Premieres

Page 2 of Premieres

Secret of Mana port

Secret of Mana’s remaster is an acceptably enjoyable port of the original. While the combat has been tuned, and in many ways improved, it does suffer from some bug issues. But the selectable music, improved dialogue, and addition of inn ‘vignettes’ makes it overall a recommended choice.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +5

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Vignettes and what they add to character and story (inn sequences)
  • Voice acting (varies in quality BUT every single NPC is voice acted)
  • World building and storytelling in the video records from the modern era of the past and increased NPC dialogues
  • REMAKE PLUS: Vignettes themselves are a significant addition // Much better translation and smoothed out cutscenes
  • Main character’s portrayed as down to earth (not counting the pointless plot twist)

Story Negatives:

  • Bad usage of amnesia as a plot point and nothing else
  • Majority of characters are one-note and/or not fleshed out
  • Rushing through story points and not actually doing much with them

Gameplay Positives:

  • Options for remade or old music
  • Otherwise good quality of life features in menus
  • Voice acting (everyone is voiced, reasonably good quality, japanese or english and changeable on the fly, AND can just turn it off)
  • No more leashed by party members
  • Screen transition autosave that keeps after shutting down or crashing
  • Shoulder buttons editable shortcuts
  • Significantly improved, funner boss fights
  • REMAKE PLUS: Dash is a significant improvement // Better and more precise combat, especially at diagonals, and regarding hit and hurt boxes // Respawning enemies is per cell not ON screen
    Increased size of terrain in general // Good animation and good usage of art style for gameplay

Gameplay Negatives:

  • No online support (for a modern game, built on co-op, on modern systems)
  • Lack of cursor memory
  • Weird and arguably bad options in the settings menu (notably more keyboard than controller options)
  • Buggy (softlocks, CTDs, and bizarre melee bugs)

Dissidia NT

Dissidia NT is an unusual entry in the series. For the purposes of a competitive, versus fighting game it does many things right and indeed superior to previous entries. For anyone seeking a new Dissidia game, it is lacking in stage design, gameplay, and most critically story. Thus whether it’s for you or not depends on what you’re looking for.
Total Story Score: -4
Total Gameplay Score: -1

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

  • Story presentation and acquisition
  • Entirely too little story to gameplay ration
  • Incredibly lackluster and unsatisfactory ending
  • Characters are devolved into basic caricatures of themselves

Gameplay Positives:

  • The graphics are excellent
  • Controls are tight, responsive, and don’t wear out the hands
  • Matches are legitimately fun to keep playing
  • The Bahamut boss fight was amazing and genuinely challenging
  • Music selection, variety, and ability to do an over-ride playlist or set playlists per character

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Lack of any real customization of modes, setup, or characters
  • Lack of a real co-op option, and clear boss design leaning towards co-op gameplay
  • Online AI difficulty is tied to online PvP player ranking to unlock
  • Having to do online ranked matches to increase co-op AI difficulty
  • Alexander and Leviathan fights are complete bullcrap and terrible examples of artificial difficulty
  • Shinryu is a generally terribly designed boss fight

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

While there are concerns regarding its stretching of pre-existing lore, the tone and theme remain strong and the flavor of the characters and orcs are fantastic, and the gameplay was generally fun and engaging throughout.
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: +4

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Celebrimbor; his presentation, voice acting, and character
  • Bruz is just an amazing character throughout
  • Good ambient storytelling with background dialogue
  • Ratbag is consistently amusing and endearing, as well as a nice foil to other characters
  • The entire Bruz story arc is fantastic; from Ratbag, to Ranger, to Bruz breaking in the end
  • The fleshing out of several Nazgul characters, as well as who they were before and during their corruption
  • The cinematic directing is excellent and services the story well
  • The finale in its entirety is just fantastic, and includes both Talion and Celebrimbor separately as part of it

Story Negatives:

  • Talion is a complete idiot, to the point where it gets irritating
  • There are several incidents of railroading in the plot that are blatant and frustrating

Gameplay Positives:

  • Combat is good and varied with good options
  • Mobility is great, with lots of ability to move in, out, and regardless of combat
  • The Nazgul boss fight is just a lot of fun, and appropriately challenging
  • The improved and mores smooth Domination mechanic which makes dominating in-combat more enjoyable and more of a feasible tactical choice
  • Improved army building and pokemon mechanics with the orcs
  • The sound design is phenomenal across the board
  • The finale’s bosses as both Talion and Celebrimbor are very fun and challenging fights

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Lack of any proper setting options in the menu
  • Contextual problems in combat, as well as occasional control issues
  • Disappointing, tacked on, and generally disinteresting post-game

South Park: Fractured But Whole

While lacking in some of the more crass and over-the-top humor of the first game and South Park as a whole, the game managed to make me laugh several times and I found the more tactical grid-based combat to be far more interesting, and the boss fights far more varied and enjoyable.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +5

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • “CAR!” Periodically the game is interrupted by the mundane reality of the setting despite the fantastical imagination side of things
  • The game is genuinely funny, repeatedly
  • Wendy in general is awesome
  • The entire finale was legitimately awesome

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Combat and narrative integration
  • The boss fights are engaging real time / turn based hybrid
  • The combat is fun and legitimately tactical
  • The graphics style retains the best features of the show
  • The music is surprisingly good and adds to the scenes
  • The gameplay varies more than expected, in a good way
  • The UI is nearly universally good

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The difficulty is very lazy
  • Aggregate: The filler puzzle design, the disinteresting last dungeon, the slow crafting, and unskippable cutscenes

Super Mario Odyssey

This game is incredibly amazing. It controls better than any other 3D Mario to date, has a huge variety of content and challenges, as well as differing levels and styles to levels. There’s some background lore and flavor lore spicing things up, and the presentation is endearing and shows a massive amount of polish.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +18

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Tourist tidbits with background lore
  • Great ending to the main game

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Presence and execution of casual mode
  • Absolutely amazing music
  • Fantastic art style and direction
  • Smooth and intuitive control scheme
  • Proper gameplay settings
  • Waypoint warping within and without worlds
  • Finally getting rid of the lives system and replacing it with another penalty for failure
  • Varied and fun boss battles throughout
  • Stellar level design
  • Continuing excellent level design
  • Good auto-camera as well as camera-control
  • Genuinely challenging and fun last boss
  • Amazing escape sequence from the moon, as Bowser
  • Meaningful and enjoyable post-game with good meaty content
  • Lots and lots and lots of meaningful, manually crafted, meaty post-game content
  • Selectable music while playing
  • The DX bosses are enjoyable additional difficulty
  • Game is consistently fun and encourages replay
  • Additional plus for continuing enjoyable moon gathering
  • Additional plus for variety and creativity of moons
  • A final plus for sheer joy of playing

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Inconsistency of ledge-grabbing, and Bowser Amiibo functionality not accessible in game
  • The beachball 100 moon by itself is just absolutely awful
  • Several moons are truly terrible, notably the jump rope, bouncing race, and master races

Call of Duty: World War II

While the gameplay and combat itself is acceptable, the level design is significantly lacking. The set pieces and character moments are good, but the overall flow of the plot is disinteresting. CoD WWII does as much right as it does wrong in both story and gameplay, and unless one is exceptionally interested in the multiplayer can only be recommended as a sale buy.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +3

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The Normandy landing is pretty awesome
  • The banter between characters is natural and well done
  • The spy section is suspenseful and enjoyable
  • For one moment the story does not rely on cliche and has a surprisingly well done meaningless death
  • The characterization is good

Story Negatives:

  • Zussman somehow lived through a gut wound, and being dragged through 100 yards of hell, while fighting
  • The dream sequence was generally not well done
  • The entire finale and ending were just bad

Gameplay Positives:

  • The graphics are legitimately stellar
  • The motion capture is top notch
  • Good variety of action and set pieces instead of purely cover based shooting
  • Music touches, ques, and quality
  • Aggregate:The spy section was a lot of fun // The tank battle, while short, was awesome // The objectives are well distinguished visually

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The level design is just awful, with heavy reliance on invisible walls
  • In addition to bad level design, the types of actions and tactics the player can take are heavily railroaded

Sonic Forces

While not as enjoyable or as polished as some of the stronger Sonic entries, modern or classic, Sonic Forces embrassed the silliness of its own premise and ran with it grinning the entire way. An enjoyable, if ultimately forgettable, romp that’s worth picking up on sale.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +1

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Embraced the ridiculousness of a Sonic Original Character fanfic
  • Cheesy and hilarious cutscenes
  • Visual storytelling on display in the background
  • Awesome Flash Gorden Effect that made me laugh and smile

Story Negatives:

  • Short, and effectively no story replay value

Gameplay Positives:

  • Aggregate: Smooth and intuitive controls // Proper and well-done character customization // Removed the out-dated lives system // Awesome boss fight with Infinite
  • Damned good music throughout

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Has only one save file, which is inexcusable in a modern game

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

While moderately fun to play, Wolfenstein II blew me away with its willingness to embrace ridiculous over-the-top super science alongside very down to earth, believable, and powerful character moments. Exceptionally well fleshed out characters and moving, quiet moments accentuate the game’s willingness to showcase its point unabashedly and right in the player’s face. A definite recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +9
Total Gameplay Score: 0

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • No holding back during the intro
  • Amusing and enjoyable background events throughout
  • Mature storytelling rather than juvenile
  • Large amount of good background lore in chatter, logs, etc.
  • Distinct and fantastic characterization
  • The going back home mission is just damned powerful
  • A successful implementation of tonal whiplash
  • The Venus acting scene in its entirety is gold
  • Sigrun’s big scene at the end was so awesome
  • Top notch voice acting

Story Negatives:

  • Very lackluster and distinteresting endings (both of them)

Gameplay Positives:

  • Huge sections of non-combat roaming which are reasonably well paced
  • Fantastic music as well as music direction
  • Armor rewards from killing help maintain gameplay Flow

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Lackluster effect and sound to weapons throughout
  • The level design is almost universally poor, failing to capitalize on concepts (like the mecha wolf tank)
  • Aggregate: Lackluster number and variety of guns. Limited heavy weapons design. Lack of significant tactics throughout game.

