735 Reviews liked by MrProg
A masterclass in worldbuilding, loveable character writing, and tight combat/platforming segments. I was hung up for a bit on giving this a 5, but looking back at the whole picture, there was nothing less that it deserved. It's one of the first games in years that has made me go out of my way to grind and claw my way towards its secret endings.
I do not envy Bluepoint and SCE Japan for trying to remake Demon's Souls. I don't think there is a perfect way to do so, honestly. DeS 09 is a very weird looking game. There's a weird sheen to the whole thing, the lighting is kinda bad, it literally flips assets from Enchanted arms and fucking Ninja Blade - the whole thing is honestly kind of a mess.
And honestly, I think Bluepoint/SCE Japan has mostly got it right here. DeS '20 definetly has some missteps in the remake, but I think they've mostly done a fine job of this remake.
And I will say there are definetly missteps here. Much attention has been given to changes in some character/enemy designs. Whilst I think some of these are pretty bad (Adjudicator and the Fat officials are the most obvious), I can at least see where most of them come from and honestly, the majority of characters remain fundementally intact.
And the strength of Demon's Souls aesthetic was never in it's character designs or assets. It was in it's atmosphere, sound and level design. And fortunately, the Remake retains that. The only area that I'd say feels worse than the original is probably boletarian palace, which is a bit too clean for my liking and doesn't really feel like a fallen castle town for the most part.
But Latria, Shrine of Storms, Valley of Defilement and even Stonefang come out of it feeling not really significantly different - and SoS and VoD both benefit from improved fidelity in particular. And running at 60fps is a godsend.
Also, the 3D audio is exceptional. I think it's honestly the biggest improvement in the entire game and I would implore anyone playing DeS '20 to wear headphones. Its an excellent extension of the sound design of the original game, particularly in Latria.
Of course, on the audio side, I have to say the soundtrack is a big step down. I know Kida gave it a pass and seems to have worked on it in some capacity, but there's a couple of moments where the new tracks just do not work, particularly Fool's Idol, one of my favourite original tracks. The arrangements are pretty alright on their own for the most part but a couple of tracks don't vibe with their original bosses very well. If the original soundtrack was an option this remake would definetly be closer to 5 stars than 4 for me, and I hope it happens - Bluepoint/Japan Studio have already listened to some feedback regarding the remake so I wouldn't count it completely out.
A few quick points before I finish
- The new animations are fantastic. I think the originals in this style would have looked a bit goofy.
- Whatever font they're using for the big screen messages has the worst U i have ever seen. actually the worst part of the remake.
- The quality of life additions are great, particularly those involving item burden.
- There's a weird dissonance with the game having a skin of a 2020 game but still playing like the budget 2009 jank. I have no idea how to feel about it.
- I could probably have a day-long conversation about them not doing anything with the broken archstone. I'm incredibly torn and I can see why they didn't add too much new stuff.
But yeah, I could go on about the minutae of this remake for ages. It's not perfect, theres definetly mistakes here - but what I think really matters I think Bluepoint and Japan Studio have gotten right. I think the results are far better than that of the Shadow of the Colossus remake, for instance - and I adore both original games.
I think if you put a gun to my head and said I had to pick between a 4k 60fps version of the original game and this, I'd probably say this (though yes, I would like both). I would not say the same for SOTC. So, yeah, as muddled as my feelings are on DeS 20 - I think its a fine job in the end.
Spent the whole damn day playing through this from start to finish, and it's really, really good.
Hearts of Stone continues off from the solid foundation of The Witcher 3's base game, presenting a fresh story full of twists and turns, but retains what made the base game great. Without spoiling it, Hearts of Stone had some of the funniest moments I've seen in an RPG, as well as some of the most heartbreaking; once again, the writing and performances are on-point.
