Farcry 5: The First Region

Ubisoft, much like EA and some of the other big video game publisher/developers have had their fair share of mistakes made over the years. I don’t really purchase too many of their titles as a result, because quite simply their cookie-cutter game design that allows them to churn out titles year after year tends to lead to boring experiences. I’m talking about the Call of Duty‘s and Assassin’s Creed‘s of the world. However, I am not immune to their charms at times, having purchased a handful of Call of Duty titles, and though I don’t enjoy Assassin’s Creed, I’ve always been somewhat curious about the Farcry franchise. I recall people talking positively about it in the past, and I’ve seen a video or two that made it seem somewhat appealing, but until now I’ve not legitimately played a single one. That changed recently, due to a sale on the Playstation Store, where the fifth (and latest in the numbered series) game was on sale for only $15. There were options for complete DLC editions and whatnot, but not knowing if I’d even like the game, I managed my risk. I also have a little less disposable income as of late due to the purchase of my car, so I’m trying to play through some games I already own, and only pick up cheap options otherwise. Nonetheless, I’ve started the game and have played it pretty regularly over the last week, managing to complete one of the game’s three regions. I say complete loosely, due to the sheer number of things you can do in a given region, but I did a large portion of what was on offer, and I assume at some point later in the game I could go back and do some cleanup. So as I’ve pretty much gone into this experience blind, I’ll share what I’ve learned about the series, this game in particular, and my personal story with it.

I neglected to take any screenshots during the tutorial, but the set up is basically this: You’re a rookie in the Hope County Sheriff’s department in Montana, where a religious cult has been terrorizing the locals. You’re heading in with U.S. Marshals to take on this threat. Things go okay for a while, then shit hits the fan, and as you attempt to obscond with the cult’s leader, his people go crazy, climbing onto your helicopter and literally sacrificing themselves in the chopper’s blades to cause a crash landing. Some of your comrades are captured but you manage to escape. From here, this little island serves as a tutorial area, getting you used to the game’s mechanics. The above graphic describes the majority of activities that you’ll take part in through the rest of the game. I’m not sure if it’s really “emergent” AI, but things seem to happen randomly enough, and as you complete the above tasks enemies get even stronger, or more variety of enemies will appear. For example, you’ll start with roving bands of cultists that will attack if they see you, to then having actual hunters tracking you down, to then having airplanes gunning for you. It’s never to a point of being too hard, but it definitely can get annoying at times.

For the most part, if you’ve played any open world games, you’ll be familiar with what is on offer here. There is a character customization option, but you never see yourself unless you utilize photo mode — but there is the option to co-op through the game so I suppose there is a reason for all of the random skins and clothing articles. Everything can be bought with in game currency, some pieces can be found in the world, and of course there is a premium currency which seems unneeded but I suppose whales will be whales. The perk system has a lot to choose from, but some choices seem more obvious than others. Getting the grappling hook and parachute are great for getting around, while the lockpicking and extra holsters obviously make sense. Other options seem to be less useful and are just passive bonuses, but I suppose this depends on your playstyle. There is a limited crafting system that works pretty similarly to The Last of Us, and you’re really only making explosives with the materials you’ll collect. Weapons are varied enough, but the “customization” is the same set of scopes, silencers and larger magazines on every gun, and there are more pointless skins. It feels kind of hollow, but it works well enough.

You’ll spend a lot of time staring at this map, and this is zoomed out to the size of the region. There are two other regions that are equally sized, and it surely takes a while to get from point A to point B on foot. As you complete missions, rescue people and generally blow shit up, you’ll eventually get captured by a group of cultist hunters, which will introduce you to that region’s leader, in this case John Seed. The Seeds are the cult’s leaders, and they seem just unhinged enough to be “crazy” but are also composed enough to keep order over their people. After escaping the first time, you’ll eventually piss off John enough to get captured again, this time with a longer sequence carrying on to escape. Eventually you’ll fill up your “resistance points” bar and John will call you out for a confrontation.

