JoaLoft

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  1. I didn't bother when I saw they were closing down the servers soon. Had Killzone Shadowfall in my library for four or five years now, but didn't start it up because so many other games kept coming out. I may actually start it up later just to play the campaign, if it's worth experiencing.
  2. #296 - Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered Most of this platinum trophy was an autopop from my PS4 save, but I did play through the story again. So I'll keep this one a bit shorter. Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered tells the story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, juggling both his professional and private woes with supervillains and his rocky relationship with Mary Jane Watson. You'll see plenty of familiar bad guys pop up such as Rhino, Kingpin and Doctor Octopus. It didn't include some of them like Venom and Goblin, but those are making their entrance in the highly-anticipated Marvel's Spider-Man 2. The story itself, how it manages to involve so many villains in one story, does a great job of building up to a climax and letting multiple villains have their moment in the spotlight. While the story unfolds, you can explore New York City in pure Spider-Man fashion, swinging elegantly between skyscrapers and across rooftops. The traversal system - including the gracious-looking animations - is fantastic. It's important they nail the feeling of being Spider-Man and exploring the city so smoothly was a high-priority requirement. The combat system will remind you of the Batman Arkham Trilogy's. Batman: Arkham Asylum was of very significant importance to superhero games, the entire trilogy is incredible. It makes complete sense that Spider-Man would draw lots of inspiration from these games; its blueprint is adaptable to lots of other famous superheroes. As you explore the city, there are plenty of different crimes to prevent or collectibles to find. Completing these side activities will help unlock new costumes - and there are a lot - and help you level up to invest skill points into skill trees to unlock more abilities. Sometimes, it does feel a bit by the numbers. It's a bit too formulaic, and that's a problem they'll need to address for the sequel. It felt less organic than I would have liked it to be. There's also a clear pattern in the gameplay: swing through the city, get involved in a fight with multiple enemies, do a stealth section. Swing through the city, get involved in a fight with multiple enemies, do a stealth section. Rinse, repeat. It's all entertaining, it just needed to feel less predictable. Three things do bother me about this game, two of which were already present in the original version. First of all: there is no day-and-night cycle. The time of day or night is determined by how far you've progressed into the game. This is supposedly done on purpose to set the stage appropriately for certain highlights in the story. This is solved easily by setting story missions to certain moments during the day and giving you the ability to fast-forward time. It would have looked amazing to see the sun rise and set dynamically as you swing through New York City. Fingers crossed this is implemented in the sequel. Second, and this is a minor gripe: J. Jonah Jameson's podcasts. He's a well-known critic of Spider-Man in the lore and will do anything he can to portray the hero as a villain or a reckless vigilante. These podcasts start playing at random while you're swinging, and after a while, his toxic attitude becomes very obnoxious to listen to, constantly criticizing the player's (and character's) actions. However, Insomniac Games was very much aware of this issue before the game's release, so there is an option to turn off the podcasts in the menu. Just goes to show just how annoying and obsessed he can act, to the detriment of players' enjoyment. Third: the new face model of Peter Parker. It's been widely discussed, but now after playing it for myself, I agree that the Tom Hollandization of Peter Parker's face is unnecessary and is even a few steps back from the original model. The older model exuded more maturity, he felt more capable. Insomniac Games has always denied that the decision was made because of the live-action casting. They said that the new facial actor fits the voice casting better, but that is - pardon my French - a bullshit excuse to avoid addressing the elephant in the room. It is very coincidental that the first model bears a resemblance to Andrew Garfield (when the original version was in development). And that the current remastered model just happens to look almost exactly like Tom Holland. More likely is that Sony pressed Insomniac Games to redesign in-game Peter to look like Tom Holland, to draw more movie audiences to this game and the upcoming sequel. This was a very poor design decision, a slap in the face to fans and the original facial actor, and has received justified backlash (minus the death threats, those were uncalled for). They won't dial this back unfortunately, so now we're stuck with a less-charismatic Peter Parker face model. And that negatively impacts the experience, no matter how you approach it. That does not mean the game is bad. There are small problems that keep Spider-Man from being incredible, but it is still a great superhero game with solid mechanics. Marvel's Spider-Man (Remastered) comes with a certified recommendation, but I'm also throwing in a suggestion to play the Batman Arkham games if you haven't already. Most frustrating trophy - ... NONE! It's a by-the-numbers platinum trophy, so aside from a variety of goals to achieve, nothing is missable or difficult.
  3. #295 - Elden Ring The lands lie in ruin. The Elden Ring has been shattered. There is no order left. The Lands Between were once ruled by Queen Marika, an immortal being, who reigned over the lands and acted as keeper of the Elden Ring - a physical manifestation of the concept of order. And in the middle of the kingdom stands the Erdtree, an enormous luminous tree representing her Golden Order, blessing the population with grace through its golden aura. Queen Marika's reign was challenged, however, and in the midst of a dangerous uprising, Queen Marika shattered the Elden Ring, shortly disappearing after. Her offspring, demigods, claimed a Shard each after her disappearance and waged war with each other, corrupted by the Shards. The wars yielded no significant result, no demigod was deemed a worthy successor to Queen Marika. All that remains, are lawless, ravaged landscapes filled with armies, foes, animals, monsters and demigods, each controlling one region of The Lands Between. The prophecy speak of a Tarnished, exiled from The Lands Between long ago, who would make his/her way back after the Shattering to become a champion, restoring the Elden Ring and becoming the new Elden Lord. The story of Elden Ring is a very fascinating and epic one. But what I miss the most in a Soulsborne game, is how obscurely some narrative details are hidden. If the story was brought forward a bit more, these games would be among my most favorite games of all time. The finer details of the lore, you'll have to look up yourself once you finished the game. That is most likely the only con I mention, because everything else belongs to FromSoftware's finest work to date. For those of you who are not familiar with a FromSoftware blueprint, this is how it works. You are a customizable warrior who travels through a world in each game, fighting challenging bosses and leveling up. You are usually on a quest for power, taking a throne to yourself - although Elden RIng does also offer different endings based on your actions. As you traverse the world, you collect XP (referred to as Runes in Elden Ring) and you cash those in to level up in different areas at checkpoints which also function as fast-travel points (traditionally these are Bonfires, but here they're Sites of Grace). You die carrying your Runes? You'll only have one chance to retrieve them where you last perished. You die again before you can claim them? They're lost forever. Besides that, you are free to level up as much as you can and wield whatever you want, based on your stats and what your build consists of. This is FromSoftware's first real open world design, and is it a looker! The very first moment you emerge from the tutorial cave and lay eyes on Limgrave, the first region, and the immense Erdtree in the distance, you won't know where to visually feast on first, and this applies to many other massive regions of the game. You'll gaze in awe, wondering where to go first. You'll also gain access to a spectral steed very early on, called "Torrent" whom you can summon in most places and will help you traverse The Lands Between, with a satisfying double jump to help reach some of the more trickier areas. There is a very specific mindset required to get into when you play a Soulsborne game. Elden Ring is no different. The game does not hold your hand at any time; instead, it gives you complete freedom to explore wherever you want. Exploring and discovering everything will easily take you over 100 hours if you wish to squeeze every last bit of fresh gameplay out of The Lands Between. What is most daunting, yet also incredibly refreshing, is that unbound feeling when you first enter Limgrave. New players will feel paralyzed: "Where do I go now? I don't know, isn't there some marker?" There is in some way: some Sites of Grace emit a golden glow floating into a direction as a hint. But that's all you're getting. And sometimes it leads to bosses you're absolutely not ready for. In that case, it's best to venture off and find new areas, grow stronger, beat minibosses, invest those precious Runes, and come back to challenge the main boss once more. And if you love a good boss fight, you will be smitten when you play through Elden Ring. All main story bosses, non-mandatory story bosses, optional bosses (dragons, Evergaol bosses, dungeon bosses, overworld bosses) add up to a staggering total of 104 bosses to defeat. You are getting your money's worth. Needless to say, taking that first step into a general direction and just exploring is very rewarding and will always deliver some interesting reward. Whether it's a new weapon, a spell or incantation, Spirit Ashes, a cookbook to learn new crafting recipes (yes, there is an abudance of crafting in this game!) an NPC with a sidequest, a boss, a secret area: it adds up to building the world of Elden Ring and feeding you some intel, making you stronger. As is custom in these games, you do not need to go at it alone. You can summon either Spirit Ashes (which are a unique AI companion) or you can summon friendly players and AI players to help out wherever the option presents itself. People still leave messages behind, giving you some advice. This entire layer of metagaming adds to the experience: you're sharing information and cooperating to help beat bosses or enter new areas. Even the pools of blood - which are essentially recorded echoes of real player deaths - are hilarious at times. I still chuckle when I witness some random player who stands on an edge, hesitates for two seconds, tries to make a clearly impossible jump to another ledge and then tumble into the depths below. Each time, I still laugh and say out loud: "How on Earth did you think you could ever make that jump?" But you'll never feel alone in the Herculean task of restoring the Elden Ring: seeing white shades run around are live echoes of players in the same area exploring or fighting, and those red blood pools indicate you're all in this together, sometimes crawling to reach the finish line. There is a learning curve in Elden Ring. A steep one in the first ten hours. You'll feel disillusioned and maybe even demotivated when you hit that massive first real "Boss-You-Can't-Mess-With" wall. But once you keep leveling and return stronger, beat that first serious boss by the skin of your teeth and pass that first big hurdle: your confidence grows. I can do this. I can make it. That second big hurdle is still another big one to take, but you'll ease into things and manage a bit better. That graph of difficulty and time will start to flatten much more and you'll reap the fruits of your labor. Enemies