Tunic (PC)

Platform: PC (also available on Xbox and Game Pass)

Where do I begin? Having made my way through 95% of the game’s content because nostalgia ruled my heart, I can clearly see the love and passion that went into it. It invoked that feeling of being a kid again playing on the SNES or the N64, of retro consoles before we got into modern gaming. Of finding secrets hidden behind random walls, and of guidebooks that came with the game filled with artwork, tips and help. It heavily borrows, or inspired by, elements of the Zelda games. Those worlds had so many secrets to find, and no hand to guide you. You had to figure out how to solve everything and where to go. The recent other game I finished playing had a similar deal. The graphics are cutesy, in a 3D isometric world and you play as an anthropomorphic animal – in this case, a fox – as you traverse in search of items of power.

Our mighty hero, yes, the tuft of hair moves even while stationary.

Developed by one man, Andrew Shouldice, for several years until he partnered up with publisher Finji to help polish and finish it up. This game is a prime example of why anyone working on anything solo needs a friend, a buddy, just somebody to bounce ideas off and tell you “This is a stupid idea” when you come up with a truly stupid idea. The last half of the game falls under this entire category. To me the game ended wonderfully when I collected the three random items I needed. In fact, it should have ended there officially but Andrew went and committed a gaming cardinal sin. You never take away the player’s upgrades near the end of the game. Start of the game is fine. But if I’ve taken the time to explore your carefully crafted world, went down all the nooks and crannies to find items to better myself, and you reduce me to barebones? You know how I feel? Like you don’t care about the player having a fun experience. It feels like you created a game because you wanted a world filled to the brim with secrets, with hidden paths and shortcuts and failed to remember you need a fun core gameplay loop.

Trusty stick before I found the sword


Combat is the worst thing about this game, and it is the core mechanic. You press x/y/b, depending on which slot you like, three times for your sword. The first two swings stand in place, and the third lunges. You can dodge three times at the start, but because of stamina, it’ll take time to refill. If you run out of stamina, such as dodging three times, the meter turns red while it refills and you take additional damage. You are only invincible during the start while there is dust on the ground. Except I’ve repeatedly found that sniper enemies will still hit while there’s dust on the ground and only the first half second counts as a dodge.

See that tick under invulnerability? Past that, snipers do hit. Love being lied to by a game.

Many of the stronger enemies have a strong predilection to running away from your attacks until they back into a wall. Given how you stand still for your first two attacks, you can see how infuriating this might get. You can alleviate the issue by using a found magical grappling hook to pull enemies towards you, stunning them momentarily. You only have 8 uses of it with your un-upgraded magic meter, and the only way to restore it, short of using a shrine, is to eat blue berries (150 gold) or hope the enemy drops little blue cubes which refill a small portion. You can find additional tools that all use magic, as well as various items that buff, heal, or damage enemies. Gold is earned from defeated enemies, or hidden away in chests. Upgrades start off relatively cheap but get insanely expensive quickly, costing upwards of a 1000 gold. There are several items that cost as much, and having scoured the world, and fought numerous enemies, there’s no way I could buy all of them without spending several hours mind-numbingly grinding away.

A section of the overworld

The world in question is very intricate, with several different zones that are interlinked by often hidden methods, out of sight, or locked behind several mechanisms. There is eventual fast travel. The map at first might seem too simple, but closer looks reveal little drawings showing secrets or paths, merchants and your position. Like Zelda games, there are various dungeons which require an item or tool to get to, and which become the theme for that zone. There’s a bit of backtracking as getting new tools allow you to reach previously unattainable areas. It borrows also from Dark Souls with the use of the shrines that heal you but also refresh all slain enemies, and that you drop a portion of your currency on death. You can recover it later and cause a mini-explosion which damages nearby enemies. Yes, there are sections which you’ll be running through repeatedly on your way to your body because the save points are far and few, and the shortcuts aren’t yet apparent.

The Bosses

These are the worst part of the game because they grind everything to a halt. The bosses are overdesigned: given moves that attack much more rapidly than the dodge system can handle, or have such fat pools of health that even with max upgrades, it feels like a slog. Some of the later bosses have such varied movesets, and abilities, that I can’t help but feel jaded because all I have is a boring 3-hit combo. I can find a shield eventually, but it can only block 2-3 hits before running out of stamina. It can parry, but the system is so obtuse that I only got it reliably working one time. You hold right trigger to block, but if you double press it quickly, you can parry. Except there’s a noticeable delay to me pressing the action, and it happening, and given the fast paced nature of each encounter, there’s too much effort for minimal gain as a player to reliably learn it.

