881 Reviews liked by Tatsky

in the interest of transparency, i'll admit that i was a fairly ardent defender of this game prior to release. arkane is one of the most interesting western development studios working right now - if not the only one. suffice to say i personally found it irritating seeing the same few peanut galleries online get riled up over an arkane game getting a marketing push for once. there's one particular anecdotal exchange that's seared into my mind: a few months prior to release, someone had sarcastically retorted 'oh boy another deathloop trailer, i wonder what that games about!', and then like one or two days before the game came out, that same person said 'so is it like a co-op shooter or what?'

of course, deathloops trailers did, to a certain extent, belie its actual qualities. the irony worth mentioning in this instance is that it wasn't the game i expected either. what i had been anticipating for the better part of two years was an evolution of the design expressed in prey: mooncrash. that expansion is critically underplayed, so to briefly sum up: mooncrash is a light procgen immersive sim roguelike that sees you attempting to conduct the escape of several personnel on a corporate moon base invaded by the typhon. prey's gameplay was carried over wholesale, but now with the pressure of time weighing down on each playthrough. the more time you spent on the moon base, the harder it got. escaping with one protagonist denies that route for a different protagonist, each protagonist had several subgoals to exercise so as to facilitate the safe escape of their fellow protagonists, items used by one protagonist were denied to another - across a closed-off loop, the core of the game became constant route planning, evaluating, and mitigating against the oncoming onslaught of typhon. it's unlike anything else and save for a few criticisms i have (particularly the mule, which is a mechanic that goes too far in alleviating player stress) it's very much worth your time.

deathloop shares the same basic setup. there is a loop. in order to engineer a 'successful' loop, the player has to fulfill several key objectives (plan an escape in mooncrash; kill eight visionaries in deathloop). in order to achieve those aims, the player has to spend time in the environment, experimenting and exploring, becoming familiar with its contours, planning effectively so as to minimize error, and gathering resources to promote their own growth. by the end, the player will have grown exponentially not only in general gamesense, but also in terms of their characters general prowess. arkane is excellent, almost to a fault, at achieving this design goal.

but this is where the similarities end, because deathloop isnt really an immersive sim the way prey is and its not really a timeloop game, either. it's also arguably not really a great hitman game. arkanes focus this time around seems to have been to configure dishonored's high chaos excess and intensity into a more pared back and easy to digest experience (not that this translates well at all - the opening hours are so simple in mechanical expression yet so needlessly obtuse and overwhelming in overtutorialization that for the first few hours this is a confused and muddled mess). there's very few moments here that constitute the kind of shock and surprise at what one's own ability and insight as could so often happen in dishonored or prey. every slab ability you get is tweaked primarily towards effective combat rather than exploration, the game is generally faster paced, level design is a little rougher compared to arkanes predecessors, and so on. save for time only progressing when you exit a level, its just not as intent on the player setting their own pace to carefully explore - there's a dominant sense that you have to play to the games tune.

its a timeloop game only insofar as the same way something as rote as dead cells is, with a basic understanding that failure to complete objectives will wind you back to the beginning. as such it's better understood as a game about conquering several zones - each map, of which there are four, has variations depending on the time of day, not really in layout per se but moreso in terms of objective orientation and things to do, so the goal is essentially to manipulate your window of time to conduct several independent investigations before unifying your answers into a cohesive whole. this is in part where the complaints of repetition stem from, and while i'll concede that it certainly gets a bit much, that process of peeling back layer after layer, bit by bit, trying to condense as much as possible within a singular loop, was something i found really appealing and satisfying. there's a staggering amount to do here beyond the main goals and often only available during certain times of day, and thats only accounting for things to do - chances are you'll roll in a visionary encounter just to accumulate resources, too.

and it's not really a good hitman game, either - the process here is rudimentary, inorganic, sometimes unimaginative. the game outright spells out to you what you'll need to accomplish to complete the final loop and leaves little room for interpretation - there's only a few moments where the player can choose differently. in ensuring a quicker tempo, they've added these little margins that pop-up whenever you read a file or listen to an audiolog which basically spell out the relevant info you'll need - you're not really trusted as a player to work stuff out for yourself, and that's disappointing. there's no room to work out your own solution to a loop and there's no room to do a bit of extra work that might make other activities easier. great example of this - there's a certain maskmaker NPC you can save from a visionary. one of the last visionaries, at the end of the day, hosts a mask themed rager. my theory was that if i save this NPC and visit him later in the day, maybe i can force him to make a mask so that when i attend the party, ill have to worry less about being spotted. but this isn't the case, instead you get an item that resolves an uninteresting and totally separate subgoal. it seemed like an obvious thing to include on my end, so it's a shame that deathloop so rarely tickles my imagination the way i would want it to.