The world feels big, and for the most part it feels lived in. There are some areas of wilderness, but there’s always someone wandering around nearby. As with most games of this type, there is a fast travel option, where you can open the map and instantly teleport to a previously visited location. I used this sort of option in games like Skyrim almost exclusively, as it eventually became tiresome to trudge about the map on foot. That feels the same way here, but fortunately there is a grand scope of vehicles that you can pilot to get around quickly enough. I do think that the inclusion of fast travel can be a sort of immersion breaking, but its necessary if you ever want to feel like you’ve accomplished something. I’m happy that the vehicles make it feel easier to get around without breaking that immersion… in fact there were points where I was in an intense firefight and the next thing I knew I was in a plane and facing off against aerial opponents. There are times when things feel mundane, and then others where the game gets its hooks into you. I’m not in love with it, but I haven’t grown tired of playing it either. So that’s something.

The main storyline is sort of drab and predictable, but some of the side quests were particularly interesting. One quest saw me hunting humping bulls for their testicles, which is a true to life delicacy in some parts of this country. Rocky Mountain Oysters as they are called, sound revolting to me, but apparently these people really wanted some balls in their mouth. Another mission I did for a kooky conspiracy theorist had me running around for these mysterious orbs that were supposed to be of alien origin, and in most cases made the animals around them aggro and strong. I was actually killed by a mob of turkeys and it was fairly entertaining. That same dude actually built some sort of teleportation machine using these parts, and I’m not sure if he actually went somewhere or was just vaporized, but either way I was able to grab a weird science weapon and his shoes after the fact.

There is a bit of force patriotism in the game, which I suppose would be okay if we weren’t quickly becoming the laughing stock of the world. The game also has its fair share of bugs, which I assume is par for the course when these types of games are churned out as quickly as they are. One bug in particular stuck with me, as I was supposed to destroy this cult truck that was causing havoc on the streets, and as I’m following it and shooting, it literally disappeared. After some searching I found it on the map, considerably further back from where it disappeared. Then as I waited for it to appear from around a bend, it was literally flickering in and out of existence. I just kept chucking explosives at it, and somehow it still exploded and credited me with the kill, but there was no physical evidence as it had flickered out of existence again. Not game breaking, but definitely not a great look. So far though, after defeating John seed and moving onto the next region, I’m ready to reload and check out more. I see myself finishing the game, but I doubt I’ll bother with DLC and the like. Farcry 6 is already on the horizon, set to release next February, so I don’t see myself needing more of this, when I could just jump into that. It’s likely it’s on next gen systems as well, so maybe that will be an improvement in more ways than one.

Thoughts on The Last of Us Part II

Somehow I’ve let the better part of a month go by without writing anything here, and I think I’m just in one of those creative dry spells. Whatever the case, I did spend some time playing through The Last of Us Part II and I thought I could at least put a post together about it. First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the developers of this series, Naughty Dog, you should look into their games. The Uncharted series has been long running and each game is definitely worth playing through. Somehow Naughty Dog has figured out how to push the systems their games run on to their maximum capabilities, along with pushing the boundaries of storytelling in video games. Adult themes, beautiful locations, graphic violence… it’s all here, but it elicits emotion in ways that only the best films of Hollywood can. I’ve never felt tears welling in my eyes from playing a video game until I indulged in their stories, and I cannot recommend these titles enough. The first game in this series was gut wrenching as well, but you grew to love Joel and Ellie and carrying them through to the end of the timeline was an amazing journey.

The sequel starts you off playing as Joel again, coming back home from some journey, and home being a settlement somewhere in the western portion of the United States. One thing I should notate now is that I plan to talk about various parts of the game including the finale, so spoilers will be present. You probably should skip the rest of this article until you’ve completed the game. But hey, if you want to see if the overall plot even interests you in the first place, read on! So this game puts you into the direct control of various characters, all of whom have a tale that directly intersects with the others. From what I remember about the first game, you only played as Joel save for a short bit playing as Ellie, but this game puts you in the shoes of Joel, Ellie and Abby, and at the same time jumps around on the timeline. There are flashbacks to where Ellie was a younger girl, ditto this for Abby. Joel is really the most limited character, because after playing him at the beginning, you’re given control of Ellie, and soon enough Joel is dead. That’s not entirely a spoiler I suppose as we all knew that was coming, but it was still sad and I’m glad there were some flash backs of him throughout the game because he was a really great character and I missed him after a time.

