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Dark Souls Remastered - 4/5

My playthrough was only about 60% blind (it's hard to avoid all spoilers about this game)
I liked mostly the exploration and the atmosphere, my favorite areas were New Londo ruins and the Catacombs.
The rest was a mixed bag for me, the bosses range from easy to frustrating and some areas were disappointingly basic (not bad, but based on how much the game is lauded for it's level design, I was expecting more)
My nitpicks would be: the style of storytelling, the weapon upgrade system and the occasional d!@k moves (e.g. collapsing flores)
Just beat The Witcher 3: Complete Edition on PS5 and I feel like I have finally broken an ancient curse.

I first approached this game on PS4 back in 2017 and I gave up on it after about a month, having beaten less than half of it in that time. I had very mixed feelings about it back then and frankly it has only gotten worse with the Complete Edition as the developers have had seven additional years to address what irks me about the game and while they have improved some of those things they have barely scratched the surface in my opinion.

PSA: The Witcher 3 is a Polish national treasure. It is the biggest thing my country has achieved since freeing itself of communism. Questioning its greatness should be considered an act of treason and beating it should be a condition for receiving Polish citizenship.

Okay, back to my review.

Of course, the writing's great, there may not be another game out there which combines such scale with such high production value, the voice acting is top-notch, there's the iconic soundtrack which goes "yaaaaaaah" whenever monsters jump out of the bushes or you insult someone's mother, the atmosphere is mesmerizing and so on. It has gore, full frontal nudity AND progressive messaging. It's a game where the average side quest is more emotionally engaging and intriguing than the main plot of most games out there. Especially the narrative team and the quest designers deserve medals. Admittedly I don't think that the main plot is all that great and in Novigrad I got flashbacks from the cursed Vizima chapters in the first game but it does its job, my complaints aren't all that serious here.

That said...

I honestly believe that literally anything other than the narrative and presentation is pretty much ass in this game. It's a mild improvement over The Witcher 2 but still ass. Seriously, every single aspect of the gameplay is mediocre at best. There's mediocre combat, abominable character progression, atrocious loot, terrible alchemy, abysmal platforming, ridiculous horse riding, laughable balancing, shoddy UI, crappy pacing - I would keep going but I'm out of words and too lazy to grab a thesaurus. I have played my share of ARPGs and I swear to God, in every aspect other than content The Witcher 3 is one of the worst ARPGs I have ever played. Yes, the content is so good that practically all is forgiven - just functional gameplay is good enough for it to be a great experience given the quality of its content.

And they almost would have gotten away with it too! It would almost be one of these games that I can give a 9/10 or perhaps even a 10/10 rating in spite of substantial flaws. Alas, it's too damn long! It's so long that the only things I kept playing it for lost almost all of their charm long before the credits rolled. I love fantasy whodunits as much as the next guy but come on, even with the best writing the pattern does get old after what feels like the 500th time. It's like a TV show that starts out great but then gets stretched out for ten seasons, 24 episodes each, just because they could.

And the thing is, a game could engage me and keep me entertained this long but it would also need good gameplay or at least a highly addictive loop but as I said above: The Witcher 3 just does not have those. The moment-to-moment gameplay isn't particularly fun, the progression isn't giving me anything to look forward to and frankly the game also doesn't make particularly good use of an open world. It's not a highly systemic game like, say, TES where you can keep trying crazy things, it's not a game that constantly throws unexpected stuff and you in already explored areas and it's not a game where you explore the world organically - much like in a Ubigame that big immersive world soon turns out to be a checklist that you just keep going through like you're grocery shopping. I probably binged it too hard but in my defense: the narrative is so intricate that it's hard to get back into it after taking a longer break. Heck, after doing a number of side quests I barely remembered that the main plot is about the Wild Hunt even though it's right there in the title!

Finally: in terms of technical quality the game is still in a pretty terrible shape, probably worse than the GOTY version was on PS4. Sure, the performance is good, the load times are short (once you notice that you can skip the cinematics by pressing square) and I can live with Roach tap dancing on slopes and spawning on roofs. Ah, that silly horse... What I can't forgive is that at some point I gradually began losing slots for manual saves and eventually it was up to a coin toss whether the game would save at all. Or that the game reset all settings every time it crashed. And it did crash a lot. On the PS5 in this regard The Witcher 3 is rivalled only by... Cyberpunk 2077. I wish I was joking but I'm not.

