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21st April 2021: Getting My Weeb On

Over the Christmas period I realised I was starting to build up a bit of a collection of quite anime-inspired games, so I gave a couple of them a go. The first one completely failed to convince me to keep playing it more than a few hours. But this game here, while failing to keep me interested back in January when I first tried it, did at least warrant a second look. Though it has been a bit of a slog, especially nearer the end of the game, I have now managed to complete the main story. So while there are other things I could work towards in the game, I'm going to consider it done so I can move onto other things.

This game is Trials Of Mana, a game that came out on the PS4 last year.

I didn't really know anything about this game before playing it other than knowing that it was a remake of an old JRPG from the early 90s. I didn't even read anything about it or the Mana series until I was well into the last half of the game. Turns out that this is a remake of the third game in the series, but luckily knowledge of those other games is not really required.

From what I can gather, they have been very respectful to the original when making this new version, something which, in my opinion, is a double edged sword. While fans of the original probably appreciate what has been done here, the sheer levels of early 90s Nintendo cheesiness are at sky high levels, and the story and dialogue are at times laughably bad. It really wouldn't surprise me to discover these things are direct from the original, as it seems no work has been done to improve or modernise them. Things are not helped at all by the fact that the new voice acting is also fairly lacklustre for the most part.

Compare this to the FF7 remake from last year. While quite a lot of effort was put into paying respect to the original story (at least for now - who knows what will happen in the future), the characters and their dialogue were dramatically improved, plus the voice acting was really good.

So forward I stepped into this franchise for the first time ever, picking the amazon Riesz as my main character, Angela the sorceress as companion number one, and the beastman Kevin as companion number two.

Wait. Did you just say Kevin? Kevin... the beastman?

Why yes.

Yes I did.

What's with these eyebrows?

What's with these eyebrows?

Merchants get their groove on<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Merchants get their groove on
(video)

I'm not distracted.<br />Honest.<br />Nothing distracting here.<br />What was I saying again?

I'm not distracted.
Honest.
Nothing distracting here.
What was I saying again?

Angela gets zappy

Angela gets zappy

Good job there's no fall damage in this game<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Good job there's no fall damage in this game
(video)

Wow, this gigantic bird-turtle-thing sure can swim<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Wow, this gigantic bird-turtle-thing sure can swim
(video)

As it turns out, the remarkably stupid name of one of the characters was far from the worst thing about my team. Riesz turned out to be an absolute bore, and as dumb as a bag of rocks to boot. Kevin was just as stupid as Riesz, with his only character trait being "me hungry". Angela was the most interesting of the trio, and the one I ended up preferring to control in battle, but even she was mainly just an irritating, entitled little princess who only seemed to get excited about going shopping.
Urgh. Not good.

The story was odd. An absolute multitude of different evil factions are all fighting against each other to claim something called the Sword of Mana, which will give the wielder insane power over the entire world, and you are obviously out to stop them. To do this, various magical elemental stones must be visited and activated, and their imprisoned monsters battled. I got a bit lost trying to keep up with who was who in all of the different factions. Each enemy force had leaders, and goons, and ultimate evils they were trying to raise, and I mostly just tuned out, preferring to run around twonking things.
I do give the game credit for having the enemy factions going against each other in the story, though. Indeed at one point, there is a large battle between three factions at the location of the mana sword, and its a shame we as the player don't actually get to see it.

So what is the actual gameplay like? Hmm. I'd say it was mostly pretty good and sometimes pretty bad. It's a third person combat game, which allows you to pause in order to use magic or items. So in this regard, it's quite like the FF7 remake, but more simple. And like that other game, there are similar things that annoyed me. For example, there is a delay in performing an action such as dodge if another animation is playing out. It's a problem with games that I keep rattling on about, but it's something that narks me. The other thing is that it's one of those games where the characters step forward, or sometimes even jump forward when they attack, meaning they can sometimes just step right passed their target and miss entirely.

The other main thing about the gameplay that annoyed me was only in certain locations. See, you often get indicators on the floor a second or two in advanced whenever an enemy is going to do a big attack, giving you the time needed to run or dodge out of it. However, I found that in sand or snow environments, these indicators were really hard to see, making battles here more difficult.

In truth, the main problem with the game was the slow load screens, of which there were many. So freaking many. This, as well as constantly re-visiting the same areas on the map, and constantly fighting the same enemies, made the game drag on for far too long. So while it was a perfectly fine game to play through, if it was shorter by a quarter or even a third, I'd have had a far better and more enjoyable time. As it was, I really had to knuckle down and wade through the last parts of the game.

