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Beyond: Two Souls

I don't quite know what to think. On the one hand it's pretty good, on the other hand rather bad.

Everything involving the cinematic presentation is great, the graphics, scenery, actors, soundtrack (by Hans Zimmer himself), it really is like playing an interactive movie or TV series, and while I'm not sure whether the story can actually be considered good, it is definitely well told. The episodes from the main character's life are presented in non-chronological, dramatically interesting order and with quite a bit of variety between them, from their length (very short to long and involved) to the settings and also the types of stories and gameplay. That also means that some are weaker than others, but overall, the game was very entertaining and I always wanted to know what comes next. Sometimes, it went a bit overboard with the suspension of disbelief necessary, even in the fantastical setting itself, sometimes it hurts the storytelling somewhat that there is no difference in consequence to extreme choices, like over life and death, and some scenes I found kind of tonally off and cringey, but there were enough others that actually managed to engage me and evoke emotions.

The gameplay is somewhere between walking simulator, simplistic but obscure and clunky adventure game, and confusing QTE action, with some illusion of stealth shooter thrown in here and there. In general it's pretty linear and rigid, and I seldom found anything that involved more than walking to actually be fun (even walking didn't always feel right, because there is no running button, or if there is it is toggled off most of the times and in the scenes where you're allowed to run, it is only a half walk / half run thing; plus the camera angles often make it harder to orient yourself as they tend to focus on the character, not where she is looking). Worst were the adventure game scenes that suggested urgency of action, while I was desperately hunting the environment for the few small dots to interact with, barely understanding what the game wanted me to do and whether I was under actual time pressure or not. For most of the game I also never fully understood all the controls, like what direction I was supposed to pull the right gamepad stick in when there was a white dot on screen. I'm still not sure whether I actually get it now. It often seemed somewhat random, and if it wasn't, then the game did a bad job of easing me into it at the start. In the QTE sequences you have a certain time to react and in slow motion the main character will make a move in the direction you are supposed to push, but often I found it hard to recognize and it didn't feel intuitive. Might just be me, but I probably failed almost as often as I succeeded.

Only, it doesn't really matter if you fail or succeed. The QTEs are just there to give you something to do once in a while, and the action might play out a little differently depending on your performance, but the result will always be the same. Which makes the QTEs pretty meaningless, but also a bit less annoying in my book. They never hinder the story progress and you never get stuck because of them, if you manage to endure them. This might also be the reason why this is the first Quantic Dream game that I actually finished. So even though I wouldn't say that the gameplay has much improved from e.g. Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy, it's still a bit of an improvement that it's less intruding. Occasionally the QTEs even came close to purveying some feeling of actually being involved, struggling and overcoming the obstacles the character has to face, but just barely, and I still think they are subpar gaming mechanics. But at least they did not interfere with the cinematic presentation as they do in Fahrenheit.

The game features a bonus episode that you can access from the main menu, and it's a short Portal-like training course with puzzles. Although the puzzles aren't complex, that episode probably had more actual gameplay (or at least more engaging gameplay) than most of the official episodes combined, even though it uses the same mechanics. Quantic Dream just didn't seem all that interested in creating a game that you would enjoy for its gameplay, the focus is entirely on how to tell the story and the mechanics it introduces are mostly there for the illusion of involving the player but are never exploited to their full potential and turned into something fun.

What I hadn't considered before though, is how much games like Life is Strange owe to Quantic Dream as well, not just to Telltale Games (and Naughty Dog?). I guess Telltale itself might have gotten their inspiration from them.

Anyway, it definitely was an interesting game to play, not just from a historical perspective, quite a ride, with many ups and downs, some of the oddest and most unexpected scenes I've experienced in a videogame, and many lessons about bad gameplay offset by the killer presentation and gripping storytelling.
Post edited November 23, 2023 by Leroux
Metroid Prime Remastered (Switch)

I've never played a Metroid game before for any longer sessions, but I saw this come out to glowing reviews, so I decided to give it a shot. I was very positively surprised. It's very similar to other shooters of this era, but the action is not the main focus. As is typical of the metroidvania genre, you have a big game world that you gradually explore as you unlock new abilities and can visit new areas.