will fall more easily, you'll learn to cash in those Runes strategically, find better builds and experiment with new weapons and spells. Blooming into a legendary warrior. All while you're moving closer to the Erdtree to confront the divine rule that has been slumbering for so long. It builds up to an experience that does really stick with me. The final act of the game - there's a point of no return where something cataclysmic occurs - is the cherry on top. The final boss battles were certainly challenging, but satisfying to complete. Accompanied by beautiful music and impressive visuals, as is the norm throughout the entire game. If there's one award only they can win this year, it's "Best Art Direction". The team behind the visual style of Elden Ring has gone beyond to deliver. It is one of the most stunning open world games you can play to date, in a dynamic day-and-night setting. As mentioned, there are also multiple endings, so those warrant extra playthroughs - if you're not backing up your save in the cloud and using it again. Once you finished your epic journey in The Lands Between, you can do it all over again in New Game Plus retaining pretty much everything except for key items. Obviously. And once you beat that, you can gear up for New Game Plus Plus. It goes on, you get the picture. That is all even extra, in the end. After beating it, I felt a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. I found what I was looking for in a game. Elden Ring has finally transcended its own genre and turned into something truly special. Elden Ring is nothing less of an exceptionally well-designed and excellent game. Ten years from now, it will still be discussed as a milestone in video game history. A "Game of the Year" award is in the cards. The only one to challenge that claim, will most likely be God of War: Ragnarök. But it will be difficult for Santa Monica Studios to grab that crown. Kratos may have finally met his match. Most frustrating trophy - Shardbearer Malenia "I am Malenia, Blade of Miquella." Those words are ingrained into my memory after the insane boss fight that was Malenia. As one of the many children of Queen Marika, she's a demigod who carries one of the Shards of the Elden Ring. Being entirely optional, you do not need to face her if you are just after completing the game. But if you want the platinum trophy, you'd better prepare yourself for what is one of the most brutal battles in any FromSoftware production. From the very beginning, she does not let up. Wielding a long katana and being extremely agile and fast, she absorbs your HP with every hit she inflicts. Her damage output is insane, even when you leveled up very high. It's enough to decimate even the most skilled player. Being affected by a disease called "Scarlet Rot", her attacks can also inflict it upon you which eats away at your HP bar as a sort of poison. Blocking only helps in a few situations, and then she'll still steal your HP. It's all about either dodging constantly or going all-in and wailing on her to stagger her as much as possible. And she has two phases, which trigger back-to-back each with their own health bar. She is no joke, and I must admit it took me ten-twenty attempts before I looked up any advice on how to deal with her in the second phase. If it were not for the "Rivers of Blood" katana and my Mimic Tear Ashes (which essentially summons a somewhat nerfed AI copy of your own build), she would have remained nigh-invincible and been pure hell for my melee build. There is no shame in consulting a guide: even the most hardened Soulsborne players have stated she is laughably overpowered and broken. On the other end, you have self-proclaimed alpha elitist FromSoftware players - and we all know those are a handful - who say you're a disgrace if you dare use any Spirit Ashes "because it demonstrates how much of a noob and how bad you are". The Ashes are a legitimate gameplay mechanic, so I say: use everything at your disposal and keep at it with the Rivers of Blood katana and your Mimic. Keep trying until you tear her to shreds. She is so difficult in fact, that veteran players complained about her difficulty level to FromSoftware directly. Even crazier, her pre-launch build was even tougher to deal with: she originally would have had an extra health bar, vampiric abilities, increasing aggressive attacks and more. She would have only been beatable by a handful of gaming legends and left teary-eyed masses in her wake. Beating several of the bosses in Elden Ring made me cheer, but defeating Malenia took a huge weight off of my gaming shoulders I have not experienced in a long time. Goodbye, Malenia, Blade of Miquella. In memory of all the Tarnished you vanquished: may the Scarlet Rot forever taint your very bones until the end of Time itself.
  4. #294 - Alan Wake Remastered If you felt intrigued by Control, you'll definitely want to play Alan Wake Remastered. You take on the role of famous and accomplished writer, Alan Wake, in this action-horror game. However, Alan has been suffering from a writer's block .He and his wife Alice take a vacation trip to the mountain town of Bright Falls, hoping to take his mind off of the condition. As night falls in their cabin, Alan hears a chilling shriek come from Alice, and she disappears into the nearby lake. Alan jumps after her and suddenly wakes up a week later at night behind the steering wheel of a crashed car. Nightmarish enemies start stalking him in the dark mountain woods and around town, the fog is abnormally thick and a dark presence is spreading. On top of that, Alan comes across pages of a manuscript he supposedly wrote but doesn't remember writing, which describe the events happening before his eyes, Plenty of mystery surrounding Bright Falls and Alan Wake's situation, as he searches for his wife and uncovers what's behind the paranormal events. The entire setup of the game consists of episodes, like a TV series: complete with cliffhangers at the end of episodes and "Previously On Alan Wake" summaries at the start of each new episode. They essentially function as big chapters, but are designed like episodes to put a big emphasis on story investment. And it works beautifully. You'll want to keep playing after every episode to find out how the story continues to unravel. There's several reasons why Alan Wake achieved cult status and maintains it in the hardcore gaming community after 10+ years. This is one of them. As it's an action-horror game, you'll be fighting possessed humans, flocks of paranormal ravens and poltergeist objects flinging at you. The crux of everything is the balance between light and darkness, and that's how the gameplay works too. In one hand, Alan wields firearms such a revolver, a shotgun, a flare gun and a hunting rifle, equipped with flares and flashbangs, all to weaken enemies possessed by the darkness before he can shoot them. In the other, he is almost always equipped with a flashlight to help stop enemies in his path. That means you'll be scavenging supplies often, such as batteries, flares/flashbangs and ammunition wherever you can find them. It's a simple gameplay concept, but it's very solid, flexible and holds up very well in 2022. There's also a tactical element to it: when Alan pops a flare, all the enemies near him retreat and walk back, meaning you can force them into hazards and beat them in other non-conventional ways, by pushing them back over edges or into live electric wires. There's a certain dynamic that offers more than one set path of how to deal with enemies. Same goes for healing: there are no health kits in this game. Instead, Alan can heal when he stands in the light of a functioning electric lamp. And these spots also work as checkpoints: if you are low on health, you'll desperately try to reach that lamp in the distance to reach a checkpoint and heal at the same time. Why desperately? Because Alan Wake can get exhausted after sprinting for too long, and that makes you very vulnerable to groups of enemies catching up to you. And as mentioned: enemies can not survive in light, so if you enter the light, they mysteriously dissolve into the darkness. If they are bold enough to chase you and enter the light too, they instantly die. Lamps have multiple functions as such: they heal Alan, keep enemies away, are checkpoints, and help guide you in the right direction of each episode. What I love the most: there's a sense of risk and gamble in lots of situations in Alan Wake. Do I try to fight off the enemies surrounding me? Or do I book it to the next light? Or a combination of both? Defeating enemies gives me a better chance of survival, but will leave me with less supplies. Running will help save lots of supplies, but I might die from several blows in the back before I make it to the light. That freedom adds immensely to the experience and fun factor by taking away constraints yet not making the game a pushover, essentially. (Although, and I'm obligated to mention this: you'll find plenty of supplies in the game, even on the highest difficulty setting. So running away always is not worth the effort and the cost of respawning at the previous checkpoint, you're better off fighting enemies in around 50% of all encounters, give or take. But having the option during some of the more menacing battles is very welcome, indeed. Just remember the risk you're taking.) In certain parts, you'll also gain control of a car to drive to certain destinations. You can tell this is one of the gameplay mechanics that feels a little off, due to the clunky controls and slippery nature of some cars. They drive just fine, but they give away the fact that this game is over ten years old. It's never bothersome though, just worth pointing out. Headlamps of cars also help weaken enemies so you can run them over to dispatch them quickly. The controls on foot also suffer a small bit from clunkiness, but putting that into perspective, it's not something you'll trip over when you're playing. The remaster itself, from a graphical point of view, is a smart move: Alan Wake 2 has finally (!) been announced last year, continuing the exciting story that developer Remedy Entertainment has put together so long ago, and because of the improved lighting effects, the dynamic between light and dark looks beautiful at certain parts in the game. The graphics finally do the story setup justice with the modern visual effects. It's also a great way to introduce new gamers to a game which was exclusive for the longest time for Xbox and WIndows, before Alan Wake 2 drops next year. And this remaster comes with the two "Special Features" included AKA DLC chapters which take place after the finale of the base game. That's a full package right there. If you love an intriguing story, simple but unique gameplay mechanics and the concept of an action-horror TV show translated into a full-fledged game: Alan Wake is a game you can not miss out on. It hits all the right notes, and should be experienced before or after you played Control, which also got a stamp of approval from me. Both games are connected and demonstrate that something much more sinister is going on than just the local phenomenon at Bright Falls. Excited to see where this universe takes us next in Alan Wake 2 and Control 2! Recommended! Most frustrating trophy - ... NONE! Although there are trophies for higher difficulties and the obligatory collectibles, there was no frustrating trophy here to speak of. The nature of the game allows you to simply skip a bunch of fights or encounters if you can make it alive to the next electric lamp for a checkpoint. Not an exploit - just part of the game design. You can tackle several fights this way without the game taking away some of the challenge on Nightmare difficulty (which is not as hard as it sounds, truth be told). I'm an advocate for useful collectibles, so I do want to add in that sense that finding the 100+ manuscript pages was interesting to read everything written down. Same goes for radio shows and TV shows you can find and listen to or watch. These are all great. The other collectibles, however, in particular the coffee thermoses? Useless and a waste of time. And Alan Wake Remastered has its fair share of collectibles. Hope they ditch those uninteresting ones and give us more valuable collectibles which deepen the lore.
