State of the Game: Recent Free Things

I’ve been a Playstation Plus subscriber for a few years now, but outside of a few key titles, there is little that I get overly excited to receive for free. For a time, I used to write about my experiences with these free games each and every month, but to be honest, there are months when I don’t have time to play them all or I have no interest in any of the titles. There has also been a recent change to the service, in that the Playstation 3 and PSVita systems are no longer supported, so we only get a couple of games per month, where there used to be times when we’d get cross-play PS3/Vita games and sometimes they were decent. Nonetheless, I took some time over the past week to check out some of the recent things we’ve seen through the service and thought I’d share some short thoughts on each. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Conan Exiles:

One of the offerings from this month, Conan Exiles is a title that I didn’t give a second thought to. The Survival Sandbox genre saw its height a few years ago, and I honestly never really got into any of the games despite picking up a few. As such, this wasn’t a game I was ever going to buy, but I tend to try out the free stuff given to us each month anyway. The first thing I noticed when firing up the game was that it doesn’t look very pretty. The character creation has some pretty ugly models, apparently there’s some nudity options which seem irrelevant, and the overall look of the game was muddy and overall unattractive. The introduction didn’t do anything for me. I honestly only ran around for ten minutes before uninstalling. It appears that it’s the same old shtick, but I assume there are things that set this particular survival game apart from the others, I just couldn’t be bothered to find out what those things were. I didn’t even take screenshots to share because it was that bad. I’d skip this one.

The Surge:

I was a bit more interested in The Surge on the other hand. It looked like a pretty decent Souls-Like but after learning that it was created by the same developers as Lords of the Fallen I wasn’t as enthused. I tried the latter at some point (wasn’t it free via Plus as well?) and felt that it was lacking compared to the Souls games, and didn’t play too much of it. This is still a case of a company copying a successful formula, but whereas with Lords it felt like a cheap, poorly made rip-off, in the case of The Surge the game feels like its own beast. I think the Sci-Fi setting is perhaps the reason for it not feeling like a cheap copy, but whatever the case is I actually enjoy this game.

You start off on a train to some sort of research facility, and it turns out your character is in a wheelchair. You venture further into the facility, where you get to choose your class, but it’s not so much a class as a couple of different job titles. I’m not sure what the differences are, but I went with the Lynx, which was tagged as being speedy and whatnot. I assume with the heavier class you might have different stats or abilities, but for now let’s move on — that’s what I did. You get a surgery which attaches this exoskeleton to you (though it looked quite painful since there was no sedation and quite a bit of nuts and bolts entering flesh) but the robots mistakenly say there is an issue with you and throw you in the trash pile. From there, it’s time to figure out what the hell is going on, as you are thrust into a scrapyard fighting sentient robots and talking to very few humans. The combat is action oriented and uses targeting and a variety of button presses to do things. You’ll get gear and implants that give you various abilities. It feels like its own thing, and it’s quite fun. I’d recommend checking this one out!

Path of Exile PS4:

Path of Exile obviously isn’t a new title, but it was just recently ported to the Playstation 4. Being a free-to-play title, this is available for anyone to download right now. I decided to download it just to see how an action RPG like this might perform on a console. My only other ARPG experience on a console was Diablo 3 on PS3, and I absolutely hated it. Action RPGs have been around for a very long time, and typically they are played on PCs with mouses, with click-to-move and click-to-attack mechanics that tend to not lend themselves well to play with a controller. I also have a long history with this title in particular, but only based on years, not time played. I helped to back it when it was in development, throwing some cash at Grinding Gear Games in order to play it early. I liked what I saw, but at some point I got on the Diablo 3 train and didn’t really play any other ARPGs for a long time. I’ve gone back and checked on PoE a few times since then, but haven’t ever done too much. So anyway, I downloaded and played for a bit the other day, and I have to say that this actually feels like a damn fine port!

