Video Games

If you’re wondering what free to play means with Warframe

In the event that some folks are avoiding this game because they assume there’s a “catch”, I thought I’d explain how it works.

Warframe is available on PC, PS4 and XB1. (PC being the lead platform.) It is 100% free to play, forever, without any kind of cap. You can fully level your Warframes and other gear, unlock all locations, progress through all story quests, and participate in endgame activities at the highest level.

So what’s the catch? There are three.

1) Slots. To start with, you have 2 Warframe slots and 8 weapon slots, meaning that’s all you can hold in inventory at a given time. You can rotate anything you want through those slots and experience everything the game has to offer, but it’s gonna sting like hell every time you need to sell off a beloved possession to make room for something else. This is by far the biggest catch.

2) Time. It takes time to build things. For a new Warframe, you typically need to acquire 3 component blueprints, which usually drop from bosses, and construction materials. Then it takes 12 hours to craft the components followed by 3 days to craft the Warframe. Weapons are simpler— buy the blueprint, farm the materials, and build in 12 to 24 hours. This “grind” can be rushed along or skipped entirely by spending $.

3) Cosmetic items are very limited if you don’t want to spend money.

How to work around these three catches?

There are two main in-game currencies. Credits are farmed and used to buy blueprints, rank up mods, build new items, etc. Platinum is the premium currency and can only be purchased with real $. (Well, not exactly. More on this later.) Platinum is used to buy slots for more weapons and Warframes, rush construction projects, buy prebuilt gear, and purchase cosmetic upgrades.

You start with 150 platinum for free. Warframe slots cost 20 and two weapon slots cost 12. So as far as catch #1 goes, you’re handed a Band-Aid right off the bat. 150 platinum will buy you 4 Warframe slots and 10 weapon slots with some left over. That’s plenty to keep you busy for a long ass time. If you find you still need more slots, then you’ve played the fuck out of the game and maybe it’s time to support the developer.

On point #2, the grind is the game, and I hate the term grind because it usually comes with a negative connotation. You get credits, resources, and blueprints by just playing. You don’t play to get those things, you get those things as you play.

And point #3 is largely irrelevant. Cosmetic items are superfluous by their very nature. That said, there’s a reason many people refer to the endgame as Fashion Frame and I’d be full of shit if I denied spending hours fine-tuning color schemes.

Finally, if you’re piss poor and/or absolutely refuse to spend a dime on the game (even though you’d pay $60 for something you’d put less time into) there is a way to get platinum in-game. You can farm rare mods and Prime parts and sell them to other players. So ultimately, it is possible to have everything for free, but it would take an immense amount of time.

What I like about this model is that you only spend money on the things you value, as opposed to paying a flat rate for a game or DLC that may include stuff you don’t particularly care about. YMMV.

Video Games

Darksiders 2 game review

And Platinum Trophy no. 17, huzzah!

I played the Deathinitive Edition on PS4 and thought it was decent, but nothing special. Darksiders 2 is an open world, third person, hack and slash, adventure rpg—or something along those lines. You play as Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, on a mission to redeem his brother War.

It sounds wonderfully fun, but the execution (teehee), while broad in scope, is exceedingly shallow. The story was sufficient to provide purpose for Death’s actions, but failed to move me in any way. It was also cliched, poorly told, and occasionally confusing. You meet a handful of marginally interesting NPCs along the way, but without an engaging story or meaningful character development, it all falls flat.

Now, I  don’t expect every game to spin a tale on the same level as The Last of Us, not by any means. But the longer it takes to play through a game, the more the game needs to do to make you care. Tetris is great, but I’m not going to play 50 hours of it over the course of 3 weeks.

Story aside, Darksiders 2 suffers from not knowing what it wants to be. I think it aspires to be something like an open world God of War, but being open world isn’t a good thing if there’s no worthwhile reason to explore. It just means time wasted while traversing to the next point of interest. It lacks Witcher 3’s narrative depth, Dark Souls’ sense of wonder/dread, and God of Wars’ focus. The end result is that it’s not very good at being open world, or at being an RPG, or at being a hack and slash adventure game.

Well, at least the fighting is fun right? Eh, it’s just okay. The combo system pales in comparison to God of War, Bayonetta, or Star Wars: The Force Unleashed—to name a few. I used the same handful of moves throughout the game, regardless of the enemy or situation. When things got particularly hairy, I’d summon some ghouls to help out and that’s about it. But, you get a lot of cool gear right? Um, not so much. I got an axe with Life Steal early on and it remained my best weapon option well into NG+.

