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.

Video Games

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch game review

Ni No Kuni is a whimsical old-school rpg that is equal parts classic Final Fantasy and Pokémon. It’s the heartfelt story of a young lad named Oliver from ‘our’ world that finds himself on a grand adventure in an alternate realm. First of all, it is absolutely beautiful. The hand drawn art style is gorgeous. You could pause the game at any time, take a screen shot, print it, frame it, and hang it on your wall. It really is eye-candy throughout. Even the Wizards Companion, which is book you access in your inventory is beautiful to gaze upon. Unfortunately, the artwork is the only thing about Ni No Kuni that rises to greatness.

The story is at times both clever and clumsy. The names of most things and many of the expressions used by characters in the ‘other’ realm are clever plays on the words and expressions of our world. It lends to the feel that the two worlds are reflections of each other. Like when we would say something is ‘neat’, they might say it is ‘tidy’ (neat and tidy). The game is full of those things and at first you get the feeling that the writers are really freaking smart. As it turns out, the same care was not given to the plot. The story is full of contradictions and holes to the point that it becomes a distraction every time you notice another one.

The dialogue and acting are good, if a bit cheesy. But once again, the game falls short of its potential because most scenes are not acted, they play out as text scroll. Or even worse, they’ll insert 30 seconds of acted dialogue with text scroll before and after. It’s disconcerting and takes you out of the moment.

The mechanics are tedious and unrewarding. On the plus side, you can capture almost every creature you fight and turn it into a pet of sorts to fight on your side. These familiars as they’re called level up separately from you and you can feed them various things to boost their skills and give them new powers. Cool. Until you realize there are hundreds and they all level independently. There’s also no way to tell in-game which ones evolve into the best familiars, as some blossom late in their development, some early, and some follow a more linear path. That said, as long as you spend some time grinding xp, you can complete the game with any of the familiars. What you’ll probably do though, is just stick with the ones you find early, because they’ll always be farther along in their advancement than the ones you get later on. It’s a terrible design choice IMO, which discourages you from trying out new beasties which may actually be better in the long run.

As far as fighting goes, if you take your time and grind xp as you go, you’ll never have a problem and never need to use any particular strategy to win. As long as you’re over-leveled, it’s an exercise in pushing X until the fight is over. Boss battles are a little more complicated as you’ll use a variety of Oliver’s spells rather than simply attack with your familiar, but again, no particular strategy is required other than keep doing damage and heal up when you need to.

Exploration will occasionally reward you, but not with anything very good. There is a crafting system that is horrendously convoluted and unnecessary to complete the game. Side quests are samey same and never difficult, just time consuming. There are no important choices to make and no consequences for failure; all of which leaves you feeling like you’re along for the ride and not an active participant in the story. Fine for an action game, but these are the things that make great story driven games so engaging.

I don’t want to sound overly harsh, because that game is quite good, and it kept me entertained for over eighty hours. It’s the wasted potential that makes it so frustrating. Out of five stars, I’d give it three or three and half. I have not completed any of the end-game content, and probably won’t, for just like many of the characters in the game who’ve become broken-hearted, I’ve lost my Enthusiasm.

Video Games

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance game review

It’s meh. At times it’s pretty good, but mostly it falls flat. The highlight is definitely the boss battles. They’re challenging, varied, and quite fun. The story is ridiculous. Voice acting is not good. Music is annoying as all hell. Visuals aren’t anything special. Gameplay is okay. Carving enemies in half and ripping out their repair units is fun, but the camera does weird things at the most inopportune times and it’s incredibly frustrating. Mostly though, Jack is just a really boring and unlikable character, which is a shame, because he has a great backstory and I loved him in Metal Gear Solid 4. Unfortunately, Revengeance does a complete 180 on the character development that took place in MGS4, leaving you with a kind of what was the point of it all feeling.

If you’re in the market for sword wielding ass-kickery, I highly suggest Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

Video Games

Borderlands 2 game review

Took me a while to get into it, but once the story got into full swing it was pretty good. Very much the same game as Borderlands 1 but with more of everything. More story, more locales, more enemies, more weapons, more NPCs, more more more. Borderlands has a very striking visual style and an off-the-wall sense of humor that you will probably either like or detest. It’s hard to imagine someone being ambivalent about it. I happen to like it for the most part.

I had no technical problems, music is very fitting, sound design is solid, dialogue and voice acting are both decent. The main problem with Borderlands is that it just doesn’t ever rise to greatness. Most of the guns are rubbish, the boss battles aren’t memorable in the slightest, except that last one, which was dramatic but ridiculously easy. As you level up the skill trees, you rarely gain an exciting new trick. Mostly it’s a series of minor buffs that accumulate to make you much better, but you’re left feeling a little bit like ‘that was it?’.