Hearts of Stone does have a few issues, though. Although almost everything in the expansion is amazing, the recycled music, off-putting pacing choices leading to singular missions taking way too long to finish than they should, and a few gameplay oddities (not spoiling it) do drag the experience down somewhat. Nevertheless, the issues are minor and don't come up too frequently. For a ~10 hour experience for the main story and a decent amount of new side quests, Hearts of Stone is well worth your time to play through.
Initially, my thoughts on this game were not very positive. While I enjoyed the aesthetics quite a lot, and found the boss battles quite fun, I thought the whole run-n-gun part of the game ruined the game. I also thought that some of the bosses in Inkwell Isle II were incredibly annoying and frustrating, and I couldn't really see this game as anything incredible.
But then I got to the good part. As soon as you reach Inkwell Isle III, this game gets really good. The boss battles are a huge step up in my opinion, mainly because they all have such cool concepts I think, and the run-n-gun levels are a lot batter, which is due to the fact that they feel a lot easier. Maybe I just got used to the formula, but I was having a lot more fun with this game when I reached that point, and up until and including the end, I was having a very good time. The aesthetics is probably the strongest part of this game. I don't think anyone would dispute that, so I won't dwell on it for too long. I also loved the sound design, because it felt suitably cartooney at all times. What I didn't like as much was the music unfortunately. When it comes to jazz, I am a big fan of the outliar genres. Spiritual Jazz, Free Jazz and Avant-Garde Jazz. This game seems to play it way too safe in my eyes, and the result is a soundtrack that is appropriate, but uninteresting. Nevertheless, I did come to appreciate this game with time, and I will definitely play it again!
It's cool overall, but is somewhat short on content (mainly furniture and generic villager conversations), and too many things are added after the fact that should have been in the game on release like the added emotes, sea creatures and so on (and more to come). It also gets grindy as hell if you want to get every recipe as there are a lot and are all chance based. Good luck if you don't have anyone to help you. Also some menus are a bit of a hassle to walk around and some are really frustrating and time wasting, like the airport ones. Some things are so unnecesarily slow and tiring that it can take a toll on you eventually, specially if you play for some hours every day.
Aside from that, if you just play a bit each week through the year, it's a fine game.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Currently just writing my thoughts as of right now because I JUST LOST HOURS OF PROGRESS. I was actually reading about people having this save issue literally this morning and thinking that it wouldn't happen to me, but to my dismay it did, and right now a lot of my goodwill towards this game has been lost like my saved progress. I'm honestly scared to take a crack at this game for fear of losing progress again and having to do the same damn things again.
From what I played I desperately want to love this game, and applaud the effort and lengths it went to present something unique. I think the foundation is solid, however they missed the mark in a lot of categories and stripped the series of key features that made the other game stand out. I will pick it up again, but right now Ubisoft needs to get their shit together and remedy this before I give up on this one. I'm really pissed because I was halfway done the game and completed some pretty substantial end-of-chapter segments. The honeymoon phase I had with this game is basically over, and I'm really starting to see the faults of Legion and its lack of polish. From the game freezing, crashing, and now the save issue being rampant, Ubisoft should've delayed this. I went from rooting for the underdog that is the Watch Dogs series in the hopes that it might achieve greatness to losing any potential excitement I have for any sequels, and all because of one game.
Following the success of Dark Souls, it was only natural for the indie scene to recapture that experience, and Hollow Knight is a wonderful example of taking some elements of the original dark souls, and making its own unique experience. It’s a recipe for success; a beautifully magical world tinged with sadness, engaging metroidvania gameplay, and wonderful boss fights, what’s not to love? Well….. I ended up not enjoying myself 35 hours later.
Well I loved the game, I really did. I enjoyed the time I spent with it however after the honeymoon period a lot of the things I initially excused came back into the forefront and I could simply just not ignore. Let me be clear that this has nothing to do with the game itself. It simply comes down to the lack of gameplay parts I enjoyed and the abundance of gameplay parts I did not enjoy so much. I enjoyed the game when I was fighting bosses, I did not enjoy the game when I was exploring and platforming. I suck at platformers; I do not have the precision to traverse levels with various levels of verticality and traps. But there is a lot to love about Hollow Knight. It’s art style for one is spectacular. The Hand Drawn visuals in combination with the bloom and blur is great, and the minimal colour palette gives it a very striking look. The music is wonderful, and I adore it. And the grubs, my god they are so adorable I love them and wish them the best with their grub dad. The boss fights are fun. Frustrating but rewarding. And that’s about it.
