Author Topic: Finished playing...  (Read 147271 times)

Winston

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Re: Finished playing...
« Reply #675 on: July 29, 2020, 01:34:49 PM »
The Last of Us Part II

In reviewing The Last of Us Part II, I’m going to do my best to avoid spoiling both that game and The Last of Us.

That’s not easy, because the first issue I’ll discuss is whether you can play The Last of Us Part II (tLoU2) without playing The Last of Us (tLoU) first. Strictly speaking, you can; all the major plot beats you need to know from the first game are recapped in the second one. However, these are emotional stories, and I think it will be hard to understand some of the character motivations in tLoU2 without making the journey with the characters in tLoU.

The Last of Us was set a couple of decades after a global pandemic (sigh) has ravaged the world. The disease is effectively a highly infectious zombie plague. The story of that game followed Joel, still dealing with the loss of his family, as he accompanies the young Ellie in a journey across a ravaged country in the hopes of curing the plague.

The Last of Us Part II picks up the story some years later. This time the viewpoint character is Ellie. She’s making her own cross-country journey across the apocalyptic landscape. The centerpiece of that journey is a detailed depiction of a ravaged Seattle. The game is similar to tLoU: she must deal with environmental puzzles, locate resources, and have encounters with both zombie and human enemies.

The publisher of both games, Naughty Dog, also publishes the Uncharted series. While the two series have some similarities (the way waves of enemies attack, many encounters can be handled by stealth), the mood of the games are completely different. Anyone looking for Indiana-Jones-style antics of the Uncharted games will be disappointed. The world of the tLoU games is grim, sad, terrible, and filled with loss and pain. There are occasional moments of joy in this world, but they are few.

The story of tLoU2 is more personal than the first game, but also more intense. Naughty Dog found a way to up the emotional stakes of tLoU2 without the dramatic world-changing potential of tLoU‘s plot.

Since my previous review was for the story-telling game Detroit: Become Human, I should clarify a couple of things:
  • There are no story choices in tLoU2 (or tLoU or the Uncharted games, for that matter). They are cinematic games, in that you play the game to go from one scene to another.
  • Combat is a major part of the game. You will have to develop tactics and tools to get through encounters with enemies.
  • Unlike a story-telling game or the Uncharted series, tLoU2 is build-up-your-character game. You search for materials to improve your character’s skills, crafting abilities, and weaponry. Some reviewers say tLoU2 took them 30 hours to play; it took me over 60, because I scoured the landscape for resources (and also chose the stealth approach for most encounters).
There’s one area in which The Last of Us Part II breaks new ground in video games: its accessibility support. There are many options to adjust the user interface for both the hearing and vision impaired. As always, I played the game in Easy difficulty, but I also turned on all the accessibility options. That puts the game in “Super Easy” difficulty; for example, you can’t accidentally jump off a height and hurt yourself, you can easily detect enemies at a distance, the enemies become “dumber”, you’re harder to detect when you’re sneaking around, and you hear sounds whenever you’re near a resource.

For my part, in “Super Easy” mode I didn’t have much problem playing the game. There was only one encounter (about 2/3rds of the way through the story) in which I was so challenged that I had to consult on-line hints to figure out what to do.

The look and feel of The Last of Us Part II has improved over its predecessor. The PS4 is an aging platform and will be supplanted by the PS5 in the next few months, but during the platform’s lifetime Naughty Dog has learned how to squeeze every bit of graphics performance of of it. (The human figures in Detroit: Become Human looked better, but the landscapes and environments are better in tLoU2.)

I keep comparing tLoU2 to Detroit: Become Human, mainly because of how the story is presented. In Detroit, I had choices. In tLoU2, there are none; you take what is shown to you. There were several times during the game when I almost shouted at the screen, “Why are you doing this? This is incredibly stupid! Get a life, or at least get therapy, dammit!” But I had to follow along the self-destructive path of the character. This is a indeed the classical definition of a tragedy.

If you liked The Last of Us, I think playing The Last of Us Part II is a natural continuation of the experience. The reverse is also true: if you found tLoU to be too grim then tLoU2 is more of the same. If you’re willing to experience a powerful story and enjoy combat challenges, I think both games are worth playing. If you have time for only one, then I’ll concede that The Last of Us Part II is the better game.

One very minor spoiler that reveals something about me: At one point in the game, Ellie picks up something in a museum… then doesn’t put it back where she found it. From that point on, as far as I was concerned, she deserved everything that happens to her.

Then she does it again. Sometimes a zombie plague is the only just form of punishment.
Bill Seligman
Alliance: Winston, Yungi, Pellinore, Tebyalyublyu, Theadora, Vasili, Winella, Winstonia
Horde: Grotar, Swiftslice

Marco

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Re: Finished playing...
« Reply #676 on: August 26, 2020, 09:34:23 AM »
Crashlands, an isometric craftemup.  The visual style and crafting/building format are very reminiscent of Don't Starve, but there's no permadeath in the default game mode, so it doesn't play like a rogue-lite.  Combat is reminiscent of Wildstar, with red telegraphs for enemy attacks.  There is a quest-based storyline, which is occasionally amusing but  isn't going to win any awards.  There is a separate hardcore mode with permadeath and less or no story, which I would assume makes the game feel a lot more like Don't Starve.  It took me about 50 hours to finish.

