Review Runs


The Old Republic Sith Warrior

This is not what I would call a fun game, but the story more than makes up for it. I highly recommend that, if you care, you poke at it with a subscription and a friend (or two, or three).
Total Story Score: +17
Total Gameplay Score: -18
Cheats: Yes (my friends are my power)
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 45 Hours
Time Reviewed: 7-04-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Voice acting quality is quite good, with very few exceptions
  2. Voice acting quantity! There is a ton, and I mean a ton, of (good) voice acting
  3. Korriban Sith Warrior was a good tutorial and intro, quickly and efficiently getting us into the times, the Sith in particular, the sith Empire in general, and introducing us to several good characters including the big one; Darth Baras
  4. Darth Baras is one of my favorite Sith / Dark Side users in the entire setting. He’s pragmatic, smart, and a long-term planner who is still flawed and has his own issues
  5. A second plus for Baras being easily the best villain of the original 8 stories, and a fantastic and believable character who had a logical, well-written descent into desperation as we slowly ripped his power base apart
  6. The Black Talon instance is good stuff storywise, with decent branching narrative and generally good options and relevance, and is overall a good establisher for Malgus, Satile, and the cold war
  7. Sith Warrior Intro is good. It does good establishment of characters, the Empire, the cold war, and our initial threat and arc of Jaesa
  8. TOR in general has some of the best Jedi across the series, doing a great job of showcasing a good variety in Jedi as well as showing just how bad Jedi can get
  9. TOR has, overall, what I consider the best dark side and Sith characters in… the whole of Star Wars, with a good variety and gradient between them
  10. TOR has, overall, what I consider the best Republic people in the series (elite nobles, well meaning commanders, pompous jackasses, etc.)
  11. Best Imperial Soldiers, with good gradient and I feel like I’m repeating myself here
  12. Sith Warrior characters (as per the design; Sith Warrior gets an additional positive for quality and quantity of characters we meet throughout, including but not limited to Rylon, Rylon’s son, Rathari, Kendoh, Pierce, Timmns, Tremel)
  13. Variety of perspective in Empire characters (as per the standard, an additional positive for excellent characters through the Imperial Planetary Primaries)
  14. Quest follow-up mails is a great way to further flesh out characters and stories, and show a small bit of (optional) follow-up on arcs
  15. Visual design of Nar Shaddaa is good stuff, also is a great showcasing of the tech, society, and that sort of grunge Vegas thing
  16. Sith Warrior; confrontation with self doubts in Tatooine is just a great scene. It’s the first real time the game acknowledges your playstyle and choices, and it has several permutations (4 total) depending on what you are and what you choose during the conversation
  17. Internal continuity is quite good. You have to be paying attention, but there are references to the stories of the other classes and factions all over the place
  18. Alderaan Sith Warrior is enjoyable; there’s decent political intrigue in the background, they go out of their way to make a creepy scummy person and then give you the chance to constantly give them their comeuppance, and they allow the SW in particular to really flex in cutscenes
  19. Nomen Karr is an engaging and interesting character, and a nice foil for Baras and yourself
  20. Sith Warrior Act 1 conclusion is incredibly satisfying, even now having done it many times over many years
  21. Vette is just kind of wholesome and cool
  22. Voss planet, civilization, culture, and Planetary Primary are all good stuff
  23. Vowrawn is just delightful, and easily one of the better Sith characters across the Imperial side in general and SW in particular
  24. The finale conclusion with Darth Baras, the build up, the showcasing of your choices with other Sith along the way, and the confrontation itself is all epic and awesome
  25. Aggregate: Droid language and its unique structure is neat // Rylon is actually pretty cool, especially for having only one scene to him // Visual design of Tatooine // Visual design of Hoth // Wylatt is really one of the best examples, ever, of Light Side corruption and it is beautifully horrifying
  26. Aggregate: Timmns is one of the more interesting jedi we meet and, ultimately, I wish I saw more of him // Jaesa is enjoyable in her own right, hampered by her limited presence post-joining // Pierce is, despite his amoral stance, pretty easy to get along with and enjoyable to have along // Quinn grew on more than I thought he would, ultimately being an intriguing foil to Baras

Story Negatives:

  1. Side quests are just… not interesting, even despite having cutscenes and dialogue, and are barebones X of Y style
  2. Many of the instances are just… crap storywise and have the same quantity and quality as a single sidequest on some random planet
  3. External continuity is frankly awful almost every time it comes up. TOR just does not fit with the rest of Star Wars’ continuity
  4. The Revan instances are especially bad, with ridiculous presentation of HK-47, Revan, and Revan’s significance to the overall plot (which itself is… silly at best)
  5. Limited party size which is an issue for the usual reasons, especially in a game that actually lets people not present join in conversations via holocomm
  6. Draahg is just a piss poor Darth Scion and a very Kai Leng character who’s just there and irritating and your rival for no good reason
  7. Aggregate: Hoth’s Planetary Primary is incredibly boring, to the point that it felt like pure filler // Taris’s Planetary Primary is… not good
  8. Aggregate: Broonmark is a completely boring one-note character and a piss-poor attempt to recreate the fascinating character study of Hanharr // Directive 7 and its entire story arc is unnecessarily large scale and ridiculous regardless (we even arrive seconds before the galaxy would be destroyed) // TOR Syndrome
  9. Second negative for the Absent Party problem

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The ability to escape back out of cutscenes in the case of missing or misclicking or misunderstanding or whatever
  2. Reasonably good interface customization options with positioning and scale
  3. Party conversation mechanics are great
  4. A second positive for the great conversation mechanics and the fact that there’s a back-luck-protection built in to help ensure everyone gets a say over time
  5. General co-op friendly design (party size of 4–so 2 players plus 2 companions, the party conversation mechanics, social points for grouping, most encounters and quests designed around the small group, etc. etc.)
  6. Fast travel is reasonably well designed, especially if you have a house; You can warp to spots at will
  7. There’s a very good built-in system to allow for cosmetics, with dyes, lots and lots of equipment which can be mix and matched, as well as ‘synching’ dye colors if you so choose
  8. Additional positive for the ‘permanent transmog’ appearance option, and the ability to have multiple cosmetic suits, visibility of pieces of armor, etc.
  9. Finally there are a huge variety of cosmetic options across the board
  10. Housing is sufficiently varied and enjoyable for a housing mechanic, and also allows for cross-character interaction, and improves fast travel
  11. Aggregate: Character design has a decent amount of options // Clear indicator of Class and Planetary quests // Leveling is sufficiently fast to allow for picking and choosing of content
  12. Aggregate: Directive 7’s boss fights were actually decent, and had actual mechanics // Darth Baras’s fight is thematically appropriate and suitably fun and epic, and even better for how he uses SW abilities throughout the fight