Kevin gets scrappy<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Kevin gets scrappy
(video)

Goremand looks like he's taking a dump

Goremand looks like he's taking a dump

Some fancy harpy hovering skills<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Some fancy harpy hovering skills
(video)

What the fook is this thing?

What the fook is this thing?

That's some bad breath there my dude

That's some bad breath there my dude

Angela goes for the big twonk

Angela goes for the big twonk

28th March 2021: My Mortal Weakness Rising

All done with another PS4 game, this time in the shape of Immortals: Fenyx Rising. This is a 3rd person action and exploration game set in a total cheesecake version of Greek mythology, where Typhon has stripped the Gods of their powers, meaning you have to step up to put things right.

It was strange at first to find that, even using a controller, there was a mouse pointer on the menu screen. Out of interest I plugged in a mouse and keyboard, and to my delight found out that this is one of those rare console games that support such inputs. However, I soon grew frustrated, as the mouse lag was so bad that it was making me feel sick. It must have been at least half a second between moving the mouse and seeing the action happen on screen. Totally vomit inducing.
With a sigh, back to the controller I went.

I enjoyed the game well enough for the most part. The combat is fast and fun, with lots of different types of attacks and item builds available. I also quite liked how fun and silly the game was, and with the exception of Hermes, who could be irritating, I also liked all of the characters.
However, I'm still not sure about the humour in the game. I mean, it wasn't really funny, even though it was trying hard to be. But it was fun that it was trying to be funny, if that makes sense?

The puzzles were a bit weird, though. I don't remember it ever seeming hard to solve the actual puzzles, but I do remember getting a bit annoyed with having to run around and find the pieces you needed to solve the puzzles, like a rock or a ball, for example. I don't like things that purposefully waste my time.

Twonking a bear

Twonking a bear

Getting ripped

Getting ripped

Meeting my boy Phosphor

Meeting my boy Phosphor

Fenyx plays with her balls

Fenyx plays with her balls

Mood of the day = purple

Mood of the day = purple

Fenyx gets ready to squeeze some New Year's juice

Fenyx gets ready to squeeze some New Year's juice

Very early on in the game, you gain a companion bird named Phosphor. This dude and I got on very well, and I based my entire combat strategy around him. I would use my stamina to constantly call Phosphor to attack. Whenever he attacked, he would also heal me. Then my gear was set to give me loads of stamina back every time I went in with the sword, which was also upgraded to do as much damage as I could afford. This strat worked a treat all through the game, so you can imagine my frustration when I went into the final fight against Typhon and found Phosphor was not available. It made the end fight a much longer slog as I had to constantly back off to use healing items, instead of just tanking and chopping my way through the threat like I had been doing up to that point.
Maybe if I'd created a more skill-centric build I would have been alright.

But then again, I would have needed actual skill for that tactic to work.

By far my biggest gripe with the game was the traversal. Sheesh. What an absolute ball ache it is to move around the world in this game. Until you've got more fast travel points open, getting from one place to another means a lot of foot slogging, or taming a slightly faster mount. The problem is there are always ravines or cliffs in the way to wherever you want to go. This sucks when climbing up the myriad of walls or rocks, or gliding just a short distance, drains your stamina in no time, especially early in the game. You have to constantly plan your routes to make sure there are enough stopping points to get your energy back. It fucking sucked.
And by far the worst place to get around in the game is the final zone in the north of the map. Even later in the game with more stamina and abilities, that area makes it as hard and as frustrating as possible to scale that mountain. I gave up trying on my own, and had to resort to a walkthrough. Felt like a right muppet.

But still, it's done, and I can move on to the next one.

Just going for a glide with my best bro

Just going for a glide with my best bro

Uh oh, the idiot found the photo mode

Uh oh, the idiot found the photo mode

Hit this thing so hard its arm came out the other side of its body

Hit this thing so hard its arm came out the other side of its body

Twonking a Cerberus

Twonking a Cerberus

Auditioning for the next Tron movie

Auditioning for the next Tron movie

Rumbling with two automatons<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Rumbling with two automatons
(video)

11th February 2021: And That's That, Bat

Been spending some more time in Gotham, and have managed to apprehend all the villains and collect all of Riddler's trophies in Arkham Knight. I'm still not sure why I really bother with all the trophies and crap in these games, as I didn't really get much out of it in Asylum or City, and didn't really get much out of it in this. But I just had to shut the annoying little shit up again.
Also, why did they make the Riddler kind-of the end boss in these games, as you spend way more time hunting him than dealing with any of the other members of Batman's Rogues Gallery?

