Final Fantasy XV

Date Completed: January 25th, 2018

In my opinion the Final Fantasy series peaked during the Playstation One era and has been in a gradual decline since.  While I haven’t played XI or XIV (since they are online only) all of the main titles since X have been slightly inferior to the game immediately proceeding it.  I had decided long before FFXV was released that if it was not ‘good’ I would officially be hanging up my Final Fantasy hat.  So, did the game deliver?  Periodically my wife would walk in on me while I played and I’ll let her statements speak for the quality of the game.

“All I’ve ever seen you do in that game is drive around in your car.”

“You’re fishing now! That’s new.”

“They look like a boy band from the 90’s”

“Is that a Cup of Noodles hat?  Final Fantasy has finally jumped the shark.”

Ready for Battle.

So the question that must be answered is “Was Final Fantasy XV ‘good’ enough?”  The answer is “It’s complicated”.

While playing the game I was constantly irritated by various aspects of the game that I thought were either boring or poorly executed.  Most of the game takes place in a vast open area that you traverse by driving around in your car.  You don’t have access to controlling the car at first but you can tell your driver where you want to go.  If you think a game where you watch other people drive is ‘fun’ you are clearly insane.  You do eventually gain control of the car yourself however it still mostly self-pilots and isn’t very much fun to drive.

I also found the combat system to be both boring and frustrating.  Combat is performed by holding down either the attack or the defense button.  While a button is held down combat is mostly automatic.  I rarely felt like I (the player) was necessary for success and that my role in battle could have been fulfilled by a strategically placed rubber-band.  The frustrating parts occurred when I’d encounter a critter that would kick my butt and I’d have to figure out what I was doing wrong.  I spent some time reading online about the combat system trying to find out if there was something I was missing (There wasn’t).  Usually the answer was ‘level up more, die less’.  Good advice I suppose.

Final Fantasy games are traditionally very story driven but I found the story to be….suboptimal.  The story is broken up awkwardly and it’s clear that some decisions were made with the intention of selling additional content after release.  The story as told in the game makes very little sense so I found myself reading supplemental material online to fill in the gaps.  It also helped to watch the YouTube animated shorts as well as the Kingsglaive movie (available for an additional fee).  Even if you invest the time and the money into all the supplemental material the story is kinda dumb.  Beautifully animated though.

I could spend a lot of time complaining about the failings of this game but I should note that I did enjoy playing it enough to stick with it for 80 hours.  My three-year-old daughter really enjoyed watching me play and especially enjoyed the characters (Prince Noctis was her favorite).  While the game might not do anything particularly well it also doesn’t completely bomb either.  If I could put a review on the cover I’d write “Utterly Average”.  While average might be considered ‘good’ by some I was hoping for more.

So, am I giving up on Final Fantasy?  It’s hard to say.  FFXV failed to meet my expectations but if Final Fantasy XVI looks amazing I’m sure I’ll find myself being cautiously optimistic once again.

  • Is it fun: Yes – barely
  • Score: 5/10
  • Length:  80 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: RPG

 

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Farpoint VR

Date Completed: January 14th, 2018

Most of the content that has come out for the Playstation VR would be better understood as ‘experiences’ rather than games.  I was hoping that Farpoint VR might be something different – something fantastic.  The game came out in May 2017 as part of a bundle with the Aim controller and the total bundle price wasn’t much more than the price of a normal game.  I decided to wait for the reviews to make any purchase decisions and the reviews were very disappointing.  I decided that even with poor reviews I was interested in the game if it came as part of the controller bundle.  Sadly they sold out of the controller bundle and I didn’t see it in stock again FOR SIX MONTHS.  There were even rumors that the bundle had been discontinued.  Shortly before Christmas 2017 I started seeing it show up online again but my budget for the month had already been blown several times over so I didn’t buy it.  Luckily I received some cash for Christmas and I noticed the bundle had gone on-sale at the local Walmart for 10$ cheaper than anywhere else.  I snatched it up immediately.

