Classics 4


Horizon Zero Dawn

A little worse on the gameplay axis than I remembered, but still acceptable, and the story is just fantastic and absolutely worth it (especially for the grounded storytelling, world building, and a few key characters). A big word of warning; If you play this on PC there is about a 50/50 chance you will have regular and frequent crashes, so be warned.
Total Story Score: +27
Total Gameplay Score: -1
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 42 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-29-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Graphics fidelity on terrain and general gorgeousness
  2. Lighting usage and especially usage of the color red
  3. Foreshadowing is absolutely everywhere, with tons of hints and tidbits of what’s going on and why
  4. Atmosphere in the roaming, exploring sections is excellent and does a good job of selling the post apocalypse ‘reclaimed’ world
  5. Visual variety and style of the three tribes is quite excellent and distinct; between clothing and armor, tools and equipment, and infrastructure and architecture
  6. Second positive for the aforementioned
  7. Ashley Burch is a great actress in general but she does a fantastic job with Alloy in this one
  8. Rost was only present temporarily but he was quite well done as a character while he was there
  9. The world building is just absolutely engaging and fascinating. I don’t have a better way to describe it except to say that I absolutely adore the world that was built; The world that was and the world that is and the connections between the two
  10. World building / Carja (former marauders and slavers who now, by consequence, have a multicultural setup they’re trying to shuffle into an economic superpower rather than a military one, and their natural ‘castle’ allowing for force projection and multiplication)
  11. World building / Past (garbage patch, endangered dolphins, destroying cities to fight the swarms, guaranteed citizenship)
  12. Teersa is surprisingly well done of a character; Reasonable, but also interesting in how adaptive she is
  13. Honor The Fallen, the mourning quest is actually quite heart-rending and touching in showcasing how people deal with their grief, as well as being very well voice acted and strong in its individuals and, as a final bonus, it showcases the shifting politics of the Carja away from the marauding force they used to be
  14. Cauldrons are fascinating in almost every way. Visually impressive, perfectly logical in-lore, fascinating in their implications and usage
  15. The Faro Automated Solutions level. Oh my good God, Faro Automated Solutions. They reveal just enough that we can piece together the broad strokes of what happened and it is beautifully horrifying
  16. Grave-Hoard, the reality of Enduring Victory, and the General Herres’s reaction to the situation… legitimately tear-wrenching, even knowing it was coming
  17. Erend is a decent bro character and, as per usual for the archetype, bro characters rock
  18. Sylens is honestly my favorite character in the entire game. He’s mostly honest in that he just avoids unnecessary information, cares but mostly for his own sake, doesn’t put up with much but will if he has to, and is just generally fascinating, helped by…
  19. Lance Reddick, Sylens’ voice actor, is just fantastic here as he always is
  20. Avad is a surprisingly well portrayed ‘good king’, someone who wants to improve things and actively is working to and realizes that sudden change won’t work (indeed, the slow pace of change he’s already doing was already enough to lead to civil war)
  21. Deep Secrets of the Earth, and the final reveal of what Project Zero Dawn really is
  22. The reality and research of the surprisingly mundane, grounded, down-to-earth solution that Project Zero Dawn really was
  23. Honestly one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen in fiction is in that schooling area…
  24. …the idea of people being trapped, inches and visible, from their future and paradise while they languish under the care of low level bots that are designed to handle children
  25. And one final plus for one final reveal; The Crime of Ted Faro
  26. Ted Faro is a surprisingly interesting and fascinating character for how monstrously flawed and culpable he is
  27. The Outro is pretty cool. Those who come together based on your quests, the final communication between Sobeck and GAIA, the fact that Elisabet made her way home and died there… and Sylens’ final scene
  28. The story is, astonishingly, quite grounded and the nature of how logical and thought-out and believable it is absolutely adds to my enjoyment
  29. Frozen Wilds: Suddenly good facial and body language animation
  30. Frozen Wilds: Gildun is an astonishingly good character for being only in one (side!) quest
  31. Frozen Wilds: Supporting cast and side quests are substantially better in the DLC than in the base game (the trio, Ourea, Aratak, Burgrend)
  32. Frozen Wilds: The additional layers of CYAN and her relevance to GAIA, and HEPHAESTUS and the… utterly horrible nature of it
  33. Frozen Wilds: Noticeably improved voice acting from the vanilla game in general, most notably in the side characters

Story Negatives:

  1. The scenes towards the end of the Proving just… sort of fail
  2. While the main plot is actually awesome, several of its specific story beats are so legitimately predictable and badly executed that they detract from the otherwise excellent storytelling
  3. The death of Ersa is, honestly, not particularly interesting and only succeeds at all because of Erand. It’s even worse because of the failed potential in her surviving while still having Erand take her place
  4. Several of the less developed characters are cliches to the point of being reductive to the narrative, which is mirrored by the weird Hollywoodization surrounding their events
  5. Actively bad lip synching and animation in most cutscenes, made all the weirder by the good animation and lip synching in others (caused by framerate issues, fixed by capping at 30fps)
  6. Actively bad animation in most cutscenes, especially in facial motion (bizarre ‘locked expressions’ for example)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Good autosave, with lots of checkpoints and rarely screwing it up
  2. HUD (visibility, lootable objects, etc.)
  3. Arena design (Sawtooth fight) in the Intro (tutorialization and presentation of both mechanical and group fight types)
  4. Fast travel is the good type; find it, unlock it, do it from wherever, however…
  5. Enemy style and design (lots of types and fun enemies to fight)
  6. Enemy attack patterns and variety (they charge, attack with hind quarters, and hesitate, exposing weak points… etc.)
  7. Good combat kit. Knockdown, stealth hits, arrow types, traps, etc.
  8. Several legitimately well designed arenas for encounters
  9. And several legitimately well designed boss encounters (first Deathbringer is wounded, fighting a Frostclaw with the shield canceller, etc.)
  10. Good New Game + is, as always, a plus

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Severe crash issues
  2. Severe repeated crash issues
  3. Absolutely insane, unplayable, ridiculous levels of constant nonstop aggravating ripping my hair out crashes
  4. Dialogue depth of field
  5. Fast travel irritation in requiring rations that are either time consuming to come by (defeating the point) or require grinding to bypass
  6. Cauldrons are generally disinteresting gameplay wise, and actively bad at times, being jumping puzzles with only a singular path to success even when it otherwise makes no sense
  7. Climbing is honestly kind of bad. You can only climb on very specific things and the controls have issues understanding that when you hit up you want to go up
  8. Related to climbing but there’s just a sort of jank and difficulty in getting the game to do what you want it to. Very Assassin’s Creedy
  9. HUD issues (entirely too easy to miss certain things, such as logs, either in the lack of color distinction or otherwise too limited visibility)
  10. Frankly the Outro is disappointing, which is (as I’ve often said) unacceptable. A boring hold the line followed by a normal race through the burning city followed by just another Deathbringer fight
  11. Aggregate: The tutorialization of several aspects of the intro is badly done, most notably the ‘fighting humans’ tutorial // Alloy occasionally just… talks to herself entirely too frequently and too much which actively gets irritating (such as telling me how to defeat a boss after I’ve already started doing it)

Nier Automata

A bit heavy on the philosophy and the depression but ultimately a very well crafted AA production with a lot of care and quality on display. Highly recommend if you haven’t had a chance to play it.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +12
Cheats: No
*COFFEE*
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 31 Hours
Time Reviewed: 02-11-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Babylon 5 Effect with 2B, among other things. Emotions are forbidden!
  2. The Intro does a lot of quick and efficient establishing of setup, characters, and general theme
  3. General cool factor
  4. Voice acting is quite good
  5. World building via 9S slowly piecing things together, and 2B’s reactions to it
  6. World building via machine village and…
  7. …Pascal is easily the best character in the game
  8. The intro to Route B is honestly probably the most heart warming and heart rending scene in the entire game
  9. Romeos and Juliets. Pisseth off! Hahaha
  10. Side quests have some great stuff and some good character moments
  11. Surprisingly well designed tie into Drakengard and wonderful background lore dump about Project Gestalt
  12. The build up and moment of tragedy for Pascal, the machine village, and the kids…
  13. As much as I don’t like him, 9S is exceptionally well presented, especially in his excellent voice actor
  14. The Terminals thinking themselves to death, rot in hell you bastards
  15. The bots, particularly 042, are surprisingly awesome for how ‘flat’ they are
  16. The final credits sequence is a great showcasing of one of the game’s central themes about choosing what life means for yourself regardless of tangibles and accepting one another’s help, as well as giving it yourself in sacrificing your save to them

Story Negatives:

  1. Some weird moments of artificial drama around ‘dying’ when they have the backups and they KNOW that, which ties into the overall problem of ‘overly dramatic’ness’ in several cutscenes
  2. Adam and Eve honestly just irritate me for all of their screen time
  3. The sitcom plot point of misinformation in Route C is sitcom’y
  4. The Pascal chain is severely hampered by the completely artificial choice at the end which completely makes the entire arc smash into a wall and fall flat on its face
  5. Aggregate: The cutscenes that are different and those that aren’t are so inconsistent in Route B that you end up having to watch everything for fear of missing things, leading to a lot of repetition // 9S is a fairly typical anime protag, but doesn’t have anything that really adds to him or pulls him up from being deliberately annoying

