She’s looking for her father…’s treasure. So’s another pirate. At one point, you split up, and of course, she’s captured. You get to play Russian roulette with trapped chests (and a set of clues to tell which ones not to pick) and bring out the reward (including a main plot macguffin) to exchange for the girl’s location. All anybody really wants is the map to the other treasure hauls around the various islands. I don’t dig the ransom thing, so as soon as I had the key to the girl’s cell and her location… I slew five pirates and took the map back.

Problem was… when I rescued her, my side of the conversation said “I gave him the map.” She was a bit put out by this. Then I got the option to say “I got the map.” It was more than a little clunky, and it felt as though that method of resolving the quest should have been accounted for in the dialog.

Still, for the most part, as long as you aren’t expecting as much in the way of conversation options as previous games covered, it’s an awesome romp in a not-quite-standard RPG realm. There are some curious design choices… like, even if you are a mage, the endgame fight is basically Zelda. You use a shield to reflect glowies back at the boss, run up and hit him. Repeat. Try not to fall into the volcano. Your entire game’s combat practice is irrelevant, because someone wanted the end-game boss to be “different”, I guess.

A graphical glitch also marred my enjoyment. The sky would tend to flicker through day and night quite spastically. A quick internet search revealed a need to upgrade my graphics drivers. No problem. It worked nicely… for a while. A few days later, there are problems when moving into certain areas, causing the rapid flicker… and whatever time of day it stopped on when I left, all the NPCs would do whatever was appropriate then. If it stopped on night, they went to bed. If it stopped on day, they’d go to work. That’s… more than mere graphics at fault. Worse, the game eventually froze on midnight and refused to budge from there. I had to wake people up to complete quests… despite the risk of retaliation from trespassing.

Some who have played this game confessed disappointment to me… because the sheer volume of sidequests at the outset set an expectation… that there would be more as the main plot progressed. This was proven wrong, obviously. Only a few important threads tied into the main plot and were developed in the later chapters. I believe it has something to do with the design philosophy. The quests are things to do, and they’re scattered around the island. You are the only one determining how fast you plow through them. You alone determine if there are any left before you advance the main plot. It is like hunting down all the hidden packages in GTA before doing the second mission. Nobody forced you to do it in that order.

And that’s something most players don’t get out of an RPG… choice. It’s not even implemented particularly satisfyingly here, in all cases. It’s usually between two sides, and eventually just becomes a linear progression towards an inevitable destiny. Which… actually… is the theme.

Still, good to see these crazy guys are still working, still pounding out… well, it’s basically refurbished Gothic 1. But that was still better than 3, so… yay!

(Note, the above review contains spoilers. If you wanted to avoid them, you should have looked at the end of the review first, since that’s all you’d care about.)

Zombie pay-for-play?

I am going to link to a flash game that breaks my heart: Zombie Assault 2 – Insane Asylum.

This is zombie survival with guns and upgradable barriers. I”d rather like to know how the zombies manage to carry cash, and what agency it is that sells you barrier upgrades that you have to fix your own self. But anyway, it”s a rather bog-standard mix of frenetic shooting, base defense, and upgrading your offense and defense to survive upgrading waves of undead. It”s a good formula. The mix this time around is needing cash to add on to the map, to find… well, it”s not the weapons themselves, like I”d expect. It”s an outline of the weapon that lets you buy them from the shop. Like pieces of a picture-menu for a mute customer.

At first glance, it”s a horrid trade-off. You buy, essentially, an increasing number of ways for zombies to enter. Some do not even allow barricades. Fortunately, the undead are stupid and stick with their assigned doors, even walking past an already-smashed barrier to beat upon one that had caught their fancy. The number of undead in each wave is static. These two details mean that you have spread out the zombie problem, so your barriers should last a bit longer. The kitchen and adjacent… porch-y area give vital obstacles to run around, exposing flaws in zombie pathfinding I haven”t needed to exploit since Lode Runner. (look it up, whipper-snappers!)

The undead themselves are a fun mix of speeds, toughness, and special effects. Clowns which are nearly unkillable… save for their own detonations a few seconds after they run near you and root themselves in place. Big beefy meat-cleaver wielders that have a few mutant tapeworms to share with you on their death. And even some demon-y guy who likes to chuck eldritch fire at you. The best bit is that you have some warning. The game”s sound effects include screeches and chilling clown laughs to let you know what a given wave is about to throw at you. But not from which direction… so that you might decide if you are using a good weapon for the upcoming problem.

All that is to the good, believe it or not. Each element listed enhances the experience. Even the pathing issues, as the difficulty is high enough to where exploiting the AI isn”t any guarantee of victory… just a slight edge.

