Muff

Most Recent Platinum

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16 hours ago, Brainswashed said:

Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare :platinum: 1f4af.png%

Difficult : 4/10 with All DLC 7.5/10 
Fun : 9/10

Time : 2 days 18 hr with good teammate

8-C866638-4-A09-4822-8-C19-1253-C5629-A3

Hats off man! I don't know if I will ever be able to plat this one, zombies it's pretty hard for me and I don't enjoy it that much either. Could you give me some suggestions on how to approach it?

Edited by ShinySpidey
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:platinum:  507

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Weird West

 

When, in 2017, Raphael Colantonio - 18 year president of Arkane Studios - departed the company he founded, citing creative anxiety and burnout due to the pressures of delivering in the "Triple A" space, I took keen notice. Arkane, (as any science chum probably knows by now,) is one of my most admired studios - one of the last still proudly carrying the torch for the Immersive Sim genre (arguably the most risky, most complex genre of game design out there.) Colantonio had shepherded four of my favourite games of the past decade to fruition - the Dishonoured trilogy and Prey - and the direction the studio would take, post-Colantonio was unclear.


As it turned out, studio direction was not the issue I had to fear, (Arkane's Immersive Sim / time-loop hybrid Deathloop released last year, to my considerable enjoyment,) however, what was to be feared was Microsoft's gargantuan wallet. Their purchase of Bethesda - including all subsidiary studios, of which Arkane is one - meant that Deathloop is likely the last Arkane game to be seen on a Sony console.
The interesting silver lining to that particular cloud though, is the newfound independence of Colantonio, in the form of his new studio, founded alongside Arkane veteran producer Julien Roby and a small cadre of ex-Arcane designers: Wolfeye Studios. 

Their first game: Weird West.

 

As it turns out, it's quite aptly named.
Weird West is... well... weird. 
Not just in terms of narrative, but in virtually all gameplay design elements.


It plays as a curious hybrid of Isometric Dungeon Crawler, Twin-Stick Shooter, CRPG and Oregon Trail-style resource management sim. 


The player takes the roles of five different characters, one after another, across 5 separate vignette-style short stories of around 4-6 hours in length. Each playable character comes with their own distinct skill tree, working in tandem with an over-arching "common" skill tree, and so each plays a little differently. Narratively, each is also of progressively more occult, secretive origins, in this pulpy, strange take on the old west. 

This is a version of alternate history where occult elements are simply known parts of the world - witches exist, common folks carry poultices and talismans to ward off evil, people get turned into Pig-Men, there are cults such as the Werewolves and the "Onerists" around (magic users that are known and feared,) and where the citizenry seem fully aware that at any moment, zombies or ghosts might burst forth from the graveyard on the edge of town, and they will have to fight or flee.
It makes for distinct and original tales, of the 50's "adventure comic" variety, and ones which are executed very well. The player will change from playing as one 'side' of warring factions to the other - at the start, you play as Jane Bell, a human woman, who's knowledge of the occult elements is not much more than the general townsfolk of the various steadings. However, each new character is more and more involved with the more occult elements, culminating with actually playing as a member of the most secretive of the cults. 
This gives an overall narrative a feeling of journeying into the unknown, but with a more curious slant to it that the traditional "normal protagonist delves ever deeper into the bizarre" style more often employed in games.

 

Mechanically, the multiple character, short story style it employs is a neat trick, almost evoking a rogue-like feeling, where the player is required to see five interconnected and interweaving narratives to their conclusion, one after the other, with each outcome affecting the next, and being affected by the previous ones.

The story also ties the five distinct stories together well - more and more as the narratives play out, interactions or scenarios that felt curious or out-of-place or just downright odd in early narratives are expanded upon or tied up in later ones, and the way the narratives criss-cross, (for example, allowing previous playable characters to be recruited as NPC helpers by subsequent characters, and having cross-narrative through-threads, such as the tale of Essex Mast, (a human obsessed with studying immortality, who is mysteriously and intrinsically bound to all five playable characters,) or The Children - (two ethereal little girls who allude to being immortal themselves, and seem to know more of the player than they do of the characters they are controlling,) is really cool - and works in a way that really could have been a mess in lesser hands.
(I won't give spoilers, but in the end, the over-arching narrative reminded me very much of 1998's wildly underrated sci-fi noire film Dark City... in a good way!)

