Premieres 5


CrossCode

This is a very well designed game that had two major issues; One, the story takes extraordinarily long to start, and two, every gaming element overstays its welcome to the point where it just drags. These two issues aside this is a real passion product and an excellent game and I’d easily recommend giving it a chance (especially since it has a demo, and is on PC and console both).
Total Story Score: +24
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Golden Number: 78.89
Cheats: Yes (walkthrough for some puzzles)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 27 Hours
Time Reviewed: 10-24-2020
*Coffee Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Doodad: Doodad placement and usage
  2. Animation: Expressions / Animations for dialogue
  3. NPC Set Dressing: NPCs as set dressing (walking around, talking with each other, hanging out)
  4. MSQ: The escape from the instanced tower sequence and related cutscenes
  5. World Building: World building scenes about instant matter, the water, and the kid throwing around Lea
  6. Character: Good supporting cast: Emilie is adorable, Evo-Lukas is supportive, Apollo is surprisingly awesome
  7. Character: Lea is adorable. Just adorable.
  8. Plot: The main plot (when it finally gets going) is quite engaging and the Outro fulfills a lot of cool elements of the game to-date and the final suicide of Gautham was very well done
  9. Cutscenes: The reveal about our AI nature and the silent scenes that followed
  10. Humor: Apollo’s narration while in the party
  11. Secondary: Side quests and story quality thereof
  12. Animation: Animation always helps to accentuate the scenes, especially for the main characters
  13. Babylon 5: There is a decent amount of Babylon 5 Effect going on for your second time around
  14. Foreshadowing: This is complimented by the amount of Foreshadowing for the various twists and turns the plot takes
  15. Internal Continuity: The game acknowledges Internal Continuity constantly
  16. Intro: The Intro does a lot of good in getting you invested and interested in what’s going on, and poses a lot of questions for the future
  17. Plot: Bonus points to the Plot itself, which is surprisingly grounded and logical
  18. World Building: Second positive for the World Building of the setting and its… actively insane levels of technology
  19. Background Lore: There’s some good Background Lore, usually presented in the journal or the side NPCs
  20. Consequence Storytelling: The game has a decent amount of Consequence Storytelling in how it acknowledges and addresses events
  21. Dialogue: Special mention to the Dialogue, especially with the main party members
  22. Brickwork: Brickwork really needs a special mention here, this game is astonishingly detailed and utterly gorgeous…
  23. Brickwork: …earning…
  24. Brickwork: …three positives
  25. Spritework: Sprites aren’t too shabby either…
  26. Spritework: …for another…
  27. Spritework: …triple positive

Story Negatives:

  1. Pacing: The first 12 or so hours of the game did not handle its time well. After that point it tightens up considerably, but the first 12 are a sufficient slog with no real meat to them such that I remained de-invested the entire rest of the game, and I imagine there are people who would never play past that mark to get to the good stuff. From a story perspective this is mostly about nothing really happening…
  2. Pacing: …for a full…
  3. Pacing: …three negatives

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization: Tutorial. Plot relevant, smooth and quick, gets across all the basics, and most importantly of all it’s completely skippable (in fact you can turn off all helpers and tutorials going forwards)
  2. Options: Options and Assist Mode are good, built in, and varied
  3. Core Mechanic: Risk/reward for Rank aka do you keep going to get better drops or quit to regen
  4. Fast Travel: Good fast travel (find, unlock, instant from anywhere out of combat)…
  5. Fast Travel: …for two positives
  6. Encounter Rate: Dominance of yellow enemies in overworld (aka no mandatory trash)
  7. Level: Zelda-style puzzle design is good stuff, with interesting puzzles with multiple solutions
  8. Power Progression Curve: The game goes out of its way to ensure that you don’t fall behind in power progression; You can do side quests which give plenty of xp, money, and gear… You can just go grind and up your Rank… or you can avoid both and skill your way through mandatory enemies and bosses and the xp you gain is a lot because…
  9. Power Progression Curve: …the xp gain from enemies is relative to their enemy vs. yours, meaning lots of xp for being under-leveled, and diminishing returns on leveling in a circle
  10. Boss: Boss fights are fun and interesting
  11. Level: The shock dungeon was actually really fun and awesome to do, easily my favorite dungeon at that point
  12. Boss: The snail boss fight by itself was actually really awesome
  13. Boss: The final boss fight was quite fun, varied, and enjoyable
  14. NG+: Decent new game + options but…
  15. Log: Good chat log, even showing animations
  16. Core Combat: Percentile healing items which means they’re always useful
  17. Music: There’s some legitimately good songs in this one, but Yoyo Syndrome is in effect
  18. Secondary: The Patience quest is probably the best quest in the game (have to count rock hits, inconsistent timing, interrupts and same sound effects, and party members troll you)
  19. Enemy Variety: The enemy variety is great, hampered only by its repetition
  20. MSQ: The charge up to the Tower was actually awesome, just overstayed its welcome
  21. Animation: Great Animations, especially helpful during puzzle and combat sequences
  22. Info In Game: A lot of Info is in the Game, preventing walkthroughitis
  23. Intro: The Intro does a lot of fun stuff to get you into the combat, puzzles, and platforming
  24. Outro: The Outro does have a few issues, but the final rush up the tower and the final boss fight work quite well

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls: Awkwardness of shortcut menu and lack of hotkeying to bypass
  2. Secondary: Early side quests cause issues by being boring on both axis, meaning players might be discouraged from doing them
  3. Padding: There’s a bit of Dragon Age 2 Syndrome going on with several aspects of the game. It’s good stuff, but it does feel a bit dragged on
  4. Padding: A second negative for DA2 Syndrome, even in the Outro (good ideas that just overstay their welcome)
  5. MSQ: The mandatory stealth section in the tower (binary difficulty, lack of checkpoints, awkward controls)
  6. Overworld: Just traversing from Point A to Point B is irritating since in many (if not all) cases it involves navigating or doing puzzles, especially on the overworld
  7. Visual Distinction: The perspective issue with the ‘multiple heights’ terrain causes issues constantly
  8. Pacing: The first 12 or so hours of the game did not handle its time well. After that point it tightens up considerably, but the first 12 are a sufficient slog with no real meat to them such that I remained de-invested the entire rest of the game, and I imagine there are people who would never play past that mark to get to the good stuff…
  9. Pacing: …for a full…
  10. Pacing: …three negatives
  11. NG+: …the fact that you have to buy New Game + options with points is just awful

The Outer Worlds

To start, this game has severe issues. I would not recommend getting it unless you’re sure you can stomach it (literally, as it can cause headaches and nausea) or have the ability to mod it (such as on PC). Once you’re past that hurdle, this game is great. Excellent story, characters, quest design, and some fantastic elements throughout. Hugely recommended… past the first hurdle.
Total Story Score: +29
Total Gameplay Score: +8
Golden Number: 72.6
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 42 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-2-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro: Establishes good characters, great dialogue, premise, allows a lot of options, and is properly horrifying
  2. Atmosphere: Corporate Horror. Just… Corporate Horror. Wow
  3. Atmosphere: The amazingly well-crafted nightmare horror of the hyper-specialized Byzantium is just amazing
  4. Dialogue: Dialogue is exceptionally well written and makes each character feel fleshed out and interesting
  5. Dialogue: Dialogue choices are varied and awesome and help sell the flavor and slice of character you play
  6. Voice Acting: Voice acting is awesome and really adds to the nuance and vibe of each character
  7. Brickwork: Brickwork is quite good, and notably varied from locale to locale
  8. Brickwork: Bonus point for the city areas
  9. Doodads: Doodad utilization is excellent and helps sell many areas
  10. Banter: Banter between party members and random NPCs is great
  11. Prime Opt: Parvati’s quest chain is one of the most adorable things I’ve seen lately and immensely satisfying to get right
  12. Prime Opt: Max’s quest chain
  13. Humor: Humor? Humor.
  14. Tone: Tone is great, with lots of shifting in and out of horror and humor
  15. Storytelling Mechanic: Text logs add some great flavor and world building
  16. Character: Great supporting cast, especially Reed Tobson, Zora, Sanjar, Chairman Clarke, and Adjutant Akande
  17. Secondary: The Edgewater solution arc were some good quests
  18. Secondary: The Groundbreaker recruit Ellie quest, and the Groundbreaker bounty quest
  19. Secondary: The surprisingly long Grimm’s poster quest chain is one of the more memorable and enjoyable ones in the game
  20. Secondary: Roseway’s quests, satellite insane man who didn’t want to murder, Zora and the Iconoclasts
  21. Secondary: MSI’s arcs and Sanjar
  22. Secondary: Nyoka’s quest chain, the Chairman’s presentation
  23. Secondary: Chemicals choice? Central (hollywood quest)
  24. MSQ: The Hope dungeon (the Hope… learning about the hunger problem, the cannibalism civil war, and the final fate of the captain and navigator who saved us all)
  25. Background Lore: The Background Lore is some good stuff
  26. Branching Narrative: Several elements of legitimately Branching Narrative
  27. Consequence Storytelling: Lots of Consequence Storytelling, mostly within a given planet
  28. Doodads: Second positive for that great Doodad utilization
  29. Internal Continuity: Good general Internal Continuity
  30. NPC Set Dressing: The cities have really good NPC Set Dressing
  31. Voice Acting: Second Voice Acting positive
  32. World Building: Good World Building
  33. World Building: Second positive for World Building
  34. Spritework: General, but good (mostly on enemies)

Story Negatives:

  1. MSQ: Gorgon DLC’s story really fell flat. They kept playing up the horror despite it being relatively mild compared to the rest of the game, it felt like a strange path to get through the arc, and the final choice fell flat since neither person we can work with is worth a damn and forces us to kill their troops just to talk to them and… I don’t know, nothing was interesting about the entire arc…
  2. MSQ: …for a full…
  3. MSQ: …three negatives
  4. Storytelling Mechanic: Inability to bring party members at once, leading to loss of banter, conversation, etc. (usual problem)
  5. Outro: The Outro really fails pretty badly at several beats, trying to be a ‘we’re all here to help’ but really just kind of being bleh, especially for how rushed it is

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro: The Intro does a lot to establish the function of the BRPG format; Quest design, multiple paths, plenty of experience opportunities, and a lot of low-requirement skill checks to get you used to doing so (and reward you for it)
  2. Alternate Leveling: Perks as mutators instead of just stat increases
  3. Alternate Leveling: Flaw system! Stuff you do leads to Flaws ‘unlocking’ which you can then (optionally) pick up in order to gain a Perk Point, giving you a lot of player choice in how you set yourself up
  4. Party AI: Companion AI! For the first time in a BRPG I actually feel like the companion legitimately contributes
  5. Enemy AI: Enemies can cower, flee, etc. rather than perma aggro (there’s even perks for it)
  6. All Roads Lead To Rome: In general, for quest design
  7. Flow: Side quest ping pong design (run into a quest, which takes you to Place or Person X, which has another quest for you, which takes you to…)
  8. Core Mechanic: Shroud, talk your way to restore if caught, three charges, great mechanic
  9. Choice: Dialogue options design (hard to describe but there’s some really good actual design into dialogue paths and trees, optional skill and attribute checks, and paths to progression)
  10. Fast Travel: Good fast travel (unlock as you go, instant and from anywhere)
  11. Save: Multiple automatic slots for both quicksaves and auto-saves…
  12. Save: …for two positives
  13. Pacing: Aside from the DLC, the pacing of quests, dungeon design, and encounters is quite good
  14. Level: The multiple paths and options of the Hope dungeon are actually quite good
  15. Difficulty Options: Decent survival mode option
  16. Log: Chat log in dialogue
  17. QoL: Ease and smoothness of looting, party members add stat bonuses to your skills, point of No Return warning
  18. Core Mechanic: Actual detection mechanics
  19. Core Combat: Percentile potions
  20. Core Mechanic: Can kill everyone, which isn’t a plus by itself, but baking in options to either continue (main quests) or fail (side quests) because of NPC death is some good design