but i did really greatly enjoy this. and that's mostly because despite being arkane-lite, it hits every note that it needs to, particularly in the ferocity of its gunplay. this is a slightly more pared back and more arcade-leaning experience that still carries enough of the basic imsim tenets to succeed with flair, and building that total control over its set of mechanics over time is undeniably satisfying, to the point that im willing to call it one of the best fps campaigns in recent memory. this is also, in part, because they sharply improved the AI in an october patch so they weren't complete pushovers. instead they're now the perfect AI this game required - exploitable and dumb, but genuinely cognizant of threats in their vicinity and when grouped together, able to break you like a twig. take that day 1'ers, you played a worse version of a game for me. it's also an arkane world first and foremost, so it's filled to the brim with little details to bask in and appreciate for what they are - there's no real reward for clearing the yervah other than to have accumulated a wealth of useless trivia on blackreef, but the reward is, in a way, that investment and immersion in a fictional location. things feel real despite the psycho temporal hedonism in the foreground. writing is solid across the board with banter that i was shocked to see handled well and register as earnestly funny in a way i dont come to expect with recent comedic endeavours. its snappy and has quick rhythm but its charming because its rooted in characterization, not in trying to sound smart and winking at the audience. juliannas the clear standout here, with a role in the proceedings that is both mechanically and narratively sound. despite being a ball of rage with colt sometimes it's clear she's lashing out because she's trying to defend paradise (although there are a few other implicit reasons for her actions) and i didnt come into this game expecting to relate to that. despite all the hotheaded conversations julianna has a few earnest moments where she tries to convince colt to see some of the good in the situation. julianna states shes read more during her stint in blackreef than anyone else could have across multiple lifetimes - theres a ridiculous amount to learn. ive long considered my personal heaven to just be a giant library i can check into once im dead and gone. the company she keeps might be less than savory but if there's one reason to preserve an artifical paradise i suppose i find it compelling.

and if that wasn't enough, this is the first game since 2011's dark souls to genuinely infuse invasions with wonder and magic, again. in fact most everything about deathloop is so centered around invasion as its core design theming that its impossible to see it any other way; if you played it with AI julianna i genuinely think you are getting a much, much lesser experience. the gist is this: of the eight visionaries, julianna is the only one who can be controlled by a human. she'll invade your campaign once per timezone (if a separate visionary is also on the map), turning everything into a horrifyingly tense game of cat n mouse. to succeed as julianna you have to do away with those paltry notions of fairness and honor and commit to unrelenting ferocity, mixing up your approach and using the environment effectively to dispatch colt (you need to down him three times; he needs only down you once). conversely, colt's fragility against mobs, much less against julianna as well, forces him into hiding much more than he normally would, since you never know what rooftop a julianna might be lurking on, trained sniper in hand. every map essentially represents an incredibly charming intersection between a traditional immersive sim and a one on one stealth deathmatch, and the thrill of the hunt has never been more ravishing. there's enough tricks, mindgames, counterplays, scumbag tactics and more to keep things fresh and entertaining. i looked up global achievement stats and saw that only 12.5% of players have killed colt as julianna? you guys are insane, that's half the game! none of you understand hunting mentality. im built different. i play dirty. i used telekinesis to throw colt off a bridge, berserk rushed him with fellow eternalists, and then i posted up in a jutting-out bannister for literally ten minutes waiting for him to appear below so i could stealth kill from above. the whole time i felt hate coursing through my veins. so this game's a winner imo, exceedingly enjoyed my time with it. definitely a game thats better than the sum of its parts (which often dont hold up to scrutiny, even!)

(i also havent finished the game to be fair...ive got one or two last big things to do before i trigger the final loop and im waiting for a friend to do the same before i 'complete' it. our plan is we're gonna alternate successive invasions in a race to see who can finish the final loop first. i wish everyone could play the game this way)

Warning. Long text. This is not a review. Many quotations.

Have you read the warning?
Then let's begin.
To be honest, I wasn't going to write a review of this game.
There are two main reasons.