Battlefront 2 EA

While the single player campaign had its ups, it also had its share of downs which restrained it from being as powerful as it should have been. The main characters also shift far too quickly from the Empire to the Resistance, which hampers its storytelling style. There is, however, some genuinely great characterization of the main characters, as well as several other nice sequence set between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens. Sadly the gameplay is merely average at best, and the multiplayer (even ignoring the loot boxes issue) is just not as supported as it should be. A sale buy.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +1

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The ancillary perspective of people in the background helps add to a lot of scenes
  • Several elements of fleshing out Imperial soldiers and officers early on
  • The Lando mission is just awesome throughout
  • The epilogue is playable, and great fun to play through
  • The Battle of Jakku is one of the better moments of the game
  • Excellent characterization of Iden, Del, Shriv, and Lando

Story Negatives:

  • As presented within the game, Operation Cinder is just kind of awful and ham-fisted
  • Aggregate:The narrative construction is far too rushed, everyone except the main characters is one-dimensional, and repeated usage of lazy writing throughout

Gameplay Positives:

  • Space combat is quite fun and well presented
  • The graphics and motion capture are both top notch
  • The Lando mission is just awesome to play through, too
  • The Battle of Jakku is a lot of fun to play through

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The stealth design is just lackluster and not well thought out
  • The sound design and options are actively bad
  • Multiple problems with multiplayer, including but not limited to: Matchmaking is off, almost no proper options, gear relevance is aggravating, the freemium infrastructure (since removed), and no proper co-op mode for the objective based missions

Assassin's Creed Origins

One of the funnest Assassin’s Creed games from a purely gameplay perspective, it was a treat to go through and the polish was self apparent. Combat is fun and varied, there are plenty of interesting and challenging things to do, and exploration feels rewarding. That being said the story is lackluster; the main plot is actively lacking, and it actively makes me disinterested in several aspects of it. The story is, however, salvaged somewhat by Bayek, as well as the side mission story arcs going through each town that are much better written overall. A definite recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +13

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Proper acknowledgement of alternate quest routing in events and dialogue
  • The simple humanity and general presentation of Bayek
  • The side quests are interesting stories, and have interesting characters
  • The Crocodile Arena cutscene is just fantastic, with good direction, characters, investment, and payoff)
  • The voice acting helps sell many of the characters

Story Negatives:

  • The modern story side of things is just bad, with failed potential, bad presentation, irrelevance to the current modern story, AND irrelevance to the plot of AC:O, as well as actively interrupting the story of ancient Egypt
  • The main plot is weak at best, almost every main plot character is completely immemorable, and Aya shifts perspective in a way that implies multiple writers who disagreed with each other
  • The entirety of the finale was bad, including unnecessary drama, characters acting out of character, unnecessary repetition, and a general feeling of the whole thing being rushed

Gameplay Positives:

  • The UI design is fantastic, with good at-a-glance
  • The autopilot and seek-to-road mechanics of mounting are intuitive and well designed
  • Everything about Senu is great, from the UI, the tracking, the homing in, the movement, and the ability to keep going with him an exceptional distance
  • The attention to detail is just jaw-dropping
  • Amazing visual representation of Egypt
  • The side quests aren’t just better story, they have a variety of activities and are fun to do
  • The boat missions are fun, well designed, and engaging
  • Many weapon styles, which vary in playstyle and are fun to go through
  • Boats will spawn and rush up to you while swimming (and other miscellaneous quality of life choices)
  • Combat is great, combat is good, combat is fun
  • The music is fantastic and atmospheric
  • The menu options are good
  • The Discovery Tour mode is just amazing in every way
  • The Discovery Tour mode also is convenient and well designed

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: A few of the usual Assassin’s Creed control issues. Camera had trouble in smaller areas keeping up. The in-game store was shoved into my face (once). The daily quests seem oddly poorly designed considering the high quality of everything else.

Total War Warhammer II

I’m a bit biased towards this one, because this is the first Total War game I really enjoyed. While lacking significantly in the strategic layer, the tactical layer is fun and engaging and allows for player tactics to overcome numbers to a huge degree, as well as encouraging the player to experiment with different strategies. Each side plays differently in feel as well as mechanics, and it’s a nice entry representation of Warhammer lore for someone new to the franchise. A recommended buy for fans of Total War, Warhammer, or RTS’s in general.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +7

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Representation of and presence of story is good
  • Good introduction to Warhammer lore

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The voice acting is excellent
  • Significant amount of and quality of options in the menus
  • Each faction feels unique in playstyle and flavor
  • The graphics are surprisingly good, with more detail than necessary, and very visually distinct
  • Presentation of the map has good ease of determining information at-a-glance in tactical and strategic layers
  • Many tactical options in tactical mode that put emphasis on player skill and actions
  • The terrain matters significantly to combat
  • The game encourages the player to change up their army composition as well as try new strategies

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Cities aren’t as relevant as they should be. The strategic layer is lacking in engagement. Siege battles are repetitive and lack interesting gameplay. Incredible difficulty in properly managing larger and larger swaths of territory, which function as an irritation.

Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0 astonished me with how high quality it was. Telling an incredible story while simultaneously being ridiculously silly, having consistently varied and fun gameplay, and making me truly care about the characters. The density of content is through the roof, and never gets boring or old. A hugely definitely recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +7

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Presentation of the three types of cutscene (slideshow, standard, and in-game render) help the flavor and variety of the story
  • A wide variety of interesting, manually generated side quests
  • A continued positive for side quests
  • Majima’s ‘perfect revenge’ was a joy and a treat
  • Amazing and in-depth characters
  • Tons of tensions and drama for most of the main story
  • The end of Chapter 6 was fantastic, with Kiryu, Kuze, Purple, and Bro
  • Excellent, and understated presentation of major plot points and twists (not being too overt, or too subtle)
  • Excellent weaving of many multiple plot threads together into one tapestry
  • Fantastic pacing in main story to maintain a pace of tension, action, information, and then looping

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Doodad placement is excellent throughout
  • Combat styles are fun and each significantly alter gameplay
  • Good variety and enjoyment of most side quests throughout
  • Variable fluid and dynamic music for combat and non combat
  • Even more combat styles and variety for Majima, in addition to Kiryu
  • Amazing directing for grabbing the player’s attention in the right places throughout
  • Good gameplay and story integration, as well as segregation
  • New Game +, which is well executed

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Incredibly poorly labeled purchasable territories with no real map help. Hitbox detection issues. Sprinting feels wonky. Too many menu clicks to activate certain actions, like healing in combat. Too many invisible walls. Tedious to have to manually collect real estate money each collection cycle.

Romancing SaGa 2 Remaster

An unfortunately faithful recreation of the original SNES Romancing SaGa 2, with all the good and the bad that that implies. This is, ultimately, a decent port but not much else. If you were a fan of the original, the touched up graphics do help a little, but the content is effectively unchanged. Not recommended, unless you were a fan of the original.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: -1

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Awesome premise of a generational RPG, with kingdom building, expanding to gain more taxes, etc.
  • Excellent central story around the Seven Heroes
  • Individual story arcs and relevance to the Heroes
  • Choices matter and change the course of the story and events

Story Negatives:

  • Exceptionally bad flow of story in terms of directions, dialogue, etc. (one must talk to a specific NPC to unlock an area, NPCs look almost identical and most repeat irrelevant information, heavily scripted quests and events, etc.)
  • Most of the depth of the story is barely represented on screen

Gameplay Positives:

  • Saving anywhere
  • Good music throughout
  • Surprisingly good New Game + feature
  • Choices matter and change the course of the story and events

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The trash fights are too numerous, too easy, respawn too easily, and are exceptionally boring
  • There are no settings whatsoever to customize the game
  • Ultimately a lazy port from the phone version
  • Lack of proper transparency on many, many game mechanics
  • The difficulty is all over the place, with a very uneven and wonky difficulty curve, a lack of design features to accommodate its non-linear nature, and heavy randomness of player progression

Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom

While lacking a lot of the heart, writing chops, and core thematic power of Ni No Kuni 1, this one nevertheless manages to be an enjoyable outing which is a blast to play, with tons of side stuff to occupy many hours, and a weirdly engaging kingdom building mechanic and army skirmish mode which are both primary gameplay features. A recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +7

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The entire Goldpaw section is interesting, and humorous
  • The conclusion of the Hydropolis arc was pretty powerful
  • A successful embracing of the simplistic ideal of a child’s fairy tale
  • A successful culmination of unification themes throughout, leading to an awesome finale setup as all the armies and characters you’ve gathered help you against the final bosses

Story Negatives:

  • Sudden and contrived shift from threats of grisly murder to happily joining the party
  • Unnecessary dialogue all over the place, poorly constructed sequences of events, and the story is just too simplistic
  • A sudden and out-of-nowhere time travel explanation for the sole purpose of having a twist, and the utter lack of explanation for why the First World is suddenly fine instead of a hellscape nuked land

Gameplay Positives:

  • Combat is great fun, with good iframes, auto locking without aggravation, customizable skillset, avoidance approach, fast pace, and general enjoyment
  • The skirmish RTS sections are fun, simple but not too boring, with enough options to vary playstyle, different types of maps and victory conditions, and being generally fun
  • Excellent presentation and execution of the puzzle segment early on, with a top-down visual mode, ease of resetting, ease of checking hints on the fly, and good music
  • The general art design is good, but the visual style of each locale is amazing
  • Consistently good and varied visual design throughout, deserving a second plus
  • Excellent and fluid animation across the board, with very little clipping or other normal issues
  • Very fun, despite playing for some time the game continued to be fun
  • The kingdom gameplay is well thought out, well integrated into the rest of the gameplay, and isn’t a minigame so much as a core concept
  • The finale setup and fight is just awesome, and gameplay relevant, with unified troops helping in the last skirmish fight
  • Substantive post game content with tons and tons to do, though lacking in real story relevance, none of it feels tacked on or lazy

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Several UI issues, like bad and cumbersome equipping and optimizing, removal of equipped items from other characters with no prompt or notice, occasional double clicking, and a cumbersome tactic tweaker
  • Music direction is generally inappropriate, with music too short and too looped, and in some cases not matching the tone of the area or events at all
  • Design of the difficulty curve is off, design of the leveling curve is actively bad, heavily excessive trash, and health sponge problems

Celeste

One of the best Punishing Platformers I’ve ever played, this game is properly difficult in almost every stage, with heavy use of checkpoints and quick respawns to get you back into it rapidly, and very clever puzzle design across the entire game. The game also has a hard and a super hard mode, as well as the second best difficulty options I’ve ever seen in a game. And finally the story is strangely down to earth and human while retaining the fantastical, and is both powerful and well presented. A hugely recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: +9

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The Gondola sequence is great, with a visual representation and gameplay of a panic attack, servicing gameplay and being well written
  • The entire breather section has good dialogue, is obviously written by people who understand mental issues, and the second dream sequence has no penalty for failure to accent moment for main character
  • Endearing ending, and a good overall message about one’s self and finding the balance point
  • Consistent usage of literal metaphor on a magical mountain to examine psyche
  • Free DLC story mission is a well done examination of what it’s like to have to let go of a loved one

