Thoughts on Jedi: Fallen Order

The last time I played a Star Wars game that I actually enjoyed was the Battlefront reboot that came out a few years back on PS4. I played that one pretty regularly for a few months, but as most lobby shooters tend to do, it eventually lost steam and I stopped playing. It didn’t help that it was produced by Electronic Arts, who are notorious for bad DLC/RMT practices, and I didn’t end up shelling out for any of the map packs. Later, they would release a sequel and Battlefront II was pretty universally panned about said price gouging so I avoided it altogether. Beyond that, the only other Star Wars game I’ve played in the last decade was Bioware’s The Old Republic MMO, but it too was lacking and never stuck with me. I was skeptical about Jedi: Fallen Order until I started seeing videos and had friends at work telling me it was really good. Compared mostly to the Souls games, it was said to have “difficult” combat that relies on timing rather than button mashing. I’m hard pressed to actually make this comparison myself, because it is in no way anywhere near as difficult as the Souls games, but I can see why people made the commentary. I would also compare it to games like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, in that you have a lot of running around jumping and climbing on things, but it also has some psuedo RPG elements in that you gain skill points and there is a skill tree, though much of it is locked until you complete parts of the storyline to “repair your connection with the force.”

Visually this title is stunning. I’d put it right up there with the likes of Uncharted, because it has a cinematic quality that isn’t present in most console games. This is probably due to the fact that we are coming to the end of this console generation and the machines have already been pushed to their max, but I’m still impressed that this several year old hardware can make such pretty pictures. The voice acting and motion capture of real world actors is top notch as well. The red-head kid from the TV show Shameless is Cal Kestis, our main character. Forrest Whitaker makes an appearance, and the lady from Mad TV (I can’t recall her name) is one of your crew mates who has some major parts influencing the story.

From what I can tell, this game seems to take place somewhere between Episode VI: A New Hope and Episode VII: The Force Awakens. There is talk of “the purge” where the Empire was able to basically eradicate all of the Jedi but there’s also talk of the Clone Wars and things that happened during Episodes I-III. Whatever the case, Cal has been working as a scrapper on a junk planet though you can tell there is more to the story. Eventually it is revealed that he was a Padawan receiving training from a Jedi Master but that Master was killed during the purge and he had been in hiding ever since. The Empire comes to the junk planet and he must reveal himself as a force-sensitive individual, barely escaped on a ship called the Mantis, piloted by an alien named Greez. Cere is his companion, and also your antagonist for a time, who pushes you to reconnect with the force and rebuild the Jedi order. There’s much more to it than just that, but I can’t say anything else due to spoilers.

Eventually you’ll lead your rag tag team to several different planets, where you and your droid companion BD-1 will learn new skills and open up new areas as you go. In this sense there is a feel of a Metroidvania, because new areas will become accessible only after unlocking certain skills/abilities for Cal/BD-1. There are a bunch of collectibles, chests and “echos” to locate on each of the planets, and if you are the completionist type, you’ll probably want to make side trips back to these planets as you progress the story and unlock these new abilities. Eventually Cal will have a bunch of different force powers and lightsaber abilities and the combat gets really fun. Boss fights can be pretty intense, but once you get the hang of your powers everything starts to feel pretty easy. I didn’t really feel challenged throughout the game, but I didn’t play on the harder difficulties where perhaps the game would actually feel Souls-like.

Overall I thought it was a great game. Perhaps not worth the full $60 price investment unless you are a diehard fan, but I was lucky enough to get this as an early Xmas gift from my girlfriend so I wanted to play the shit out of it so she felt that she got her money’s worth. It won’t be long before it goes on sale though, so if you can get it for even $10 off I’d jump on it. It will give you a few weeks of fun.

Early Impressions: Dauntless

A couple of weeks ago, Dauntless was ported to PS4. I remember hearing chatter about the title when it was coming out on PC, and comparisons were made to Monster Hunter World. Given my history with MHW, I didn’t think this was a game that would appeal to me. However, when games end up being free to play I’ll usually give them a spin to see what they’re all about. As such, I have some early impressions from my first couple of sessions with the game.

I can see why comparisons were made between Dauntless and Monster Hunter World, mainly because you play a hunter and you’ll team up with other hunters to go on hunts to kill big bad creatures. Another similarity is that though you don’t have a class per se, you do have different attacks and abilities if depending on the weapons you decide to use. It seems that you can craft them pretty easily and you can change up between them pretty seamlessly, so certain weapon styles are likely to work better on different creatures. That’s about all I really see, but I suppose that’s sort of a lot as it is. In a way this feels like a more westernized version of a Monster Hunter game. It looks more like Fortnite than Final Fantasy, if that makes sense. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, but it doesn’t feel as foreign to me.

The story follows that your hunters are just trying to clear up these floating isles to get resources and protect humanity, or something like that. Honestly I don’t really think the story matters here. Hell, even this map doesn’t matter, as it doesn’t show you where you’re going, just what you’re going to fight. You start off in a small town with vendors and quest givers. Think of it like the Tower in Destiny. Quests tend to involve going on hunts, and in that sense the town is basically a lobby, and you queue up to co-op these hunts with other players. Hunts are instanced. There isn’t much in the way of open world. That feels different (and kind of worse) than MHW, but at the same time I didn’t really like having to chase monsters all over the damn place so it’s kind of okay.

