What I’ve Been Playing This Week

Bloodborne: There’s one sound I love in Bloodborne, more than any other. It is the hum of the lantern. And it’s at its most effective after a boss fight. After the carnage has ended, and the hunter stands there, clothes splattered in blood there’s that familiar hum. The noise that signifies the danger has passed, that we can return to the safety of the hunters dream. And because Bloodborne eschews music outside of boss fights (mostly) the hum of the lantern comes across that much clearer.

And a random thought on the visceral attack. It’s great to do, deals massive amounts of damage and renders some troublesome encounters trivial. But there’s a secondary effect it has, and that is slowing the fight down. When locked in a tough battle, and on the back foot, the break in time that is the parry and the follow up visceral attack really allows you to consider new plans of attack, to take stock of what has gone on and heal up if necessary. It really is a multi functional game mechanic.

I know this is the second visceral attack on Laurence in as many round ups. I just don’t like Laurence.

Also, please, please, please remember to back up your save files. My PS4 power cable caught on something and came undone, which in turn corrupted Bloodborne’s save files. However, thanks to the USB backup made just moments before, the lives of 4 hunters were saved. Backups are good, backups are great.

Claire Extended Edition: A 2D horror game that pits its titular character in a hospital with her dying mother. What follows is a series of visions and hallucinations as Claire must figure out what is happening.

I’m early into the game, but I’m finding that 2 dimensional horror works better than I thought it would. In 3 dimensions things can placed around corners, or placed at distance to induce dread and unease (Pyramid Head at the end of the corridor in Silent Hill 2). But Claire still manages to pull off uneasy and unsettling, contributing to a pretty good atmosphere. This is further enhanced by the artwork. The graphics are pixelated, but still firmly in the unsettling camp. I wouldn’t go as far as to call Claire a life changing experience, but it’s coming along rather well, and I want to find out the cause of the sinister happenings at the hospital.

There are also NPC’s to talk to (I’ve only spoken to one though, so I can’t comment too much on their qualities) notes to gather which add more context the story and there are multiple endings to get as well. So there appear to be branching paths. I can’t guarantee a re-play at this point, but it’s nice to know there are reasons for doing that.

On starting the game up, the game gives you 3 difficulty settings. A story mode difficulty were the game is easy so you can enjoy the story, and then there’s a regular difficulty and a hard difficulty for the challenge. And I really like that. More games should do that. And if they already do this I should check them out.

Also, this is silly, but Claire’s jumping animation makes me laugh. She keeps her arms by her sides. It just makes me giggle everytime.

Dust, an Elysian Tail: This is a Metroidvania. So far it’s shaping up to be a good example of the genre. As with Claire, I’m not too far into it, but I’ve enjoyed my time with it. The combats pretty good but I do find myself button mashing a fair bit. The game has explained combos, but lots of square buttons mixed with the odd triangle seem to do the job. Special attacks complement the combos and there’s a parry system as well.  So it seems to be a combat system that allows for simplicity, but also lets players use more advanced techniques. That’s pretty cool.

The artwork for the world is pretty damn beautiful. Lush forests, lovingly crafted pagodas and there’s a nice rotation of weather as well. All of the characters are of the anthropomorphic style. Animals with human proportions and such. This may be a deal breaker for some people, but it doesn’t bother me. Everyone’s well drawn and animated and they fit into the world around them.

Not sure there’s going to be awards handed out for the story though. A hero with amnesia, a sacred sword and a world that needs saving. It serves a purpose. But it moves at a quick pace. So that’s pretty great. That being said, there have been some NPC’s with branching dialogue, so there may be some twists up ahead. But so far, so serviceable.

Dust has shown a smattering of Meta jokes and comments so far. Some of these are okay. Those are the best of them. All of them are a bit on the nose. As an example, there are some vines we are told to climb and then we proceed to slip down them. At which point our helper says something to the effect of “don’t worry, if we come back later we can get up there”. Backtracking, Metroidvania. Do you get it? No, really, do you? We have to backtrack, because it’s a Metroidvania. I guess if you’ve never played a game like this it would work, but for me it’s mainly eye rolling resignation.

Our helper is called Fidget, and she occupies the Navi role in this game. Sometimes she’s funny; sometimes you just want to cave her face in with a cricket bat.

But for the most part, it has been so far so good with Dust. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of it.

Last Guardian: While I’m really enjoying The Last Guardian, there are some issues. It still bothers me that the game has perfect moments of visual storytelling and then insists on explaining them with a voice over. Don’t do that.

Sometimes I’m never quite sure when game play ends and starts again. Trico will do his thing (I think he’s a he), jumping from platform to platform but sometimes it just seems pre-programmed, like it’s a scene transition. It’s still a worthy spectacle though; I’m just not sure how much I have to do with it.

