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Played in 2023
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It's hard to be too upset about something that's free. That said: this prologue is also like 10ish minutes in length IF you're scraping the edges for every small crumb of content, and it really doesn't give you anywhere near enough in its short runtime to whet your appetite for the full thing. Don't bother playing it multiple times assuming that there are secrets to be uncovered via the order you do things, or more specifically, keys for the locked doors you come across. There really isn't much there, just a (being extremely reductive) long story hallway with a quick time event in it.
It's a pretty good tone-setter as intended... but especially given the file size of this thing, the new "Spotlight" video worked perfectly fine too. Still excited for the full game later this year.
I liked Breath of the Wild a fair bit, but it’s kinda slid down my ranks over time. I think it had a really amazing first 10 hours filled with experimentation and discovery… then past that I somewhat felt like I’d seen everything and the game felt a little “solved”. Still a great game, just not my favorite.
Tears of the Kingdom alleviates any issues I had with it, elevates what was already good, and then some.
One of those once-in-a-generation games that feels so wildly ambitious I feel like it’ll be awhile before I play anything that even attempts to match it. The ability to bend puzzles to your single brain cell desires with the game's surprisingly functional building features is an absolute treat on its own, but everything surrounding it is somehow comparably excellent. I loved the increased difficulty, which forces you to engage the game’s interesting systems more fully. The music, while still a little sparse for my taste, was also more plentiful and great when used. The sidequests are a huge area of improvement as well, I fully enjoyed almost all of the ones I did and felt adequately rewarded for doing them. So many times I would try to end a late-night session but end up in a string of quests leading into each other. Absolutely everything here is just a treat. Not to mention the main story is even more of a treat than before, with memorable locales and gameplay segments. I loved it.
I do think Link’s stats are a little funky in this game; even with many upgrades under my belt I rarely ever felt completely comfortable. The game is also still a bit low on QOL and clunky in areas, some new and some familiar. I’m not huge on the zonaite economy either, I think too many things rely on it and the way they did the crystallized charge system is kinda baffling. Finally, I think the fact that half the story content here seems to be optional is really weird, and even weirder when they seem to have realized it and try to catch you up near the end. There must have been a better way, right?
But most of my issues are just small gripes, I loved this game. A true masterpiece, maybe my new favorite Zelda and yet another strong GOTY contender in 2023.
Star Rail benefits significantly from great production values and entering a genre where its contemporaries don't outclass it so severely as to make it less worth playing.
The music is unique, the visuals are great, and the systems are solid enough (if a bit simple). It also remains snappy while still having excellent animations, the game is fairly high QOL when not making you grind excessively at the current endgame. The Simulated Universe content in particular might be some of the best content in a gacha game I've played; while it's balanced a little wonky I think it’s a fun mode with a decent amount of variety. I also have enjoyed the story enough; I think near the end of the Belobog content up until what’s current it gets a bit weaker and mostly stays there, but it’s fine and still has some fun characters to bump elbows with.
Most of the rest here is a mixed bag. I like the main plot and cast, but it is surrounded with so much lore fluff and excessive exposition for any given idea that it ends up decreasing the impact of the whole thing. I hate to bag too much on it for this because people tend to get a bit hyperbolic about similar points, but even as a seasoned JRPG enjoyer, the amount of nonsensical proper nouns here really is a bit much, as is the amount of supertext that explains absolutely nothing and compounds that effect. The game has a love for its own universe, which is occasionally a blessing, but often it just dilutes the pertinent text with lengthy optional lore dump after lore dump together, even moreso when it decides to be a hit-and-miss Funny And Quirky game in tandem.
Gacha mechanics here are also everything you’d expect, it rewards you constantly for every little thing to make you think that it’s more giving or “fair” than most gacha when in reality it’s about as manipulative and awful as any other in that regard. That said F2P has been viable enough in my experience.
In the end, I’m feeling mildly positive on it. I’ve enjoyed it like I enjoy a bit of junk food from time to time. I periodically have the desire to play it when I have some time to burn and don't wanna play something more engaged, and that's more love than I've ever had for Genshin. A nice little run through dailies and Simulated Universe, maybe a little bit of grinding. I guess that’s all that matters in the end.
(Updated 5/25 after clearing all the current story content)