The penultimate boss fight consists of you fighting against several waves of various mobs of enemies you’ve already encountered before. There’s 7 in total, and each contains roughly 20 or so units to fight. This entire ordeal begins anew should you die. This entire section happens after you find the three magical items, and lose all your upgrades. You are at your weakest fighting the strongest enemies in the game. It is not fun. It is simply a chore. It is the type of idea a friend would have said, “Hey, Andrew, I don’t think you’ve played any modern games, but this is a stupid idea.” It gets better, or worse? This section of the game features invisible enemies that give no indication of position, except for when they attack, or are above water. If you do manage to hurt one, it reveals itself. If you try to attack them, they float away from you at high speeds so you waste your time. They also kill you in two hits.

The final boss fight has two phases to it. Luckily, you get to go around the entire overworld again to acquire back your upgrades without any added benefits! The boss kills you in 3 hits at maximum upgrades. I have to spend 20 minutes for phase one, and then the same amount for phase 2 and I have to execute with perfection. Yes, I haven’t beaten it yet, and probably won’t. These are some of the worst gameplay choices I’ve ever seen in a game.

I was at 6 and 5, and still struggled.

Closing Thoughts

The combat with the magic system works great in the first portion of the game, the enemies are fine tuned enough that they require skill to avoid their attacks, and aren’t too fat with health. It did not feel like the bosses were designed with a healthy attitude. One like, “hey, how can I use the systems I gave the player in a fun and challenging way that relies on their own skill?” Instead, we got the usual mentality rearing its ugly head of “Fuck you, player.” Every boss is a fat sponge of HP with mechanics that stop all your moves or learned abilities resorting to one possible play: mash attack and dodge attacks. Though sometimes you can’t, because of that aforementioned limit to stamina, and bosses react by throwing out multiple attacks and projectiles that cannot be fully dodged. This detracts immensely from the experience. The latter half of the game turns into a chore by spiting me for playing by purposefully crippling my character.

Which is a shame to be honest because that initial moment of first starting the game, of being unsure where to go, and slowly learning what you had to do, it had echoes of greatness to it. And as you explored finding hidden chests, you’d get those bangs of dopamine, the thrill of being proved right that there was something tucked away! But then you started to fight enemies, and after the fifth cowardly enemy, you started to take offense to the design. You have to be aggressive but you constantly get punished for it. You collect all three magical items and then find yourself going, “what now?” and the game also tells you that. And then when you do find out, it turns the game into a giant chore. I don’t feel any accomplishment or pride that I got past that section. I feel annoyed, you purposefully wasted my time. That whole section was filler because you don’t know how to end your game.

Then I learn of the secrets. Of how if I listen to this random wind chime, I can figure out directional inputs on the d-pad, and input a random string of d-pad commands to summon a treasure chest, or to open doors. Of the game leading me to a hidden website link, where I can download an audio file which can then be run through an audio spectrum analysis program to find a hidden message. I have to analyze the random scribblings on the wall to find a code. Pardon me to all them politically accurate words, and apologies to the autistic community in advance, and all those with legitimate mental issues, but… How retardedly autistic did this developer get? You poured all that time and effort into designing something like that but you can’t be bothered to create a fun combat system beyond three strikes? You can’t be bothered to fine tune the bosses to such an extent as you fine tuned those secrets?

Apparently that shape on the wall is a d-pad combination, but following the line and pressing the directions regardless of starting point do nothing.

This is another one of those Game Pass games that got the Microsoft treatment where they influence positive reviews of the game. It’s a 6/10 game at best, and the nostalgia is what helps keep the rose colored glasses on so you can’t see the ocean of red flags. If I didn’t consider the later portion of the game, and maybe if the puzzles didn’t require a savant or autistic mind to normally solve, pardon my bluntness, it would be a much better experience. And if the bosses had their health meters tweaked, and their damage lowered, it would be a better game. It took me 13 hours to get to the final boss and explore much of the world (9/12 hidden secrets and half of the fairies), and if the boss wasn’t such a health sponge, I’d give it another go until I beat it.


The Riftbreaker (PC)

I had originally heard about this game thru the reddit grapevine a year back or so, when it was in early access. I was sort of intrigued, but I felt that the majority (there are exceptions), of early access games tend to flounder and die. Color me surprised when I saw that it had made its way onto Game Pass. Excellent, I can try it out!