For me, the best part of the game is in the details of the environments. There are jokes everywhere and I play the game with a constant grin and occasional belly laugh. You can get BL on the cheap nowadays, I recommend everyone give it a go purely because of its uniqueness. Even though the stories are intertwined, it’s not necessary to play both, feel free to skip straight to the second one.

I can’t comment on all the classes except to say I did not like Assassin but I did like Gunzerker. In Borderlands 1 I played the Hunter I think? Whatever class Mordecai was, and that was also very fun.

There’s a lot of DLC and endgame stuff to do, but I think I’ve had my fill.

//Handsome Jack was a top drawer villain. Top drawer I say.

Video Games

Batman: Arkham City game review

I just don’t get all the hype with this game. The story is non-existent. Batman’s dialogue is painfully cheesy and poorly delivered. Despite a large open world, the locations are all samey same and forgettable. Decent boss fights are few and far between, so most of your fighting time is spent dealing with one of two scenarios: mobs of unarmed thugs or rooms of heavily armed but spread out thugs. For the former, you simply drop in and kick ass. For the latter, it’s a tedious process of taking out goons one by one with a lot of time spent waiting and stalking.

Detective vision, or whatever it’s called, needs to be rethought. Because of all the hidden stuff and the need to keep track of armed thugs, you have it activated way too much of the time. You rarely get to appreciate the environment, which is a shame.

Riddler trophies are extremely annoying. They give good experience, so you want to get them, but all too often you spend 10 minutes trying to figure one out only to realize that you don’t have the right gadget yet to get it. Wasting players’ time is not cool.

Let’s circle back to the plot. The very notion of turning a huge swath of Gotham into a prison is beyond ridiculous. The idea that these super villains couldn’t escape a prison with no roof is equally absurd. The fact that Bruce Wayne is “arrested” in plain view is ridiculous. The whole idea of Protocol 10 is retarded. Killing all the inmates with missile fire from helicopters? Strange is granted permission to do this? The inmates don’t have the wherewithal to hide underground? Or shoot down the helicopters with all the military grade weapons they have? You don’t get the option to bypass encounters through stealth even though Batman refuses to kill anyone. Nope, the only option is to beat everyone to an unconscious pulp. I could go on.

So what good can I say? Mark Hamill is brilliant playing the Joker as usual. The gadgets are fun, as is swooping around the city. Combat is fluid and uniqueish, but still only meh for me. I didn’t encounter any technical problems aside from a few frame rate drops, though the directional audio is a mess. Where you hear voices coming from has little or nothing to do with where the speaker actually is. Music was forgettable. I much preferred Arkam Asylum which is, as another reviewer put it, more focused and more creepy. Ah well, I’m sure a lot of folks just enjoy getting to be the Batman, but that’s not enough for me. I can’t be arsed to play the post game content, the DLC, the side missions, or find all the Riddler Trophies. Platinum is obviously out of the question.

Video Games

Assassin’s Creed III game review

Of the three AC games I’ve played, this one is undoubtedly the best, though it’s still far from being a great game. Compared to its siblings I thought it had more variety, a more compelling story, and better integration with historical events. The Naval missions especially were a welcome change of pace.

I enjoyed building the Homestead and liked how each of the artisans had a developed backstory and unique personality. The whole crafting system, while a good idea, was badly implemented and rather pointless. The outfits were decent, though the system (or lack of system) for changing outfits leaves much to be desired. The primary weapons were lame in that the best ones could be purchased early in the game and I used them throughout. On the plus side, I really liked the Rope Darts; those things never got old.

This game, much more so than the others I’ve played, followed along with the historical narrative. I saw the Boston Massacre, I led the Tea Party, I went on Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, I was there when the Shot Heard ‘Round the World was fired by no one knows who, I fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and played Bocci with George Washington. The locations were all very meaningful to me as well being from the area.

The story, aside from the historical bits, was very well developed with several twists and turns. I won’t go into details, but I enjoyed it along with most of the main characters. Haytham and Charles Lee in particular were very well done and well acted. Unfortunately, the main character, the character that you play, has the personality of a tree stump.

On the technical side, I encountered a few glitches and had one hard freeze, but on the whole, no major issues. Gameplay was typical AC, though a bit simpler than previous installments. All told, I put in an enjoyable 43 hours and 34 minutes, though towards the end, I was ready to be done with it and move on to something new. This is after all, still an AC game. There is a great deal of time spent running/riding from place to place, though having numerous fast travel points around New York and Boston helped in that regard. There is also much slogging through mundane and repetitive side missions, which are mostly optional, but when presented with an activity my personality does not allow it to go unfinished. That said, there are several I didn’t complete and I certainly can’t be arsed to go for the Platinum Trophy.

All in all, a good game, not great. If you’re interested in the time period and events surrounding the American Revolution then it’s worth the $10-20 you can get the game for nowadays, otherwise, you can pass and rest assured you’re not missing out on much.

//Forgot to mention, audio balance is horrendously, inexcusably awful.