Premieres 8


The Talos Principle

An interesting puzzle game that I recommend if you’re, y’know, a fan of puzzle games. I shan’t say elsewise since it’s best experienced pretty blind.
Total Story Score: +11
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Golden Number: 66.69
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 25.84 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-21-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The slow evolution from disinterested system to active conversation with the MLA is actually pretty cool
  2. The MLA and its storytelling approach in general
  3. The usage of seemingly disconnected logs and emails as a storytelling mechanism
  4. The slow build into and through the Tower is a good sequence
  5. Voice acting, while intermittent, is good while it’s there
  6. Serpent and its variability alone is worthy of a positive, given how it can react to you based on you
  7. The Outro is a nice, appropriate section of escalation, the two other bots, and Elohim freaking out as you go
  8. The game does a lot to foreshadow where it’s going, how, and why
  9. DLC: The message board society of Gehenna in its entirety
  10. DLC: The… hilarious but also accurate way in which robots who aren’t fully sentient and sapient and lack understanding would right shlock
  11. DLC: Underwater Knight Quest. ‘Nuff said
  12. DLC: The characters were far better defined and constructed, distinct and well written, throughout Gehenna

Story Negatives:

  1. Pseudo-intellectual gibberish in some of the earlier tidbits, while purposeful, nonetheless tends to push the player away from interaction (and is honestly nonsense regardless)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Good tutorialization throughout the initial few levels
  2. The core puzzle loop is decent but what really makes it work is the slow escalation of tools and complexity
  3. The game is visually impressive, even though it’s essentially borrowing assets
  4. Almost all of the World A puzzles were interesting, engaging, and fun to solve…
  5. …leading to a second positive
  6. There’s some good puzzle solving tools in the game; the indicators on the signposts about what’s been done and what hasn’t (in the hub area too), the HUD and showcasing which connections are viable and which aren’t with live update, etc.
  7. World B’s puzzles aren’t quite as interesting as World A’s, but are still good
  8. World C’s puzzles really start to ramp up and get interesting…
  9. …including a lot of intermixing and other fun gimmicks
  10. There are several individual puzzles that start to get very clever in World C
  11. This is effectively an aggregate positive, but very few individual puzzles felt worthwhile to me for a full positive, but there are many individual ones that were easily part of an aggregate, therefore… this positive
  12. Generally excellent brickwork
  13. The core loop of puzzle design is quite engaging and doesn’t get old
  14. Aggregate: Decent options menu // Some good music // Underwater Knight Quest
  15. DLC: The world 4 puzzles in Gehenna get quite interesting and creative, and are honestly some of the more fun I’ve had with the puzzles in general
  16. DLC: A second positive for the world 4 puzzles

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Main game outro (some irritations, but mostly lack of mid mission checkpoints so… have fun doing the entire thing all over again each time you screw up)
  2. There are issues with having to slog through implementation of a solution you’ve already worked out, and failure means starting all over
  3. Aggregate: For a puzzle game, which requires knowing all tools to progress, the game doesn’t tell you several things you can do // // Music has issues periodically

Psychonauts

Despite the score, there’s nuggets of a great game in here. Cool, interesting, and unique ideas with a fun and surprisingly complex story, wrapped in some truly awful gameplay. Would still recommend.
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: -20
Golden Number: -3.29
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 14.08 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-28-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Good opening cinematic; Good structure (premise, tone, main character, stakes, plot, in that order), and well voice acted and presented
  2. The big scene where the creature keeps trying to grab the kids, failing at it, all while Raz is mentally stalled on ‘kiss’ while Lilli is so excited about everything, is great
  3. The entire premise of the Goggalor stage is great…
  4. …but the little side tidbits with the sketches and news interviews, both for humor’s sake, gameplay tutorialization, and getting across the brainwashing tidbits, really make it shine
  5. Generally good supporting cast (Dogen, Cruller, Mikhail, etc.) which are all distinct and varied from each other
  6. Good doodad utilization in the camp areas
  7. Voice acting is pretty high quality (especially for the time)
  8. Visual storytelling of several stages (Sasha and Mila)
  9. The generally wacky, ridiculous tone and atmosphere
  10. Visual storytelling of two more stages (Gloria’s and Boyd’s)
  11. While it stumbled a bit, the finale of Edgar’s stage, how he got over his self-esteem issues, and that last little ‘ha ha’ of hearing the splat was legit
  12. The game’s better-than-usual usage and thought that goes into mental health issues is quite nice, really
  13. Raz is well written and acted throughout
  14. The game is reasonably well foreshadowing
  15. The Outro does have some good stuff though, most notably the bits with your dad

Story Negatives:

  1. The Outro stumbles several times, most notably in how rushed it wraps up, and how Oliander just sort of… is redeemed, almost off camera, for no reason

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Sasha’s stage serves as a good tutorial and escalation of the shooting mechanic
  2. Surprisingly good mid-mission checkpointing
  3. This is an odd one but the game is… inventive, and that needs to be acknowledged. While it fumbles and fails (almost constantly) the creative design on display is good, and with polish would be great
  4. Goggalor’s level is good variance from the norm, the first level that actually does something interesting with the premise, and is generally fun
  5. Boyd’s level is creative and clever, and the disguise mechanic is a neat addition
  6. Fred’s level and its board-game aesthetic is neat, but the embracing of the adventure game mechanic worked in its favor

