Bastion Game Review: Short and Sweet

About two weeks ago I put up my first impressions of this game. Now I’ve completed the story mode, what are my final thoughts on the game?

Review:

Because I’ve already done my basic impressions of the game, I’m going to put this in a straight plus/minus format. I will admit that even though I finished the story, that opened up other play modes and things that I have yet to try.

Plus +

The artwork and music are adorable in this game. They both work really well. It is visually interesting and while the music may get a little repetitive toward the end of the story campaign, it really suits the game itself and adds to a very immersive experience.

Minus –

All up, I completed the story campaign in just under 10 hours. That’s with my save disappearing midway along and having to restart as well as some random deaths due to being overly curious about what might happen if. Basically, I probably could have finished this several hours before I did if I’d actually just focussed on finishing the story. That’s kind of a problem given I’m not that good at games and I really should take awhile to finish them. While I feel I got my money’s worth out of this game, I bought it on sale and I don’t know that I’d feel as happy about the value for money if I’d paid full price.

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Plus +

While the story is relatively linear, the end does give you a two choices which I assume changes the ending in some meaningful way (or at least gives you a different closing monologue). That’s kind of made me curious enough that I want to play through again just to make different choices and see what happens. It is a very minor thing and it would have been nice if earlier on you’d been given some choices. Still, it was kind of nice at the end to feel like you controlled how it played out.

Minus –

The final level firstly adds a hop mechanic making a whole section of the level a platformer. Yet the visuals and the controls don’t really allow for the kind of precision that would make platforming fun and given you hadn’t had to do this the entire rest of the game just felt like a way to stretch out the final level and add a level of irritation to the process. The second thing is that it then swaps out all of your weapon choices for the battering ram. While that is a very cool weapon, I’m left wondering why I spent all that time training and levelling up the rest of my equipment if they were just going to leave me with a new and random weapon right at the end.

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Plus +

I’ll just say it, this is a fun game. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Other than a few random gimmicks in the last level, it doesn’t overly clutter itself with unnecessary mechanics. The story works and the narration, while not as great as I might have been lead to believe was certainly enjoyable to listen to. Basically, I play games for fun and this one managed to give me hours of fun (though also not as many hours as I would have liked).

Minus –

While at first it seems like the range of enemies is pretty good, they all have more or less the same attack patterns. This game ups difficulty by adding more enemies onto the screen but once you get the canon that just makes it amusing to see how many enemies you can simultaneously wipe out. Basically, the difficulty in this game isn’t very high and it doesn’t really do anything to make it more difficulty. Plus, the attack patterns are very repetitive so once you’ve chosen your favourite combination of gear you will slip in a fairly straight pattern of attack yourself.

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Overall, this was a fun game experience and as I said, on finishing and watching the credits through, I have unlocked some other stuff which I’ll have to get in and try, but I’m pretty happy with this steam sale purchase.


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Initial Thoughts on Bastion

Before I went on a bit of a break, Steam was having a sale (a fact that pretty much everyone on Twitter kept reminding me about so against my better judgement I checked it out). One of the many games I picked up during the sale was Bastion. A game I’d watched many people play through parts of it, read and watched reviews of, and had always been kind of interested in but never gotten around to actually buying and playing. My question going in was whether the game would live up to the hype around it.

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The answer is yes and no.

One of the things that was emphasised about this game in a lot of the reviews was the narration and how clever it was, how it responded to what the player was doing, how funny it was, etc. While I will admit I’ve enjoyed the narration, given the story is fairly linear, in even levels don’t offer a lot of choice about where to go or what to do, the narration hasn’t really matched expectations of great game narration set by games like The Stanley Parable that truly managed to make the narrator feel like someone watching the game. At times the narrator in Bastion prompts your actions by telling you what you need to do and this sometimes happens when I’m in the process of wondering what would happen if I did something else (usually something stupid but I like trying things in games just to see what happens). It is like the narrator is drawing me out of the game I want to play and leading me along a prescribed path. Though there are other times where the narrator clearly responded to my actions like when it mocked me for attacking every single plant on the screen like I was going to win a prize (who knows, I might have).