Joel’s death was fairly traumatic. This settlement where these folks live is still a part of this post apocalyptic setting, so there is still the ever present threat of the infected. We see plenty of examples of how they have evolved throughout the game as well, because various new forms exist in the sequel. Due to the need for supplies and the need for living people to protect themselves, this settlement has several outposts nearby, and groups of survivors head out to them regularly to keep the area infection free along with grabbing anything of use they might find. They are not the only bastion of society though, and soon enough it becomes apparent that some of the other humans in the area are not so friendly.

Those who played the first game might recall the main plot, where Joel who is a smuggler, was paid to smuggle a girl (Ellie) to a “Firefly” (one of the new world factions) outpost because it was determined she was immune to the virus as she had been bitten but never turned. It turns out that what the Fireflies needed from her to make a vaccine would kill her. When Joel found that out, he broke into their lab to rescue Ellie, and inadvertently killed some of the Fireflies. Well, turns out that one of the scientists he killed was the father of this girl Abby, and she has been looking for Joel for a long time. Rumors made it up to Seattle where she was staying, and her and some cohorts headed south to find Joel. They do find him while he is out with Ellie and his brother Tommy, and they seriously injure both Tommy and Ellie while Abby beats Joel to death. They let the other two live, as she felt she had her revenge, and they head back north while Ellie and Tommy decide that they need to avenge Joel in a similar way. Tommy ends up leaving without her though, and through some other story bullet points, Dina joins Ellie in her journey to Seattle. This is probably the point that many people took issue with, as the now main character enters into a lesbian relationship with another character, and I heard the SJW’s ruin everything cries from the mountaintop. Whatever your preference or orientation, this is still good storytelling and fucking get over it already.

There are some seriously intense moments throughout the game. As I said, there are a bunch of flashbacks and moments in time where you play the game through Ellie’s perspective and then Abby’s. First there’s the journey to Seattle with Ellie and Dina, but then as you progress you eventually play as Abby and see what she has been going through with her WLF companions and we’re also introduced to a local fanatical faction that are called the Scars. They are more tribal and less dependent on technology, while the WLF (Wolves) are militaristic. Conflicts are abound between humans and the infected. Eventually Ellie kills off a few of the people who were present when Joel was killed, and also follow’s Tommy’s trail, finding more dead. She eventually kills off a couple more and then finds Abby. Abby ends up shooting and killing some of Ellie’s friends, and nearly kills Dina, but shows mercy due to the Scar kid she’s been helping. She agrees to part ways and never wants to see them again, and you’d think that would be the end.

In what I first thought was the epilogue, we see Ellie and Dina in a farmstead along with an infant. We can presume that Dina managed to have the baby and they’ve started this new life. Presumably this is not far from the settlement they stayed at near the beginning of the game, because Tommy shows up and says that he’s found Abby again, this time in Santa Barbara. Dina chases him off saying they’re done with that, but soon enough you’re having visions of dead Joel and can’t help but want to track her down again. Dina warns you that she won’t wait around, but you head out anyway.

This final sequence sees you tracking down Abby, getting caught by some other faction that had already caught her, fighting your way free, and then sneaking into their base to rescue Abby. You find her put up on a stake in this harbor, a cruel death awaiting her. Letting her down, she then cuts down the Scar boy (Lin) and they head off for a boat to escape. It’s this point where you fight her again, and though you win the fight and could have drown her to death, for some reason you let her go, and she takes off. In a strange twist, each of these characters had someone kill their people, became obsessed, had the chance to kill each other for revenge multiple times, and then had a change of heart when it came down to it. I suppose we all are still human after all.