Dealing with enemies can be annoying as well, at least without Trico around. The camera doesn’t handle on foot combat that well (well, on foot avoidance if I’m being honest) and if you are grabbed by them, it’s a case of button mashing for freedom. It’s just tedious all round.

 

Those two points considered there are multiple times when the game shows just why I like it as much as I do. A lot of it is Trico. It’s in way he lazily plonks himself down and scratches his ear. His curiosity towards the world around him, sniffing and batting object that catch his gaze. The way Trico cocks his head when called upon, or noticing food. Trico’s eyes turning white and his feathers rising upon seeing an enemy. The little nervous shake Trico makes before launching into a jump. It’s easy to grow fond of Trico.

There was one moment when those elements came together. Trico was atop a great spire, gazing upon the world around. I then noticed where we had to go, so I climbed up onto his back and pointed out to him the platform above us. He caught sight of it, tilting his head like a confused dog at which point I petted him, to reassure him. Confidence rising, he crouched before launching himself to the platform. All the while I gripped tightly to Trico’s feathers. No matter what the issues with the game, it gives you moments like that. No other game will do that.

Games I’ve Finished This Week:

Jotun: I thoroughly enjoyed Jotun. All of Jotun in fact. I really dug the realms, and exploring every part of them even those realms devoid of enemies. Maybe it’s that part of me that enjoys hiking through and up empty mountain sides, being accompanied by only my thoughts. Jotun gave me plenty of that, and I was more than thankful for that. This accompanied with the size and scale of everything, I honestly felt I was in the realm of the Gods. Also, I now really want to visit Scandinavia.

Jotun_20170712234256
The world is very big, and I am very small.

I couldn’t talk about finishing Jotun without mentioning the boss fights. There are 6 of them in total, and they are all in keeping with Jotun’s hand drawn animation and so very beautiful for it. From a gameplay point of view attack patterns are fun to learn, and rewarding to crack. This is further enhanced by the bosses having 2 phases, sometimes requiring more precise movements and some requiring new attack plans all together. The Jotun’s themselves tower over our heroine Thora, and that size and scale really contributes to the joy and catharsis that comes from felling a giant.

Also I will say there are trophies for beating bosses without taking damage, without using the God powers and for doing bosses under certain time limits (Kaunan’s is 60 seconds). If one feels like an extra challenge, they are there for the taking. For me, I feel frustration would claim me at some point.

Some spoilers for the final battle here, so pass by this section if need be. It’s a fight against Odin and it’s in keeping with the rest of the boss fights, up to a point. But then the second half kicks in, and he begins to summon the spirits of the slain Jotun to attack you. After the one on one battles, it feels a bit of a cop out. Just something that seems a little challenge for challenge sake. It’s still a fun challenge to surmount, but I would have prepared a one on one showdown with the All Father.

The ending sequence is one of gorgeous animation. On the whole, a game that gave me a massive amount of joy. Also, I’ve been meaning to mention this for a while, whoever did Thora’s voice acting, damn fine job. I can’t find a name, but damn fine job. Damn fine job to the whole team

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2 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Playing This Week”

  1. Well, I have to disagree with you on that variety of difficulty settings. I used to believe every game should allow the player to select their difficulty. Now, I think multiple difficulties are a disservice to games. I would explain my thoughts here, but a YouTuber called videogamedunkey has almost the exact same reasoning and put it into words better than I could. If you’re interested, look up his video called Difficulty in Videogames.

    Man, you really liked Jotun. Wasn’t there a chance about a month or two ago to grab it for free? I missed it, and now I regret it so much. It sounds like it could be really fun, and I’m curious about Norse mythology.

    I’m still surprised that Last Guardian has voiceovers that explain its visual storytelling. I thought that of all game developers, one like Team Ico would certainly understand NOT to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve done some bad wording. What I meant to say is that in narrative heavy games I’d rather have a difficulty setting. I’m going to fully admit to the fact I’m waiting until I can get a PC that can run SOMA so I can mod out the monsters. If the games strength is narrative, I’d much rather interact with that. I guess in a perfect world, difficulty would be built in to the game eg The Souls Series. Yes it’s hard, but there are summons and and the like. The difficulty never changes, but there are ways to deal with it. Having a difficulty setting in Souls would ruin the whole thing anyway. And I love dunkey, god bless him.

      Putting my critic hat on with Jotun, all the criticisms (it can be boring, it can be empty, the combat is simple), they are all valid. It’s just one of those games that clicked with me. I am probably going to replay it down the line (it’s only 4 – 5 hours long) just to see if my feelings are the same.

      The Last Guardian. It’s a very frustrating thing. It’s just…argh. I’m used to it now but after things like Journey the voice overs are very out of place.

      Like

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