Games

Control (Revisited)

This game still remains my favorite third person action adventure game in the last decade. There is not one aspect that I would change after having replayed it for free courtesy of Epic Games, and paying for the season pass. Those two expansions were beautiful additions, that helped answer some questions and as always, give more. The world of Control is a place steeped in mystery, and with that comes the fear of the unknown. Are there monsters in the shadows? Of course there are! But thanks to the hard work and effort of the Federal Bureau of Control, the world remains a relatively safe place. As the newly appointed janitorial assistant, Jesse Faden, you – the player, must help eradicate the parasites that have infested the ever-shifting building.

You eventually arm yourself with the so called service weapon, a sentient entity that provides you with an array of different forms of weaponry. You can craft these possibilities at the safe points, designated “control points”, with materials gained from the enemies you defeat – former humans corrupted by the antagonistic force and otherworldly entities. You can eventually acquire paranormal abilities to aid you in your duties. The strongest by far being telekinesis – in fact, this second playthrough was remarkably easy thanks to that ability being the first one I apply all the skill points I can to. These points are gained from completing quests (main or side) and finding hidden areas.

Combat is crisp, quick, and unforgiving. Know your enemy and the game is easy. Coming into it blind, it is a terrifying experience. Wary, and full of tension, you get startled at every twist and corner. The fear of the unknown keeps your wits sharp. Coming into it a second time, it is an action game where I’m the terror come to cleanse these wicked things. To quote a familiar franchise, “Rip and Tear” which is exactly what happens every time enemies appear. Decimate their ranks to ash as fast as possible to get back to the juicy parts – to exploring the map and finding out more secrets and knowledge behind what makes the world of Control what it is. To help unmask some of the mystery.

On and on the Foundation goes.

There are two expansions added to the game, one taking place after the game ends titled the Foundation and the other linking the game, Alan Wake, more tightly and intrinsically into the world of Control which can be accessed after completion of a certain main quest mission. Both of these are tiny little masterpieces in their own rights, each telling a compelling story while adding more to the world and simultaneously deepening the want to know more. I am infinitely more excited to future works by Remedy Entertainment.

Another astonishing experience that I gained this time around was that I played on a PC capable of RTX. The graphics were stunning, and I was kept fully immersed into the simulation – sorry, game. The Bureau’s glass offices reflecting everything else around them, I had no choice but to forcibly slam Jesse through each so I could stop running into areas that I thought had treasure but were merely reflections. One time, in the expansion, I was scared in the dark, and I kept running into a wall because I thought there was a chest inside. When I returned to safety, I thoroughly disintegrated that wall of glass with my essentially rocket launcher mode. Point is, graphics merely supplement the already phenomenal story and gameplay. They don’t distract. You don’t go “wow, that was a pretty game, but the graphics was the only thing good about it. Why didn’t they spend more time with story or gameplay?” Control is an equal package of perfection.

If you haven’t played this game yet, I definitely recommend that you get around to it. It’s a harsh world, but the secrets contained within are worth the effort. And if you’re a fan of Poets of the Fall, you get to experience the wonders of their music within Control. Curious newcomers should check them out if interested.

Games

Shadow Hunter: Lost World – Epic Hack and Slash (Early Access)

Sometimes I come across mobile games that seem to have potential, and I get drawn in for a solid play session. This title is one such game wherein I spent 2hrs and 30 mins of my time and made it fairly far in before the developer (Enigma Software JSC) decided to put in a figurative brick wall thus stopping all progress and enjoyment of the game. Unfortunately, this is common practice in a lot of games because it incentivizes the player to spend real money in hopes of overcoming the burden or obstacle. Luckily, I’m no fool and refuse to fall to this trap.