With the main game out of the way I went through the six mini-games, called the Arkham Episodes, which I think had all been DLC when the game originally released. In the episodes, you play as other characters instead of Batman. Surprisingly, the one I enjoyed the most was the one where you play as Red Hood, one of my least favourite characters in this game. There was just something about his play style and no-nonsense attitude that made it that bit more gratifying than the others.

The least favourite episode I did was the last one, which happened to be Catwoman's. The entire series of Arkham games up to this point has rewarded a certain approach to fights, by being tactical and precise. But the end fight in this was incredibly frustrating, and in contrast punishes you for trying to fight in the "proper" way. I tried and tried a bunch of times, with absolutely no chance, until I settled for just spamming the attack button, which easily beat the fight on my very next attempt. I didn't feel either happy or skilful after that experience. Just relieved.

So now I'm all done with Arkham Knight, and therefore, the entire Arkham series. It's been a wild, mostly very enjoyable, ride.

This dude's having a bad day

This dude's having a bad day

Batman and Dollotron boogy on down

Batman and Dollotron boogy on down

Ouch

Ouch

No photographs please

No photographs please

Just helping a cop with his bad back

Just helping a cop with his bad back

Finally "mastering" this battle

Finally "mastering" this battle

10th January 2021: Adventures In Arkham

I've taken the chance to revisit one of my favourite game franchises after GOG released the Batman: Arkham series. This was pretty damn awesome as it had been a long time since I had played any of them, and I'd never played Arkham Knight at all.

I scooped up Knight, and also added City, as City was the best of the ones I had already played, and it also came with the stuff I had not played like the Harley DLC. I figured I could always fire up the old PS3 if I ever wanted to play Asylum or Origins again. Not that I would ever want to play Origins again, but whatever.

So it was into Arkham City first, to act as a refresher before tackling Knight.

Drop kick to the nards

Drop kick to the nards

Smell my feet

Smell my feet

Figure whippin' good

Figure whippin' good

I will catch you my friend

I will catch you my friend

I can scan all the dead bodies in this water but can't see a massive freaking shark?!?

I can scan all the dead bodies in this water but can't see a massive freaking shark?!?

Still my fave part of the game

Still my fave part of the game

There's no doubt about it. This is still an awesome game, even more than 8 years later. Though I must admit, it took a little longer to get into it than I would have thought. It was also a little harder in some of the fights. I'm chalking that all up to me being older and slower now. Sad but true. Though somewhat interestingly, the stealth missions were pretty much a breeze this time round. I can't explain that, because I've certainly not become more patient in my old age.

I spent my time fairly evenly between pushing through the story and doing all the bonus stuff. When I got to the end of the story, I first decided to fully wipe the map like I did back in 2012, but only worked my way through the western half of the map before deciding to move on. After all, this was only an appetiser before the main course.

I also tackled Harley's Revenge for the first time. In this, you play as Robin for most of it, as Batman has been captured by Harley. For such a small new mission, this thing had some serious sneaking around, and Robin doesn't come with all the tools to take out gun-toting creeps like Batman does. Yet it only took a couple of hours at most to punch my way through it, and unsurprisingly, it's more of the same. Can't whinge at that.

Tiger Knee! Well, she <i>is</i> Catwoman.

Tiger Knee! Well, she is Catwoman.

Tiger Uppercut! Well, he <i>is</i>... erm... Batman.

Tiger Uppercut! Well, he is... erm... Batman.

That's some fancy footwear you got there Catwoman

That's some fancy footwear you got there Catwoman

Alright guys, let's hug this out

Alright guys, let's hug this out

Robin leaps into battle

Robin leaps into battle

Putting Harley on her ass

Putting Harley on her ass

I never played Arkham Knight when it first released, as I didn't have a PS4, and on PC it was a buggy mess and Steam only. I guess I should have thought of the game when I finally bought a PS4 just over a year ago, but it slipped through my large mental gaps. Never mind. It was meant to be, it seems.

Before playing the game I assumed I would still get some performance and bug problems, considering the state of the game at launch, and the fact that my computer is nearly as old as the game, and was not exactly a powerhouse even back then. The performance wasn't too bad, even with the better graphics in this. The majority of the time I was running around as Batman I was able to keep a stable 60, and only a few times did it drop. Hell, even Arkham City did that at times on my machine. However, driving around in the Batmobile did cause a lot more stuttering, and it's pretty much convinced me I need a new computer some time this year. Urgh, Windows 10 at last. Not looking forward to that.

The game definitely still has its bugs though, that's for sure. I faced some doozies, such as when I went down an elevator, and when it got to the bottom I somehow clipped up and through the ceiling, trapping me in the elevator shaft. In another session, every time I entered combat, the enemies would not attack me, and the camera would constantly rubber-band to look in one particular direction as if fixated on something. But it's far improved from the shoddy state it launched in.

