Bio
Just some dude who loves RPGs, Mecha, Indie and everything in between.

Score is based on how much I enjoyed the game

5 stars = Unforgettable Masterpiece
4.5 stars = Close to a Magnum Opus
4 stars = Fantastic, with minor imperfections
3.5 stars = Two thumbs up! Though YMMV
3 stars = Passable, except big red flags
2.5 stars = Situational, depends on some things which vary from person to person
2 stars = Super Meh
1.5 stars = Something in the mud
1 stars = Terrible
0.5 stars = Run away and don't look back
0 stars = At this point. I need to time-travel to stop my past self from playing the game.

Youtube link above is my channel where I try to upload videogame reviews when I have the time and walkthroughs. To help others and give a shoutout to games with my 2 cents.

If you want to chat about games you can find me at Discord - Detectivefail
or Steam
https://steamcommunity.com/id/GamerFail
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Favorite Games

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Omori
Omori
Xenogears
Xenogears
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139...
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139...
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

393

Total Games Played

011

Played in 2024

016

Games Backloggd


Recently Played See More

Outer Wilds
Outer Wilds

Apr 14

Final Fantasy VII Remake
Final Fantasy VII Remake

Apr 12

Thief Gold
Thief Gold

Apr 01

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

Mar 22

Pathfinder: Kingmaker
Pathfinder: Kingmaker

Mar 20

Recently Reviewed See More

When looking at the lenses of remakes, remasters, re-imaginings, reboots, definitive editions, ports, and plenty by the library classifications. It is important to understand where and what kind of vision the original and new are undertaking. Are companies such as Bluepoint trying to faithfully rework a game 1:1 without specific egregious artistic or personal changes in the first's tone and music? Do the budget remakes of Front Mission create a definitive edition? Can both the initial version and separate remakes such as Resident Evil stand side by side with one another? These are difficult questions to ask and honestly, I've seen many arguments for, against and nuance takes in the middle. Depending on the experience of the individual and the context from which is given in claims. The evidence and therefore the response may vary. To this end, I would posit a question. What is Final Fantasy VII Remake(FFVIIR)? Sounds like a dumb question, albeit questioning sprouts and fans, the answer may surprise you. In my eyes, the question is only a part of the whole pie I've been struggling to eat since completing the 2nd installment of the 2024 title called Rebirth. And in pursuit of such answers, I decided to replay FFVII Remake once more. Marking this as my third finished playthrough. I will state beforehand I’m not skilled enough to determine a decisive reply. Rather I've submitted 7 mixed feelings along with 7 praises. To demonstrate why I’m struggling and dearly pray the information presented will help a soul in a similar position. Forgive me if I offend anyone who holds the title near and dear to their hearts. That is not my intent. My troublesome concerns in the following text are not meant to be scathing nor as a rant. And are simply my observations on what could be improved. Followed by what I believe the team does well. With no spoilers as much as possible. Failing that, if at any point I’ve resorted heavily negatively or failing the above. Then you have my express permission to summon a big meteor and channel your energy to land on me and thus yeet me into the lifestream.

First - Faithful to the original, yet evokes new material. Over simply designating it as a remake. The official name should've been called a re-imagining. From the playstation store the description states "... is a reimagining of the iconic original with unforgettable characters, a mind-blowing story, and epic battles." For those confused on the word 'reimagine,' the definition according to merriam webster says "to imagine again or anew, or recreate." A remake by definition is "make anew or in a different form. - Remade." To explain in simpler terms. I perceive the definition to be a higher quality recreating the foremost vision with higher fidelity and optimizing whatever is lacking to a certain extent. A reimagining of this caliber goes beyond the constraints the previous presented to offer something unique and old. Straightaway, please erase notions of 1:1 you will find semblances and fresh adjustments present everywhere. I admit I am poorly ignorant of what the definition in the landscape of video games entailed and expected a remake before a reimagining. A gentle reminder to keep your expectations in check. Funnily enough, If you had talked to my 2020 self he would've given you a frowning face with a "What you talkin bout fool!?" while explaining why this is faithful. Man. Believe me, it is another instance of me desiring to go back in time to slap my past self silly. Regardless, a vital question comes to mind for fresh souls and veterans. Do I need to know the pioneers or titles from the compilation? The short response is no. For unfamiliar dudes. Don't worry this isn't me trying to scare prospective souls for the 2020 JRPG. Context is important, and sure you can gain a great deal more from playing the premier and other connected mediums within the universe. However, leave that to the fans who want something different. As someone who isn't a fan of the earliest yet devoured everything in the compilation minus Dirge. I sound hypocritical. Although I hold the seventh entry in the series in my top ten for the franchise. Don't get me wrong, this isn't me being an arbiter of who and what you can play. Eventually, it is your decision to decide. I love to inform/educate others for those not in the know or out of the loop. The long retort is a 'yes' and 'maybe' for fans and those somewhat familiar with the FF7 universe. Why? Well in a 2020 VG247 interview with the producer Yoshinori Kitase(Who directed the initial version) stated "...all of the lore from the works created after the original, the Compilation of Final Fantasy 7, that's all very much in the base of the canon for the remake, and going forward it will be too." The response was due to a question on how significant the "compilation ideas," will be brought to the table. What does this mean for the modern FF7 project split three ways? Well. in my eyes. They're moving outside a 're-imagining'. delving into territories of the 'reboot' and 'sequel' combination. Smashing like playdoh three qualities to present exciting and bold overhauls with the aged guards in the developer team and fresh blood behind the 1997 release. And does it stick to the landing? Hmm, I don't think I can state it definitively did, but my 2020 aging self and multiple friends, peers, and others dearly enjoy the remake. In that sense, I must articulate that's perfectly valid. But 2024 me posits an uncomfortable realization upon replaying before arriving at my conclusion. And that is...

Second - The linear sections need to take a backseat. A conclusion I reached since I've taken the liberty of recording my whole replay. For transparency, this means I played on classic difficulty and solely focused on the main narrative. Excluding the side-content because I already completed them in 2020. Where I finished a hard mode replay upon polishing off normal mode. I found dissecting the gameplay bits. 10+ linear sections in eighteen total chapters. Meaning player agency to move in an environment usually in a guided manner. Not bad by either means, however, these segments offer a repetitive structure of mandatory fights with some leeway to run past. Instead of opting for a free-form combat encounter at your leisure at any time. A famous example is Chrono Trigger where you had a bunch of areas to opt out of required battles by fleeing and running around mobs. Here we don't get that unless we run a sufficient distance or until each enemies are wiped out. Thereby, stalling players and a focus on rinse-and-repeat combat engagements. To drive the claim deeper these sectors take up 'xx' minutes. Ranging in my experience 20-50 min. Varying depending on the length: short, medium, and long. Includes watching cutscenes interlaced as you progress further in a route. Not noticeable if you partake in the voluntary areas and stop to take a break. An un-fun endeavor in dealing with yet a familiar path to tread and battle. Cutscenes and voiced commentary can only do so much if I'm forced to brawl with mob #1 and mob #2. Taking out the surprise and inducing...

Third - A rampant formulaic structure in abundance on the far side of the spectacle and splendor of the dystopian cyberpunk metropolis of Midgar. The place where the bulk takes place. Before I slash on ahead I must enunciate you control a character initially. Cloud Strife. Mercenary & EX-Soldier. Armed with a hulking greatsword busting from his back, he embarks on a dangerous job with eco-terrorists to stop a megacorporation from harnessing the planet's precious finite resource mako. An eyebrow-raising premise and I'll detail more later. Continuing from my claim earlier. The former is true. And though I'm no expert designer I don't like predictable sequences. The first offered short linear zones capable of completing in achingly fewer occasions than what my results found. Sharing authentic surprises making full use of the shift into 3D. By contrast, I found the measure of guided linear padding districts a chore than a fun participation. To be fair this is looking through the eyes of a replayer, yet for those newcomers this is probably fine. Although coming from Rebirth, I found the developers didn't learn their lesson and continued the practice to disastrous effects. Sure there are moments interspersed where we deal with minor obstacles in the way: switches, pulleys, levers, buttons, time limits and split parties, stealth, and walking passages. Creating opportunities to diversify the run then face another foe formula. Realistic to the point of unnecessary for the sake of immersiveness. Doesn’t make sense to hold a button to stress the act of pushing stuff such as hard levers. Hence, still not sufficient to make me jump in joy saying "GUYS THIS IS AWESOME!" Reality isn't the same as the expectations as I failed earlier above in my 1st point. Cut these chunks 50% to 100% in my opinion. Don't delay my gratification further to catch the next plot scene. Apply enjoyable no obstacles in overcoming or keep them extremely short. And to be frank we do distinguish semblances of these later on: trains, grappling hooks, and controlling big o'l arms, but their exposure is still too long for my tastes. Even slicing extended verticality would've helped in the level designs, slapping a sidequest abruptly can provide benefits.