I don’t mean to sound soooooo down on the game. I mean, I was entertained enough to finish it and then go on to get the Platinum Trophy. It’s just, I can’t point to anything about it as being exceptional*. I can’t even say it ran well, as it crashed numerous times. Ultimately, I think Darksiders 2 is reasonably fun, but starts to feel like a slog about two thirds in and your time is probably better spent playing something else.

 

*Correction, the voice acting is generally very good and Michael Wincott, who voices Death, has a phenomenal voice.

Video Games

Aaru’s Awakening game review

There’s not much to say really. Aaru’s Awakening is a side scrolling platformer that I got as a free PS+ at some point. The only reason I played it is that it had the distinction of being first alphabetically in my games library.

I enjoyed the visual style and challenging gameplay, but that’s about it. There’s not much story to speak of and it’s told by a narrator who sounds like a child giving it their best effort, but who is in no way cut out to be a voice actor. The music and sound effects are unremarkable, though at least not annoying.

As the golden bird-bear beast Aaru, you make your way through four levels, then fight a boss—rinse and repeat. The levels simply require you to navigate increasingly treacherous environments. You’ll encounter a few enemies along the way, but killing things is by no means a focal point of the game. Boss battles are quite involved and require puzzle solving skills in addition to coordination.

If I had to describe Aaru’s Awakening in one word, it would be: hard. If I had two words, it would be: brutally hard. Three: brutally fucking hard. And finally six words: brutally fucking hard side scrolling platformer. It is quite possibly the most difficult game I’ve ever managed to finish. When I started it, I was like, “hunh, this is entertaining in an old-school sort of way and seems pretty short; I’ll play through it.” Yeah, well little did I know. I finished it purely because I didn’t want this to be the first time I quit a game because it was too difficult.

The difficulty of it is in timing and coordination, but not in a good Dark Souls kind of way; more of an arbitrary—you’ve got to be kidding me with this shit—kind of way. If you enjoy platformers and love a good challenge, then by all means, have a go at Aaru’s Awakening. For everyone else, you’re not missing much if you pass on this title.

Video Games

Platinum Trophy no. 16 – Horizon Zero Dawn

After 104 hours of play, I have finally finished Horizon Zero Dawn and earned the Platinum Trophy. A full review will be forthcoming, but needless to say, I think it’s a magnificent game.

As Platinum Trophies go, this was one of the easiest. Even though I have the strategy guide (and the internet), I played the game completely blind on the highest difficulty. I didn’t look up anything about the story, strategies, or trophies. After the credits rolled, the only trophy I had left to get was the one for knocking down all of the Grazer dummies. Piece. Of. Cake.

If I were to give a very general assessment of the game, I’d say the technical implementation is near flawless. HZD is smooth, beautiful, and well thought out in every way, from the menus, map, and HUD to graphics and gameplay. The main story and main characters are very good. The place where it has the most room for improvement is in its extended cast of characters, their interactions with one another, and side quests. At no point did I feel much of anything towards any of the other inhabitants of Aloy’s world.

I take that back. I fucking hated Ahsis with a passion.

Video Games

For Honor game review

I already reviewed the beta and talked a bit about what For Honor is. So for this post I’m just going to summarize my final thoughts.

First off, let’s get Story Mode out of the way. It is, in a word, an abomination. To say it’s a glorified tutorial is a slap in the face of good tutorials. It’s a disjointed, nonsensical, poorly written mess covered in cheese sauce. I have not a single positive thing to say about it except that it’s blessedly short—which is the only reason I was able to power through it.

For Honor is a multiplayer game. Buy it for the multiplayer and only for the multiplayer, lest you be forced to ask yourself how the hell a viking berserker with two axes at hand was jailed in a cage made of wood and rope.

The multiplayer on the other hand, is really, really good. The centerpiece of it all is the “Art of Battle” combat system. It is fun, innovative, challenging, deep, and rewards both twitch skill and tactical thinking. Each of the twelve playable characters feels unique and requires a significant investment of time to properly learn. This along with the many customization options and gear upgrades is what gives For Honor its long term playability.

