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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)

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

26th April 2020: Living In A Fantasy World

It's been many, many years since I last bought a brand new game. In fact, the Batman games, Arkham City and Arkham Origins, were the last ones I grabbed which were even slightly new, at 4 and 3 months old respectively. I usually don't find games, especially console games, worth the massive price tag. I've also got such a massive backlog of old unplayed games that I'm never really in a rush to play new ones.

That general rule however, did not apply to this one. I had to grab this as soon as I could. For it is a modern remake of very probably my favourite game of all time: Final Fantasy VII.

Fans had wanted a remake of this 1997 game for years, and it took until 2015 for Square to finally crumble to pressure and announce they were making it. And so, nearly five years later, the wait is over and the game is out.
So, in my pointless opinion, was it all worth it?

The original is such an important game for so many people, including me, and I would imagine, the developers themselves. And it very much shows. There is no doubt that they poured their hearts and souls into making this thing.

It is because of the story, world and characters that I've always thought so fondly of the old game, and they are even better than ever here (well, except for the end, which I won't go into here). While the remake only recreates the first few hours of the original game, the part set in the city of Midgar, it does so in a massively expanded way, taking the play time from maybe 5-6 hours up to around 40-50. Most of this extra time is spent on fairly awesome, and sometimes very sweet, character moments, made all the better by decent writing and very good voice acting. The actors for Cloud, Tifa and Aerith in particular really suit their characters and do a phenomenal job.

I'm pretty sure I would struggle playing the original game these days due to its mechanics, so I was interested to try the new and updated take on combat within this version of the game's world. The way combat is performed in this game makes it an interesting beast indeed. On the surface, it's a fairly standard 3rd person hack 'n' slash with dodge and parry mechanics, but it also adds in the ATB gauge from the classic Final Fantasy games which you need to use in order to perform abilities and skills like magic and other fancy attacks. It's like you're playing two games in one. You can also take personal control of any of the members of your party, not just Cloud (Final Fantasy XIII this ain't!), and when there are a lot of enemies involved in the battle, things can get very hectic and tense as you try and keep track of it all.

The music is also very good, and a lot of the old tracks are here in new and updated versions. However, there are collectible songs in the game that you can play on jukeboxes scattered throughout the city, but for some reason these versions of the songs are all really weird, and I just never bothered taking the time to look for them all.

Yes I grabbed a screenshot of it. So what?

Yes I grabbed a screenshot of it. So what?

Hmm, this looks familiar

Hmm, this looks familiar

Ifrit wailing on some fools

Ifrit wailing on some fools

Tifa kicks the airbuster in the face

Tifa kicks the airbuster in the face

Chocobos ride to battle against the Hell House

Chocobos ride to battle against the Hell House

Things somehow get weirder than the original ever did. Seriously. You don't know the half of it.

Things somehow get weirder than the original ever did. Seriously. You don't know the half of it.

While there is a great deal of good about this game, it is certainly far from perfect. Some of the things I didn't like were fairly mild annoyances, like there were times when the controls during particular segments were a bit janky, or times when control of the camera was completely taken away from me for no reason at all, and I had to either wait or slowly walk to a certain spot to get control of it back.

But more importantly, especially for further playthroughs, my biggest problem was with all the slow filler that has been shoved into the game in order to make it last longer. Sure, a lot of this was the game giving the characters time to get to know each other better, which wasn't really there in the original. But if I ever play the game again, will I really want to spend 15 minutes picking flowers, or hunting for a little girl's cat? There were just segments where absolutely nothing seemed to happen, for ages. Even in fairly tense and hectic story moments, when the characters were in a rush to get somewhere, they would constantly stop to talk to each other and say things like "Our friends are in trouble! We really need to hurry up!", and then proceed to stand there for another 10 seconds staring into the distance before starting to move again.
All the time I was just bouncing up and down in my chair desperately wanting them to get on with it. I'd got bad guys to beat up after all.

I really do think a lot of fat could have been trimmed, for a shorter game at a slightly lower price. It would certainly have made the game feel a lot tighter and more enjoyable, especially for replays.