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Graphic: The FOV wobble while sprinting is awful
  2. Traversal: The fact that you can’t auto-move without sprinting is awful
  3. Graphic: Dialogue depth of field
  4. Options: The camera is just oddly weird, in ways I can’t quite describe… similarly there’s some weirdness to the mouse which, thanks to INI editing can be removed but by default is just awful
  5. Audio Spam: The fact that it plays a cutscene every single freaking time you do a party member ability, with no option to toggle it off or not, and with only a little variety in the cutscene in question, is just bleh
  6. MSQ: Gorgon DLC (formulaic, boring quest design and excessive combat focus)
  7. Pacing: Gorgon DLC (pacing)
  8. Bug: The engine is not well optimized and the game plays badly and just adds a lot of weird jank to standard gameplay
  9. Padding: Endgame and Gorgon both have way, way too much health/armor which just bores up both sections (made worse by the final dungeon feeling thrown together and anti-climactic after the Hope dungeon)
  10. Outro: Final boss fight has a neat mechanic to effectively skip it, but the fight itself is arguably boring and has no real variety to its gimmicks
  11. Difficulty Options: Lazy difficulty settings (HP and damage)
  12. Inventory: Inventory interface has a few problems, including mouse-over delay and the pop-up covering up text and when sorting inventory it doesn’t update the icons indicating what’s equipped on whom

Yakuza Kiwami

If you’re even a little bit a fan of beat ’em ups or the Yakuza series (or Shenmue) then I’d highly recommend playing this. The gameplay axis has several substantial flaws that consistently bring it down (several of which seem like leftovers of the original PS2 game) but the core combat is quite fun and the overall story is enjoyable and engaging.
Total Story Score: +18
Total Gameplay Score: +12
Golden Number: 60.75
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 33 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-6-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro: The initial scene with Majima and Kiryu establishes a lot very quickly and efficiently; Kiryu’s stalwart, iron wall nature… Majima’s mask of crazy, and that slip of respect (which is mutual)
  2. Doodads: Doodad utilization
  3. Brickwork: City design and visual aesthetic are great
  4. NPC Set Dressing: NPCs as set dressing to flesh out and add to the terrain, make it more lively
  5. Camera: Camera usage in cutscenes is surprisingly good, with good angles and movement and focus
  6. Character: Kiryu is so delightfully good it’s hard to even properly explain. He’s the closest thing to The Mario we have in a setting that somehow supports it
  7. Animation: Cutscene animations and motion capture
  8. Character: Nishiki is a surprisingly interesting character (owing a lot to 0 admittedly, but the added scenes help really sell the sad, pathetic, core-less soul that he became)
  9. Character: Haruka is just adorable and amazing and awesome and well introduced and emphasized
  10. Cutscenes: Nishiki flashbacks are very well presented and executed and really help set things up, in addition to just being good showcasing of the politics involved
  11. Prime Opt: Majima’s quests and scenes were quite good, and almost always worth a laugh (plus the occasional ‘drop the mask’ moment), such as Hobo Juice, Sewer Grate, and of course Pocket Circuit
  12. Character: Good support cast: Rina // Date // Shinji // Florist // Kazuki // Yuya
  13. Character: Florist’s son and the Yakuza’s daughter // Nishiki’s first in-person confrontation with Kiryu
  14. Humor: Majima date scene is just… amazing // Zombie Majima was even better
  15. Animation: Great Animation in cutscenes, mk. 2
  16. Doodads: Second positive for that city Doodad design
  17. Doodads: Screw it, third positive
  18. External Continuity: Surprisingly good External Continuity from 0
  19. Brickwork: Gotta praise that lovely Brickwork
  20. Brickwork: Double praise for the Brickwork
  21. Music Direction: Good Music Direction for scenes
  22. Outro: The Outro surrounding Nishiki is actually quite good
  23. Spritework: Most of this sits on the NPCs but I still have to give a point for general Spritework design

Story Negatives:

  1. Cutscene: Jingu and the big, drawn out scene where he rants not only feel mis-placed but honestly his removal actually improves the story
  2. Cutscene: Opening cinematic spoils things
  3. MSQ: The Shangri-La quest arc is weirdly drawn out and dull in an otherwise strong story
  4. Pacing: Several issues with pacing
  5. Outro: The Outro centered around Jingu is awful

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Save: Good save design (tons of save slots, built in auto saves, multiple auto save slots, and very very quick and smooth to save)
  2. Overworld: City design and layout, as well as density of content
  3. Kit: Rush style and the avoidance tech and increased run speed for repositioning (and just moving around in combat sections)
  4. Kit: Brawler style and reach and flexibility
  5. Kit: Beast style and tanking, unflinching
  6. Minigame: Pocket Circuit Racer (pre-battle strategy; Figuring out the best combos of parts for the course, ability to do test runs, and custom track editor
  7. Boss: The Majima fights are probably the best ones in the game, with actual difficulty, adaptive (and increasing) AI, and multiple forms he takes to fight…
  8. Boss: …for two positives
  9. Core Combat: Stance swapping, cross comboing, and eventual kit
  10. Outro: The Nishiki final boss fight was very fun. Huge variety of attacks, lots of possible counters, and awesome thematic significance
  11. Difficulty: General positive for emphasis on proper difficulty (most of the time), timing of attacks and parrying, paying attention, and general skill cap
  12. NG+: Good New Game +
  13. Minigame: Bowling (aiming, power, spin, good physics emulation, generally the best bowling video game I’ve ever played)
  14. Terrain: Usable terrain and item / weapon specific heat attacks
  15. Encounter: Encounter design (nearby interactables, number of enemies, wideness of terrain)
  16. Minigame: Pool is surprisingly fun and well designed
  17. Animation: Lovely Animations…
  18. Animation: …which are especially useful for figuring out how to respond to what attacks from enemies
  19. Controls: Controls are exceptional as usual
  20. Controls: Second positive for Controls
  21. Pacing: Good Pacing in most of the games
  22. Power Progression Curve: Very good Power Progression Curve
  23. Visual Distinction: Good overall Visual Distinction
  24. Viscerality: As usual for the series, good viscerality

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. MSQ: The ‘save the puppy’ quest commits several sins: It’s unmarked, the items necessary are only available in specific shops, nothing happens while you’re doing it, and it’s mandatory main plot
  2. Core Mechanic: The Kiwami system feels off. It actively punishes using heat moves, involves the same animation each time, and more or less mandates spending the xp into the right moves (with no in game indication thereof) or else face the boss regening and/or going into screw you mode
  3. Unintentional Skipping: Entirely too easy and possible to permanently skip dialogue on accident simply by roaming around
  4. Minigame: The colosseum is honestly just awful. The enemies have too much health, the amount of points you get is too low so it’s grindy, the gimmicks of the fights are too little
  5. Grind: The Majima Everywhere leveling system is honestly just way too grindy. You get so little from each encounter that it takes what are otherwise awesome fights and makes them a chore
  6. Controls: Being knocked down and having to mash to get up never stops getting more irritating, given how much you have to mash and how much it just destroys the flow of combat
  7. Outro: The Outro has severe doldrums problems. First there’s the long, dull fight with Shimano, then the Mob fight, then fighting the same three knife/gun guys (and miniboss) for like 10 solid minutes…
  8. Outro: The lead up long fight to Jingu is long, boring, and irritating and made much worse by…
  9. Outro: …the absolute bullcrap of fighting two high health gun guys while fighting him (gun and grenade) all of which involve constant knockdown spam and then the guys you just defeated get right back up again
  10. Boss: Shimano who was boring and had way too much health
  11. Boss: Gun Guy who was irritating, had no reload phase, spammed dodge, and was just generally irritating to fight)
  12. Walkthroughitis: Adventure game logic in some quests (Chapter 8 especially)

Just Cause 4

While I’ve played and seen worse, this is not a good game. I’d only recommend this on super sale, to just screw around and have fun with the random elements of the game. The missions and story are best ignored or forgotten.
Total Story Score: -20
Total Gameplay Score: -15
Golden Number: -76.61
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 20 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-10-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Character: Some passable supporting cast such as Sargento and Javi, and Cesar was pretty amusing, especially in the Tornado series of missions, which had some good spectacle and culminated in the ‘is that a USB?’ moment
  2. Brickwork: I’d love to not give this but honestly there’s some good Brickwork here. I’ve seen better (in this very series, in fact) but it’s still good and still deserves recognition…
  3. Brickwork: …thus gaining two positives

Story Negatives:

  1. Cutscene: The introductory cutscene with mira and her cousin is every single level of bad. The storyboarding, camera usage, first-pass dialogue, inconsistent tone, and just bad bleh
  2. Storyboarding: Bad storyboarding and cinematography
  3. Dialogue: Bad directing and dialogue
  4. Cutscene: The big reveal scene about the Agency and Rico’s parents should be one of the biggest scenes in the franchise to-date and it falls utterly flat for all the reasons the cutscenes in this game fail
  5. Tone: Improper balance of silly and serious
  6. Outro: The Outro ends on an unearned to be continued with all the issues with the other story cutscenes all crammed into one, no impact, no emotion, no investment
  7. Tone: The game fails miserably at the Tone the Just Cause series should have (and that this game, in a vaccum, is striving for)
  8. Banter: It’s especially worth noting that the Banter is just… bad
  9. Character: Especially between the major characters
  10. Camera: The Camerawork is actively bad in cutscenes
  11. Dialogue: A second negative for Dialogue
  12. External Continuity: The game really, really screws up External Continuity
  13. Internal Continuity: The game even fails at Internal Continuity, as events feel totally disjointed from one another
  14. Intro: By the way, the Intro sucks too
  15. Outro: But it’s no where near as bad as the Outro, which needs a second negative to really emphasize this point
  16. Padding: For a game so relatively short, it is incredibly Padded
  17. Padding: No, seriously, it’s actively boring just roaming around doing stuff
  18. Plot: Did I mention the Plot is pants-on-head stupid?
  19. Story Sequencing: I mentioned this briefly earlier but the Story Sequencing is legitimately nonsensical
  20. Story Sequencing: So while not the worst I’ve ever seen, it’s… bad
  21. Storyboarding: This might actually be the worst Storyboarding I’ve seen in all the games I’ve reviewed. Teleporting people, no awareness of nearby stuff, weird blocking… just… gah
  22. Storyboarding: For a third negative
  23. Voice Acting: It’s not the worst Voice Acting I’ve seen, buuut it’s not good either

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Mid Mission Checkpoint: Really good checkpoint design in missions
  2. Traversal: Grappling hook navigation and getting around is fun and plenty of options (including vehicles, hitching a ride on a piece of debris, or just flying)
  3. Traversal: Grappling hook mechanics and what they allow (while not doing as well as previous games, you can still do plenty with just grappling which is still fun)
  4. Core Mechanic: Random radiant shenanigans (hard to explain but sometimes random things just happen and they’re just silly and fun)
  5. QoL: The fact that you can unlock tons of drops in vehicles and equipment both and just drop it on the fly with very low cooldown
  6. Viscerality: The sound FX and explosions are actually quite cool and satisfying, very important for a game like this
  7. Music: Reasonable music now and again, plus Yoshi Drums on some missions
  8. Fast Travel: Decent enough
  9. Core Mechanic: The Weather system is a bit too threadbare, but it’s good when it’s there

