16 May 2018

Review: Fable (Xbox)

Here’s one of those ”this is why I got an Xbox”-games that I have never really beaten, but started so many times. I don’t really know why I haven’t played it all the way through because I remember I was utterly impressed with the graphics and the amount of fun stuff to do. Anyway, I’ve beaten it now. Here’s what I think. (Note: I’m skipping the explanation of the formula, if you’re reading this blog you probably already know about the franchise.)

At first I thought Fable was about a vast and unique world to explore. Then I realized the map wasn’t all that big to be honest. So I changed my mind and had Fable pegged as a game with endless choices and possibilities. Then I realized there wasn’t all that much to change. Sure, the story is changing depending on my choices, but not in a lot of ways. It’s more or less ”Do you want to be good or evil? Here’s good and evil quests and things to do.” A or B. So what is it about Fable then, that makes it so appealing? Having played it half-way through multiple times and now finally ALL the way through once, I’d say it’s the immersive setting. It’s the dialogue, the music, the mood of it all!

It feels like I’m taking part in a old fairytale (albeit a very grim one from time to time). There’s excitement, there’s sadness, there’s humour, there’s bravery and all the good stuff that makes a great story. My main problem with the game, because I actually have one, is that the storyline is way too short. I went on every side quest I could find and the credits still rolled not 10 hours into it. Granted I didn’t care about most of the demon doors (doors that open when certain more or less cryptic requirements are met) and I had a build that focused on strength/melee so I didn’t expand on my magic abillities (I bet that’s where a lot of grinding and character development takes place). This might have been why it was over so quickly, but even so, the story quests could’ve been a lot more. If you rush things and are a good player I bet you could wrap this game up in under 5 hours.

On the other hand it’s pretty nice with a game that isn’t unrealisticly long. Fable doesn’t overstay its welcome one bit. It just delivers a short but sweet tale of magic, action and revenge. I get to make a few decisions along the way that somewhat tweaks the turn of events and when it’s over I really feel motivated to look up Fable 2. (I’ve already beaten that as well but it was on Xbox 360 so that’s no candidate for review here.)

27 September 2017

Review: The Bard's Tale (Xbox)

The Bard’s Tale is a self-aware humorous action RPG with a witty brittish narrator and a randy main character that is only after ”coin and cleavage” as it were. Sounds like a simple concept, right? It is. It’s perhaps even a bit too simple.

The story begins with the Bard sending in a magic rat into a tavern to scare the owner, ”rescue” her from the rat and then recieve… rewards… The things he need to do to get laid and earn the silver snowballs on him and before he know it he’s knee deep into quest after quest over the, rather small, land. Gradually we earn stronger abilities, stronger helpers to summon (through songs, because the gimmick has to make some sort of sense I guess) and after a few hours of fetch quests, peculiar meetings with strange people and a whole lot of senseless killing it dawned on me that this is a pretty repetetive action RPG with only the most basic of components. It feels like one of those ”what if we did this sort of video game, lol”-ideas that shouldn’t have seen the light of day. Not in it’s current form at least.

After a handful of hours I was fed up with the humour and the gameplay but I still had 15 hours to go. That’s right. A game that showed me everything it had to offer during the first three hours dragged out to a 20 hour journey. I didn’t care for the Bard or his quest what so ever and I honestly picked it up mainly because I thought it’d be much funnier with more good jokes. But it just didn’t deliver. So once again, I played through a game just so that I could mark it as cleared. Out of duty to my backlog. Not because I wanted to keep playing. It’s a curiousity and a time killer, sure, but I can’t see myself going through it again in the future. It wasn’t very good. A pity.

13 September 2017

Review: The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (Xbox)

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the movie so I went in to this game without any expectations.

Riddick is a badass. He’s also a caught badass. He’s a prisoner at Butcher Bay and the object of the game is simply to escape, as one would’ve guessed from the title. It’s a first person shooter with emphasis on melee combat, much like the Condemned games. The physics are sluggish, you feel heavy moving around and throwing punches have both timing and planning to it if you want to succeed. If you throw a huge punch and miss your opponent, then you’re open to counters for a few seconds – an opportunity they seldom ignore. Much like the Condemned games. There are weapons in the game but often times you can’t pick them up because they are ID protected only to be used by guards. When you do have the delightful possibillity to wield a firearm it’s a bit tricky to hit your targets unless you stand still and aim carefully. The environments are gritty and dark and psychopaths are lurking in every corner, just waiting to gain the upper hand on you. Much like the Condemn… You get the picture at this point I’m sure.

The frame rate is not the most solid thing in the world, but I guess that’s the trade off they made to have such detailed textures, beautiful lighting and a dusty filthy atmosphere everywhere. I can live with a few dropped frames. It’s actually a really impressive looking game for its age and I’d argue it has grown old with intact integrity. Well, apart from one thing. One glaring thing that makes the game really feel old. The stupid checkpoint system. It’s one of those ”ooh, you don’t need to save, things just saves automatically, what a seamless game this is, wow, cool”-games. I mean for the love of god, I know I’m playing a video game. Give me the option to save when I want to save. Give me a save option in the menu or put out save locations in the game. As it is now, I have to keep an eye out for ”Saving...” that pops up on screen from time to time. Problem is, I’ve had numerous problems with this. I remember clearly how it said ”Saving...” after certain passages only to have me replay the whole section again if I were to turn the game off. It’s never clear when it’s ”safe” to turn off the game and in some cases I had to start almost half an hour back. I kid you not. Half an hour worth of progress just vanishes from time to time, even though you pass multiple ”Saving...”-sequences. So there’s a constant fear of losing progress whenever the gaming session is coming to an end. Should I stop here? Or here? Or…

Other than that it’s mostly a great game. Once I accepted the flawed checkpoint system I had a complete blast with The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Sure, there were times I was completely lost and had to consult a walkthrough to get some hints and pointers, but that’s to be expected from a maze like open ended stealth game when you have as little patience as I do (I have ADD).