The new combat also frustrated me at times. This was partly due to the camera, and how awkward it is to look around during a fight when using a controller compared to a mouse, especially when backed up against a wall.
But mostly it was the combat mechanics themselves. Or more specifically, it was how easy it was for the enemies to interrupt your characters as they prepared their next attack, which happened so many times in some of the more intense fights. I thought I was going to start raging at some points, I really did. My old and tired brain just couldn't keep up with it all.
I also found it quite unfair how, unlike the original, the enemies do not have to abide by the same rules that the player characters do. What I mean by this is, in the old one, all of the characters had to wait for their ATB bar to fill before they could act, and spend MP to do it. Whereas in this one, your characters have to wait and spend MP, but the enemies can just continue to throw out special attack after special attack with no ATB or MP cost at all. Sucks, especially when the ATB bars fill so slowly if you are on the defensive, which some fights dictate.

Also included in this game, which does the combat no favours, is something I hated in FF XIII and continue to hate here. This is the dreaded stagger mechanic. Fucking hell that thing is a ball ache and a half. At least here it's not as bad as it was in XIII, as this game does not include that game's paradigm shifting. Because let's face it, those two things together was a combo akin to someone making you eat a shit sandwich, then forcing you to wash it down with a drink of piss.

How awesome can a cast of characters be?

How awesome can a cast of characters be?

Cloud duels with Abzu

Cloud duels with Abzu

Not the way most people try to pick up Tifa

Not the way most people try to pick up Tifa

Barrett letting rip

Barrett letting rip

Nanaki just hanging around

Nanaki just hanging around

Yay, they did the thing

Yay, they did the thing

So then, was it all worth it after all? Does it stand up to the legacy of the original?

To be honest, I'm very torn. In chunks, I was madly in love with the game, but at other times I was a little frustrated by what the game was forcing me to do. Then, in terms of story, there was a great deal here to appreciate, but by the end, I was quite concerned, maybe even disappointed.

Yet definitely fascinated.

I don't think I'm in any great rush to play it again, even though there are still plenty of other things for me to try and do in the game. Part of that is because I've done my share of rushing this week, madly trying to get through the game so I can watch an online discussion about it tonight.
But a big chunk of it is because I don't think there's much of a replay factor here, due to most of the new stuff being slower, story and character based content. I may in the future drop it to easy to go through it again, or use the unlocked chapter select to go back through certain chapters again. I certainly won't be pushing on to the hard mode. That sounds like hell on toast.

Overall, I'm really glad the game exists, and I'm glad I played it. But I wish I'd waited a while, and not been in such a rush to finish it myself as to not hear or read anyone else's opinions on it beforehand. It wasn't really worth the worry and energy.

18th April 2020: Horizon Zero Done?

I've found some time over the last fortnight or so to start playing Horizon Zero Dawn. This game's been out a few years now and is widely regarded to be one of the best PS4 games ever made. The game is set in the far future, many years after the collapse of civilisation as we know it, and humanity has again become tribal and superstitious.
You play as Aloy, a woman who has been cast out of her tribe, who then finds her life taking an interesting turn when she stumbles upon some ancient technology in some ruins.

Trying out a KX

Trying out a KX

Wow, I really want to like this, but there are two enormous problems that are keeping me from really getting into it. The first one, is how I've got to use a controller in a shooter game. This is a problem I've always had, and it's never going to change. I just hate controllers for these types of games. I've gotten away with it in other games like Ghostbusters, but in this, the combat is so fast paced, and the machines give my aging brain and spaghetti thumbs so little time to aim, that it really spoils my enjoyment.

Of course, I foresaw this issue, so decided to buy something called a KX adapter. This little gadget lets you plug in a keyboard and mouse and make the console think you are using a controller. There's no way to rebind the keys, which was a stumbling block, but I got around that somewhat using the PS4's own button allocations. However, I've still had to go back to using the controller, as using the mouse to emulate the right stick turned out to be unplayable. It wasn't as bad as when I tried something similar in Dirge Of Cerberus, but it was still pretty bad.
Oh well.

The other problem is all the stealth. Pretty much every fight, other than the ones against more simple enemies, is set up to be a big stealth set piece.

Other than that, I like what the game has to offer. I like its story so far, and the characters are pretty cool. I also like the world, and there's a shit ton of things to do beyond the main story.