Fourth - Thus padding becomes a constant companion of mine. From the FFVII Remake Ultimania book. An interview revealed "...in the original game, it takes about 7 hours to go through the Midgar section. In the Remake, the map would need to be in 3D, so there would be much more information to account for as well as minutes pass. To go from one point to another, and all that adds up. Since we knew that we would have to add scenarios to the story too, I knew that the overall gameplay of the Remake would be well enough to cover a whole game." - Tetsuya Nomura(co-director) said. Expanding the JRPG from 7 hours into a AAA term is unprecedented. Can you imagine if Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was cut 1/3 and the 1/3 was blown into a full $70 price tag? The number of resources, man-hours, and sheer effort along with the Square Enix budget + marketing. Of one of the most recognized JRPG brands on Earth and selling millions to this day, with medals of commercial and critical success in the tail-end of 1997 is double eye-brow raising past my hairline. My times in 2020 were 76 hours to 100%, 45hr on a first playthrough plus completing the entire sidequests and 19 for my replay. Close to the submitted averages from How long to beat data. Therefore it is inconceivable for me to imagine entirely the work involved has non-existent padding. The opposite is true adding filler during unnecessary sections. Not bringing out various spoilers, but I dissected the chapters, discovering multiple instances of stretching the seven hours. I've already talked above about the linear pieces, but certain cutscenes need not be extended. I don't want to watch a mysterious guy with cat-like eyes gradually gazing at me, walking slowly and spontaneously whispering in my ear. Appearing as a ghost when you least expect it and serving as a major means to tease the audience. Extra examples inside. Such as a roach add forced skirmishes with a guy who isn't really a friend, but hold up maybe he is because we escaped? But the dude has no depth whatsoever beyond flamboyant actions and liberally using the word 'nakama' as if it's going out of style. Villain points of view in a corporate office were also forced, displayed no nuance, and hit the predictability counter. A single egregious instance is a bald disgusting filthy excuse of a being hungering for the female body was equally disturbing and felt excruciatingly too lengthy. I wanted to gag and run out of the room looking at the poor excuse of a 'man,' constantly as the camera shifted to him.

Fifth - Modifications aren't always better in the plot. Again no spoilers, but I can count on one hand some important moments I feel shouldn't have been revised. The absence of blood, replaced with a [redacted] trail takes out the fear and horror replaced with a sense of befuddlement. And this confusion is greatly enhanced immediately upon our [censored] shifts from their initial personality into apathy. Followed by a sense of bewilderment as continued plotbeats hammer our vision punching a sort of psychosis-like of what is real and unreal into our eyeballs. Lingering repeatedly as the camera oh so slowly focuses on them repeatedly. As a consequence, a major character's presence is overhauled due to the additional scenes pandering to their figure instead of using imagination, stories told by word of mouth to take hold of our party. I understand why these adjustments were made, and it is not horrible to the extent I'm moaning so loudly. Merely closing my eyelids and hmming while simultaneously imagining what is going on in the writer's head. Kazushige Nojima and Motomu Toriyama specifically. Because actively adding and revising these elements felt weaker. Teasing and baiting without explaining concretely. A more isn't always a better case.

Sixth - Extends to the unfamiliar content. Namely Whispers. No softly saying words to my ears kind. Rather, mysterious entities will show up occasionally. Not a spoiler because these are shown in the official trailer. Without stating too much, the entities follow an old, repetitive pattern. I'm sure you heard it already, but it is a formulaic response once again to obstruct our party. Why? points gently at the wide and above points I've said so far. In essence, these felt needless, fueling countless theory-crafting and driving discussions. Which by itself isn't bad. I love a good talk with possible outcomes and what-ifs. But after finishing Rebirth and replaying, I still cannot find solid reasons for their existence to entice freshbloods into a JRPG. I've come to note their existence as a red-stop light. Stopping my vehicle motion until a certain amount of minutes have passed before I can move forward. Their intervention in most aspects worsens instead of alluring the audience. Removing their presence entirely and organically adding an easier, less complicated-to-understand presence would've been a better solution in my honest opinion. The closest example I could consider is the film Arrival(2016). Again no major beats will be spoiled from the film. But within the cast is introduced to [blank]. We, both the cast and audience try to understand what this [blank] is. By the credits rolling, I came out with a pensive, but nodding my head action. As vaguely as I can put it. I understood the whole picture. Whispers don't give you the tools to understand. Merely dangling a carrot atop your head while you flop around illustrating a starving bunny failing to reach the juicy treat. And as someone who loves lore and connects it to the plot. The single aspect infuriated me and shot my suspension into a black hole.

Seventh - The sidequests offer little to decent value. Ultimately granting a reprieve in the narrative. Looking back on my notes I wondered why I didn't utter exceptional stuff on the optional matter. After reviewing the list and rewards from a guide I realized why. Serving as a means to take a break. And offer chore missions to perform. From my findings, plus five fetch objectives, 10+ extermination assignments, several minigames, missable missions if you fail to carry out preceding jobs beforehand, and requirements. For instance, completing a couple of them in full unlock a party member cutscene with our protagonist. Playing devil's advocate, these operations do serve a purpose. Helping the people in Midgar, specifically the individuals in the slums who are in dire need of their tasks. Not a bad thing. However, the design implementation of fetching materials, and items, and finding stuff becomes boring. fighting unique variants of creatures fought in the plot and never-seen monsters is a nice touch, but consummate rewards can be lacking. They consist of items and equipment of above-average quality with several weapons exclusively gained. To be fair, not all quests suck. I'd bark a handful off the top of my head is notable in the sense of me giving a single thumbs up. Wish they resonated far higher with deep lore connections and barely superficial relationships. Extending to the NPCs you meet as well. Remove missable errands, interject our party members asking Cloud for help, abrupt errands popping up, surprising injecting urgency, followed by relief. Simple tasks removing debris or gently carrying an injured person while slowly commentating juicy gossip would've elevated the non-essential areas into a must-play. Now I'm shaking my head, grimacing to speak anything nice.

Bonus for the Intermission DLC - I'll be blunt I don't enjoy the intermission Yuffie episode. Offered with a pricetag to consumers following the launch months down the line. The cost I paid was $20. I didn't feel it was worth to play. For those not in the know. Here's a description of what it entails in the store page.. "Play as Yuffie after she arrives in Midgar. There, she and another Wutaian operative are to rendezvous with Avalanche HQ, infiltrate the Shinra Building, and steal the conglomerate's most powerful materia. This DLC unfolds over two chapters that are separate from the main narrative, and also adds a combat simulator fight against Weiss to the PlayStation®5 version." I like Yuffie, she offers a naive optimistic view marred by her grudge in a harsh world ruled by a megacorporation. Has clear goals and her infectious go-to attitude hardly fails to bring a grin on my face. However, playing as her I realized the pitfalls specifically the linearity added nothing satisfying. Launching my big ninja shuriken to hit objects in the environment and climbing and overcoming obstacles from battling leaves me a bitter taste I find in wasabi. Outside of a handful of cutscenes with her Wutaian operative who is handsome and cool. Conveying the strange if not interesting dynamic the duo share. And that was easily the strongest aspect displayed along with a lesser extent a tower defense minigame called Fort Condor. What grinds my gears paying $20 is how little the main plot moves. Two plus chapters and a combat simulator I have no interest in. The former is heavily lacking despite trying to intersperse the duo's movements while the main story progresses back in the base FF7 crew. As a consequence, very little I enjoyed besides learning background about her once her mission finishes. A modicum of context for her soon-to-be joining with the main cast in Rebirth. And why she's acting in a certain manner. A lack of meaningful content I paid a substantial amount leaves me full of regret. I wish I had the foresight to travel in time and watch a Let's Play instead. There goes my five hours never returning. For those who adore the fullest extent granted I salute you.

Phew. With utterly nasty stuff out of the way. I can now focus on the best parts. And it's funny, I started my replay in search for validation of my troubled thoughts and came out picking spare facets I revel in.