  5. Unbelievable. I got the trophy without trying on the PS5 version. I thought "oh shit I can get the PS4 platinum finally then." Went to my PS4 version, got 7 wins in a row so far. No "Infallible" trophy popped, thinking the support for this PS4 list was discontinued. I seriously hope they can make these pop retroactively.
  6. #293 - Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart pits two fan-favorite platforming heroes Ratchet and Clank against Dr. Nefarious one more time. Except: this time it seems Insomniac Games took a page from the Marvel book and jumps on the multiverse bandwagon. Dr. Nefarious obtains an instrument called "The Dimensionator" and blows a hole between dimensions, traveling to a parallel world where he can finally be the ruler of everything... Considering how many times he's been thwarted by the duo in past iterations and is sick of trying to beat them in his own dimension. To his own surprise, he ends up in a dimension where he became Emperor and rules everything. Ratchet and Clank get sucked into the same dimension and have to team up with their counterparts Rivet and Kit in the new world to stop both Dr. Nefarious and Emperor Nefarious. The strength of Ratchet & Clank has always been a mix of Pixar-esque visuals mixed with platforming and outrageous weapon designs. And you get plenty of that here: the game looks beautiful, there are multiple planets to discover (although the explorable areas are very small - and that's a good thing!), some platform sequences deliver great moments such as the rail sections, and the crazy weapon designs can level up and be upgraded for extra firepower with the thousands of bolts you'll collect as you smash crates left and right. A big selling point for the franchise is the lightheartedness. And there certainly is humor present here, The weapon demonstrations by Zurkon Jr. especially put a smile on your face and more. Besides that, something was missing here. There were very little moments for Dr. Nefarious to shine, as he did in A Crack In Time. He practically stole the show in that game, and there was so much more humor in that story. That's one of the reasons why Rift Apart is not as great as the highlight that A Crack In Time was. Another element holding the game back, are the boss fights. The ones featuring Dr. and Emperor Nefarious are great, no question. But most boss fights are big robots from Emperor Nefarious's army. Was there really that little inspiration to design some cool bosses? And not just that: the robot bosses are just glorified elite enemies. Just blast them with everything you got until their health dwindles down to zero and you win. No strategies or weak points. Just shoot until they're down. Disappointing, to be honest. That's not to say the game is bad. Far from it: I had fun with it! And it doesn't outstay its welcome, you can finish the game in 10-15 hours. Technically impressive too: no loading times, and jumping between dimensions or worlds is instantaneous, which shows off the PS5's technical capabilities well. Conclusion? Rift Apart is a solid Ratchet & Clank entry, but it does not knock A Crack in Time off its throne. The enjoyment factor increases if you've played previous Ratchet & Clank games for a better understanding of this game's events. Most frustrating trophy - ... NONE! The platinum trophy of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a breeze to acquire. You don't even have to find all the collectibles, which are very scarce to begin with. That's it. I'm used to elaborating much more, but there's not much else to add. Just a nice, easy trophy list.
  7. #292 - Red Dead Redemption 2 Strap yourselves in, because this is going to be a big one. Red Dead Redemption 2 tells the story of the Van Der Linde gang, and tells everything from the perspective of Arthur Morgan, a member of the gang consisting of outcasts and outlaws. The year is 1899 and the turn of the century brings with it order and justice. The gang is on the run after a botched robbery in the west and flees to the east. The law pursues them, as the crew flees further throughout the country and witnesses how modern civilization starts to snuff out the last embers of the Wild West, and their own way of life. The story of Arthur Morgan and the entire Van Der Linde gang is a long but epic one, one that you'll get to savor for very long, depending on how much time you take. Over one hundred story missions tell their tale and what fate has in store for each of them. To say more, would be disrespectful to the developers and everyone who hasn't played it yet. It is up there among some of the best writing in fiction, let alone in gaming. Truly expert storytelling of the very highest level. Same goes for the cast: there is not one character that feels out of place or hasn't been brought to life professionally. Roger Clarke as Arthur Morgan deserves extra praise: he is without a doubt one of the most legendary videogame protagonists to have ever appeared on your screen. Red Dead Redemption 2's world is one of the most believable and intriguing ones you'll ever enter, thanks to the many layers on top of each other. There's a beautiful clash of the old and the new. You'll come across small cattle towns, where people still ride with a horse and a cart, the roads bathing in the light of the first electric lamp posts. The railroad tracks piercing through an unspoilt rural landscape. All in stark contrast to the highly advanced south-eastern city of Saint Denis, where more civilized folk from all corners of the globe live their lives, and the first trams transport them throughout its bustling streets. That is just the start. The many gameplay mechanics turn this game into an unrivaled masterpiece. I'll try to keep this as brief as possible. The many biomes and weather. The world is split up into different regions, ranging from murky swamps and lush forests to green open pastures, beautiful valleys, snowy mountains and scorching deserts. Each having plenty of unique fauna and flora, offering opportunities for special supplies. The weather feels incredibly real at times. The pouring rain. The thunder striking not too far away from you, sparks flying up. Thick clouds blocking the moonlight. Peaceful savannahs bathing in blue skies and sunlight. The sublime way fog and lighting play into each other. Clothes get dirty if you fall down in the mud, they get frosty because of snowfall. Dust sticks to your jacket in dry hot areas. And everyone will have appropriate animations for every situation, including for types of weather. People (including Arthur) will shiver as rain falls or if they head into colder areas, for example. Horse testicles will shrink in the cold. (I did not make that last one up, that was an actual news item in the video game media.) I don't know about Arthur's testicles. I didn't check. Because reasons. Hunting and crafting. Each animal can be hunted and skinned or plucked for supplies. You can study each species and learn how to keep their pelts in pristine condition. Taking them out with the right weapon and hitting their weak spots is important, because getting those perfect pelts allows you to not only sell them for more money: they also serve as excellent materials for unique outfits and saddles which can be crafted and bought at a trapper. The meat, you can use to cook and sustain yourself with food. Same goes for dozens of herbs and mushrooms. Some of them provide health benefits, some are poisonous. Eating them as such is possible, but if you have the recipes, they can be processed into useful supplies such as health tonics or poison to coat your knives or arrows with. (Weapon) Maintenance. Weapons will deteriorate as you use them more, doing less damage and being less accurate. Having a good stash of gun oil on you allows you to clean them at certain intervals to keep them in great condition. Same goes for you and your horse: your cores (health, stamina and deadeye) will need to be replenished to keep you healthy. Which means eating and feeding your horse at times. Food that you can buy from a general store and butcher, or by cooking the meat (with or without those herbs) at a camp. A camp you can even pitch yourself in the wilderness if you're far away from a town or your main camp of the gang. Your personal horse. You can buy one at a stable or tame one of a specific breed in the wild. Bonding with your horse will give your horse more abilities and it will trust you more. You can even name your horse, whatever you like. And taking care of your horse, is a responsibility you'll gladly carry. Because bonding with it means you'll start caring about it. And care about it, you should. Because if your horse dies, it is final. It is permanently dead, and you'll need to find a new one. Leaving your horse behind somewhere while you head off on foot, or by any other means, will also mean you'll need to travel back to where you left it behind. Your horse will not spawn when you whistle halfway across the map. And there are plenty of ways to customize your horse too: mane, tail, what kind of saddle (with different stats!), saddle bags, stirrups, ... All adding to making your horse unique. Personal hygiene and condition. When you go hunting, animals can smell your scent if you don't apply cover scent lotion or go take