The true epilogue happens next. Ellie returns to the farmstead and finds it empty save for her stuff in one room. Dina and the baby are gone. You play Joel’s guitar one last time, and then head off into the wilderness, presumably to find Dina, or perhaps start yet another new life. It was a sad but fitting end. I hope that we are not done with this world, but perhaps there are new characters and stories to explore. Whatever the case I thoroughly enjoyed this title and I highly recommend picking it up.

Borderlands 3 Complete

Somehow or another it’s been quite a while since Borderlands 3 was released, and I bought it upon release so writing this post several months later feels a little strange. I love the series, and as a fan who has played through the trilogy I can say that this game had the most bells and whistles, while still holding true the standard formula. The animation and gameplay felt smoother, the gun mechanics were on point, and overall the story was still pretty good. It wasn’t as good as the Handsome Jack story from the second game, but I don’t think you’re going to top “butt-stallion” anytime soon. Whatever the case, my friend and I started the playthrough together and also made a pact to not play it outside of when we played together, unless it was on another character. As such, we did get through a good chunk of the game, but for some reason we got distracted by other things, COVID happened, and well the game just sat. I finally brought it up that we needed to get together and finish the damn thing, but at that point he had let his Playstation Plus subscription lapse, and it turns out it’s required for online co-op play. He didn’t seem interested in paying for it again, so I resigned to finishing Borderlands 3 off by myself. During quarantine, it turns out he had the same thoughts and managed to get a bit further into the game and when we touched bases I had to do some work to catch up. So I did.

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I spent an evening rapidly playing through story and side missions, and before I knew it, I was nearing a similar point in the game as him, and I finally convinced him to resubscribe to plus so we could finish the game off together. It took two more sessions to finally beat the main story, but the game technically isn’t over there. As tradition dictates, completing the base game unlocks “true vault hunter” mode, which is essentially new game + and allows you to level up to the cap, though the original cap is 50 and we were like level 42ish when we finished, so I think we’d max out before beating the game a second time. There were a ton of other activities in this game though, mainly having to do with finding claptrap parts, radio logs, hunting rare creatures and then there’s mayhem mode to boot. You can also queue up for dungeon runs and things with people online, so I suppose we could spend a few more hours with the title. This isn’t including DLC, which typically adds new areas, a new story to follow and sometimes level increases. Two of those are already out and I think a third is coming soon. I’m not really thinking that I’ll bother, but if he wants to and time permits, maybe we’ll splurge on the season pass and have some more fun with it.

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I discovered photo mode late into my playthrough so many of my screen shots were less than perfect, but I managed to capture some cool moments. There were plenty of those, my favorite probably being the quest that dealt with “Pain & Terror” who were voiced (well, in Pain’s case) by Penn & Teller. This lead into a Max Max like sequence of following around a huge base on wheels, shooting at parts to disable it, and then boarding the behemoth and killing Pain & Terror. It was great fun and unexpected because I’ve literally not seen any spoilers for the game despite its age. Whatever the case, I had a blast with it and we’re likely to jump into it again before long, but I just wanted to commemorate the occasion. I’ve managed a pretty good streak of completing games as of late, and look to keep it going.

The Outer Worlds: Complete

So it wasn’t something I was expecting to do so soon, but The Outer Worlds was good enough to get its hooks into me so I played it through before I realized it. I didn’t really read reviews about the game so after completing it I had some questions. I should mention that there will be spoilers in this post, including my personal epilogue which vary from your own. With that said, I’ll continue with some generic screens from the end of my playthrough.

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So one of the screenshots in the above gallery shows the system map, which contains a cluster of planets and some other points of interest, and you’ll notice that there are some planets that appear with a lock over them. These never became accessible during my game, and that seemed curious. Why include planets you can’t eventually visit? I understand level gating or time gating things for the sake of story and wanting particular events to occur in a certain order. But having worlds that cannot be accessed, and then not having any sort of time table on DLC that might allow for visiting said planets is a bad look. Why wouldn’t you just leave those off, and instead add them to that map when said DLC released? Is this perhaps the sign of a rushed game? It’s clear that The Outer Worlds took inspiration from the Bethesda formula, but they instead made a fairly linear game with only a small amount of side quests. The story was engaging and I had fun playing it, and I can see the ability to play again in a different way in order to get different story bits but I don’t see how that would much change the overall narrative. As such, the 25 hour mostly complete time combined with places on the map you can’t visit screams to me that the game was pushed out before it was fully done. Or a DLC plan went awry, because you’d think you wouldn’t be able to go back and do the DLC if you already completed the game, as there is a point in the narrative where you can only move forward and aren’t able to do anything else after the epilogue screens. I’ll share my personal epilogue with you now.