I - Body gestures, facial expressions, and voice acting beautifully translate the 1997 3D era into the modern enriching our beloved party. The 2020 title wonderfully demonstrates this. The guy with a machine gun arm(Voiced by John Eric Bentley) is easily my favorite dude. Charismatic, body of action, gung-ho yet deep within his tough, gruff exterior lies a loving family dude. His speeches and comradery brighten my days whenever he's on screen. A female martial artist/bartender(Voiced by Britt Baron) is soft-spoken but belays a deep love for her friends. Giving a helping hand to whoever her companions are. Yet her eyeballs and facial expressions along with a fraction of timidness tell a deeper story. She doesn't display her emotions a lot, from her face, but generally her body motions. Baron's voice lends a hidden quality I found myself talking internally "Oh these cheeky buggers." That's the max I'll pass to stop myself from blurting a cool detail. Perhaps the most striking and given the maximum enhanced flair is the flower girl(played by Briana White) our merc meets later on. Wearing fully her emotions on her sleeve, she charges ahead, setting the stage yet doesn't outshine her fellow members. Trying different things and is unafraid to speak her mind with gestures and emoting so gracefully but not to the extent of over-dramatic illustrating Nicholas Cageness as some haters love to slap on him. She exudes a gentle, caring personality in contrast to the people you witness. Endearingly loveable. Complementing their physical presence is a flirty, but kind female, a not-Rambo-like dude, except very friendly and thinks with backups. An affectionate and true-to-heart guy who loves a tasty meal. And last but not least the guy with a huge buster sword on his back who I'll continue to give the benefit of the doubt behind his no-nonsense values but continues to help his comrades for a solid price. The villains to keep things short. I hate them substantially. Good job fellas.

II - Worldbuilding is satisfying to learn. The key to a decent to quality worldbuilding in my opinion is if the player connects to the lore, the relationships individuals have with NPCs, antagonists, and surrounding rules, laws, religion, beliefs, and values, presented in an effective way grabbing hold the audience, never breaking apart, fastening a desire to learn further. Here I had a deeper love for the universe entailed. Misinformation and propaganda became easily digestible and prevalent sifting through what is true and false information. I love the added depth in the NPCs. We behold how they act, their gripes given freely, their daily lives in the slums, what assistance they need, and who is perpetrating the evils nearby causing a disturbance. Adjusting their dialogue as the world moves forward. The cause and effect our colleagues undergo as beats pass. Witnessing the consequences of our actions. Enriching my proficiency. I grasped fear at the sheer scale of devastation. Helpless in my struggle to conjure meaningful methods of assistance. Warmly embraced the power of friendship. Lending a hand to those in need while meeting an angel. And helped a poor guy who seemed to have enough bad luck etched onto his soul.

III - Guided experience of linearity. Didn't mind the linearity at every opportunity. I mentioned before the linear sections needed to take a backseat and it's true. However, I appreciate the decent length and restraint of levels to hold being a maze-esque or overstaying their welcome. Grateful, exploration isn't filled to the brim with useless collectibles, an excess of loot, and a tedious length. Feels just right to be led to my next storybeat without a major hang-up stalling me. Consequently guiding me into a satisfactory mood. The commentary members' sprouts occasionally aid in removing the dullness permeating. Reminds me of FFXIII. This comes as no surprise since the director Motomu Toriyama resides with the FF7 crew. For what it's worth, it is an improvement from the hallway nature prior. Though to be frank I didn't mind them considering it was my official gateway into the franchise heh.

IV - Supplementary characterization made me smile a lot. I remember key specifics from FF7 and to behold my beloved characters now provides increased background, insight into their interpersonal relationships and human characteristics in expanded detail is one of the strongest I adore. Every person receives a modest to larger-than-life expansion for the better I reckon. A flirty armor girl surprised me. In her hidden motivations concerning family and her previous background. A splinter cell obtained considerable screentime that I previously forgot. Wedge endeared me for his loveable nature extending beyond his friends namely cats and tasty meals. Biggs worries a lot and is unable to stop overthinking things. Yet has a heart of gold. I can go on, but I believe the interesting conversations spoken out of fights and during walks heighten the sense of camaraderie and friendship blooming. Heartwarming to witness first impressions mellow out, distrust and suspicions thawing in the face of a common enemy. Giving out a helping hand, handshakes, high-fives with a motion to stand by fellow companions instead of walking away is a powerful show, don't tell. Precious bonds are forging and solidifying and it is awesome viewing these interactions.

V - The cinematography is breathtaking. I vividly remember iconic moments in the past. Thus perceiving them recreated in magnificent care is a sight to behold. Fluid animations, on-the-spot lip-sync, no out-of-character or sharp cuts. Action sequences offer an intense rush following combat during an encounter or moving along the plot. The camera is the star and I am on the edge of my seat looking forward to the next cutscene coming alive. I adore catching my beloved group shine. Panning the screen exhibits landscape shots to breathe in both the sheer beauty of the world and horror. Equally represented. I am thankful the camera doesn't move too fatal parading useless shots. I figure 90%+ of the whole work done by the cinematics is rendering shock and awe. From the biggest to smallest moments. I cannot for the life of me complain about the artistic vision. Pleased to note everything from monsters to humans, made with painstaking clarity and life. Conversations between allies are not too long or too short. Employing no waste. Made me appreciate discussions and commentary in and outside of battles. Body gestures, facial expressions, and voice acting coalesce achieving realism. Gluing on hidden peculiarities I may have missed. Antagonists also share a respectable amount of screen focus. Feeling far in tune with a darker nature behind fake placid expressions. Honestly, I'm clenching my teeth a bit whenever their presence is displayed. Seriously wish I could sockem into pancakes if I had One-Punch-Man's power. Ughhh.

VI - Combat runs optimally whereas before they staggered and walked tall. As Michael Higham first coined the term. Transforming two plus decades of the Active Time Battle(ATB) system for the 2020s is no small task. Has to be engaging, and tactical, delving into simple to complex maneuvers. FFVIIR succeeds in this aspect allowing gateways and fans a fresh, but familiar way to eliminate foes. FFXIII stagger mechanic is used, intensifying deadly blows on bosses by increasing their percentage. Spells, items, and abilities fluidly intersect. Defending, attacking, and retreating are viable options. Likewise activating a limit break. Ultimate moves by our members display a spectacle flourish as a coup de grace. A battle system worth revisiting and as someone who didn't tire of it on my 3rd run that says a lot on sheer robustness. Hard mode concentrates the finer aspects of fine-tuning equipment, materia(ability/passive modifiers during the flow of skirmishes), and proper item usage to etch a challenging win past a hard-fought match. Forming not an insurmountable cliff to climb. But a gradual incline passes the conventional rinse and repeat tactics of normal mode. Additionally, VR battles and completing optional objectives serve as a nice segway to learning the tricks of the trade. Granting a deeper fulfillment for those hungry for extended bloodthirsty encounters.

VII - New is cool and I don't care about the ancient material. And even if I did care, there is adequate 'new' content giving me a boatload of incentives to look forward to in the future. Hmph! I was imagining for a lengthy period of a scenario where I didn't play the compilation entries, or original and watched the extended media. Concluding, enough enjoyable parts to satisfy anyone(to varying degrees). In spite of my 7 mixed feelings affecting my overall experience. Yes, it is a remake, yes it is a re-imagining but it doesn't discount my mixed feelings and enjoyment. Instead, it brings perspective, reflection, and a culmination of everything I sought and gained in 2020. Everyone who loves it or almost the entire pie, is in for a tasty treat. My past self most certainly would agree. But my 2024 self I'm moving onwards over my honeymoon phase to realize the cracks forming. On the far side of splendor lies a troubled heart. I find myself beset with multiple questions on what constitutes a viable reimagining/remake/reboot. I'll probably ruminate for years to come constantly re-evaluating the ever-eluding dilemma. For now to answer what I said previously what is Final Fantasy VII Remake? It is a serviceable that could be improved remake striving to uphold, surpass, and capture new and youthful veterans. Regardless of reception, they move to the beat of their drum. Varying in results, what matters is what you think of the title. Feelings strong or minor are fair and valid. And it is as the 2015 E3 trailer prophesies.

"...there are now beginnings of a stir. The reunion at hand may bring joy; it may bring fear. But let us embrace whatever it brings..."