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Outside of the narration, Bastion is a pretty straight forward set up for a game. You wake up (an unnamed kid) in a world that has suffered some sort of calamity. As you start to walk, a path appears. Once you get to the end of the first area you go to a hub world where you slowly rebuild the world as you collect various bits and pieces. This sounds like you’d have some freedom of travel but there are seldom many choices of where to travel from the hub world with only one or two new areas opening at any one time.

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You also collect a range of weapons and skills which you can try out different combinations on but pretty much once you find a combo that works for your playing style you kind of stick with it for most the levels. Then the game decides it doesn’t want you doing that and some levels you will find new weapons which are then automatically fitted and you can’t change your weapon selection without visiting a specific building either in the hub world or if you are lucky enough to find one in the level. Sometimes this serves a practical purpose as you need that new weapon for an enemy coming up, but other times it leaves you playing awkwardly and stumbling along until you can switch out to your usual gear.

The game is also incredibly easy. Deaths are few and far between and the consequences for death pretty non-existent other than level progress being lost but the levels are so short that isn’t a drama. And it acknowledges that the game is easy by offering the chance to pray to various gods which might make the enemies stronger or more resistant to physical attacks or whatever in exchange for more experience. If you die while the idols are making the game harder, when you restart the level it offers to turn this off or allows you to start with the penalties still in place.

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For all that though, the story being woven by the narrator about the world before the calamity is kind of compelling and while the narration may not be mind blowing, it is really easy on the ears while playing and you can kind of get caught up in just listening to the story and forget what you are actually doing. It is also a really pretty game to look at although at times it is difficult to see which direction the path is going (leading to the occasional plummet into thin air – though the consequences of plummeting are pretty low so have at it).

Basically, I’m having a lot of fun working my way through the story and while I might like it to be a bit more challenging and the narration is not as good as my expectations would have led me to believe it should be, I’m really glad I picked this up. Hopefully I’ll finish the story and review the whole game eventually.


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FFX Thoughts on Replay

There’s this thing about replaying an old game where you suddenly notice everything that was wrong with it originally that you didn’t notice the first time (or overlooked) because at the time it was amazingly gorgeous and the story was fresh. But when you know the plot, every plot twist, and the graphics no longer hold up, even after being remastered, the actual game has to stand on its own. While FFX is still a reasonably fun game some of its flaws are definitely more irritating this time around.

Originally I played this game on the PS2 and its one of the few PS2 games I completed (at least twice all the way through). It really was a beautiful game. And, in fairness, the remastered PC version still has absolutely beautiful cut scenes, and then there’s everything else.

I’ve stopped playing this in full screen mode for two reasons. One, it looks even more hideous when it is spread across the entire monitor. Two, despite providing a function to skip some cut scenes, it never lets you skip the ones you need to. You know, like the ones right before a fight with Seymour that is so much harder than every other fight you’ve had that you are pretty unprepared for it and end up dying over and over. Which means sitting through that cheesy dialogue in the cut scene over and over.

There was a reasonably easy solution to this. Stop plunging into the fight until I did some grinding and levelled my characters up but this brings out the other issue I’ve encountered with the game. The enemies you fight as you move around the world are ridiculously easy. And then the boss fights are ridiculously difficult compared. We get that a boss is supposed to be challenging but when he can instantly K.O 5 out of 7 of your characters with one attack it really doesn’t leave you many options on attack formations. Hence the grinding to get the other characters to a point where they might be all wobbly but at least they won’t keel over from a single hit.

But this breaks the narrative. Utterly and completely. We’re heading to Zanarkand to get the final Aeon, etc, etc, so sure we’ll waste some time running up and down a mountain fighting low level enemies that we can mostly defeat in one hit just to unlock one more health sphere in the sphere grid. That makes sense.

Anyway, after finally getting through that battle and moving on the issue becomes that now my characters are even more ridiculously overpowered when facing random encounters which makes them kind of pointless. The version I’m playing has the ability to turn these off, or if you are grinding up the frequency so you don’t have to walk so far, but you don’t get any experience if you turn them off and if you aren’t grinding why on earth would you want a random encounter every other step.

I still love the story of FFX and enjoy watching the characters grow, but the game itself hinders the progression of the story at times, unnecessarily so, and that takes a bit of the fun out of it. I’d still recommend FFX as one of the better Final Fantasy games (of course I’ve only ever completed two of them, I usually drop them at the mid-way point because I just get bored), but as a game itself I’m not sure it has lasting appeal. That said, I’m not through the replay yet and hopefully I’ll reach the end within a couple of months and can think about my final thoughts on this game.