Now I’m almost tempted to watch the movie.

23 August 2017

Review: Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox)

Oh, so Master Chief did talk after all? I thought he was a silent hero… Well, I never did care much for the Halo series. In fact, I only got half way on Halo and beat Halo 2 on a burned disc off of a chipped Xbox ”back in the day” and played the later installations of pure duty. Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, I played Halo. On my new original Xbox (I recieved a clear cased one as a gift from a friend recently). My old Xbox has been broken for many months now, hence the lack of Xbox content on this blog. Well, not anymore my friends. Let’s take a brief look at one of the most important FPS games in later years.

The Flood's boring. The Covenant's boring. Spaceships're boring. Lasers and plasma's boring. I'm an iron, bullets and blood kind of guy. I like my weapons to feel heavy and the bullets to sound off like they exploded. The ”pew pew” side of shooting is… not for me. It’s just so weak, so bland and so boring. That’s why I didn’t care for this game’s story or setting. What I did care about, a great deal, was the game’s execution. I really appreciate what Halo did. Putting consoles on the FPS map once and for all, and paved the way to a gloriously successful genre (outside the PC realm where it oviously already flourished). It’s almost unbelievable how Halo manages to chug along on a comfortable 30 frames per second during most of the game, only dropping a few frames during the very extreme moments. I understand the impact and I’m completely convinced this was the game to open the developers' eyes towards consoles as a viable FPS game platform. But again, the story, theme and setting is utterly lost on me. I yawned through the whole thing. But I still enjoyed playing it. The gameplay is just that satisfactory. I would use Halo more like an example in game development.

Anyway, the game ended with me blowing up some stuff I guess. I jumped straight in to Halo 2 to continue my journey because no matter how much I didn’t enjoy the space side of this shooter, I loved the controls and the technicals behind it. Not amused, but amused. Ehm. Yeah.

26 April 2017

Review: Motorstorm: Arctic Edge (Playstation Portable)

One of the earliest decisions I made in my PSP career was to pick up a copy of Motorstorm: Arctic Edge. I'd tried it before and was blown away at the graphics and pure quality of the game and the controls were spot on, so it was only a matter of time. Little did I know it'd take me several years before finally getting around to it. Let's just say I tripped over a deal I couldn't resist.

I think most of you are familiar with the Motorstorm formula, so I'll only go over it really quick. It's a racing game with courses that affords different routes that all leads to the same goal. The route you'll want to take depends on which vehicle you're driving, since you often can choose between many different ones, such as rally cars, buggies, motorcycles, trucks and so forth. You are allowed to mess with your opponents and therefore motorcycles should absolutely avoid driving close to angry truck drivers and well you get the picture. It's chaotic fun.

Even today the game holds up great. It looks like something that couldn't even be done on a PS2 and the controls are not cramped at all. Brake and gas on the triggers, boost and handbrake on the face buttons and the stick to go left and right. Nice. The problem this game have as of right now, for me, is that it's offline only. I have a chipped PSP (don't worry, I buy my games, I chipped it for other reasons) so online is out of the question. I doubt there are any games online for Motorstorm: Arctic Edge at this point anyway though. There are about 20 different tracks, many of which are pretty similar. And then you get to repeat these tracks in different variations for 100 challenges, during which you unlock goodies for the garage such as new vehicles and stuff to modify the appearances of said vehicles with. Some may argue that this extends the longevity of the game but I never found the tweaking to be the driving force (pun intended), for me it was the chaotic races and the chaotic races only. By the time I'm closing in on finishing up the pre-set challenges I'm pretty gosh darned fed up with the game. And now they give me pretty stuff to put on my motorcycle? Nah, too late guys. Too late.

It's possible to play your own music in the game if you don't like the soundtrack (which I very much didn't). I followed the instructions as to how the mp3 files should be converted (max 256 kbps, 44.1Hz stereo) and put them in the correct folder (~/PSP/MUSIC/) and sure enough they appeared in the menu available for me to select and play, but as soon as the game started only one track was played and then no music would play at all. Not even the stock music. At all. I had to restart the PSP every time, and remove the mp3's if I wanted to get the soundtrack working again. I tried this with several different files back and forth and the results were identical every time. So, my conclusion in this matter is that it's a flawed function. At least with my hardware. So... back to the default crap music I went. And this didn't help the already monotone feeling of playing the same stages over and over again.

To sum things up, it was absolutely great the first hour or so, then it became stale very quickly and ended up being not even cleared all the way (I still have a few challenges left to do, but I just can't be bothered). It makes me wonder, if I'd bought it back in the day, at full price, would I be disappointed?