It sadly feels like it has gone on for too long for me. As I said I put about 35 hours into it and haven’t reached very far. I got a decent amount of charms, most of the movement abilities that aren’t the black shadow variation. And after a while I just got fed up with the platforming. Real shame because I could see this as a game I would love a lot if I had the patience and tolerance for metroidvanias’ and platforming.
Among Us is divided into 2 phases: the meeting phase (debating who to vote out) and the roaming phase (doing tasks/killing). Because of this differentiation, the roaming phase does not interfere with aspects of the meeting phase (e.g. conversations). This leads to conversations in the form of debates instead of split-second decisions. In that respect Among Us is closer to the original games in the genre like Mafia and Werewolves. Outside of meetings, conversations are not permitted, which shifts the focus to stealth and intel gathering.
Among Us doesn’t rely on a single intricate mechanic to create depth. It instead uses combinations of game elements to introduce variety. Notably, the meta and psychological aspects enrich the strategic complexity despite the underlying mechanics being simple.
Let us consider the core element of the roaming phase: routing. During this phase, the main focus is deciding where to go. If there were no impostors in the game, this would be a simple task of pathing to finish the current tasks as quickly as possible. The presence of an impostor adds an extra layer of complexity: crewmates need to also gather intel regarding where other players are located. In the first round of the game most of the decisions are based on meta-knowledge about other players: individual strategies for intel gathering, tasks players tend to go for, solitary vs group players, how they tend to play as a Crewmate/Impostor, etc. Another option is to take a risk to clear a player by sticking with them (i.e. using yourself as bait). This is a double-edged sword, however, as the Impostor can choose not to go for an easy kill, gaining the trust of the Crewmate testing him (a.k.a. “marinating”). Such risks play a central role in the game. For instance, players that have vital information would avoid dying at any cost so that they can bring it to the meetings. On the other hand, a Crewmate may also want to die:
- sticking to someone that they suspect is an Impostor to tie their hands even by risking their own life.
- to use the noclip and faster speed of being a ghost to finish their tasks faster
- to clear any suspicion over themselves (so the other Crewmates don’t mistakenly think that they’re an Impostor).
Later on, with information from meetings on who is likely to be an Impostor or a Crewmate, more elaborate routes can be devised. Players can also use meetings to gather information about other players’ tasks in order to predict their routes next round.
The emphasis in meeting phases is on deductive and conversational aspects of the game. The information we get in the roaming phase alone is usually not good enough to paint a picture of how the whole round played out. Thus we need to make assumptions based on some kind of deduction. On top of that, the meetings give us information from other parties in the game, letting us make even more accurate deductions to find the Impostors. With good game knowledge enough crewmates by sharing all information, the impostors would be found. (Except in some weird cases where everyone was just speedrunning their tasks, and not getting any information at all). However, it would be foolish for the impostors to let the crewmates do as they please, and this is where the conversational aspect of the game comes into play. In the scenario that the kills haven't been clean in the game (this means the blame for the kill can't be pinpointed to a single or a small group of people), the impostors won't have any benefit of letting the conversation go on untouched. The most direct way to disrupt the meeting conversation is through lies. With a lie, the information deduction alone would not be able to get to a correct answer, though this depends on the type of the lie. A stronger, more direct lie could change the narrative in a predictable way. It can be used to frame or clear someone. Yet such lies would be easy to trace to the liar. They can be more easily found by conflict with other known information, and thus could backfire. It requires a lot of information from the liar, to be able to pull off such a lie. Also, they have to seem trustworthy since they usually won't get backing for that false information (outside of their impostor partner). More importantly, such lies could be found out in later rounds of the game. While it could pay off this round it could cost the impostors the game in the end. More common and useful lies would be a small change of information somewhere deeper in the deduction. (Further away from clearing or pinning someone as an impostor and more about basic information). The benefit of that lie is that it is hard to trace to the liar, but at the same time, the effect is not as clear. However this could again be used - while it wouldn't frame someone for a kill or clear someone, it is effective in wasting time. It is also a safe lie since it might be considered an error rather than a lie as well. Honourable mention to lying by omission. Depending on the context it could be either of 2 types of lies above, and it could even be safer in most scenarios.