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The interface and options menus have… issues
  2. The audio balance issues are not great, and thanks to inconsistent volumes even in the same channel, simply fiddling with the volume does not help
  3. The first boss (the fat censor) wasn’t… great, with inconsistent hurtboxes, irritating and constantly spawning adds, long delay times in stuns, and long irritating tutorial cutscenes you can’t skip if you get hit
  4. The brain tank boss fight suffers many typical boss design issues; Overly long invuln phase, too narrow vuln phase, and frustrating controls
  5. The lungfish boss (hey, starting a trend here) is… slow, dull, and monotonous with depth perception issues and a total lack of indication of how to do what where
  6. The game’s platforming is floaty, weird, and inconsistent (as with most 3D platformers of the era)
  7. The controls are awkward and weird, very early PS2
  8. Audio spam issues are semi frequent and frustrating
  9. The camera really has issues. Often
  10. The music in general is not enjoyable, and actively ruins the mood in many areas, but what really pushes it to negative territory is how short the loops are, for nice long sections of gameplay
  11. Related to the lungfish boss fight; the hurtboxes and hitboxes are.. Actively, legitimately terrible and frequently inconsistent
  12. Lighting issues across the board…
  13. …combined with visibility issues (mostly in color usage and distinction)
  14. The game has several bugs, a few of which actively prevent progress, the rest of which are near-constant irritations
  15. The Boyd level is legit, but it’s also entirely too long and too irritating to navigate
  16. The phantom boss fight is the worst boss fight to-date in a game of bad boss fights. It has long boss invulns, it’s too dark to properly navigate on top of being visually bad thanks to the camera usage, the ‘in between’ phase of floating back up is slow and boring and easy to screw up requiring a complete start over, the adds he spawns mez to prevent you from taking action, the boss uses HP set barriers, and to top it all off he’s talking CONSTANTLY the entire fight with only about 10 or so lines so… lots of repetition…
  17. …leading to a two boss negative
  18. While we’re at it, Gloria’s stage was a neat gimmick terribly presented, making the whole stage irritating and padding’d
  19. General boss design irritation negative
  20. So let’s run through this. The final stage is unpleasant visually and audibly, but more in a screeching hard-to-see kind of way than what was probably intended. It also has long swaths of an escort quest on top of an escort quest which if you fail you start all over from scratch, and the constantly-buggy grind rails which it’s very easy to fall off of to your death…
  21. …leading to two negatives
  22. Then we have the final boss (well the first final boss) which has inconsistent collision preventing the otherwise obvious tactic, far too little vuln time, and if you try to avoid damage it actually cancels his attack (this is on top of the other issues here I’m not even getting into)…
  23. …leading to two negatives
  24. A final negative for just… everything wrong with the Outro (even the very final boss is all the previous problems combined, including audio spam!)
  25. Enemy animations are honestly pretty bad
  26. Aggregate: The map is actively bad // There’s occasional issues with people just talking over each other // Occasional walkthroughitis issues (almost like it’s an adventure game…)

Psychonauts 2

Honestly, one of the best 3D Platformers I’ve ever played. Hugely recommended.
Total Story Score: +37
Total Gameplay Score: +29
Golden Number: 196.46
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 18.57 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-30-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The opening cinematic (the ‘last time on…’) is actually really well done, neatly summarizes the previous (two) game(s), and is wonderfully visually crafted regardless
  2. Voice acting is pretty top notch…
  3. …but more than that, it’s consistently high quality
  4. The animation is excellent and adds to the scenes in almost all cases
  5. The presentation and style of the hub ‘world’ really gets across the ideas of the psychonauts organization as a whole
  6. The bonus dialogues for connecting thoughts
  7. The usage of clairvoyance as an additional narrative tool (and as neat little side jokes)
  8. There’s some… very, very dark humor in the casino level, and it touches on some very real and applicable issues properly
  9. The entire scene of infiltrating the hotel with everyone’s abilities combined was not just cool, but very well done stylistically
  10. Sam and the incredible pancake adventures
  11. The ‘everyone’s willing to do their part cheerfully’ gameshow stage is appropriately horrifying when shown in contrast to the stark, unpleasant judges constantly casting shade at the man
  12. The ‘germ city’ and its quiet, background defeatism serving as a constant undercurrent for the despair he feels at losing his love Lucrecia is great and horrible at the same time
  13. The reveal of Fullbear and the additional backstory about Muligula is actually woven quite organically into the feast of the senses stage
  14. Further, there’s some legitimately good, humorous, and touching moments throughout aforementioned stage
  15. The tragedy of Lucy and Cruller as presented in the mailroom level is surprisingly impactful
  16. The brilliant way the game makes the player hate the bugs, and actively kill them, while gradually revealing what they represent, is great
  17. The big reveal about Ford, Maligula, and us is very well built up and very well executed
  18. Okay we gotta break this one down a bit. The entirety of Bob’s world is a beautifully, anviliciously, subtly crafted metaphor for alcoholism. The waves, the islands, the isolation, the projected thoughts, the unkempt’ness, the moth…
  19. …all of this on top of subtle showing and not telling of the specifics of what happened and how, all while absolutely hammering the tragedy of each point in…
  20. …finally culminating in a fantastic boss fight and, ultimately, a reunion with Fullbear
  21. While not as impacting or powerful as the previous stage, Cassie’s stage is absolutely brilliantly visualized
  22. The yarn world of Nona was nice, but what really sold it is the emotional baggage dam keeping back a flood of tears
  23. Grulovia Land is an impressive showcasing of exactly how childish and… unwise Gristol really is
  24. Gristol himself deserves special mention for being one of the most pathetic, childish, surface-level, narcissistic, insignificant specks of a villain I’ve ever seen
  25. The construct of Maligula as the villain is actually fascinating on several levels
  26. As before, several of the supporting cast are legit
  27. Special mention to Sam, for being consistently hilarious and well written and acted
  28. The tone and atmosphere of the game is even better than the previous one
  29. Speaking of which, the game actually got a laugh out of me more than once
  30. The external continuity connecting it to the first game is well done across the board, serving to make this game even better
  31. The Outro in general is great
  32. Gameplay and story integration
  33. The usage of animation was consistently excellent for storytelling purposes
  34. Great doodad usage, as per the original
  35. As with the first game, good foreshadowing
  36. Great usage of lighting to accent scenes
  37. Story is surprisingly well sequenced throughout
  38. Good storyboarding throughout
  39. Raz grows quite a bit throughout the work, and whenever he has his moments of competence, caring, and relevance, he’s awesome
  40. While there’s nothing ‘new’ per say, the extra dialogues at the post-game and wrap up with all the characters is nice

Story Negatives:

  1. The… for lack of a better way to put it, general mean-spiritedness of the early part of the story is a bit much. It feels like the game is just punching the player in the face, and hits a bit too close to home for anyone who’s intern’d (or gone to college)
  2. A general story negative for several elements of non-paid-off irritation, mostly in early game and mostly centered on Norma
  3. Raz has periodic moments of what I can only refer to as Marty McFly Syndrome, where he’s either stupid or actively oblivious soley to progress the plot