And in spite of all that... it's still pretty great game. I refuse to give it anything more than an 8/10 out of principle, given the serious shortcomings in its gameplay and the simple fact that most of the time I spent with it was frustratingly boring, but what can I say? It is a massive package of top quality content and often an amazing experience. I'm harsh and honest but not insane or ungrateful.
F4LL0UT: And in spite of all that... it's still pretty great game. I refuse to give it anything more than an 8/10 out of principle, given the serious shortcomings in its gameplay and the simple fact that most of the time I spent with it was frustratingly boring, but what can I say? It is a massive package of top quality content and often an amazing experience. I'm harsh and honest but not insane or ungrateful.
I'm most of the way through my second run through the game (midway through Blood and Wine right now) and I think my thoughts are going to be very similar. I dunno, the Witcher games seem to epitomize the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Mediocre if not outright bad in many respects, but somehow managing to be memorable mostly thanks to the storytelling.
Persona 3 Portable (XSX Game Pass)

I also own the FES version on my PS3, but decided to play this one instead, mainly due to the promise of some quality-of-life improvements. It is good that they released this since it is a game that was forever stuck on a single portable console. It's a barebones remaster, but I'm okay with that since it's also a relatively low priced one and games with static 2D backgrounds take a lot of work to do really deep remasters- you basically need to redraw every screen.

It's a decent game, but really shows the improvements in Persona 5. The main problem is the main dungeon, Tartarus, is simply boring and really bland because of its random generation. Then the story missions are nothing more than go to a place and fight the boss. Compared to P5 with its handcrafted main story dungeons, this older game just doesn't compare. There is no way I'd tell someone new to the series to play this first, anyone should just go straight to P5 since they are stand alone games in every respect- you miss nothing by skipping the earlier games. Then go back to the earlier games if you're hooked.

There is also the great argument online as to whether you should play this version or the PS2 FES version which is available on PS3. I say play the Portable version for one simple reason- it allows you to control all of your party members instead of relying on the AI.

It's interesting to compare Persona 3 to the mainline game Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne. Both Atlus PS 2 era games that both got new remasters recently. I've played both and Nocturne is by far the superior game as a more traditional sort of dungeon crawler done in the Atlus style. I do hope that SEGA and Atlus keep on doing remasters for their old PS2 era games, however- if for no other reason than to release them from being forever on old obsolete consoles and get them back onto modern game stores.
Post edited February 02, 2023 by CMOT70
Catventurer: (...)
Hidden Folks is a hidden object game where you find both objects and folks in animated scenes. While I wouldn't recommend this game specifically for the cats as there's only two of them total in the entire game, I would recommend it highly if you like hidden object games. (...)
foxgog: Hello Catventurer!

I am not sure, but maybe the tiny fan project "Hidden Cats" (by Anwilc) might be of interest to you. It is heavily inspired by "Hidden Folks", and full of cats--which actually are the objective of the player to find.
The only downside, it does not feature enough content. Nonetheless, it is a passion project from a cat lover!
Thank you so much! Hidden Cats is something that I would be interested in! I have Hidden through Time. I'd say hopefully I'll get to it soon, but I'm dinking around with building my house in Balrum. (You can easily pile on a lot of hours in this game just building your house.) No cat friends, unfortunately,
Beat Unravel on PS5 last night (PS4 version without enhancements). I actually only really bought it because I know that Unravel Too has coop and that one seems like something that my wife and I would enjoy playing together and the completionist in me demanded that I beat the first game before playing that one.

Anyway, it's a very nice little game. I'm honestly a bit tired of puzzle platformers and I don't think I have been genuinely blown away by one since Braid - Unravel is no exception in this regard but it's undeniable that Unravel stands out with its gorgeous visuals and music. It has an amazing amount of detail, absolutely beautiful composition and colours and they did all these little tricks to make it feel like you're actually following a little fella made of yarn who's just a few centimetres tall - I bet this is one game where (almost?) nobody has complained about intense use of blur. His animations are also great and ironically make him feel more alive than most human protagonists I've seen in video games, with an insane amount of natural animations that make him physically believable but also very expressive emotionally. Add folk music played by a whole bunch of actual musicians and it's an aesthetically and emotionally pretty powerful experience.