 

Gameplay-wise, when playing Weird West, it becomes pretty clear which elements of Arkane's signature style was most driven by the stewardship of Colantonio himself. Weird West is not really similar to any of the Immersive Sims Arkane released during his time there - Arkane output was exclusively first person, high-polish stealth / action powers-shooters in the mould of Bioshock or Deus Ex - however, the major crossover element between Arkane and Wolfeye is clear - the variety of execution of in-game tasks, and the focus on malleable narrative to fit that.


There is a huge amount of interaction with the world that is possible, and multiple ways to achieve almost everything in the game. Like the Dishonoured games, Weird Westgives the player multiple explicit options for the completion of missions, but more than that, like Prey (Arkane's most "immersive sim-y" of their immersive sims,) it also has a narrative that is crafted in such a way as to take a pounding from the player, and still keep up.

In one playthrough, a character's final boss might be killed. In the next character's playthrough, that location that was his hideout might be abandoned. If however, the first character's playthrough is completed without killing that boss, then he still exists in the world, and continues to have an effect. He might appear as a bounty to be hunted in a subsequent playthrough, or simply be able to be encountered, if that players goes to the same location.

If, during a bounty or mission, a gang leader is killed, but one of his men flees, a vendetta may be started, where that person will return to hunt you, with a newly recruited posse of mercenaries. 

This even extends to interesting relationships with the narrator of the game - in one playthrough, I tried killing both characters in what is ostensibly set up as a "choose one path or the other" moment. 
Rather than simply failing a quest, or refusing to let me do this, both died, and the narrator simply said "Well, both dead by your hands... you got a different plan, Hoss?"... 
...and sure enough, I was able to pick up a new path through the narrative, with the story beats moulding accordingly to fit my actions.

 

Oddly though, all these elements - narrative malleability, signature style, variability, emergent storytelling - these are all the areas most unusual, and most difficult to nail in games, and they are the areas Weird West does best. The parts that are more common to games in general, (and arguably the "easier" parts to get right,) are where Weird Westfalls down a bit.

 

Combat can be finicky and difficult to control. Gunplay works like a twin stick shooter, however, unlike most twin stick shooters, the world of Weird West has multiple elevations, and so a shooting scheme that would work in simple "flat-plan" tends to get confused. Essentially, the player aims like a twin stick shooter, but has to keep an eye on a reticle, which will show on the enemy being targeted. In the fray of battle, this can be tricky to do and to see - and in a game where NPC helpers act on their own in battle (and friendly fire is deadly,) it can be all too easy to shoot the wrong person, or whiff entirely. 
The combat powers, also, are awkward to use, with the actual executions being tied to multiple button presses while aiming, and so the fast-pace of combat tends to work against the variability of powers-based combat. Truth be told, I found the game more enjoyable when simply ignoring powers in combat, and concentrating on upgrading weaponry to the point I no longer needed to rely on powers. (It's worth noting - Weird West feels very much a game designed for PC primarily. I suspect all these issues would melt away when using a mouse to am, and keyboard hotkeys for powers - but in the console controller, it is a real issue.)

Stealth works relatively well, however, the same issues occur in terms of visual cues and gauging of distance / elevation / sight-lines. Stealth tends to work as good way to get an advantage before a fire-fight, but actually full-stealthing a long section or dungeon is made very difficult by these issues, and necessitates numerous quick-save / quick-loads. (The game seems to understand this, as there is a dedicated quick-save save-slot, and using it is made very quick and easy.)

 

These issues might all feel separate, however, I think they are symptoms of the same fundamental design flaw in Weird West - it is a game that utilises a top-down isometric viewpoint... a perspective wholly unsuited to virtually all aspects of the game it is utilised for. Because the camera is pulled quite far back, the player does not have the "character's perspective" when playing.

Immersive Sims have certain staples - interactivity, huge amounts of loot, secret and alternate paths etc, and these require the player to scour the environment for clues, and to inspect every detail. That cannot be done from the isometric point of view very easily. Missing important loot is a constant issue, as the item required may be tiny on the screen, and mixed in with lots of other tiny, unimportant items. 
Powers-Shooters require a confidence of position and sight-line that this perspective does not provide, and so it's often very difficult to gauge whether a power is appropriate to use or not, given the player's position relative to the enemy.  