Combat is pretty straight forward. It’s pretty much a button masher, with some other button presses mixed in for special abilities. The creatures follow basic patterns of attacking and being staggered. They take a while to kill, but with four people beating on them it hasn’t been too challenging. I’m sure there’s more to the game beyond this, but as it stands so far this is all that I’ve experienced. Further customization comes from adding perk points to your gear, crafting new gear, and apparently there is a store where you can buy skins and whatnot if you feel like throwing some cash at it (I don’t see enough here to warrant that just yet).

It is pretty when you’re out in the field. I found the town to be a bit laggy when many players are nearby, but otherwise it seems fine. The instanced hunts feel smooth and responsive. The variety of weapons feels pretty good, and you get to use some new tricks pretty quickly after starting. What I’m most curious about is if there ends up being open world bits, more involved quests, or perhaps other modes like PvP. I assume something more has to come because if this is the totality of the game I’d get bored with it pretty fast. Anyone play more of this than I have? Does it stay pretty much the same, or does it start to add more layers and depth as the game progresses?

Hellgate: London, Revival

Hellgate: London arrived during a time was I was fairly addicted to MMOs and set out to try most that I could get my hands on. The game originally released in Q4 of 2007, but it didn’t hit my radar until early 2008. My father turned me onto the title, but I had read mixed reviews at the time and didn’t want to buy a copy until he had insisted that it was a decent game. I wrote about it a few times here on the blog back in 2008, but my writing style at the time was pretty attrocious so there wasn’t much detail on my thoughts. I remember it being something that I enjoyed, but it certainly wasn’t the best thing I had ever played. The developers, Flagship Studios were bankrupt by 2008 and the servers were down by early 2009. By then I definitely wasn’t playing it anymore.

Belghast was talking about missing the IP and wishing someone would do something with it again and that reminded me that it even existed. From my memory, it was an Action RPG of sorts but could be played in either third or first person view. It was still the same sort of hack and slash loot box that we’ve come to expect from games like Diablo, but as it was created by ex-Blizzard devs this would make sense. Originally there was a single player campaign and the ability to go online to group up and play through the game. Sounds a lot like a modern ARPG despite being over 10 years old, doesn’t it?

As of this week, there was an announcement that the game would be coming to Steam. There is already a page up on the Steam storefront, as a matter of fact. It’s pretty short on details, and it appears that someone who doesn’t natively speak English wrote up the description. From what we can see there, it’s focusing on the single player element and mentions Hellgate: Tokyo, which I had to look up on Wikipedia to figure out exactly what that was. Apparently in the years following the shutdown of Flagship studios and the game’s servers in 2008-09, an Asian company picked up the rights and made a new version of the game that included areas of Seoul, South Korea instead of London. There was also a development in 2014, where a title called Hellgate: Global was announced to incorporate all versions of the game into one and redistribute into the west. Or something to that effect.

Whatever the case, this is “version 2.0” which sounds like it includes pieces of content I may not have seen. I never beat the game either, so it goes without saying that I missed a bit. It’s unclear if it’s going to hold up graphically as it’s an old engine, but the screen shots don’t look terrible, probably because most MMOs are running on ancient graphic engines. Perhaps there is some scaling tech there, I would imagine we’ll be able to run higher resolutions and make the game look halfway decent. If the gameplay is as enjoyable as I remember I will definitely be checking this out when it shows up in November. It’s unclear if this will be free to play or buy to play but I doubt there will be a subscription like there used to be. Though, it was always optional and I’d be okay with an optional subscription if it proves to be worth it. I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one for the next few weeks to see if any new information arises.

Thoughts on Monster Hunter World

For the first time in a long time, I was hit by the hype train a picked up a game for its full MSRP. I went into this purchase pretty blind, not watching anything but the trailer on its Playstation Store page, which really doesn’t give you much of an idea of the depth that this title seems to pack. It shows some big beasts and various characters attacking them, and that’s about all you need to know I suppose, though the RPG elements add some needed feeling of progression. I had never played a Monster Hunter game before, but I knew that it was a successful franchise and people were raving about it. I was actually given a glowing recommendation by one of my long time blogging friends over at Socially Sour, and he compared it to Dark Souls, and that did it for me. My Internet has been spotty as of late so I decided to order the game from Amazon and avoid the large download, so I had to wait a few days to play after pulling the trigger. I fired it up the day I received shipment, but only ran through the brief tutorial, but managed another play session in between other things last week. You start out creating your hunter:

The character generation in this game is pretty robust in most areas, though I was disappointed to find that you couldn’t pick a different pet that follows you around. I would have preferred a dog to a cat, but that’s just me. You can also set yourself up in beginner gear — either leather or chain armor (I assume better variants are available later on) and pick a starting weapon. This is where I had my biggest stumbling block, but more on that later.