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Tomb Raider 2013 Game Review

Overview:

A reboot of the original series looking at the origins of Lara Croft. You will start the game struggling with basic skills but by the end you will be an arrow shooting mass-murderer (who of course is on the side of justice).

Review:

As a massive fan of the original Tomb Raider games I was kind of excited about the thought of a new one with more modern graphics and game play. The fact that it was an origin story was kind of ho-hum because it meant a lot of grinding to gain skills that you were just used to having when playing as Lara, but still the thought of this game filled me with excitement. That said, with the price of it and the various reviews, I didn’t end up buying or playing this game until 2015.

Here’s the thing about playing games on Steam (or most modern systems) compared to the old days of CD’s and the like. Steam tells you how long you’ve played a game. Even with my 100% completionist mentality and refusal to leave the forest until I’d found that one last charm, I have clocked exactly 16 hours in this game. Story finished. Most areas cleared of most collectables (one or two exceptions that I just gave up on because they really weren’t making collecting things worth the effort). I will admit I only unlocked half the achievements, again because they just don’t seem worth the effort it would take to do it.

16 hours. I put 49 into Plants vs Zombies before I gave it up as entirely repetitive.

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This isn’t really saying there is anything wrong with the story, or the game play, or the visuals, or anything else, but when I purchase a game, particularly an adventure game, I kind of expect to be adventuring for a bit longer than 16 hours. So that’s my major issue with this experience on the table.

However, this issue stems from a slightly deeper issue. The game is too easy. I openly admit to not being good at computer games. I enjoy them, but I die, a lot, even in games that aren’t Dark Souls. I died once while playing Tomb Raider. Once. And that was because of outside interference (cat jumped on keyboard). Okay, there may have been a second death when I missed a quick time event. If I’m smashing through this game with almost no challenge, there’s a real issue with the difficulty of the game. The original Tomb Raider games were brutal (or at least for my skill level). Death could occur at any time and it could come from the most pathetic sources imaginable (though mostly lack of depth perception and timing).

Nonetheless, this game isn’t bad. It looks great, the controls are responsive enough, there’s a variety of settings even though you are essentially stuck on an island, and you upgrade weapons and equipment at a steady enough pace so you don’t feel like things are being withheld for the sake of it. At the same time, upgrades might be too easily accessible and I never really seemed to run out of items or have to look hard for them.

Lara is a little bit of a hard character to like. She isn’t the confident and overly cocky character we knew from the old games but is finding her way there. At various points she seems to take charge and tell the other survivors what they are going to do or volunteers to be the one to do something when you have to wonder if there is any reason it has to be Lara other than she’s the protagonist. Still, it is kind of awesome watching her find her feet in the situation she finds herself in.

As to the actual story itself, it works. It does. I just can’t recall what the overall point of it was because it was also fairly forgettable. Mostly you are on an island and stranded but the other inhabitants of the island keep kidnapping and trying to kill you or your friends. There’s a greater mystery that Lara is trying to unravel but that is really all there is to the story.

I think fans of the original games will get a good nostalgia trip with just enough novelty to make this worth while, but you need to go in knowing this is not a challenging game nor is it going to be one you can settle in to play for months because the story is going to come to an end and replay value is minimal.

What are your thoughts on this game?


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No Man’s Sky – The Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve written of my brave adventures exploring the galaxy, universe, small speckles on a screen in a computer game, and now of course we have that update. All these new features and things to do and see. The question becomes will it make any difference.

I’ll go through the changes I’ve noticed since the update in a bit but I’ll draw the conclusion now. People who were still playing and enjoying No Man’s Sky will have found a new love for it and continue as they were testing out the new features as they explore. People who’d moved on probably won’t come back for this. Because while there are a few novelties here the essential game play remains the same and it really is up to you to create the story you want to follow as you explore.

What has changed?

Well, I now get a shiny warning every single time I try to launch the game that my PC isn’t up to recommended specs. I knew my PC was barely capable of running the game and that I’m playing with most the settings turned right down just to keep it functional but this update has pushed it further and now feels the need to tell me every launch that maybe I shouldn’t be trying to play.

Thanks for that.