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Excellent use of graphics and animations that aren’t retro, but use retro concepts in modern ways to good effect
  • Fantastic music direction in emphasizing challenges, areas, and story points, with lots of Yoshi Drums throughout
  • Good design on B levels, with checkpoints per screen, allowing players to look ahead, very contained per-room challenges, and being fully optional
  • Varying themes and mechanics across stages to ensure the gameplay doesn’t get boring or disinteresting
  • The second dream sequence is fantastic story / gameplay integration
  • The strawberries provide excellent optional difficulty
  • Many, many, amazing difficulty options which can be toggled individually, including setting game speed, changing stamina, a selectable number of air dashes, and outright invincibility
  • The music is just incredible throughout
  • The design of the room-specific challenge ensures that the game never goes overboard with regards to punishment, and instead remains truly difficult instead of merely punishing

Gameplay Negatives:

God of War 4

This is the best God of War game I’ve played by a huge margin, somehow making an amazing, impactful, powerful, and emotionally traumatizing game out of Kratos and his interactions with those around him. While having few characters, almost all of them are well fleshed out and generally awesome. The gameplay isn’t the best, but is still fantastic, with only minor irritants and issues throughout. Eagerly looking forward to a sequel. A massively definitely recommended buy.
Total Story Score: +18
Total Gameplay Score: +11

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Approach to exposition is consistently amazing, lots of showing and not telling
  • Fantastic moment of Atreus having to kill a human for the first time; his reaction to it, Kratos’ reaction to it
  • Continued development of Kratos and Atreus’ dynamic
  • Sindri and Brok are just awesome
  • The game somehow managed to make me genuinely laugh. Many times.
  • The siren light, pseudo death sequence, as Atreus’ rescue of us from within
  • The voice acting and voice directing are just damned incredible
  • The slowly developing and very natural growth of fondness and respect between Kratos and Atreus
  • The signs and ways in which Kratos shows how he really feels about Atreus; all that is, and leading up to him entrusting Atreus to Freya
  • Athena’s return was chilling, and the re-claiming of the Blades of Chaos was one of the most powerful moments of the game
  • The absolutely incredible animation, with astonishing detail in motion capture
  • The side content is meaty, fun, and good
  • Continuous and good usage of a close range, cinematic directing with few cuts in camera style during cutscenes
  • Very human and down to earth story, adding to its relatability
  • Does cliche often, but does it so well it’s amazing
  • Mimir is just damned good
  • The finale in its entirety

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Massive number of gameplay options, including for people with issues or disabilities
  • Multiple feasible approaches to combat, tactically
  • Attention to detail and general polish are everywhere and are amazing
  • Usage of both outlines and highlights to draw player’s attention to items, directions, or secrets
  • Incredible art design and presentation of the different realms
  • The Zelda style approach to level design, with no missable content or items, gradually improving ease of backtracking, and relative linearity with optional sections
  • The dragon boss fight was fun and amazing
  • The Magni and Modi boss fight was one of the better designed fights in the game, with both using completely different styles of attacks and coordinating against you and Atreus
  • The Blades of Chaos add a whole new dimension to the combat
  • The final boss fight with Baldur was fantastic, included callbacks to his previous fights, varied up consistently, and was enjoyably challenging
  • Fantastic animation of puzzle sequences and combat
  • When music is played it’s excellent, and music direction in cutscenes is top notch
  • The ability to simultaneously control Kratos and Atreus is an awesome idea, that only gets better the further into the game you get
  • A second plus for the dual party gameplay control, via hotkeys and context sensitive abilities

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Lack of ability to rebind keys properly
  • Controls are just awkward enough to make playing continuously mildly annoying
  • Music direction is just off outside of cutscenes

BATTLETECH"

This scratched a very serious Battletech itch, and while not quite at the level of quality as, say, XCOM 2, it was a very nice turn based tactical game with a good strategic layer. The campaign had some issues but was fun to go through. Biggest issues were pacing and slowdown, both of which are actively being fixed by patches. I would highly recommend this to any fans of the franchise, or of turn based tactical games in general.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +7

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Inclusion of a massive, well designed, and easily skippable exposition dump during character creation
  • Skippable but otherwise interesting and fun character chatter while hanging out on the ship
  • Overall well presented and visually interesting vignettes for cutscenes throughout the main campaign
  • Excellent mercenary tone for missions, and work on the periphery in general

Story Negatives:

  • The story is weirdly one-dimensional, with far too many characters being one-note, stating the obvious, and having overtly good and bad guys. The story lacks the depth that it otherwise seems to present.

Gameplay Positives:

  • Good and well presented information on the battle UI
  • Terrain actually matters, a lot, to overall strategy and is enjoyable to work with
  • A significant amount of tactical choice exists in individual skirmishes, helping to engage the player
  • The terrain itself is well designed visually so it not only looks nice, but you can tell at-a-glance what’s what and how it will impact combat
  • Armor functioning as replenishable HP after mission is nice, and actual HP being repairable is nice, and ammo finally ammo and armor both aren’t bogged down with additional bureaucracy or upkeep in gameplay
  • The method of salvaging is the usual Battletech standard of quality, garnering pieces of mechs based on how they’re destroyed ensuring you’re not drowning in mechs, while at the same time increasing priority on salvage and emphasizing different tactics to garner as much salvage as possible
  • The degree of player choice in mission rewards is excellent, varying between reputation, salvage, and cash
  • Mech customization is awesome, with usage of hardpoints as well as soft-space, easy to access buttons for stripping and repairing, and the all important undo button
  • Evasion chevrons are a great idea; their acquisition via abilities or movement, their removal via abilities or just shots, and the benefit it adds to mobility
  • The story missions vary significantly in their level design, making each one unique and with their own gimmicks, and very fun to play

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Consistent camera issues (taking control away for ‘scenes’ during combat, then reverting to whatever it was before last action finishes) // Occasional bugs, such as literally getting mechs ‘stuck’ on terrain or dropships // UI issues here and there, such as unclear LoS indicator during sprinting vs. walking
  • Absolutely massive memory leak issues, leading to hourly restarts
  • Utter lack of difficulty settings makes the game less accessible for those who want a challenge or those who want something easier, which also limits replayability

Kingdom

This game was an absolute treat, with amazing characters, plots, side stories, and world building. The idea of a non-fantasy non-sci fi RPG has fascinated me for years, and this delivers better than any other game has to-date. The many mechanics in the game are fun and interesting, combat is engaging, crafting is surprisingly enjoyable, and there is a good amount of player choice regarding how you proceed through quests. The game isn’t nearly as buggy as its reputation suggests, mostly due to a barrage of patches. I do highly recommend you play with a save mod though.
Total Story Score: +9
Total Gameplay Score: +8

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Smooth weaving of exposition and political situations into normal chatter and dialogue
  • The perspective of the game is of being an ant skurrying about as the world turns around you, and it’s very well presented
  • The very nature of the story as a historical RPG deserves mention and praise
  • The characters are interesting and memorable, with effort made to make the nobility more than stereotypical bad guys
  • Excellent doodad placement and attention to detail in the enviroment adds to the setting and to general immersion
  • Absolutely ridiculous levels of attention to detail really help to flesh out the areas as you travel from place to place
  • The side quests are just fantastic, with multiple options, fleshed out characters, and interesting plots
  • The entire quest surrounding the monastery is just amazing, including the characters we interact within, as well as how much we learn about everyday life there, the history of the region, the practices of the religion at the time, and more
  • Hans deserves special mention for being an interesting and engaging character, who doesn’t fit any particular mold, and develops very naturally over time as his character arc continues

Story Negatives:

  • The final act of the story was disappointing at best, lacking the polish and nuance a lot of the rest of the game had in spades. In particular Toth was a very one-dimensional and, frankly, disinteresting enemy

Gameplay Positives:

  • Graphics are consistently good, but also consistently varied in style and aesthetics, avoiding everything looking the same
  • Lighting is consistently well done and visually enjoyable, day or night, and also manages to be functional while still being believable
  • The quest design is just fantastic, following the all-paths-leads-to-Rome design theory which allows for tremendous player choice
  • The quests are so well designed they make even ordinary or mundane tasks enjoyable
  • The invisible timer on some quests, which most importantly does not lead to artificial fail states, increases replayability and adds to immersion
  • The game was good enough to want to keep playing despite being very sick, so points for fun factor
  • The UI, despite being heavily stylized, is very informative and good at showing a large amount of information in an efficient area
  • The Assault on Pribyslaviz was a very fun mission and worthy of note. It offered enjoyable squad tactics, made your earlier choices significantly alter the outcome, and culminated in an enjoyable solo duel
  • The usage of minigames to flesh out side activities is great, making pickpocketing, lockpicking, grindstoning, and most importantly alchemy enjoyable
  • The map design is excellent, with multiple tiers to it, good information, and good at-a-glance, while also being stylized like the rest of the UI
  • The entire monastery quest is just awesome, with many different ways to play through it, it being dynamic in adapting to your actions in ways that can also change the outcome, and the fact that you can either breeze through it immediately or take weeks at your discretion

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The music is inconsistent in its presentation, leading to long and awkward stretches of silence
  • The total lack of difficulty options, which as usual limits challenge, ease, and replayability
  • The lack of a save system and how it limits player choice. Note that I spent several hours debating this one negative, and did not give it lightly, but the fact that it discourages player experimentation, or might not gel with a player’s playstyle, takes choice away from the player, and most importantly leaves the player at the mercy of bugs (several of which we encountered during our playthrough)

Kingdom

While mostly a visual novel, with little in the way of branching narrative, the game was nonetheless enjoyable to go through and overall fun. The story itself is its shining quality, obviously, and does a good adaptation of Ken Follett’s story, with a distinct art style and good voice acting adding to the performance.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: +2

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The voice acting is solid and appropriately subtle
  • There are several powerful moments, like dolling out the last of the bread amongst the refugees
  • The jumping between protagonists is really well done, and their stories interweave very well
  • The story remained engaging throughout, and the characters and their story arcs were not only interesting but made me significantly invested in their lives
  • The conclusion was enjoyable, very grounded (keeping with the tone of the rest of the work), and satisfying

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The sound design is overall good, and varied, and also the musical application is good
  • Small convenience features like double clicking to skip scene transitions help tremendously

Gameplay Negatives:

Kingdom

I’ve admittedly never cared for David Cage games, but this one really caught me. While Markus was, frankly, disinteresting, I found Connor and Kara’s stories extremely engaging and cared, a lot, about what happened in their stories. Further, the sheer amount of branching paths and how much those actually change the story in huge ways is amazing and a breath of fresh air. The music design and visual storytelling also really help sell the work.
Total Story Score: +7
Total Gameplay Score: +5

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The entire Todd incident was good, well paced, and wonderfully branched
  • The entirety of the interrogation scene was just great across the board
  • Legitimately awesome acting on behalf of most of the voices and most capture artists, most notably Conner who just sells it
  • Multiple characters are well fleshed out, and I genuinely cared what happened to them
  • The music direction is exceptional, and the modular usage of music dependant upon action really adds to the work
  • Hank in his entirety is a fantastic character, who changes significantly based on your actions and is likeable throughout
  • The tone and atmosphere across the entire work remains consistently good