Graphically the game looks great and it runs really smooth. I’ve seen games like this with a lot of action going on, on-screen at one time, bog down on consoles just because the processing power isn’t the same as PCs that released at the time of the console’s released. So this long later, you can imagine that the PS4 is a toaster compared to even my few year old gaming PC. Whatever the case, things look and play well. The controls are pretty intuitive, and it wasn’t too bad moving with a joystick as opposed to clicking a mouse. Instead, now you’ll be spamming that basic attack button but it feels pretty much the same. The menus are probably the only frustrating part, mainly because this game uses them quite often. You’ll want to manage your inventory, you’ll want to slot abilities into your weapons, to apply different effects, crafting, and navigating that huge skill tree. It feels like the game you already know, but stays fresh if you aren’t a grizzled veteran. I’d check it out if you’d rather play with friends on your console.

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition:

This one came out a few months back but I hadn’t gotten around to trying it. A typical First Person Shooter, Bulletstorm came out several years ago. I remember when it originally released it wasn’t met with the best reviews, and playing it for a bit now, I understand why. Graphically, it looks alright, and feels like its running on the Borderlands engine. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it has graphical similarities. It’s a sci-fi shooter, with some hoorah bro nonsensical story line. It’s forgettable to say the least, and not intriguing enough to even pay attention to. This was a game that I went into feeling like I wouldn’t really care, and that turned out to be the case. The gunplay is fine. There are some cool parts where things slow down and you do some action movie stunts but overall it’s a pretty “meh” experience. I’d pass. I’ve uninstalled it.

Call of Duty 4 Remastered:

This was one of the freebies for Plus last month, and was honestly one of my favorite Call of Duty games of all time. I haven’t played much but I did check out both the campaign and the multiplayer. Unlike newer Call of Duty games, this one’s multiplayer didn’t have all of the skins and extra bullshit that has been shoehorned into the series over the years. Killstreaks were simple. The maps are still pretty memorable. I remember playing this on my PC for hours on private servers with differing rulesets, and though you can’t exactly do that now,  you can experience one of the better games in the series and that’s a plus to me. Playing through part of the campaign brought back a lot of memories as did murdering other players in multiplayer. I don’t think I would have ever paid for this, because it is pretty much just a visual update to a game that was already played years ago, but for free, it was a nice diversion.

That’s it for this round up. Happy Gaming everyone!

RE2: Claire Campaign Complete

I’ve finally completed Claire’s Campaign in the Resident Evil 2 Remake. It took me just over a month to complete both campaigns, and there is still plenty to do in the game, but for now I’m calling it done. I could start up the 2nd Run Campaigns, or run the other smaller scenarios that were part of a free DLC. However, I’ve had my fill of this game for now, but I know I’ll come back around to it eventually. In total, it took me about 12 hours to finish of these campaigns, with Claire’s feeling a touch easier to complete.

The Police Station and other areas of the game remained the same, though there were different paths used and some areas that were inaccessible completely to the individual characters. One major difference was that there wasn’t the Tyrant following you around all game, but it felt like you ran into “G” (pictured above) more often.

Another big difference between the two campaigns, is that instead of interacting with Ada, this time you run into Sherry after a fight with G. Turns out that she came here looking for mommy, who is another character you should remember from Leon’s campaign, though you do talk to her more as Claire. Also, this means that instead of being able to play as Ada for a short time, instead you’ll play as Sherry, who is taken by the Police Chief to an abandoned orphanage. Later, Sherry will become infected and it’s up to you to save her, though her mother dies in the process. Good times.

I found the third fight with G to be the most difficult. It stumped me on two different (short) play sessions, but I eventually bested the Dragon and moved on with the story. Instead of fighting the Tyrant when trying to escape the self-destructing facility, we instead end up fighting G for a fourth time. It was laughably easy though, as you’re given a mini gun just before the fight and his attacks were dodged without much effort.

Overall I got a better record. I saved about three less times, but finished the run in under five hours. There are trophies and bragging rights for people who can run through some of the harder modes in an even shorter amount of time. I don’t think it’s something I would try for, but the achievements are there for those that want them. I loved the game. This is how a remake needs to be done, and I can only hope that more classics get the updated treatment.

Sales should be coming for this title soon enough (probably by the Summer) so if you can get even a small discount I’d jump on it.

Becoming Prey

PSN had a flash sale this past weekend and a title I’ve had my eye on for quite some time was heavily discounted. Prey, which is a remake of an older title by the same name came out last year or maybe the year before, and it looked right up my alley. A Sci-Fi FPS with horror elements? Count me in!