a bath. Same with haircuts and beard styles: your hair and beard grow naturally. So defying logic and slapping more hair to your head or beard by simply picking a style from a barber's menu is out of the question. First, your beard needs to grow long enough, and then you can decide which parts to shave or have cut, and whether or not you want to apply a specific style. Eating too much or too little will have an impact on Arthur. He can become underweight or overweight, having negative effects on your stamina or health. Customization. You can own over 60 preset outfits, and over one hundred separate clothing pieces in many different colors, if you want to develop your own outfit and clothing style. Depending on how you assemble them or which preset ones you wear, you could either overheat in hot areas, or freeze in the northern ones, which could lead to death. Guns can be modified too in so many ways: types of metal, varnish, the grip, longer barrels, and so on. Entertainment and side activities. There is so much to partake in to let off some steam from the lifestyle of a gunslinger. Poker, dominoes, blackjack, FIve Finger Fillet, watch some shows, visit a photo studio for a few cool pictures or partake in gun duels (Deadeye still works beautifully in this entire game, by the way). You can find treasure maps or buy them from others in the open world. Figuring these out lead to very lucrative rewards for more cash. Illegal activities. You can always go robbing and stealing, if you decide to make some quick extra money. Running trains, banks, stores, horsemen, stagecoaches, pedestrians and more can all be robbed while freeroaming. All stagecoaches, carts and horses that you stole, can also be sold at a so-called Fence, a merchant who is willing to take off all dubious goods off your hands. All illegal activities will of course notify the law which will come looking for you. Being a bandit brings your honor level down too, which will have an impact on the ending you will get. You can always build up your honor again by treating everyone properly, doing good deeds and greeting people kindly. You're never locked out of the good ending, no matter how much mischief you get up to. Just remember that the further down you sink on the honor bar, the harder you'll have to work to build it back up. And people will also treat or perceive you differently, depending on whether or not you're (in)famous. And I'm still forgetting about so many details and possibilities. I did not talk about the absurd amount of freedom you have. You can do whatever you want or don't want. In every new open world game, I want to be able to greet or antagonize NPC's as much as I want, just like in Red Dead Redemption 2. Driving an actual train myself for the first time for instance, was a personal highlight. I was ecstatic to just ride it around the map myself, and ring the bell or blow the whistle in the locomotive, all while riding it. I did not even mention the gang hideouts, the random camps you can constantly find in the world - even after a playthrough of a thousand hours! - all the sidequests and the dozens upon dozens upon dozens of random encounters which add to the world coming to life. How you go about handling these could also increase or decrease your honor. The amount of care and perfection having gone in this game still makes my jaw drop to this very day. The decadence in this game is off the charts, it should almost be an official crime to create a mindblowing and near-boundless game like this. Four years later, and I am still discovering new sidequests and content I missed out on, it is such a vast and rich world overflowing with theme and activity. You don't simply play in this open world: you live in it. You have an early drink at the local saloon, before you walk out and head to the sheriff's office, spotting a new bounty hanging on the wall. The ink barely fresh on the sheet of paper, you read the details of the fugitive, and decide you could use the extra cash. You brush your horse, give it a carrot to eat, saddle up and you trot towards the train station. You tip your hat to the people you pass by and wish them a good morning, as you ride out of the small cattle town of Valentine. You remind yourself you should also go find that comic book for little Jack and a fountain pen for Mary-Beth. Pearson requested you get some extra meat for the camp stew, so, maybe a bit of hunting would be required too. Dutch might have a new plan to score a big pile of money, might be best to talk to him at camp. And after, maybe I'll play some dominoes with Abigail, perhaps play some poker at a local table? Might even win some extra bucks. Your presence in Red Dead Redemption 2 works as a slow burn, but never as a chore. You soak it all up and there is always something else to do or discover. And finally: the visuals and the audio. This game looks as if it could have launched on the PS5. And it didn't. It is a PS4 game! It looks stunningly beautiful at every single moment. The 300.000 (yes I'm European, punctuation works differently here, so that's three hundred thousand) animations look incredible, particularly watching Arthur actually skin animals in real-time is impressive. The voice acting, the sounds, everything: perfect. The soundtrack: fantastic. No bad tracks, just excellent quality across the board. The masses give Grand Theft Auto an abundance of praise. And although those games are top quality as well, I truly believed since Red Dead Redemption 1 that this franchise surpassed its modern-day counterpart. Red Dead Redemption 2, with all its mechanics, top quality presentation, plentiful content (hundreds - of - hours in the single player alone!) is the biggest jewel in Rockstar Games's crown. It is the best open world game ever created, and one of the best games ever created in general. Four years later, and still, no studio has come close to beating what they pulled off here. In such a fierce competitive industry, that deserves a bow. A mindblowing achievement and a new milestone in interactive electronic entertainment. Most frustrating trophy - Best in the West The "Zoologist" trophy (study every animal across all states) was very close to conquering this spot, but "Best in the West" is my most frustrating trophy. Obtaining the Red Dead Redemption 2 platinum trophy is an endurance test. An assessment of your devotion, persistence and will. And most of your time and energy will be invested in "Best in the West" which demands you attain 100% completion in the game. Luckily you don't have to suck every little bit of content out of this game - and there is a LOT - but it comes close. You'll have to master all game mechanics, explore everywhere and collect, collect, collect. To give you an idea of what you'll have to do to get this golden trophy (I'll leave out the requirements that include heavy story spoilers): Complete all the story missions Complete stranger quests Have 25 chance encounters Capture gang hideouts Discover 50 animals Catch 10 different species of fish Use 48 different weapons Explore shacks Kill legendary animals And so much more... Among these challenges are also several big collectibles quests! The amount of collectibles in this game is so staggering, it is enough to make you turn your head away and play something else. Dreamcatchers, dinosaur bones, exotic things (such as rare plants and plumes of exotic birds: this collectibles quest tested my patience big time), a set of cigarette cards, rock carvings, hunting requests... You need to locate all of these to reach 100% completion. And it will take a very long time. That doesn't even include completing all nine challenge branches, each focusing on a domain such as gambling, treasure hunting, animal hunting, surviving, ... And those take up a lot of time too. This summer is very quiet in terms of game releases, so two weeks ago I mustered all my courage and started up the game again after several years to finally conquer that platinum trophy. What will mostly bother you, is the rarity of animals and hunting trophies you'll need to acquire. Having the suckers spawn is torture at times (hence the Zoologist trophy also being a serious pain in the neck), so you'll need to exercise extreme patience at times. But obtaining the last missing trophies quench that thirst so well that you'll feel elated seeing the platinum pop. If your love for Red Dead Redemption 2 isn't unconditional and you're not motivated to seriously commit, I highly suggest you simply enjoy your time in this open world game and avoid pursuing all the challenges. But getting everything done, will turn you into a master bandit/explorer/gambler/herbalist/horseman/hunter/sharpshooter/survivalist/weapons expert. For the record, those are all actual nine challenge sections you'll master on your very long road to the finish line. Wear the Red Dead Redemption 2 platinum trophy as a badge of honor. It might be one of your rarest platinum trophies (it is for me) and on top of that, it is the ultimate achievement for having completed one of the most incredible and most detailed games ever made. So long, Red Dead Redemption 2. It has been quite the memorable journey, and an honor to have experienced everything you have to offer. I humbly tip my cowboy hat to you as I ride off into the sunset.