Story Negatives:

  • There are issues with predictability, especially in Markus’ sections, and there are far too many Cageisms

Gameplay Positives:

  • The droid UI is clean, well designed, and very informative
  • The music is excellent and great for the mood of any given scene
  • Generally fantastic sound design, helping to bridge the more tense sections of the narrative
  • Good variety, presentation, and usage of gameplay (via QTEs) which makes it feel closer to actual gameplay instead of just a series of QTEs.
  • Good replay value in the many, many branching paths
  • Chloe and her developing presentation as well as the final decision with her serving as a final nod to the overall theme of the game

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The lack of proper fast forward, skip-to-action, savestate, or other feature makes replaying more irritating than it should be

Bloodstained

While short, this game is good. Really, really good. This is one of the best side scroller Castlevania-style games I’ve ever played, and does so many things right it’s hard to properly list. At a glance it seems to be a typical retro sidescroller, but it has many, many great features which reward skill, encourage players across multiple levels, and removes irritation or aggravation in playing. It’s also relatively cheap. This is a definite must buy.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: +11

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The music is good. Really good. It doesn’t just do an 8 bit theme, but tries to make good music with the old style.
  • The spritework is excellent and distinctive, and has good animation
  • The player agency in party members and how it lets you change which type of playthrough you do is just great, letting you recruit, kill, or ignore them as you go
  • The level design is top notch and clearly had a lot of thought put into it, with branching paths and multiple methods to progress through enemies and challenges
  • The branching options themselves are just great, are based not only on character usage but the interaction between them
  • The ability to swap characters on the fly, instantly, in mid-action, adds a huge amount to what the player can do in this game
  • The game is only $10. I know this is a weird thing to give a plus to, but this means this game has huge value per dollar
  • The different characters aren’t just different in terms of attacks, but their overall playstyle is different
  • Aggregate: Casual mode exists and you are not penalized for using it // Nightmare Mode is a form of New Game + and opens up new options in stages
  • Aggregate: The bosses are all fun and have interesting and varied mechanics // The Zangetsu final boss is so, so good // Ultimate Mode is a lot of fun, and the new last boss hard mode is fun

Gameplay Negatives:

Subnautica"

This game really impressed me. Amazingly atmospheric, absolutely terrifying, with excellent map design and tons of fun features. Further, the options to change your playstyle help make it accessible to a variety of players, and the graphics and sound design are top notch. The story mode really helped bring the whole thing together, giving the player decisive arcs and purpose, even though it can still function as a freestyle building simulator.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +7

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The atmosphere in the game is incredible, immersive, and absolutely terrifying
  • Good and different approaches to storytelling in what is otherwise a survival oriented game, with audio logs, codecs, visible ‘cutscenes’, and other interactables
  • The sound design is just fantastic and really adds to the atmosphere and presentation

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Well done, interesting, and manually-crafted environment
  • A good variety of difficulty options, without penalty
  • The sound design isn’t just atmospheric, it helps you to distinguish animals, locations, and danger
  • Absolutely gorgeous underwater visuals, which are also color coded for good at-a-glance information
  • Base building is good and fun, and integrates nicely into the story
  • The game is just… wonderfully terrifying
  • Vehicle functionality and general progression is great, helping you to slowly push out the corners of the ‘unexplored’ map, but never losing the general terror atmosphere
  • Aggregate:100% efficiency in base building and reclaiming is great and encourages the player to experiment // The controls are smooth and intuitive on ‘foot’ and in the sub // The Cyclops as a mobile base is just awesome

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: The inability to link inventories, coupled with a fairly limited inventory space, leads to some frustration and runaround when building late game constructs // The controls of the Prawn are, frankly, irritating, and it can get ‘stuck’ on terrain too easily

Mario

I was admittedly looking forward to this one, but expectations aside, this game was just massively disappointing. The story mode is just bad, with nothing fun or interesting story wise, and artificially difficult challenges. The random versus mode is just random matches with no meat to them. And the tournament mode lacks the options to make it funner more than a couple of times. This is not a game I recommend.
Total Story Score: -1
Total Gameplay Score: 0

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

  • The story is actively disinteresting. It has a good premise, with the idea of tennis as either magically augmented or an actively cultura cornerstone of the island, and it does nothing with that premise

Gameplay Positives:

  • Lots of options when it comes to setting up free matches
  • The boss fights in story mode are innovative takes on tennis gameplay, and add good variety
  • Aggregate: The controls are responsive and customizable // The flavor of matches is well done, with different audience members and good commentary // Excellent sound and visual design overall, with good audio and visual indicators for gameplay mechanics

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The minigame sections are just aggravating. They have short time limits, heavy penalties for failure, and just take too long or require too many successes to progress
  • There is a lot of general frustration in many of the story campaign modes, especially given the lack of checkpoints in multiple phase encounters
  • Aggregate: Massive difficulty cliff // A total lack of options in Tournament mode makes it mildly fun at best, and irritating at worst // Total lack of difficulty options in story mode

20XX"

Wasn’t sure what to think walking into this one, but it impressed me quite a bit. This might actually be my new favorite Roguelike/lite to-date, as it combines some excellent design choice in levels, extremely precise controls, great settings and options, good progression across runs, and good music and visuals. While there’s effectively no real story (just some flavor lore here and there) it nonetheless was a joy to play and I ended up buying it a second time on the Switch to keep playing after the review was done.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: +7

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The music is stellar throughout, and the loops aren’t too short that it gets repetitive
  • The graphics are very visually distinct and generally well presented; The colorized trails for dashing help you see where you are in the screen even in the midst of chaos, you can always tell what’s a pass-through platform and what isn’t, and enemy presence and attacks are always clear and noticeable
  • The methods of progression through the ‘roguelite’ parts of the game are good stuff; Nuts to refill health and energy, as well as to buy temporary power ups, gives you progression in a single run. And the Soul Chips you gather give you more permanent account unlocks for future runs, meaning if you get anywhere at all in your first few runs you will get overall stronger (or potentially stronger)
  • The playstyle in each run varies wildly depending on which Augs you pick up, allowing for totally different jumps, dash types, weapon types which hit different areas, et cetera
  • The co-op mode is awesome, and well implemented. Lots of fun features, like being able to rez the other player, teleport when safe, shared resources except health, et cetera
  • The general quality of life options are amazing. These include but are not limited to; Lots of options to have a ‘pure’ run or not, lots of mutators for runs, good settings for sound / screen shake / explosions / debris / etc, rebinding of powers, Energy pickups not spawning in first level, no damage or Energy cost in post-boss recovery, saves in between levels as an option, Soul Chips can’t fall into pits, Shop indicators to show what type of abilities they sell, and many more
  • The segmented-procedural design is just phenomenal, with excellent approach to levels and bosses both and their clearly modular nature leading to the best benefits of randomly generated and manually crafted design. I especially like the use of varying boss rooms to make bosses more challenging in addition to different tactics and stats

Gameplay Negatives:

Dragon

While there are some logical hiccups here and there, with a couple aggravating story points and some bizarre gameplay choices, the overall presentation and polish shine here. Amazing at almost every level, this is a game I’m looking forward to playing through again when it comes out on the Switch. Definitely recommended for any JRPG or RPG fans.
Total Story Score: +8
Total Gameplay Score: +9

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The voice acting ranges from good to absolutely amazing, with a lot of details, subtleties, and nuance in the performances
  • The foreshadowing leading up to, the emotional impact of, and the significance after the big cutscene with Grandpa Chalky
  • Sylvando is an interesting character from the moment he steps on the screen, and remains that way the entire time through, ranking as one of my favorite DQ characters of all time
  • Rab is also one of my favorite characters of all time, and is brilliantly voice acted. His scenes ooze emotion and power, and he really sells the seriousness of his role
  • The entire Lonolulu quest was well written, well acted, allows for choice to vary the quest up, and was emotionally powerful
  • Virtually all the major characters are multi-dimensional and interesting
  • The entire sequence of events and sidequest about Erik, his sister, the cursed necklace, and the Seer
  • Veronica’s death. It had emotional impact, the gameplay UI didn’t spoil, it was built up to, it was a logical explanation of events, and had gameplay impact on Serena’s skill tree
  • Severe and massive consequences of time travel, in lore and in gameplay
  • Significant and substantial post-game story
  • Aggregate: Good variety of dialects and accents across regions // Haiku land was fun // Color coordinated and seamless dialogue for NPCs

Story Negatives:

  • The scenes surrounding the Hero, Mordegon, and the second time loop were unnecessarily and aggravatingly stupid
  • Aggregate: The Snifelheim quest, with too-on-the-nose storytelling, excessive idiot-balling, over-exaggerated foreshadowing, and generally uninteresting developments // The entire Phnom Nom side quest was just filler, padding, and boring
  • Aggregate: Total cop-out on the Erik & Mia situation, with a 5 second sacrifice and everything turning out perfectly // Total lack of consequence or even acknowledgement of the Nautica genocide and sacrifice // What the hell was up with the last Serenica scene? It either violates previously established time travel rules or actively makes no sense

Gameplay Positives:

  • The Horse is a great mechanic. Easily summonable, faster than running, possible to avoid encounters, can still loot while mounted, and can still fight while mounted if chosen
  • The graphics are surprisingly good
  • The graphics aren’t just good, they’re very well designed.. especially when it comes to details! Massive amount of detail in almost every area
  • The map design is one of the best I’ve seen in a while; Icons are toggleable, one can navigate to nearby areas infinitely, it shows the time of day, it has a zoom, it has a nearby quests button, and a nearby loot option
  • The difficulty curve is damned good, with hardly any necessary leveling and no necessary grinding so long as one uses strategy, and tries to loot for crafting
  • The difficulty curve continued to be amazing all the way into the post-game, which is astonishing and awesome
  • The ease by which one can avoid enemy encounters is amazing, plus the fact that it’s totally optional
  • Crafting is interesting and fun, levels up allowing for more options, it’s very rewarding, the multiple special attacks and heat management is interesting, and you can remake looted or purchased gear to improve it
  • The post-game has a lot of fun and interesting things to do
  • Aggregate: The auto battle is pretty good, editable AI, no presses once initiated, and interruptible at will // The ability to Zoom indoors is nice // The ease by which you can fast travel around to towns, campsites, and points of interest is great

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The cutscenes can’t be skipped… sometimes. It’s very inconsistent

Marvel's

An extremely fun game with very few complaints (one of which got patched shortly after the Premiere Run!). Swinging around is fun, combat is fun, the characters are interesting and well animated and voice acted. The story skipped a couple of beats, notably towards the end, but still managed to be powerful throughout. I had an absolute ball with this game and can’t recommend it enough.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +10