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Tutorialization: Forced tutorialization and badly scripted missions
  2. Raspberry Jam: Bad raspberry jam…
  3. Raspberry Jam: …for two negatives
  4. Encounter Rate: Irritating to lose wanted level…
  5. Encounter Rate: …for two negatives
  6. Minimap: Lack of minimap/radar/etc leading to blind feeling, combined with…
  7. HUD: …bad color design, leading to issues with the HUD
  8. Options: Interface design is just awful, with weird and improperly rebindable button usage and non intuitive selection, canceling out, etc. plus difficulty seeing what is where in said interface
  9. Overworld: Overworld and map design is not great, and lack of good density prevents there from being really anything interesting to do outside of missions and objectives
  10. Level: Lack of mission variety which just makes going through events kind of a chore
  11. Crash: Number of hard crashes: 9. Nine hard crashes!
  12. Crash: For two negatives
  13. Controls: Many small but constant irritations with gameplay. Jank, controls, vehicle physics, loading issues, aiming problems, restructured controls, etc…
  14. Controls: …for two negatives
  15. Outro: The Outro is just another bog standard mission with nothing new or interesting, generic music, and a fight against the same trash you’ve been fighting the entire game as the ‘final boss’
  16. Interface: Small font design as per usual
  17. Unskippable Cutscenes: For some friggin reason
  18. Graphics: Lighting and bloom are legitimately awful
  19. Enemy AI: The Enemy AI isn’t the stupidest I’ve seen… but it’s not good
  20. Bugs: Animations are actually kinda buggy and weird
  21. Camera: The Camera gets in the way of playing the game constantly
  22. Core Combat: Core Combat is… actively boring
  23. Intro: I should mention that Intro is also boring to play. Which I guess technically sets you up for the rest of the game
  24. Outro: That Outro gets a second negative for being a frickin’ fight against normal frickin’ trash enemies after going through large, relatively empty rooms that totally work against every idea of the core gameplay

Spellforce 3

A good attempt that admittedly falls pretty flat on the gameplay axis, but is nonetheless something I highly encourage people to try out for the story. Just put the difficulty down to minimum and don’t use ranged units.
Total Story Score: +28
Total Gameplay Score: -8
Golden Number: 37.41
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 39 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-18-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Voice Acting: Voice acting is quite good, not just for Geralt (ha ha) but for most of the characters
  2. Voice Acting: Second positive for both quality and quantity of VA
  3. Doodads: Doodad usage and placement are excellent, with lots and lots of good detail in the terrain
  4. Doodads: Special mention for Greyfell and its great doodad design…
  5. Doodads: …for two positives
  6. Background Lore: Bestiary and background lore as a way to flesh out the world
  7. NPC Set Dressing: NPC set dressing is quite good given the size of the town and out-door areas
  8. MSQ: The entire Orc quest arc with Gor and the idiot who was effectively stuck continuing to ruin the Firewielder tribes because of bad promises and being politically backed into a corner… good stuff
  9. MSQ: The Elven quest involving the two Scryers (one of whom seems unreasonable but ends up supporting you more) and fixing the corruption and assisting the local Crown Royals so that they may or may not support you against the Bane… good stuff
  10. MSQ: Helping the Iskanders and refugees fleeing to Everlight while dealing with monsters and our old General friend (‘Geralt’) while simultaneously being helped by our old friend who joined the Purity (Bertrand)… good stuff
  11. Plot: The big twist surrounding ourself and our mother was quite well done… the ‘reveal’ about us being destined and special was the mask for the real reveal, about the nature of the Bloodburn and the tragedy of how so much pain and suffering and death has been caused by something so innocent and unintentional
  12. Atmosphere: The game manages a decent tone of unpleasantness in storytelling without going overboard, helped by…
  13. Internal Continuity: …good consequences and internal continuity
  14. Character: Yria is a surprisingly enjoyable character, probably the most stable and grounded character despite being an elven mage. Her backstory is just painful in its grounded simplicity
  15. Character: Gor is helped by his voice actor of course, but he is easily my favorite character in the game
  16. Character: Katras has relatively little screen time but his excellent voice actor and consistent presentation of the honest, insistent mercenary is great
  17. Character: Good supporting cast (Raith, Karles (the traumatized mage), Ianna)
  18. Voice Acting: Bonus voice acting for the main character
  19. Voice Acting: And for the party members
  20. Character: Isgrimm is almost entertaining in how disconnected he is
  21. Humor: Pulp romance novel narration, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ quest, Berghol the Bodacious, etc.
  22. Intro: Intro does a lot to really establish things, and is enjoyable regardless
  23. External Continuity: Here and there are some good lead ups and setups for the future previous games
  24. Doodads: For the city and hub area
  25. Brickwork: For the ancient city…
  26. Brickwork: …for two positives
  27. Brickwork: For the grassy plains
  28. Brickwork: For the cityscape…
  29. Brickwork: …for a full…
  30. Brickwork: …three positives
  31. Brickwork: And for the sandy dunes…
  32. Brickwork: …for two positives
  33. Spritework: I’ve seen better… often… from earlier games. But I do have to acknowledge there’s some decent spritework here

Story Negatives:

  1. Storytelling Mechanic: Limiting party size and usual issues (especially bad since several party members will add critical information to specific quests)
  2. Dialogue: The game’s a big dialogue heavy, which is fine but does lead to some odd pacing, exposition, and empty text issues. This is fine by itself but the dialogue is just… off frequently in ways I find hard to describe without just giving examples
  3. Outro: The Outro really stumbled, hard. Sudden attempts at feeling, unnecessary attempts at screwing over the player, Angar dying in a cutscene for no reason (and never being mentioned again), and the whole thing feeling exceptionally deflating…
  4. Outro: …for two negatives
  5. External Continuity: There’s several examples of it but the game badly retcons several critical plot points from the previous games

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Saves: Good auto and quick saves (multiple slots, frequently done, quick and easy)…
  2. Saves: …for two positives
  3. Pacing: Can keep building, working, etc. while managing the RPG elements (inventory, leveling, dialogue)
  4. Respec: Respec potions which are readily available
  5. Builds: Hero building (3 active skills, 3 items, and related tactical considerations)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Launch: Unacceptably buggy launch…
  2. Launch: …and the game had actual softlocks, in addition to bugs and issues
  3. Visual Distinction: Visibility issues are a near constant problem. It’s hard to explain but I have trouble seeing where the terrain is, which buildings are where, units and their (tiny) health bars, and general UI problems. This is partially fixed by changing the graphics options but only partially…
  4. Visual Distinction: …for two negatives
  5. HUD: Honestly, who designed this HUD? This contributes to the above problem too
  6. Padding: The walk speed isn’t the slowest I’ve seen but it’s pretty slow, and given how much back and forth you tend to do it gets old. It makes sense for the RTS sections (limited response time as a part of tactics) but for the RPG segments it literally means just doing nothing for minutes at a time. I’ve actually spent some of this Run alt-tabbed getting work done while walking from point A to point B…
  7. Padding: …for two negatives
  8. Unit Design: Imbalancing issues (melee focus thanks to damage type and buffs/heals being PBAoE)
  9. Outro: The final mission is honestly pretty bad, especially for a final mission. You’re given forces but not allowed to use them (mini dungeons), there’s padding (you have to walk across long stretches of nothing multiple times because of how the quest scripting is designed), the music is just sort of generically bland…
  10. Outro: …for two negatives
  11. Interface: Font size and scaling issues (text overlapping itself, tiny font, etc.)
  12. Unintentional Skippable: Ease of permanently skipping dialogue accidentally
  13. Music: Inconsistent usage of music combined with audio balancing issues

Halo Combat Evolved

This game definitely shows its age in many ways, something the remaster did not help with. That being said it’s also easy to see why this launched so much interest in the franchise, studio, and the XBox in general. If you haven’t picked this up to play through I’d easily recommend it.
Total Story Score: +8
Total Gameplay Score: +8
Golden Number: 33.89
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 13 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-20-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro: The Intro does a lot to establish and setup the stakes and setting very quickly and efficiently and also gets across several points about Chief and the crew naturally and through gameplay
  2. World Building: There’s a decent amount of world building (again, mostly in gameplay) that helps to give ideas of how the Covenant and UNSC operate, as well as the greater significance of the Halo (Grunts, ship names, etc.)
  3. Banter: Banter between Grunts and Marines is great
  4. MSQ: The build up and reveal of the Flood was some good, enjoyable suspense
  5. Character: Guilty Spark 343 is surprisingly interesting and sympathetic of a character for how much of an antagonist they are
  6. Cutscene: The presentation of the Terminal cutscenes themselves are actually pretty good, despite their issues, and serve as good external continuity
  7. Visual Continuity: Good Visual Continuity
  8. Visual Storytelling: Especially in the approach to the Flood sequence, yeesh
  9. Spritework: Establishing some of the norms the series will use henceforth here

Story Negatives:

  1. Cutscene: The Terminal cutscenes have serious issues. Ignoring the pacing and interruption issues of how they’re jammed awkwardly into the game, there’s also the fact that they torpedo the entire build up and pay off of the Flood

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Viscerality: The sound effects in general are good, but especially on the guns which are so important for an FPS
  2. Difficulty Mutator: The Skulls as toggleable mutators are a great feature
  3. Graphics: Graphics toggle deserves special mention considering you can toggle it on the fly between original and remastered graphics
  4. Kit: Gun design is quite good. While there’s only 8 guns, each one is clearly distinct from each other in what type of gameplay they’re designed for and how they are to be used
  5. Co-Op: Proper Co-op
  6. Co-Op: Proper campaign co-op
  7. Enemy AI: AI design (reactive, changes based on difficulty, clearly well designed)
  8. Enemy Variety: Flood vs. Covenant makes some good variance in combat (further added by the Sentinels later on), and the variety in how they are vulnerable to what and how they attack you helps keep things fresh
  9. Enemy AI: A second positive for usual Halo enemy AI
  10. HUD: Good HUD design
  11. Visual Distinction: Visual Distinction is good as per usual
  12. Mod Tools: Full dev kit available readily and easily…
  13. Mod Tools: …for a full…
  14. Mod Tools: …triple positive
  15. Mod Depth: Map making, gun editing, image changing…
  16. Mod Depth: …pretty solid depth
  17. Mod Accessibility: Workshop support, though a bit of a pain in game to access

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Mid Mission Checkpoints: The checkpoint design is actively bad. Ignoring the infrequency of checkpoints, which is its own problem, there’s also the fact that checkpoints won’t trigger while the player is ‘actively in combat’…
  2. Mid Mission Checkpoints: …for two negatives
  3. Co-Op: Co-op mandatory friendly fire (also in missions, but it impacts co-op more)
  4. Level: The Library. The entire mission feels like it should be an increased tension build up but it isn’t as the entire thing feels irritating more than anything else. The areas are repetitive, it contains no less than 4 hold the line sections, it’s easy to skip dialogue accidentally, the areas drag on for too long, and given the aforementioned checkpoint issue it’s very easy to lose lots of progress if you don’t know how to break the system…
  5. Level: …for two negatives
  6. Backtracking: The excessive backtracking and padding of the Two Betrayals mission was sloggy and actively ruined the otherwise decent pacing of the game
  7. Music: Inconsistent and intermittent usage of music
  8. Optional Mode: Latency issues in co-op (unacceptable in a modern FPS game)
  9. Options: General irritations with options not being available on the fly, combined with lack of saving, meaning restarting entire missions to fiddle with settings