 

It's a shame, as the Isometric perspective does have some good aspects - the game actually looks very nice - a stylised sketch-book style, with simple character designs in engine, backed up with portrait sketches during conversations that retain the Arkane flair for cool, signature UI design, however, it just doesn't work terribly well for the gameplay as designed. 

 

The game sounds cool - in-world character dialogue is purely written, with the characters speaking in a simlish - though this is not like any simlish I've ever heard! It's odd and grotesque and creepy - a sort of old-world growling mixed with screechy, tinny drawls that wouldn't sound out of place in a horror film, or in the background of a Nick Cave song. 
The only voice heard is the Narrator, who has the perfect Sam Elliot-style old-west drawl and laid-back musicality to his vocals - the game feels like your playing, with later-years Johnny Cash sitting by your side.

Music is generally good across the game - a stylish mix of southern gothic and grimy electric synth, with occasional trips into greatness - particularly in the later, more occult storylines, or during climax sections of each story, where original songs, (often with  appropriate lyrics,) are employed.

 

I will take a brief moment to mention the trophies in this one. They are fun, and like Arkane games, serve a duel purpose, of both encouraging variety, and actually teaching the player some of the mechanics that are available to them. That said, I do think it's worth noting that the trophy-hunter-mentality, (which we all have, to some degree,) where we naturally try to unlock as many trophies as possible in a single playthrough, actively works against the enjoyment of Weird West.

Because the truly impressive element of the game is in how reactive and variable its narrative is, and the fun is often in seeing how that narrative changes based on previous decisions / execution, the player loses a lot of the best fun the game has to offer by simply milking as many trophies as possible in one go.
I did 90% of the trophies in one long playthrough of around 30-40 hours... but it was only in running through the second time for clean-up that the breadth of variation to the narrative made itself known to me.

I realised, (too late,) that I would have had a much better time doing 4 or 5 short, (6-8 hour,) playthroughs, and doing a few trophies each time, than one long one, as that would have shown me far more in the way of interesting twists and changes in requirements etc. I would advise anyone going into the platinum now, to do just that. The actual total time with the game is unlikely to be much longer, however, the best elements of the game will be displayed, and they would likely have a much better time.


Overall, Weird West is game that works sometimes - and when it works, it really, really works, and really impresses - but continually trips over itself. It's an odd one, because the parts that it gets right are the really tough things to nail - the parts most games don't even attempt. The parts where it falls short are ten-a-penny in other games, and so presumably easier to implement.  It's a strange case of the more common elements tending to step on the feet of the more original ones.


The game ends up sliding into that odd category of games that are cool, fun, stylish and original... and broadly recommended... but the strongest elements are those that are around the edges. The core mechanics and moment-to-moment gameplay just don't live up to the game in which they are housed.

 

(For original review and Scientific 1f609.png Ranking see HERE)

Edited by DrBloodmoney
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The Longest Road on Earth

 

A genuine curiosity from Spanish developer Brainwash Gang, The Longest Road on Earth couples a series of shot vignettes of the daily lives of various lonely characters rendered in simplistic greyscale pixel-art, with a stultifyingly good alt/indie original soundtrack, to result in a game experience quite unlike virtually any I have previously come across.

 

The Longest Road on Earth is a short game, focussed on music primarily, but that's not to say there isn't emotional beats that get hit. Far from it in fact. While actual physical input to the game is shockingly minimal - pretty much exclusively walking from one thing to another or clicking to look at things - the player who engages with the game is likely to feel drained by the end. The tole taken here is not physical, but emotional, and I think it does a really great job exercising the player's heartstrings, even as their thumbs are taking it easy.
The characters in the game are anthropomorphised animals, but their emotions, lives and wistful loneliness are all too human. Loneliness is not a subject tackled too often in games, and so when it is tackled here - and so well - it cuts quite deeply.