The first is that I don't think I fully understood MGS2.
I can't say that I understood this difficult game myself, nor that I got the whole picture of MGS2 by thinking for myself.
Besides, I thought I only needed to listen to Snake's solution/sermon at the end of MGS2.
MGS2 is a fun game, even if it is difficult to understand. It's got a lot of gameplay finesse, cool visuals, and a lot of playful mind.
I had no complaints at the time about being able to enjoy an evolution of the classic MGS1 game. I didn't think for a minute that Snake had to be the protagonist.
I liked the character Raiden. (I liked him even more in the later MGS4. I haven't played the Rising games, sorry.)
Story in games is certainly an important element.
The story of MGS is interesting, humorous and above all, always surprising. (I like to be surprised, not only in games.)
But the great thing about Hideo Kojima, I felt, was that even if you put the story aside, the exploration, ingenuity and fun of the gameplay shone through.
That's why, although I was baffled by the story of MGS2, especially at the end of the game, I thought that "the difficulty of the story is just a trivial matter" and that "it's a fun game and, above all, Snake gives the answers in the game, so that's all that matters".
At that time, I was not interested in the opinions of others on the internet, so that's all I could think about.
As I write this, my opinion has not changed.

Secondly, "My total love for the MGS series, including MGS2, is less than you fans and Hideo Kojima freaks in Japan and international.”
I mentioned at the beginning that I was reluctant to write my opinion about MGS2. I'm reluctant to write or talk about this popular series.
This is because, from my point of view, there seems to be more passion abroad than there is in Japan.
I was even more convinced after the whole disturbance with MGS5. (Not just me, but all the MGS/Hideo Kojima fans in Japan were surprised by the frankly angry attitude of you international fans towards Konami.)
I've played a lot of Hideo Kojima's work.
I've played MGS2 to the point where I've completed dog tags on every difficulty level.
But still, if you ask me if I like the MGS series as much as you, the international fans who write the reviews on this site, I can't say yes.
Maybe the reason for my distance from MGS was you guys, a lot of international fans and one enthusiastic Japanese fan.

A fervent Hideo Kojima fundamentalist, whom Hideo Kojima himself describes as "my alter ego, my disciple and my teacher".
Yes, there were absolute Hideo Kojima freaks in Japan.
It is the existence of Itou Keikaku. ...At last I can get to the point.
He was a hardcore geek. He loved foreign films, novels, and was the biggest Hideo Kojima fan in Japan, having studied and reviewed every single one of his works, starting with Snatcher.
Half the purpose of this article is to sketch out the conundrum that is MGS2 in the light of the opinions of such an ardent Hideo Kojima fundamentalist.
The other half is to play a role.
To be honest, it's hard to write this group of sentences. It's hard work. It doesn't bring in any money.
So why am I writing this text?
No, it's not a text. It's a "bridge". Or a zip line, a rope, a ladder.
My role here is to act as a bridge between you, the rabid Hideo Kojima fans overseas, and the greatest Hideo Kojima fan that ever existed in Japan, Keikaku Itoh.
”I don't need a bridge!”
Some of you may say. Then don't bother reading this text, just read the Japanese text at the link below for yourself.
(If you have an English translation of any of these sentences, please post a link in the comments section, as they are undoubtedly better than my poor English translations).

The following is a selection of the main MGS2 essays, translated into English. Bold text is quoted.

"What is controlled reality?” Itoh Keikaku
MGS2 is about a kind of paranoia. It's a Newtonian delusional froth that says that everything in the world can be reduced to numbers, and therefore everything can be simulated, everything can be observed, everything can be predicted, everything can be controlled. Laplace's demon. The idea that, with infinitely precise data, we can perfectly predict the trajectory of a billiard ball. The delusion that the world is computable. Of course, this is impossible, not to mention quantum mechanics and chaos theory. But MGS2 shows that it is possible, albeit only in a social model.
I've seen some people say that MGS2 itself was just a VR experience for Raiden. That is, "Is this real? Or is it a dream?" It's a philosophical discussion about the definition of reality. I don't need to quote Mamoru Oshii, but I feel that this kind of theme has been depicted so many times in various works that it has already become obsolete. And Raiden does indeed come close to addressing such issues when he says that the Colonel doesn't exist. Another "common story" about people's sense of reality being diminished by virtual reality is told in Raiden's small story about VR training.
It doesn't matter if this is a dream or not, what you think is real is real. And, unfortunately, MGS2 doesn't jump to any of those "common" conclusions. And, nor does it let virtual reality encroach on reality. MGS2 ignores the concluding recipe of the "virtual reality" story. If you've ever said, or thought, that the whole "reality vs. dream" theme is a cliché, then good job. If you thought I was saying that "the theme of reality or dreams is clichéd", well, good riddance, because MGS2 has a ridiculous conclusion that makes that point nullification. And good job to whoever said or thought that the theme of self-discovery was clichéd. Because MGS2 ends with a conclusion that makes you feel like you're nullification.