Something even more common than lying is conversation control. There is a time limit on each meeting, and players have one button per game they could use for meetings. Note that some meetings can't be extended by those buttons, as the impostors could win if there is a wrong decision in those meetings. Because of that, it is important to be efficient with information. Getting all information out of all players, and sharing deductions from everyone is easier said than done in that short amount of time. This is why the flow of the conversation is important - and also this is where the impostor has an advantage. The impostors know how their own kill happened (and potentially even the kill of their partner) so they know which information is vital. Thus if they control the flow of the conversation they can waste a lot of time on useless information and deductions out of players. This could be used in combination with a lie and to reinforce the lie, by not letting conflicting information in the conversation. Of course, all of this has its own risk, as being wasteful of conversation time is suspicious. An important thing to be noted is that the impostors' lies and disturbance of conversation have an important side effect. It isn't just the impostors that have to deal with scrutinizing their information and deductions, all information would be scrutinized no matter if it is true or false. This is also dependent on the player itself, other ingame information, as well as psychology and meta. Because of this, the players should also worry about their trustworthiness and not just figuring out the killer. You might have everything figured out, but if you can't say it in the short amount of time and convince others, you can't do anything. Even worse someone might undermine your trustworthiness and bring you down - you have to both be good at deduction and conversations to win. One anomaly from this is that there are actually now reasons for crewmates to lie. Saving time, being trustworthy and even catching lies from another player. This does have an innate risk, but it would be often a better choice than telling the truth.
An important element to the deduction is the intel gathering itself. It was mentioned early, but there is an additional aspect to the intel gathering - attention. There is a lot of information that a single player can gather in a single round, but remembering it all isn't an easy thing to do. If there are more alive players, or if the round itself is long, holding old information becomes trouble. While often this information is discarded, if there have been and early kill, without such information it would be untraceable. The intel generally consists of where we saw each player, where they were headed and what tasks they were doing. The hard part here is that you need to remember all this information relevant to the time. Memorizing this information is relevant to some major event, or just a rough estimate of the time is hard enough on its own. Yet, the player might even opt-in counting seconds to give them more precise information in time. Not only that, but it gives information about kill cooldowns, sabotage timings, precise way to estimate if anyone is faking tasks or not. Also, it could give them information about all the possible positions a player could have reached from a last seen position. This could be vital information in determining who are the plausible killers for some kill. Less decisive, but also important but more difficult, it could also be used to catch a lie. This is done by simulating the path given by some player and comparing how well it fits with the information given by other players. Needless to say, doing deductions, counting precisely, keeping information, and making decisions for the route the player would take all at the same is an extremely difficult task. This is most likely impossible to perfect, so there is always going to be a human error of some kind. Related to this, the tasks themselves, while easy to complete and master, could affect the attention of the player. This could lead to some error either in time management or in the information they are trying to keep in their mind. On a side note, tasks also play into the information gathering aspect of the game. They obscure parts of the screen, leading to less information for a player. Also, they might only see a small feature of a player, and not be able to determine who that player is.