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Built-in cheats as accessibility options
  2. QoL features (targeting, movement assists, visibility with the figments, etc.)
  3. The first stage is immediately getting on the right foot, with smoothly re-tutorializing abilities and being an interesting stage to boot, with good escalation and otherwise a good Intro
  4. The hub world is well designed, neatly laid out, and has plenty of mini activities to occupy (both for benefit and for fluff)
  5. The connecting thoughts concept (and level) is simple, but neat and fun to do
  6. The casino level is unique, fun, well paced, and inventive
  7. The Lucktopus boss fight is fun, has good music, good variety to moveset, good telegraphs, and is intuitive to pick up and beat immediately
  8. Good autosaves
  9. The timed cooking stage is a neat gimmick but doubly interesting in how many routes there are and the fact that actual tactics takes place
  10. The entire Germ City stage and its bowling ball gimmick are actually surprisingly fun, and it doesn’t wear out its welcome like it could have
  11. The feast of the senses stages, despite their… visual issues, are still fun and creative
  12. The mailroom level is, as usual, fun (and has a great visual backdrop)
  13. Unlike the first game, the music in this one is actually quite catchy, but more to the point is A: Not too short of loops, B: Appropriate to the zone in question, and C: Enjoyable to listen to
  14. The game’s core movement is far more fluid, making platforming actually fun this time around
  15. Combat, similarly, has more options and more cross-connect, allowing for an actually fun experience
  16. The camera is, similarly, a more modern 3D camera and actually helps rather than hinders movement
  17. The variety of abilities and the addition of another hotkey help with the kit
  18. And the badges and upgrades offer small but interesting mutators into the build gameplay
  19. The entire Bob stage is some of the better platforming thusfar, made even better by…
  20. …the pseudo open world ocean exploration section
  21. Also the boss fight against Bob’s inner demons, all the while alcohol is trying to prevent us from helping him
  22. Continuing good platforming and creative challenges in the Cassie level
  23. Figments as indicators ala coins
  24. Ink and library level isn’t super great, but it is unique and the boss fight was fun
  25. The final stage/boss was well constructed; a hard hitting but no i-frames boss with multiple varying attack patterns and, thus, different methods to deal with her
  26. Gameplay and story integration
  27. Enemy variety is actually here and on point, with each enemy having their own methods (plural) to deal with them, and some small variances in how they attack us
  28. Encounter design isn’t the greatest, but it’s clear actual thought was put into it and how to mix and match enemies to work for it
  29. The game is a delight to look at, with good graphics throughout
  30. Good general guidance and flow of exploration
  31. Special mention for the excellent hyperbeam moment in the final boss
  32. Psitanium and health ups were generally well distributed and thought out
  33. The traversal in the game (mostly through the levitate and the thought connector) is smooth and enjoyable
  34. Good usage of color and lighting to have good visual distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The ‘Raz tutorializes the solution to you’ mechanic isn’t annoying by itself, but A: It can’t be turned off, B: It happens with increasing frequency, and C: Actively prevents other (more interesting) dialogue from happening
  2. Forced ironman mode saves are, as always, problematic
  3. The forced chromatic outline thing in the drugs levels is literally headache inducing, and there’s no option in-game to fix this (you can edit the engine.ini file to remove this)
  4. Too skippable cutscenes/dialogue (the GTA problem)
  5. There is, unfortunately, still an audio spam problem periodically

Mega Man Legends 1

An extremely flawed, unique, interesting game that’s worth a playthrough if you can get ahold of a copy.
Total Story Score: +7
Total Gameplay Score: -18
Golden Number: -6.32
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 9.25 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-13-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The game exudes a charm and light hearted tone that works in its favor
  2. This is improved by a combination of the expressions and the… ‘voice acting’
  3. The core premise and background world building is surprisingly interesting
  4. The Bonnes are, in general, enjoyable and interesting enough by themselves
  5. The general supporting cast is fun and engaging
  6. The side quests and general ‘day of the life’ stuff is pretty neat
  7. Further, the game feels surprisingly lived in for how small and early it is, alongside the way you can choose how you do certain sidequests (the ‘morality’ system)
  8. The Outro pushes plot elements a bit too far back but the ideas and hooks left about Mother, the precursors, and the Mega Mans are legitimately interesting
  9. Juno itself is a surprisingly interesting and properly creepy villain; just another program doing its job

Story Negatives:

  1. The weird fake out deaths and constant ‘defeat but fine’ problem sort of detracts from… everything
  2. The game, as many of its ilk do, suffers a bit for pushing so much of the plot to the end of the game, and the ending of the Outro is… lacking

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The kit is surprisingly good… not great, but the way they attack and their usefulness is there

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. To say ‘the game controls badly’ doesn’t really do it justice, so let’s break this down. First the movement itself is incredibly jerky and imprecise, in a game where dodging attacks and platforming exists
  2. Second, the camera literally works wrong; It won’t allow you to turn the camera while you change direction, so it’ll simply stop and start repeatedly as you’re trying to maneuver
  3. Third, the way you interact with things is the circle button, but the way you interact with everything else is the X button, leading to problems on that front (and no rebind of course), but it gets worse because you have to be facing something or someone head on to interact with them, which ties in with the camera issues
  4. While we’re at it, aiming is its own problem; it’s not great and it sometimes interprets and sometimes doesn’t, but the worst part is while you’re locked on you can’t move… and given the enemy and boss design, that’s terrible
  5. All of the aforementioned combines with some problematic enemy design (attacks that are too quick to dodge normally, little to no telegraphs, hits entirely too hard) means the difficulty curve is insane
  6. The game has a pretty lengthy and serious no music problem
  7. Jumping is… bad. Just bad. You can barely tell thanks to depth perception issues where you’re jumping, and that’s on top of the wonkiness of the jump in general and the lack of control over it in specific
  8. The save system is fairly typical for the time, but the distance between save points is a bit unacceptable
  9. Garudoriten is a problematic boss due to the many control issues, but even if you strip those away you’re left with a very boring boss fight
  10. The total lack of saves in the Clozer dungeon is made actually worse by the…
  11. …triple dog boss, which four shots you and moves so fast you can’t move and fire while dodging normally
  12. Bonus problem; the item drops have entirely too short a pickup range and, worse, dissipate very quickly
  13. The entire airship battle can go to hell. Long, no mid mission checkpoints, and made all the worse by the aiming controls which caused me actual physical pain after several attempts
  14. The Outro is not good, at best, with a boring single corridor of a final dungeon (with a grand total of two enemy types) and if we count the sub cities, boring enemy slot gauntlets
  15. Then there’s the final boss fight. There is everything wrong with the final boss fight, from the controls, to the rapid fire attacks, to the fact that he has entirely too much health, to the fact that he hits like a truck…
  16. …honestly leading to…
  17. …a third negative
  18. Audio spam is intermittent in specifics, but generally is throughout, alongside very bad audio balance and general design
  19. The game is weirdly grindy, even if you get everything, because getting those final few upgrades is not only useful but almost required for the final boss

Skyborn

A surprisingly competent RPGMaker game, with an interesting premise and some cool gameplay concepts. The encounters aren’t great and the outro stumbles a lot, but it is still worth a playthrough if you’re in the mood.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +3
Golden Number: 16.3
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 9.43 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-14-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro stumbles a few times but otherwise does a good job of establishing what a prat our main character is, the background of the occupation and oppression, and the resistance and Sullivan
  2. Generally good doodad utilization throughout
  3. Surprisingly good brickwork
  4. Great visual storytelling in the initial town, primarily in the prison and the slums… immediately gets across all it needs to
  5. Sullivan and Chaska are both interesting characters in their own rights, being multi-faceted and fun (and with clearly more thought put into their dialogue)
  6. The flashback Alda has is a great peek into the tightly, barely controlled Skyborn society and how it focuses on their most recent war of conquest to the detriment of other avenues of education, and all that implies
  7. The visual storytelling of the ‘celestial district’ and subsequent horribleness of the citizenry thereupon