With S3, the patriots have been able to control human society from an individual level. They don't need to control the brain, but they have a way of knowing what events will lead people to do what they want. The story of MGS2 was to test the effectiveness of this method and to establish a version of the protocol that could be used. Everything in human society can be reduced to numbers, and therefore everything can be simulated, everything can be observed, everything can be predicted, everything can be controlled.
Where then is the difference between reality and virtual reality?
Virtual reality does not come to reality.
MGS2 is not interested in the possibility that this reality might be a virtual reality and that there might be another reality. MGS2 does not make the question of what is reality a matter of ego perception.
It doesn't make it a philosophical question.
Because if everything is predictable and controllable, then it is a virtual reality.
That this reality is at the same time a virtual reality.
This reality can be defined as a virtual reality.
To violently redefine it as a virtual reality.
Such acrobatics are the substance of the idea of the S3.
When Neo realised that this world was a virtual reality, he was led by Morpheus to escape to another "reality".
When Moroboshi Ataru realised that this world was only a dream, he returned to the real Tomobiki High School (even though it was also only a dream).
But for Raiden and his friends, there is no other world to escape.
The "reality" they live in has become a virtual reality, and there is no "another world" to escape to.
There is no other world to escape from, because the reality in which they live is the virtual reality.
This is the story of April 30th, MGS2, the day when this only reality became a virtual reality.
"What is the world when everything can be counted, predicted and controlled?"
After pushing this assumption, MGS2 comes to this conclusion.
It's a virtual reality.
The perception that we are already living in a virtual reality. A vision in which reality itself is virtual. This is not the same as some kind of escapism: "This world could be a dream (virtual reality)". It is not the same as the phrase that has been used a thousand times: "There is no such thing as reality."
It's about the fact that even though this world is a virtual reality, it's still real, it's still a unique reality with nowhere to run, and it's still a virtual reality.
It is this despair that tints MGS2 to no end.
Shadow Moses Island, the setting of MGS1, was a hollowed-out facility on an isolated island. There was snow, rocks, trees, natural caves and permafrost. MGS2, on the other hand, is a man-made landscape in every way. It place in New York City, and a huge man-made structure floating off the coast.
There is nothing in this place that does not involve human hands. At most, there are seagulls flying in the sky. Raiden's fight takes place in a thoroughly artificial environment.
Unlike MGS1, which was about genetic determinism (and freedom from it) and was set in a harsh natural environment, MGS2 deals with the determinism of man, by man himself.
It was inevitable that the place could only be so thoroughly man-made.
There is no longer any need for the word "fate" to demand a god.
There is no need for a cosmic mystery or a law of cause and effect.
A world in which man predicts and controls himself.
Everything there must be the product of man's thinking.
Because nature is an unthinkable and therefore inherently uncontrollable and unpredictable factor.
To live in a world where everything around you has been created by human hands. That is to say, to live in human thought. Elements that are unpredictable and difficult for humans to control are completely eliminated.
There is no need to bring up virtual reality. Because this world is already a virtual reality.

Look around us, how much of it is natural?
Is the grass, potted plants, roadside trees and weeds in the car park planted by man 'natural'?
Is the river that runs through your neighbourhood a natural river? It is out of the question that some irrigation canals have been built recently, but in fact they may have been used for agriculture in the Showa, Meiji and even Edo periods.
We live surrounded by man-made things.
We live surrounded by the environment that we have created by our thoughts. We live surrounded by the results of our thoughts.
Why are we all surprised that 5,000 people die in a major earthquake, but not surprised at the huge number of deaths in road accidents per year?
It is because nature is a "calamity that has come to pass", an unpredictable factor, whereas road accidents are merely a "socially predictable and acceptable by-product". Earthquakes are natural disasters, but road accidents are the preserve of human thought.
That is, we live inside what the human brain has created.
The roads, the buildings, the houses, the food, everything is just an artificial product.
Nature is not an entity created by the human brain.
Nature is an inherently unpredictable and uncontrollable realm. It is not a symbol.
The city is dyed with human thought to every extent.
It's no coincidence that MGS2 is set in New York, a city within a city.