7/10


References and Additional Material:
DF’s 2020 Unpublished review + spoiler thoughts
2020 VG247 interview
2020 FFVII Remake Ultimania book. An interview
FF7R List and Rewards from a Guide
Original title by Michael Higham
FF7 Remake Official trailer
2015 Final Fantasy E3 trailer

Ever since the Black Parade released to marvelous acclaim hitting Moddb’s mod of the year for 2023. I couldn’t help but ask myself “Is Thief good?” In an effort to see if the game holds up, I decided to start with the first installment before I inevitably reach the mod down the road. And I must say after 28 hours on expert difficulty. Thief Gold(Thief 1/T1) by Looking Glass Studio. Is a dark, thrilling, and fulfilling experience in reigniting all the checkmarks I like and love in the stealth realm. And I am glad to be back in the genre once again. From my days in Metal Gear, Syphon Filter & Old Assassin’s Creed.

Originally called Thief: The Dark Project. The gold edition adds three new missions to deepen the plot and five new enemies. Edited original missions with a slew of bug fixes. So this feels like a definitive edition. Although I did have to use several mods I’ll detail later on to bring the game up to modern standards.

The premise is simple and you control a single character Garret who is a master thief. With no special powers whatsoever. His days from being a homeless orphan were discarded long ago since he joined a secret order. Years later he leaves and decides to make it on his own. Delving into the path of thievery without remorse to fulfill his greed for money. He is ambitious, selfish, cynical, and an untraditional protagonist. All qualities I don’t like at all for a main character and yet by the time the end credits are rolling, I am very tempted to head right into the sequel to see what’s next in store for him.

Worldbuilding is subtle, dark, and strangely yet fittingly humorous at times. A mix of middle ages, dark fantasy, and on the cusp of an industrial revolution. With lore dropping from scrolls and conversations between guards during their breaks. Offering vital gossip on the citizenry, complaints of co-workers, and my personal favorite lore stories and convenient tips/hints that may connect to the main cast. A method to reach a previously unassailable location. Secrets will be revealed unintentionally and a good eavesdropper should without hesitation use it to their advantage to maximum effect. G-man will also monologue amongst himself and will at times drop interesting commentary during work. Usually comments like being dumbfounded or witty responses to abrupt changes in objectives. A nice change of pace from the otherwise silence permeating while you lurk in the shadows. Parchment readings and books offer insightful lessons and teachings from the factions of Hammerites and the Pagans. Both believe in their gods in a way bordering unhealthy zealotry and are at odds with one another. The supernatural elements took me by surprise many times. Spells, incantations, and rituals are fitting. Inducing a mystical wonder beyond the medieval. Zombies, ghosts, and malformed supernatural creatures are here to stay. Oh, and bugs like mutated spiders I didn’t think were a threat had me running away once I caught sight of them. Seriously, how can they jump so high and shoot acid!? Machinery such as factories, smelting tools, and items with a steady supply of lava provide their citizenry with new forms of artificial light instead of the traditional natural fire to illuminate surroundings. Creating an interesting level design throughout, a blend of medieval housing full of conventional bricks, wooden planks, and pavement with the power of adopting steel into the surroundings.

Quite ingenious for a stealth-based gameplay approach back in the old days. Erase approaches such as shooting from afar with guns or tasing anyone to oblivion. The game operates on a mission structure. Before a mission starts you are given a briefing of the events prior, a chance to buy equipment using gold earned from a prior mission, and a handy, but vague map. Embarking on a new place in the City at various times. Always looking forward to a new place to see the sights and steal whatever I can of course. Sometimes your goals will change during an operation. Good o’l no plan survives contact with the enemy is important to keep in mind. Therefore, caution is advised when conducting skullduggery. But hey Garrett has immensely useful tools to help. No stamina gauge when swinging weapons. Innate ability knocking a bow and arrows. The blackjack is easily the #1 most useful weapon. Capable of one-shotting nearly every enemy into blissful unconsciousness. They never get back up despite hours passing by too! You can move them into shadowed areas preventing patrols from encountering them and thus initiating an alarm at a whole base. Arrows dipped in fire, water, gas, and rope are likewise vital in completing a task. Blasting creatures with fire is like launching a missile capable of damaging multiple enemies. Water aids in dousing torches causing the light in room/s to darken and therefore allowing one mistah G to conduct his activities in better stealth mode than dressing up like an orange ninja from a shinobi world. Gas is powerful. No not fart ones, these kinds if launched correctly can take out groups of enemies into dreamland. Vital when being chased by a horde of angry guards…

Additionally, the rope arrow single-handedly changed my whole experience. Making me think outside the box. Reminds me of using the GLOO gun from Prey and applying the weapon to reach places I wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to exploit regular means. The cable, by comparison, allows one to hit any wooden surface dropping a decent length of string. Becoming instantly available for climbing. As a result, you can traverse higher elevations. Furthermore, one can retrieve their shaft if applicable to re-use once again making the tool highly versatile in nearly any sticky situation he’s subjected to. Trust me you’ll need it when you're at a rock and hard place with nearby zombies closing in on your position with nowhere to run except upon checking your surroundings a wooden beam is above. Maybe a handy tool would surely be useful now.

Level design in every assignment is intricate, maze-like, and deep. Displaying an awesome sleight of hand in the dev’s works to craft initially simple environments then suddenly catching me off-guard by transforming into a large several corridors and passageways leading a lost one into a room full of secrets. It is deep and chock full of hidden areas that can be unlocked from levers, switches, and cleverly tucked away corners. Intrinsically linked in the environment. Delivering a cool verticality and thorough ‘puzzle-like’ solving when applicable. The start of any new venture won’t be the same to some extent in the end portion upon completing all your objectives. You will see sprawling organized streets and then hit unfamiliar ruined suburbs and towns. Dive underwater and emerge in desolate gray caves emerging into a facility of machinery mixed with stone masonry. Similar, but different to how dungeons are made from a certain Zelda series. Full of traps, few floors, and twisting passages that can be confusing to any newcomer unused to the design. One of my favorites is encountering an awesome Pixar-like ‘room’ essentially allowing me to venture inside and somehow escape replicating a [T$%] Story-like design. Someone at Looking Glass has good taste being inspired by the 1995 film huh. And to think this was an optional target I could’ve missed. I. Am. Amazed. Sure the rest of the content isn’t filled to the brim with cool sets like those, but to a degree, they offer a unique hodgepodge of interesting locales to wonder and gawk at least. As a newcomer coming into the series I did not expect at all to admire the sheer size of these levels. Some are more subtle in ways before a certain fire nation attacked delving into the mysticism of earth, wind, and water extending the dev’s creativity to their utmost limit. The elements become more profound and are used intricately as I delve deeper into the endgame. Changing the propensity of manmade structures into natural habitats. Surfaces of the earth and elevating platforms in one section demonstrate the move from traditional simple human paths to complex passageways. Can be confusing at times, but hey remember! You have a handy compass and a map too! So all is not lost. A master thief enjoys establishing their path forward through balanced platforming and embracing the wonders of being lost in the thrill of discovery.

Hell the power to jump provides excellent mobility in areas and the level design pays off in spades demonstrating to great effect. For example, Imagine facing a fort with no possible entryway. Ok well, let me go around to see for any wooden roofs or beams. Voila, there is! Shooting a rope arrow then. I climb and then acrobat onto the rampart. But wait, the door is locked inside! Hmm. The new plan is to head to another rooftop and get inside from there. I climb to the nearest rampart point then give myself a boost and ledge grab my way onto my destination. Successfully entering with no one aware. The ledge grab is super satisfying to enact every time. Although I quickly save before I launch myself just in case I fail. Yet holding the jump button is easy to maneuver and painless to execute.

Almost delving into the point of frustration at times, yet never truly becoming mad to the nth degree I wanted to throw my controller. Perhaps due to the save at anytime system in place making retries quick and painless. It is a relief to operate an easy system to retry failed attempts since most levels are so large. Not an open world at all. Garrett conducts most of his missions at different new locations within the metropolis, which we can explore without a time limit. And there’s always something new to look forward to. I ventured into a manor to steal a scepter. Dived into the pits below to enter hidden caverns and reach a prison facility. Sought treasure in abandoned ruins, boldly stole a precious item between two thieves' guilds, and enacted revenge on a rich dude who tried to assassinate me. Seriously the gall of that guy.