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Mary Jane is pretty damned well done throughout, with only one hiccup, and remains an interesting character throughout
  • Otto Octavius is extremely well presented; we see the monster he always was, the idealist struggling to improve himself, and a few unique takes on his egomania
  • Miles is fantastic basically throughout, coming across as exactly the kind of crazy person who’d charge into an area filled with gun-toting terrorists just to see his dad
  • The scripted banter that’s manually crafted for any given mission is great, and very Spidey. Made me laugh more than once
  • The motion capture is good across the board, but they really nailed it with Otto (and his degenerative disorder) and Parker (and his anxiety, mentality, and personality)
  • The side missions have actual story, are interesting, fun, and help flesh out the characters and the setting
  • The entire ‘capture Li’ mission was just great, especially the characterization it offers and the screw ups going through it
  • The award ceremony, Jeff’s final act of heroism, and Miles’ stupidity and desperation were all well written, well presented, and engaging
  • The Scarecrow sequences with Otto and Scorpion were great, because we can tell it’s really just Parker talking to himself.. with total, brutal, and horrible honesty
  • The connecting points of continuity throughout the work are great, with lots of little details and foreshadowing throughout
  • The death of Aunt May was just as powerful as it should have been… plus it showed an understanding of Peter Parker and exactly what he’d do, and how, in that situation
  • J Jonah Jameson… is amazing
  • (DLC)J Jonah Jameson, somehow, continues to be hilarious and awesome in the DLCs

Story Negatives:

  • The radiant banter for random fights gets very repetitive, very quickly
  • Aggregate: The ham-fisted way the game shoved Miles and MJ into Parker’s ‘team’ during the building fire, especially when both were already on said team // MJ’s obvious and frankly stupid self narration during the Norman infiltration // Otto survives a fall that’d kill a healthy person in a disease ridden body with no real consequence
  • (DLC) The overall writing of the DLC is consistently worse than the main game, bringing me out of the story at multiple points (Black Cat, massive cliche fest in the second one, needless drama in the third one, etc.)

Gameplay Positives:

  • Web slinging is just as fun, smooth, and intuitive as it should be
  • Web slinging was continuously fun and good, and in fact you can get better at it over time with skill
  • The graphics are great, but the attention to detail is amazing
  • The gear implementation is nice; suits you unlock, which gives new powers, mods to change playstyle, and the fact that you can mix and match suits, powers, and gears at will on the fly
  • The UI is good, informative, easy to navigate, and has a lot of at-a-glance information
  • The collectibles and side content were fun to do, and never got boring
  • The research missions were just awesome, varied, and fun ways to mix up the usual gameplay and use the system well
  • The award ceremony and Princess Peach section with Miles was good, especially at showcasing what it’s like to be a normal human in a super-hero situation
  • The tactical Princess Peach section of Grand Central was amazing, with switching of perspectives and varied gameplay
  • The actual side missions are fun, engaging, varied, and have fun and interesting story to them as well
  • Good accessibility options, notably auto-complete QTEs, the option to hold rather than mash, and skippable puzzles, all as separate options
  • Reasonably good fast travel system (optional, fast, travel from anywhere)
  • (DLC) The final boss fight with Hammerhead was great; large scale, teamwork applied with Sable, tactical choice of reduce or avoid, it was fun

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Base missions can be just awful, in several small ways; Large numbers of enemies across multiple waves with no ability to continue if you fail, control issues made worse by tight combat, and even if you successfully stealth the entire first wave the second magically knows where you are instantly and perfectly
  • Aggregate: Occasional control issues, most notably when on the side of buildings, or when trying to do something slow and precise // The excessive binary nature of the stealth sections being completely pass/fail // Lackluster Princess Peach sections from time to time
  • (DLC) Aggregate: Issues with binary fail-states in several missoins // Weird and inconsistent bugs with several missions
  • (DLC) The Screwball missions in general are just awful; irritating to play, frustrating difficulty, and aggravating background dialogue throughout

Kirby

One of the better Kirby games I’ve played across the franchise, easily up there with Return to Dreamland and Planet Robobot, an absolute blast to play through. I look forward to playing it with friends in the future using the local co-op, and 100%’ing it just for fun. While a bit short, it did a lot to vary up the gameplay and stages, and kept a strangely consistent narrative throughout. Probably it’s one weakness is it only barely references the other Kirby games, rather than going full in on continuity like Robobot.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: +8

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The music is not just good, it’s great
  • The visuals and color usage are very distinct, allowing for ease of knowing where your character is in the visual chaos relatively easy by tracking its color
  • The variety of power ups are, as per Kirby standard, good, varied, and fun and significantly alter playstyle
  • The boss fights are fun and interesting, have multiple phases and gimmicks, and were generally enjoyable to go through
  • The level design is made in a way to encourage using many different powers and power combinations rather than just having one or two ‘best’ options
  • Occasionally levels branch out into new and fun gameplay, adding to the variety and giving good breathers in between standard sections
  • The AI is surprisingly smart for your companions, knowing how to fight, avoid obstacles and enemies, using their powers for puzzles, healing, and gathering items
  • Aggregate: Good checkpoint design throughout // Good sound design, with everything being distinct and nothing being too repetitive or ear piercing // The minigames are not super great, but they’re still fun to play with for a bit

Gameplay Negatives:

Mega

First classic Mega Man game in years, and definitely worth picking up. Good voice acting, attempts at actual story beats, fantastic level design, great music, and fun weapons and weapon modes make this a pretty standard classic Mega Man game. Probably its one real flaw is the fact that it didn’t try even more new things, but despite this I highly recommend this game to anyone who’s a fan of the series, wants a good challenge, or is looking into starting the franchise for the first time.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +8

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Aggregate: Lovely backstory and setting building in the gallery // Legitimately good voice acting, which helps sell a somewhat weak plot // The beginnings of actual character development for the franchise

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The level design is as good as it should be, but also properly escalates throughout, is varied, and is just fun
  • The bosses are actually pretty decently designed and use their own Gear gimmicks to make the fights fun
  • The mini-bosses, similarly, are also well designed and have a good variety to them
  • The music… is awesome
  • Very tight and responsive controls, even in the non-standard modes of play
  • The Double Gear system is an awesome addition; its use as a ‘heat’ meter of resource management, the way both can be used simultaneously, and how much it adds to the playstyle to be able to use one or the other at will
  • Bounce Man’s stage deserves special mention for being fun, interesting, unique, and just really well designed across the board
  • The challenges are great and add good replay
  • The usage of the boss Double Gears as a functional ‘phase 2’ helped make the robot masters better and more interesting than the norm
  • Aggregate: The tutorial power up areas letting you experiment with boss weapon powers infinitely, with gear, and with enemies is a great addition // The increased range of enemy respawns helps prevent ‘Ninja Gaiden’ syndrome // Dr. Light’s upgrades aren’t just nice options, but offer great accessibility (special note to the ‘don’t hold to charge’ one)

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Boss refights are lazy, like they always are, especially when so much could be done with them
  • Aggregate: Lack of difficulty toggling on the fly, or indeed the ability to change difficulty at all without starting a new save // Unlocks for Dr. Light’s shop are per save, leading to useless unlocks // Checkpoints on normal and up are just awful and way too spread out

Assassin's

I won’t beat around the bush, this is a game I do not recommend. The main plot is weak at best, and badly paced throughout. The main character is a piece of cardboard, and most of the secondary characters are barely memorable or one-note cameos. The side missions are actively boring and provide no fun or investment. The core combat is alright at first, but due to a lack of real depth in long-term design becomes repetitive and frankly bad the further in you get. And the stat-gating and level-gating is just atrocious, mandating you do secondary content to progress through the main story (with level requirements jumping up as much as 9 in between missions). While there are some nice features, this is definitely not recommended.
Total Story Score: -8
Total Gameplay Score: 0

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Aggregate: Phoibe’s death, and the fact that they took the time to establish her character before killing her // Reuinification with mother, as well as the hesitation and emotion prior to and during

Story Negatives:

  • The story is actively boring, and at no point had me invested in what happens next
  • The story meanders a great deal, which means any points of interest or competency are spread out so far that they lose any impact
  • The main character is basically a non-character despite being able to pick dialogue choices, and those choices only really change tone between ‘violent’ and ‘not as violent’
  • No time or effort is put into establishing the main character’s motivation, either for them or the player, leading to just bizarre actions and plot points
  • The dialogue rigging is very obvious, jarring, and poorly executed, actively detracting from the enjoyment of cutscenes
  • After playing the game for five days, the story continues to be uninteresting, failing at all six points of story
  • The pacing is all over the place, to the point of being awful, with some events just zooming by while others stand still for hours
  • A final negative for the fact that I actively wanted to quit playing, and do not recommend this game
  • One last negative for the ending, viewed on youtube, which is just face-palming in how Layla being the literal chosen one to bring balance to the universe, Kassandra having lived for the last two millennia just to give her the staff, and generally awful presentation and setup

Gameplay Positives:

  • There are many good options and settings, including fully selectable HUD features, music frequency, accessibility, and the like
  • The HUD and UI are both good, lots of convenience, at-a-glance, and generally few button presses to accomplish actions
  • The eagle is still a good mechanic, allowing you to mark targets, find areas, go full distance, and smooth to control
  • The music is good in general, and dynamic based on actions (tense and quiet in danger, increased drum beat when enemies are alerted, and full on action when in combat)
  • The variety of weapons is good, and each weapon feels and plays completely differently
  • The Mercenary system is fun, with each having weaknesses and strengths, the option to kill or recruit them, the fact that they hunt you rather than the other way around, they respond directly to your wanted level (which is manageable), and the super high level mercs will ignore you even with a wanted level unless you attack them
  • The ship gameplay is fun, if a bit less complex than previous games. The little customizations of cosmetics and lieutenants are fun, and the strategy of flanking and ramming is enjoyable
  • Aggregate: Enemies respawn very slowly, allowing you to feel like you’re progressing // The ability to sequence break, even unintentionally

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Difficulty just changes enemy damage, not their numbers, health, or attack pattern, which is just disinteresting and lazy
  • Stat gating, which is clunky and makes for a very wonky difficulty curve
  • There’s a lack of a proper progression curve, more or less mandating doing side content
  • The continued hassle of stat-gating just gets worse the further into the game you get
  • The design of the game feels weighted-down in almost every respect, probably in service of the real money store
  • The core gameplay is not fun
  • Multiple days in and the core gameplay continues to not be fun
  • A final negative for the fact that I actively dreaded playing, wanted to quit, and do not recommend this game

This is one of the best written and acted games I’ve seen in my life, without exaggeration. Some of the level design is wonky, some of the missions are just weird, the controls are hit or miss depending on your preference, and it’s prone to bugginess. But ultimately it’s more than worth pushing through all of that for a very long, amazing game that never once got boring or disinteresting.
Total Story Score: +21
Total Gameplay Score: -1