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Music! THIS CANNOT CONTINUE
  2. Yoshi drums with regards to songs (notably boss songs and hacking sections)
  3. Weapon variety and…
  4. …comboing weapon attacks together
  5. Bullet hell / Shmup format is well designed with the 3D format
  6. The Intro quickly and expertly establishes its bullet hell nature, both major combat modes, and includes a nice big impressive boss
  7. The Simone fight is visually impressive, fun, and enjoyable
  8. Dark Colossus fight is awesome and fun
  9. Cheat chips
  10. Customization of chips and pods for general kit
  11. Circuit fusing as alternate leveling
  12. 9S’s sections of hacking alongside 2B during the end of Route B
  13. Swap section between 9S and 2B as they fight the last tow pods
  14. Good new game plus, as always, is a plus
  15. NG+ Chapter Select
  16. 9S’s final boss fight is, as it should be, unique (the hacking A2’s OS which makes the actual player’s menu screen)
  17. The final credits sequence
  18. Aggregate: Pop ups informing about reaching chip cap // The fact that chip setup is default across playables meaning no constantly swapping irritation

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. No save during intro mission, aka bad checkpointing
  2. PC Port issues: Mouse controls are actively awful in addition to being objectively wrong, along with general M&K issues, keybinding issues, cutscenes having the wrong framerate
  3. Lazy difficulty, aka health and damage
  4. The backtracking in general
  5. The map is honestly actively bad
  6. Aggregate: It’s so easy to lose who’s who in several sections since 9S and 2B look near identical at a distance and in the middle of a firefight // Route B has a little bit too much repetition from Route A in it

Divinity Original Sin 2

While suffering several substantial issues which make the game drag a bit (animations, inventory management, and a lot of ‘filler’ content) this is still the best CRPG I’ve ever played, and one of the best RPGs in general. Absolutely hugely recommend for anyone interested at all.
Total Story Score: +21
Total Gameplay Score: +21
Cheats: No
*Sushi*
Total Play Time: 7 Days // 60 Hours
Time Reviewed: 02-19-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Origins intro ‘videos’, well done in animation, music, and voice acting
  2. Doodad placement
  3. Elves and the cannibalism memory thing is just absolutely fascinating and a great way to design a species
  4. The random NPCs and their little stories on Fort Joy
  5. The effort put into humanizing most of the characters, even little side ones (and Magisters)
  6. Visually impressive and generally gorgeous
  7. Voice acting
  8. Voice direction
  9. Side quests and characters
  10. The hangings, and three families which sheltered Sourcerers, all really help add to the theme and vibe of the magister oppression
  11. The usage of recently deceased as a storytelling tool
  12. The impish pocket realm, and Xantessa
  13. Sebille. She starts out violent and brutal (literally threatens to kill the PC at their first meeting) and has a great, emotional arc and is wonderfully voice acted, getting across the impact of it all
  14. The Doctor’s realm and the brilliant, Jaws-esque presentation thereof
  15. Lohse. Brilliant voice acting, a great arc of the embittered girl who desperately tries to work against those manipulating her, and concludes very satisfyingly
  16. The Doctor is arguably the best villain in the game, with one notable exception, being suitably terrifying not by virtue of being some big doom, but by his machinations and manipulations and how many pots he has his fingers in
  17. The game knows how to present horror very well. Aesthetically, presentation…
  18. …and in the concepts and ideas that make this setting as messed up and terrifying as it really is
  19. Humor! The game manages to make me laugh to this day
  20. Red Prince. He, along with Sebille, have the most complete arcs and he’s a surprisingly well fleshed out character; an aristocrat who isn’t snobbish or rude, and in fact tries to espouse to being better than he is while constantly worrying over his worth, and ultimately a good and loyal friend
  21. The Seven. Personalized mass genocide
  22. Properly built up foreshadowing to the Seven
  23. The endings, epilogues, and slides are reasonably well done
  24. Aggregate: Beast. While he doesn’t really show up until the end game, he is still an intriguing character in his connection to the Queen and the dwarven plot // Fane is, of course, the central character and doesn’t really get the development he deserves, his plight is well portrayed whenever the game manages to focus on it // Ifan has some amusing and delightful reactions to the very, very, very final scenes with Lucien
  25. Aggregate: Cows quest // Turtle in love // Poor shark // Iris // Princess Fire Slug and the Red Prince interactions // Item flavor text

Story Negatives:

  1. A little bit too easy to accidentally skip or miss the optional party dialogues
  2. The sudden and frankly out of nowhere death of Siva is honestly a weird mis-step in the story and feels forced, especially since there’s nothing you can do about it at all (other than eat her afterwards)
  3. Isbeil bullcrap. A minor villain very far into the game totally GM Helicopter’s the situation in order to force a trap that, by total plot armor, doesn’t kill us when it should, and it’s all for no good effect
  4. Most of the endings honestly feel a bit half baked compared to the main two, and the slanting of the presentation actually diminishes the enjoyment thereof