Sound design is brilliant, harsh, intense, and fair. And this is weird. Usually, I praise the heck out of the soundtrack, and while it is good. In Thief I found it more enjoyable to analyze how the gameplay and level design work in tandem with the soundscape. Each step you take and every breath you make is calculated. Go on the steel floor versus carpet and rugs and you can see the clear difference upon nearby patrols. Rugs and carpets muffle your steps while treading on steel produces loud noises capable of making any close enemy's senses go on alert. Any action like swinging your sword, launching an arrow, or even bringing out blackjack to play whack a guard heightens an enemy's awareness. G-dude will exhale after an action and it's gotten to a point where I hold my breath whenever I have a close encounter. Exhaling once the coast is clear. Sights and sounds are interconnected. If you’re in a very dark area, chances are you become neigh invisible compared to a brightly lit room. Staying in the shadows like a sneaky fella pays off. And thankfully, you can stay in a crouched position than a normal pose to conduct your sneaky endeavors. Harsh, but I kid you not I repeatedly felt it was balanced throughout at no point during my time did I feel it was brutally unfair at all times. Rather the usage of noise in this instance facilitates between easy to hard and complex as you dive deeper into the latter stages. As if the devs are saying “Hey, we are increasing the difficulty gradually, no steep cliffs or curveballs.” And I like it. Keeps things fresh and exciting to uncover new hurdles. Supernatural entities like zombies and spirits have this ghastly voice. I found myself with chills crawling up my back. And goodness the regular harmless citizen will shout for help to call attention to your current position. Tension is alive. Stress remains an ever-constant companion when pursued, and patience is needed every day for every hour.

Lastly, I also want to praise the main objectives of missions and AI. The latter for being smart and dumb. Patrols once memorize their route and what their limit is. Abusing their ai becomes rinse and repeat and oh so satisfying. Never waking up after becoming unconscious. Some enemies of different classifications will vary in their sight and danger capability. I.E. Seeing farther and more acutely aware of their surroundings than the usual shmuck of a guard with base intelligence. Think of them as elite guards who have an intruder radar built in updated to version 2.0 than the base version. Hearing better on how loud footsteps are near along with acute 20/20 vision if close in line in sight. This is fascinating and as I progressed deeper into the game, proved once again the devs are challenging me to be better. Goals likewise increase in complexity. You have standard, hard, and expert. Differs from traditional modifiers of upping the enemy's health I usually see in other games. Their parameters increase meaning more tasks to do. A 'normal' setting would indicate one or two retrieve an item and escape. 'Hard' adds a couple more like finding another item in conjunction with the main goal. Expert unleashes a full page of tasks to do. From not killing anyone, finding multiple items, checking with a friend of yours, and attaining a set amount of money all while completing the main quest and escaping to boot. Here are several examples of differences in difficulty. Insane. Furthermore, as I continued with 'expert' on all missions, they largely increased my time in a level due to how large they can be. I usually spent an hour or two depending on the size. Only occurred on max settings. If you try the standard option you can breeze through levels much faster. The addition of higher parameters causes an interesting shift to occur for the player. Thus I had to explore as much as possible, find hidden secrets, embrace the longer plans, being meticulous to survive and not incur any of the killings. The game is much easier killing anyone you come across. But a master thief should never kill. Only retrieve what was ordered and then get out without a fuss.

Time for my mixed feelings. Not a positive or a negative. Just some points from the game I think could be improved, tweaked for the better, and concerns I had. Didn’t affect my overall experience in a major manner.

First, same old, same old textures - Once I saw gray walls, gray bricks, stone pavement, same dirt in more than half of the missions, and frequent density in the latter stages it all became blurred together. Brought up with the maze-like corridors. I felt myself seeing the familiar paths without end. You don’t have a minimap either except a paper map that will vaguely pinpoint where you are. Therefore I had major deja vu. “Haven’t I been here before?” Thankfully, this isn’t egregious and the level variety for what it’s worth elevates everything else. Making it not so noticeable to see constantly. Makes me wonder if the sequel shakes things up a bit with colorful terrain when appropriate. I’m not asking for a rainbow from the color spectrum, merely suggesting slightly distinct patterns.

Second, Some objectives can be a bit vague to find. Like Mission 3. To retrieve the soul of the mystic required me to check everywhere and refer to my papyrus notes for hints and clues. Further, targets or items are not given exact instructions sometimes. Up to you to piece things together. Granted I personally like the non-approach to hand-holding, but some of these goals can be a real head scratcher. If you don’t come across hints and clues, eavesdropping a guard or finding a key to unlock another passageway or door is often the right path forward. Gentle reminder to explore thoroughly. Or use a guide when needed.

Third, May need a tool like a fire, water, or rope arrow to progress. While not required for every assignment. The wire is invaluable and shouldn't be utilized every so often at every opportunity. Elementals to a lesser degree, but still keep them in stock. Most of your inventory is consumables. And while you can find new ammo during a heist, it is best to at least save a decent amount. For situations when you require them. Sucks to use up all of your stock for minor loot grabbed when they may be needed for a critical venture.

Fourth, Wish some missions had health potions available close by. They’re pretty scarce in a job. Some later missions they in my opinion feel needed to help progress rather than me forcing a quicksave and quickload. Saving my health. Enemies can swarm you if you’re not careful and having more health is better than being one-shot. G-guy isn’t some deadliest warrior. So don’t think you can expertly assassinate any bloke. Keep in mind, I played on expert which usually required no bloodshed. Lowering settings offers no restrictions to eliminating anyone.

Fifth, Controls can take some getting used to. I tried keyboard and mouse and found the initial impression cumbersome so I switched to a controller setup and found it far better. Only had to input a couple more keybinds manually and I was fit as a fiddle to steal! Borrow items. I suggest changing them if you feel weird handling your main character.

Sixth, due to the title being more than two decades old I highly recommend some of these mods I installed to grant an enhanced vanilla experience. Most you can find via a respective PC gaming wiki article. I did use a faithful texture pack. Not the popular one. Feel they change the original textures too much. I’ll leave the choice of what pack to choose up to you. I prefer Enhancement Pack 2.0 alpha.

Mods:

Unofficial patch for Thief 1/Gold - “improves compatibility with new pcs significantly, fixes graphic issues, adds support for widescreen resolutions and much more.”

Texture pack - “Replace all the old, low-quality objects and textures from Thief 1 and 2 with versions that have higher polygon counts and texture resolutions, while keeping as close to the originals as possible.” - This is the hardest mod to install. For some reason, the directions given resulted in half of the textures being improperly replaced. Displaying half high quality and half low quality. Inside you need to edit an ini file to put in the correct mod_path. Here is what I had that finally got everything to work. Hope it works for everyone else. If not, your mileage might vary.

mod_path usermods+mods\packfix+mods\candles+mods\EP\Thief1+NecroAge\Thief1+NecroAge+EP2\Thief1+EP2+mods+mods\t2skies+mods\EP+FMdml

Take a screenshot before the mod is installed and after to see if everything worked out. The rest of the mods I didn't have any trouble inputting.

Subtitles - Self-explanatory. In-game there is no option for subs. With this mod, you can read the spoken dialogue instead of straining your ears.

Sound Enhancement Pack - Makes all sound enhanced and not muddled. Providing clearer audio in both speech and sfx.

60 FPS Video Pack - Original videos are in a low resolution. With the video pack, all the videos are replaced with higher framerate and resolution.

Aside from minor tinkering to get the game up to speed and my barely noticeable mixed feelings. Thief shines when unconventional level design meets strong simple foundations in the gameplay to accentuate and enhance both categories. At its worst players(maybe newbies) may have difficulty in grasping the maze-like paths to reaching their objectives along with vague to almost obscure hints to their solutions(not always, uncommon I think). More so on increasing levels of difficulty than normal I feel. The central narrative I expected to be boring. And in turn I was mentally preparing myself for underwhelming. So to my delight, I was extremely glad to be wrong and found myself beset with a decent narrative and ultimately a likable protagonist.

Finally reaching the end of my trail I found Thief Gold impressed me to a degree I can’t stop thinking constantly about the missions inside. I adore it so much I had to hold off on playing the rest of the series so I won’t get burned out if I continue to run-non-stop at every entry. Filled with lengthy missions depending on difficulty and fair gameplay mechanics to tackle in whatever and however manner you so choose. A freedom in gameplay philosophy I love! And honestly its given me more thought to level design in general and the approach of AI to objectives. I encourage anyone to give it a shot. Especially those who love Stealth or dipping their toes into the genre. For those curious about this old title, it still holds up quite well. Especially if you installed mods to bring it up to modern standards. And hey here’s one tidbit I found fascinating. Turns out Ken Levine worked on Thief along with Warren Spector. These guys would ultimately father some well-known titles down the road. Pretty insightful stuff. I bet we're in for Shocking Examples down the road.