Story Negatives:

  1. The visual continuity is pretty lacking, at most points I feel detached, like I’m just bouncing between distant dungeons
  2. The pacing of the narrative is very strange, either dragging too long or taking too long to ramp up or being entirely too crammed, and lurching back and forth between extremes
  3. The game’s story was doing okay until it completely jumped off a cliff at the end. First and foremost the completely unnecessary addition of the save the world plot in what was otherwise a fairly contained and tightly threaded plot ruined it
  4. Finally the ending portion of the Outro is honestly so bad it circles back around to being laugh-worthy. The sudden massive power vacuum caused by the deaths of both the Empress and the Centurion just sort of being shrugged off and everyone being cool with treating humans equally, while Chaska goes off to sacrifice herself for not only no good reason but actively bad reason, and finally Ryler actually surviving for some damned reason

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The threat system is actually a neat little feature, allowing you control over what the enemies attack when and adding a nice layer of tactics
  2. Some small QoL features, including the turn indicator, the quest highlighting indicator, etc.
  3. Music’s pretty legit
  4. The save system is quick, efficient, and usable almost anywhere
  5. The encounters being visible and avoidable is a nice touch, along with the lack of respawn and relative density
  6. The ability to combo buffs and debuffs is clearly thought out and makes for some interesting tactics in combat
  7. The exp gain of explore points is a nice touch, rewarding exploration over combat and de-prioritizing grinding
  8. The augment system is actually quite inventive and has neat little bonuses instead of just stats
  9. Aggregate: Itemization isn’t fantastic, but the crafting system is nice // The tutorial room at the beginning is well designed and informative

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. RPGMaker’s control scheme, which is non rebindable, honestly sucks. No WASD, X and Z are confirm and back, back button is also the menu for some damned reason, when using a controller it won’t accept d-pad inputs and analog inputs are wrong, so essentially no matter what you do the controls suck
  2. Resolution issues are honestly pretty bad. Your options are postage stamp or fullscreen
  3. There’s an absence of information in battle which is weird. No enemy names on selection, no visible HP bars except when you actually hit them, no debuff or buff indicators on the enemies, and the battle menu is barely visible
  4. Unskippable cutscenes
  5. The enemy encounters are honestly almost entirely unnecessary, to the point where they feel vestigial
  6. The Outro is… flat, at best. Neat looking area, but almost non existent dungeon design, enemy design, and final bosses design

Fran Bow

An above average point and click adventure game, but one that must come with a viewer discretion warning. This is a horror game that touches on many, many things that can be a trigger for people, so player be warned.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Golden Number: 2.64
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 6.00 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-15-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The alternate world’s representative nature of the real world is interesting, if a bit vague at times
  2. The cinematics are actually pretty nice looking and well stylized
  3. The animation for the game is really good, with it feeling very fluid despite the unique art style
  4. The world building and presentation of Ithersta (chapter 3) is quite good
  5. The dialogue is surprisingly well written; it’s not ‘proper english’ but a lot of it is written in the style a child would speak

Story Negatives:

  1. The game’s gore and disgust factor is not great…
  2. …leading to two negatives
  3. The creepy guard deserves a negative on his own
  4. The Outro is… I don’t even have words, but most importantly it doesn’t resolve or fulfill anything, so despite personal preference it fails at the task of being an Outro
  5. The Intro in general is awful to the point of being deleterious

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The way the game lets you swap between realms (drugs or no, seasons, etc.) is a neat way to layer the game in a small area
  2. The minigames in between chapters are neat little diversions and give some decent gameplay variety
  3. Some of the core puzzles themselves are reasonably well constructed

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Limited saves and associated problems (forced ironman mode, one slot)
  2. The adventure game moon logic isn’t as bad as I’ve seen in some games, but it’s not great either

SOMA

A very good horror story wrapped in a fairly bad game. Still worth enduring the gameplay for the story, I’d say.
Total Story Score: +15
Total Gameplay Score: -1
Golden Number: 36.52
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 10.17 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-16-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro does a lot well. The initial dream, the peek into the life of Simon, and the rather sudden jarring shift into Simon 2 is very well done
  2. Catherine is a generally interesting character; someone pragmatic enough to just sort of go with it, serving as a good counterpart to the more pondering Simon
  3. Generally good doodad usage, mostly in…
  4. …the underwater sequences, which are the most visually impressive bits of storytelling in the game
  5. The audio logs (irritants aside) are the usual good stuff to unfold the story of what came before
  6. The voice acting is good across the board
  7. There’s definitely some foreshadowing going on here, which is interesting since the focus isn’t on the twist, but it’s still well constructed early on
  8. Try not to be surprised, but the atmosphere of the game is pretty legit
  9. The communications dome collapsing, the revelation of our arms, and the follow-through on Simon’s slow processing of his situation is fascinating and very well told
  10. The audio design really adds to the game, especially the underwater sequences
  11. The WAU in general is a wonderfully lovecraftian form of horror; a completely uncaring, unthinking machine just doing what it was programmed to
  12. The very nature of the structure gel and all that its designed to do is honestly pretty messed up
  13. The entire walk along the abyss is just perfection, honestly, really well done and properly terrifying without being overbearing
  14. Really, the abyss deserves its own separate visual and audio storytelling positive
  15. Sarah Lindwall’s final thoughts and willful passing
  16. Story is well sequenced throughout
  17. The good parts of the Outro were good, with Simon 4 and Catherine 3 living on the Ark, and the rest of the facility shutting down after the death of the WAU

Story Negatives:

  1. Jump scares… too many and too improperly used
  2. The Outro has… issues, honestly, with its construction, tempo, and execution

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The security level, open/close doors area is probably the best designed level so far in the game, with multiple paths to progression, the option to lure and trap the enemy, and ways to evacuate if trapped
  2. Aggregate: The game has generally decent guidance and flow of exploration // The sound design is a bit off, but still helps with navigating and avoiding the creatures, combined with… // …the partially functioning ‘make a noise’ mechanic to distract

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Sluggish controls / Shaky cam and raspberry jam
  2. Having to stand near black boxes to hear the full audio instead of being able to just record and/or listen to them
  3. Ultimately the monsters aren’t interesting gameplay wise. There’s very little you can do with or about them, very few tools in your arsenal to avoid or combat, which leads to them just… wasting your time