Narratively the game is very minimalistic. Yarny (for that's apparently his name) retraces the life story of some old Swedish lady, visiting many locations from her past, at the end of which you collect badges which end up on an album and you also get photos and some pieces of life wisdom. Because I am allegedly dead inside it didn't do all that much for me and for the most part the story felt more like an excuse to visit pretty desolate locations to me but I admit, I did get a little bit emotional at times. It's definitely not a game you play for the story but I suppose it ties things together nicely.

In terms of gameplay... it's okay. I guess it's a cinematic platformer, so traditionally the actual platforming is kinda mediocre and was surely of a lower priority to the developers than delivering a certain experience. Of course the game has a unique mechanic which it revolves around. Obviously Yarny unravels as he keeps going and he constantly has to use the thread he's made of to overcome obstacles and physics-based puzzles. The world is filled with objects that you can grab or tie the thread to and use them to grapple and swing, build trampolines, sometimes even create winches and whatnot. Frankly I found this stuff to be a mixed bag. Sometimes it works great and is used rather originally but at other times the thread's behaviour seems pretty arbitrary and difficult to control. The grapple point thingies are often also pretty difficult to see which kinda sucks.

Anyway, all in all I enjoyed it. It's a nice short ride that delivers beautiful sights, a few emotional moments and the occasional enjoyable puzzle.
Witcher 3. My second run through this game, on Death March difficulty. I didn't do the recent graphical update because that was an extra 50 gb I didn't have on my SSD. Maybe someday, well in the future.

In terms of presentation, everything about the game is top level. It looks great, has fantastic music, and is quite well-written. It can be cutscene-heavy at times, but it's hard to complain when the cutscenes are as good as they are.

In terms of how it plays it's...interesting. The combat is a bit better than Witcher 2, but I found playing with a gamepad that I was often fighting the game's auto-targeting system (I don't recall having this problem as much in my first run, which was mouse and keyboard...), and when things were working well the combat settles into a formula of "cast Quen, dodge strike, hit guy twice, dodge again, reset and repeat." You don't have to stray from this too often. Much like Witcher 2, I feel like the game is in this odd in-between place where it's essentially an open-world action game but everyone thinks it's an RPG (because the original game pretty much was one), so it clings to vestigial RPG mechanics when it would probably be best to ditch them all the way. Even late in the game, I would have these silly moments where Geralt, alleged super-badass monster slayer, would have to run like hell away from raggedy bandits because they were 10 levels ahead of Geralt and could one-shot him before I could get him off the horse and set up for fighting.

I also hate how much the game holds the player's hand. It's needlessly hard to get anywhere without relying on the quest-marker/GPS system. In my first playthrough, I turned off the minimap and found I had to keep referring to the map anyway because the game never bothers with detailed directions on anything. Someone will tell you to go somewhere but they rarely bother with detailed instructions on things like landmarks or whatever because the game is designed to assume you'll be following the minimap directions.

The story with the series is that it's always been kind of lacking in pure gameplay, but you put up with it because it does such a good job of adapting the source material and it creates a world that's enjoyable to just hang around in.
I've just finished Kingdom Hearts Final Mix on PS4

I've never played KH, and this was my first exposure to the series. Unfortunately, it's more then showing it's age and the limitations of the platform it was originally developed for. While storyline is interesting, the locations are smallish, and midway through I was on the verge of giving up wirh all the backtracking and the loading times. Ii ended up reaching walkthrough on more occasions than I'd be comfortable to admit, as it heavily banks on knowing Disney stories it includes. The trouble is - whilst I've read the source material, it was 20-odd years ago, so I needed a refresher. I've also found it to be lacking clarity on what's expected next, even when not banking on Disney stories.
Bosses are hard but mostly fair, and swordplay is mostly fine.

Bottom line is - your time is probably better spent elsewhere.
Detroit: Become Human (PS5 PS Plus)

This is how you do interactive narrative. Just like when I played As Dusk Falls on Xbox last year, I finished up feeling like the story was my story and reflected my choices and what I believed in quite well. The opposite of Telltale games where basically everything you do is just pretend choices with pretend consequences.