As for the game itself, you control a lone warrior for reasons unknown as you make your way through dark, ruined dungeons and gloomy forests to a goal not stated. Simply put, you must defeat all the enemies and occasionally beat bosses. The stage is 2D, and you have your main attack which can be charged up to deal additional damage as well as stagger your foes. You have a dash maneuver to evade attacks, a jump function and three abilities to use that differ in their effects – one slashes downwards with great power, another lifts your enemies to the sky and a third acts as a counter. Each ability can gain an alternative function known as a charm should you gain high enough a level. Your character can be equipped with your standard RPG gear ranging from sword, helm, chest, arms, feet, ring and amulet. You can further augment your power with masteries that give various bonuses such as increased move speed or damage to bosses, and various others. You can upgrade these masteries and your equipment as well to further yourself even more. Equipment also ranges from the standard rarities of common, uncommon, magic, epic, and legendary.

In addition to a campaign, you have another area which you may do combat in to raise your passive income of gold or dust (used to upgrade your equipment). There is also an arena to fight for additional loot to gain more powerful equipment. Like every other mobile game, there is also a premium currency that can be bought with real money or acquired scarcely through achievements and watching ads. This premium currency is used to play roulette and gain 10 random pieces of equipment of various rarities at different odds for said rarities with legendary having only 0.6% chance to get. As you can imagine, this again pushes the player to spend real money in hopes of getting good gear.

The brick wall that I mentioned occurs in the campaign during chapter 2 (of 3) at the last stage, node 20. The boss here has double the power requirements of the previous stage (each stage has a recommended power for the player to be at in order to beat it successfully). With all my gear max level and of the epic variety except for two, due to the bonuses having matching equipment, I only come to roughly 6.5K power level and the boss asks for 11.5K power level, approximately. The boss kills you in 3 hits no matter what you do or try. This effectively puts a complete stop to the player’s efforts and feels cheap, and unfair. Up until this point, the player had to effectively utilize their skills and abilities to get past everything. However, with the way the developers made the boss, on this level skill goes out the window and the player is left feeling frustrated. There is simply no way to gain enough power by merely playing the game, you have to leave yourself to that 0.6% chance rate to get the gear that can allow you to pass it. And as stated beforehand, that requires you to spend real money. Which is understandable since games cost money to make but with the odds given at getting legendary gear, a player would have to spend an obscene amount – easily 100 or more dollars. And with that cost, a proper PC or console game is time and money better spent.

In closing, if you’re looking for a fun three hour diversion on the Google Play store then you’ll have fun with this game provided you are skilled enough to enjoy such gameplay. It is basically a 2D dark souls clone with even the same message in the same red lettering displayed when you die. Otherwise, give this game a hard pass.

Games

Call of Duty: Warzone

After being out for nearly a year, one would expect improvements from having played it in its initial month of launch. Sadly, and rather expectedly, this is not the case. Infinity Ward has proven time and time again that they are a smoking wreckage of the team that once was. Everything that was good about them relocated to the other dumpster known as Respawn Entertainment. Warzone is a jumbled mess of ideas that all falter in their execution. Hit detection, which is a major component to a shooter, is hit or miss. Too often one player will unload the entire magazine only to watch in frustration as the kill cam reveals that they stood there doing nothing, not firing, and died. The problem with such a game with so many variables is that the ping is often far too high because the server has to accommodate every player, their position, bullets fired, grenades tossed, abilities used, relay it all to the server and then back to you. Often times, it will fail in this regard and while your point of view will display one reality, the enemies will display an entirely different one. Skill is taken out of the equation, and you’re left at the mercy of various computations.

The problem can’t be alleviated by adding more servers, or necessarily better ones, it’s a problem at its core. The coding is faulty. That’s the simplest answer. There is simply too many variables at play to provide a fun and fair environment. Those with superior internet, and wired connections are still unable to achieve good results. Moving from a Playstation 4 to a wired PC connection, the game sessions I had were exactly the same. 100ms ping with spikes to 150ms proving that it’s not a system issue but rather a fault on their end – every other game maxes out at 70ms, often not even approaching that with an average of 40ms. As for gameplay itself, UAV and heartbeat sensor provide an unfair advantage to those that have vs those that don’t. Knowing your enemies’ positions is highly advantageous and allows for easy kills. While your enemies are getting angered at your ability to know their exact location. Hackers are still rampant in the game, showcasing the vulnerability in their system.