8.5/10

References & Additional Material:
Thief Black Parade Mod
Different Examples of Difficulty
Thief 1 Credits
Mods - Thief PC gaming wiki - Thief 1/Gold Unofficial patch - Sound Enhancement Pack - 60 FPS Video Pack - Texture pack
Subtitles

Edited: 4-3-24 - Small correction on Blackjack use. From human to nearly every enemy. Thanks to @blackcat for the correction! After the small edit. 99% of review still intact.

Out of all the WRPGs (western RPGs), I've played thus far. Pathfinder: Kingmaker(PK) is without a doubt the most complex and rich in nearly every category I long for in the genre. And to Owlcat’s credit, the Kickstarter backed CRPG almost achieved full marks. Multiplex of systems, deep mechanics, extensive kingdom-building, matched by a fascinating world-building and filled with memorable characters. A long story, featuring multiple endings. Real-time with pause combat. Dense fantasy single-player title in an isometric perspective. And yet I can’t help but find the whole experience of clearing everything possible in over 130 hours a double-edged sword. Full of sharp awesome content. Yet underneath lies a blunt edge full of troubling matters. Alexander Mishulin, Creative Director at Owlcat Games eloquently sums up the matter in an 2020 interview saying “...Huge Pathfinder system ruleset was left tricky and unclear in many ways for the new players unfamiliar with the tabletop game.”

The IP is incredibly different from what I dabbled in Baldur's Gate 1 last year. And the old Fallout titles. Feels a lot more in-depth not just in terms of pen-and-paper, but in different rules and how the mechanics are implemented by Owlcat on Paizo’s ruleset. I’ll run through the positives first before I dive into my mixed feelings. Full disclosure: I played 100 hours without mods before relying on them to end credits. I’ll denote a mod section properly later on, but if I don’t discuss it please assume I'm discussing vanilla.

Storywise I found to be a slow-burn. But ultimately an enjoyable affair. You start in a competition for the rights to become baron/baroness of the Stolen Lands. A large swath of unclaimed land with no leader. Think bandit territory except fantasied to the gills. Crypts and hidden tombs full of nocturnal creatures sinisterly lurk. Local settlements are plagued by monster attacks and the occasional banditry. Fill your wanderlust and discover ancient ruins and dungeons! Full of traps, puzzles, and of course great treasure awaits! But take care, whimsical fey beings roam here and there so beware! For better or worse, depending on your choices in dialogue you may come across interesting outcomes. Discover a key piece and be led to a hidden location out on the world map! Or used in a way to uncover another hidden check. Where the locals and monsters alike will be found in all manners of the noble to villainy spectrum. Take heart, for finding a true pure soul in such a hostile place may seem dangerous! Yet behold! Beyond the borders lie a people still living brightly and drinking merrily in taverns. Singing to their heart's content without end!

Before I sing on further, I must talk about the initial priorities after becoming Baron/Baroness. Consists of the gameplay overview without combat. A gentle reminder, to not go gallivanting off into the wilderness following the wanderlust compass. Rather, one must remember to research curses. Curses are something unexplainable and mysterious occurring within your lands. And it is up to you to research why. There are more than 13+ of these curse events that need to be resolved as you progress through the game's many acts. All of which contain a time limit to complete under “xxx’ day. Doing so is one of the key requirements to unlocking a secret ending and progressing through the main story conveniently. Refrain from doing so and the consequences will be severe. I didn’t have much issue with deadlines. Bona fide lenient as long as you prioritize what to do. A general loop emerges: Enter building management -> research curses, solve problems, assign advisors, resolve advisor concerns, construct structures in settlements, invest in building points(BP) or use them for erecting structures or helping pass a bill using BP. Finished? Good, we're not done. -> Check the journal to see any main quests. Usually, one or two pop-ups and its a number one priority to complete. -> Once finished then you're allowed to finish any sides and errands. Followed by companion quests -> If you have any days left on the clock. Explore the map, discover new dungeons, finish off random mobs trying to kill you while traveling, and unearthing loot by turning over rocks and crannies you see are all worthy endeavors. The priorities may seem daunting at first, but I assure you have ample weeks to months. In finishing any important tasks before moving on to the rest. Generally, Traveling around and researching will consume most of your precious days. However, there are certain ways to mitigate any losses later on. I’ll include some links later on for extra tips.

Plethora of classes to choose from and upgrade. More than fifteen main jobs. And several archetypes within. A barbarian, for instance, specializes in an armored hulk, mad dog, or invulnerable rager. A cleric branches off into a herald caller, ecclesitheurge, and crusader. All with their unique powers and skills offered. I stayed as a paladin and found it decent. My primary joy came from the multiple allies who joined my merry band. Swapping into a different profession if inclined, but I kept them as their base class to see how it feels to use them. At the end of the day, I concluded they’re fun to use. One serves as a tank such as my tower shield specialist while my inquisitor summons undead to serve as handy meatshields. My bard’s songs randomly stun my enemies. I and my barbarian cleaned up! Rinse and repeat and voila! Dead guys in the aftermath. Granted not all encounters will not go as smoothly as one would think. Plenty of surprises await in store for any curious adventurer.

Should be noted there are special prestige classes. Several are not selectable at the character creation. As you progress and meet certain requirements they become available as your second class. I’ll be honest with the exception of the Wildcard DLC. I was not able to use any of these prestige ones. As a result, I am unable to comment on them other than some being powerful and others meh from what I skimmed online. Overall essential in understanding classes, since comprehending their capabilities will mark triumph and despair concerning the combat portion.

I mainly used real-time with pause(RtwP) mode. For those unaware, in CRPG's this means each action your party makes is conducted at the same wavelength against the opposing enemy side. Casting spells takes seconds before casting but attacking is ongoing when not in cooldown. Trading blows until one side is gone. For those uninterested in RtwP. Owlcat implemented a turn-based(TB) method. Activatable anytime with a single press of a button. Initially, a mod early, the devs decided to add it for those not enthused in the RtwP approach. As someone who favors turn-based. I have to say the move was pretty based. But I couldn’t stand doing TB for every fight encounter. My entire playthrough would’ve easily doubled or tripled. But the inclusion of the mechanic later on after release I appreciate a great deal especially if I get tired of RtwP. Convenient when needed.

In my honest opinion, an enjoyable isometric gameplay emerges. Regarding the many systems at play. Battles are somewhat challenging relying on your crew's profession. For instance, if you improperly manage equipment, health items, and proper class understanding then you may be in for a life of hurt when confronting multiple foes in a large open area filled with scattered mobs. I struggled early on since I had zero Pathfinder exposure. Meaning I rushed into things without thinking, quick-saved like my life was about to expire. To make sure I gained a favorable outcome and spammed abilities like a madlad. Kindly erase those foolish ‘jump before thinking’ mentality and realize no one will hold your hand gently. Despite a wealth of options available to reduce difficulty which I will talk about later on. Look at my character and witness how one tab from the summary may induce information overload. What is AC? Fortitude? Reflex? Will? The difference between wisdom and intelligence. Knowledge arcana/world? lore/nature? Sounds rubbish, who needs these skills? Alignment? Bah, who cares. Well, my friend I do! A great deal since you must understand a sizable chunk to succeed. I won’t go into complete minute details, but suffice it to say each terminology is important to survive. Basic stereotypes do exist though, so no need to worry! A mage is squishy early on, but a glass cannon. Ranger and barbarian are viable builds and hybrid classes are available for those who wish to slot into a job outside of the standard ones.

Have no fear of the daunting Pathfinder homework ahead! I did only the bare minimum cause I wanted to get straight into the thick of things and still managed fairly well. Here’s a secret that has never failed me when playing any CRPG. Buffing/debuffing/summoning is honestly the bread and butter. And will undoubtedly your life easier. Without any of those above, I would not be able to win against my adversaries. Helped me so much to the point I spent over 100 hours buffing in less than a minute before engagements. In the blink of an eye. Yeah, I'm not kidding about those buffs. Crucial in starting up a massive advantage before striking any foe ahead. Summon any pets, skeletons, elementals, or animals at your side ahead of any battle so attackers will be dumb dumbs and attack them foolishly. As if they are the priority. Debuffing is equally important. Any Atlus JRPG fan should know from Megami Tensei how skills like reducing enemy power, missing an attack, freezing them, and whatever manner of debuffs to inflict. Will turn the tides in your favor. The same principle applies here. Min-maxers like myself who love adjusting little morsels of numbers are in for a real treat. Countless loot is around, as a result, I never had an issue strengthening my characters and applying any spells to their repertoire. No requirements to micromanage level-ups either. If checked in the menu. And since I started from beginning to end credits with the preference on. You are in good safe hands. An indispensable accessibility feature reduces the steep cliff into a more manageable one for newcomers to the series.