It's the kind of writing that makes you feel crazy.
I felt dizzy right after I read it for the first time.
Hideo Kojima himself, who made MGS2, is crazy, but I think it's also crazy for Keikaku Ito to grasp it so accurately.
It may be obvious and unnecessary, but I'll try to summarize it in my own way.
The above explanation by Keikaku Itoh is an analysis of the way the world is. (world of MGS2).
This is assumed to be Sein (be) as German idealism and Kant says.
And Snake's words are the answer to the question of how we humans should live in this desperate world.
This is also what Kant calls Sollen (should).
This is just my way of putting it.
A model is just a model. Unfinished. Eternal.

Report on the talk show celebrating the publication of "The Chronicles of Keikaku Itoh: Phase 2".
The content of MGS2 was controversial among fans, and Kojima recalls, "I was worried about what Ito-san would think". Fortunately for Kojima, Itoh-san had praised MGS2 on his blog, but he was under fire because he had written that "only I(Itoh-san) could understand this". Kojima expressed his gratitude and admiration, saying "It's not easy to find fans who continue to fight even in such a situation. The only people who understand what I'm trying to do are Mr. Itoh and Mr. Yano. (aka Nojima Hitori)

Since writing the above commentary, he has written commentaries in the limited edition booklets of MGS3 and other titles, and reviews of films, but in 2005 his cancer returned.
In the midst of his battle with the disease, he dedicated the rest of his time to creating.
This was Genocidal Organ, MGS4's nobelize, Harmony and his last work, The Empire of Corpses.
In an essay written around the same time as Harmony was released in December 2008, he wrote

"A story of Human” Itoh Keikaku
"People die. But death is not a defeat."
That's what Hemingway once said. What Hemingway meant by winning and losing, I do not know, but I understand what he meant. A man can dwell in another as a story. We can live in someone else's body as a story. It can be told in many ways and become part of a fiction that shapes many other human beings.
It is not only genes that we pass on. We have children because we want someone close to us to whom we can tell our stories.
A man begets a child in search of a listener, a most attentive and faithful listener. Listening, of course, is a metaphor, and there are many ways in which a person can tell his story to his children. The "way of life" is a synonym for fiction, and there are as many fictions as there are ways in which parents show their children their lives.
And I, as a writer, tell my own fiction as I write it here. I don't know whether this story will be remembered by you or not. But I'm writing this text because I'm betting on that possibility.

This is me.

This is the fiction that I am.

I want to live in your body.

I want to be passed on to others by your mouth.

About six months after writing this essay, he passed away.

This is a bit of a departure from MGS2, but when I was playing Death Stranding, I often thought about Keikaku Itoh.
When I was playing Death Stranding, I often wondered what kind of criticism I'd get if I lived long enough to play it. I wondered.
But it didn't take long for me to think: "Oh, maybe I'll laugh and do 'Thumbs up'.
When Hideo Kojima looks at the deceased, there's no doubt in his mind that in the forefront is Keikaku Itoh.
He doesn't exist in the world now. But he is here nonetheless.
G.K. Chesterton, the great mystery novelist, wrote in his essay
"Democracy of the Dead".
The argument can be summed up in one short sentence: "It is not only those who live now who will determine the country."
It makes sense to me to apply this to games as well. Rather, it seems to me to be far more adaptable than political systems.
It's not just the gamers of today who are playing games.
Don't the dead enjoy playing games and talking to each other as much as we do?
Perhaps some of the reviews on this site have been written by dead people.
When I look at the reviews of the MGS series I hear a voice laughing. The voice of Itoh keikaku.
Bonkura, silly jokes, and the laughter of otaku laughing themselves silly.
When you read his main book, you're pulled in by the surface image and you get the impression that he's all seriousness, but in reality he's a just otaku.
Cinephile who loves Monty Python, Fight Club and The Dark Knight.
His novels are masterpieces, but it's his geeky, silly short stories and film reviews that I love.
In particular, "セカイ、蛮族、ボク/World, Barbarians and Me" is the best, and I still laugh out loud every time I read it again.
I think, maybe he have written a review on this site.
Oh, I'm not.
I have substance. And, There is no alcohol in this substance.

