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“Dread” A title so illusive it cemented itself as somewhat of a myth. Several cancellations under its belt, an offhand mention in Metroid Prime 3, and now 2 decades of buildup after its sudden reveal during E3. Its enigmatic stature came with it a burden that was immediately placed upon its shoulders, only being compounded by Nintendo’s rather aggressive marketing. The unnecessary onslaught of trailers were a sign, though. At the very least, it gave off a confidence you’d seldom see from the company. Everything from how they proudly presented the reveal trailer to Nintendo’s overbearing marketing to the subsequent trailers that released afterwards to it even releasing alongside new hardware. It’s audacious to put that much stock into a series that has historically never been much of a seller. Even more so to say it’ll be in a similar vein to the series’ gold standard Super Metroid. There was a lot riding on Dread, and with having now played and completed it — it has absolutely delivered.
Super Metroid, somewhat unintentionally, has cast a large and unconquerable shadow over the series. Unable to capture the lightning in the bottle that was the genius of its conception with each passing title. In ways it is disappointing that yet again it was unable to fully reach the heights of Super, but I’m happy to say that Dread is the closest they’ve ever gotten. The blend of every previous title here is felt in its very foundation. It being a combination of the best aspects of previous games tugs at both ends of the stick. On one end, it leads to Dread feeling as if it’s got no real stylistic identity at play. Though on the other it’s the most refined these iterative ideas have ever been, giving Dread the edge over any of them in a pure mechanical sense.
Its lack of any distinct identity is made up for in the tried and true Metroid formula, being more addicting than ever before. It’s designed with a precision that makes it difficult to put the controller down. Boasting a fluidity in both movement and level design that the series has been slowly working towards, fully perfecting Samus’ kit to such a kinetic degree that you’ll quickly build a rhythmic pace that never lets up. Particularly in the combat-oriented sections. Combat was never the series’ strong suit, more so a formality that you quickly got over since everything else was designed so expertly. Dread however, puts every facet this finely tuned kit to the test. Combat is no longer an barrier to my enjoyment but a genuine part of it. Spotlighted in the boss battles especially, but even more so in this adventures main obstacle — the E.M.M.I.
They take clear inspiration from SA-X in Fusion. Essentially taking the groundwork that game laid and expanding on it to a horrifying degree. These indestructible terrors that stalk you at every wake turn an already tense game into one that is petrifying. Maneuvering my way past these prowling mechanical monstrosities was the highlight of my first playthrough. I’d be lying if I said the draw didn’t somewhat lose its novelty by the end. But the loop of barely escaping them just by the skin of my teeth, to quite literally melting their face off is a feeling of satisfaction that the series has never reached before.
By all accounts, Metroid Dread is an amalgamation of the best aspects of each title that came before it. It can come off as fanservice-y in the way it reiterates these ideas in a more polished sheen. I cannot speak for someone who’s been a fan and has been waiting for a uniquely traditional 2D Metroid for years, but speaking personally I could not ask for more. It isn’t revolutionary. Rather it is an evolutionary crowd pleasure that hits every beat the series has hit in a refined, cinematic fashion. As I see it — a fitting bookend for a saga that’s been stewing for so many years. Even if we never see something as revolutionary and groundbreaking as Super Metroid again, I’ll be sure to be the first one there for whatever they make next. See you next mission.
Doom Eternal has enjoyed a highly positive reception, but there’s been an ongoing controversy regarding the game’s Marauder enemies. They’re by far the most complex enemies and mirror many of the players’ own skills, so as soon one enters the fray, the demon-slaying power fantasy becomes a tense duel to the death. Such a common action game trope hardly seems worthy of debate, but the counterargument is that they hurt the pace enough to where the free-flowing core of the combat breaks down entirely. With the Marauder seizing control of the battle with his speed and persistence, players can’t comfortably glory kill other enemies for health, use the chainsaw for ammo, or switch their focus to other enemies. They instead have to follow the very specific instructions given to them in a pop-up tutorial, which I will quote in full:
The Marauder is a defensive powerhouse.
Stand too close, he uses his Shotgun.
Stand too far away, he throws projectiles.
Keep him at mid-range, counter his attack when his eyes flash green; otherwise, he blocks your shots.