I would like to mention a few elements important to impostors in the roaming phase, on top of the things that have been discussed so far. Impostors have much more freedom in their routing. They still have to follow some rules so that they are not caught faking tasks, or having suspicious routes. But even those rules can be bent because of the lack of perfect information in the game. It still carries some risk, but it is unlikely for them to be caught for that. In turn, they can route solely on gathering intel and unique to impostors - setting up kills and denying information. Impostors have the advantage of bigger vision range - allowing them to gain information, without others gaining information about them back. Sabotages also are a great way of denying information. Lights deny information around the players and are also a good way to set up a kill. Communication is a way to deny long-range information. While not a great way to set up a kill (it is more situational) it is a better sabotage to call in-between kills to screw with information. Vent usages could screw up the timing of some people and the impostor could get a clear for the kill.
What should also be mentioned about the game is that despite its high skill ceiling, it is an easy game to get into. The game involves a lot of risks (which introduces luck) and it also involves expectations of players to play in a certain way. Because of that, the inexperience of newer players leads to smaller expectations on them, which in turn gives them more leeway. They are more likely to be overlooked as impostors, which is a bonus both as impostors and crewmates. Even when people get a better understanding of the newer players, they would still be given more leeway on certain actions as a crewmate. This allows more intricate routes as impostors and makes them more trustworthy, which gives them more of a fight chance.
The meta aspect is one of the important things of the game, as everything ties to it. This is also why the game works much better in a group of the same people rather than random groups. Understanding how other people play and act, and also how other people perceive you, is an essential tool you can use in the game. A unique effect of this is that a lot of your actions are going to have consequences even outside of the game that you are currently in. Thus you need to accommodate your crewmate playstyle to fit your impostor playstyle. Doing the opposite is harder, as the better player you are the more other people demand of your playstyle with a crewmate. Also, you can also set up strategies in several rounds, building trust for specific situations, to use it as an impostor in another round to win. You can't keep using that same strategy constantly, which is why you have to keep planting new seeds and adapting your strategy - you reap what you sow.
The game is not without issues. While all the things discussed so far exist, their relevance depends on the used ruleset. The bright side is that the game opt-in for a lot of options to let the people change the settings. Yet even with those settings, the game is still heavily crewmate sided, especially as players improve. The default settings are even more cremate sided, but that is expected in a game with a lower skill level, where impostors would have more of a chance. As players improve, options become more and more restrictive, and eventually, even house rules have to be introduced against some "cheese" strats that can be used to make the game fair. The maps are also a good example of this, at a high enough level all maps but one are unbalanced.
Sked is heavily shifted in crewmates favour. This is due to the lacklustre vents and the 8-like layout of the map, making it hard to find bodies and deny information. Mira is shifted on the other side. It's all interconnected vents, combined with the decontamination area and the weak information tools for the crewmates lead to this shift.
Polus is the most balanced map of the current 3. Its layout allows for a lot of complexity and room for impostors to play out, while also giving the crewmate strong information tools like vitals, admin and cameras. The only downside for that map is the lack of an equivalent of the oxygen sabotage (it isn't there for lore reasons), which doesn't give impostors a good tool for dealing with groups.
In conclusion, despite its simplistic look, the interaction of the mechanics of Among Us leads to deep gameplay. The game shines in its conversation aspect and has attention intensive tasks (not the ingame tasks) to do outside of the meetings. All those things are combined with an intricate metagame.
Just as the first one, the story grabs you right from the start. And just like the first one, it’s visually stunning and its music is truly wonderful.
The fluidity of movement feels great, and the combat is super satisfying. When those set pieces where you have to quickly and acrobatically escape some big danger happen, the swiftness and precision of the controls shine the most, it’s satisfying to both play it and watch it.
It took me a little while to get used to assigning the different abilities to 3 buttons at a time, but it ended up being a great way to quickly change actions and strategies, even during battles.
And those boss battles - what a spectacle. Challenging, stunning and so gratifying.
One time for a little while it felt like there was some randomly longer-than-usual loading times for even opening the inventory or the pause menus, as well as visual hiccups where I’d see environments and characters slowly popup, which was very grating given the sheer fluidness of the game otherwise. And the I got an error and the game shut down entirely. Very strange but it was one time.