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Travel spacing padding; aka it takes a while to get from point A to point B, and there are long, long stretches in worlds, in between quests, and just traveling around town designed to stretch out gameplay to take as long as possible as part of the usual MMO treadmill
  2. Side quests are just… not interesting, even despite having cutscenes and dialogue, and are barebones X of Y style
  3. Combat isn’t bad in the strictest sense of the word, but ultimately is just a bit… lacking in depth and complexity, which wouldn’t be an issue if not for the sheer amount of combat the game has
  4. Encounter design is not interesting in general, usually boiling down to ‘enemy’, ‘pack of enemies’, ‘summons adds’, or occasionally they have knockdowns or knockbacks
  5. Cannot swap specs in instance, and requires going to a specific NPC to swap specs
  6. Space combat is actively awful at almost every level. It does not have good variety in enemies, objectives, the controls are crap, the setup is all straight gear based, and there’s a hell of a stat wall
  7. The early dungeons, aside from the first two on both sides, are lacking in every way. There’s no interesting visuals, encounters, bosses, or story
  8. In game shop’s mere existence is not a good thing in a game that is a subscription game (or should be)
  9. Usage of in game shop is aggressive and aggravating, and there is a lot of design trying to push the Cartel on players
  10. Absolutely awful ‘free to play’ mode with horrible chopping of features and options
  11. Inconsistent application of Light Side / Dark Side choices, combined with an absence of third options in many cases where there should be
  12. Colicoid War Games is incredibly awful in a sea of otherwise bad instances, with buggy design, poorly set up mechanics, and a total lack of tuning
  13. A final negative for the ‘vanilla’ dungeons just being… awful. The mechanics are almost not even there, the layout is too long, there’s too much trash with too much health, there’s no interesting points to them (one ‘good/bad’ decision per), and the whole thing is just… not worth doing
  14. Gear treadmill as vertical leveling, and also boring disinteresting gear, which is irritating to keep up with and not fun or rewarding
  15. Bad design in terrain and overworld flow (Taris, Quesh, Hoth, Belsavis)
  16. Slog of Belsavis, Voss, Corellia
  17. Additional negative for many hours of slog across the final planets
  18. Font size issues (no option to alter font sizes except for chat, and the existing fonts are entirely too small)
  19. TOR Syndrome (dialogue wheel options not lining up with what you think they mean)
  20. Skill design issues (ultimately disinteresting playstyles and lack of complexity in skill design)
  21. The non-main Companion ‘quests’ are just… disappointing and ridiculous in their fade to black nature
  22. Aggregate: The game as a whole suffers from the format and structure of how it approaches Companions, both in terms of when they join you, how they are distributed across the planets // Unable to release while in combat // Rez has a 15 minute cooldown unless you’re a healer
  23. Core Combat really deserves a second negative for being aggressively unfun
  24. Second negative for absolutely awful, badly designed Encounter layout…
  25. …and a third one for some of the worst Encounter designs in gaming
  26. Speaking of which, that Enemy Variety is awful. You’ve got droids, beasts, gunslingers, and saberslingers…
  27. …and that really is it for planet after planet after planet of content
  28. Second negative for that awful Overworld design and planetary layout
  29. A very wonky, downturning Power Progression Curve that just wigs out by the time you get to the final few planets
  30. Trash design in dungeons is not good. It’s just more random encounters with too much health

Final Fantasy 14

While it didn’t do much I could fairly judge gameplay wise, this is easily the best story FFXIV has had to date. I cannot praise it enough, very much glad I ended up pushing through this one, and hugely recommended to any fans of Final Fantasy, MMOs, or FFXIV in particular.
Total Story Score: +34
Total Gameplay Score: +6
Cheats: No (my friends are my power!)
Total Play Time: 13 Days // 102 Hours
Time Reviewed: 8-27-2019 // 12-8-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Echo as a storytelling tool