The gameplay, as Batman at least, was more of the same, just more refined and with even more options than before. Overall, I liked the combat a bit more than the other games, but found it harder. I just found there to be a little less time to react, and there were more enemy types to deal with. Though I loved, and greatly appreciated, the new fear takedowns, making it much faster to take out groups of gunmen, and making the stealth missions a little more bearable.

Dude looks scared of getting punched

Dude looks scared of getting punched

Batman kicks the electricity out of this guy

Batman kicks the electricity out of this guy

Investigating a crime scene

Investigating a crime scene

Batman hugs a Man-Bat

Batman hugs a Man-Bat

Making stuff blow up

Making stuff blow up

Some of the stealth missions sucked as usual

Some of the stealth missions sucked as usual

Batman's mostly enjoyable gameplay was balanced out by something though, and if you've played the game you know what it is - simply the worst thing about this entire game, and that is the Batmobile. I would gladly take more bugs and stealth missions if it meant I could play this game without this stupid vehicle. Simply put, I hated it. I hated the way it controlled. I hated its combat sections. I hated how you had to use it for Riddler challenges. And most of all I hated how it felt like I was in the Batmobile for nearly as much time as I was running around as Batman.
I am so very glad I did not think of playing this game on console. On PC, at least I could quickly switch to mouse and keyboard for the Batmobile combat sections, so that I could aim straight, and then switch back to controller for the driving and Batman sections. So much more comfortable that way.

As of yet, I have not reached a full 100% completion like I did for Asylum and City. Don't get me wrong, I've put a lot of work into the side content, but it turns out this game is so freaking huge that it's taking forever. Some of the side content is also a bit of a drag, so I'm still not sure if I'll ever be fully motivated to get that full 100. But for now it's going to stay on my computer, and I'll dip in and out now and again in between playing other games. I think I owe it, and myself, a good try at least.

Speaking of the side content, some of the DLC missions were odd, and threw up some contradictions with the base game. For example, I used the hacking tool early on in the Mad Hatter's DLC mission, but it would not let me use it elsewhere until I unlocked it in the main story. In another instance, I'd already tackled Firefly in his DLC mission several times, but later on in the base game mission where Batman has to save a bunch of firemen, it came as a shock to everyone involved that Firefly was even around at all.

Overall though, barring the Batmobile sections, and a few crappy boss fights against the Arkham Knight, the game is pretty good. I wouldn't put it above City, which remains my favourite, but this still has a lot of good things going for it, like better graphics, slightly better combat, and much better Batman traversal. Well worth the play through I reckon.

Tiresome tank combat

Tiresome tank combat

Look at this guy, just hanging around

Look at this guy, just hanging around

Double team machine

Double team machine

I hated all this racing crap

I hated all this racing crap

Well this went to hell in a handbasket

Well this went to hell in a handbasket

Kicking Joker in the face

Kicking Joker in the face

23rd December 2020: Order Of The Fallen Franchise

A game I saw a bit of when it came out about a year ago was Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Now I've not really been engaged with Star Wars for the past couple of years, for Last Jedi shaped reasons, but this piqued my interest. Recently I saw its price had dropped enough for me to snatch it up.

Whatever I may think about the gameplay, the experience of playing it was not a smooth one from a technical standpoint. All the way through the game I had weird little graphics bugs, as some of these screenshots can attest. There was also a ton of frame rate stuttering, and even complete pauses in order to load new assets. Later on in the game I even started to get hard crashes, kicking me out of the game altogether. This crash problem was exacerbated by the fact that there is no way to skip cutscenes. I had to watch a very lengthy one just outside the tomb on Dathomir three times, because the damn game crashed twice as I tried to get back to my ship with a bunch of zombie Nightsisters on my tail.
And this was on a PS4 Pro after some patches. I dread to think of the experience base PS4 players had during the game's release window.

The best things about the game were the story and characters, which I quite liked. Though I'm beginning to wonder exactly how many more Jedi will be added to the ever growing list of Order 66 survivors, when the original trilogy made it seem like only Obi-Wan and Yoda made it. In this game alone we learn that Cal and Cere are still alive, and that does not even count Malicos and the two Inquisitors, who all used to be Jedi as well.