Halo 2

This game is hard to judge alongside the first one because it is both better and worse. Several things have been noticeably touched up, but several others feel more irritating to deal with. The mission design has improved, but there are still frustration points. Enemy design is top notch, AI is still good, guns are still good. The story has improved drastically, actually developing real characters and digging deep into the Covenant. Much recommended for any fans of good sci fi stories or FPS’s in general.
Total Story Score: +27
Total Gameplay Score: +10
Golden Number: 90.49
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 10 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-21-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Intro: Intro trial for the Arbiter and the hooks and insight into setting and the Covenant
  2. Cutscene: The opening cutscene is brilliant. Distinct lighting styles for both the Arbiter and Chief, contrast between the reward the Chief is receiving vs the branding the Arbiter receives, the underlying current that both find the ceremony distasteful and would rather perform their duty, and generally brilliant camera usage and editing…
  3. Cutscene: …easily earning double positives
  4. Plot: Covenant politics are fascinating and engaging the moment they show up
  5. World Building: Prophet culture (inverse naming, fake faces)
  6. Voice Acting: Voice acting is quite good across the board…
  7. Voice Acting: …easily doubling up to two positives
  8. Camera: Camera and lighting cinematography in cutscenes…
  9. Camera: …for another double
  10. Brickwork: Mostly for the Covenant sections, but still qualifies
  11. Spritework: Usual standard of quality for the Halos…
  12. Spritework: …for two positives
  13. Animation: Brilliant motion capture and animation
  14. Cutscene: The cutscene reveal of the Gravemind; Implications (spite and survival are its motive) and the direct contrast of mentalities (Penitent vs. Regret, Chief vs. Arbiter), and the Big G (voice pattern, dialogue presentation). This is arguably the best single cutscene in the entire franchise…
  15. Cutscene: …and it effortlessly…
  16. Cutscene: …earns triple positives
  17. Character: Good supporting cast (Miranda Keyes, Sergeant Johnson, Lord Hood, Tartarus)
  18. Character: Truth, Regret, and Mercy are all absolutely fascinating in how they are totally not their names and how they backbite even each other
  19. Character: The Arbiter is fascinating, R’tas and his journey from rival to ally is great, and though we see little of him the snippet of the Gravemind is properly terrifying
  20. Atmosphere: Ridiculous, silly fun in cutscenes and story beats
  21. Storytelling Mechanic: Terminals serve as some interesting world building and off camera storytelling, even though…
  22. Atmosphere: Some great Tone and Atmosphere
  23. Consequence Storytelling: Surprisingly good Consequence Storytelling
  24. Dialogue: Dialogue is legitimately great… though, if I’m being honest, it’s mostly the Gravemind
  25. External Continuity: Good External Continuity from the other games (arguably one of the only Halos that manages this)
  26. Lighting: Really good usage of Lighting, especially for the Covenant scenes
  27. Story Sequencing: Really tight Story Sequencing
  28. Storyboarding: Great, if sometimes ridiculous, Storyboarding (again, special mention to the Gravemind and the Covenant scenes)
  29. Visual Continuity: Visual Continuity is excellent as is norm for the series

Story Negatives:

  1. Cutscene: Intro Halo 5 teaser movie (mis-placed, and spoilery)
  2. Storytelling Mechanic: …the Terminals are still a bit spoilery, badly written from a dialogue perspective, and cause some other related issues

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Difficulty Mutator: Skulls as mutators are awesome as before
  2. Graphics: Graphics toggle, even while in cutscenes!
  3. Co-Op: Proper Co-op
  4. Co-Op: Proper campaign co-op
  5. Level: Metropolis mission (variety of vehicles, gun options, terrain, AIs as assistants, nice ‘boss fight’ with the mining crawler)
  6. Level: Gravemind mission (great intro, nice design for freeing the marines, the background visuals, the enemies fighting each other, the varied terrain)
  7. Kit: The gun design feels a bit lacking compared to the first game but is still quite good, in both variety, function, and viscerality
  8. Enemy AI: The enemy AI design remains excellent and the hallmark of encounters
  9. Enemy Variety: With one exception (Brutes) the enemy design is nice and varied, with each enemy having their own ups and downs as well as methods built into them to contest them
  10. Level: The Great Journey (good vehicle usage, release prisoners to assist, nice enemy encounter construction, the ‘escort section’ of Backseat Driver)
  11. Music: The music is good and, unlike the first game, is better utilized
  12. Enemy AI: A second positive for usual Halo enemy AI
  13. HUD: Good HUD design
  14. Visual Distinction: Good Visual Distinction
  15. Mod Tools: Full dev kit available readily and easily…
  16. Mod Tools: …for a full…
  17. Mod Tools: …triple positive
  18. Mod Depth: Map making, gun editing, image changing…
  19. Mod Depth: …pretty solid depth
  20. Mod Accessibility: Workshop support, though a bit of a pain in game to access

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Mid Mission Checkpoints: The checkpoint problem remains, as with the first game (weird, often odd, checkpoint placement which mandates being out of combat to ‘trigger’ properly)
  2. Mid Mission Checkpoints: The checkpoint system is so problematic that it actually makes other aspects of the game worse
  3. Co-Op: Mandatory friendly fire in co-op and latency issues
  4. Level: The Gravemind mission (that damned room which just has tons of enemies that can one shot you, no way to progress but to kill, not good enemy drops, and a great music track which also causes issues because you hear the same point over and over again)
  5. Difficulty: The removal of the healthbar plus how slow it is to refill the shield without replacing it with anything (such as killing enemies to refill) sort of hurts the flow, especially given the aforementioned checkpoint problem
  6. Option: General irritation with unavailability to change options without leaving a mission entirely
  7. Level: Sacred Icon mission
  8. Level: Quarantine Zone mission
  9. Unintentional Skipping: Missable dialogue
  10. Crash: Multiple hard crashes (3 throughout)

Halo 3

The gameplay has been polished substantially, resulting in a far more enjoyable experience over 1 or 2. That being said the story takes a noticeable step backwards, which is a bit of a shame. Still very fun to play, especially with a friend (4 player co-op for the win!)
Total Story Score: +9
Total Gameplay Score: +18
Golden Number: 66.69
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-23-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Banter: Banter between units is great
  2. Storytelling Mechanic: Terminals, hooks, and backstory building (Mantle, Gravemind, plan)
  3. Character: While they don’t have a large amount of screen time, R’Tas, Johnson, Cortana, and Chief have good moments which make a decent cast
  4. Music Direction: Cutscene music direction is quite excellent
  5. Moments: The plot has good individual moments that really sell things (the charge on the crater, the arisal of the new halo ring)
  6. Atmosphere: Several missions properly pace themselves in terms of tone and atmosphere
  7. Visual Continuity: Good Visual Continuity
  8. Brickwork: Good general brickwork as per standard for the series
  9. Spritework: Good Halo spritework, also pretty standard…
  10. Spritework: …for two positives

Story Negatives:

  1. MSQ: Several plot points fell apart, to wit: Johnson’s death felt unearned and unsatisfying, Keyes’ death while it served a purpose nonetheless felt improperly presented, the Truth was badly presented (and arguably badly written)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Co-Op: Proper co-op
  2. Co-Op: Proper campaign co-op
  3. Difficulty Mutator: Skulls as mutators
  4. Enemy AI: Enemy AI is, as per usual for the franchise, quite good
  5. Party AI: Ally AI is improved, to the point where they’re worth a damn
  6. Kit: Gun design remains enjoyable
  7. Enemy Variety: Enemy variety is excellent and, honestly, much improved over the previous game
  8. Music: Music is good but…
  9. Music: …for once the music direction is actually quite good and consistent, finally breaking the Half Life problem
  10. Level: The Storm (mission)
  11. Level: The Ark (mission)
  12. Level: Arena design is substantially better than in previous games
  13. Encounter: The Scarab walker fights were quite fun
  14. Pacing: Pacing and variety of missions
  15. Enemy AI: A second positive for usual Halo enemy AI
  16. Encounter: Good, manually designed Encounter design
  17. HUD: Good HUD, as usual
  18. Visual Distinction: Good Visual Distinction, as per usual
  19. Mod Tools: Full dev kit available readily and easily…
  20. Mod Tools: …for a full…
  21. Mod Tools: …triple positive
  22. Mod Depth: Map making, gun editing, image changing…
  23. Mod Depth: …pretty solid depth
  24. Mod Accessibility: Workshop support, though a bit of a pain in game to access

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Co-Op: Mandatory friendly fire in co-op mode
  2. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Checkpoint problems, as per usual for the series
  3. Difficulty: The death issue remains, as per the previous game (it’s entirely too easy to die very quickly, which ignoring the checkpoint issue also makes the overall game have issues since there’s no real mechanics in place to negate it such as dodging, blocking, healing, killing to regen, etc. It’s worth noting that co-op effectively negates this, but obviously this is still an issue in single player)
  4. Interface: General irritation with unavailability to change options without leaving mission entirely
  5. QoL: Forced changing weapons between missions, despite logic or player option
  6. Outro: Buggy last mission

Halo 3 ODST

Since you’d probably get this anyways with the MCC it’s worth a playthrough. There’s some legitimately good ideas here and it’s a good experimental game, though I feel the characters are a bit lacking and the gameplay is a bit dull, but on the plus side it’s the Halo game that irritated me the least to play.
Total Story Score: +7
Total Gameplay Score: +14
Golden Number: 50.34
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-24-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Voice Acting: Voice acting is quite good
  2. Atmosphere: Is something the game oozes throughout, especially the ‘overworld’ sections
  3. Storytelling Mechanics: Audio logs and the story they tell has some issues but is very well presented and does a great job of showcasing individual reactions to the end of the world
  4. Character: Jonas, Mike, Vergil, and Stephen are a great supporting cast. Oh… and Johnson
  5. Character: Sadie’s story has some bumps but she’s a good character and her story is one of the most engaging parts of the plot
  6. Music Direction: Music is used quite well to set the tone
  7. Brickwork: Decent
  8. Spritework: Generally good

Story Negatives:

  1. Tone: There is a difficult to describe disconnect in the narrative. It feels like it should be either more serious, more silly, or both and somewhat fails at specific scenes which just sort of lags it a bit

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Co-Op: Proper co-op
  2. Co-Op: Proper campaign co-op
  3. Difficulty Mutators: Skulls as mutators
  4. Kit: Gun design is still good
  5. Enemy AI: Enemy AI remains quite good
  6. Enemy Variety: Enemy variety remains good
  7. Music: Music is quite good
  8. Level: There were several good and enjoyable missions
  9. Enemy AI: A second positive for usual Halo enemy AI
  10. HUD: Good HUD design
  11. Visual Distinction: Good Visual Distinction
  12. Mod Tools: Full dev kit available readily and easily…
  13. Mod Tools: …for a full…
  14. Mod Tools: …triple positive
  15. Mod Depth: Map making, gun editing, image changing…
  16. Mod Depth: …pretty solid depth
  17. Mod Accessibility: Workshop support, though a bit of a pain in game to access

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Co-Op: Mandatory friendly fire in co-op mode
  2. Overworld: There’s a bit of a padding issue in the pacing with regards to the ‘overworld’
  3. Raspberry Jam: The raspberry jam isn’t the worst I’ve seen but it’s not good, especially when combined with… // …the low health beeping, which again isn’t terrible but is still bad