  2. Role-Play mode as a storytelling tool
  3. Shadow: The war council and parlay with Emperor Varis is interesting in hindsight, and surprisingly well presented
  4. Shadow: Foreshadowing! The front-loaded storytelling is real
  5. Shadow: The build up to the transfer to the First and the entangled politics and the mystery of it is quite well done and presented, with good foreshadowing
  6. Shadow: The Ghimlyt Dark and following conclusions are some awesome visual storytelling and war presentation
  7. Shadow: Voice acting is generally good to great, with good nuance and presentation
  8. Shadow: A second positive to excellent voice acting, even for relatively minor characters
  9. Shadow: There is a lot of effort to evoke tone and substance in multiple cutscenes and in background presentation. Vauthry and his room, the reasonable and well meaning people in Eulmore, the reality and on-camera transformation of a sin eater, etc.
  10. Shadow: Visual distinction of zones is good, giving a different atmosphere and feel to each biome
  11. Shadow: Generally good brickwork throughout
  12. Shadow: Attention to detail and doodad utilization
  13. Shadow: Ardbert is easily one of the best characters in the entire game. He has a character arc, nuance, and complexities to him. He also has a great voice actor, probably the best in the expansion
  14. Shadow: A second positive for Ardbert,
  15. Shadow: Sufficient effort was put into the culture and society of the various Fairies, making them not just varied, but interesting
  16. Shadow: Seeing the fairies just… wreck the Eulmore idiots was quite satisfying
  17. Shadow: The attack on Crystarium was well done, gets across a powerful narrative point (the singularity of power), had a great scene with Ardbert, and a very emotionally powerful scene with Lyna
  18. Shadow: The scene with Emet and Ardbert at the Ladder was just great. Very powerful, properly foreshadowy, well written, well acted, and moving
  19. Shadow: Emet-Selch (nuanced and layered, voice acting, intelligently written)
  20. Shadow: Emet-Selch (presence, animation)
  21. Shadow: Emet-Selch (continued quality… indeed, only rising in quality as the story goes on)
  22. Shadow: Vauthry, his ‘backstory’, his enforced echo chamber existence, his horrible father, and his voice actor are all lovely
  23. Shadow: So many of the various smaller and semi recurring NPCs are surprisingly interesting and grow on you (Dulia and Chai come to mind immediately)
  24. Shadow: The Amaurot culture is absolutely fascinating and, for how brief it’s shown, interesting
  25. Shadow: Well done presentation of ‘people uniting’ in general, especially the main party, making it feel arguably for the first time like we’re an actual party of friends and family
  26. Shadow: Nylebert’s scene as he joins the Warriors and sacrifices the stone to save the mountain
  27. Shadow: The entire Brenden flashback scene. The fight against Tadric, the sacrifice of the princess, closing his eyes as he swung
  28. Shadow: Shadow Walk With Me (the quest)
  29. Shadow: The Bozja Incident (quest)
  30. Shadow: The (filler) quest arc about restoring Eulmore with Chai and Dulia is quite good, surprisingly well written (and logical in its consequences), and hilarious (especially Alphinaud automatically healing Chai)
  31. Shadow: The beautiful horror of Amaurot (the dungeon) and the slowly woven tale of their inevitable, snowballed fall
  32. Shadow: Good usage of internal continuity (lots of connecting threads)
  33. Shadow: Alisaie and her connection to Bu, leading to her connection with Halric, is a nice character arc
  34. Shadow: Supporting cast. Maxima, Krile, Nanamo
  35. Shadow: The entire sequence retouching on ARR, HW, and Stormblood with Elidibus, culminating in the reveal about Elidibus, the last days of the Convocation, and the final cutscene with Hythlodaeus
  36. Shadow: Culmination of Elidibus and the Warrior of Light
  37. Shadow: The pay off of Emet, Elidibus, and Graha
  38. Shadow: Elidibus, Hythlodaeus
  39. Shadow: Castrum and Bozja content
  40. Shadow: The 5.3 farewell quests. Dalia, Ardbert and Seto’s goodbyes, Ryne’s and Thancred’s final words…
  41. Shadow: …and the actual Outro. Very well animated (best animation in the whole game, really), hilarious (love Alisae’s bits), G’raha finally joining the party, love it
  42. Shadow: Gaia, Ryne, Eden