Those that spend real money on the game are rewarded not only with flashy skins (blueprints) but their weapons do extra damage than those that earned the skins by merely playing. It is literally pay to win in a sense. Gone is the Call of Duty of old, of clearing rooms, and always on the move. The new age is here. Stay in one position, fortified, and camp to your heart’s content. It doesn’t matter if you can only play for an hour a day or if you play 8 hours a day, the end result is the same. Your ability to win, and your ability to kill are merely random chance variables at the mercy of the server. Last man standing means people want to survive, means they’ll go for the absolutely scummiest gameplay possibility if it means they’ll win. The only fun aspect is to play with your friends, and if you don’t have friends that play this game then you’re left to mercy and eventually, you’ll have to become that which you despise in order to win.

Games

Cyberpunk 2077 (PC Review)

This review was done on a machine capable of running Cyberpunk 2077 on a high graphics preset. Without sounding that I am dismissing those with problems, lets get serious. What did more than half of you expect that are complaining how you can’t run it without serious issues? I knew going into it for years that you’d need quite the capable rig to experience it in its full glory. I was fortunate enough to experience that. I didn’t have a single game breaking bug. I experienced all there was to offer, and I lapped it up like the thirsty dog that I was. That is not to say that there aren’t bugs and glitches, of which there are. But to focus your entire displeasure of the game on that solely screams to me that you’re out to get them, to tank their review scores. To those that tried to play on PS4/Xbox one, the only blame you should lay is on CD Projekt Red’s investors and higher-ups. It is their fault and their money deals made with Sony/Microsoft that the game was even attempted to be released on those consoles. The game could have been so much more on the PC but the aforementioned dealings ruined that. All of that aside, here’s my view on the game.

Mild spoilers to follow.

Welcome to Night City

Night City, the home of our main character and that of Johnny Silverhand. A beautiful spectacle filled with grandeur, intrigue, mystery and the more than one occasional dead body. A place where all your dreams could come true, or come crashing down with a burning intensity. It is here where the journey begins, and it is here where it all ends. It is your playground, and it can become your tomb. You’ll never want to leave. In my time in Night City, I had accrued 88 hours playtime and in that time, I had finished every single side job, side gig, police scanner and all 6 endings of the game. The seventh ending, the secret ending, is a little bit of a nightmare to do because you have to make exactly the correct choices of dialogue during one mission and if you mess up, unless you have a save file ready, then you have to play the game anew.

I’m getting ahead of myself, let me familiarize everyone with the general gist of the game. You start off by picking your difficulty, your character’s gender (male or female), then you can customize your character to your heart’s content using their customization features such as the infamous dick size, then you move onto picking your lifepath. There are three of them, and each provides a slightly different beginning to the game. They are the Nomad, Streetkid, and Corpo. Nomad starts you off outside Night City in the Badlands, Streetkid starts you off inside a bar, and Corpo – well, I haven’t played that option. It is with these three options that replayability arises, because each gives you the ability to choose different dialogue choices within Night City which would reward you with slightly different lore or information. My main playthrough was with the Streetkid, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Now I’ve read other reviewers thoughts on the game, and while they’re somewhat valid, I feel almost all of them missed the mark or the point. This game isn’t GTA, it isn’t Skyrim, it’s not Witcher 3, nor is it a game without heart and soul. This game is Deus Ex open world. Once you get that perspective into your head, everything seemingly clicks into place. The story is a little bit all too human, too comparable to reality. I’m not talking about the cybernetics or hacking in the game, I’m talking about the class division. The struggle between the haves and have-nots. Between the rich and the poor. Between the corporations and everyone else. And those that seek to bring change to the world, those that seek to tear down the walls between these, they are labeled as terrorists despite not bringing fear into the hearts of the populace but rather encouraging change and being looked upon as heroes – as legends. Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves, is one such character, and he’s the man stuck inside your head. For better or worse. It is your character’s main goal, to figure out how to get him out while you’re slowly dying from him being trapped inside you. Two souls in one body. While also trying to be a legend in your own right, and name. Do you help the corporations, betraying your own principles? Or do you tear them down, and become a legend of Night City? Or do you decide that Night City is a soulless place that deserves no-one and leave it all in the dust? All of these are possibilities and it is up to you to decide.

Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves, goading you on to do the side job.

The similarity to Witcher 3 is that you’re not roleplaying your own character, you’re roleplaying V, like Geralt, and while you have the say in what you do or speak, in the end, V is a character separate from you. Their goals and aspirations aren’t yours but you may influence them and change them. There are set goals in place and you can guide V to one of them. You can choose who V is as a fighter, and as a lover; male, female, or both, it’s up to you. The max level in the game is level 50, and along the way, you get to choose how to distribute your attributes. Each attribute can only go up to 20, and they will have an effect on choices you can make in the world. They’re divided between Body, Reflexes, Technical, Intelligence, and Cool. Within each of these attributes are skill trees which give bonuses to various skills such as shooting a revolver vs a shotgun, or wielding a blade vs a blunt weapon. You gain 1 attribute point and 1 perk point each level plus each of the subcategories, which also go up to 20, can give you perk points. These perk points are spent in the subcategories, the skill trees, and there can be a respec for 100k eddies. Eddies are eurodollars, the main form of currency in the game.

The game can be a little daunting at first, due to the many subsystems and menus and inventory screens but these are quickly learned with the help of the tutorials during the beginning portion of the game. Some things, such as crafting, need points invested in the technical attribute and subcategory crafting itself to be leveled up to unlock better equipment. During my adventure, I found crafting to be the single most useful ability and that the technical attribute to be the most useful for dialogue or entering places. There is another component to the game, and that is the cybernetics or cyberplants as they’re called. You can visit cyber doctors known as Ripperdocs in game, to acquire and install any new ones you want. The various ones that are available are all dependent upon the attributes you may or may not possess. The most handy implant that doesn’t require any attributes and will drastically open up exploration for you, is the double jump located in the legs category. Verticality is everywhere, and the sheer places you can visit and explore and get to once you get this upgrade are vast.

V sitting atop a floating vehicle, reached by double jump and the verticality of buildings

The quests in Cyberpunk 2077 are little bit different than conventional quests you might find in a RPG. The main quest is indeed a little bit short but that’s because the game wants you to do the side jobs or side quests as they’re normally called. These aren’t filler and are rewarding, both in terms of in-game experience and currency but also emotionally. You can pursue a relationship with certain characters, and you can have sexual relations with them, but not to the extent that you might have thought. You are rewarded with a sex scene but it’s not as explicit as you might expect. It’s more on par with a scene from the Mass Effect series. Completing these side jobs also fills in the story some more and does have an impact on the ending portion of the game. The things that are filler are the police scanner gigs which have you clearing out criminals and retrieving material goods. Each of these does come with a data shard which when read, provides some small lore. The side gigs that you find serve to help create world-building and as well, some data shards with lore. They’re often simple but serve as a fun distraction from everything. The map is littered with these. I finished all I could find before I even began the main quest during Act 1, as I enjoyed being in the world and exploring it. To get around, there are vehicles and I hear the complaints that driving is bad but it’s honestly not. Drive in first person and it’s quite fun; sure, V could sit a little higher in the seat, but that wasn’t really a problem. It took a little getting used to but soon I was like a professional race car driver flying down the streets, weaving between traffic. The speed is in miles, and that might affect some who aren’t used to it.

River Ward, possible romance option. Female V describing things men have said to her.
Judy, a possible romance option.

The references in Cyberpunk 2077 are incredibly vast and like the photo above, sometimes a little too on the nose. V is wearing a headset called a braindance device, that allows a wearer to experience the feelings and emotions of someone who recorded a so-called braindance. If you recall the movie Strange Days, it’s heavily influenced from that. Even one of the side quests is eerily similar to the movie’s plot. There are also Matrix references, Mad Max, Batman and all sorts of popular fiction. Each of the side jobs’ titles are song lyrics or titles.