The other cool thing I like is the photo mode. I'm always thinking about screenshots when I'm playing games, so it was nice to find this little bit of kit to help me out, and I've managed to grab a few pics to use as backdrops for the forseeable future.

Here's a few screenies so far:

My first attempt using photo mode

My first attempt using photo mode

This dance looks like one Dave and I would have made up in the late 90s

This dance looks like one Dave and I would have made up in the late 90s

Photo mode is cool

Photo mode is cool

An epic duel in the dark

An epic duel in the dark

Preparing to fire

Preparing to fire

Get off my metal horse John

Get off my metal horse John

Pitting the Sawtooths against each other

Pitting the Sawtooths against each other

It's up in the air whether I'll come back to this. I just hate having to use a controller to aim with so much.

Not that I'm really thinking about HZD much right now, when this beast is currently installing...

Time to see what some old friends are up to...

Time to see what some old friends are up to...

23rd December 2019: Stebloke-Man, Stebloke-Man, Does Whatever A Stebloke Can

So just got done swinging, punching and zipping my way through my first ever PS4 game, in the shape of Spider-Man. I was pretty sure I was going to get at least some enjoyment from this game, considering how much inspiration it takes from the Batman Arkham series, and how much I liked the first two of those games.

For the most part, this turned out to be true, though my early tactics spoiled the game for me a little bit and I found my attention waining towards the end. See, my initial intention was to 100% the game, and do every little thing all over the map. So every time I saw something new on the map I would go and do it before moving on with the story. This quickly became old, and I got fed up with hunting for bags, or doing research challenges and the like.
So I then changed tactics and decided to only do things on the map if they were on the way to my next story mission. This was ok for a time, but at one point in the story, just like in Arkham Origins, a load of people populate the map with guns and sniper rifles, all waiting to shoot your ass out of the sky as you swing by. This pissed me off back then, and pissed me off this time.
So in the end, I ignored the many, many things on the map that I hadn't done yet, and just straight lined the campaign, and I've got to say, this was the way to go. I just wish I'd done that from the start.

Flash kicking the Kingpin

Flash kicking the Kingpin

Yep, that dude's dead

Yep, that dude's dead

The game is not without its physics bugs

The game is not without its physics bugs

Shut yo mouth!

Shut yo mouth!

The Ste'n'Ste suit was the one I wore the most

The Ste'n'Ste suit was the one I wore the most

Spidey's still not figured out how to stuff someone into a trunk

Spidey's still not figured out how to stuff someone into a trunk

As mentioned before, the combat is definitely influenced by the Arkham games, but with some big differences that took me a little while to get used to. For starters, I kept pressing triangle to counter like in the Batman games, whereas in this one you have to press circle to dodge instead. My muscle memory, even these years later, just kept kicking in. Took me a while to shake that behaviour for some reason.
Also, the timing of the dodges was key. At first, I would try and dodge as soon as I got the warning, but I quickly found out that dodging too early just gives the attacker time to change the direction of their attack and they end up smacking you anyway. To get the best out of the combat in this game, dodging at the last second is required. Once I got used to it, and opened up a few more skills, I really quite enjoyed dropping into a big group of goons and beating the snot out of them.

Some things that annoyed me about the Arkham games also popped up here, like stealth missions, silly little puzzles, and missions where Spidey has been poisoned and you have to trudge through hallucinations. Thankfully, these elements were greatly reduced in this game, and took a lot less time to get through.

The story was pretty good, but there was nothing ground-breaking here, especially if you know anything about Spider-Man and his rogues' gallery. There was just one thing that happened at the end that I was a little surprised by.

Overall, well worth the play through, though I wish I'd not spent so much time swinging around the city trying to do all the pointless little stuff before just getting on with it.

Spidey falls through the world to his death

Spidey falls through the world to his death

The puzzles were very hit and miss

The puzzles were very hit and miss

Two cops diligently guard two very unconscious criminals

Two cops diligently guard two very unconscious criminals

No foreshadowing here or anything

No foreshadowing here or anything

Hallucination missions. Sigh.

Hallucination missions. Sigh.

Finishing off Mr. Negative

Finishing off Mr. Negative