I started playing the game and immediately got motion sick.  This was a surprise to me because I had played the Doom demo in VR and hadn’t experienced any major issues and Farpoint VR isn’t anywhere near as frantic a game.  I was only able to play in 5 minute intervals at first.  I started reading up on VR sickness online and found that ginger supplements were recommended as well as pointing a fan at yourself.  I set up a series of fans in my game room and made myself tea with ginger oil my wife had supplied before each play session and surprisingly it worked.  It didn’t completely eliminate motion sickness but I was able to complete the game with minimal discomfort.

The game is a first person shooter but movement is restricted in most directions by the game’s ‘Comfort Controls’.  I didn’t try changing the default comfort settings because of my early issues with motion sickness but it appears you can play the game with a more traditional range of motion.  There is a minimal story to the game but mostly it involves exploring an Alien world and killing what you find there.  Since movement is restricted the game itself ends up being very linear.  You mostly walk down corridors with very few twists and turns.  The story unfolds as you explore via a series of hologram flashbacks.  The story is very basic and while it does have a few interesting parts overall I’d call it forgettable.

With only a few basic enemy types, linear exploration and a ‘meh’ story you’d think I wouldn’t have enjoyed the game but much like other VR titles the VR makes it fun.  Combat felt realistic (especially with the Aim controller) and while movement was linear the sense of immersion into the environment helped with the enjoyment factor.  If this game wasn’t in VR I would not recommend it, but I think my pre-purchase impression was correct.  If you can get it bundled with the Aim controller it’s totally worth it.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 6/10
  • Length:  6-8 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter / VR

 

Hellblade : Senua’s Sacrifice

Date Completed : December 1st, 2017

I had never heard of this game but a co-worker bought a surprise copy of this game for me (Thank Again!) and after reading about it I was intrigued.

This is one of those games that once it’s spoiled you can’t go back so I’m not going to say much about it.  It takes place in a Norse setting (which gets it 10 extra Awesome points) and follows the story of a woman named Senua.   Throughout the game you hear the voices that are whispering to Senua which I first tried to ignore as background babbling.  Eventually I got to a point where I realized I was listening to the voices and doing what they told me.  When I realized the game had subtly led me to listening to the voices in Senua’s head I realized it was something special.

One of the top billed individuals in making this game was the Psychology Consultant.  The descent into mental illness particularly in a time when it was not understood or remotely treatable was believable and horrifying.  More than once I’d go to bed after playing, look at my wife and say “I shouldn’t play that game before bed.”

I recommend playing with headphones on for maximum effect.  When I was wearing the headphones gave the sound a better ‘sense of immediacy’ and it felt as if the voices were in my head as well.

Since completing the game we’ve had many conversations at the office about what was really going on – how much of the game was a delusion and how much was real.  There are a lot of possible ways to interpret the events of the game and there is so much depth to them it may take a few play-throughs to fully understand it.  I ended up playing through 1.5 times, just to pick up my platinum trophy.

I will leave you with the soundtrack of my favorite scene.  When I got to the Bridge with the Nordic Chanting started I was all smiles.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~8 Hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Third-Person Adventure, Psychological Thriller

Horizon Zero Dawn

Date Completed : August 27th, 2017

When I first saw the trailer for Horizon Zero Dawn I sensed greatness.  Robot dinosaurs in a post-apocalyptic world?  YES PLEASE.  Sadly I live in a world without money so I didn’t pre-order it at launch.  It also had the unfortunate circumstance of sharing a launch window with The Legend of Zelda : Breath of the Wild so I knew I wouldn’t get around to it for awhile.  Luckily being married to my wife paid off once more and my brother-in-law loaned me the game for free.  I played through the intro and was instantly hooked.  The robot dinosaurs did not let me down.