小島秀夫 @Kojima_Hideo 2011年3月22日
From "The Second Phase of Itou Keikaku's Chronicle".
”I don't feel comfortable with the word 'blessed'. I don't think there is a netherworld, and as an idiom it is too meaningless. I don't think I've ever used the word "blessed" when someone died in all the years I've been writing my diary.
That's what I wrote about in the novelization of Metal Gear. When someone dies, what words should we use to mourn and remember them? I've always used these words.
Thank you very much.”

Thank you, Itoh san.

From me too, thank you, Itoh san.

One of the most heartwarming introductions to experience that I can think of, packed to the brim with a love and passion for this entire ridiculous art sphere. Smiles from onset to sunset, and couldn't put it down until I had seen every bit of sony's paraphernalia and explored the entire marketing scape. Really the only hard pill to swallow is simply how with every single gutteral squeal I had to seeing stuff like Patapon and Jumping Flash!, I couldn't help but think about how most of the studio who delivered this to every child and introductory player to the PS5 was laid off and sent elsewhere. It never quite feels like a final hurrah, but entirely an excitement for what's to come. This really gives it a sort of invisible sorrow in the backdrop to wrestle with if it's at or near the forefront of your attention.

I do owe myself to go back, down the path of history it set out and celebrate/check out Japan Studio and Asobi's catalog. To an extent maybe this can be the idea coming forward, even if you don't recognize a lot of the references you see here it's very clear how charming and suffused with appreciation they are. Maybe that'll set more people on that path. One can hope!

Bold of Sony to release a Wii game as their introductory PS5 title, thus making a strong case for collectathon mascot platformers with questionable minigames as superior to cinematic action-adventures and open-world checklists on day 1, but I respect it

kind of late to the "astro's playroom" discourse but its such a game that could be only a capitalist propaganda but, in the end, is a letter of love to playstation and its history with delightful gameplay and levels! screamed a lot seeing metal gear, final fantasy and devil may cry references and looooved how team asobi respects ico! makes me really sad that, with all this love and care, astro bot is probably a franchise destined to be sony's tech demo project, existing only for the purpose of selling hardware capabilities. not so different from what nintendo does with all their mario games, but mario is a consolidated franchise with its own mythos. astro is cute and perfect and wonderful, but only a mirror to the glory days of sony and its variety of games. wish things were different!

A top tier platformer in its own right, but also one of the best pieces of fanservice ever and definitely the best self-reflexive launch title for a new console generation. Totally craven and shrewd in its constant Playstation referentiality but also so positive and effusively disarming that you cant help but feel swept up by the uncynical celebration of 30 years of productz and all the deeply personal memories they carry. Wonderfully surprising in its inclusivity and niche references--I mean a Vib Ribbon shoutout??? I screamed!!! The whole "little elves performing inside the TV/radio/console making it work" motif is used so charmingly here, and the astrobots feel like a thoughtful avatar for both player communities and a tribute to game developers themselves. Really affirming to see something hail in a new console generation not by fetishizing specs or horsepower but by charting a celebratory lineage of experiences and embracing what's to come as a continuation of that legacy rather than a MODERNIZATION BULLDOZER overwriting it.

my one complaint is that the terrifying weeping baby from those launch-era ps3 commercials got NO inclusion when they are clearly iconic and due for a positive re-appraisal!!!

im generally weary of the whole meta, self-aware, genre-riffing shtick these days but this is the absolute kindest, most gentle way someone could have the epiphany 'the series i have been working on is legitimately insane and has a target demographic of the most unwell people on the internet' and the MBTI/carrd.co/ao3/(insert niche subculture here) teens all interpreted it in bad faith. imagine going 'so no head?' to a work that fundamentally thinks well of you despite it all

i don't have the emotional wherewithal to do a write up on the level of the one for a realm reborn, but i do want to hit a few points.

* the conflict here is interesting. it's not about territory or home but about feud and debt. there's a line thodan says to aymeric about how the dragons won't heed any "reparations" for the sins of ishgardians. there's no apology that would be enough. this actually scanned to me, in part, as responsive to/influenced by japan's relationship with korea, especially with regards to like comfort women (in 2014-2015 this issue was being pressed again heavily; i remember a few NPR reports from the time, but more COLD HARD FACTUALLY this was around the time it was reintroduced as a convo in japan, with shinzo abe and park geun-hye having a joint formal statement with apology from abe on behalf of japan that, as time would show, many koreans found woefully inadequate). this is an uneasy metaphor, but i would not call it a metaphor here, per say; the ishgardians function as the obstinate japan, conservative, obsessed with tradition but a manufactured and disingenuous history that obfuscates their crimes and violences. and that works, and even arguably indicts. but the dragons do not function as koreans by any means, and i doubt that is an intentional parallel. rather i think the japanese perspective here is what is relevant, which is also, perhaps, a limitation.