One of the biggest things that stands out to me as compared to other PvP games is how each and every engagement with another player feels significant. It almost doesn’t matter what game mode you play. Whether it’s 1v1, 2v2, or 4v4 deathmatch or dominion, the gameplay always comes back to individual engagements. Sure, some teammates may join the fray now and then, but you’re still always locked onto one opponent, trying to win that duel in the moment, regardless of whatever else is going on.

Despite all the goodness on offer, a few issues dampen the experience. Sometimes play is very smooth, other times it feels laggy and unresponsive. Parrying is incredibly inconsistent. Matchmaking often results in poorly balanced teams. The maps all feel samey same and the servers have been flaky.

If you like competitive play and melee combat, For Honor is an absolute must. I’m not a fan of PvP and even I enjoyed it. That said, it has pretty much run its course with me. The more time goes on, the more people who excel at this sort of game pull away from the rest of us. PvP matches seem to get harder by day. Pile on the technical problems and I suddenly want to throw my controller at the wall. A sure sign it’s time to move on.

Video Games

God of War 3 game review

God of War 3 is a solid game—good but not great—that never reaches the level of the original. All of the elements are there, but it somehow manages to be less than the sum of its parts. Held back by a weak story and a tragic hero who is neither tragic nor hero.

All of the things that God of War is known for are present: great score, brutality, twin blades, Greek mythology, and over-the-top action. You’ll fight across the surface of Gaia as she scales Mount Olympus. You’ll cut your way out of Kronos’ gut. You’ll take Hermes’ boots with his feet still in them, and use the head of the Sun God as a flashlight. You’ll even get to role in the sack with Aphrodite—before and after killing her husband. The kind of stuff that can only happen in a God of War game.

That’s all well and good, but there are a lot of things that just fall flat. We’re once again fighting with the same twin blades, using the same combos, and ending fights with the same quick time events. Sure you get some other weapons along the way, but as in previous games, they’re never as good or have as wide a variety of moves. The enemies are variations of things we’ve seen before. The boss battles aren’t particularly remarkable, and the puzzles aren’t particularly puzzling.

The biggest things holding the game back however, are the clumsy story and continued unlikability of Kratos. In the first God of War, Kratos actually is a tragic figure. The story involves Kratos saving Athens from the God of War in the hopes of receiving forgiveness for his sins. (Actually he wants the nightmares to stop, but assumes forgiveness will do that.) He’s a monster on a hero’s errand, and we get to learn how all this came to pass. Ultimately, he fights both Ares and his own inner demons in what is one of the great final boss battles in all of gaming.

In GoW3, Kratos is on a mission of revenge, pure and simple. He happily destroys everyone and everything in his way, be they man or god, beast or bystander. He plunges the world into chaos and darkness without any care at all. Athena urges him along this path for reasons of her own, and the whole thing hinges once again on Pandora’s Box. The history of the box, its purpose, what it contains, and the key to opening it are where things get clunky. For instance, Kratos needs the power that resides in the box so that he may kill a god; thus allowing him to take vengeance upon Zeus. But he kills like six gods along the way and never wonders “hey, maybe I don’t need the stupid box”. I think this is a case where action dictated the story, rather than story dictating the action.

As for Kratos, he never becomes a hero and never finds redemption, which is fine. Redemption isn’t always possible. But at this point, we’ve got two full games since the original that are nothing but a shitty dude doing shitty things for shitty reasons, and it’s wearing thin for me. If you liked the first two, go ahead and play GoW3; it’s more of the same. I found it better than the second but not as good as the original. If you’re new to the series, then like I said at the beginning: it’s good but not great. If you’re a lover of hack and slash, then go for it, otherwise, I’d say pass.

As a side note, I’d like to talk about one particular scene in the game where Kratos shoves a bare-breasted princess around until finally using her as a wedge to hold up a large contraption. She screams momentarily, before being brutally crushed.

I’ve played a lot of games, seen all kinds of violence, and all manner of horrible things done to scantily clad female characters. This is the first time I ever recall thinking, damn, that was a bit much. Most games that aren’t serious, I don’t take seriously. I don’t have a problem dismissing silly things from my consciousness. But this made me stop and wonder, what the hell was the point of that? I understand Kratos is a merciless, brutal character and the developer is trying to portray that, but at the same time, it’s hard to play the role of someone so despicable. The whole thing struck me as cheap shock value entertainment.