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Voice acting has the right tone and flavor to it
  • An additional plus for the voice acting continuing to be good throughout
  • Yet another plus for the voice acting, most notably on Arthur, who just nails it
  • The banter between characters is natural and fluid, and sounds like real people talking
  • The dialogue is extremely well written throughout the work
  • The dialogue continues to be well written throughout
  • The music is excellent and varied, and really adds to atmosphere and tone in each scene
  • Consistently excellent character stories in side missions
  • Without exaggeration, one of the best written games I’ve ever seen
  • Somehow maintaining a consistent level of high quality writing despite being an incredibly long game
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers mission deserves special notice for direction, as well as gameplay/story integration
  • The finale of the feud quest lines was great, most notably on the music and voice acting, completely selling the severity of the situation
  • The character chemistry is good, and most of the named or spoken characters have good connections and interactions
  • Arthur is worth a plus by himself. His character arc, acting, presentation, and most importantly how his arc changes based on your choices in the late game
  • Dutch is also worth a plus by himself. His voice is perfect, the timing of how he does what to whom, and his slow descent into honesty or depravity, depending on interpretation
  • There are a slew of interesting and fascinating characters throughout, even in the ‘strangers’
  • Most of the side quests were well written and consistently enjoyable
  • Second plus for the cast of characters, many of whom have their own contained stories (special mention to the Sister and her arc)
  • The mission to save the natives in the attack on the oil field was intense. It showed Dutch’s true colors (which is up to interpretation), had great callbacks with Charles, the german family being involved, and Arthur’s actions in previous missions
  • Arthur’s final mission in its entirety is powerful and awesome, and let’s you choose what kind of man he dies as
  • The mission where John takes Abigail out for a portrait, a movie, and a proposal is very well written, very well acted, and way more emotionally powerful than it has any right to be
  • While a bit fast paced compared to the main game, the epilogue John quests are good, continue to develop the characters, and introduce new colorful characters as they go

Story Negatives:

  • There are simply too many examples of missions where the narrative tries to pose things as serious or intense or ‘my gosh look at how bad things have gotten’ but they all devolve into increasingly ridiculous shootouts, which just hurts any impact they should have

Gameplay Positives:

  • The graphics on the weather and snow are great, and not only good but they were so great that people in stream kept commenting on how good they looked
  • The attention to detail in doodad placement is top notch
  • The music is consistently excellent, properly varied in tone and tempo depending on the scene, and knows when to be loud, quiet, and shift between the two based on action
  • A second plus for the music for just being great
  • A THIRD plus for music, this one emphasizing how, despite the huge number of missions, almost every single one has its own songs
  • An unheard of fourth plus for music, for just being incredible throughout a very, very long game
  • The UI is informative and well placed, and fully customizable
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers mission gets special props for excellent gameplay/story integration
  • Most of the side missions remained legitimately fun to do even by late game
  • While not always true, there are several main missions that are legitimately well crafted to add variety to playstyle, varying up objectives and types of activities, keeping things fun

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Inventory is clunky and unintuitive // Inability to properly interact with fleeing witnesses in some situations // Infinitely respawning enemies in forts and towns // General irritation as a consequence of GTA5 style game being grafted onto RDR setting
  • Aggregate: Punching minigame is just not fun, and a mildly irritating rock/paper/scissors affair // Frustrating to disengage from some actions // Game constantly equips the wrong gun and wrong ammo, even after immediately re-equipping the guns you want to use // No real way to wait, despite time-specific quests
  • No proper camera options
  • Controls are just not enjoyable to play, as per the usual GTA standard
  • Specific control issues; Repeated rhythming required to maintain pace, lack of any meaningful auto-pilot, occasional instances of the character doing things completely contrary to input
  • A constant irritation while playing due to periodic bugs, lack of options, and a general lack of polish in gameplay
  • Major bugs, which included softlocks and hardlocks
  • The fast travel system is lacking at best, absent at worst
  • The railroading, while understandable, is nonetheless frustrating in how severe it is, up to and including the final mission
  • The entire John section in terms of mission design and overall quality is significantly lacking compared to the Arthur sections, and lacks any substantial polish
  • The final mission is just not interesting, engaging, fun, or well done. It is just another wave of nameless goons like every other shoothout mission

Resident Evil 2 Proper Remake

First and foremost, this definitely qualifies as a Proper Remake. While they do change several things from the original, and there’s a few niggles, this is a strong entry that didn’t lean too heavily on either of the sides I was expecting it to (gore and jump-scares) and instead leaned heavily on tension and atmosphere. The controls were smooth, the two campaigns were fun, the optional modes were fun, and while the story was mostly absent what little was there I enjoyed. Overall a definite recommended.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +8
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 18 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-4-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Tension, just so much wonderful tension
  • Mr. X adds a tremendous amount to both atmosphere and tension, especially at the police station where you can hear him when he’s nearby
  • Mr. X himself is intimidating as hell, is always staring at you when he’s got you in sight, he keeps pace and juggernauts towards you, he’s terrifying, and the sound design is just fantastic
  • Side characters get surprisingly good scenes, notably Kendo, Marvin, and Irons

Story Negatives:

  • Leon’s voice actor is so… unemotive and generally out of it that it actively took me out of the story everytime he spoke
  • Aggregate: The lack of proper continuity between A and B modes while insisting they work alongside each other is jarring to say the least, and takes away from an otherwise good experience // There is a general lack of proper cheese in the main story, which feels off with both a Resident Evil game as well as what is, let’s be honest, a fairly cheesy game to begin with

Gameplay Positives:

  • The graphics aren’t just good, but have good lighting design and color contrast too
  • There is a generally fun and interesting level design (in the police station especially) that feels properly Metroid-style and encourages mapping and planning
  • The nature of distribution between consumables, spendable resources, quest items, and health, all of which function as resources to be carefully spent in survivalist progression. Also, since items once-discovered are on the map for future consideration, it assists in both routing and planning
  • The lighting design and direction really is excellent
  • The sound design is very good, with only a few small weak points throughout
  • Additional plus for excellent use of positional sound design, not just for atmosphere but assisting actual gameplay
  • Mr. X. He can be avoided, you can hear him coming, you can stun him, you can out-maneuver him, if he hits you he gives you a second to recoup in narrow hallways, and certain areas are safe. Overall Mr. X is just awesome
  • A plus for the fact that this game is a Proper Remake, with all the credit and quality that implies
  • Aggregate: Indicator when quest items have no more use // Difficulty scalable down to Assisted from Normal as an option upon death // Map design showcasing items, color coding depending on room completion, and the types of obstacles // B story intro is smartly edited and summarized to help the second playthrough

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The Zelda-style noise indicators of being in Caution or lower health got really, really annoying, to the point where I would waste health items just to shut Leon up

Kingdom Hearts 3

While I’ll freely admit I had several issues with it, several of which are pretty normal for Kingdom Hearts games at this point, this was still a treat to play through. The first half of the game got a bit padding’y, but the latter half was satisfying and concluded almost all the story threads across the franchise to-date. I also find the overall gameplay to be one of the best in the franchise, with good options and excellent combat, and some of the best boss fights I’ve played.
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: +7
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 35 Hours
Time Reviewed: 2-13-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Full voice acting of all lines of dialogue, with reasonable to good quality of voice acting
  • Expansive usage of Lindblum Effect in multiple worlds
  • The Toy Story world was good, with only a couple stumbling blocks; a new story instead of a retread, fitting neatly into the narrative of both Kingdom Hearts and Toy Story, and with an awesome scene between Young Xehanort and Woody
  • Sora is, in rare form, actually funny and well done as a character, managing childlike without childish
  • The Vanitas scene in general is good for the presentation of Vanitas, the usage of nearby characters, the impact on Sora, and of course… the DOORS
  • The music being scored per-scene and/or properly directed to accentuate scenes instead of generic presentation
  • The Big Hero 6 world followed the movie, naturally followed the themes of Kingdom Hearts and Big Hero 6, and concluded satisfyingly
  • Satisfying connections between the 7 Lights and increased development of their backstories
  • The Union Cross scene in its entirety
  • The post fight cutscenes with Luxord, Larxene, Marluxia, Xigbar, Repliku, etc. were all good stuff
  • Xion’s return, Roxas’s return, Roxas beating the HELL out of Saix, Saix’s farewell
  • The final bosses were excellent, great visual design and storytelling in the fight and the background, and demonstration of Xehanort’s twisted mindset
  • The ending was satisfying, with a happy ending for almost everyone thanks to Sora’s sacrifice

Story Negatives:

  • Multiple scene transitions across the game are just awkward and weird, feeling like they’re missing pieces
  • The Frozen World is a pathetic and poor aping of the movie, losing any context and meaning beyond meandering
  • Pirates world is a… weird aping of the movie, combined with over half the movie literally happening off-camera, assuming the viewer has seen the movie to understand what’s going on at all
  • Story pacing has the usual Kingdom Hearts problem, a huge backloading of the main plot, with far too much padding up front
  • Multiple examples of cutscene incompetence, especially at crucial moments
  • Incredibly disjointed, lengthy fake-out ending which leads to a sudden reversal of time and warnings from Young Xehanort and then a PHONE CALL from the chipmunks and then back to the past and… what?!
  • Utter waste of Kairi; having her train half the game, finally fully wielding a keyblade, then suddenly kidnapped and killed out of no where
  • Aggregate: Skippable, relevant content in the Final World // Unnecessary Buzz drama at the beginning of Toy Story // Occasional but noteworthy cringe and awkward directing and dialogue now and again // No satisfying answer for several story questions

Gameplay Positives:

  • General high fidelity on graphics
  • The sheer quality and attention to detail on the Toy Story and Pirates worlds is insane in high quality
  • The animation, variety of color usage, and presentation of the outdoor worlds
  • The music is good
  • The music is great
  • The usage of music in the finale and last boss fights is amazing
  • Multiple boss fights are fun, varied, and awesome
  • Combat is generally enjoyable, smooth, with lots of options for kit and playstyle
  • The combined boss fights in the finale are really, really great
  • Final boss fights are easily the funnest boss fights in the franchise
  • Excellent variety and visual presentation of the finale and final fights

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Multiple minigames that are mandatory for progression, of varying quality
  • Frozen World is just lacking in detail and presentation with only two exceptions (Labyrinth and boss), however even the Labyrinth made no sense and the boss was wasted
  • Gummi exploration areas are too devoid of proper content, and the actual ‘missions’ are simply not as fun or well designed
  • The Zelda bedeebeep for health and no options to toggle, or other design choices
  • Aggregate: No option to disable Attractions // No larger map mode // Lock on and camera just feel awkward and weird