Do keep this in mind. It's inadvisable to spamming spells and abilities without a drawback. The consequence of using magical abilities means the 'charge' will be used up. Mana is unavailable. Instead, your party will have a certain amount of ‘charges’ so to speak on how many times to reuse a magick discipline. A basic 'fireball' for example may have one charge. In spite of that, within the magic system for some classes, possible to increase multiple slots. Consequently granting more amounts. Area of effect, cones, and single targets, bouncing are all attainable parameters, so watch out not to hurt your allies. Lest you need to revive them after the battle ends. After an engagement with an enemy, a non-combative status will occur for all. Any damages and spells used along with health will not return to their original condition. This means every skirmish with a mob will leave you bleeding. Continue fighting and sooner or later the effect of 'fatigue' will emerge. A debuff handicapping with horrible stats. Go further and you may become exhausted incurring further penalties. To counter a weakened state, one 'rest' is recommended, and rations to heal back to 100%. Be warned you may be ambushed by nearby hostiles. It's these little things that pile up later on when you expect a benefit there must always be a drawback in some form. Not much of an issue provided players remember to buy rations and set their PC to scavenge for rations out in the wild.

In the wilds and civilizations players will need to contend with the text and dialogue system. You will inevitably conduct a wide array of meaningful conversations. For instance, talking yields a host of options. Both are informative to educate, pushing to the next segment in a quest, moving the conversation forward with lore passages highlighting key information whenever you need, and taking a gamble in stat-oriented discourse to affect an outcome. Crucial to give context to the rich history in Pathfinder where putting the mouse cursor will describe any bolded phrase. Appropriately connecting any relevant lore with anyone. Where paragraphs on gods, nations, political figures, religion, etc. will be described when highlighted. Hearing a disgruntled futilist dwarf talk about the impending doom of the end of days from the god Grotis transforms otherwise static boring sentences into flavorful dynamic words to remember and an “Ahah!” moment arises. Stumble upon reading a book about certain dangerous religions only to learn later about a crazy cult related to said religion. You will inevitably come up with many of these examples. Nevertheless, conversations are susceptible to stats; you have to needle your way through unique text. Granting extra experience and new conversational topics to discuss with whomever you meet. Such a deeply intricate word system is only part of the whole gameplay pie to understand why I adore talking to my party to understand their backstory, relationships, and history and develop them further with their quest lines down the road.

Under these circumstances, the world-building is richly implemented and flourishes through meaningful lines as I meandered my way to talk to important NPCs whenever I traveled. Be it a villain, an unsuspecting stranger, or an upstanding citizen of the realm. All are not spared my inquisitive nature to converse! In my delight, speaking yields both favorable and unfavorable outcomes concerning a dice roll. Meet the stat check to enable the dialogue requirement, but plausible still failing the result. Meaning my goals for a peaceful resolution between two angry interracial groups could be thrown into the fire. Erupting a bloody feud betwixt two leaves me no choice but to eliminate both or take one side. Invigorating my soul and leaving me contemplative to carefully consider a circumspect approach. Take information with the grainiest of salts and don’t label everything in simple good or evil manners. Difficult to judge whether the NPC is acting in the best interest at your behest while secretly holding a dagger behind their back unknowingly to your eyes. As a result, Non-conflict encounters are unique here, where fights interrupted are an uncommon occurrence with a conversation box, hearing their plea and moving on from there. I’ve had the personal pleasure of converting evil dastards onto my side while subjecting good souls to betrayal. Interconnecting later on in a future side-mission or main narrative where your previous actions will have a consequence later on. I befuddled a group and investigated a murder or caused mayhem on the populace by lying to whomever. Offered a mysterious item I picked up just for this occasion. Bribed, persuaded, intimidated, or sought further lore knowledge. No one is spared from my decisions and I lived with the consequences of my actions.

If there is one notable strength here in PK then companions here are a breath of fresh air. Not the best, but certainly not the worst. Recruit all eleven comrades, plus two more from the Wildcards DLC. A wonderful motley crew full of contradictions and wild alignments from chaotic to lawful and those staying in the realm of neutrality. I adore my party's banter. Sharing wonderful stories and barbs anytime I rest. And their voice actors deserve only praise for going the distance. Seeing their background update during a loading screen is a small, but appreciative detail. As I progressed further in their questline. From the loveable optimistic bard who never fails to brighten the room, the tough barbarian exile who continues to thirst for a challenge, the curious explorer alchemist who underneath their arrogant exterior lies a heart of gold, the noble tower specialist who continues to make each stranger drop their jaw in awe at her beauty. The chaotic duo of eldritch scion and rogue wizard lent their bond to my group despite their horrible past. A stoic tragic ranger avenger, a dwarven futilist cleric, a goblin knife master, and others I could list but I'll save them for a surprise… Needless to say, all have a colorful history beyond simple tropes and evolve constantly throughout my journey. I won’t say any favorites since I like all of them equally, instead, I will remark my allies' goals are a must-play and some intertwine with the main story at length. Providing a nice integration into the story and commenting during side activities on their thoughts, feelings, and alignment. Your actions will favor or dislike you. Therefore, it's essential to think carefully about their beliefs, morals, and alignment to adjust your response accordingly relative to the situation. Complex and not one-sided, and not all that hard to keep with you by when the end credits rolled around. Heck, I operated a solid crew of five. With changes in the guard whenever any relative friend's objectives arrived. Some benefit from putting any relative members in a relatable matter for instance. Otherwise, serving an appropriate role in another area below.

Kingdom building surprised me a great deal. There are plenty of systems in place here to almost make me wish for a separate game to play exclusively. Heck, employing any of your companions as advisors who will approach you about a delicate matter related to any of the stats concerning your authority. Population, relation, military, culture, divine, loyalty, arcane, stability, espionage, and community. Accepting a new policy, rejecting or fashioning a unique dialogue choice conditional on the advisor’s characteristics. I was able to increase the guardsmen with more men and budget instead of leaving them to their whits. Fought espionage wars with another neighboring nation by honoring our dead spies than risking their status. Favored culture of the arts and freedom to use magic freely and threw away the bill restricting their passion. And so forth. Completing these requests and listening to my advisors leads to benefits and detriments. So take heed of your colleague's advice and choose the best course of action. In doing so you manage your domain from impending self-destruction. Be careless and your citizenry will revolt. Therefore, it is imperative for one to finish any dilemmas arising in priority rather than any opportunity points. Issues if not solved, worsen stats, so pray to RNGSUS you land on a good dice roll to resolve the conflict peacefully. Or quickload like me hehe. Opportunities are okay to ignore, but for those who decide to try them the rewards are equally as good as solving problems. Don’t worry about taking care of your vassals constantly, a timer will run on when resolved and a notification will pop up for any impending event.

An option to automate your kingdom exists, but I still suggest that folks embrace the system to get a feel of managing affairs in your nation while also investing your precious days. Pays dividends later on in the form of passives and supplementary items. The latter leads you to new objectives and random encounters providing free equipment through artisans(Specialists who join your nation, when you visit your new settlement when claiming a region), and investing in your crown pays dividends later on to grant permanent buffs like increased attack roll chances, immunity to fear, and faster movement when traveling and more. Constructing mage towers(unlockable once you level up an advisor's ranks) allows one to teleport with minimal downtime creating a genuine saver for those urgent investigations in your journal. Aside from leveling your partners in combat and dialogue, you advance their rank in their advisory role to have a better chance to resolve troubles and opportunities. Useful when RNGSUS will sway to your lucky side rather than the unlucky side.