A Death Stranding reference

The graphics of the game are absolutely astonishing and I’m often held in awe. I’d often just stop and gaze at the beauty that is found in the extremely detailed world. It is clear why the base consoles simply cannot run this game. The amount of detail in even one building is far more than in any other game. The way that the rain falls and creates puddles, the little splashes of the drops, the reflection of lights in the puddles and of buildings. How the condensed fog from exhausts forms, how the city’s neon lights transform at night. There is just so much to experience. And then the soundtrack on top of everything is just the cherry on top. I often found myself just listening to the entire menu song before actually loading into the game. In-game, different missions had different songs and sometimes I’d not be doing the objective because I’m just vibing to the music. And that’s not even compared to some of the songs that are found in the in-game radio. Some of these are absolute bangers.

Another example of verticality

Some of the faults I do have with the game are the propaganda to be found or heard, which is to be expected. The following two images are just one example, but there are numerous ones to also be found. Even Johnny’s constant critiques of corporations are but one form of propaganda. It’s hard to make a futuristic world without doing so. Other faults I find are that some guns and weapons are simply far too strong, and once acquiring them, you’ll have little want for anything else.

Exhibit A of propaganda
Exhibit B of propaganda

To surmise, I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed every single waking minute I had of playing this game. I went into it expecting Deus Ex meets an open world and I got exactly that. I got to experience pain, heartache, happiness and joy, sadness, desolation, loss of hope, and the possibility of something more. I experienced a rich and fully realized world. And most of all, I had nothing but fun for 88 straight hours. Not many games can make such a claim or deliver such an experience. That’s all for now until the next time, when the expansions are all released; good night and good luck Night City.

The City that provided hours of fun.

Games

Grimvalor (mobile review)

This game is also available on Switch.

This review is the mobile version as stated in the title. Grimvalor is a 3D 2D side-scroller in the vein of metrovania but due to its dark, gloomy, and despairing environment it falls under darkvania. You play as a lone warrior sent to figure out why misfigured monsters and entities are encroaching on your land’s borders. To that end, you are equipped with a sword and an axe with possible, optional, hidden weapons. You can jump, and you can dodge in addition to your movesets.

The game is very clearly trying to copy dark souls, down to the message that plays in red when you fail “You died.” Unlike dark souls, you get to keep all your souls or xp/currency gained during a run. This helps alleviate some of the difficulty, allowing you to increase your stats with ease. You can also acquire trinkets that give various boons, such as slowing time during a perfect dodge, that allows for an easier experience. Its normal playthrough is challenging while still being fair to the player and incentivizing skill. The bosses are hard but reward patience and timing your attacks. The storyline is simple but still provides a bit of intrigue. Overall, the normal playthrough is hard, but fun.

Now the problems arise in new game plus, where you are offered the opportunity to play through the game again with new pathways and new equipment. And to further your stats. The developers promised new challenging enemies but in reality, all they’ve done is take the same enemies, cranked their health up, given them armor and massively increased their damage output. They did not give any new enemies that required thinking or skill to beat. They’ve introduced enemies that require you to grind areas over and over to pump your stats up so you can cheese through them with raw power. In addition, bosses are now purely an exercise in frustration. Now not only do you have to fight a boss, but the boss will endlessly spawn armored units. I gave up in frustration at an act 2 boss in new game plus. You have to fight 3 different armored units then 9 of em total, and just when you think it’s over, you have to fight a boss who once you chip away 1/5 of its health will summon all those units you just struggled to face. It’s incredibly lazy development. To merely pump up the amount of enemies without offering new ones with new attack patterns. And the worst part is if you die, you have to go through all that again. And speaking of having to go through something again, this game commits the cardinal sin of unskippable cutscenes. You’re forced to watch the boss be summoned every time.

Do I recommend this game? Honestly, no. It’s a hard game with no reward. The storyline offers no resolution to its plot. It merely forces you back into the thick of things again. Its new game plus exemplifies the lazy programming and development of the creators. It’s a dark souls clone that fizzles and sizzles out in its execution. I do applaud them for having a relatively bug free experience. Avoid this title.