Vampyr

While the gameplay was interesting and the story was excellent, the combat was just… sufficiently bad that I found myself aggravated by it fairly quickly. Fortunately as of the time of this Premiere Run they’ve patched in a story mode, which I highly recommend. Regardless of combat though, the core gameplay concepts of finding out hints, connections between people changing what happens to them, and the narrative flow all work very well. The main plot is engaging and while there’s only a few NPCs in the game, each one is memorable to some extent or another, and real effort was put into making them well written and spoken. Overall definitely recommended.
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: 0
Cheats: Yes (Generally bad combat, and time-wasting padding)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 31 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-6-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Voice acting is good stuff, notably being a peculiar mix of normal and melodramatic but never crossing into irritating
  • The vampire and overall setting ‘rules’ are woven into the narrative fairly smoothly, thus Jonathan learns as we do. Further, there are multiple accounts of information which, together, give us a more complete picture
  • The characters and NPCs are memorable, well written, and interesting
  • A second plus for the characters, their connections one to another, and their interlocking stories. Also good quality of both personal and regional stories.
  • The music is good. It isn’t overbearing, it has good ambiance, excellent use of atmospheric strings, good variance between types of scenes, and never gets old
  • The interactions between connected people and the district they’re in really help the narrative

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • HUD and at-a-glance information is good
  • Interactions between connected people and how they affect the district, and associated gameplay
  • Music is good, varying based on scene and event, and transitions smoothly between songs
  • A large amount of kit, with good hotkey usage for abilities on the fly
  • Aggregate: Blood vision mode and proper usage of color saturation // Generally excellent visual design // Doodad placement is awesome // Story mode and hard mode both exist, helping tremendously

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Combat is stilted, disinteresting, and actively aggravating
  • No fast travel, compounded by no waypont system, made intolerable by the denial of interaction while stuck in ‘combat’
  • Loss of items after dying, leading to irritating loss of progress and extra padding for item farming
  • Plot doors combined with invisible walls and extremely limited ‘warp to’ points make getting around just a pain
  • Aggregate: Permanently skippable content and lore // Inability to save, quicksave, or relad // Effectively locked into playthrough in a choices-matter game with no toggle // Improper porting to PC with regards to resolution scaling and positioning

Devil May Cry 5

While the story wasn’t the best, it was still just as cheesy and enjoyable as I was expecting. But the gameplay was absolutely amazing. This game was a complete treat to play; it was everything I love about the Devil May Cry series, possibly edging out DMC3 in terms of sheer fun factor. The usual spread of difficulties, multiple playstyles across multiple characters, a huge variety of options in combat, and overall satisfying presentation. Absolutely recommended.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +9
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 14 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-10-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Wonderful, glorious, hilarious cheese
  • V is both interesting, well voice acted, and well showcased as a character

Story Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Cutscene mundanity and inconsistency // Revelation about Nero’s father felt tonally dissonant and, frankly, too rushed

Gameplay Positives:

  • The void mode is awesome, with full on training capacity
  • Combat is fun, smooth, and well controlled
  • Combo’ing in combat for style is fun and interesting
  • An amazing moveset and kit across the characters, and all of it is responsive and tight
  • Completely different playstyle across the three characters
  • Ability to select and redo missions while retaining progress, even across difficulties (effectively a form of New Game Plus)
  • Animation is top notch and informative in-combat
  • The music is good, but the Yoshi Drums are fantastic
  • Good and interesting difficulties, with easy being as easy as it should be, and a good spread on harder difficulties without being too HP spongey

Gameplay Negatives:

Octopath Traveler

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I actively despised playing through this game. The stories were acceptable, though ranging wildly in quality, and I appreciated the combat concepts as well as the idea of class options and min-maxing. But ultimately the absolute slog of fights, arduous boss encounters, and a host of other problems that just compound on top of each other made me hate finishing this game. Not recommended.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: -12
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 34 Days // 78 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-15-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Prim’s intro was well crafted and interesting, and her overall story arc was fairly well crafted and engaging
  • Ophilia’s chapter 1 was well well written, touching, and sweet
  • Large amounts of setting lore and world building in investigations of NPCs
  • The voice acting is generally good and well directed, and good at conveying nuance
  • Cyrus is a treat, and his story was also fairly well done and interesting
  • Primarily low-tier, mundane, ground-level storytelling which is both refreshing and interesting
  • Olberic’s story is simultaneously wonderfully cheesy, and yet had strangely well done complexity in background lore and events

Story Negatives:

  • Inconsistent and intermittent voice acting, often stopping or starting in mid cutscene
  • Cutscene incompetence and disconnect is constant and irritating
  • Cartoony, ridiculous, uninteresting, and badly written villains in almost every one of the story arcs
  • Aggregate: Unconnected storytelling, to the point where it not only hampers each character’s story but actively makes no sense at times // The demon god doom thing out of no where actually ruined my investment and enjoyment of the entire story

Gameplay Positives:

  • Entire intro sequences for new characters are completely skippable
  • The UI is good, informative, and has a lot of information in a small space that’s well presented
  • The combat concept is good. The UI is informative, the BP allows for timed unloads of abilities, there’s easy shortcuts for changing weapons and boosts, there’s good menuing, and the entire vulnerability and break system is interesting

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The blur is bad, badly executed, and actively headache inducing
  • The blur continues to be bad, actively making some scenes just look awful in addition to causing issues
  • The arduous lead up to and awful design of the 8 superbosses and 2 final bosses
  • Inaccurate level guidelines and completely inconsistent difficulty curve across chapters
  • Every battle requires you to constantly be on and paying attention (unless you overwhelming overpower them) which gets arduous given sheer amount of grinding and combat
  • Every fights lasts way too long (as part of previous problem), especially bosses, which drags and becomes dull and boring after a while
  • Every single fight gives very little reward; experience gives very tiny boost in stats, JP takes forever to accumulate, and money is far rarer than the price of useful items
  • The difficulty curve is all over the place, with repeated and multiple difficulty cliffs and chasms, not just in bosses but in trash mobs throughout story, depending on specific types of enemies
  • The power progression curve isn’t bad of itself, but when combined with the above problems leads to a very slow increase in relative power against enemies (leaning heavily on equipment for actual power output increase), which makes combat become more of a chore the further into it you get
  • Boss fights are just marathon slogs, including one in particular that I timed out at, no joke, 46 minutes and 13 seconds
  • And finally, as promised, one additional negative for the first four weeks spent playing the game to increase in power off camera
  • Week 2
  • Week 3
  • Week 4
  • Aggregate: Non-party members don’t gain anything // You have to go into town to change party members

Two Point Hospital

An excellent spiritual successor to the old Theme Hospital, with plenty of interesting challenges and quirky humor. Interface is clean, and the various difficulties across the areas vary things up sufficiently to keep one interested. Also I like how it rewards you with new stuff to build if you do challenge stars. A definite recommended for any fan of management strategy games.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 16 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-17-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • A genuinely humorous tone to the whole work, and occasional jokes that got a good laugh out of me

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • UI is good; lots of information conveyed neatly and efficiently
  • Music is enjoyable despite being, basically, elevator music, and it never got old for me
  • The challenges are a great way to upset the standard gameplay flow, and have good risk/reward
  • Rooms, items, interface all have a combination of color and outline distinction so you can, at a glance, tell what’s going on, where, and why
  • The missions themselves are nicely varied, with new and different types of difficulties and challenges

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Pathfinding has issues, requiring large and open areas for the people to traverse, and they have issues going between buildings // The camera controls don’t allow for panning side-to-side and up-and-down simultaneously, which makes it more awkward than it should be // Unnecessary amount of clicks needed to build items, requiring you to select a room then select building within that room, even though the game already disallows items based on rooms

Binary Domain

The game sort of flops in multiple ways, with repetitive gameplay and long, boring levels and boss fights. The story also flops substantially, trying too hard to be serious and failing. Personally I think it would have worked better if it had just embraced the cheese and gone with it. As is, not really recommended.
Total Story Score: -2
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Cheats: Yes (Screw the Gorilla boss)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 11 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-19-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Cain is just the right amount of ridiculous cheese, and it’s great
  • The setting in the background is actually quite good, though it gets very little attention, there’s some good stuff here and there

Story Negatives:

  • Rather than embracing the cheese, or the seriousness, the game comes off as half managing both and just generally feeling awkward in virtually every scene
  • As a consequence of not fully embracing either side, scenes that feel like they should have impact or be meaningful… don’t, and aren’t
  • Cutscene incompetence is all over the place, also leading to needless drama in the finale
  • Aggregate: Way too much telling when showing would work better (and they also show) // Weird, random logic leaps all over the place, even right at the beginning // Lots of ‘just can’t spit it out’, leading to the usual artificial drama

Gameplay Positives:

  • The music is legitimately enjoyable throughout
  • The destructible armor and nodes on enemies is a cool idea, and encourages target priority when fighting different enemies
  • The voice system, when it actually works, is pretty neat and is a cool way to provide team-mate control during combat
  • Aggregate: Several bosses are pretty fun, including the spider, chandelier, and gauss cannon // The level immediately following the gauss fight as working through the trash section is well designed, well escalated, and has good tone

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Regular, bad mid-mission checkpoint placement
  • The gorilla boss was just bad; No checkpoint, ammo carrying is awkward and your team-mates don’t do it, adds add to frustration, the boss aggro varies wildly, the boss can just sit on the machine gun, boss can continue to aggro you while you are dead leading to him instantly killing you again, and a very short loop song
  • Aggregate: Have to leave game to adjust settings // Controls are bizarre, and inconsistent // Not a good PC port // The blood splatter health meter is bad, as it always is // The camera shake is distracting // Very long stagger times for player // Bosses tend to have super short vulnerability phases // NPCs will not shut up during combat about what you’re supposed to do, repeated over and over

Finding Paradise

While, naturally, somewhat lacking in gameplay, the story is strong, powerful, emotionally impacting, and serves as an excellent continuation of To The Moon and A Bird Story. Absolutely recommended.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: -1
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 5 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-20-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Excellent dialogue, that is written well to the point where, when spoken out loud, it flows naturally
  • Memorable and interesting characters, not just in the main two but in the various we meet throughout
  • Manages to weave a suitably complex tale without leaning too heavily on simplistic or basic tropes
  • Managed to evoke a substantial emotional reaction out of the narrative
  • Excellent interaction and foreshadowing leading to the eventual twist

Story Negatives:

  • Amusing utilization of engine to create mostly optional minigames here and there

Gameplay Positives:

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Controls are clunky and partially unresponsive, as a natural byproduct of engine
  • The slogginess of movement and occasional ‘hunt the pixel’ mode hurt the interactivity

Sekiro

A well designed Fromsoft game, with actual presentation of story upfront, and leaning more on player skill, memorization, and utilization of toolkit to progress rather than more typical RPG elements. In the interests of honesty, I never actually beat the game legitimately, as I ran into a wall of time and skill.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: Yes (Because I suck too badly)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 34 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-25-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Aggregate: Generally enjoyable storytelling, and memorable characters // Good voice acting throughout, which really helps distinguish characters // Some suitably subtle background events help move the plot forward as we progress