Valiant Hearts

A fun puzzle platformer surrounding a really, really well done take on the Great War. Hugely recommended… along with a box of tissues for the tears.
Total Story Score: +22
Total Gameplay Score: +8
Golden Number: 87.71
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7.82 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-17-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The game practices ‘Puppy Effect’ very well; it transposes the horror and seriousness with silly presentation and moments of levity, resulting in the whole thing being weirdly well paced… in tone…
  2. …a second positive for tonal pacing
  3. The entire stage about the trenches
  4. The entire stage about the french citizenry being aided and working together
  5. The art style is honestly delightful, but also used to good effect regardless
  6. The ‘voice acting’ is harder to do than it sounds and is a great presentation of ‘language’; fully understandable without requiring ‘full’ voice acting, befitting…
  7. …the entire game’s approach to stylized representation rather than literal presentation
  8. The historical notes and associated actual history
  9. The diaries and their usage as a storytelling tool
  10. Doodad utilization is fantastic across the board
  11. Animation is honestly excellent for the general representative style of the visuals
  12. The music direction is well used both for levity and for horror
  13. Sound design universally improves each scene and setpiece
  14. The escape sequence for Karl was properly tense, properly constructed, and used music and audio perfectly
  15. Everything about Karl finally finding his family. The tension, the build up, the total lack of hesitation in giving his mask to his wife, and dragging her out
  16. The Neville Offensive is as absolutely horrific and violent and ground out, visually, emotionally, literally, and audibly as it needs to be…
  17. …earning two positives just by itself
  18. Gameplay and story integration
  19. Emile walking to his death, calmly, as a hero, honored by his fellows
  20. While it’s hard to pinpoint specific characters worthy of positives by themselves, all the characters are well presented and well characterized of themselves…
  21. …earning what is effectively two aggregates for character
  22. The game is exceptional well paced in general

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Good mid mission checkpoints
  2. The first few stages are simple, but they have good indicators and good tools to present what you should do, when the enemy can see you, etc. It’s very video gamey but in a good way
  3. The stage about solving all the mini puzzles to progress was good, but then the puzzle boss fight just capped it nicely
  4. The Paris puzzle section followed immediately by the ridiculous driving section was great fun
  5. The hints system is nicely constructed to be helpful without being intrusive
  6. The fortress infiltration and subsequent boss fights continue their puzzle quality
  7. The factory escape and tank hyperbeam moment was great fun
  8. The prison escape was good
  9. But the actual escape sequence itself was even better
  10. General puzzle design of the Somme and Mihial sections
  11. Gameplay and story integration

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Controls are honestly pretty weird and wonky
  2. Save issues, while there’s chapter select there’s no ‘saves’ to speak of and forced ironman mode
  3. The artillery section with Emile was too irritating and too pixel perfect for how repetitive it was

Beyond Good And Evil

An interesting, quirky, weird game with a unique setting, a broken plot, and problematic gameplay. If you can get a copy running, worth it for the experience.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: -9
Golden Number: -4.54
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 12 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-21-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Animation is pretty good, helping the few cutscenes it has
  2. Quicky/weird vibe is very clearly the atmosphere and tone
  3. Lindblum Effect, on foot and on water, with lots of NPCs, roaming dialogues, traffic, etc.
  4. Supporting cast is colorful and quirky
  5. Visuals of most of the open areas do a good job with selling the island nation
  6. Background world building, mostly naturally
  7. The actual lighthouse cutscene moment was actually pretty nice
  8. Jade and Pey’j are neat if simple characters
  9. Doodads are surprisingly good for an early PS2 game

Story Negatives:

  1. The game’s pacing narratively is bizarre to explain, with very off or absent story beats
  2. This dovetails with the fact that the story… de-emphasizes itself, often lacking any actual presentation at all
  3. Story sequencing is… honestly pretty bad, jumping between scenes with very little connective tissue or logic
  4. The game doesn’t really earn any of its moments or beats, no build up and no pay off
  5. Pey’j coming back to life was already a bit eyebrow raising, but the fact that it happened with absolutely no execution or presentation really hurts it
  6. The initial chunk of the Outro is… weird, offset, bonkers, and bad
  7. The final ending is a bit too blank slate with too little explained and too much ‘big reveal at the end’ waiting for a sequel that has, as of writing, never arrived
  8. The Intro is a fever dream of random events that barely connect with each other

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The first dungeon is pretty good at what it needs to do; Here’s how to fight, puzzle, and work with Peyj
  2. The first boss similarly is simple but effective
  3. The second dungeon had some neat elements to it before it hit the mandatory stealth sections
  4. The mid-mission checkpointing is actually quite good…
  5. …worthy of a second positive
  6. The music, when it actually plays, is pretty bopping (usually in combat)
  7. The mechanic of using pictures to gain money and advance both quests and plot is actually pretty neat (might be even better if combat was removed)
  8. The light mirror puzzle is surprisingly fun and interesting, probably the best puzzle in the game

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Unskippable cutscenes
  2. General jank of controls, hitboxes, hurtboxes…
  3. …and camera, which honestly has so many issues it’d be hard to summarize them
  4. This is further compounded by the mandatory stealth sections, which already suck…
  5. …but are made worse by the repeated usage of Gotcha! in terms of how the game will make you detectable from or by an enemy it’s impossible to see until you’re already spotted, requiring retries, walkthrough, or previous knowledge
  6. The map is bad
  7. The compass is worse
  8. The No Music problem is real
  9. There’s a general ‘where do I go’ which ties a bit into the walkthroughitis problem of the non-dungeon segments…
  10. …which is made further worse by the general irritation of navigation (a combination of the map, compass, camera, indistinct visuals, and wonky facing and control issues)
  11. While I’m here, combat is in general just… not good. It’s not the worst combat I’ve ever seen, but the floatiness of the controls, the wonkiness of the camera, the inconsistency of the boxes, and the enemy design on top of area design (fighting flying enemies on a catwalk type thing) makes it all just a chore
  12. Many, many iterations of accidentally, permanently skipping dialogue
  13. Audio spam! I’m in BAD SHAPE miss Jade!
  14. The Outro sucks, while we’re on it. The Star Fox battle wasn’t bad, the final forced fight against the troops sucked, and the actual final boss was uninteresting at best
  15. The pearls aren’t the worst grind in the world, but they’re pretty bad, especially the first round of grind
  16. The game has several game-breaking bugs that can lead to ‘revert to previous save if you have it’ softlocks
  17. Several iterations of visual distinction problems ie ‘I can’t tell what I’m looking at’