BD-1 was my favourite character

BD-1 was my favourite character

Twonking an AT-AT with an AT-AT

Twonking an AT-AT with an AT-AT

Dead Stormtrooper maintains vertical stability

Dead Stormtrooper maintains vertical stability

Don't think this thing agrees with me killing it<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Don't think this thing agrees with me killing it
(video)

BD-1 performs a scan while hovering 12 feet in the air

BD-1 performs a scan while hovering 12 feet in the air

When in battle, sometimes I would feel awesome, and sometimes I would get incredibly irritated. That's because the combat in this felt more tactical, forcing me to be patient and focused, rather than allowing me to just run around swinging my lightsaber like I would have preferred. The reason for this is that there was no attack cancellation, so I couldn't swing my saber, then immediately change my mind to quickly block or dodge an incoming attack from another enemy. This kind of combat may work for some people, and in other games, but I've never really liked it, and it makes no sense when playing as a Jedi who is supposed to have split-second reactions. I mean, if I can see an attack coming, then surely he can, right?

The level design was also what I can only describe as janky. To get around each environment, you (a Jedi, no less), have to jump and climb all over the place and do all kinds of fancy shit to reach further into the level. But when you get there, there are always simple enemies already populating that area. If Cal had to go through all that trouble to get there, then how in the galaxy did a simple Stormtrooper manage to get there? It was dumb.

As what usually happens when I play a game like this with a controller, I got annoyed at the camera rotate speed, and the fact that I couldn't turn the camera and hit any action buttons at the same time. So out came the KX adapter for another try. For the most part, it worked better than it did for Horizon, as I did not need precise aiming in this game like is required for that game. But in the end, the KX's lack of rebinding meant I still couldn't figure out a comfortable control scheme (and plus I wanted to save my mouse-clicking fingers a bit more), so I switched back to the controller to finish up.

I can see why a lot of people liked the game, but for me it was somewhere in the middle. In conclusion, I would consider the game to be simply "alright", and it has done very little to interest me in anything new Star Wars has to offer.
Some of the older things though...
Yes. I might get back to those at some point...

Looks like I just twonked this Nightbrother in the balls

Looks like I just twonked this Nightbrother in the balls

This whole section was a shit show

This whole section was a shit show

Imperial can somehow shoot behind him<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Imperial can somehow shoot behind him
(video)

Cal runs like he's shit himself<br /><span class='skye'>(video)</span>

Cal runs like he's shit himself
(video)

Pull yourself together, Mr. Lightsaber

Pull yourself together, Mr. Lightsaber

7th December 2020: Papa Nurgle's Innocent Tale

The game I've just finished playing through is an interesting little beast called A Plague Tale: Innocence. This came out a little while back and recieved quite a warm reception, so I thought I'd pick it up. I wasn't in any great rush to play it until I started to download the installer, as the files are fracking huge. Seeing this, I figured I'd better play it so I can get it off my hard drive and get some space back.

The game is set centuries ago in a land ravaged by the plague and infested with rats. You play as young French girl Amicia, with the aim being to protect and aid her younger brother, who is wanted by the Inquisition for some nefarious reasons. In addition to the Inquisition's henchmen, who you have to avoid, trick, or kill, the game constantly pits you up against the hordes of ravenous rats, who will feast on any meat they can find, with your only defences being fire and bright light.

Urgh. Stealth games.

Urgh. Stealth games.

Prepare to feel the power of... erm... pebbles

Prepare to feel the power of... erm... pebbles

Rat rat rat rat rat ratties

Rat rat rat rat rat ratties

Well this looks promising

Well this looks promising

While there are some light action and puzzle elements, the majority of the gameplay in this is pure stealth, and deciding when to act. Now, just to get this out there up front, I'm not a fan of stealth games. At all. This type of gameplay has tarnished otherwise great games for me in the past, such as the Batman: Arkham games, and The Last Of Us, so it will come as no surprise that I did not enjoy this as much as many other people seemed to.

That being said, I still found myself eager to push through the game, even if I did let out many sighs during the more frustrating parts. I think my desire to complete it would have been massively eroded, if not for the idiot enemies who actually made several of the encounters much easier to succeed in.

The story itself ended up being kind of strange, especially from the very realistic and gritty way the game started. The Inquisition's master plan just seemed to be really silly, and the end fight way too far-fetched, that I could no longer take the game seriously come the end. Some of the supporting cast, like Melie and Rodric in particular, ended up being characters that I grew to like. But Amicia's brother Hugo was really annoying, and whoever voiced their mother was so uninterested and lame that she really spoiled that character also.

Even with all the stealth though, I would say the game is worth a play through, especially if you like this kind of game. For me, it could have done with being a bit shorter, as it just started to drag a little by the last couple of chapters.

Rodric stamps out some fool

Rodric stamps out some fool

I don't think rats behave like that

I don't think rats behave like that

Amicia gets her bum nibbled

Amicia gets her bum nibbled

How is this guy not dead?

How is this guy not dead?

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