The game world is interesting with its varied locations. Jungles, desert ruins, lava lakes, snow maps.. It's almost straight out of Super Mario. And it looks great with its updated graphics. Definitely one of the best-looking games I've seen on the Switch. The modern controls also makes it feel a lot fresher. There are a lot of hidden areas to find too if you want to find every upgrade. You also have a scanner for learning more about the flora and fauna. Works just like the one in Resident Evil Revelations. Very cool.

The puzzles and progression are mostly logical. It takes a bit of thinking to get them usually, but it feels great when it finally clicks. I tend to be really bad at puzzles in most games, but I was able to finish it all without a walkthrough. The game will also give you hints if you take too long to progress.

The negative I would have to say is that I think it became just a bit too action heavy in the late game. As I said earlier, shooting isn't the main focus, but suddenly you are bombarded with hordes of enemies blasting you and stunning you in dark corridors. You have to change weapon types to harm certain enemies later in the game, so it can get tedious. By then you probably have a lot of upgrades to health and ammo, so it becomes more of an annoyance than a difficulty issue.

All in all, it was well worth it. I will play it again on hard difficulty eventually, and it prompted me to pick up a used copy of Metroid Dread that was for sale in my local area. I think I'll renew my Switch Online membership soon too..
Finished games in:

2015 - 6 games - 3 GOG and 3 PS3
2016 - 16 games - 2 GOG, 11 PS3 and 3 PS4
2017 - 15 games - 6 PS3 and 9 PS4
2018 - 10 games - 4 GOG, 1 PS2 and 5 PS3
2019 - 11 games - 8 GOG, 1 PS3 and 2 PS4
2020 - 14 games - 5 GOG, 3 PS3 and 6 PS4
2021 - 10 games - 5 GOG, 1PS2, 1 PS3 and 3 PS4
2022 - 31 games - 1 GOG, 10 PS3 and 20 PS4

And below is the list of finished games in 2023 (so far 3 GOG and 6 PS4 games):

1 - January 9, 00:15 – After 4 more hours on Easy difficulty, I have finally acquired the last PS4 trophy in Final Fantasy XV – Episode Ardyn DLC. The biggest challenge was to get 350+ combo on a guardian. 30 minutes of failed attempts and reloads, until I was able to get 423 Hits on him. After that, it was just a slow-paced grind to demonify more than 100 enemies, conquer 7 city sectors, spent less than 50 minutes in battles, in which I had to receive less than 15k damage, including final bossfights. After the last one, I was surprised, that I have achieved A+ in all of the required categories for this trophy with total of more than 1.7 milion points. All that is needed to 100% this DLC is final battle challenge, which unlike in previous DLCs, does not award the trophy for a victory.

2 - February 4, 20:00 – After clearing Pitioss Ruins few days ago, I have finally found enough time to challenge Omega at the ruins of Insomnia again. Now that I had the Black Hood and 4 Ribbons equipped, the fight was not that difficult, as when I've tried it for the first time. Still, Omega was pretty big HP sponge, and resistant to most of attacks, with the exception of Royal Arms and lightning damage. It took me a lot of Quintcast: Thundara grenades in conjunction with Ignis' Enhancement skill and awakened Armiger invocations to defeat it, but after little bit more than 35 minutes Omega was defeated and with it, the last PS4 trophy of the Final Fantasy XV – Royal Pack DLC was mine.

3 - February 4, 23:30 – Right after a dinner, I've decided to go after the last PS4 trophy in Final Fantasy XV, which I was missing. I've arrived in Hammerhead and accepted last hunt from Takka, which goal was to defeat the Adamantoise superboss. Compared to Omega, the fight was easier, especially when wearing powerful Rare Metal accessory. Unfortunately even with this big damage boost, the fight took me just over 55 minutes! Mostly due to the fact, that the awakened Armiger was completely useless, and it took me a while to find out, what was it's weakness. After I noticed it, it was just rinse and repeat of warping and hitting it's eyes, with occasional unleash of Ignis' Sagefire skill and normal Armiger activation.