Overall I enjoyed the game, but I can see its flaws.  There are something like twenty tiers of crafting stations, and only mild variations in the gameplay formula for upgrading your gear.  There isn't any motivation to build a well-protected or efficiency-boosting base like there is in Minecraft or Terraria.  Inventory space is unlimited, which is a positive and a negative--inventory management is a big part of how basebuilding is motivated in this kind of game.  There is no direct way to look at your supply of crafting materials, which can make it hard to keep track of multiple crafting projects at once, or to check on what you need to complete a quest.

Marco

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Re: Finished playing...
« Reply #677 on: September 01, 2020, 09:16:25 PM »
20xx, a rogue-lite action platformer.  The gameplay formula is that you do some Megaman-style platforming in a series of procedurally-generated levels until you die.  Then, you return to the lobby and spend any accumulated "soul chips" on permanent upgrades, item unlocks, and next-run bonuses.  Any unspent soul chips are lost, so you can't just grind out the more expensive permanent upgrades.  You can save and quit after each level, so even after you get good (/upgraded) enough that your runs last more than a few minutes, you still have a stopping point every few minutes.

The game is fun but, as with many (though not all) modern platformers, the platforming gets too hard for me after a bit, even with all of the upgrades.  I had one very lucky run where I finished all eight levels and moved on to an extra-hard level which immediately kicked my butt.

Marco

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Re: Finished playing...
« Reply #678 on: September 02, 2020, 09:26:03 AM »
A Short Hike.  This is a relaxing little adventure game about taking a vacation and climbing a hill.  It was fun; I think I spent about two hours playing it, and there were probably a few interesting side things I could go back and find if I felt like it.

Marco

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Re: Finished playing...
« Reply #679 on: September 04, 2020, 09:50:59 AM »
GTA 5 in story mode.  I think I'm pretty much over GTA games, but this was a reasonable entry in the genre.  My biggest complaint is that you can't save in the middle of a mission, and the missions are of highly varying length (most just a few minutes, but the longest one took me about an hour).

Snique

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Re: Finished playing...
« Reply #680 on: September 12, 2020, 07:50:21 AM »
Transistor

A story-driven ARPG from Supergiant Games. Very moody, aesthetic. Game came out 6 years ago and still stands up in part because it has a unique visual style and isn't trying to be glossy and modern. It's got a lot of noire elements, and is unashamedly 2.5D. This leads to some hinky interactions in the fights. There are a lot of cut-scenes and voiceover narrative to tell the story, which isn't a particularly pretty one. I also disliked the ending, though I see what they are trying to do. You are trying to rescue yourself, or maybe the city (Cloudbank) you live in, from the Camerata, an organization of mostly negligent and malicious 1%-ers who've let things go to pot in their efforts to plunder as much as they could. For better or worse they're now caught up in the ongoing collapse and might even ally with you to hold off the end.

The titular "Transistor" is part program, part AI, part weapon. You (Red, the protagonist) carry it around and it talks to you and gives you cues. You also load it up with abilities and fight bad guys with it, in a blend of real-time and turn-based planned combat. These robotic bad guys are collectively part of the Process, which might be a rogue AI or might be a program just carrying out the Camerata's programmed (and now regretted) directives. There's some evidence that the Camerata built the Transistor to control the Process and once they lost the Transistor the Process goes rogue. Like much of the game story there are hints and indications that support multiple interpretations.

As the game goes on you unlock various abilities and because the core of the game is about characters that become embodied as AI, each ability is a representation of a story personality. You unlock story elements by using the abilities in various ways, a neat twist I haven't seen elsewhere.

The game is, overall, lovely to look at but the gameplay gets repetitive and the lack of a map means there's no sense of where you are in the overall progress. If you enjoy exploring and unlocks there's a chunk of side-game that lets you do some of those things, too. I found it interesting at first but ultimately distracting and skipped much of it.

If you don't mind spoilers, this deep dive video gives a lot more interpretation and explanation than I can do in a spoiler-free short review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2vPLrU4Vyk&ab_channel=DeadsetGaming

Marco

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Re: Finished playing...
« Reply #681 on: October 01, 2020, 01:55:34 PM »
Arkham Knight.  This game is simultaneously good and ridiculous.  The visuals are appropriately cinematic, the voice acting is top-notch, the gameplay is nicely varied (brawling, stealth, high-tech detective sequences, puzzles, vehicle combat), the random thug chatter is often amusing, and there's some interesting psychodrama in the main plot.  At the same time, Batman is depicted as absurdly brutal for a hero committed to non-lethal force, the voiceover lines are probably over 90% male, the plot twists are mostly obvious, and there are probably too many Riddler puzzles given that you have to solve all of them to unlock the final ending.

Overall a fun game.  The PC engine worked well for me, though it reportedly had some serious issues when it was released.  There were some occasional frustrations where I had to do something non-obvious to win a boss fight and the last checkpoint was a few minutes further back than I would have expected.  I spent about 145 hours playing, probably a third of which was finishing up side quests and solving all of the aforementioned Riddler puzzles.

Marco

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Re: Finished playing...
« Reply #682 on: October 05, 2020, 04:55:37 PM »
Hue.  This is a short (roughly five hour) puzzle platformer.  The twist is that you can change the background color so that elements of that color disappear.  There are occasional levels where you have to switch colors quickly, but fortunately time stops while you're in the color selector.  There's no really precise jumping or anything.  Some of the puzzles were kind of challenging, but I was never stumped for too long.  The game is artistic with pleasant music, but it's not amazing on either count.