  8. #291 - The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles Sometimes excellence hides in the smallest of corners. And my dear fellows, my latest deduction lead me to a most astonishing revelation. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a visual novel adventure game that bundles together two volumes of previously released Ace Attorney spin-off games: The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve. Together, they tell the tale of a Japanese student of law, Ryunosuke Naruhodo, and his unwavering determination to become a defence lawyer during the last years of the 19th century. The world stands before the dawn of a new era, of revolutionary judicial practices and technologies. Due to circumstances, Ryunosuke takes the place of his best friend and fellow law student, Kazuma Asogi, to embark on a study tour to Great Britain, where he will reside in London to learn more about the workings of the British court of law to help advance those in Japan. He is accompanied by a judicial assistant, the young but ever charming Susato Mikotoba with a heart of gold. They are allowed to take up temporary residence during their stay in the home of the famous and brilliant detective Herlock Sholmes (a simple wordplay on Sherlock Holmes due to copyright issues outside of Japan) and his adoptive daughter/creative jack-of-all-trades, Iris Wilson. During his stay in London, Ryunosuke investigates inexplicable murders and takes up seemingly impossible cases to defend innocent souls in the British court. But the deeper he ventures, the more dangerous the cases become and the bigger the repercussions will be. Together with the expertise of Susato, Herlock and Iris (and a few others), Ryunosuke uncovers mystery after mystery to find out just how deep the corruption in the capital of Great Britain flows. I did not make any mention of any of the ten quite long but outstanding - some more than others - cases that you will get to solve for very good reasons. Every case takes its time to unfold, and you will definitely get your money's worth: you're looking at a minimum playtime of over 50 hours, which is a staggering amount. Each of them have their own crazy twists and turns, and revelations. Because although several of them are unrelated, there is a scarlet thread running through several cases which only becomes more visible and unravels everything at the end. A case or two were really good, several were outstanding, and some were truly phenomenal. The latter category includes a truly magnificent finale that wrapped everything up and provided me with a thrilling climax to remember for many years to come. The story and the writing as a whole are nothing short of incredible. The tone of the game and the characters, even though cases deal with murder, conspiracy, betrayal, greed, envy and so on, is light-hearted yet adventurous. On top of that, the main cast of characters is very charming. From the pure-hearted Susato Mikotoba and the brilliant Herlock Sholmes to the diligent Inspector Gregson, intimidating Prosecutor Barok Van Zieks and enthusiastic Iris: they all add their own characteristic special flavor to the story. And there is room for humor too: Ryunosuke delivers plenty of funny sarcastic remarks in many conversations or court proceedings and Herlock Sholmes gets tied up in plenty of witty shenanigans as the story progresses. Each case is cut up into two different segments (with an exception or two): investigations and trials. During investigations you collect evidence in different locations, talk to witnesses, suspects and the accused you're defending. Evidence can be examined up close, and is vital to beating each case. Because examining it can reveal new details which lead to breakthroughs or shed light on unexplored avenues. Aside from that, there is also a wonderful segment called "Herlock Sholmes's Logic and Reasoning Spectacular" aka the "Dance of Deduction". At certain intervals, Herlock will accompany you and kick off one of these awesome segments where he observes the situation and deduces what is actually going on. You assist him during these dances and help point out the irregularities. These sequences feel fresh and help spice up the investigation, accompanied by very catchy music - but more on that later. Then there are the trials. The moment of truth, literally and figuratively, where your investigational efforts bear fruit in helping the defendant achieve a "Not Guilty" verdict. During the trial, witnesses and suspects will be questioned and you will need to find inconsistencies in their testimonies with the evidence you have collected. All while you're facing off against the Prosecutor, the intimidating and chalice-shattering aristocrat Barok Van Zieks, another amazing character in the game, I might add. You're essentially pushing suspects into a corner until they're out of explanations, which is when you deliver the final blow to their façade. No worries, a trial will never kick off until you collected all the evidence. In other words: during each trial, you will have everything you need to win the case, no matter how many crazy turns and twists take place. However, during most trials, a jury will preside the proceedings. The jury members will sometimes need to be swayed as well, by finding contradictions in their statements and breaking their unanimous verdict that they believe your client is guilty. All to allow the trial to continue so the true culprit can be revealed. These trial segments carry a lot of sensational drama with them, which makes them so fun. The soundtrack is nothing short of fantastic. There are countless tracks that exude adventure and mystery, humor and drama. But it never loses sight of its main tone of justice. Especially the violin plays a role in multiple tracks, not surprisingly some of those involve Herlock Sholmes. But even the more serious tracks sound badass, such as Barok Van Zieks's theme which adds to his intimidating persona. The entire soundtrack can stand proudly next to other masterpieces such as the Nier Automata soundtrack or Shadow of the Colossus soundtrack. I added one of many wonderful tracks underneath for you to enjoy listening to, as a taste of what the full game has to offer. I do need to mention there is little actual voice acting in the game, and as it is mainly a visual novel, you'll have to do a lot of reading. But that is an intrinsic part of the genre, and as such does not count as criticism. That's not all. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles comes with special content such as a gallery with bonus video clips and artwork of characters, an auditorium where you can listen to dozens of the game's official (and even unused!) soundtracks and voice clips of characters, a tailor which gives you three optional outfits (one each for Ryunosuke, Susato and Herlock) and Escapades which are essentially short extra episodes taking place in between cases exploring the characters' friendships and connections a little more. In other words: there is a lot of bonus content for everyone who wants that little more out of the experience. Now, before I deliver my own final verdict, I should address something first. Some reviewers let bias take over and rate games based on the influence of publishers, and what franchise or genre they belong to. Straying from the path of righteousness the same way the culprits in this game let the darkness cloud their judgement. I disagree with that lackluster and unethical approach. Any game can achieve a mark of excellence, not by the brand of the franchise it carries or the pressure a publisher executes. But by its quality, the value it provides and the experience it gave me as a spectator, a player and a participant. Regardless of development studio, publisher, genre or franchise. Some reviewers and gamers would frown upon a visual novel adventure belonging up there with brilliant AAA-games. Because how could "something as plebeian as a visual novel adventure which involves ... *gulp* no shooting and all reading be worthy of a perfect score?" Well, this one does, very much. It hit all the marks for me, a rare feat. As such, I've experienced the wide spectrum of emotions as I guided this colorful and very lovable cast of characters. Happiness. Disbelief. Elation. Contempt. I've gone through all the motions during my time with the adventures of Ryunosuke Naruhodo, Herlock Sholmes and the others. But most of all: a sense of fulfilment as the credits rolled. It is one of the best interactive courtroom dramas you'll ever experience. It is one of the best Sherlock Holmes Herlock Sholmes detective stories you'll ever experience. It is one of the best visual novel adventures you'll ever experience. Simply put: The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is one of the best games I have ever had the pleasure of playing. Truly sublime. Most frustrating trophy - ... NONE! There are several missable trophies in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, usually involving the examination of optional and less meaningful items in cases. There is an entertaining one which spans multiple cases, where Ryunosuke and Susato have an ongoing dispute about the difference between a shovel and a spade. The in-game accolades menu does keep track of all your trophies and what you've found, so that's a big help. None of the missable trophies usually give away any spoilers. So as long as you keep track of what you're missing, you could get these in one sitting. Or if you don't want to take any risks: there are chapters available after completing the cases which will take you to the moments in each case where the optional trophies can be unlocked. I had too much fun to think of any frustrating trophies, actually. About half of the list focuses on finishing all the cases, so you should not have too much trouble attaining the platinum trophy. So in conclusion, my dear fellows: don your best deerstalker cap and track down a copy of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. The game is afoot!