4 - April 16, 14:15 – It took some time, due to me being much more busy, and spending more time with Assetto Corsa Competizione, but the main story boss of Tales of Arise on my PS4 has been finally beaten today. I have been very positively surprised of the game, and I have enjoyed it much more, than the JRPGs I have played in last few years. It's probably only on par with Tales of Berseria. I have enjoyed the story full of plot twists and surprises, and had my fun with the decent gameplay as well. Although, it was simplified a lot compared to older Tales of games, it was still good enough, to not drag the enjoyment down. The only negative, which I have encountered, was around the time, when I have arrived at Niez to fight against the fourth Renan Lord. At that point, the story progression hit soft experience wall, probably to incentivize purchase of XP and money DLCs. So once in a while, in order to progress further, I had to start to go after all possible sidequests and needed to do little bit of extra grinding for money, as the consumables were hard to find and cost arm and leg at the shops. Still it was much more manageable than some Ubisoft games, and I have never felt that I was forced to do it. It just made the fights with bosses less stressful.

5 - May 27, 16:30 – Today, after 1 and half year long break from the game, I have finally decided to finish off the requisites for Torpedo Buster achievement in GOG copy of Rebel Galaxy, which was the last missing achievement to 100% the game. It took me only about half hour to shoot down last 180 torpedoes, so I am now kind of wondering, why I have not finished it long time ago :D .

6 - July 29, 15:45 – After some longer break from the game due to my busy work schedule, I have finally acquired Platinum Trophy in Tales of Arise on my PS4 today. This game has one of the most balanced roads to Platinum Trophy, I have ever achieved. I had no need for any kind of excessive grinding. Just now and there going back to some easy to get material for weapon crafting or few minutes of fishing. Even the post game was one straightforward way to level 100 while clearing all new content. Both post game quests have been fun and challenging, and I had not feel burned out from for a single minute during whole 111 hours of gameplay. That's what I call quality game design!

7 - August 2, 17:15 – After two years long break after my PC upgrade, I have finally found mood to try another attempt at the Zero Seed mission on Hard Difficulty in my GOG copy of Druidstone – The Secret of the Menhir Forest, which I was still missing for 100% completion of the game. To my surprise even after some moves, which I have messed up, I was able to finish it on first try, and defeat the final boss with one of her minions under Oiko's mind control :D .

8 - August 29, 17:15 – One more game gone from backlog. GOG copy of Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition has been beaten after a little bit more than 40 hours. I had a decent amount of fun during the whole playthrough, but the last three Derelicts and Mothership have been more or less pain in the ass. The random nature of combat due to deckbuilding base of the game has shown some flaws and caused few Game Overs. Including the final bossfight, where I was completely obliterated during the first attempt, and had almost no issues fighting him on second one. I am just glad, that I was not playing on Hardcore, as I would be pretty pissed-off right now :D .

9 - November 15, 14:15 – After defeating the Ethereal Queen for the first time in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness on my PS4, I have decided to go for full clear of the first floor of the Ex Dungeon again, to obtain more Orichalcum for the crafting trophy. But because I have finished it sooner as expected, I have went to challenge the final boss of the game's storyline as well. As expected, due to trying to get all of the Private Actions, I got again Miki's and Relia's Endings, but it has unlocked one more trophy for me as well. For finishing the game on Universe Difficulty. I have also finished every Battle Trophy in the game, with the exception of 1 million hits on enemies. I am still under 250 thousands, so it will probably take a lot more time :( .

10 - November 25, 21:30 – With the defeat of 6-winged Ethereal Queen, and unlocking of last character ending for Emmerson, my PS4 Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness Universe difficulty playthrough has been finished on 100% today. During my way to 100%, I had to unlock 4 ultra rare Trophies, which have been acquired by less than 1% of game owners. One for crafting all recipes, one for finding every single item, one for finding every single enemy, and one for fulfilling the prerequisites for all of the in-game Battle Trophies. The hardest Trophy, as always, was the Battle Trophy one, as it included the infamous one for 1 million hits. To get this one, I had to spent more than 30 hours fighting against Bloodbane over and over, but I left the last hit for this Trophy for the EQ fight :) . The game got a lot of bashing when it was released, mostly due to the Fiore’s dress, but IMHO, it was one of the best JRPGs released in 2016, as it stayed faithful to its Japanese roots without trying to appease western Skyrim audience, unlike FFXV.
Post edited November 26, 2023 by MMLN
Stick it to the Man!

