I really wanted to use this site to document my thoughts on games as I played them, but I kind of knew that that would fall apart when the semester picked up, and it has. A blizzard is currently raging outside, though, so I’m going to take a break from grading to catch up a little bit.
The Exorcist: Legion VR
One of the things I love to do with people when I show them VR is to play horror games. They’re often short experiences, though, so when I hung out with my family recently we found ourselves browsing the PSN storefront, looking for something we hadn’t already tried. Given that The Exorcist is one of my favorite horror movies of all time, I threw Legion VR in my cart and hoped that this wasn’t some cheap cash-in.
We only played the first two episodes, and it did suffer from some of the normal VR problems (floaty hands, sketchy play area), but it was easily the scariest game we’ve tried. Other games have creeped me out, or maybe made me flinch a little, but this game is the first VR experience that had my heart thumping and palms sweating (I suspect Resident Evil 7 might have done the same, if I’d played more of it in VR). Nothing too terrifying happened, really, but the game created an atmosphere with lighting and sound that scared the crap out of me. If you remember the low, rumbling growl they use in The Exorcist, imagine that coming from the dark corners of a church… in VR. Yeah. It was really effective.
Telltale’s Game of Thrones: Episode 1
I was in the middle of binging the TV series, so I finally got around to trying this game because I was caught up in the excitement of that world and those characters. It was pretty standard Telltale fare: clunky gameplay and animations, some interesting storytelling, a shocking moment. I was surprised and impressed that they got some of the actual GoT cast members to do voice work, but it made the ‘normal’ voice actors stand out because they just weren’t as emotive. I didn’t completely dislike this game; it just wasn’t very memorable or compelling.
I want to start by noting that this game pulls a lot from the Rocksteady Batman games, because I keep hearing people claim that it doesn’t. The combat and enemy types are almost identical, the open world mission structures are very similar, the Scorpion hallucinations are just like the Scarecrow hallucinations, and there a bunch of small but close similarities, like villains that leave clues that you have to find and take pictures of. Having said all of that, the fact that so much of it was derivative didn’t phase me much. The Arkham games are some of the best games of the last decade, and I am a fan of developers sometimes refining what works over trying to revolutionize just for the hell of it.
This game was just so much fun. There was a lot to do, between breaking up street crimes, taking down strongholds, looking for backpacks and more. The backpacks and their associated Spider-verse memories were one of my favorite things about exploring the world, along with all of the awesome Spider suits (though I do wish there were little tidbits about the history of the suits, like there was with the backpack items). My suit of choice for most of the early parts of the game was the Iron Spider, which I loved in The Avengers: Infinity War, and the glowing eyes made for some great photos. I also loved the Spirit Spider and Vintage suits, but they looked way too goofy in cutscenes, so I mostly saved them for post-narrative clean up. Speaking of narrative, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid the story and acting was in this. Like others, I was a little thrown by this version of Peter at first, but he grew on me and I ended up really loving how they handled his hectic double life and his relationship with Mary Jane and Dr. Octavius, specifically. I loved the photo mode and took a million pictures, and I wish I had written a full blog when I’d played it, but I’ll shut up and move on now.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
I played and loved Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider, so despite my usual ability to avoiding getting too hyped for a game, my expectations were undeniably high going into this sequel. That might be why I was somewhat disappointed in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I didn’t dislike it, but it just didn’t seem as polished and fine-tuned as its predecessors. The graphics, for instance — the previous two games were gorgeous, so running the game on a PS4 Pro, through a 4k HDR TV, I was expecting something breathtaking. In some respects, things like water and lighting didn’t even seem to look as good as the older games, oddly enough. Shooting the bow didn’t seem as satisfying, climbing didn’t seem as rewarding… and I don’t know why. Maybe the warm and fuzzy glow of my memories with the first two games overwhelmed me and made me expect too much from this game. Like I said, I didn’t dislike it. I liked it quite a bit. But I was expecting something just a little more polished.
Super Mario Party
I’ve only played a couple of games of Super Mario Party so far, but I was so excited to find that the series has made a rebound from the last few entries. I know that the series has never been about stunning graphics, but Mario Party 7 was an ugly, aliased mess of lazy visual work, and I am still confused about why they thought cramming every player in a car and not allowing them to take their own turns was a good idea for the last couple of games. I try not to act entitled when it comes to games and what they “owe” me or anyone else, but it was hard not to feel insulted by how bad the last few Mario Party games were. Super Mario Party, though, seems like a return to the fun, colorful, cut-throat world of the earlier games, so I am very much looking forward to making Peach the Party Star once again when I have more time. And friends. I am so lonely. Please help me (mostly kidding, haha, crying emoji).
Forza Horizon 4
I was really looking forward to seeing the different seasons in this game, but honestly I gave up on it before the digital leaves fell from the virtual trees. It’s a good racing game, but the handling is a little looser than I’d like. It’s a lot more arcade-y than the previous Forzas that I’ve tried, but I’m admittedly a little picky when it comes to the handling in racing games. It’s hard for me to enjoy cruising around when I have to keep overcorrecting because I’m sliding everywhere. But I might revisit this game. It’s pretty and I do like the idea of buying houses and filling garages with lots of custom cars.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
I just platinum-ed this game, so I could write extensively on it, but I’ll have to keep it short. I got the platinum trophy almost on accident, because after I beat the main storyline(s) I realized I was only two trophies short of 100%, so I took the extra five minutes and just got it. I did spend over 140 hours on the game, though, mostly due to my love for the expansive, detailed worlds that Ubisoft is so good at creating. As with other beautiful open world games, I found myself stopping to take pictures again and again, and the lighting and water effects from the last game made a triumphant and impressive return here. The sailing was similar to Black Flag‘s amazing contribution to the series, but not quite the same. Mechanically it was almost identical, but the concept of being a pirate and having a crew and your ship being your true home is absent from this game. My wish was that Skull and Bones would recapture that magic, but it seems as if Ubisoft understood gamer’s love of the pirating in Black Flag to mean a love of the ship combat itself and not the pirating life, so I have heavy doubts about how much I will enjoy that game.
The story didn’t grab me early on, but over time I ended up falling in love with Kassandra and got drawn into her complicated family drama. The addition of the ability to romance characters was welcome, though it would have been nice if it actually meant anything. Other than a fade-to-black scene suggesting sex, there was nothing to indicate that any of my relationships went anywhere. Speaking of sex, I was surprised at how toned down anything sexual was after Origin’s open embrace of the subject matter. I ran into a few annoying bugs, and some of the voice acting was distractingly bad, but this was another fun, immersive Assassin’s Creed game.