The storyline follows your character who is a science experiment of sorts. Initially you think that you’re living some sort of normal life, but as the story unfolds it is revealed that you have been living inside of a lab and most of your memories of your prior life are gone. Some weird alien beings that can mimic every day items (and some that are more monstrous) start appearing and initially you’ll have a wrench to defend yourself… sounds very similar to Half-Life now that I’ve written it down.

The graphics are top notch and the game runs smoothly. The combat is a little wonky when it comes to using the wrench, but eventually you’ll get a proper gun and then things feel a little better. You’ll still want to use your wrench for the smaller enemies because they jump around so frantically that you’ll just waste ammo trying to shoot them. In survival horror fashion, you’ll need to conserve your resources because they don’t exactly grow on trees. Nor are there trees in space. Like most games these days, there is a crafting system, and you’ll need to scour each nook and cranny of the station you are on, mainly because you’ll find crafting stations and use these materials to make things like medkits and bullets.

Overall I’m enjoying the game thus far, and wanted to share that I had started it. I’ve shared some screenshots of my time with the game so far, and will report back once I’ve completed it.

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State of the Game: Playstation Plus Goodies

For a while I wrote about Playstation Plus and its free offerings every month, but eventually tired of the formula because simply put: Some months are better than others. When months would inevitably roll around that contained games I already owned or titles I just wasn’t interested in, it felt silly to just write about how much all the games sucked (or were great but I had already played ’em). This column has become my catch all for miscellaneous games I’ve been playing and it just so happens that this month’s games from the service are rather good. So without further ado, let’s talk about some games!

Coincidentally I’ve had my eye on this title for a while, and almost bought it a time or two. It’s not a new game by any means, but it piqued my interest with its Hot Wheels style tracks and it’s kid-friendly design. I figured it would be a game I might be able to get some time in with the boy, and I was pleasantly surprised by its performance. It’s a blistering fast romp through bite sized tracks, each that becomes increasingly more ridiculous (and difficult). To this point I’ve managed to clear the first 20 or so tracks and there have been some tricky ones in there.

Trophies range from catching big air to going really fast and clearing chunks of tracks. Watch out for the invisible walls when you go airborne though, you can have some spectacular crashes if you don’t heed this warning! It seems that the campaign is pretty long, and that’s all I’ve played so far, but it appears that there are plenty of other modes and options to explore. Not sure what the asking price is, but if you have the service I’d definitely check it out.

This title has been around for a long while as well. Somewhat based on the Mad Max Fury Road movie that came out around the same time, it’s got what you would expect from a movie based on a famous IP. You play the title character, you drive a post-apocalyptically appropriate vehicle, and the world is a wasteland — all of which lines up with the lore of the IP and with what you expect. Where this game goes a bit more above and beyond is in the execution. It seems to be almost RPG-esque and also has the feel of most open world games that have come out in the last decade. I guess that’s more of the same, but at the same time it’s an interesting IP so I’m cool with that.

I’ve only played this one for about an hour, but long enough to get a vehicle (which you get to choose from a few) and complete a few missions. So far it’s been fairly entertaining, and I’m glad to have this copy on my PS4. I owned this on PC from Humble Monthly way back when but hadn’t played it, and it feels at home on the console. Probably worth it if you enjoy open-world games, or the IP itself. It is pretty much more of the same but still isn’t bad.

This one came out of left field, it was a title I hadn’t heard of before. It’s a Brazilian game and as such has some Spanish language/cultural influence, but it’s presented in English and is clearly inspired by games like River City Ransom. I rather enjoyed that title from way back when and newer iterations that have released since, so I figured I would enjoy this title just the same and I have so far. There are several characters to choose from, but as I noted here on Twitter, I clearly had to pick this one:

As I said, it looks like River City Ransom, and it plays just the same. You’ll punch and kick your way through various bad guys, grab power ups and there are some light RPG elements. It’s not a new formula but it works and this is a serviceable title. I’d check it out if you’re a fan of this style of game.

Lastly, we have In Space We Brawl. It’s a clever title but it really just amounts to Asteroids on crack. It’s the same sort of twin-stick shooter, but instead of clearing asteroids until you eventually can’t survive any longer you’ll fight against up to three other people while still trying to avoid space debris.