Halo Reach

This is easily my favorite game in the series so far. The gameplay is polished to a beautiful shine, with great level design, enemies, encounters, AI, guns, mission variety, and the wonderful melancholy Bungie is so good at. Hugely recommended.
Total Story Score: +25
Total Gameplay Score: +32
Golden Number: 188.25
*Sushi Game*
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-25-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Animation: Motion capture and animation are top notch
  2. Music Direction: Music direction is excellent and greatly enhances the tone and scenes
  3. Atmosphere: The general feel and vibe of the entire campaign of being on the back foot and never really recovering
  4. Doodads: Doodad placement is the best in the series to date
  5. Lighting: Lighting is surprisingly good and well presented
  6. Camera: Camera work is similarly excellent and really helps accent the cutscenes
  7. Sound: Sound design is surprisingly good, not just in general but for special sequences such as when there’s no atmosphere
  8. Brickwork: Cityscape
  9. Brickwork: Drylands
  10. Brickwork: Burning ruins
  11. Moment: The reveal of the super carrier
  12. Moment: The fall from orbit, destruction of the super carrier, and the fleet coming in
  13. MSQ: The failed evacuation efforts for the city
  14. Tone: Overall tone and mood of the game is beautifully melancholy
  15. Outro: The ending. Hail the victorious dead…
  16. Outro: …for two positives
  17. Background Lore: One of the better examples of Background Lore in the franchise
  18. Consequence Storytelling: And some good Consequence Storytelling, probably as a, uh, consequence of the nature of the plot (the fall of Reach)
  19. External Continuity: And one of the only Halos (along with 2) that has good External Continuity with the rest of the series (most notably 1)
  20. Story Sequencing: Great Story Sequencing as events logically follow the fall
  21. Storyboarding: Great for cutscenes
  22. Visual Continuity: Great Visual Continuity
  23. World Building: One of the few Halo games with good World Building
  24. Spritework: Usual standard of quality for the Halo games…
  25. Spritework: …for two positives

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Co-Op: Proper co-op
  2. Co-Op: Proper campaign co-op
  3. Intro: Winter Contingency does a great job of setting the tone and pacing
  4. Level: ONI Sword Base was well laid out with good vehicle sections
  5. Level: On The Tip Of The Spear was just fun, with lots of great unit variety and drop design complimenting encounter design
  6. Level: Long Night of Solace had some awesome vehicle sections, great setpiece design inside the Covenant ship, and great sound design
  7. Level: Exodus was brutal and beautifully constructed. You start off damaged and with nothing, work your way up to Brutes, and end up fighting to save civilians… and mostly failing
  8. Level: New Alexandria and running around to do the semi randomly generated missions, which succeeds not only at varied gameplay but manages the ODST ‘overworld’ section but better
  9. Level: The Package had a really well designed arena, with regular waves of enemies that could be dealt with a number of waves, actual checkpoints and pause points, the ability to take enemy vehicles, and of course the turrets which you can ‘restore’ and are properly HUD labelled
  10. Encounter: The space saber section
  11. Music: The music is arguably the best it’s been in the series so far and…
  12. Music: …is actually properly utilized to emphasize scene and enjoyment
  13. Encounter: Encounter design is some of the best the series has had, with obvious thought and design put into each area
  14. Enemy Design: Enemy design remains excellent and…
  15. Enemy Variety: …the enemy designs and variety are some of the best things we’ve seen
  16. Kit: Gun design and…
  17. Kit: …gun variety are the best in the series so far
  18. Terrain: Terrain design actually serves function to work for mission design
  19. Kit: Equipment is nice and fun, well labelled, and adds good kit
  20. Outro: The final Lone Wolf sequence is nicely brilliant and fully optional
  21. Pacing: Mission pacing is as good as it was in Halo 3
  22. Enemy AI: Excellent Enemy AI, as per usual for the series
  23. Enemy AI: A second positive for usual Halo enemy AI
  24. HUD: Good HUD design
  25. Itemization: One of the only Halos where item distribution is well done and thought out
  26. Pacing: Truly excellent Pacing deserves a second positive
  27. Visual Distinction: As usual… good Visual Distinction
  28. Mod Tools: Full dev kit available readily and easily…
  29. Mod Tools: …for a full…
  30. Mod Tools: …triple positive
  31. Mod Depth: Map making, gun editing, image changing…
  32. Mod Depth: …pretty solid depth
  33. Mod Accessibility: Workshop support, though a bit of a pain in game to access
  34. Viscerality: Generally good gun and vehicle viscerality

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Co-Op: Mandatory friendly fire in co-op
  2. Outro: The final mission is simply too long and, as a consequence, it loses the impact and enjoyment of the mission

Halo Wars

A… very strange RTS which very much feels simplified in order to fit the context it was demanded (aka a console RTS) but it manages despite itself with some legitimately good mission design and, of course, campaign co-op.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: 0
Golden Number: 3.67
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 8 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-26-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Cutscenes: Cutscene direction and presentation are quite good
  2. Character: Serina is delightful the entire run
  3. Moment: The Spartans being total badasses (and the good choreography therewith) is good stuff
  4. Spritework: Not super great, but still fun

Story Negatives:

  1. Cutscenes: There’s some weird Hollywoodness in the cutscenes (weird one liners, odd and forced character interactions, and even the typical ‘hostage situation’ problem Hollywood has an issue with)
  2. Dialogue: Dialogue is just… actively bad in almost every cutscenes

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization: Good in-campaign tutorialization (ironically) in the first three missions
  2. Level: The Scarab mission was reasonably well done with a cool gimmick of the emplacement Scarab, and the option to weaken the scarab
  3. Music: Music is weirdly enjoyable despite being mostly chill atmospheric music
  4. Level: Surprisingly good mission variety
  5. Level: Mission 11 (Cleansing) was actually really cool. Having to defeat (but not kill) Flood so that, on a timer, the cleansing beam can purge them off the hull, while getting a slow trickle of resources and reinforcements, while dealing with the drone attacks… good stuff
  6. Unit Design: Decent, and more to the point there’s a reasonable amount of possible unit combos that work
  7. Co-Op: The co-op campaign mode is pretty cool, if a bit limited (effectively one side controlled by two people)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Tutorialization: The actual tutorial is… pretty awful. It’s ‘force you to do nothing but the task’ and doesn’t really explain much other than the basics of controls, further hampered by the fact that the very first actual mission does a much better job of tutorializing
  2. Audio Spam: Troop combat spam. On my way! I should mention this is, unironically, the worst audio spam I’ve heard in an RTS…
  3. Audio Spam: …so it gets…
  4. Audio Spam: …a full three negatives
  5. Level: Arcadia City can go to hell. It’s a huge difficulty spike very early into the campaign and emphasises mobile forces to defend against enemy troops that can spawn more or less wherever attacking defenseless civilians who can’t fight back while defending your base oh and also the heavy turret when it comes up will absolutely destroy the cargo ships in literally seconds
  6. Pathfinding: Body blocking and pathfinding
  7. Mid Mission Checkpoints: Actively bad Mid-Mission Checkpointing

Halo 4

While the first half of the game kind of sucks (in gameplay and story) they really nail the character beats in the second half, and the mission design and gameplay get a lot better there too. Easily recommended for any fans of the franchise or FPSs in general.
Total Story Score: +8
Total Gameplay Score: +16
Golden Number: 57.3
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 8 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-27-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Camera: Cutscene camerawork is excellent
  2. Animation: Animation and motion capture really add to many scenes
  3. Cutscene: The reveal of the Didact was reasonably well done, especially given the terminals prior to it
  4. Voice Acting: Voice acting is quite good, absolutely nailing the character beats
  5. Cutscene: The scene with Tillton and the lead up to it with Cortana’s rampancy going out of control
  6. Character: Master Chief is very well characterized in this one…
  7. Character: …along with the only person he’s ever connected with, Cortana. Two lost souls
  8. MSQ: The use of the Composer on the station, and the wake of it when Cortana is completely losing it… and of course right before it Chief calmly talks her through focusing
  9. Moment: “Welcome home, John”
  10. Character: Supporting cast. Didact was a surprisingly interesting villain, Lasky was a surprisingly cool dude, even Captain Jackass was reasonably well written… if hitting a bit too close to home
  11. Storyboarding: Credit to the Storyboarding, which is reasonably well designed in several scenes
  12. Brickwork: General, but good

Story Negatives:

  1. Writing: Bit of a ‘tell don’t show’ dialogue problem throughout the early part (these guys are more fanatical!)
  2. Character: Captain idiot is legitimately upsetting whenever on camera
  3. MSQ: It was all planned millennia in advanced and not properly presented millennia in advance!
  4. Character: The usage of Cortana in the early part of the game is generally not good. She is consistently acting like it’s the end of the world to artificially ramp up the tension and tone of scenes and it has the exact opposite effect

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Co-Op: Co-op
  2. Co-Op: Proper campaign co-op
  3. Enemy AI: Usual quality
  4. Kit: Gun design
  5. Viscerality: Absolutely love the gun sound and look in this one
  6. Viscerality: Second positive for gun viscerality
  7. Sound Design: Oh yeah
  8. Hyperbeam Moment: The mech segment was awesome, but more importantly it did what it should do; gave you a taste of how awesome it could be, and then gave you a properly challenging section to show off what you’ve learned
  9. Level: Reclaimer mission (mammoth, turrets, recovery options)
  10. Level: Composer mission (good intensity, stakes well felt, another Mantis segment, and of course we lose)
  11. Music: Music has some issues but still has some legitimately good tracks, particularly in the later missions
  12. Enemy AI: A second positive for usual Halo enemy AI
  13. Enemy Variety: Good Enemy Variety across the campaign
  14. HUD: Good HUD design
  15. Visual Distinction: Good Visual Distinction and color usage
  16. Mod Tools: Full dev kit available readily and easily…
  17. Mod Tools: …for a full…
  18. Mod Tools: …triple positive
  19. Mod Depth: Map making, gun editing, image changing…
  20. Mod Depth: …pretty solid depth
  21. Mod Accessibility: Workshop support, though a bit of a pain in game to access

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Co-Op: Forced friendly fire in co-op
  2. Difficulty: Ease of death problem is pretty bad, arguably the worst it’s been in the series so far…
  3. Difficulty: …for two negatives
  4. Level: Early mission design. The arenas are relatively bland and entirely too large, the run away section was entirely too long with no variation
  5. Graphics: The glare as well as the fake HDR is so bad it actually gets in the way of the gameplay