Halo Wars 2

Be warned, I had substantial and repeated issues buying this game and getting it to acknowledge that I owned it on the windows store. Aside from that massive irritation, the game itself is reasonably enjoyable and a huge step up from Halo Wars 1, and would serve as a decent ‘first RTS’ game.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Golden Number: 48.78
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 12.90 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-23-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The opening cinematics do a lot right; The establishment of Atriox, the setup of the scene and scenario, the new AI, and the new stakes
  2. Generally good voice acting
  3. Generally good motion capture
  4. If you remove the narration of the Atriox establishment scene, it’s actually a really good scene
  5. The Phoenix Logs add some nice background and flavor lore
  6. Isabel is almost characterized in a vacuum, but what there is is well done. The voice actress sells most of the role, as she presents a PTSD victim very well
  7. The decision to fire the carrier’s cannon on the Ark to prompt sentinel response was honestly inspired
  8. A rare but appropriate cool factor positive for the way the Sentinels used their numbers as teeth to shred the carrier
  9. Generally good doodad utilization
  10. DLC: What Could Go Wrong does everything it needs to to have giant flashing warning lights blaring the entire time about how bad an idea this all is, and boy does it
  11. DLC: Fighting Retreat continues the excellent vibe and tone of fleeing before the flood of the, ah, Flood
  12. DLC: The two brothers are surprisingly interesting and characterized despite their relative lack of screentime
  13. DLC: The sequencing of the entire expansion is pretty legit

Story Negatives:

  1. The opening cinematics do a lot wrong; Lots of empty text, hollywood overly-edited fight scenes, weirdly constructed hollywood dialogue, and several people involved holding various forms of the idiot ball (also a bit of ‘pronoun game’ AND ‘can’t spit it out’
  2. Unnecessary narration over the Atriox establishment cinematic
  3. Bad writing (pronoun game, Jason Bourne syndrome)
  4. Hey here’s a new threat that’s above and beyond anything we’ve seen before, that we’ve never heard of before but they’ve been there the whole time
  5. There are three recurring problems with the pre-rendered cinematics in this game; Excessive slow mo, excessive choppy editing, and the inability to turn on a light
  6. The Outro is weird in how unsatisfying and abrupt it is
  7. DLC: The Outro is, once again, weirdly abrupt and… not
  8. There’s issues with the game’s external continuity

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Generally good multiplayer options
  2. Firefight mode is not bad, with bonus pickups and good staggered waves, though a bit hampered by some associated issues
  3. Good co-op options
  4. Proper campaign co-op
  5. Decent tutorial for getting used to the game
  6. The first map is a decent tutorial and establishment of mechanics and unit ‘balance’
  7. Music is pretty good
  8. Mission 2 is basic but enjoyable, with good flow and distance of objectives
  9. The Cartographer mission had decent escalating mission design and nice variety of bouncing between the early Sentinels and the Banished
  10. Units are decently well designed and varied, a bit simple but still good
  11. The From The Deep mission was a better ‘hold the line’ example than the earlier mission, with multiple vectors and types of enemies and a good spread of units to counter
  12. The hold the line mission named, appropriately, Hold The Line is… not actually a hold the line mission! It’s a tower defense, but it’s actually pretty well designed. We have good lines and good spread to deal with it
  13. The artillery mission Under The Dark had some good positioning and finally used terrain and, well, artillery properly
  14. The Foundry is quite fun, giving us a super unit (which can finally step on enemies), but also requiring us to build and support it as we smash through three bases
  15. The Halo mission is a neat idea badly executed, but the neat idea is good; a domination map with widespread areas, multiple bases, and the doom sentinel wild card
  16. The final mission is a neat showcasing of units, and has some neat and mean objectives
  17. Game is generally replayable
  18. DLC: What Could Go Wrong is a well designed mission; good way to try out the new side, lots unlocked, multiple ways to either lock down or simply withstand the enemy, escorting the Scarab, and the puzzle unlock
  19. DLC: Fighting Retreat is a very well crafted, tightly executed hold the line map, not just with actual terrain usage and good bonus objectives but proper balancing of attacks and waves as well as triggers to remove padding…
  20. DLC: …earning it a second positive
  21. DLC: Light the Fuse is a well constructed gimmick mission surrounding using resources for both progression and defense
  22. DLC: The final mission against the proto-gravemind is a neat build up / encroach / boss fight mission

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Microtransactions (blitz packs!)
  2. Blitz mode sucks. It’s a barebones MOBA style thing with cards instead of any kind of basebuilding or strategic layer, and the cards themselves feed into the aforementioned microtransactions aka ‘blitz packs’
  3. Limited options (especially resolution)
  4. Boss fights (boring HP sponges)
  5. The Halo mission is entirely too long, sloggy, and boring to really be interesting for what it is
  6. DLC: The Archive… is not a good mission. It has the potential to be good, but the wildly imprecise controls and lack of feedback issues with the controls finally come in and drag the entire mission down
  7. The AI is actively stupid. Like, “I’m being attacked but will stand here and do nothing” stupid… and that’s our units and theirs
  8. The strategic layer is … not, really, and the basebuilding is so basic as to be disinteresting and boring
  9. The terrain design isn’t, with actual flaws and bugs and never using the vaunted height advantage to any effect

Mortal Kombat 11

A very, very good fighting game, with a good story campaign and great controls, tutorials, combat, and presentation. Hugely recommended.
Total Story Score: +26
Total Gameplay Score: +42
Golden Number: 200.09
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 15.62 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-25-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The very first cinematic is quite good; It establishes everything you really need to know immediately, between Raiden, Shinnok, and the threat being faced
  2. Ending slides from Tower mode, collectively
  3. The entire sequence of invading the Netherrealm citadel and the fighting thereof
  4. The scenes where Shao Kahn returns, his fight with Kotal
  5. The follow through with Raiden, Kotal, Shao Kahn, the showcasing of connection between Liu Kang and Kitana, the caring of Kahn and Mileena
  6. The bit where Raiden is visibly bothered by his potential future, where Kung Lao visibly doesn’t believe him, it’s a great bit
  7. The backgrounds to stages add some wonderful flavor and vibe to the scenes
  8. The motion capture and animation is, honestly, top notch, easily deserving…
  9. …of two positives, if not more
  10. I have to gush about the choreography of the fight scenes. Not only is it good in general, it’s specific to the characters fighting (Liu is fast and agile, Shao swings with both hands consistently, etc.) and the camera makes sure to stay on it for the whole shot, no editing trickery…
  11. …earning a second positive
  12. The general cinematography (with one notable exception) is excellent, truly some fantastic shots and framing…
  13. …easily two positive range
  14. With one noteworthy exception, the voice acting is excellent across the board…
  15. …once again earning two positives
  16. The outworld political subplot is actually kind of interesting, following Kitana and Jade as they try to balance Baraka and Sheeva against Shao the Konquerer and Kotal the Kretin
  17. Special mention to Johnny Cage, who manages to be entertaining and humble at the same time, easily one of the best characters in the story (despite or perhaps because of his younger self)
  18. Also I really like how they use Raiden here. We see him before, after, and during his descent into harshness, how much the thought bothers him, and Epcar manages a great performance as both
  19. Similarly Scorpion manages to shine here, in both his iterations…
  20. …in fact the scene where Hanzo convinces Scorpion to turn not only makes perfect sense but is a surprisingly well done scene
  21. Okay so, it’s got its problems, but I honestly really love the montage of all the times Liu Kang and Raiden fight
  22. Honestly everything about Fire God Liu Kang
  23. The Finishing Moves deserve their own recognition
  24. But really, the Friendships are fantastic, being consistently funny and enjoyable
  25. Shang Tsung’s motion capture and voice actor are fantastic in and of themselves
  26. Shang Tsung is just so awesome in general he deserves his own positive
  27. Also Fujin is great, consistently being the voice of reason and reasonability, as well as showcasing what a REAL Jedi should be like
  28. The cinematography of the DLC continues its excellence
  29. The choreography of the DLC hasn’t lost any of its quality
  30. Much as I hate to admit it, Sindel and Shao Kahn are great together
  31. Bonus positive for portraying Shao Kahn essentially perfectly; the brute, populist, and force of will without any of the subtlety, long term planning, or other game-playing skills others on the board show
  32. The various character intros are not only interesting but varied between characters
  33. Good overall doodad usage
  34. Where it’s good, the external continuity is good
  35. The weird pseudo relentless storytelling style lends itself towards good pacing as it moves between story beats