My philosophy in the Detroit story was firmly in the camp that they are just Androids, machines- nothing more. They are not people, can never be people and their feelings are just made up because everything comes from programming by humans and, therefore totally irrelevant. I came to dislike all the characters you play as and ended up deliberately steering them down paths to what most would class as bad ends. I know that makes the game sound bad, but no way. The fact that the game let me follow a pretty extreme path all the way to an actual satisfying ending based around my choices is actually a credit to it. At the end I felt the ending I got did credit to the path I followed- even if only 2% of players got the same end as me. The very fact that they made endings to cover such a small minority of players is, again, a credit to the developers.
Post edited February 04, 2023 by CMOT70
andysheets1975: I also hate how much the game holds the player's hand. It's needlessly hard to get anywhere without relying on the quest-marker/GPS system. In my first playthrough, I turned off the minimap and found I had to keep referring to the map anyway because the game never bothers with detailed directions on anything. Someone will tell you to go somewhere but they rarely bother with detailed instructions on things like landmarks or whatever because the game is designed to assume you'll be following the minimap directions.
I think it's great. I get easily lost in large game maps... as I do in real life.
Finished Bound By Flame this morning.

Way better than I thought it was going to be. Wayyy better. Well done, Spiders.
Games finished in 2023:

01 Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (03.02, PS4, 100% achievements, single playthrough)
02 Dead Space [2008] (14.02, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
03 Postmortem: one must die (20.02, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
04 Wanted: Dead (25.02, PC [Linux, Windows], 85% achievements so far, several playthroughs)
05 Arma: Cold War Assault aka Operation: Flashpoint (19.03, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
06 Maize (19.03, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
07 Red Faction (21.03, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
08 The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan (24.03, PC [Windows], single playthrough)
09 The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope (26.03, PC [Windows], single playthrough)
10 Still Life (08.05, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
11 The Witcher (03.06, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
12 Medal of Honor: Airborne (17.06, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
13 The Norwood Suite (18.06, PC [Linux], 100% achievements, single playthrough)
14 Hitman: Blood Money (20.06, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
15 Creeper World 4 (25.06, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
16 Broken Sword 2 (26.06, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
17 Catherine Classic (07.07, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
18 Broken Sword (15.07, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
19 Emily is Away <3 (24.08, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
20 Lost Words: Beyond the Page (07.09, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
21 Nightlong - Union City Conspiracy (18.09, PC [Windows], single playthrough)
22 Ravenous Devils (22.09, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
23 Dishonored (28.09, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
24 Dishonored DLCs (31.10, PC [Linux], several playthroughs)
25 Antichamber (03.11, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
26 The Talos Principle (07.11, PC [Linux], single playthrough)
Post edited November 10, 2023 by Kane6644
More games, more cats....

Wintermoor Tactics Club - available on GOG
There aren't actual cats in this game that you can interact with, but there are references to cats such as the cat calendar on the wall in the tactics club's room at the back that has a different cat joke each of the game's days. There's also a section of the school library that is devoted just to cat jokes.

There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension -available on GOG
This game about going on an adventure with a game that insists that it is not a game has several instances of cats. Unfortunately, you do have to destroy the cat shapes in chapter 1.
Chapter 1:
Chapter 5:

Companions of Xanth
This is an old DOS game that is out of print that is very loosely based on the book Demons Don't Dream. There is one cat in the game, who joins you as a companion later on. Also due to a design mistake, he initially appears as a black cat (in intermissions) then later as an orange cat when he joins you.
Just beat Carrion (PS4 version on PS5). Honestly, I can't even begin to put into words how good this game is. It's so good, I now additionally bought it on GOG. It's so good that I added the dev on Facebook just so I can tell him how great I think it is (which he is certainly aware of but I'm sure it's not gonna hurt him to hear it again).

Now, I don't wish to exaggerate. It's a small game. The story is simple, there is no dialogue and the game can be beaten in a few hours. I don't know how long it took me to beat the game exactly (still no time tracking on PlayStation) but I'm pretty sure it took me eight hours at best to beat it and even get a platinum trophy for also doing all optional stuff (what I haven't done yet, though, is play its Christmas bonus content). I suppose one could also complain about its imprecise controls (which might be a little bit better on mouse) and frantic chaotic combat. But honestly, none of that seriously bothered me. To me the game's length is perfectly okay and the control issues are kinda just part of the experience, I guess. And I think it's an amazing experience.