The game takes place on earth after a robot apocalypse.  Human beings have reverted to tribal lifestyles and robots and animals live side-by-side.  During the course of the game you discover the answers to the mystery – what caused the Apocalypse?  And what has happened since then?  And quite a mystery it turns out to be too.  I won’t give anything away but in my opinion it is one of the best sci-fi stories ever.

The game is rated Teen but most of the violence is human-on-robot so I figured I could get away with letting the kids watch.  Violence is OK if it’s against machines, right?  Oddly enough my boys weren’t particularly interested in this game (unless they walked in on me battling a Thunder-jaw or something) but my daughter loved it.  She declared that the heroine (‘Aloy of the Nora tribe’) was her mother and she called this ‘The Mommy Game’.  I assume this is because my wife, like Aloy, kills with impunity and uses a zip-line to get down the stairs.  Hopefully my daughter will not grow up thinking that a video game character is her biological mother.  We played a lot of hours of this game together and she was heart-broken when I returned the borrowed copy to her Uncle.

Since completing the game I have badgered everyone I know to play it so I’ll have someone to talk to about it.  Because of my actions I have no friends left and at least one marriage is on the rocks (long story) but it will be worth it.  It’s a great game and worth buying a PS4 to play it.  Yesterday for Christmas I finally received my own copy of the ‘Complete’ Edition that includes the DLC and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~70 Hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Third-Person Shooter

Until Dawn : Rush of Blood

Date Completed : April 22, 2017

I received a Playstation VR for Christmas from my in-laws (who instantly went up a notch on the awesome scale) but I didn’t receive any games so I had to content myself with the demo disc that game with the system.  I started the year off with the laughable goal of spending less than I earn which has sadly been a failure but did prevent me from making any un-budgeted 60$ purchases. While poking around Amazon one day I discovered that Rush of Blood was available for 10$ and since I already had a bundle of crap in my cart for my wife and son’s birthdays ( which unfortunately for my budget are only three days apart ) I figured this game would only be a rounding error.

Rush of Blood is on the demo disc so I knew what I was getting into. Each level consists of a short roller coaster ride where you are armed with two handguns and everything tries to kill you.  This was typically the demo that I’d let friends try when they tested the Playstation VR unless small children were present.  In my opinion it’s a rather sub-part rail shooter that was rushed out to be available for the launch of a new gaming platform.  I wouldn’t have paid full price for it but I figured the 10$ investment would be worth it to have an actual retail game for the VR.  (In true form Sony made the game free to  Playstation  Plus subscribers recently once again proving you should never pay for Playstation software).

I made one minor change to my play style when I started the full retail version of Rush of Blood.  I dug out my Playstation Move controllers and paired them up to my Playstation 4.  It turns out that playing this game with motion controllers MAKES IT AWESOME. I could look at my hands in VR and they would appear to be where I thought my real hands should be.  I could control them independently and shoot two targets at once.  The sense of immersion was complete.  I forgot that I was in a chair in my office and unfortunately I forgot there was a wall to my left.  Once I tried to point my gun at a bad guy only to find that I couldn’t physically orient my arm in the desired direction.  It was because back in the real world the previously mentioned wall stubbornly refused to give way.

I usually played 15-20 minutes at a time before going to bed but the game would get me so wound up I’d have a hard time getting to sleep.  The game is really short so It only took me about two weeks to finish all of the mission.  The short duration of each level was the perfect way to begin acclimating to VR.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 5/10
  • Length:  ~3 hours
  • System: Playstation VR (PS4)
  • Genre: Rail Shooter, Horror

 

 

 

Never Alone

Date Completed: February 7th, 2017

According to my current count I’m about 11 games and 10 months behind in my blogging. After some self reflection I’ve decided that the biggest issue preventing me from being more timely with producing these little blurbs is that I feel like I should try and do a good job.  Unfortunately this has resulted in dedicating additional time that I do not have hunting down screenshots, collecting my thoughts, reading and re-reading what I’ve written to see if it makes sense and eventually giving up and publishing when I realize I have no talent for writing. Well, no more of that! I’m going to change my format up to be shorter and try and get these things out within a few days of finishing the game.