Story Negatives:

  1. The unnecessary wobble cam in several cutscenes is honestly unnecessary and frankly a bit nausea inducing
  2. Sonya’s voice actress… really saps the nuance out of every scene she’s in
  3. The entire subplot between Sonya and Cassie is badly handled on almost every level; impact, voice acting, pacing, position, fake drama, and continuity
  4. As per usual with many, many fighting games, the Excuse Fights are as silly as always
  5. We also have to acknowledge just how ridiculous and loosely they play with the time travel rules (especially around Kano)
  6. Much as I enjoy the story, really, the Outro really sort of… falls apart. Buncha mostly mindless fights, non talk, and it just sort of stops
  7. There is just a little bit too much ‘can’t spit it out’ leading to the fights in the DLC
  8. The entire retcon around Sindel honestly not only makes her character less interesting but actively hurts previous titles
  9. The DLC Outros, both of them, are too brief and too unsatisfying for the journey that led to them

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The tutorial is good at teaching you how to play a fighting game for the first time
  2. The tutorial is even better at teaching you actual finite details about things like frame timing and delay
  3. Honestly the addition of character tutorials on top of everything else pushes this into really, really well done, in depth tutorials
  4. Decent skirmish mode options
  5. Decent array of (in game obtainable) cosmetics
  6. Good options for the practice fights mode
  7. Tower mode remains good, and with some good options
  8. Time Tower is mostly just Tower but I do like the addition of the stage modifiers
  9. I love the stage interactions and how they can change a fight
  10. Brutalities and their additional swag and challenge are nice
  11. The fatal blows system is a great risk reward as well as a way to turn around a match
  12. Johnny Cage is a good middle ranged pressure character with great comboing into and out of moves
  13. Cassie Cage follows in her father’s footsteps but manages to be even faster and better at range
  14. Liu Kang is a bit of an all arounder but can maneuver very well in virtually any direction while still doing damage
  15. Kotal Kahn is a weirdly good character, with excellent reach and closing, though slow and with bad frame delay his hits and knockdowns make up for it
  16. Scorpion remains a good character, great maneuverability both forwards and back, and an excellent mid ranger
  17. Sub-Zero is an exceptionally versatile character, with good closers, reach, pullbacks, and defenses
  18. Jade is probably the best reach character I’ve played so far, able to chain almost every attack she has from mid and able to shut down a lot of ranged area deniers
  19. Kitana is awkward to control and chain, but has great control and mid range
  20. Jax is a fantastic flow puncher, with great controlled movement and counters
  21. Frost has good closers, hampered by weird damage and weird spread and very little vertical coverage, but makes for a nice sub zero variant
  22. Jacqui is a great aggressor short range pressure character, with very low frame delay and great comboing
  23. Baraka is heavy and slow, but has great reach and some good closers to compensate, lots of downtime though
  24. Noob Saibot is insane speed and comboing, with good damage to back it up
  25. Kano is an excellent wrestler type, with tons of fluidity and subversion moves that allow him to counter or change enemy position
  26. Kabal is ridiculous in his speed, but makes up for it by being incredibly block unsafe given how long his failure recoil is
  27. Admittedly, despite being a boss-type, Kronika is a reasonably well designed final boss, without having to drift into total cheapness
  28. Robocop is kind of scary in how good he is; a heavy with damage and range and comboing, a mean set
  29. Night Wolf is probably the most all around versatile character I’ve seen, with a little bit of everything
  30. Fujin has fantastic kit, allowing him to attack close, mid, and ranged, while having closers, and being extremely fast on self canceling and having tiny frame windows to work with
  31. Sindel is nuts in her mobility and reach, allowing her to move forwards and back all while doing damage
  32. Shao Kahn is extraordinarily easy to cancel and counter… but he has intense range, speed, and power and is just great fun to play
  33. Shang Tsung is, surprise surprise, an excellent character to play as, with decent zoning and a huge amount of recovery options
  34. Skarlet is a strange example of a heavy, with tons of wind up and impact on her hits but good range to help balance it out
  35. Erron is a weird risk reward character; his basic moveset is limiting but can chain well, and his gun gimmick has tons of potential
  36. D’vorah is one of the heaviest characters in the game, very slow and very lumbering, but almost all her attacks have great range and can lock down pretty well
  37. The Kollector is a hell of a chainer, comboing almost everything he does seamlessly between attacks
  38. Citreon, surprise, is a fantastic zoner with ludicrous capacity to control the battlefield and a steep but rewarding learning curve
  39. Enemy animations are critical in deciding what to do and how and when
  40. The controls are fantastic, having just the right amount of input buffering and precision to mean that at all times I feel completely in control of my character, which is critical in general but especially for a fighting game…
  41. …earning a second positive
  42. Between modes and fighters the game is easily replayable
  43. While I’m not into the gore, the sound and impact of the fights themselves definitely have some good viscerality
  44. Despite flash, the game retains good visual distinction
  45. Good and distinct sound design

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Microtransactions as per usual, which are pretty bad overall…
  2. …earning two negatives
  3. Unacceptable launch status

Legend of Legaia

A very interesting, very flawed game. There’s about 10 hours of great here wrapped in a 40 hour game. If you can get ahold of a copy, still recommend for the uniqueness.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: -9
Golden Number: -3.94
Cheats: Yes (Bread bypass, and endgame)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 37.37 Hours
Time Reviewed: 7-1-2022