  9. #290 - Grand Theft Auto III - The Definitive Edition Grand Theft Auto III - The Definitive Edition. The product that revolutionized modern gaming and to this day has still left its mark on many new games we play. Should you replay this one? Well, the answer might surprise you. In Grand Theft Auto III you take on the role of a criminal named Claude, after he gets set up at a bank heist. He ends up being convicted and during a prisoner transport, he is able to bail out when the convoy is ambushed. Claude's goal is simple: move up through Liberty City's criminal organization to find and kill Catalina, the woman who shot him and left him for dead at the heist. The open world is a lot smaller than today's sprawling open world games, which shouldn't surprise anyone - the game was released over 20 years ago. And the same goes for its features and mechanics: everything works, but it's been surpassed a very long time ago, so gameplay and gunplay is pretty basic. It's still got some entertainment value, and acquires its fuel mostly from being a "blast from the past", that nostalgia when you boot up a classic you haven't touched in a decade or two. Those basics work exactly like they do in recent GTA games, concerning health, armor, police, weapons, and so on. There are hidden packages to collect, some side missions and activities to complete. And... that's pretty much it. Grand Theft Auto III functions well, especially after patching what was essentially an embarrassing remaster collection at first. But a lot of this old classic doesn't hold up well, after I gave everything some thought. The majority of radio stations are not fun to listen to. Most of the rock and pop radio stations are annoying even: some mediocre and plain bad songs, and the station calls are merely okay. Chatterbox is by far the funniest to listen to, but even that grows thin after a dozen hours. There aren't many radio stations and they loop constantly, so if they're not fun to listen to in the first place, their incessant looping makes you turn them off. Vice City and San Andreas have much better radio stations, and I even just started listening to some Radio Espantoso from Vice City while I played GTA 3. More on those radio stations in the future if and when I go for the Vice City and San Andreas platinum trophies. A lack of a climb or grapple mechanic adds some frustration. Making Claude jump feels very clunky and can get you in real trouble if you don't line up your jumps. The pedestrian AI is dumb: when you're driving down a road at high speed, pedestrians would just jump out of the way on the sidewalk. To the wrong side, no less: straight in front of your car! If you have a cop or cop car close by: have a Wanted level. Gee, thanks game. But most of all: the way you experience Liberty City after the final story mission defies any video game logic. So you deal with every gang in Liberty City, pissing them off and killing their leaders to get to Catalina. You expect a nice reward for reaching the end. What are you rewarded with eventually? A city where every gang hates you and starts shooting at you when they spot you. You can't cross into most territories post-ending without bullets flying into your car. And if you don't escape quickly, you run out of HP and respawn at the hospital. Even Tommy Vercetti earned respect when he dealt with the crooks of Vice City, and then some. The final nail in the coffin is Claude himself: he's an unlikeable mute who lacks any personality or motives besides the story set-up. And as stated, almost everyone hates him at the end of the game. Such a charming protagonist. One of those rare instances I thought I'd never say this - I don't recommend this GTA. I know, I was not expecting to say that either. But here we are, nevertheless. It's too old-fashioned, too clunky and too shallow to properly enjoy and savor these days. Back in 2001, this was the shit. Today, it's a glimpse of a bygone era. It paved the way for far superior games, and it deserves to remain in the past as a distant but fond memory of different times. I do recommend you pick up Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition as a whole, if only so you can score the other two amazing games. Most frustrating trophy - Is That All You've Got? "Is That All You've Got?" is your typical run-of-the-mill complete the game for 100%. That means completing all missions and activities (story and optional), stunt jumps, Rampages, car import/export lists and collect all Hidden Packages. This is the last trophy you'll earn and once you do collect everything, you'll get all weapons for free, all the fanciest vehicles (including the badass Rhino tank for ultimate mayhem), health and armor boost and so on. But it felt pointless the more I completed it, because the rewards you reap from completing everything, would have served better use during the actual story and optional missions instead of giving you access to the toys once you feel about ready to put the game to rest. Not to mention the money you receive for completing the various tasks. You'll be sitting on so much cash by the end that all those millions of dollars are worthless by the end. An unceremonious end where you are filthy rich and have access to every gun and car, but everyone hates you in the city where you live. How is that anything but a valuable lesson about life's real riches?
  10. #288 & #289 - Resident Evil 2 & 3 Simple autopops, so no extensive platinum post this time.
  11. Looks like the PS Plus version of Resident Evil 7 is not eligible for the free PS5 upgrade, you'll have to purchase it. As expected.
  12. #287 - Unravel Six years I left Unravel waiting in my trophy list to properly finish it, and tonight Yarny finally completed his journey on my console. Unravel stars Yarny, a voiceless little doll made out of red yarn. As he explores the house of his home owners, he observes the family pictures in the rooms and goes off on an adventure traversing diverse environments, each presenting different challenges. Yarny will eventually have to try and find his way back home, after he travels into more dangerous territories and puts his own life at considerable risk. You experience Unravel as a sidescrolling 3D platformer, but Yarny has no limitless free movement. The crux of the gameplay is that Yarny leaves a loose red thread behind wherever he goes. He literally unravels (see what they did there?) throughout the levels, the farther he travels, so checkpoints are made up of a needle with a small bowl of red yarn to replenish his body and the distance he can travel. You go from checkpoint to checkpoint And in between those checkpoints, the puzzles and platforming sequences present you with small challenges as to how to reach the next checkpoint with a limited amount of yarn. The puzzles are never difficult or venture into brain-breaking territory: a lot of times you're throwing lassos of yarn to anchor points to climb up or to create new platforms by tying your yarn to two anchor points and dragging objects around. That doesn't mean there aren't any challenges. The platforming sequences which require good timing can cost you your life if you're not careful, and Yarny is not immune to water, falling or being crushed by heavy objects. And those are just the basic rules, Yarny also encounters hostile fauna during his journey and crawls through dangerous machinery, just to give you a few examples. So there is very real danger present in the levels. One thing that stands out: the production quality for such a small studio. The visuals still look and the soundtrack still sounds beautiful six years after launch. From rocky mountain trails to snowy fields, it all looks amazing accompanied by a soundtrack based on folk music and traditional instruments. And seeing/hearing the game in action, you can tell it's made by a Scandinavian studio, a Swedish one to be precies (Coldwood Interactive). And Yarny ends up being one of the most charming voiceless protagonists in video game history. His tale isn't an overblown epic or long one, and it doesn't need to be. It's a charming story of an innocent little doll made of red yarn, that goes out to explore the world and face the dangers hiding within. The puzzles needed a bit more complexity, but aside from that: Unravel is a game I warmly recommend. Most frustrating trophy - Not so fragile after all The trophies of Unravel can be separated into four distinct categories: finish the levels, find all the hidden collectibles, perform miscellaneous optional tasks in each of the levels and complete every level without dying. Guess which one ends up being the most frustrating. I picked "Not so fragile after all" as my most frustrating trophy, where you need to finish the individual levels without dying. Levels can be pretty straightforward if you ignore optional paths to look for collectibles, but some parts are very finicky or unforgiving. Knowing what lies ahead and planning accordingly is crucial to survive every level without dying, and this is where the linear structure helps immensely. Some sequences do require some trial & error or even straight-up luck. One particular example, which might be the most annoying part of any level, is the field with the hostile crows you have to traverse by timing your runs and hiding behind or inside objects. The crows are so random in their attacks that you can only bide your time and spot an opening quickly to make it to the next piece of cover. There's no pattern to hold onto, you just have to let your instincts work at full capacity as you guide Yarny through. Fun and exciting, because there's no clear pattern in the crows' AI. You feel like Yarny is in real danger and there's no game design to exploit, peeking through the seams. But also very frustrating, when you're trying to beat the level without dying and need some luck to make it through unscathed. Or as someone on YouTube summarized it perfectly: "These crows are not part of a puzzle. They're just pure evil."