Difficulty, as in all of this class of game, comes from a simple source… you need to buy things, and you don”t know what will help you survive until it”s too late to spend the money elsewhere. As you are spending the exact same cash on expanding your living space that you do on weapons… it becomes even more of a challenge. It is simpler if you know which areas contain which… uh, weapon potentials? Menu items? So you simply do not get to know what”s even available on the first playthru, until you have unlocked the entire map.

You do start off with the ability to buy better barricades tho. Which are repaired to full health instantly, by walking up to one and tapping a key. However… upgrading this to the point where the barriers will damage the zombies that bash them costs as much as the mid-range weapons… and represents the game”s obvious tipping point. If you get the barricades to full, and the map unlocked, you can hold off quite a lot. A sentry gun or two would also make it possible to survive to the endgame.

This is also the point the game appears calibrated to leave slightly out of reach. I”m not saying it”s impossible… there”s bound to be some cryptic range of upgrading and ultimate zombiefighting that allows a human player to survive. But the difficulty of the game… even with health restored between waves, the bulk of players are going to be stymied just short of being able to balance themselves against the ever-steepening difficulty.

Which is where the game promptly decides to break my heart.

You can register yourself with the game”s handlers to unlock a persistant profile, so your XP and character perks don”t go away (the shop and inventory is reset every time tho. Sorry!). And you are given a couple “premium” items for free. Few extra grenades, a rifle that”s quite a bit better than the starter pistol… and this brings you to the bloody shop. Don”t get me wrong. I am not opposed to paying money for a game. Good games are awesome, and worth supporting. This game is playable for free… but you pay to unlock certain… perks. For real cash, you can lower the difficulty of the game. There”s weapons ranging from autoshotguns to proton オンライン カジノ packs. Permanent boosts to damage, armor, health regen, and bonus income from zombie kills. You can buy the whole set of upgrades for $10 or $15 if you”re getting them individually. Clever pricing scheme, since $5 is the minimum, and would give you the most critical upgrades. But for twice the price, you can have it all. Nice marketing.

Now, if they had made this a bit like shareware, so that I were unlocking, say, an end-game boss… I could dig it. The thing that sends me into a bit of disgust is not that they are charging for the games… they are charging for things that lower the difficulty. This disgusts me. Thoroughly.

Some of you don”t need this explained to you, so I”ll try to be brief. Games used to come with a range of difficulty. There would be an easy mode so that you could experience the bulk of the game, but you wouldn”t be trying very hard. There might be a hellfire and brimstone mode where it would take weeks of training to survive the game… maybe in order to get a different ending. The ending wouldn”t really be all that great, but the elation of finally getting there… to no longer be banging your head against a bit wall in a silicon prison… that would give a giddy rush and instant bragging rights. And anyone sane would have long since found that one guy who could beat it, and watch them do it, so they wouldn”t actually have to.

But you didn”t pay money to make the game easier.

MMOs spend countless hours trying to destroy the practice of “Gold Farming”, wherein real money is exchanged for in-game currency, to allow for purchases that the player hasn”t earned. Ostensibly, you are outsourcing the grinding of the game. Frankly, the games are a bit grind-tastic, and like to keep you from having “fun” as much as possible… but the efforts to stop this industry are due to very real issues of in-game inflation (which puts prices so high that new players cannot buy any upgrades with their hard-earned cash) and of the farming activities crowding out “legitimate” gamers from vital resources.

These are beside the point, but I cannot truly express the outrage I feel without giving them as perspective.

The actual practice of requiring a player to spend money on lowering the difficulty level, and increasing fun… goes against good game design. It”s also a hideous business practice. You end up with a paying customer base of gamers who may be obsessive, but certainly do not have the skill it takes to conquer your game without your little perks… so every single customer is going to be ultimately dissatisfied with the experience, because they will know they couldn”t have beaten the game on their own. They are paying to cheat themselves of the very illusion of victory these games use as a reward for playing.

From a business perspective, you are giving yourself customers who will be disillusioned by the very game they bought into… which can”t do future sales much good. From a game designer”s perspective, I look at this and feel that there was a lot of playtesting put into making the difficulty exactly right… so the game will be addicting but impossible without paying, for most customers. The gaming purist in me scoffs at spending money to gain an edge in a game. The smart shopper who once bought a gameshark figures the price point is WAY off for cheats (But not bad for buying a full game of this type). The casual gamer in me… is intrigued, but not going to spend money when I have a book I could be reading.

I”m not sure what the target market is for this experiment, but as a mutation of the old shareware model, I can”t help but think it”s headed down the old Darwinian path.