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Intro stumbles a bit but nevertheless establishes us, our connection to Mei, has some cute moments, has some sad moments, and is well animated, in addition to establishing our quest and the stakes
  2. Animation is almost universally used to good effect to help sell the scenes
  3. The plot point of Castle Drake is actually pretty logical and well thought out; They know how seru-infested humans can survive, and have no other choice, so…
  4. The castle Noa segment is adorable, and does a good job of establishing her
  5. Noa is just… weirdly good throughout, in addition to being the ‘fish out of water’ she’s the most genuine and has the most character moments
  6. Surprisingly good storyboarding for the action scenes throughout
  7. There are several small (usually one ‘scene’) character stories that really help flesh things out
  8. Ratayu is a great example of quiet horror, a doomed town living under a yoke of tyranny even after we save them from the Mist
  9. The entire Sol section is another fascinating and horrifying area; a city half cut off thanks to the Mist, trying and failing to just ignore how bad things are
  10. Noa’s… adorable dealing with Grantes the ‘bad man’ and the entire “I hate pimps!” bit is great
  11. Doodad usage is pretty good throughout, surprisingly
  12. While there’s a few stumbles thanks to dialogue issues, the scene at Uru Mais is some nice backstory and even characterization for Noa and Vahn

Story Negatives:

  1. Functional if bland localization
  2. The weirdly nonsensical Saryu / Noa plot where she just… wanders off to get captured for no real reason, while no one stops her, so we can go rescue her, the most badass and powerful member of the party… just… no
  3. As the game drags on, the dialogue drifts from acceptable to… not, as empty text starts to creep in and the localization actually gets worse (just like FFVII, actually)
  4. The ‘love’ subplot between Grantes and Cara makes both a worse character by how badly the whole thing is written
  5. There is entirely too much Empty Text in the latter chunks of the story
  6. Songi is just the worst. He’s badly written to begin with and has no place in the story…
  7. …but it’s made even worse when he just sort of makes the last chapter happen for no reason
  8. The pacing of the final chapter is completely off
  9. The pacing of the entire story is off; it crunches too much in some sections and then has long swaths of nothing, and there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it
  10. Finally a lot of story sequencing is just disjointed, with no real logic or reason behind why we hit what areas in what order… it felt a lot like FFIV, ‘and now this happens!’

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro doesn’t have much gameplay wise, but it does tutorialize combat pretty well and ensures you have the healing items necessary to survive the first few battles
  2. The interface is surprisingly informative and helpful
  3. The HUD in combat (and while roaming) is similarly good at-a-glance info
  4. The core combat and its usage of comboing to fight is a neat addition
  5. The Spirit mechanic and how it interacts is neat too
  6. And a final plus for general complexity without complication of combat (AP, defense, attacking, MP, capturing, and fighting all coordinate and compliment each other nicely)
  7. Zeto’s boss fight is actually decently well designed; hits hard, but limited, and a nice big tell for the aoe hit, while having not too much health or defenses
  8. Staircase leveling; each increase in power is noticeable
  9. The music is, generally, good
  10. There’s good itemization in dungeons and towns for drops and chests
  11. QoL features (fast menu, shows combos in combat, combat combo memory, button hold option, enemies showing low health via knockdown animation)
  12. The game’s ‘cosmetic’ options aren’t fantastico-amazing, but they are good; the ra-seru growing over time, the different weapons, the armor kits changing, and of course the movesets
  13. Decent fast travel in the Doors of Light
  14. The game’s combat and enemy design rarely leans on pure stat blocks, meaning even despite being underleveled you can out strategize many of the encounters and bosses
  15. The ability to level up spells and increase their abilities in addition to stats is nice
  16. Surprisingly good variety of kit in the accessories

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The seconds in minutes problem of the combat is real, no actions can be skipped and many have full animations or actual slow down…
  2. …the sheer length of this issue blooms it out to a second negative…
  3. …and a third one
  4. The first bundle of dungeons (castle, mountain, and forest) aren’t… bad in the strictest sense, but they are essentially bland padding, and it drags the whole game down
  5. The first mist generator dungeon… sucks. It’s too long, it’s too samey, and it has two hard boss battles in a row with no recovery in between (not counting saves of course)
  6. The early game hell is pretty bad, especially before you get your first character
  7. The Berserker boss is kind of bullcrap; the same health as the previous major boss, one weakness that nothing indicates, and hits like an absolute truck
  8. The game’s itemization in gold drops is pretty bad; it relies entirely too much on either grinding or bosses, and either way you just sort of stay behind the economy curve by a lot (to use an early game example, at the start of the game enemies give about 10 gold a shot, and a healing item is 100 gold)
  9. The game breaking bug of the game hard freezing after the Xain fight on the PS3 version (which is the only version we owned and were reviewing)
  10. The dungeon bundles continue to be disinteresting and at times actively hard to see where to go on the bland, samey backgrounds
  11. To contribute to the padding and slog problem, the bosses just have entirely too much health…
  12. …way, way too much health. I literally spent 56 minutes fighting just one boss
  13. The absolute grind wall of Sol is insane on multiple levels; you absolutely require the 8 loaves of bread to progress, and that means having somewhere around 50,000 gold (which is nutso), getting really good or lucky on the slots, being extraordinarily bored on the fighting game for probably close to an hour, or face grinding for well over an hour on the muscle dome in long slow boring fights… and if you fail at any of these you can lose coins and fall behind to the point where you can’t move forwards without reloading a save…
  14. …all of this is unacceptable on multiple levels, and gets multiple negatives
  15. The Delilias fights are absolutely awful. First we have Che, who is absolutely awful, with a ridiculous block chance that comes out of no where and nothing in the game whatsoever explains in any way shape or form how to bypass or deal with it…
  16. …in addition to the same problem the other bosses have of being extraordinarily boring
  17. The Lu fight has the same base problem; attack, attack, super… and that’s it
  18. The Gi fight similarly falls under the same fate… attack, attack, super
  19. The Koru bossfight is total bullcrap on several levels. The very system doesn’t support damage per turn, but the entire Koru fight is about damage per turn, and it’s a straight up kill if you don’t, so your only alternative is to go grind
  20. The Floating Castle is not good. Long, boring, with irritating encounters, multiple dead ends, and you have to run right back out on a timer
  21. Conkram is similarly a pretty bad dungeon even by this game’s standards; Go up a staircase, then down, then up, then down… and that’s literally it
  22. The Absolute Fortress (cave) is long, boring, and bad, with samey dull corridors and nothing going for it
  23. The Outro is lacking at best, with a long disinteresting dungeon of gross visuals and too repetitive of a (good) song, with a final boss fight that is weirdly easy and frustrating at the same time
  24. The late game has a lot of essentially mandatory grind; either in fishing, gold, levels, or gear, pick your poison
  25. Unskippable cutscenes