* estinien's killing of nidhogg feels bad. nidhogg is consumed by grief and rage and estinien's kill is not justifiable morally even if it is truly the only practical option. it's a thorny moment i wasn't expecting; i appreciate that for what it is, but as above, it slots awkwardly into the premise of like ishgard's inhumility in facing their past and their sins. his later like full support of the scions and aymeric's revolution isn't unexplained but is a touch too unaddressed perhaps.

* anyone complaining about the political angle of like reformation/change from within is missing forest for trees, it's really not relevant to anything of value here.

* the voice work is fantastic i thought generally speaking a realm reborn felt like any dubbed seasonal anime casting wise but this really sings with the british inflection. we need this more energy. the narrator is solid but i long for the lilting brogue of the crystal chronicles narrator.

* haurchefant's fate legit got to me. i hate when elf boyfriends are in pain. i like that estinien doesn't shower. the cast is one of the most pro elf boyfriend casts ever. also they give everyone very nice lips.

* y'shtola.. "mommy? sorry. mommy? sorry." meme etc.

* ysayle's arc is good! it's most dramatically solid rather than thematically solid, though it's not nothing; her exchange with hraesvelgr, the acknowledgement that her shiva is a projected thing and not an authentic aspect, is interesting... she finds renewal and purpose in a cause greater than herself, finding nobility in her own cause and morals rather than a different kind of history, myth. but it is a bit muddled what that arc is going for.

* alphinaud is sooo much more likable here. he makes for a really good companion through it all, and the moments with him, ysayle, and estinien feel almost like a final fantasy 13 moment, what with a party of people who hate each other lol. but it's cozy in that way.

* the level 50-60 toolkits feel sooo much better than the early game kits. i main scholar and dabble in summoner, dragoon, red mage (a stormblood addition so we'll put it aside...), white mage, and dark knight. i have a good spread of styles and i ran a lot of content multiple times and the tool kits finally feel cohesive and coherent. the armor sets and glams are cute and what the patches introduce are really valuable for crafting! smart stuff overall on the gameplay front. dungeons are streamlined and gorgeous. exploration is buoyed by some very inspired, vertically-oriented environmental work. ign voice a bit too much snow, and also the mobs are tuned way difficult @ level, especially for how unrewarding they are to fight. at this point in time, 2021, the exp given by this expansion is reasonable and generous, but in any other context i can imagine balking at the dry spell in the middle. oh well. it's good now ig lol.

it's hard to approach this so long after it was released because it is a functionally fully retooled and continuously improved and fined tuned just by function of being an mmo. but i found this so confident and triumphant in comparison to a realm reborn, and i'm excited to push further in (especially for shadowbringers... damn).

This review contains spoilers

I went into this game expecting a time loop mistery about ancient history and got that and some really problematic stuff going on.
The characters and the setting are beautiful and really come to life, which is really sad that for me they got obscured by the racist Ancient Aliens theory the game decides to use to explain...everything, basically, down to the birth of civilization. This sadly left me unable to love the game, making it feel like everything was just a joke and that humans are fundamentally evil, coupled by the end dialogues not so subtly implying that all old religions are complete lies (the only character who lives a good life and hasn't abandone religion is a christian lady back in roman times). Even if the final message of the game implies otherwise, the taste the big reveal left for me was pretty sour.
Excelent characters, with a meta narrative pretty abhorrent in my opinion. This game took too sittings for me to finish and the first one was absolute bliss for an historian, delving into some really interesting topics of history. Too bad the final stretch just decides to go full Assassin's Creed

Contained herein is reasonable evidence to suggest that Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood, decades before their "game" debut, were better environmental storytellers than just about anyone who has worked on a game with "-shock" in the title.

On a less caustic note, this is a pitch-perfect accompaniment for two albums that I thought would never be capable of eliciting strong feelings from me again after wearing them out in my younger years. Wish there was a Optimistic sequence but the triple-threat of How To Disappear/Pyramid Song/You and Whose Army? will make up for it.