Story Negatives:

  1. Shadow: The war council and parlay with Emperor Varis’ first half honestly suffers some weird construction and content issues, with the leaders being (frankly) idiots in their moralizing and Varis barely even responding
  2. Shadow: Seemingly arbitrary time dilation between the First and the Source without really explaining why or having a good reason for it, and conveniently it comes and goes with the demands of the plot (so despite just being distorted, it isn’t anymore) AND each of the Scions have virtually no reaction to seeing you again after, from their perspective, years!
  3. Shadow: Ran’jit; every scene he was in just dragged the scenes down for me, affecting a negative tint to scenes that otherwise were decent
  4. Shadow: Ran’jit… where to even begin. He’s too good at everything, seemingly changes his tone repeatedly (this is explainable by his being a broken man who is mentally and emotionally gone), drinks the koolaid a bit too much, and just (without explanation) just sort of survives a massive fall and can see through invisibility and is super awesome… and so on, and so on
  5. Shadow: Repeated moments of cutscene incompetence
  6. Shadow: The Weapons arc has so many issues for me. Ignoring the obvious weird discomfort of jackass, there’s also the fake drama and needlessly irritating stupidity of the kids
  7. Shadow: The Dancer quest isn’t just disinteresting, it’s actively de-investing to the point where I didn’t want to do the quests. This is on top of the fact that it should be a big change to the setting but isn’t, and retroactively adds something that’s always never been an issue
  8. The cutscene Animations are, honestly, just… bad (slow nod)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Spell effects are quite cool looking, some of the better looking spells in the franchise honestly
  2. The dungeon queue system, synching or unsynched, and full access to everything
  3. HUD Layout customization
  4. Glamour isn’t the best but it’s still good and offers a lot of options for customizing your appearance
  5. Good fast travel (usable basically everywhere, go to unlock, and decent spread)
  6. Good NG+ is always a plus
  7. Shadow: The Ghimlyt Dark is quite well designed, with nice quick tiered trash and fun, interesting boss fights
  8. Shadow: Trusts are a good method to ensure you can do the dungeons through the MSQ and…
  9. Shadow: …are well designed enough that it’s actually a feasible option (for DPS’s especially) to level from 71-80, despite its issues
  10. Shadow: Music in the expansion is awesome
  11. Shadow: The Hobbes fight is awesome, fun, varied, and nicely gimmicky
  12. Shadow: The ‘trash’ in Puppet’s Bunker (Nier 2) where you have to move through bunkers, turrets, and balls is pretty cool
  13. Shadow: Aggregate: Improved quality of life changes including but not limited to; The new interface for synthesizing, the quest altitude indicators, retrying on overmelds, linking party finder directly from chat, new hairstyle interface, expansion vendors in major cities
  14. Shadow: Generally good boss and dungeon design
  15. Shadow: Generally good boss and raid/trial design
  16. Shadow: Mt. Gulg gets special mention for being unique and fun
  17. Shadow: Twinning has amazing music, great visuals, lore relevance of course, but some very fun boss fights (notably the first and third bosses)
  18. Shadow: Bozja is a pretty cool mechanic. It lets you level alts from 71 to 80, the alternate mettle gaining is neat, the smooth GW2 style pseudo grouping is neat
  19. Shadow: Eden 2 is really an awesome fight with the timed delay mechanics and general variety
  20. Shadow: Eden 5-8 were some really good boss fights
  21. Shadow: The Warrior of Light boss fight was just stellar in almost every respect
  22. Shadow: Gunbreaker
  23. Shadow: Dancer
  24. Shadow: Eden 9-11
  25. Some great Cosmetic options
  26. A second Music positive
  27. Aaaand a third one
  28. The game has good Options…
  29. Shadow: Great Outro
  30. Shadow: Really, really great Outro

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Awkward and weird and clumsy queueing system
  2. Reducing and outright removal of abilities when synching down to the level of a dungeon
  3. Old and old netcode causing many issues
  4. Leveling speed for alts combined with…
  5. …too many classes that just aren’t themselves (or aren’t fun) until a pretty high level
  6. Tab targeting. There’s ways to sort of make it work but there’s no ‘good’ tab targeting
  7. Honestly menuing is just a bit of a chore across the board
  8. Attunements for unlocks (zones, vendors, raids, dungeons, features)
  9. Limitations of options while in Duty Finder
  10. Aggregate: Cannot mount in capital city areas // Issues with mouse targeting (especially through things, like pets or people) // Bozja progression is kind of a pain, especially getting a proper Castrum run (given the run itself de-incentivizes it)
  11. Shadow: Generally disinteresting (and arguably mis-labelled, at times) side quests
  12. Shadow: The Trust system is excessively grindy (having to do a minimum of 5 runs of just the first dungeon, at around 30-50 minutes each, just to be able to do a second dungeon) plus you can’t level them all at once, so you have to do even more runs to level everyone
  13. Shadow: Only doing the MSQ will result in hitting level walls multiple times throughout the expansion
  14. Shadow: The Ran’jit fights are, honestly, complete cheats, to the point of being reductive
  15. Shadow: Forced single player questing (especially MSQ)
  16. Shadow: Camera zoom out issue
  17. Shadow: The Burn has some reasonable stuff to it, but the Mist Dragon fight can go to hell. It has some nice mechanics but the tuning on the final ‘mist’ phase is entirely too harsh, being very difficult (or impossible depending) to see where to avoid, no time to correct if you don’t see it coming, and the hit is way too punishing when it does
  18. Shadow: Eden 12 is actually a great fight, except that you have to go through the same lengthy cutscene each time you fail and it’s right towards the beginning, after the easy stuff. No checkpoint, no skipping, and it absolutely destroys the tempo (story and game wise)
  19. A second negative for aggravating anti-Co-Op gameplay…
  20. …and a third, for being some of the worst Co-Op I’ve seen in gaming
  21. Core Combat is just not particularly fun
  22. The game is actively mod-hostile
  23. …the game has actively irritating, buried, weirdly laid out Options
  24. Shadow: There’s some weird Pacing issues as you go through the expansion