 

The basic bones of the narrative are 4 short pastiches of life at different stages and the various ways loneliness can be experienced. These are loosely strung together via a wraparound container narrative of an old man (well, an old crocodile actually,) seemingly working in some kind of second hand store, who sparks the catalyst for each story by touching different items in the store.

Each vignette touches on loneliness in its own way. Whether it's the small country mouse, who's life is idyllic, yet she has no one to share her quiet moments with, the city rat who loves the piano, but is all but invisible in his day job, the bear who works and office job for a shipping company, and the pigeon who works the freighters, living parallel lives of quiet loneliness toiling for the same company, or the young moose, being cared for by his protective, but emotionally inattentive parents... each looks at how life can seemingly churn all around some people, yet never quite touch upon them in a meaningful way.

 

These vignettes are rendered in fairly simplistic pixel-art style, in shades of grey, though it's surprising how much of the tone of the game is worked through this simple art-style. The game is not going to win any graphical competition, but the sweet-yet-wistful tone actually benefits a fair bit from the lack of realistic graphics - plenty of detail is able to be discerned, and the developer does a lot with a limited tool set. That the game is in greyscale really helps the tone too - it's rare that I would argue for a greyscale colour palette being more effective, but here, I think the game would lose some of its impact in colour.

 

The music is really centre stage in The Longest Road on Earth. So much so, in fact, that I genuinely think the game is not getting enough credit for what it represents. Generally, the game seems to have a favourable critical response as an art-house-indie narrative game, but actually, I think what it does is more fundamental. 
Essentially, The Longest Road on Earth has created a new genre within gaming. 

 

We've had "Games as Games" obviously, and on the more emotive side of gaming, the past two decades have seen "Games as novels", (visual novels,) "Games as Choose-Your-Own-Adventure", (Telltale etc.,) "Games as Experiences" (Gone Home, Dear Esther etc,) and we've even had "Games as Meditation", (Everything, Proteus etc.) 
I don't think we've ever had "Game as Music Video," though... until now.
That is the feeling evoked here. 

 

Because the narrative is told in un-dialogued, text-free vignettes, and because all emotional context is implied, and shown via more rudimentary pixel-art on the anthropomorphic characters, the visuals tend to work as tone pieces more than anything. They convey little direct narrative, but evoke emotion very strongly - much like a music video will. 
The result flips the usual videogame dichotomy between audio and visual on its head - rather than the visual and interactive elements being the driving force, and the audio supporting them, here Beícoli's music is very much in the driver's seat, and the visual and minimal interactive elements work in service to that.

 

That is something quite unique in The Longest Road on Earth, and it works very well - simply because the music is so good. Make no mistake, more than virtually any other game, this one would fall apart if that were not true. 

That music - all by Beícoli, is beautiful, varied, emotive and incredibly powerful at times. 
Beícoli appears to identify exclusively as a videogame music creator - a part of Brainwash Gang, rather than an independent musical artist in her own right - which is somewhat baffling to me, considering the quality of the soundtrack can easily sit alongside the albums of Cat Power, Ex:Re, Lovers, Lanterns on the Lake etc. 
I personally paused The Longest Road on Earth after only a few songs to add the album to my Spotify rotation, and with each track that played after that, it only cemented my decision to to so!
I'm actually in something of a quandary in terms of recommendations actually - part of me wants to encourage readers to check out the album on Spotify, as I'm confident anyone who does so will want to play the game... 
...but I also think that experiencing the album as it appears in game, with the visuals associated is likely to be most impactful if the music is brand new to the player. 

 

Overall, The Longest Road on Earth is a peculiar experience, virtually unique in the gaming landscape. It's a game about a subject rarely broached, yet universally felt, and its medium is used in a very unusual way.

The game is short, and lacking any real replay value beyond re-experiencing the emotional journey and the excellent music, but as a singular experience, (and one best consumed in a single session,) it achieves its goals and then some.

Of course, with such a high reliance on its musical score, a lot of the game's impact will be contingent on musical taste, however, as someone who very much likes that strain of thoughtful, deep-dark, female-led alt/indie music, I can attest that Beícoli's soundtrack works brilliantly - both in and out of the game, and will be a staple of my Spotify rotation from here on out.

 

 

(For original review and Scientific 1f609.png Ranking see HERE)

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