Never Alone was on my radar before it was made one of the free games of the month on PlayStation Plus. I would have paid actual money for the game but once again Sony proved to me that only chumps pay for games anymore. Wait long enough and sooner or later you’ll get every game for free.

I installed the game on my PS4 but I didn’t get around to playing it until February this year when the city was covered in ice and snow and the entire family got sick. My wife had both bronchitis and pneumonia at the same time and all three kids cycled through various infections and treatments of antibiotics. I stayed home from work to help out but between feedings everyone mostly slept so I had some time to sneak away and get some gaming done.

Never Alone is based on Native Alaskan folklore and follows a young girl and her Arctic fox companion as they attempt to save her village. The game involves you solving simple ‘puzzles’ by switching between controlling the girl and the fox. The ‘puzzles’ are easily solved and don’t require any serious thought. There is really very little about the gameplay that is particularly interesting. Sometimes you run from a Polar Bear, sometimes you jump over a pit. The in-game physics are frustrating and the game isn’t particularly fun to play.

Surprisingly that doesn’t ruin the game. The characters in the game have a certain charm to them that transcends crappy game play. The story was interesting enough to keep me playing and the game includes ‘Cultural Insights’ that discuss the Native Alaskan people (and that you get trophies for watching).  The game is short enough that I didn’t get too frustrated with the game play.  Overall I’d say the experience was worth it!

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 5/10
  • Length:  ~3 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: Action / Adventure, Platform

Firewatch

firewatch-game-cover-pc-2016Date Completed: February 4th, 2017

Firewatch is more of an experience than a game.  Its similar to the game ‘Journey’ where it tells a story, and any spoilers to that story could potentially ruin it.  I’m going to stay away from spoilers, and instead focus on all of the things I did wrong while playing Firewatch.

Firewatch tells the story of a dude who watches for fires in Colorado wilderness.  When I started Firewatch I wasn’t sure what kind of game it was going to be.  Was it silly?  Was it scary?  Something else?  I didn’t know what to do or what kinds of interactions with the game world would be allowed so I tried stuff.  The first thing I did was pick up the bottle of dish soap from my watch tower and go for a hike.  Once I got out into the wilderness I felt bad about littering so I ended up carrying that bottle of dish soap around for an entire day.  This was super inconvenient because I had to set the soap down every time I wanted to consult my map ( which required both hands to be free ).

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My soap and I enjoying the sunset.

The other thing that really pissed me off about this game was the sound the electric generator made.  When the game started up the first thing I noticed was the constant grinding sound of an electric generator.  I found the generator outside my watch tower and tried to shut it off but this wasn’t allowed.  Sometimes the generator would power down and I’d have a few precious minutes of silence but it would always start up again.  For some dumb reason the generator sound followed me through the entire park.  I’d be miles away from my watch tower and I could still hear it!  I began to wonder if it was a clue to the plot – maybe my character was in a hospital room hooked up to some machine and the whole game was a hallucination of some kind?  Maybe it was a bug in the game?  Either way it was super irritating.  You know what the worst part was?  After I turned the game off for the night I could still hear the noise!!!  This was the moment I began to suspect something was amiss…

Yeah…so it turns out that the kids had shoved a pencil into the pencil sharpener on the windowsill behind me.  It’s about at ear-level when I am sitting down and I was wearing headphones while playing and couldn’t tell it wasn’t part of the game.  It would run for a few minutes before shutting down on it’s own and eventually restarting.  Darn kids.

I would have played the game straight through except after 11PM I figured I should go to bed or I’d be in a mood the next day.  Overall a great game although the kind you only get to play once.  After experiencing the story there isn’t any reason to visit this game again.  Except maybe to find those turtles.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 7/10
  • Length:  3-4 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: First Person / Thriller