  13. #286 - Control Time for another game which has been sitting on my backlog shelf for a long time, and got the time it deserved this past week. Control takes place in the Oldest House, a massive windowless skyscraper in the middle of New York City, hidden away for most humans, except for "those who want to find it". You play as Jesse Faden, a woman in search of her brother. They were both involved in a paranormal event in their fictional town of Ordinary, Maine. (what's in a name), and her brother was taken by the Federal Bureau of Control for an unspecified purpose. As Jesse arrives at the Oldest House, she finds that most employees are missing and she discovers the Director has committed suicide in his office with a very special pistol called the "Service Weapon". Whoever wields the Service Weapon, becomes the new Director and you guessed it: Jesse picks up the gun and de facto becomes the new Director. As it turns out, an otherworldly entity called "The Hiss" has invaded the Bureau from another dimension which takes over organisms and turns them into hostile beings. Think of alien zombies, if that helps visualize it. The problem is contained within the paranormal building for now. It is up to Jesse to find her brother, connect the dots as she explores the building, locates survivors and contains and stops the threat of the Hiss in the Oldest House. A quick word about the location itself: the Oldest House is a very abnormal building. called a "Place of Power". In it, you open up different sections one part at a time as you gain more supernatural powers and keycards from surviving security personnel. It is a structure not built by humankind and its true origins are a mystery in the lore thus far. For more info on how humankind stumbled upon the building in the first place, I'll let you play the game to discover it for yourself. But the way it is built up, adds to the immersion of the game. The Bureau took office in the building to study other dimensions and paranormal matter as a sort of secret government agency, but inside, the Oldest House consists of Thresholds, which connect regular rooms and floors to various alternate dimensions. As such, you'll be diving in and out of different dimensions often, coming into contact with paranatural phenomena. This adds to the way you experience the game: Control has no linear path. The building opens up more, and as you grow stronger or unlock new sectors, you can take the elevator or fast-travel through checkpoints and explore the entire building as an actual building (minus the short loading screens). One could consider it backtracking, but with how many checkpoints and optional places there are to discover, it never grows old. It doesn't only allow for you to really develop a feel for the Oldest House and how it... exists? But it helps bring the story, the quests, the lore and the characters to life. The Oldest House as such contributes greatly to how you experience the game. Throughout the game, you'll grow stronger and invest skill points in a tree, and unlock new modes for the Service Weapon with the paranatural resources you collect from enemies and chests. By the latter half of the game, Jess can levitate around rooms, use telekinesis to throw objects and shield herself with pieces of concrete, evade attacks super fast, convert enemies into allies ... the supernatural abilities not only prevent combat from turning stale. They turn the combat into one of the best parts of the game. As the Director, you'll have to deal with other crises which have occurred after the invasion of the Hiss. The Oldest House is not only a space-defying and constantly-shifting labyrinth (not in terms of gameplay, don't worry about getting *completely* lost = see the next paragraph underneath for more on that), it is also a huge research center where hundreds upon hundreds of altered paranormal items are being stored for safekeeping and research. Which means there are multiple sidequests available to help deal with these dangerous items. These sidequests sometimes even end up being better than the main story! Sam Lake (creative director at Remedy) loves to take common items or people and give them a paranormal twist. Alan Wake had its paranormal typewriter, pages and even something as simple as a light-switch. Control has paranormal items such as a mirror, a rubber duck, a clock, a floppy disk, a fridge and so many more. All either leading to another dimension or wreaking havoc and needing to be cleansed in a sidequest. Some of them even lead to really cool boss fights that the main story is lacking. The sidequests in Control are absolutely worthy of pursuing and add to the lore at the same time. Also, you'll be coming across a lot of collectibles which all serve a purpose. These are documents, audio logs or video logs to help flesh out the lore. Be sure to pick up as many of them as you can and give them a read/listen/look! One thing I must address, is the pacing. Control has very little holding it back from being a tremendous experience, but this is one of the few cons. For the most part, the pacing ramps up well in most of the game's story. But the first thirty minutes are an insane rollercoaster. From the moment you start the game, there's very little explanation. Jesse arrives. Jesse explores the first sector a bit. Jesse finds the Director dead. Jesse picks up the Service Weapon. Jesse becomes the Director. Jesse gets in touch with a paranormal entity (or group of entities?) called the Board who appoint her Director. And before you know it, you're shooting Hiss-infected survivors with no clues. "Whoa whoa whoa, slow down! I have so many questions!" That's what I was telling myself as I tried to grasp the situation. Moreover, and this is key: you don't get a chance to emotionally connect with Jesse Faden in that introductory hour. The game drops you way too quick into the combat, the location and the situation. That connection only grows during the rest of the story, and although you never care deeply for her situation, she is a likeable protagonist. Remedy (the devs) could have eased us a bit more into her predicament as you discover the world of "Control". The second problem? The map. Whoever decided to include the layout of every sector on a two-dimensional plane (where divisions have multiple staircases and floors) has not had this element passed through QA procedure properly. Earlier on in the game when you want to explore off the beaten path or solve a sidequest, it is sometimes so unclear how to get somewhere. I.e. "I can clearly see the Luck & Probability Research Sector, I know I've been there before, I don't remember how, I'd love to go there to solve the puzzle but I forgot what path to take and where is the damn entrance to the sector how hard can it be to just give me some visual marker even to help guide me!" I get what they were going for: they want you to spend as little time as possible in the menus, so the map uses "Directional Up" as a hotkey. Meaning you can access the map always when you're actively steering Jesse. The design balance is incredibly fragile: on one hand, it would have been disastrous if we had to interrupt the flow all the time by going into the menu every five minutes. On the other hand: having it designed as a two-dimensional map with so many floors and staircases changes the map into an Etch A Sketch project with some text slapped on rooms. Give Jesse a device in the sequel (which has already been confirmed to be in development) which projects an in-game 3D-hologram of the sector. That way: you can access the map in-game without interruptions and it can be displayed in 3D. Or introduce a toggle function to switch between 2D or 3D! In this first game, for immersive purposes, I suggest you make use of the way signs in the sectors, which will help guide you to the right locations. Aside from those two problems, Control is unique and plays very fluidly. The map is a frustrating mess, and the first hour is too fast in narrative pacing, but once you dive deeper, Control offers very cool combat, an intriguing story and lore with plenty of optional content, and a near-insatiable appetite to explore the Oldest House from top to bottom. And if you get the Ultimate Edition (which costs as much as a standard game), you get access to two interesting expansions. One of them even crosses over with Alan Wake, proving that they share the same universe. Another fantastic game of the same studio, I might add. Amazing work, highly recommended! TL;DR This was a very long post, I know. I go into detail a lot in these posts. So: Control. Cool story. Pacing is off at first, but gets a lot better. Combat is awesome. Sidequests are awesome. Location is awesome. Lore and collectibles are intriguing. Map function is a mess. Overall, great game! Get the Ultimate Edition for the full package. Most frustrating trophy - ... NONE! I went back and forth between picking a trophy for this section or not picking one at all. Eventually, I ended up with no frustrating trophies at all. Everything is unmissable, so the only one I distantly considered adding here, would be the "Master Parautilitarian" trophy, which pops when you spent 100 ability points in the skill tree. This is one you should get towards finishing the story and all the optional content, such as side quests or locating hidden rooms. All-in-all, an enjoyable and relatively easy platinum trophy!
  14. #285 - The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story If you played Erica or you remember really old games from decades ago which also used FMV's, you'll definitely know how this next game is designed. The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a mystery-adventure game published by Square Enix (yes, that one big Japanese game company that is mostly well-known for J-RPG's) which consists of a lot of live-action scenes and several interactive deduction sequences to progress the story. It revolves around the Shijima family and the mysterious murders which have plagued their family for 100 years. With one main theme connecting everything: eternal life. When skeletal remains are uncovered underneath the cherry blossom tree on the Shijima estate grounds in 2022, successful mystery writer Haruka Kagami is invited by one of the Shijima sons she's collaborated with for her newest book, to come and investigate the discovery of the remains in secret under the guise of an unrelated article. Her research leads to multiple murders having taken place in the family for 100 years, all linked to the Fruit of Youth called the "Tokijiku", which supposedly grants eternal life. As she uncovers the truth step by step and the links between all ostensibly unrelated cases, deeply buried secrets emerge and the lives of all involved are forever changed, delivering answers they've been pursuing for many decades. First off: the production quality of all the scenes and script (and there are hours upon hours of live-action scenes!) is top-shelf quality. The actors and actresses all bring very credible performances, the writing is solid throughout, the camera work is executed professionally, the soundtrack is great, and the pacing is pretty consistent. With an ending and epilogue that washes over you as a cascade of huge plot twists and revelations, throwing your perception of certain characters completely upside-down. It's also written with many small details strewn throughout, making you rewatch scenes after you finish your first playthrough and realizing how many hints you've been subtly fed (and never realized). Also known as that feeling when you rewatch a great show or movie and go: "oh my God, of course why didn't I see that detail the first time around!" Chapters take place during different time periods to tell the entire story, but the majority of the actors in the present are used in each past era. Officially to reduce on costs, presumably, but plotwise it has been woven into the story that Haruka reads about the cases in the present and uses people she knows in the present to help visualize the past characters and murder cases she reads about. This works surprisingly well, without going into too much detail to prevent spoilers. Because of the amount of narrative content to tell, you can expect a game that lasts from ten to fifteen hours. The actual game here is paper-thin. During live-action scenes you collect clues and once you are ready to form hypotheses, you will need to fill in these hexagonal clues into a grid of