The tutorial was effective enough. I was surprised by the combat. It is sort of like Dark Souls in that you need to be semi methodical about your actions and try to avoid the enemy’s telegraphed movements. It feels a bit more button mashy, but then doesn’t at the same time. It’s definitely more forgiving than any Souls game I’ve played, but I haven’t pushed too far into it either.

As I said, there are various weapon styles you can choose from, ranging from the traditional to the absurd. Pictured above is a “bowgun” which looks like a fucking cannon. I stayed in this training area for a long time testing out the various styles and settled on the Spear with the bug launcher. It seems to suit my playstyle well enough, but perhaps I’ll change things around at some point.

I don’t know what it is about food in JRPGs, but between this game and Final Fantasy XV I’ve seen so many different things being cooked and consumed by my characters. Food plays a role in many games but it’s never quite as celebrated as it is in JRPGs.

I’ve also heard of comparisons to Destiny, in that the game sort of takes place from a hub city where all of the vendors and quest givers hang out — which also serves as a lobby where you can meet up with friends (or strangers) as the game is a co-op title. There are various NPCs that will give you quests or you can visit the quest board. You’ll be greeted with the above screen where you can select a mission and either host or join an instanced area where you’ll complete your objective.

Along the way you’ll pick up ingredients. They’re everywhere! Not only will you gather plantlife and mine minerals, but you’ll also be able to harvest meat and other materials from the monsters you’ll be killing. With these ingredients you can upgrade your existing weapons and armor or create new ones.

Eventually you’ll end up on missions where you have to fight a real monster like this huge lizard, and then the game becomes more like what you’d expect from a Souls title or even Shadow of the Colossus. The creature will be bigger and badder than the things you’ve encountered, and it will take a ton of effort to bring it down. One of my abilities allows me to vault into the air so I was able to hang onto this guy’s back and repeatedly stab him. There were still three separate times you had to fight him — he runs off in between each encounter.

When I quit after my last session this big ugly thing had just been revealed, and rather than being just a bigger version of something I had already seen, this looks like a proper monster. I’ll be heading off after him the next time I play!

When you complete missions you’ll earn various materials and watch various scales increase in value. Apparently my little cat buddy is level 4 now. It doesn’t appear that my character has a level though? It’s all so strange and new to me I really don’t know.

Overall I think Monster Hunter is unique enough to keep me entertained. It’s not my favorite title ever by any means, but I see enough potential here to play it through. Now if only I could convince one of my friends that they should pick up their own copy so I could co-op my way through it, that would be even better.

Thoughts on Until Dawn

My girlfriend is an interesting character. She has shown no interest in playing video games, nor does she particularly enjoy horror movies, but for some reason she enjoys watching me play horror games. This started when I was playing through Resident Evil 7, and since then when I end up with a new Horror title to play with, she wants to watch. It works for me, and it gives us something else to bond over, even if the game isn’t particularly good.

Last month, Until Dawn was part of the Playstation Plus monthly free lineup, and I downloaded it without knowing when I’d get around to playing it. I had heard decent things about it back when it released in 2015, but it was never a game I felt I had to have. Having actually played quite a bit of it now I can say that it’s an interesting title, but I’m glad that I didn’t pay money for it.

That isn’t to say it’s terrible. It’s chock full of cliched horror tropes, the voice acting and character models are fine, and it has some jump scares and gore to boot (plus lots of talk of sex, though that typically means someone is about to die). Despite being full of these cliches, it manages to mix themes from several horror movies that we’ve seen over the years, and there are some interesting sub-layers that I would assume make for a more complete experience.

You remember that movie “The Butterfly Effect?” That is one of the main sub-themes of this title. The Butterfly Effect is a principal that goes like this: A flap of a butterfly’s wings can lead to a string of events that cause a hurricane elsewhere. This game splashes this concept throughout, and you choices in individual scenarios change the narrative of the game. Like TellTale games and other titles where “choices matter,” it’s apparent that there are likely multiple endings and ways that things can go with this game.

I powered through the first 6-ish chapters and have found the story line to be intriguing, if not a bit vague and confusing. Scenes between “episodes” have a mysterious figure being seen by a therapist. I won’t spoil anything here but the mystery man plays a major role in the story. I’ve made choices and people have died. I’ve made choices and people lived. Various innocuous actions have various consequences. It’s definitely more of an interactive narrative than a Resident Evil or Silent Hill game, combat is next to non-existent and there is more time spent chatting and watching cut scenes than actually playing. Of course there are plenty of QTE’s as well, which fans of horror/adventure games will be used to. Honestly, if you play TellTale or similarly styled games you’ll probably enjoy this one. As long as you can get past the terrible teenaged drama these kids bring upon themselves.

As I haven’t finished the game yet I can’t say if the ending will make me want to play through again for a different one, but I will see it through to its end. If you got it for free like I did, you should at least give it a whirl. Otherwise I’d recommend waiting for a sale, as it’s not really worth a full $60. Still a mildly entertaining diversion.