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Graphics and animation are crisp, distinct, and very well done
  • Atmospheric music is absolutely great, varies slightly from area to area, and adds to tone
  • Mobility with the hook is smooth, quick, and very fun
  • Several bosses are both fun and interesting, with multiple valid strategies and approaches to conquering them
  • The resurrection / death mechanic is great, with death costing xp and money but not allowing de-leveling, with cost of resurrection in kills, the time between resurrections, the loss of NPCs, and the availability to undo NPC damage with effort… it’s all good stuff
  • The level design is excellent; good connections between areas, good density, multiple paths and types of traversal, good visual distinction which helps memorization and routing
  • Good New Game + feature, with the option to increase difficulty (by making enemies hit harder, and be harder to block)
  • Aggregate: The focus on a singular weapon type feels more polished than Souls games // A fun and interesting toolkit in the form of the arm abilities // The choice of avoidance, block, dodge, parry, and stealth gameplay

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The lack of save, controlled saves, and forced ironmad mode are a negative for the usual reasons
  • Game periodically just loses enemy lock-on in mid combat, which disorients the character and screws up the camera even further, which can and does lead to mistakes (in a game in which getting hit at all is a bad thing)
  • Issues with artifact design and the gameplay being something new and branching out means that, periodically, the game doesn’t quite… click. A few encounters, bosses, and sections are far more irritating than they really should be
  • Aggregate: Buff items take too long to use and last far too little time // The lack of customization in build or builds in general // Stats are either too simplified or are simply under the hood

Ace Combat 7

A very fun, surprisingly interesting story with excellent gameplay for the most part, and some nice variety in missions and styles of play. Hampered by the occasional roadblock of irritating mission design (such as having to do an escort mission, on a timer, while in a storm, while going around rocks). Despite irritations, if you’re a fan of arcade flight games, definitely recommended.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +3
Cheats: Yes (To bypass Annihilation missions, and going up that damned corridor at the end)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 14 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-27-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The live chatter really helps with atmosphere and pace of events during missions
  • The weaving of background narrative and foreshadowing into radio chatter is very well done
  • Aggregate: Good voice acting // Fun, if weird, characters that are cheesy // Memorable cutscenes sliding in between CGI and live footage

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Controls are smooth and intuitive, with little delay and good precision
  • Music is good, changes based on events in missions, and adds greatly to atmosphere
  • The music remains consistently good throughout the game
  • Several missions are legitimately clever and innovative, notably after the IFF is knocked out
  • Good amount of information for enemy location, missile location, missile direction, and several others on the HUD which help

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Mid-mission checkpoints vary substantially in quality of placement, and frankly Annihilation missions can go burn
  • Aggregate: HUD colorization choices are weird, making it difficult to distinguish details on occasion // Significant audio issues // A lack of proper targeting options

Darksiders III

While occasionally managing some good stuff, the game falls completely short of the previous two Darksiders games. The story only manages to hold up on the strength of its main characters, and the gameplay is constantly hampered by odd or bad design choices.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: 0
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 14 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-29-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The voice acting is, as per usual, quite good
  • The personalities and dynamic between Fury and her Watcher are excellent, and consistently enjoyable
  • There are several good scenes showcasing angel mentality, the power of the Deadlies, and surprisingly subtle insight into Fury’s character
  • Consistent and well done foreshadowing, as well as misdirection, on the Envy twist, as well as slotting the story neatly into the pre-existing structure of Darksiders 1 and 2

Story Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Aside from the Fury and Watcher’s interplay, the dialogue is just bad without being fun or cheesy // There are multiple bizarrely directed, or simply bland, cutscenes that might as well not even be there

Gameplay Positives:

  • The Zelda-style puzzles are, as per usual, pretty fun
  • A good variety of weapons and subsequent attack styles
  • While not quite at Metroid level, the gathering of new moves and unlocks as well as the attached exploration is pretty fun
  • Aggregate: Difficulty and play modes are adjustable live and on the fly // Good cool factor in the hair, as well as the elemental ‘modes’

Gameplay Negatives:

  • No proper camera options for inversion
  • Lack of proper save options is, as usual, a negative
  • Very lackluster, badly designed, or actively boring boss fights across the entire game
  • Aggregate: No keybinding options for controller, even though keyboard can be rebound // The difficulty just adjusts enemy damage and stagger // In the Scar, the respawn option is just terrible // The whirlwind auto-kill despite all logic and reason is just stupid

Frostpunk

I cannot recommend this game enough. Fantastic music, excellent visuals, great and tightly designed management which allows for good recovery and a wide variety of playstyles, each scenario is varied and fun, an endless mode, and lots of options. This is a gigantic recommended.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +6
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 13 Hours
Time Reviewed: 3-31-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The music really, really adds to the mood and feel, especially when the Storm shows up
  • The atmosphere is incredibly dark, but never goes too far
  • The tension is fantastic, and the game is tremendously intense, especially when the Storm is first seen, and then hits
  • The manually crafted events, branching paths of said events, and little tidbits of lore while exploration fill out the world and tone wonderfully

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The potential for recovery despite screw ups or blundering is very well built in
  • The interface is clean and effective, but more noteworthy for how they manage the stylized presentation of frost and cold without negatively impacting the player’s ability to see what’s going on
  • The graphics wonderfully grab the steampunk aesthetic and combine it with the cold
  • Multiple feasible playstyles, which each have detriments and positives
  • Multiple difficulty options with good variety
  • The scenarios are good, varied, require different focus each, and are quite fun
  • Aggregate: The circle-centric building design works better than it should, is unique, and fun // The color usage is excellent for tone and gameplay // Fun new maps for Endless Mode // Different Endless Mode modes as well as difficulties

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Improper font scaling for multiple resolutions mean it’s ridiculous or outright impossible to read the text, and a related issue, occasionally there’s a graphics flicker which causes mild irritation

Frozen Synapse

While an interesting concept, I overall found the execution of said concept to be a bit of a drag. At best I found the game boring and, ultimately, we didn’t end up finishing the game by popular vote. Not really recommended.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: -2
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 5 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-1-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The music is good, varied, and never got old
  • The concept is a fascinating one, with some interesting tradeoffs between turn based / real time tactics

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The interface is weirdly unintuitive, stacking multiple actions on single presses (such as right click)
  • The puzzle-like approach to strategy does not gel well with the plodding nature of pacing, the campaign in general, and the massive loading issue
  • The visual presentation is flat disinteresting; not the simplicity, but the way it’s done
  • Constant load times are just awful. They’re frequent, they’re long, and they utterly destroy the flow of the game

Star Control Origins

While irritating in several ways, notably the base combat itself, and of course ignoring the legal drama surrounding it, I’d still say this is a fun enough game to pick up. The story is interesting, the ‘characters’ of the species are memorable and fun, the voice acting is quite good, and the pseudo RPG adventure gameplay is fun… though hampered substantially by a large ‘grind wall’ about mid-game. Still recommended.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +2
Cheats: Yes (money, to bypass grinding)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 22 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-4-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • As with previous games in the series, the interactions with the various alien races are fun, memorable, and interesting
  • Genuinely humourous anecdotes and jokes here and there, most notably the Tywom fanfiction
  • Love the variety of aliens, and their approach to the ‘race of hats’ concept
  • The voice acting in general is quite excellent, and varied from race to race (with the notable exception of the Human)

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The music is excellent, both in the original pieces and the remixes
  • Some good ideas with the interface, including locking items to prevent sale, visible danger vs. defenses on landing, stars dimming on map if visited, no possibility of dying from lack of fuel, and many other convenience options
  • Aggregate: Many, many possible routes to proceed through the game in whatever order you wish, with lots of dialogue and references to ensure you don’t miss anything // The actual connecting quests between species, and solving events and mysteries, is quite fun

Gameplay Negatives:

  • You’re basically stuck with combat as is, with no real options to do anything but fight through every encounter, which (when combined with how easy it is for enemy ships to smash into you) gets pretty old

Warhammer Vermintide 2

A fantastic sequel to Vermintide, and a great Left For Dead style co-operative shooter. Lots of customization options, across multiple classes, with multiple equipment load-outs changing gameplay style and functionality, in addition to the usual builds, buffs, et cetera. Also some very well done, well crafted levels and the usual excellence of the Director leading to no given run feeling the same. Absolutely recommended, especially with friends.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +5
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 9 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-6-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The banter between characters is good, but also great for fleshing out the lore, setting, and characters
  • The voice acting, while over-the-top, is well done and distinct, so you never miss who’s talking when

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Generally good LFD style gameplay; team focused, outlines on party members and items (which is optional), swarms of weaker enemies, variety of debilitating elites, bosses, all the usual good stuff
  • The Director is, as per usual, an excellent implementation of difficulty and variety in its dynamic interactions
  • Level design is great, with a good variety of locales and goals
  • The music is both good and well directed to match events and scenes
  • Proper co-op campaign mode
  • Aggregate: Some mod support // Fun for co-op // Nice, if limited, built-in Twitch integration // Generally good graphics and audio design

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The options for audio volume, audio channels, font size, subtitle size, and so forth are pretty bad

Atelier Sophie The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book

While not exactly my style of game, the core gameplay concept of crafting is actually very well done, landing on a nice balance between complex while retaining accessibility. The characters are fun enough, and the story is great up until the end. Most importantly, most of the story is a wonderfully down to earth, simple RPG about just living life, which is refreshing. Reasonably recommended.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Cheats: Yes (to bypass grind towards the end)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 25 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-9-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The story is refreshingly down to earth and well presented as a ‘slice of life’ story
  • The voice acting is actually really good; there’s plenty of it, and they manage little nuances in speech and tone
  • The flavor lore of characters talking to each other in the encyclopedia entries for each item throughout the entire game are fun and informative

Story Negatives:

  • Aggregate: The entire plot twist about Luard is just awful // Amnesia being super convenient to the plot, as always // Just about everything to do with Luard and the finale of the game doesn’t fit at all

Gameplay Positives:

  • Alchemy itself is very interesting, requiring thought on material type (and multiple options to procure them), quality of item, space it takes up, tetrising, upgrading traits over time, and many other options
  • Methods of learning new recipes is varied enough and interesting, with only a few more obtuse ones here and there
  • Aggregate: The initative meter being visible and results of actions is good for planning and general fun // The map is fun looking, looks good, and shows useful information // Occasional convenience features are welcome, such as being able to craft sub-items directly from items

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The combat is, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, actively disinteresting. The difficulty varies between pathetically easy and overwhelmingly hard. The difficulty and power progression curves fluctuate wildly
  • The grind isn’t super awful, but it’s still unacceptably bad, especially given the occasional combat barriers to progress through the plot and random chance of certain effects or traits landing