Epilogue:

I think I missed a screen or two but you get the gist. I appreciated the fact that the game wasn’t overly open-world, with planets having smaller maps that encompassed some larger areas and smaller ones too, with instanced dungeons and such. I feel like they still could have added a ton of quests and things to do though, that would have given the game more life. I suppose if you’re the completionist type you’ll go for all the trophies which will result in additional playthroughs, plus there are other difficulty levels that could make for more of a challenge (though there were some tricky parts here and there anyway). For me personally, I’m shelving it and will perhaps come back to it given DLC or sufficient passing of time to want to experience a different story in the same world. I’ve already picked Borderlands 3 back up and am trying to push through that one to the end, which will definitely take more time.

With all that said, I still recommend the game. It was a fun tale in an alternate universe and I enjoyed my time with it. It does have the flaws I’ve mentioned but I’d still say it’s worth the price of entry. It’s currently set to release later this year on PC if you’ve already waited this long, and would prefer that version.

State of the Game: Current Events 2020

I don’t intentionally go so long between my State of the Game posts, but it seems that because I have focused more on just completing a game at a time I don’t have as many bite sized bits to talk about. Although I’ve started and completed several games over the past few months since the last round-up, I’ve somehow managed to start a few that I’ve already written about and wish to give updates on. As it goes, I haven’t actually completed (or really played) the games I talked about last time, but I can touch on some of the stuff I’ve been doing recently. This time around we’ll be talking about the Final Fantasy VII Remake, Wildermyth, Streets of Rage 4, and The Outer Worlds.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

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The Remake continues to impress, but has also begun to frustrate. I will admit that much of my nostalgia for the game weighed heavily on my decision to pick this one up, mainly because I absolutely loved JRPGs in the 1990’s. It turns out that older me is not as invested in the storyline, and honestly I’m not enjoying the combat all that much either. The camera gets itself into janky angles too easily, the AI of your companions is absolute dog shit, unlike older games where you could set the behavior of the AI (ala Dragon Age), and it’s twitchy but unresponsive at times. So basically I spend half of the time enjoying the sites and remembering bits of the original from my long term memory banks, and the other half of the time yelling at the screen with how stupid the combat can be. Sometimes it’s pretty straight forward and satisfying though, so I’m torn between loving and hating this game. I should note that I skipped The Witcher III entirely because of similar irritations with the combat, but I still feel like I need to see this one through. I may be that guy and turn the difficulty all the way down because I may not finish the game otherwise. I absolutely cannot fathom how they will implement things like Emerald and Ruby Weapon. They were impossible enough with turn based combat. Whatever the case, we’re starting to see various parts of the game open up a bit beyond the slums, with mini games like darts showing up, more music to collect, and I’ve even had my first couple of summons since then, though they work so much differently now I was a bit underwhelmed. I met a new character on a motorcycle that I don’t remember from the original, but he was interesting enough and I imagine since he did not die we might see him again. I have a friend playing the game who has been ahead of me and given some vague spoilers and it seems that there is more new here than old, so it’s more of a new experience than a remake, so it does keep me wanting to see what happens next.