Ignore. Launch anyway.

We now get a menu straight up to choose a mode of play. I’ll be honest and point out I have yet to try either of the new play methods because I like the exploration that I was playing so they’ve yet to be touched though I assume eventually I’ll check them out. All this menu really does is means I can’t launch the game and then go get a drink while it loads because I have to wait for the menu, select the game mode, and then go get the drink while the game loads. Did I mention how much I love changes to games I actually liked? All these extra steps have really value added to my playing experience.

Okay, enough complaining about that. Let’s look at the game itself. We can now find habitable bases and claim one for our very own. Yes, you can claim ownership of a planet through claiming a base and then you can build (assuming you have collected sufficient materials). You can then install a builder, a weapons guy, a scientist, and a farmer and they can give you all manner of things to improve your experience. In theory. Mostly what they do is send you on fetch quests and even after my limited play time both weapons guy and builder have told me they have nothing new to teach me. So why are you still hanging around my base? Waiting for the next update so you can give me some other random missions?

This is actually not a terrible addition to the game because you can completely ignore this aspect of it once you get the improved laser and the hazmat gauntlet (and you do need both or the vast majority of materials are going to be off limits now including some minerals you could mine before because now you need an advanced laser to mine them). Or you can teleport from any space station back to your base to check in on your happy family, build some storage sheds and do a couple of fetch quests before returning to whatever space station in whatever system you were in and getting back to whatever else you might like to do.

There’s also a whole bunch of new things to collect and some of these are a pain in the neck to find (read I spent nine hours trying to find an underwater plant for a particular substance, finally found it and was still three units short of being able to build the thing I was aiming for). And that brings me to the next point.

Resources are much harder to come by now. Before you were tripping over plutonium and titanium and whatever else and now you can walk a long time without a single glimpse. The exotic resources are scarce and even when you find them the quantity of some of these resources are very low (rare actually means rare now). Also, the bases and drop pods and things you used to trip over every five minutes on a planet are now really few and far between. This is countered by the fact that you can now build your own save station (for the cost of some resources) so expect to literally wander around without coming across anything of significance for ages. It makes exploration feel more authentic but when you finally realise you are sick of a planet and your space ship is at least forty minutes away it can be a little disheartening.

This one I’m not so sure about but it also feels like your jet pack isn’t as effective and that you run out of power for some of you engines and shields faster than before. At least I know I feel like I’m burning resources much faster than I was when travelling between planets. Also, your pulse engine now uses iron instead of whatever it used to use so expect to be blowing up a lot of rocks.

That said, I still haven’t managed to build an autonomous mining unit and I really want to get there (copper wire, why did it need copper wire). I haven’t built a landing pad yet. There’s a whole bunch of plants I haven’t planted yet and I haven’t got around to building a trade terminal so still plenty of things to do now that I have the designs and I just need to collect enough resources. I also haven’t managed to buy a freighter just yet (or hire, not sure which it is) and that is definitely next on my wish list of things to do. Still short a few units though because I object to destroying ecosystems for profit (small problem when your main source of income is mining).

Right, to sum up. I love this game. The new additions make some things harder and some things more fun. There’s certainly a really rich variety of things to look for and collect and as I said in the beginning, most of the basic game play didn’t change (except a few keyboard changes they made which drove me crazy until I got used to them and stopped hitting the build button when I wanted to change my laser). The base building has been fun and I’m in the process of deciding which flags I’d like to decorate my base with right after I put in windows everywhere (glass building is a pain).

Final Fantasy X Remastered Impressions

Yep, it’s impressions on a game because March Comes in Like a Lion didn’t have an episode this week.

I first played this on the playstation 2 quite a long time ago so I was kind of excited to see it available on Steam apparently remastered. I’m not very far into my play through at this point but there are a few things that I’m really enjoying about revisiting this game.

01. The characters are still as fun as ever. I always loved the cast of this game and the banter between the characters. Okay, some moments are pretty dreadful such as the Macarena joke (and I’m really hoping that the joke was something added to the dub and never appeared in the original script) but for the most part the exchanges between the characters are really entertaining.