You’ve got various ships and weapons loadouts to choose from and a variety of levels to compete on, but that’s really all there is to it. It’s a fun little time waster, but nothing too deep or serious here. This is the last title I’ve got to talk about this time, but overall it was a pretty decent month for Playstation Plus, and it’s been a while!

I Am Setsuna — The Beginning

I am Setsuna._20160721002133

It didn’t take much to convince me to pick up I Am Setsuna. No, I hadn’t even heard of it until a day or two prior to its release, and even then this is usually the sort of thing that I tend to avoid. I don’t typically buy day one releases for games I’ve never heard of, and I have definitely strayed from the JRPG path for years now. There was a time when I bought Final Fantasy games on day one, or when I thought JRPGs were better than American ones. Most of the RPGs coming out of Japan for the last decade or so have looked pretty “meh” to me, so I’ve not really paid attention to the genre.

I Am Setsuna used just enough keywords to get me to take a second look. It was published by Square Enix, and was said to hearken back to the Squaresoft days when JRPGs were all the rage on the SNES and even moving on to the original Playstation console. Tokyo RPG Factory was introduced semi-recently as being the future of classic JRPGs utilizing modern technology — essentially “Squaresoft the next generation.” I remember hearing this news but not being very excited about it, mainly because I had basically avoided any new JRPGs for a long time. There was hope though, that games from that era could be similarly made with today’s technology and we’d get some modern classics out of the deal. Lastly, it was said that I Am Setsuna is a “spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger,” which is arguably one of Squaresoft’s most beloved titles. I was sold after reading a couple of articles and watching some video. Plus, it was nice to see a new game release for less than $60 — $40 is a nice number that feels like my own personal spending sweet spot.

This isn’t going back to the 16-bit glory days completely, but the aesthetic and design choices feel very much like a console game from the early 90’s. Since release, there have been plenty of reviews popping up, and the general consensus is that the game is nearly a modern classic, but there are some downfalls. I have noted the general sense that people dislike the world design, think the music is too repetitive, and some even say the graphics look like shit. Systems are not fleshed out enough. It doesn’t really feel like Chrono Trigger.

Some of these complaints have some merit. The world is covered in snow and seems to be in perpetual winter, just like the North in Game of Thrones. This means the map largely looks the same and so far most outdoor areas feel similar. The music is sort of repetitive, in that they only have a piano player and he is constantly playing, but really, have you not turned off the music in FF games because it’s the same damn songs every fight? The same goes for MMOs and most games really — music is repetitive but usually you’re not paying attention. Graphically, it’s not ridiculously good looking; it does have a stylized retro feel but it’s still true 3-D and it runs smoothly the whole time. I have yet to see a single framerate drop. Honestly it’s optimized and looks good, even if snow gets old after a while. I’ll agree that the systems can be a little convoluted, and that I still haven’t figured out how to use “momentum mode” or seen a “flux” happen yet. One review I read said it was completely unnecessary to even figure this out. There are trophies for using these things though, so might as well right?

The largest similarity between this game and Chrono Trigger is the fact that the combat essentially plays out the same, and there are some abilities that can be comboed together to create new abilities. You have a three person party, and each character has their own niche abilities. However, it seems that like the materia system from FF7, you use a material called Spritnite which can be slotted into talismans with varying amounts of slots and passive effects. I’ve gotten to a point where each of my characters has multiple abilities slotted, and combat has been a snap. I’m sure things will get more difficult eventually, but even after facing a few bosses, I haven’t even come close to dying.

Is I Am Setsuna a modern classic? No, I wouldn’t say that. Is it a solid JRPG experience that evokes feelings of nostalgia and makes me yearn for more classically designed JRPGs? Hell yes. It hits most of the right notes, has many of the same feels, has an interesting-enough storyline, and combat that is somewhat satisfying without being overly boring. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a decent JRPG, and enjoys a text-driven narrative with an active time battle system. It’s good stuff, and makes me want to go finish off that copy of FFIX I bought a couple months back.

It’s my opinion that I Am Setsuna is a great first offering from a new studio. I think further iterations will produce a modern classic, as the team seems to be on the right track. For posterity, here’s some screens of what I’ve been through so far, but keep in mind there may be some light spoilers.

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