Cyberpunk 2077

Reviewed shortly after release and… it needed more time. But the core gameplay is acceptable and the core story is fantastic. Will probably be game of the year… next year.
Total Story Score: +53
Total Gameplay Score: -1
Golden Number: 50.91
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 10 Days // 82 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-29-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Opening cinematic immediately gets across everything you need to know about the setting very quickly and efficiently. The dead lottery count, the quick and dirty for zones and cultures, etc.
  2. V. V is absolutely fantastically written and performed…
  3. …especially since you can change the flavor and style of their tone throughout…
  4. …earning the coveted three positives for a single character
  5. The Corpo Intro does a lot to quickly establish tone and setting and has a great emotional scene with Jackie
  6. Street Intro is good
  7. Nomad Intro is excellent
  8. Visual design in general
  9. The ads! The friggin’ ads!
  10. Jackie…
  11. …and Jackie’s death….
  12. …and Jackie’s funeral…
  13. Music direction and usage is absolutely fantastic
  14. Second music direction positive
  15. Usage of camera in framed shots
  16. City design. It is literally what I picture when I picture ‘cyberpunk’, and it’s beautifully crafted
  17. Doodad utilization as per usual for a game of this calibre
  18. Shards and their addition to storytelling
  19. The incredibly well directed, tense scene where Saburo walks in on us stealing the Relic is brilliant
  20. V’s voice acting just absolutely nails the nuances and subtleties of her scenes
  21. Sound design is legitimately excellent. Crackling of leather, ADR, all kinds of great stuff
  22. Background world building is present constantly in every crack of the world
  23. Final positive for nailing the aesthetic and visual/audio presentation of Cyberpunk. When I picture Cyberpunk this is what I see
  24. Quests: Jesse Cox mission / Freedom of the Press mission / Delamain quest chain / Roller Coaster
  25. Quests: Barry and the tortoise / Pepe’s plastic surgery wife
  26. Judy’s quests and Evelyn’s suicide
  27. BD as a storytelling tool
  28. Occasional brilliant animation (nodding during conversations, Jackie bouncing his leg in nervousness, catching the digital flower petal and cringing when it’s not real)
  29. The parade mission and escalation of Hanako and Takemura and things getting substantially ‘worse’ (also serves as a nice end of the bell curve from the end of Act 1)
  30. Voice acting is generally great
  31. The Peralez arc, good lord that’s terrifying
  32. Quest dialogue by Johnny
  33. Samurai’s one last gig arc
  34. Johnny is a surprisingly engaging character, with an interesting arc throughout the game
  35. Presentation of Johnny. The voice modulation, the arm, the appearing while not being there, the internal dialogue
  36. Though unpleasant and horrible to go through, the conclusion to River’s quest arc really was wonderfully wholesome and brilliantly done
  37. Great supporting cast. Viktor, Delamain, Skippy, Padre, Wakako
  38. Kerry is surprisingly well fleshed out and interesting
  39. Judy is just adorable, and deserves so much better
  40. River only has a relatively short period of screen time but he’s awesome while he’s there
  41. Takemura! He is such an engaging and interesting character and he’s a total bro
  42. The suicide ending was surprisingly powerful and brilliantly presented
  43. The Corpo ending. Pretty horrific, nicely constructed, good follow through for Yorinobu
  44. The Street ending. Giving Johnny his second chance, Johnny’s completed arc, the mentor and the old man saying goodbye
  45. The Nomad ending. The family, the politics, the charge
  46. A bonus positive for the sheer quality and variety of the endings
  47. Aggregate: Brendan is kind of awesome // Fortune teller quest was legitimately hilarious // Swimming diving quest was really sweet
  48. Lots of good Background Lore
  49. Dialogue is well written throughout… for the most part
  50. Special bonus points for Doodad placement throughout the city and desert… especially that trash pile, yikes
  51. Good usage of Lighting to accentuate the tone of the game
  52. Lots of good NPC Set Dressing, making the city feel more alive (so to speak)
  53. Really, some absolutely great Voice Acting
  54. And some great Voice Direction, especially on V themselves
  55. Writing: Judy’s romance is actually really well done top to bottom, sweet and good character moments and overall wholesome…
  56. Writing: …for two positives
  57. Writing: A general romance positive for everyone else (mostly Panam)

Story Negatives:

  1. Non custom animations (mostly outside of cutscenes) are actively bad, PS2 style stuff
  2. Bugs ruining experience and immersion
  3. The quest structure, while very fluid and smooth for playing, lends itself towards inconsistent characterization and some problems in arcs as you effectively bounce around timeline wise
  4. Truth be told, the overall Theme is not very well presented or discussed, generally shoved in at the end and barely dealt with before rushing towards the ending

Gameplay Positives:

  1. There is a decent amount of kit and UI design around stealthing…
  2. Weapon variety and sound design
  3. Side Quests and Tasks are surprisingly fun to chillrun
  4. Hacking is surprisingly fun
  5. Multiple autosaves and quicksaves
  6. There is generally good locale design to encounters; multiple routes built in (stuff you can hack, stealth, take cover, or just fight through)
  7. BD as a neat, natural development of ‘detective’ gameplay
  8. The parade mission and boss fight was excellent
  9. The quest structure is interesting and very fluid, never really running out of things to do and naturally flowing from one quest to the next
  10. The Outro is actually quite good, probably some of the best designed missions in the game
  11. Aggregate: Non lethal options // Climbing is based on physics rather than set terrain // Shared car stash // Proper warning of point of no return
  12. Aggregate: Jackie’s funeral / The Animal mall infiltration / Johnny missions and ‘taste of power’
  13. Decent, if not the best, Choices throughout the main quests
  14. Good Character Creation options
  15. Good Fast Travel (find, warp, etc.)
  16. Good thought put into the layout and design of the Overworld, especially the central city
  17. Choices: Generally good romance choice gameplay (clearly indicated, as well)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Font and setting issues
  2. Incapable of saving at certain times (especially while stuck in combat) which can lead to a pretty bad ‘no checkpoint’ issue in extended encounters, and of course no quickload (and atrociously slow load times)
  3. Unbindable keybindings
  4. Improper resolution support
  5. Unacceptable status of launch
  6. Filter over scan mode and related visibility issues
  7. …but stealthing is weird and janky and the controls make it a hassle to do
  8. Lazy difficulty (just health and damage)
  9. The interface is just weird and awkward more or less constantly. Having to reload anytime you change inventory, slow dumping or selling, etc.
  10. AI design is somewhat lackluster. They don’t really coordinate or do anything interesting, they have absolutely no idea how to path properly, and enemies in combat will sit and wait basically infinitely for you
  11. A near total cavalcade of bugs
  12. The “physics” and the damage you take centered around it and the aggravations of randomly dying from falling off a rock or sliding down some trash are just silly (also sometimes people will die due to ‘physics’ when lying down, or cars go flying, or all other kinds of things)
  13. Bugs. Just… so, so many bugs, many of which actually get in the way of enjoying the game
  14. Explosions doing ridiculous, instantly-kill-you damage (despite having significance mods and setup to reduce explosion damage) is stupid
  15. Stealth has some issues. The ‘fogginess’ to indicate you’re in stealth is a terrible decision which literally makes it harder to tell what you’re doing, the barely-visible stealth indicator in the corner isn’t particularly visible, and both lead to issues near constantly
  16. TOR Syndrome (the issue wherein a dialogue option does not clearly indicate what it is)
  17. Aggregate: Melee feels awkward and unpleasant to do, especially in first person // The cursor isn’t the worst ever, but it’s actively bad // The GPS occasionally just has no idea what to do and in some cases actively sends you the wrong way
  18. The Power Progression Curve is just… weird. You start off okay, then get weak, then either stay weak or become stupidly overpowered, and several other lurches as you go

Heroes of Might and Magic 5

Yet another in the ‘flawed masterpiece’ category. There’s some real good here, but it’s buried in a lot of irritation and jank. Absolutely recommend trying it if you’re interested in tactical turn based RPGs, but I should probably mention it’s worth trying it more if you get the 5.5 fan patch.
Total Story Score: +8
Total Gameplay Score: +11
Golden Number: 36.41
Cheats: Yes (bugs, bad quest design, and time)
Total Play Time: 10 Days // 83 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-16-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Background Lore: Flavor lore of unit descriptions, cities, and heroes
  2. Brickwork: City designs are varied, cool, and fun to just look at
  3. Humor: Humor! To my surprise the game made me laugh more than once.
  4. Cutscenes: Hammer: Cutscene design and direction
  5. Character: Hammer: Generally interesting characters, either comically or ridiculously, but still
  6. Cutscenes: Tribes: Again, good cutscene design and direction
  7. World Building: Good World Building, mostly in the background, but it’s good stuff
  8. Brickwork: Graphics design (surprisingly good looking given the era, nice visuals)
  9. Spritework: Surprisingly good spritework too

Story Negatives:

  1. MSQ: Tribes: Tribes lost the campy appeal of the former two campaigns, which unfortunately means it lost its only defense against its storytelling and style. The main plot was not engaging and neither were the characters, and the silly appeal was just gone

Gameplay Positives:

  1. HUD: In combat HUD design (turn order, mouse-over information, etc.) is pretty decent
  2. Strategic Layer: Good strategic layer (obtaining resources, buffs, items, nodes) which compliments…
  3. Strategic Layer: …the city building is surprisingly interesting and enjoyable, to both build and to upgrade
  4. Visual Distinction: Graphics design and distinction (easy to distinguish what you’re looking at on all maps and levels)
  5. Core Mechanic: Core concept of army-as-party and benefit from numbers, upgrades, gear, or all of the above
  6. Core Combat: Reasonable depth to the tactical layer
  7. Level: Generally good map design (good layout of consumables, neutrals, resource nodes, paths, etc.)
  8. Difficulty: Difficulty design is actually quite good, determining target order, movement priority, build priority, and a few other cool features
  9. Music: The music is reasonably good…
  10. Party AI: The auto resolve is surprisingly well designed, despite its limitations
  11. Mod Tool: A good map editor is, as always, a good thing for strategy games
  12. Unit Design: Faction variety
  13. Optional Mode: The skirmish mode is fun, the sandboxy nature of it suits the tactical and strategic layers both geling nicely with just doing whatever
  14. Info In Game: Built in fan wiki in the form of the readily accessible Fan Manual
  15. Level: Hammer: Substantially improved mission design across the campaign
  16. Level: Hammer: Two positives for increased general quality…
  17. Level: Hammer: …of map design to Hammer missions
  18. Kit: Tribes: The additional options and kit of the second upgrade unit selection isn’t super great but it is good additional choice and does allow for altered strategies
  19. Level: Tribes: Mission design is generally superior to the previous games…
  20. Level: Tribes: The sack and pillage mission for orcs (Father Sky) was actually quite fun and well designed; You’re limited with just one city, but gather resources at an accelerated rate as you go and pillage, which then gets you what you need to build more forces and then go pillage more. It generates a nice loop flow to gameplay rather than most missions which want you to just sit there and do nothing
  21. Level: Tribes: Tearing The Veil and Summoning the Dragon are both legitimately interesting and fun missions
  22. Log: Quest / dialogue log
  23. Level: The demon ‘fog’ mission (mission 5)
  24. Level: Necro mission 1 was quite amusing
  25. QoL: Options for speeding up combat and avoiding animations
  26. Save: Quicksave and quickload as well as 3 autosaves…
  27. Save: …for two positives
  28. Minimap: Reasonably well designed minimap which clearly indicates what you have and haven’t done this week
  29. Respec: Later maps in Tribes have the Memory Mentor for respeccing
  30. Unit Design: Good Variety of units, mk. 2

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls: Several small but constant irritations. Map movement is awkward in general, the camera controls are wrong and unfixable, right clicking in combat to see things messes with said camera, can’t click interactables through terrain (so more camera shenanigans), double clicking issues, issues with attacking from the wrong angle, etc.
  2. Padding: The gameplay in general is… fraught with irritations. Bad luck on the Invasion map, or a map where you’ve ‘won’ but you can’t hit the victory trigger so it drags on for 20 more minutes of whack a mole, or other frustrations actively make me want to put the game down
  3. Music: The usage of the music is actively irritating, to the point where it’s better to just play the soundtrack separately rather than having it pause and unpause and restart constantly
  4. Music: The music direction remains awful throughout all three ‘games’ (vanilla plus two expansions)
  5. Difficulty Curve: Difficulty cliff and troughs are a bit ridiculous and a bit all over the place
  6. Crash: Regular and repeated game crashes
  7. Bug: Consistent and regular crashes and bugs throughout the game
  8. Power Progression Curve: Snowballing is basically built into the game the longer the individual match goes on, especially in the campaign mode
  9. Optional Mode: The fact that the game is incapable of multiplayer outside of a third party program is sort of ridiculous, especially since it’s essentially Ubisoft’s fault for not properly supporting a modern re release
  10. Bug: Hammer: Could not get Hammers of Fate working, at all, under any circumstances. Had to download a mod to get the campaign working in Tribes of Fate
  11. Sound: Hammer: Audio balancing is actively bad, making it really hard to hear dialogue under the sound effects
  12. Level: Hammer: “The Meeting”, mission 3 of the Ylaya’s Quest, is actively stupid. It wants you to keep your dragon alive, but if the dragon leaves your main army for any reason (even just parking it someplace safe) it counts as death and failure
  13. Level: Tribes: The final undead mission’s unnecessary extra padding was just a bit eye rolling
  14. Bug: Sanctuary soft/hardlock bug
  15. Interface: The font choice is actively awful
  16. Info In Game: Inconsistent information on objectives in final elven campaign mission (spectral dragons)
  17. Padding: The issue with AI turns taking forever, especially the larger their forces
  18. Controls: Selecting where you want to move while attacking is an irritant and a chore and half the time they simply select the wrong square but it’s fixed because the option is exceptionally unclearly labeled
  19. Crash: A second negative for serious Crashing issues