A game promising mech action hack and slash/shooting, with an emphasis on base building like starcraft or AOE? Sign me up. 4 different worlds to explore, and build on? Seems to be filled with content. Unfortunately, the core gameplay loop requires so much more polishing to turn it into a fun adventure instead of the infuriating loop that’s currently going on.

You land on a randomly generated tropical planet, you gotta find a suitable spot to start building your base, and ideally it should be located between a blue and an orange resource. These two are your main resources when it comes to constructing buildings, and acquiring new weaponry or research. Instead of having a slew of units that go around gathering resources for you, or constructing new buildings, you simply make these buildings that mine for you. But, here comes the base management aspect: you have to manage both resources and electricity. Everything in your base is powered by electricity and if you don’t have enough, they will stop working. So your mines would stop excavating, and your perimeter defenses would be inoperable. There are different types of power available, and they each are affected differently by environmental aspects. You can build wind turbines, solar arrays, power plants that use your vital resources, a power plant that uses plant matter (hack/slash any of the environment), and all of that has to be linked together, and maintained with storage units. Night falls, no more solar power. Run out of plant matter? No more bio energy. Wind randomly decides to not work? Tough luck. The speed at which new buildings require electricity, and you carefully managing resources is difficult, and it doesn’t help to be attacked.

You can start to see how there’s a loop here. You have to find resources, drop mining camps on them, manage your electrical output, and defend all of it always from all the various dangers to be found.

Let’s talk about these dangers! For starters, every 7 minutes after the first 5 minutes, your base will get attacked by progressively stronger enemies. That means you have to quickly think how to expand your base, where to deploy it, how to defend it, think of managing electricity and constructing buildings all the while having a countdown that constantly adds to the pressure of getting things done. That’s not all, folks! There are random environmental dangers that can occur without warning, where you have no defenses against it, and it can completely annihilate your base – I didn’t say hurt, in which case, you can simply repair it. The event will destroy buildings that you may have spent valuable resources on, and tough luck. Get cracking, build again.

This kind of artificial difficulty has no place in video games, and I’m sick and tired of seeing developers put it in their games. The only difficulty that should exist is because I’m not smart enough, or clever enough to figure out the challenge coming my way. In the case of the random environmental dangers, to alleviate it, I should be able to research or build something that counters it, which is costly, and therefore requires an aspect of risk. But to simply destroy part of the player’s base, with the only course of action to rebuild? The only thing the developer is saying here is “Fuck you, player.” And honestly? This is why your game is on Game Pass, I would never recommend anyone spend a dime on this game.

See what the developers did with this game, is they realized their core gameplay loop is actually severely lacking in certain aspects, a bit too overblown on others, and so they did the number one trick lately. They shined and polished the graphics to look amazing, the effects and particles, all the fancy lightworks, everything to give your eyes a visual treat. Why? To distract you from figuring out they polished a turd to shine!

You land on a randomly generated terrain. You move to scout out the area, trying to find a good spot where there’s the blue resources, and an orange one nearby. You scour the map, and there’s no good spot. You quit, reload, and try a new randomly generated area. You do this about 20 times or so, until finally, you find an area you could build some sort of easily defended walls and towers. You build your headquarters, and then the mines, and the little bits of power for them, and then you start to think how to expand. However, the rate at which you mine and the rate at which you generate electricity are at a slow crawl at the beginning, so you can’t afford to explore. You have to stay in your base, defending it. After 20 minutes, you have a mildly decent base going on. Barely any defenses though, because those are costly, and the resources to maintain them will take another 10-15 minutes to stockpile. You think it’s time to explore. You get not 5 minutes out when a random swarm attacks your base, but your sentries take care of it. You move on, looking for precious resources, when you hear for the 50th time, “Resources are full, please build a storage unit.” You hurry back, and you build some storage units, but wait! This messes with the electrical grid, and due to some random environmental aspect that game will not tell you about, your power output is much lower than it used to be 5 minutes ago. And that’s not all, the games decides now is the time to send several swarms at you! But wait, there’s more! Have an earthquake that lasts roughly 2 minutes, constantly damaging your buildings, and outright destroying them if they near the epicenter.

Ultimately, this is a game about the illusion of control. You land on this alien planet, and your job is to shape and control its future so that humanity can colonize it later. However, despite all the tools the developers laid into your hands, they kept taking away control from you the moment you thought you had any. This isn’t a game where I play how I want to, this is a game where you play how the developer wants you to, or you can kindly, get fucked.

Do not pass Go. Do not drop any money into the pockets of these developers. If anything, let them vanish into obscurity.


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.


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.