An enjoyable little game with lots of humor.
It’s primarily an adventure game, featuring simple inventory-item puzzles, while adding some basic platforming an enemy evasion to the mix.
The gameplay, both puzzles and platforming, is rather simplistic and easy, and the length is very short – it took me only four hours to finish it.
The visuals are really nice, reminding me a lot of Psychonauts while adding a flare of it’s own.
The story, world and characters are silly, in a good way, but humor is the main focus here, adding a lot of personality to the characters and the world around them.
I think it’s a good choice for a game if you want a short diversion and a few laughs along the way without worrying too much about gameplay.
Before Your Eyes, Apr 6 (Netflix)-Been on vacation the last few days but wanted to try out some of the Netflix games to see how they stack up. Didn't realize this one was also on GOG although a lot of their other offers are indie darlings so maybe I shouldn't be surprised this one is also available elsewhere. The plot starts off a little slow but the ending is a bit of a gutpunch. I really like the unique mechanic of progressing via blinking. Unfortunately I don't think it was as impactful as desired. You don't actually miss much if you blink too early and there are some points late in the game where you restart the scene if you blink so you can't miss the important bits. Voice acting for the boatman (boatwolf?) was good, parents were ok, and everyone else was really grating. Overall, interesting plot with a unique but ineffective mechanic but good for a couple hours of entertainment.

Full List
11 finished games in this year so far:

Dungeon Lords
Prey (2006)
Ghost of a Tale
Ultima 9: Ascension
Where the goats are
The Stillness of the Wind
NecroVisioN: Lost Company
Although Resident Evil Revelations is very linear action, it could be good. Unfortunately there is too much going there and back, so it became boring. Game-play is still based on do it once wrong and then repeat flawlessly. Moreover since I played it on AMD GPU, I had to reset shader cache after each episode to avoid well known out of memory error.
Post edited April 09, 2023 by IXOXI
IXOXI: Although Resident Evil Revelations is very linear action, it could be good. Unfortunately there is too much going there and back, so it became boring. Game-play is still based on do it once wrong and then repeat flawlessly. Moreover since I played it on AMD GPU, I had to reset shader cache after each episode to avoid well known out of memory error.
That's some of what I like about the earlier RE games. They're almost like little puzzle games or old adventure games where you had to map out your moves perfectly to beat a timer or have enough resources to survive.
Beat Xenoblade X today.

It was a long time coming and the feelings are kind of complicated. Might say more about it later.
Life is Strange True Colors, Apr 9 (Xbox Game Pass)-I like this one a lot, even more than the first game which was pretty good itself. The writing was great, the voice acting was great. My decisions frequently resulted in messy outcomes which I liked. It made the game feel a little more realistic in the narrative to have everything not work out perfectly. The LARPing in chapter 3 was a lot of fun even if it was a little simplistic. The weakest part was the conspiracy part of the plot. I understood it but it seemed like a bit of a stretch to be necessary for the evil mining corporation. But its a pretty minor quibble and easy enough to ignore.

Full List
Post edited April 19, 2023 by muddysneakers
muddysneakers: That's some of what I like about the earlier RE games. They're almost like little puzzle games or old adventure games where you had to map out your moves perfectly to beat a timer or have enough resources to survive.
Earlier games were about great atmosphere, scarce of ammo, avoiding enemies if possible. Unfortunately Revelations is exact opposite. Puzzles are extremely simple here without any pressure.
muddysneakers: That's some of what I like about the earlier RE games. They're almost like little puzzle games or old adventure games where you had to map out your moves perfectly to beat a timer or have enough resources to survive.
IXOXI: Earlier games were about great atmosphere, scarce of ammo, avoiding enemies if possible. Unfortunately Revelations is exact opposite. Puzzles are extremely simple here without any pressure.
Scarcity of resources and avoiding enemies is what I mean. Backtracking uses lots of resources so finding an optimal path to conserve resources is like a puzzle. Kind of like speed running but the goal is saving ammo instead of a fast time.
Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri. Unless you're counting their golf game, and maybe the Flight Unlimited series, this is sort of the "lost"/least-loved of Looking Glass's games. It's classic 90s military sci-fi sim action, sort of a cross between System Shock, Starship Troopers, and Wing Commander.

You control a guy appointed to head a squad of soldiers who operate in powered armor who are caught in a war between their home in the next solar system over against Earth, which has turned into a global dictatorship. The story is mostly conveyed through FMV segments that occasionally play between missions. There's some business about a traitor in the ranks, among the other soap opera conflicts among the squad members, very Wing Commander-like, but ultimately it's not a very story-heavy game. The FMV gets mocked a lot today but I found it charming. It's just that it's questionable if it was really necessary but they threw it in because it's what everyone back then was doing.