Pathologic 2

An extremely niche survival game about futility and failure that excels at its core premise. If you’re into it, you’ll be way into it, and if you’re not, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Total Story Score: +7
Total Gameplay Score: 0
Golden Number: 6.59
Coffee Game
Cheats: Yes (tripped at the finish line)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 33 Hours
Time Reviewed: 01-25-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Atmosphere: Atmosphere (fog, rain, broken down chunks of city, soldiers, mold, etc.)
  2. Brickwork: Brickwork is actually quite good given the limitations of time and money
  3. Storytelling Mechanic: Usage of combat, robbery, and survival mechanics as a narrative tool
  4. Writing: Excellent exposition, some of the best exposition style I’ve seen in gaming recently
  5. Dialogue: The Dream dialogue, the Plague dialogue and the Theatre dialogue is some fun narrative stuff which (usually) is tied directly in to the overall plot and setting
  6. Internal Continuity: The story acknowledges what you encounter, when, and how quite well to the point where there’s a surprising variety in how you can move through events
  7. Branching Narrative: Exceptionally Branching Narrative
  8. Doodads: Doodad utilization is good throughout the city

Story Negatives:

  1. Dialogue: Periodically there is dialogue which is, effectively, white noise. I’m told by multiple people that it’s not a translation or localization issue, it’s deliberately nonsense, which just honestly detracts from my overall enjoyment of the story and de-invests me in that character or what they’re saying. Do note this is periodic, not constant, which is even weirder

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Difficulty Options: Difficulty options are quite good, with decent variety and options
  2. Inventory: Inventory tetris is, as usual, an interesting gameplay mechanic that encourages the player to think about what they keep and why, an aspect of trading value for space
  3. Crafting: Crafting isn’t crafting in the traditional sense, but there’s still a clear structure to what can be turned into what (often-times requiring around 6 separate items to serve for a single one) which of course ties in nicely with…
  4. Itemization: …the barter economy, which is surprisingly well thought out and internally consistent as you barter and buy your way into what you need across town with a huge variety of stock and standard NPCs
  5. Core Mechanic: The triage of events, deciding what to do and when, is arguably the most engaging part of the gameplay. Almost every decision is tactical and a gamble
  6. Guidance and Flow: Guided flow of what to do where and how
  7. Visual Continuity: Despite some issues with invisible walls, the Visual Continuity is actually quite good

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Crash: Unacceptable levels of bugginess in the form of the hardlocking computer on exit
  2. Crash: An additional negative for the specific type and form of hardlocking
  3. Guidance and Flow: Invisible walls in town design. The idea of needing to navigate the town is fine and the town layout is… okay but the invisible walls preventing obvious routes are just irritating in a game where just moving around is A: Already irritating and B: A major gameplay feature
  4. Unskippable Cutscenes: Theatre cutscenes (they literally lock you in until it’s done playing)
  5. Penalty For Failure: Death looping and essentially ‘building’ yourself into a corner
  6. Controls: No autorun button (the ‘hold w’ problem)
  7. Inventory: Inability to interact with items outside of inventory

Assassin's Creed Unity

This… might be the second worst AC game I’ve ever played. While the city is beautiful and wonderful to just roam and enjoy, I can’t really recommend this game on either a story or gameplay axis.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: -9
Golden Number: -8.97
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 29 Hours
Time Reviewed: 02-02-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. NPC Set Dressing: NPC Set Dressing is probably the best the AC series had until this point in time
  2. Animation: Motion capture and animation are quite good
  3. Brickwork: Architecture! My goodness the gorgeous architecture
  4. Brickwork: Cityscape is exceptional as per the AC standard
  5. Brickwork: And a third Brickwork for the friggin’ city, good lord
  6. NPC Set Dressing: Set dressing is some of the most gorgeous stuff I’ve ever seen
  7. NPC Set Dressing: One final positive for this
  8. Doodads: Doodad usage is, as per usual, excellent…
  9. Doodads: …for a full…
  10. Doodads: …triple positives
  11. Cutscene: Arnor’s acid trip induction into the Brotherhood was actually pretty well visualized and represented…
  12. Voice Acting: Voice acting is good, if a bit british, as per usual
  13. Character: Elise is honestly one of the most interesting characters in the game, with actual charisma, motives, and presence
  14. Secondary: Investigation missions have some cool side plots

Story Negatives:

  1. MSQ: …but Arnor’s acid trip induction into the Brotherhood is terribly timed and, honestly, comes off as unintentionally comical
  2. MSQ: The big Bellec confrontation is completely unearned. You can see what it’s going for but it falls flat, hard
  3. Cutscene: The big ‘Arno is kicked out, then gets drunk’ scene just… falls flat in every way. You can see what they were going for but it feels unearned and is poorly presented in addition to just being an aspect of the overall problem…
  4. Plot: …that the entire plot is kind of… bad. There’s no real investment and the events follow no substantial beat or thread…
  5. Plot: …for a full three negatives
  6. Character: …Arno, who is easily the worst AC protagonist I’ve seen so far
  7. Character: …for a full…
  8. Character: …triple negatives
  9. Outro: The Outro is honestly just really weird and misplaced and features cutscene incompetence and the attempt at a sudden climax fell completely flat
  10. MSQ: DLC: The entire arc wasn’t interesting (with the exception of Leon and Arno’s interactions) and meandered so hard I actually forgot our goal several times, and then ended rather suddenly and abruptly with an Apple and a weird ending narration

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Difficulty Mutators: Optional Sync Challenges
  2. Core Combat: Parry-based combat is actually pretty enjoyable overall
  3. Optional Mode: Hitman Assassinations sections are a nice new segment and, while not as awesome as an actual Hitman mission, still fun
  4. Kit: The different weapon types actually handle and feel differently, and they bother to animate based on style or type (a spear and a staff, for example)
  5. Co-Op: Co-op missions, which have actual meat and fun to them
  6. Fast Travel: Decent fast travel system (find, buy, warp from wherever)…
  7. Fast Travel: …for two positives
  8. Secondary: Investigation missions, which are interesting despite having a low penalty for failure
  9. Animations: Animations are helpful to combat, as always
  10. HUD: Good HUD and at-a-glance
  11. Visual Distinction: Good visual distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls: Usual janky AC controls
  2. Controls: Worst AC controls I’ve ever seen in an AC game
  3. Controls: A third negative for the controls. They’re not only bad, but they’re inconsistently bad, meaning there’s no way to accommodate or adapt to them
  4. Map: The map is honestly the worst Ubisoft map I’ve personally seen on almost every level…
  5. Map: …for a full…
  6. Map: …three negatives
  7. Camera: Camera issues periodically
  8. Seconds In Minutes: Delay on looting corpses (waste of time)
  9. Grind: Stats. AC in general should probably not have stats (or lite stats) but the stats in this game just enforce grind to afford the equipment to not be three-shottable by everything
  10. Bug: Several things in this game are inconsistent. Sometimes enemies aggro out of no where, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you can assassinate from yellow, sometimes not. Entering windows, killing while detected, climbing up or down, auto-saves upon mission progress… the inconsistency of it all is just aggravating…
  11. Bug: …for a full…
  12. Bug: …three negatives
  13. Outro: The Outro is quite weak. Another by the numbers infiltration followed by a boss fight with a neat idea (Mr. Freeze from Arkham City) without the skill or design necessary to make that work
  14. Camera: The camera has no idea what to do with walls or collision and as such gets wildly jerky and wigs out while in tight quarters. This is doubly concerning in a game where you need to be able to see enemies and their attacks to parry and react properly
  15. Launch: An inconsistently buggy and awful launch
  16. Secondary: The side content is honestly so boring and disinteresting that I stopped doing it
  17. Bug: Graphical bugs and weird audio design when not in 16:9
  18. Crash: Crash issues
  19. Interface: Interface overlap issues
  20. Interface: The interface just has issues in general, probably due to being one of the buggier AC games

Assassin's Creed Syndicate

A bit long, and a bit bloated, but with several strong elements (including the grapple, combat, and general fun factor). Recommend skipping the India DLC, but pick up the Jack the Ripper one if you get into it.
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: +10
Golden Number: 42.42
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 41 Hours
Time Reviewed: 02-07-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Animation: Animation / Motion Capture
  2. Brickwork: City design is pretty darned good as per the AC standard…
  3. Brickwork: …for a full…
  4. Brickwork: …three positives
  5. Doodads: Doodads design is, as per usual, quite good…
  6. Doodads: …for a full…
  7. Doodads: …three positives
  8. Character: The brother / sister dynamic between Evie and Jacob is easily one of the best character points in the game’s favor
  9. Visual Storytelling: The WWI stuff had some decent presentation, posters, redesign of the bridge, Juno bits, Aita bits, etc.
  10. Character: Supporting cast is awesome when it’s awesome, such as with Starrick, Henry, Roth, and Mary Ann Disraeli
  11. Voice Acting: Actually pretty good
  12. Intro: DLC: Jack the Ripper intro
  13. Atmosphere: DLC: Jack the Ripper atmosphere and tone
  14. World Building: DLC: Jack the Ripper is an interesting insight into the flaws of Brotherhood recruitment policies, and is beautifully presented
  15. Intro: Great opening cinematic
  16. NPC Set Dressing: The NPC Set Dressing of the city of London really adds to it…
  17. NPC Set Dressing: …for a full…
  18. NPC Set Dressing: …three positives
  19. Storyboarding: Several cutscenes have surprisingly good storyboarding
  20. Spritework: The outfits, enemy designs, and NPCs aren’t great but they’re better than the Unity drabness

Story Negatives:

  1. Character: Supporting cast is actively bleh when it’s not great
  2. MSQ: The Dickens arc more or less in its entirety. The hypnotist, the cheating with Spring Heel Jack, the total lack of follow through…
  3. MSQ: …for two negatives
  4. Cutscene Incompetence: Evie and Villainess’s encounter at the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral
  5. Cutscenes: Cutscene tempo is weirdly too fast, making each scene feel like it’s racing
  6. Outro: The cutscenes surrounding the final mission of the game are just… unearned and bleh
  7. MSQ: The India DLC is aggravating on almost every level, not the least of which the way it mis-frames itself…
  8. MSQ: …for two negatives