02. I can actually turn off the random encounters. Normally you wouldn’t want to do this as you really need those encounters to get stronger but as you can’t save unless you reach a save sphere and sometimes those encounters really make the time you are stuck playing drag out, when you are ready to call it quits (or have to go somewhere) turning off the encounters and sprinting to the next save point is a fantastic feeling. I remember how many times I had to replay sections of the game on the playstation because I couldn’t save and had to stop.

03. I really just love the story in this game. It isn’t a pretty straight forward quest where we get a twist toward the end that fits perfectly with what you’ve been told about the world.

04. Given my last Final Fantasy game was XIII, I actually am enjoying this return to true turn based combat. Okay, the characters look silly as they stand and bob on the spot and wait for their turn but it at least let’s you think through your sequence of attacks and as you can see the order of attacks you can think through when to defend and when to strike and it becomes more tactical than button mash which I kind of enjoy.

I will review this game when I finish this play through (so a long time from now given I’m moving very slowly through it) and I also go X-2 with this which I’ve never played so I’m kind of looking forward to that. Probably the biggest issue I have is that visually some of the character faces and animations have not aged well. The cut scenes are gorgeous but the in-game stuff is not so crash hot these days. Basically, if you haven’t played a final fantasy game and you are interested, this one is pretty cheap and really fun.

 

The Stanley Parable Review

Right, so this is another one of my very rare non-anime related posts and yes it is on a game. If you don’t know about this game stick around and maybe I’ll convince you to check it out (even non-gamers can find something to love here).

Overview:

This is more of an interactive story where you play as the unseen Stanley and begin when he is in his office waiting for instructions that never come. At that point you have to start making choices. The thing is, the narrator will tell you what Stanley should be doing as you walk around and then you determine whether or not you follow that path or veer off. The narration then addresses your choice and leads you to the next fork in the road. That’s really all there is to this story. You walk, look, and listen, and come to one of several end points, all of which force you to question the choices you have made.

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Review:

I’m going to address the negative first and that way we’ll get it out of the way for when I start telling you why this game is amazing.

The biggest issue is the run time and how little replay value there is. When I played it, I completed every story path that I could find on my own (and then I googled to make sure I hadn’t missed any – even after finding the room that has all the story paths mapped out) and I’ve let friends walk a path or two on my Steam account just so they could experience it and I’ve still only got 5 hours sunk into this game. Compared with most games I buy (where I tend to sink 100 hours minimum into them) this is pretty short entertainment. With that said it probably means the asking price on Steam of $15 is something you need to seriously consider. Though I did get more time out of it than a movie and the price of going to the movies is comparative so maybe it’s all worked out.

The second issue I have with this game is that some of the endings kind of don’t let you know that you’ve reached the end of the road. You have but it isn’t clear and your left wondering if you need to restart or if there is another twist coming if you just wait and stare at the sparkling lights for a bit longer. Clarity that you had in fact reached the end would be a good thing.

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Onto the positives.

There is some really clever writing in the narration of this game. Okay, it’s snide and snarky, but the script is beautifully adapted to the different choices you make and it always gives you just enough information to know what you ‘should’ be doing as well as give you some sort of hint about what other possibilities might exist.

The choices are always clear and you are instantly rewarded for making a different choice by getting a very new bit of narration. The only issue with this is that some choices are further down the line so you have to replay previous choices to get to them so some of those earlier bits of narration get replayed a few too many times.

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There’s surprising depth to this story. It’s a story about free will but exercising free will in the game doesn’t necessarily lead you to any better conclusion.The very nature of who or what the narrator is, who Stanley is, what the company is; all of these are explored but never defined leaving you thinking long after playing. Despite saying there is surprising depth, there isn’t anything that we haven’t seen before. It’s just that they’ve managed to pack a lot of thought provoking ideas into a game that an average run through of one storyline will only take a few minutes. It’s impressive, really.

And still on the storylines, the endings are incredibly diverse. Everything from the morbid, the hopeful, the thought provoking, to the just plain strange. Each ending gives you something new to think about while pointing you in a new direction to go next time you play.

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It’s a game that works best when you know someone else who has played it or is playing it. The question of ‘did you try to save the baby’ and the why and why not argument could go on for a long time and asking someone if they ever just tried not answering the phone can lead to that frozen expression of someone who has just realised that there is a whole other possibility that they never even considered.

I thoroughly recommend this game and even the non-gamers out there can find something to love in the amusing script and strange journeys that The Stanley Parable will take you on.