sorts, to fit clues to mysteries (questions) to form hypotheses. This is also the spot where you can rewatch scenes to notice extra clues in terms of what's been said, the behavior of characters, etc. However: it is an embarrassingly easy process. Hovering clues over spots in the grid give away where they are supposed to go, and the symbols drawn on the hexagonal clues always match up with the same symbols on the edges of the mysteries in the grid. The game is essentially pointing in your stead and visually saying: "hey, that clue fits here, and that one fits there". Once you have completed this process and come up with potential solutions, the live-action scenes continue and you're asked to finish sentences of Haruka (or investigating characters in the past) by means of multiple-choice answers to solve the murders. Most cases give you a clear path to the correct answers if you just follow the path of logic (including the last one). And botching up a question is followed by a short scene showing your choice was incorrect and a screen welcoming you to repick a different choice from the last question. In other words, the game doesn't want you to redo the entire process of filling in the grid again and going over clues - unless that's what you prefer; there is an option to go back to the deduction process to get your thoughts in order. This makes The Centennial Case a game with almost zero challenge when it comes to the process of linking clues to questions, even though it never stops being fun to piece together the scenarios which are never straightforward. On the other hand, this keeps the pacing at a very forgiving level in these sequences. You'll want to keep digging for more story and answers, but at a cost of satisfying gameplay. And considering there can only be one right answer for every question, it does mean that there are no branching storylines. There is only one ending. However, given how the story is built up and its length, this works in its favor. Having to sit through the same scenes for ten to fifteen hours just to reach another ending would become a discouraging chore, despite there being fast-forward and rewind buttons in practically each scene. How to even rate this? As a full-fledged "game": it's straight-up bad. There's hardly any "game" here to speak of. L.A. Noire is a far better detective "game" in that regard, containing a plethora of interactive bells and whistles. But! That is not how this was marketed. So that analysis would be unfair to the material presented. This was always portrayed as a mystery-adventure game with live-action scenes from start to finish. The game aspect is regrettably limited and holds your hand too much in some cases. As such, you need to approach this as an interactive viewing experience, where the story takes up most of the room on-stage. As a viewing experience, I had so much fun. I love a great mystery, and these past days I continued booting up the game to see more and dig more, to get to the climax. And as stated before: the acting performances, the actual filming, the soundtrack, the sets and backgrounds, the outdoor shots, all executed expertly. If this was a TV series on Netflix for example, I would've not been able to stop watching. As a suggestion: play with original Japanese audio. The English dubs lack proper emotion and diminish the experience. This is a niche experience. And it will only appeal to a select audience. Pick it up on sale if you love a solid mystery story and if you have an affinity for oriental culture. If you love both and don't mind watching most of the time with the occasional button press here and deduction sequence there, you're in for a well-written interactive TV show (in terms of length) which doesn't know its equal. Erica is the only other game that comes close, but that one is much shorter, its story lacks the same narrative punches that The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story offers, includes many branching paths and outstays its welcome before you get its platinum trophy because of some of the trophies. Erica is by no means a bad game - admittedly, I was a bit more forgiving because I got to experience it for free on Plus. The Centennial Case is just better and provides a more satisfying and consistent story and conclusion. If Square Enix had released this as an actual TV show with just a slightly bigger production budget, it would have definitely garnered more success than as a game. Let me rephrase that. Square Enix, publish this as a TV show on Netflix, and I will watch it again. Not being cheeky or sarcastic, I mean it. Most frustrating trophy - ... NONE! If you're paying attention, collecting all the clues - which are literally appearing on the screen and only require the press of a button - and devising all possible hypotheses, there's almost no way you can miss this platinum trophy. And even if you do miss a few clues or hypotheses, there's always Chapter Select after you finish the game for a quick clean-up session.
  15. #284 - Dark Cloud I decided to jump back into an old game this time, one from my childhood which I had never finished. Now, with the PS4 port of Dark Cloud, I finally completed it and witnessed its story conclude fully. Dark Cloud tells the story of Toan, a young boy gifted with a special jewel, the Atlamillia, to restore the world after a Dark Genie was released from his prison, destroying towns everywhere. Along the way he meets new people from all walks of life who join him in his quest to discover the origin of the Genie, fix everything and destroy his evil essence. The story itself is mostly barebones until you reach the final area and face the end boss, at which point you'll learn much more about how the story fits together. And it is quite charming, admittedly. Even though it remains a pretty basic plot. Back in the day when this originally came out on the PS2 in 2001, however, this was hot stuff. What made (and still makes) Dark Cloud so special, is its structure. The RPG is built up in two parts: on one hand you're exploring dungeons across the world and leveling up your characters, gear, upgrading stats and buying provisions to handle tougher challenges as you progress through the story. This is role-playing 101. What you also encounter on most floors of the dungeons are these - as I still like to call them - big round easter eggs which hatch when Toan touches them, which give you a part of the respective town/city you're trying to fix. These are buildings, characters, trees, pieces of road and river, items, furniture, pets, and so on. This is where the second - and by far coolest part - of the game kicks in: rebuilding everything in a day-and-night cycle. As you collect more and more pieces with that special jewel mentioned at the top, you will be able to put together the houses and establishments you found, along with their missing furniture, pieces and inhabitants. Not only that: when you restore these characters, you need to talk to them to learn how they'd like you to rebuild their town. Listening to each of their demands, you will need to place houses, road and river in certain ways and wind directions that appeases everyone's wishes. This essentially turns every non-hostile area into a big puzzle where you get the freedom to rebuild the world as you see fit, complete with roads, rivers, trees and bridges, while also taking wishes into account of all the inhabitants. Rebuild everything by fulfilling demands simultaneously, and each town will grant you a special reward which might prove extra useful on your adventure. Honestly: I enjoyed the rebuilding aspect even more than the whole dungeon exploration. It is a fresh concept that I still don't see in other games. Even sweeter: with the push of a button you can zoom all the way out to build and reposition structures and zoom back in down on the ground to run around with Toan and explore the towns you built, without loading screens. On current consoles, this is your average design. But again, back on PS2, this was incredible to experience. And it still feels fluid and wonderful. Does that mean that Dark Cloud has survived the test of time? There are elements which feel very much lacking, looking back on it now as an adult. The camera can be incredibly annoying at times or block your view when you lock on an enemy and suddenly end up behind some structure or barrier. Dark Cloud is a very light role playing game, so you don't have a jump button or an option to switch between weapons and spells for instance. Each party character has one main attack ability, and although switching between them (from a swordsman like Toan to a magic-casting genie like Ruby) plays out quickly, the combat itself feels rusty. As such, the same goes for the controls, they feel clunky. Locking onto an enemy and moving around his axis feels slow and can leave you open to painful attacks if you're reckless. The door swings both ways though: Dark Cloud can be incredibly easy the moment you exploit that system by moving in to coax an enemy attack, move away, and move back in after his animation to smack the crap out of him. And that's usually how it plays out: even the bosses can be exploited in this way and are a massive pushover. Aside from an attack button, a block button and a lock-on button, you also have the ability to throw objects such as bombs and magic gems or poisonous apples an gooey peaches to inflict negative statuses on enemies. The problem is that this quick-use bar where you put all usable items, also serves for non-throwable items such as Dran's Feather (a super handy item which you'll end up using all the damn time because it makes you run twice as fast through dungeons). If you're not careful, you can end up forgetting you don't have Dran's Feather selected and still have your marker on a different slot such as a bomb. Hence, you'll press the "use" button still having a bomb selected, and end up holding the button down to throw a bomb instead of using your Dran's Feather to speed around the dungeon again after an encounter. This would not be such a big problem if you had a cancel-throw button. But guess what: there isn't one! This happened to me so many times that it became embarrassing and I ended up wasting a lot of useful throwables. And the fishing minigame is straight-up garbage. Then again, I know of no fishing minigames in video games which end up being fun. It's pretty disheartening to realize that twenty years have passed since Dark Cloud, yet these kinds of minigames still haven't found a sweet spot. They sucked back then, and they still suck equally as hard today. Would I recommend you play Dark Cloud on PS4/PS5? In general: no. The game still has a certain charm and the nostalgia factor plays a determining role if you played this game twenty years ago like I did. But unless you are looking for that old-school experience or you want to replay a very rough diamond from long ago, this is a pass. Too many of the mechanics feel dated and it is as such very much a product of its time. I find it only fair to stress that the simulation aspect does still hold up pretty well and that I did love rebuilding everything again. Maybe next time, just ditch the dungeons and let us build our own fantasy towns with objectives and challenges? *gets epiphany* ... Some game studio should really get on that. That all being said: Dark Cloud does make you realize how pampered we are as modern gamers and how far we have come since the days of PlayStation 2 glory. (Wow, this post ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated) Most frustrating trophy - A Rare Catch Most trophies of Dark Cloud are easy to achieve, even the gold hoarding one which is laughably easy to unlock with a glitch. However, one of the trophies, "A Rare Catch", does make you catch a Baron Garayan fish. This is one of the rarest fish in the entire game and will test your patience a bit to try and catch one. You can already imagine how much fun this is, when you take into account what I mentioned about the ever-enjoyable nature of fishing minigames. Specifically, this fish will only appear in a few spots in the game (I picked the oasis at Muska Racka) and you can only catch it with the Potato Cake bait. Having the Baron Garayan spawn mostly depends on luck - although I'm not sure if a specific time during the day or night increases his spawn rate - so it took multiple reloads and attempts to not only find him, but to also catch him. Soul-breaking? No. Annoying? Oh yes.