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro: The Intro is actually quite good at introducing the twins, their styles, and keeping the fluidity and levity of things going
  2. Traversal: Smoothness of parkour
  3. Kit: Smoothness and design of eagle vision
  4. QoL: Convenience and quality of life features (such as being shot, marked entry points, interactables, intuitive marking through eagle vision, auto loot, increased snap range on kills and interactions, etc.)
  5. Difficulty Mutators: Optional sync challenges
  6. Fast Travel: Fast travel is the usual decent style
  7. Traversal: Grapple hook! Lovely thing, which really smooths out traversal
  8. Save: Autosave is quite good, and consistently good
  9. Core Combat: The combat is frenetic but also fun, with lots of possibility of chaining without it becoming a straight up slog (and abilities and upgrades that let you start killing enemies much faster)
  10. Optional Mode: Hitman assassination missions
  11. Outro: Final mission is actually pretty well constructed, and uses both twins to proper effect (for the first and final time)
  12. Secondary: DLC: Investigation missions (HUD, if nothing else, and it’s a nice break)
  13. Secondary: DLC: Final investigation mission is actually quite unique and fun, and a nice cap to things
  14. Encounter: DLC: Fear mechanics and Jack the Ripper sequences
  15. Map: The map navigation is at least reasonably well done
  16. Level: Navigating the River is surprisingly well designed, with regular moving ships and zones of danger as well as debris that pops up in the absence of ships
  17. Core Mechanic: Carriage driving is surprisingly fun for how arcadey it is
  18. Kit: Kit is okay
  19. Party AI: Ally AI and general usefulness is similarly okay
  20. Level: Missions in general are okay
  21. Animation: Animations always inform and help with combat
  22. HUD: As per usual, the HUD is good
  23. Visual Distinction: Easy to tell what you’re looking at at a glance, good visual distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls: Usual AC jank
  2. MTX: Microtransaction buttons in the menu at almost every menu where it’s applicable ‘for ease of access’
  3. Grind: Stat problem (again), which just should not be in an AC game (as per mentioned in Unity, Odyssey, etc.)
  4. Grind: While it’s not as bad as some games, the grind is noticeable. Even when doing optional stuff and upgrading I feel behind the curve constantly
  5. Level: Mission issues (tailing missions, excessive scripting, etc.)
  6. Bug: Scripting issues that resulted in softlocking unless locking the game down to a single core
  7. Crash: Crashing issues (9 times)
  8. Unintentional Skipping: Unintentionally, permanently skippable dialogue with no method to re-read or catch what you miss
  9. MSQ: DLC: The India DLC
  10. Audio Spam: Chat spam
  11. Raspberry Jam: Yep
  12. Music: Inconsistent music usage
  13. MTX: Bad microtransactions

Albion

This game I can only recommend with cheats (look up the built-in ones), because it has so so many problems at all three levels of gameplay. But there’s some obvious passion involved here and a fascinating plot, with good world building and themes surrounding it.
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: -17
Golden Number: -30.38
Cheats: Yes (yikes)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 25 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-7-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Doodads: Doodad design is surprisingly good given everything else
  2. World Building: The biology and culture and little details of the Iskai are legitimately well thought out, interesting, and neat
  3. Intro: The Intro is actually quite good at presenting information, establishing the situation, and giving several good hooks to get the player engaged in what’s going on
  4. World Building: The celts and their contrasting culture to the Iskai are quite fascinating and, as usual, reasonably well developed
  5. MSQ: The political intrigue between the humans and Iskai in the third island story is pretty good
  6. MSQ: The Toronto sequence is quite good; The threat of the company, the forthrightness of the AI and the complacent captain, and Joe and his idea of documenting the incident for further proof back home
  7. Brickwork: In backdrop, tileset, etc. (each area is distinct too)
  8. Character: Reasonable NPCs, for once, consistently throughout the game

Story Negatives:

  1. Plot: The plot sort of dies the moment you leave the second island up until arriving at the Toronto, leading to a weird roaming ‘no real goal’ section of the narrative
  2. Theme: Truth be told, the theme as presented just rubs me the wrong way… plus it’s not particularly well presented, shoved in almost entirely at the end

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Visual Distinction: Good art direction and visual distinction
  2. Level: Dungeon design elements: The druid dungeon and the red / green tile puzzle // The ‘evidence’ dungeon and its usage of traps and flames to avoid, etc.
  3. Level: Each dungeon has their own unique gimmicks and style in terms of puzzles and layout, and with one exception each one is quite good

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls: Right click to loot or interact, but limited range, and no indicator, and right clicking brings up menu, and is unintuitive to exit out of
  2. Controls: The general controls are awful. Mouse controls are awkward and weird, but keyboard controls are much better… but there are certain interactions you cannot do with keyboard, necessitating either having awful movement all the time or constantly bouncing your hand back and forth between mouse and keyboard
  3. Walkthroughitis: Pretty bad in this one, combined with…
  4. Interface: …a near total lack of journal and only occasionally a map
  5. Early Game: Early game hell is really, really bad in this one
  6. Intro: In addition to the early game hell problem, the Intro is actively awful and player hostile. The player is given little to go off of in terms of direction or guidance, is thrown against enemies which give xp but not money (which severely hurts their progression), and forced to take a long trek to the first real dungeon which itself is not well designed and, again, is full of enemies that do not give you gold
  7. Music: The music is just… not good, but in addition to preference it loops entirely too swiftly and plays for huge, huge sections of the game
  8. Backtracking: The backtracking of the Maini island is honestly really awful, and that’s if you’re zooming through as you have to backtrack even more to try and save the poor guy from being assassinated
  9. Backtracking: There’s several long, long stretches of backtracking, either on the overworld or dungeon
  10. Padding: There are multiple points at which the game deliberately designs itself to screw with you and waste your time (eg. a dungeon with enemies that regularly poison, ill, and insane you without the local means to cure any of that via spells, items, or NPCs)
  11. Enemy Design: The trash problem is actually quite good throughout the game… right up until you hit the Toronto the second time, then it just goes from bad to worse in a hurry
  12. Level: The Kemulos dungeon … kinda sucks. Long, very little variety in dungeon design, tons of enemies, and little recovery options. It’s a slog
  13. Interface: Looting and interacting with anything, including doors and items, is just a pain
  14. HUD: No indicators of tired or durability, lack of tooltip information, and generally bad HUD design
  15. Core Combat: Lacking in almost every way
  16. Encounter: No real thought put into encounter design, especially in the second half of the game
  17. Enemy Variety: No real enemy variety…
  18. Enemy Variety: …throughout the entire game
  19. Info In Game: No information on what does what in game, notably spells and items
  20. Overworld: Really no thought or design put into the Overworld

Vampire The Masquerade Coteries Of New York

This might be the worst visual novel I’ve played. While there’s some decent core ideas here, and the actual coterie members themselves are interesting and engaging, the rest of it is just… no. Do not recommend.
Total Story Score: -5
Total Gameplay Score: -3
Golden Number: -24.96
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 8 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-19-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Character: Hope is probably the best character in the game
  2. Character: Agathon was actually pretty cool, and a good showcasing of Tremere
  3. Character: Decent supporting cast overall (poor Frank)
  4. Cutscenes: Surprisingly good Sound Design to help with the cutscenes

Story Negatives:

  1. Empty Text: There’s a decent amount of it, unfortunately
  2. Writing: The main character seems written inconsistently depending on the scene in question, and there are some distinct disconnect issues in several quests
  3. Story Sequencing: Several issues, especially as you go through individual chains
  4. Intro: The idea of the trauma conga line is valid but terribly executed, and overall actively de-invests
  5. Outro: From the moment we’re in the coffin outwards the writing is noticeably worse, and the entire ending falls apart intellectually and emotionally
  6. Outro: The final ending scenes and speeches were especially bad (made even worse by the total lack of agency, failure to fulfill on the game’s themes, abrupt non-ending, and the fact that the game has only one ending)
  7. External Continuity: The game barely feels connected to VTM as a whole
  8. Fake Drama: Quite a bit
  9. Plot: That core Plot, or… lack of one, is really lackluster
  10. Theme: The game fails at its core Theme of being a helpless pawn

Gameplay Positives:

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Save: Enforced ironman mode in the save system
  2. Sound: Sound design is not good. Even with built in volume sliders, the audio balance is all over the place, with some songs being actively ‘shout-over’ territory and weird jump scares
  3. Choice: An actual absence of Choice gameplay

Banjo Tooie

While the irritations and structure of the game is substantially improved over Kazooie, the content and level design is a bit lacking. The game has a serious padding problem and lots of moments of just slowly slogging your way forwards. Still fun enough and worth a playthrough for anyone fond of 3D platformers.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +6
Golden Number: 13.57
Cheats: Yes (lost saves due to bugs)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 32 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-3-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Atmosphere and Tone: Charm, in both animations and general presentation

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization: The intro area does and has a lot to get you used to the tools, items, and controls
  2. Yoshi Drums: Yoshi Drums is very well done in basically every level
  3. Music: Music is good stuff, most notably Grunty Industries and Hailfire Peaks
  4. Save: Auto Save is good, well designed and tracks tons of things
  5. Visual Continuity: Visual continuity is good, with few exceptions you can always tell where you’re going and what you’re doing
  6. Guidance and Flow: Guidance in what to do
  7. Guidance and Flow: Flow of activity in what to do
  8. Minigames: Variety of challenges, minigames, puzzles throughout
  9. Penalty For Failure: Removal of the lives system, which works well with the auto saves and smooths the experience out
  10. Overworld: The way the levels connect with each other and themselves is clearly very well thought out and considered
  11. Kit: The different forms you can transform into are generally fun and enjoyable
  12. Boss: General boss design is usually creative, interesting, and varied
  13. QoL: Even better quality of life design choices than the previous game, with both interface and audio indicators for collections, not having to turn in jinjos, a checklist per world to guide you on what you’re missing, etc.
  14. Outro: The overall design of the actual fight against Gruntilda is quite fun, creative, varied, and fairly designed…
  15. Level: Witchyworld is quite fun
  16. Level: And so is half of Hailfire Peaks (the ice half, specifically)
  17. Level: Some of the Doom sections are surprisingly fun and well designed

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Camera: Camera is just a little bit screwy, and honestly a bit nauseating at times, plus it gets in the way of knowing what’s around you or where you need to go
  2. Bug: General Jank: There are many small little irritations in general control, camera, hitboxes, hurtboxes, lack of map or minimap, etc.
  3. Level: Padding dullness of the Terrydactyl level
  4. Level: The amazingly aggravating nature of Grunty Industries. Entire sections where you have to loop in and out of slightly different rooms, memorizing a dozen room layouts and how they interconnect while operating on timers, bad camera, and all the other janky issues magnified
  5. Seconds In Minutes: The entire game has a Seconds In Minutes problem which makes it drag more than it should. When it’s flowing, it’s great, but then you have to go swap to this guy to get this power up, go to this other area, do a thing, go back, swap back, go back, and so on.
  6. Backtracking: There’s just… so much backtracking, and it’s so obviously padding in its design. A literal example: Go unlock a warp point, warp and walk back to Mumbo, change, walk and warp back, do a cutscene, walk and warp and walk back, change back, walk and warp back, open up ice, walk and warp BACK to change BACK to Mumbo to go BACK to the same spot again.
  7. Map: The absence of a map or minimap of any kind actively hurts many levels
  8. Controls: The button mashing is real, especially on that frickin’ canary, good lord that hurt (also really mean, bad rubberbanding)
  9. Outro: The final boss fight with Gruntilda is padding incarnate. Despite the general fun and enjoyment thereof, the problem is you have to slooog through the dialogue and cutscenes each time, and it makes the early parts of the fight seriously drag, on top of it being a very long fight which gets very hard later on
  10. Enemy Design: The gingerbreadmen enemies in cuckoocloudland are actively badly designed. They can’t be seen coming, they pop up so quickly it’s hard to react in time, their hurtbox is huge, and their attacks have long range
  11. Audio Spam: The sound design isn’t… bad, but the total lack of variety in individual sounds (just constantly hearing the same effect over and over) combined with the incredibly small pause in between repetitions leads to it getting very old very fast