Decent-to-quality sidequests and errands are plentiful and ultimately awesome to complete. Enhanced my experience during my adventures. Here is a small taste of what I encountered. Uncovering a dark mega villain through a long monster extermination hunt Mediated between fey beings on trees and preached to no end on civility, peace, and compromise during heated debates and mob pitchforks. Hunted weird cultics from weird satanic ones to disturbing groups with their nefarious agenda preying on helpless innocents like a pregnant woman in need delivering her baby for a price. Oh hell no. I saved her thankfully, but whether or not it was a good thing in the end leaves me still troubled. Engaged in a puzzle to resurrect a powerful, but evil ghost for sick armor and weapons. Participated in treasure hunts, fought bandits holding hostages, saved mythical creatures like dragons, and found a boy who cried wolf-like investigation whose outcome was vastly different from what I expected. Returned a Necronomicon-like book to a powerful hermit in the lands and traveled to other realms to investigate curses to reach and attain the absurdly difficult secret ending. Heck, I took advantage of alignment choices to brutally reach a good outcome. Nonetheless, I still time-traveled into alternate universes. By reloading to recruit horrible fellows into my cabinet. Yeah, I’m not proud of that at all…

Anyway, mod time. Earlier I mentioned I played vanilla for 100 hours. Once I reached that point I decided enough was enough and threw away the base content life. And subsequently enjoyed in greater detail the latter half to an insane degree with much-needed quality-of-life features. Below I’ll briefly outline some must-haves for anyone on PC.

Mod manager - Number one key ingredient for all kingmaker needs and easy to install any of the following to make your playthrough fun and eliminate the tedium.

Bag of Tricks - Solve 99% of any troubles you face. From side quests not occurring, to fixing a bug here and there. And to be fair I had very little bugs or crashes. I think outside of a handful of minor bugs my playthrough was nearly perfect. My convenient tricks were instant teleporting on the world map, instant rest + after fighting, instant auto-complete realm events, lock-picking unlimited attempts, force success/triumph on problems and opportunities, pass skill checks, and my personal favorite a romance counter which is crucial for the secret ending. Trust me. If you want the bonus act to activate I recommend it. These listed are my favorites from the mod, but there’s way more inside I never used.

Faster menu book zoom - When you launch the program, it takes a long eternity for the book which contains the standard menu options to proceed. Do yourself a favor and download them to save you extra. Adding in the command line ‘-skip intro’ from the program launcher when right-clicking the properties on Steam is beneficial too.

Buffbot - Takes less than a second to activate all the buffs you currently have. A necessary alternative than taking a minute to individually select each member and buff them to the nth degree I said previously. Use Buffbot once and be done.

Aside from the mods above. You have a wealth of selections to tune the difficulty to your liking. From the image I customized the normal settings, making encounters less of a chore and more on the easier side. Restricting to the confines of vanilla as much as possible. So I recommend tuning them to your preference.

Now then for my mixed feelings. Consider the following text as small to big red flags in varying degrees. I feel are worth noting down. I had to trim this a bit since this review is getting too long and I apologize for that.

Kingdom Building is a mixed bag. I love the aspect of erecting settlements and determining the kinds of architecture. However the ‘time-limit’ before the next act and what to do perhaps make newcomers feel pressured and quite honestly have no clue what to do. I had to frequently Google and ask my friends about priorities. Although frankly, I'm leaning towards being positive on the aspect. Sincerely cool having advisors and solving problems since you are a Baron. I found it more enjoyable than my playthrough with Ni No Kuni 2’s version. Which ultimately was all right with uninteresting sidequests. Here I kept coming back to my empire. Taking personal pleasure in being hands-on in my day-to-day. See how your settlements grow and flourish along with your subjects. It’s thrilling, satisfying, and most of all worth seeing all your efforts come to fruition. For general tips, I'll echo what before I play & walkthrough for advice. Was instrumental and made daunting tasks to fulfill become easier to manage.

However, tiredness will undoubtedly occur. I had to stop playing kingmaker constantly in 2023 due to fatigue. The sheer amount of content if you combine the DLC is a lot for anyone’s plate. Acts on average took me 20 hours give or take some change to complete considering there are a total of 8 acts. If you count the act-like DLC Varnhold and the roguelike beneath the stolen lands. You’re easily reaching 150+. This is a friendly reminder to stop and take a break in case you are feeling burned out. I played palette cleansers like indies and shifted into different genres from a CRPG in between chapters to refresh my willpower to keep going. The slow-burn narrative along with my mixed feelings on kingdom-building aspects among others leave me in doubt whether I unintentionally had resorted to sunk cost fallacy. However, I would say once you reach part 2 to part 3 then the plot beats start to heat up gradually into a snowball. Turning my interest from a “hmmm” to an “Oh now we're getting somewhere.”

I think some rules for Pathfinder in general are too restrictive and punishing. This isn’t a negative against Owlcat; rather they did a phenomenal job adapting the tabletop ruleset for the videogame audience. Paizo the company from my understanding created the IP and surrounding laws within. Here are notable head-scratchers. I am not allowed unlimited lockpicking? Once I fail an attempt it's impossible to try again. I had to resort to a mod to give me unlimited attempts. Moreover, no instant rest after skirmishes. Meaning in vanilla, if my heavily damaged party needs to rejuvenate I have to manually activate the button to heal where I am assailable randomly. And lord help my soul if I fail that encounter during the process. Thus my momentum of adventuring unimpeded is halted. Sure I soothe my comrade's health, but what happens when I run out of charges for each of my healers? Then I am incapable of reviving their vitality. Resulting in, busywork. Coupled with the majority of loading screens from entering my throne room -> kingdom management -> back to throne room -> going out to world map -> entering a new area on the map -> reverting a save if something awry occurs -> repeat. Granted not a major deal, but over the course of my long playthrough, it all adds up. As a consequence, I am forced to struggle whereas I could be enjoying. Maybe I'm spoiled by fast load speeds, but I did install this on a fast SSD. Maybe a faster M.2 drive would be better. Goodness, imagine playing this on an HDD…

Other miscellaneous stuff: Gameplay would hang. An uncommon occurrence during random battles. Perhaps an NVME is better? I played on a Samsung SSD with a decent PC that ran the highest graphics on max settings to optimal framerate. The hanging is like a split second. Usually, initializing textures and characters when starting and during loading screens to govern your principality or unpacking a file. Not something glaringly obvious since my overall experience is still positive. Nevertheless, it is something noteworthy. Moving on. Some portraits of enemies are not given a unique picture. We are faced with our characters' faces. Pretty jarring to witness as if any major enemy is well an imposter of us. Granted not all of them are like this, but the inconsistency is mildly weird to witness.

Owlcat’s version of Pathfinder gamified is an incredibly ambitious undertaking. Took me nearly a year to finish in its entirety and while I did have some annoyances from the ruleset, scattered loading times, and mixed feelings. There’s quite a bit to enjoy among the many systems within. I liked overseeing my realm. Making tough decisions based on fair policies and having an immediate effect on my subjects whether good or bad. I delved deep to understand the deep mechanics in real time and pause. Yet at the end of the day, I think the amount of gratification here despite the herculean effort the devs have encompassed with a gigantic stuff to devour is dependent on the user's experience to get down in the trenches. If I never knew about skill checks and buffing, then I would have suffered early on because of my ignorance in taking advantage of magical resistances. If I didn’t read up on how to manage my provinces better, then possibly in a bad alternate universe I would’ve game over in my 100+ hour run due to my improper handling and neglect of the state of affairs. And that is NOT a feeling I want anyone to suffer with. Considering the reports I've read online of users having the same issues of neglecting their nation. Please make sure to check 'invincible kingdom' in the options. Speaks volumes how much you have to devote yourself to bring out something worthwhile. And for me? I think this is certainly one of the greats along with Baldur’s Gate. As long as you dedicate enough energy inside and mods installed. A deep & expansive CRPG that doesn’t hold your hand, but rewards the most invested of players. Sadly I find this incredibly difficult to recommend to everyone. Except only to fans of the genre. I believe Mandaloregaming said it best "... you play this game more for the systems than for the writing." And I can’t help but agree with their statement despite him saying the line in his story section. I would say it also accounts for the whole breadth of the game itself.

Base game without mods: 7.6/10
Base game with mods: 8/10

References & Additional Material:
Interview with the creative director on Pathfinder: Kingmaker
Pathfinder: Kingmaker Classes overview and archetypes
Example of information overload from my character
Long road to secret ending - heavy endgame spoilers within
PK Difficulty Settings - Pretty extensive options to tune the combat modifiers to your preference.
Before I play & Walkthrough

Mods:
Mod Manager - Bag of Tricks - Faster Menu - Buffbot