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Co-op
  2. Proper campaign co-op
  3. Actual built in mechanics to support and aid co-op
  4. Surprising number of well designed options
  5. Ease of saving and multitude of auto and quick save slots
  6. A second positive for ability to save in mid combat, mid conversation, and quickly and efficiently load
  7. GM mode!
  8. Arena mode!
  9. Mod support
  10. Full proper mod support
  11. Proper difficulty options (manually crafted encounters with different skills and AI on hard)
  12. Character creation and customization is quite good, especially for custom characters
  13. The movable terrain gimmick and its usage
  14. Alternate options for helping with dialogue that don’t just involve a charisma or persuasion check
  15. AP action economy
  16. AP movement alottance, HUD for how much what costs, showcasing exact pathfinding, mouseovers showing relevant info
  17. A very excellent tutorial section, which is fully optional, and quickly and easily introduces you to all the basics of interaction, terrain, puzzle, encounters, and dialogue
  18. Fort Joy has many, many different paths of progression through it (NINE separate exits we counted just on this playthrough)
  19. Variety of dialogue options to allow flavor of characterization in player choice
  20. Second dialogue options positive
  21. HUD information is generally good throughout. Exact information on tooltips, indicators of who is what in turn order and when a turn ends, etc.
  22. Acknowledgement of order of events in quests
  23. Easy and accessible full, free respec
  24. Gift Bags as optional mutators and modifiers to gameplay and difficulty
  25. The pyramids offer a huge variety of movement options
  26. Clear visual distinction so that despite the busy and lavish decor you can always tell what you’re looking at and what is what
  27. Each individual skill tree has useful skills and utility skills
  28. The fact is, the ridiculous majority of this game is optional content. You can simply bypass whatever you want to (except for a few) and it’s awesome having that freedom
  29. Any build is viable if the right effort is put into it, you really have to try to make a bad build
  30. Puzzle design (Impish pocket realm, final dungeon, etc.)
  31. Many side quests with many paths through them on the island
  32. The final Alexander fight is one of the better (and harder) encounters in the game. It starts as a ‘tactical’ fight against an archer, warrior, mage, and Alexander with lots of positioning, barrels, and options and then the worm spawns which is a straight stat boss (and near immunity to status effects, with high resistance to fire and poison) and challenges you in a totally different way. There’s at least 5 ways I know of to approach the fight and it’s awesome
  33. Multitude of options through Act 2 encounters…
  34. …multitude of options through Act 2 quests…
  35. …the fact that Act 2 is almost entirely optional despite containing the bulk of the quests, meaning the player can choose their path in whatever manner they want
  36. Aggregate: Dialogue log for stuff you’ve missed // Fast travel is the good form but a bit too spread out (find, from everywhere, has a menu and can be used on the map, instant, no cost, quick) // Warning before point of no return

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Forced restriction between Origin character and Custom character, and related limitations
  2. Accidental mis-clicking issue
  3. Inventory management is honestly just kind of a time wasting pain
  4. Second inventory management negative
  5. Early vendors are almost completely unmarked, making getting skills such a pain
  6. Crashing issues (9 total)
  7. Lack of option to speed up animation in combat which, after a while, really just drags things on
  8. Animation dragging part two
  9. Limited party size which, as usual, is an issue in these types of games
  10. The in-game journal is actively bad, to the point where its effectively useless and is better off being ignored
  11. A combination of the HUD not being super useful in showcasing items across party, the game shotgunning loot at you en masse, the inventory being irritating to sort, and inability to check quest reward items for other party members
  12. A combined issue of an enormous quantity of content to go through which is made substantially worse by an almost total lack of proper direction (hints, guidelines, hubs, or chains)
  13. The Isbeil bullcrap is more GM Helicoptering. The game forces you into a cutscene across the room just to ensure you lose the fight in a cutscene, then saves you in a cutscene entirely so they could set up a not-interesting boss fight which they could have done anyways, better, without the bullcrap in the previous room
  14. Aggregate: Arx flat mandates going through a rather difficult, terrain heavy fight (against an elite and repeated spawns) before being able to access the town // The level scaling has a few balancing issues periodically
  15. Aggregate: The forced ‘screw you’ in the robbery quest in the tavern // Camera issues with some terrain // The specifics of which abilities require Source (and how much) feels a bit wonky in several cases // The burning revenants. They can rez in one turn, have insane movement while in ‘dead’ form, and get back up with refilled fire and cursed fire arrows (with no cooldown)