Streets of Rage 4

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My original post about Streets of Rage 4 was prior to the game releasing, but my first hearing about it. I have since purchased the game and started playing through it over the course of last weekend. During that first session I discovered that most of the game’s features were progress locked, so you could only start off with Story mode or Battle mode. Playing solo I of course started out with the story. I picked Axel as he is the most recognizable character for me, and powered through almost the whole game in one sitting. I started getting frustrated towards the end and decided to take a break before picking it up again another day and finally completing it. From there I unlocked the ability to play any stage where you can try and increase your ranking as there are trophies for S rank on every stage and other such nonsense that I’ll never shoot for. Other trophies include beating the story with every playable character, and others that come from performing certain actions on various levels. I unlocked Adam (from SOR1) about halfway through the story, and unlocked the original pixel art version of Axel for completing his story. I assume the story will largely play out the same despite who you pick, but I also assume that you’ll unlock all of the playable characters and alternate models by playing through the game multiple times. The trophies seem to be tied to solo play, but you have the option to play through the story in co-op, and apparently up to 4 players can join in, but I’m unsure how that affects difficulty. It was clear to me that some levels would have been much easier as-is with more players, but perhaps more enemies are added if you are playing with more friends. There’s also online options that I haven’t looked into yet, but I assume you’ll be able to co-op or battle just the same as you could locally. Overall the game looks great, I love the new combat system and animations, but it’s still challenging because of timing and stuff that was more of a thing back in the 1990’s that we aren’t used to now, but the devs recreated to the letter. You really have to play it to understand what I mean (also need to be old enough to have played games back then). It’s still something I’d recommend for fans of the series or this style of game, but if you don’t like beat-em-ups you could probably skip it.

The Outer Worlds

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In my original post I had only spent a couple of sessions with The Outer Worlds but I already loved what I had seen. I actually haven’t played it much since then only because I’ve been distracted by the other games I’ve mentioned here, along with a couple of others that I have dedicated posts planned for. Whatever the case, I have enjoyed how the game has expanded beyond the early portion. Getting a spaceship has allowed my crew (and I say crew because I’ve recruited a couple of new bodies outside of the original girl that joined the squad while I was leaving the first planet. Different companions bring different skills to the crew, and some of their own quests as well. Some quests will also mention a crew member’s skillset needed for that particular mission so it’s advised to bring them along when needed. As such, you’ll want to keep them equipped with new gear. This differs from older games in this genre where you’d only have one companion and they were likely just a mule to carry your shit. Now you need to pay attention to the different members a little bit more, and you’ll have two of them with you at all times. Another nice feature is the ability to control their special moves which can turn the tide of fights single-handedly. Rather than being a big open world, the devs had designed this one as more of a Borderlands style setup, where you have some planet areas that are large, but they are bordered and you can fast travel while on them, but otherwise have to return to the ship to visit other planets. It’s also clear that sometimes you’re on the same planet but in a different region, and you can’t really travel between them without returning to the ship either. So it’s a hybrid open-world but it seems to work pretty well. You’ll be able to focus on the tasks at hand and then move on. I’ve visited several of the planets and completed quite a few missions. I believe I’m nearly level 20, I know I’m in the teens at least. I’m not sure the amount of content I have still left to go but I look forward to enjoying the ride.

Wildermyth

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I have less to say about Wildermyth only because I have only just started my second session with the game. In my first post I talked about the mechanics and gameplay, but also notated that I only played the beginner 3 chapter session. I have since started up a new game with the normal mode 5 chapter story. I was under the impression initially that characters would transfer between games, but it appears that your legacy is generated in different ways. When you have heroes die and you memorialize them, those memorials will remain in the game. Other characters who survived a story can reappear in new games, so I guess eventually you might see those characters again or perhaps their offspring. It’s not overly clear to me, and though I only played through one chapter before quitting that session, I didn’t seen any legacy stuff, so I guess I’ll write more about it when I figure it out. Whatever the case I have enjoyed starting a new story and getting to know some new characters. Having a new main enemy makes a difference in gameplay a bit as well. This time around I have a group of five, with 2 warriors, 2 mystics and a ranger, so I’ve switched up the configuration a little bit. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this one sooner than later because I really enjoy the story telling here.

So there you have it. Some progress on all accounts. As I mentioned I have a couple other posts in the works for a couple other games I haven’t yet introduced on the blog, so stay tuned for that.