All in all the game is kinda like a blend of Aliens versus Predator (when playing the Xenomorph) and Another World. The mood is totally reminiscent of the aforementioned sci-fi horror classics, also thanks to its surprisingly cinematic soundtrack by Cris Velasco and yeah, when I crawl around vents and devour sobbing humans I can't not think of AvP. And much like in AvP it's not just gory mayhem (though you do also get that every so often), you have to work carefully and methodically because as dangerous as you may be, you're also surprisingly fragile. It's frankly kinda bizarre that a few bullets from a handgun are enough to kill the ultimate lifeform but it does make the game work. Like in AvP just a single dude with a flamethrower can end you in a matter of seconds and often you will have to retreat to a shaft and wait until things calm down. But unlike AvP this one is a 2D sidescrolling game which puts you in a much better position to play a stealthy murderous monster as you usually have great conditions to study the environment, observe the enemies and plan your moves.

So, what Carrion really is is a mix of stealth and puzzle game. You gradually unlock new abilities which allow you to do all sorts of nasty things and also grow more and more powerful. You use these abilities not only to defeat the increasingly dangerous enemies but also interact with the environment, disabling security measures or creating new passages. It has honestly turned out to be far more sophisticated than I thought it would be.

And it also has an interesting world structure which took me while to really wrap my head around because there's no map. But even though there is no map, the world is surprisingly easy and intuitive to navigate - the game does what everyone said Metroid Dread did but actually didn't. Probably not everyone had this experience but I honestly just kept naturally "flowing" forward, never getting stuck or wondering where to go next even though the game does kinda have a metroidvania structure where you can revisit any earlier location (but you almost never have to). Honestly, the world has been masterfully designed in my opinion, knowing full well that even a relatively basic metroidvania game can be hard to navigate. Here I feel that the dude constantly made good choices with the control over the player movement. The individual areas aren't particularly big (though relatively complex) and gates and other obstacles are constantly utilized to keep you from doing unnecessary backtracking and guiding you in the right way. And unlike in Metroid you don't have to randomly shoot at every tile in search for secret passages. Only towards the end I decided to intentionally backtrack and snatch up some optional upgrades that I had missed earlier or couldn't get before because I was missing a necessary power but even then navigating didn't get too hard.

Finally, usually I like to complain about pixel art but Carrion makes great use of it and is gorgeous in my opinion. The environments look really nice and remind me of Alien 3 on SNES and Amiga or something and are combined with really good lighting and other visual effects. The humans also look pretty awesome, using some sort of vector graphics which remind me of Another World and have very natural animations.

Now, as I said, Carrion is not perfect. The controls are questionable but I suppose they are okay because their imprecise nature kinda enhances the experience of controlling a weird tentacle creature. Snatching individual humans, especially those who turn on shields the moment they notice you, can get a bit frustrating and some of the tougher enemies are a bit of a PITA to fight. But luckily the game is very generous with checkpoints and healing so it never got really frustrating for me. And I wish to add that even though the story is simple and told in a minimalistic manner I actually loved it and think that the ending is brilliant.

So yeah, to me it's honestly one of the most impressive games I've played in quite a while. I suppose the main question is whether you can stomach the controls.
F4LL0UT: [...]in a few hours. I don't know how long it took me to beat the game exactly (still no time tracking on PlayStation) [...]
There is, and was, since PS4. As long as you where signed into PSN during the time you played. You couldn't check on PS4 (but you might have gotten the annual summary, which also showed selected total game times).

On your PS5 switch to 'Profile' --> 'Games'. It's not very accurate, though (only hours). And it might be messed up (e. g. unrealisticly high - I believe due to the nature of being online game time tracking, though I think It did get better).

You can even check your PS4 times there.

I prefer games with their own time tracking, though. On PC I am using Game Backup Monitor (also for local incremental save backups).

EDIT: Ah, and thanks for the lengthy review. :D
Post edited February 05, 2023 by kzadur