One of the new things I really love about this one is the large roster of friendly characters in the world. They’re all wonderfully designed, voiced, and animated. Tokk, Opher, Lupo, Kworok, Lewin, and the others.
The story, all the way to the conclusion impresses with its little reliance on dialogue, favoring beautiful animations and the fantastic music score to elevate the highly emotional beats of the bittersweet tale.
The excellent combination of satisfying movement, tight platforming, fun combat, incredible set pieces, beautiful music, and stunning visuals and animation makes Ori one of my favorite games of 2020, and indeed of the Switch in general.
A Hat in Time
Optimization is it's biggest problem, so if you have a choice, I would advise against playing it on Switch. While the game is completely playable on the platform, the loading times are long, the graphics are kind of poor and it has big lag issues sometimes.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
The initial bugs have been fixed so I can now be more confident in saying this is the best Party Pack collection Jackbox Games has crafted since 3, which is honestly still one of the best games of all time.
Despite being a part of the Quarantine era, Party Pack 7 does not feel like anything is lost when you stream this over to friends on discord to play together (with the exception to Devil in the Details but honestly I've had good games happen at times online too). I have hosted this game on different serves with a variety of people from across the world, and folks... this pack has hooks!
For people who like to draw in Jackbox, Champed Up has some of the Tee-Ko dna infused with a game of Superfight (aka a who would win scenario game). Fans of the improv games Jackbox has made in recent history, or perhaps like doing presentation parties, can get into Talking Points and try to make it through a presentation prepared by someone else. Blather Round, while not a trivia game, can scratch that deduction itch for folks working together to figure out if their friend is trying to get you to guess King of the Hill or Family Guy. Devil In The Details is for the fans of Fakin It who are used to being told their game is the weakest link, but they know proper circumstances will make it shine. And Quiplash 3 is more Quiplash but with an actually good final round.
Perhaps the most notable feature this game has is the massive amount of settings each game features. What was once a simple 6 option list is now filled with 30+ customizable options designed to adjust your game based on the audience and the amount of trust you have in them to be good. The most promising feature that sadly could use more work as of this pack is the US Filter, which is designed to remove the more America-centric focus from the games but it's not always effective (Blather Round for example will quickly just become guess the disney character). It's still a very good idea and I hope they keep working to improve it!
These games usually have great art and music, but they also feel especially good here. I'm a big fan of Champed Up's ending theme that honestly sounds like something out of 4Kids.
It's honestly amazing how after 7 Jackbox games, there is still such an incredible spark of creativity and fun shining from these annual party games. Can't wait to see what they have to bring next!
much to be said about a film that only tells its audience to care about its characters while it’s actively killing them off
-aleph beth null, Rogue One review (2018)
Although meant to be a homage to its relatives in film, primarily Saving Private Ryan and Seven Samurai, it instead serves as a striking parallel to Rogue One and its fatal flaws six years beforehand, running into the need of constant motion while also attempting to juggle six characters. It's apparent that gameplay is prioritized, with exposition only coming in bits and pieces spread through cutscenes, which even then can rarely be found. Although the lack of exposition is sometimes complemented well by Marty O'Donnell's soundtrack in contrasting the stone-faced Noble Team and their required repression of grief and mourning, no personal connection between the team members is explored outside of occasional quips, as if they were fleeting memories that are meaningless to ruminate on.
There is also an unexplored contrast between its appreciation of sacrifice for humanity and its framing of the actions towards doing so. Multiple cutscenes begin with changing perspective to the UNSC's security system, statically fixated on Noble Team as if it were being observed by an higher-up outsider to look for any sign of desertion or deviation from the suicide mission. At times it feels like a, although most likely unintentional, start to questioning by Bungie of the dynamics between higher-ups and artificial soldiers found throughout the series, creating a sense of paranoia of the UNSC and its covert strategies towards dominance. But any idea of this exploration being seen in Reach's story is snuffed out by the end, instead looking towards a future where the galaxy's soil will unchangingly be built on unknown blood and a stable supply of artillery.