The game itself is 37 missions long, which sounds like a lot but missions tend to be very quick assuming you just do your objectives and leave, many below 5 minutes. Most missions are some variation of "destroy everything", but of course the most terrifying are the escort/protect ones that pop up ever so often.

I like to say that the problem with System Shock's controls is that you feel more like you're controlling a mech than a person, and perhaps someone at Looking Glass realized this, too, because the game controls a lot like System Shock except you actually are controlling a mech. You move the mouse pointer around, clicking on different sub-systems like your weapons or communications, and then shoot stuff when it comes into your suit visor's view. You can jump high and far. The squad AI is quite good aside from random occasions where they'll get hung up on a rock or something, and they pull their weight in combat so much that you'll sometimes have to scramble to find something to pad your kill-count. But they also need your help, too, or they'll have to eject in heavier fights. It's a good balance. The combat is usually frantic and resolves pretty quickly. It's just a fast-moving game in general, which helps offset some of the "vehicle sim" stigma I think it's been hit with over the years.

The graphics are pretty good, but it's unfortunate that you can't increase the resolution beyond 320x400. Who knows, maybe someday we'll get a remaster to fix that... The audio is also good, with dynamic music and some sound effects recycled from System Shock. Kind of funny to hear Terri Brosius giving you status updates.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty (XSX Game Pass)

Best game so far this year by a long shot. Another shot by Team Ninja at a Dark Souls type of game- this combat system is totally different though, being much closer to Ninja Gaiden. More so than in any other game of this type, you need to learn deflection timings for the enemies. I know lots of people say that you need to learn to parry in From Software games, but I'm living proof that you do not- I even beat Bloodborne and Sekiro without ever getting the hang of parrying. Wo Long is the real deal- you are literally not going anywhere until you learn the combat system and its prioritizing of deflection. You don't even really have a normal stamina bar in wo Long, you can swing your weapon as much as like for regular attacks- you won't beat any bosses doing that though.

Speaking of the first boss, he is a gatekeeper boss. He is hard because he is there to force you to learn the combat system. You may as well rage quite at the start and not waste any more time, than to hit a difficulty spike 3/4 the way through and waste 40 hours. Once you get past Mr Asshat (I cannot remember his real name), you know that you know enough to handle the rest of the game. Except not quite! Lu Bu was quite possibly the hardest boss I've defeated in one of these Soulslike games. I think he took me like 60 tries and 3 hours! I hate him.

The level design is similar to NioH. Level based and generally linear- but with lots of shortcuts and side areas to find. Full exploration is important because of the games morale system- one of the more unique aspects of this game that defines it. For each level there are a series of battle flags and marker flags to find- some are hidden off the main path. Each of these flags raises your morale- this is more important in each level than your actual character level. It's a great system that encourages full exploration- and after killing things, exploration is my next favorite thing in video games, so a game that does both this well is a winner for me.

The game also has a story, but that doesn't do as much for me. It is set in the Three Kingdoms Chinese setting- so you come across all the characters you expect, such as Cao Cao and Lu Bu. I'm not very familiar with the setting though, so I don't feel so qualified to comment on the quality of the story.

The game ran perfectly and had no technical issues at all. Overall, once I got past the first boss and had a handle on the systems, I feel it's one of the most unique entries into what people call the SoulsBorne genre- it's combat and morale system set it apart from the pack. Best Team Ninja game in my opinion, though I still haven't played NioH 2 yet- so that may change.
Erica (PS5 PS Plus)

Looking for something quick and story based like usual after a long hard game like Wo Long. I found this on PS Plus and gave it a go. I'm really glad I did. It's an FMV interactive Psychological Thriller. Like the best of these types of story, the endings can be interpreted in one of two ways- have you uncovered and thwarted a conspiracy...or are you really sick? You will make your own conclusion, but you'll never be sure if you're right.

Acting and soundtrack are fine and atmospheric, really good production quality.

It was a PS4 exclusive originally, now also on Steam and iOS. My only complaint is that it's made for touch controls, so on PS4/5 you use the touch pad. There is no advantage to this method at all compared to just using stick cursor controls- if anything it's clumsier using the touch pad. You can connect a smart phone on PS4 for better touch controls maybe, on Steam I assume it uses mouse only. Touch controls aside, it's worth a play for something quick.