The Marauder is resistant to Super Weapons.
This “butter-zone” between standing too near or far is an incredibly hard thing to balance, especially when being chased and blasted with attacks, so it’s easy to sympathize with players who struggle with it. It’s also easy to sympathize with the expert players who have no trouble at all, because they don’t even need to follow those guidelines. In fact, no one does, because those instructions are incomplete at best, and completely misleading at worst. Players can instead just stagger the Marauder as he charges with his axe, and chain it with another powerful blast as he stumbles for even more damage. So why don’t players just do this instead?
The best way to explain why is by comparing the Marauder to the other enemies in the game, with a great example being the Cacodemon. Its pop-up tutorial states the following:
The Cacodemon is a Pressure Demon with a powerful close-range bite.
If you can fire a Sticky Bomb or Frag Grenade into its mouth, it instantly Staggers.
This stagger is not only a 100% consistent glory-kill setup, it’s inarguably the most efficient way to take down these enemies. Since grenades operate on a cooldown instead of ammunition capacity, and the ammo requirement from other weapons can be high, the strong majority of Cacodemons killed in the average playthrough will be through the tooltip’s grenade-glory double tap. Other tutorials are fairly comparable: players are told to shoot the armor off Mancubi, the guns off Revenants and Arachnotrons, to hit the back of the Pinkies, and so on. While these are useful hints, they communicate a worrying precedent to the player that the strategy outlined by the tooltip is what you should always try to do. By having information spoon-fed before the enemy is even visible on screen, players are being trained to turn their brain off and follow the instructions. Another good point of comparison would be the Shield Soldier, the other enemy in the game who prominently uses an energy shield to block the player’s shots. They’re common enemies, so players will be used to chainsawing through them, throwing explosives behind them, or just using the BFG. If you use these same strategies against the Marauder however, none of them will work, which isn’t a problem in itself, but it fits the pattern of Doom Eternal’s poorly handled conveyance.
Put simply, conveyance is how a game communicates its rules to the player, and this is the heart of what the real problem is. The Marauder is simply where it came to a head, where a misleading tutorial collided with players disincentivized to think critically, thanks to a series of patronizing explanations of dominant strategies. The easy answer may be to just turn them off, but when disabling that setting also turns off help for how contextual gimmicks work, there’s no good solution. The combat has also been balanced around the player knowing these tips and using the dominant strategies they outline, weighing down the player’s capacity for mechanical expressiveness. It's not just the Marauder that's impacted, the player's entire mentality when engaging with enemies suffers from the rigidity of this design. It makes sense that with all the new features in Doom Eternal, the developers wanted to tie enemies to specific mechanics to ensure their use, but depth isn’t just a measure of how many decisions a player could make, but how many they’re actively incentivized to make.
If players only require an active sense of incentive though, doesn’t that bring us into a paradox, where the Marauder’s poor tutorial, and hidden better strategy, could be seen as an incentive for players to think for themselves? It may seem like I’m contradicting myself by acknowledging that’s how certain players will see it, but when games are such subjective experiences, analysis can only go as far as the positive and negative reinforcements that affect players on a general level. There are lots of Doom fans who will rise to the challenge like this and have an amazing time experimenting with the crazy amount of toys the game lets you play with, but the majority of players won’t bother to put in the effort unless prodded to do so. With fewer explicit tutorials and combat based around a more flexible variety of ways to counter enemies in general, players would be primed to test their entire arsenal against each new enemy and experience the joy of mechanical discovery action games are all about.
Can't remember the last game I was so enamored by like this. Gets a little tedious when approaching the end game, but that could be cause I tried to tie up most the loose ends and see everything possible. Comes back around with an amazing callback (if you internalize a certain Thought) and a pretty satisfying ending. Really fucking funny game too.
Tales of Berseria
I didn't like Tales of Berseria very much at all.
The story is very melodramatic and the characters are fairly standard JRPG fare. I didn't find a lot to like (or really even understand) in any of their motivations. Feels like the characters were designed and then shoehorned into the story, rather than having an actual part to play.
The world itself is pretty generic with a group of people that are "demons" who arbitrarily have supernatural abilities and are hunted/enslaved by humans. This is conveyed with a lot of jargony lore, which people in game talk about as though it makes sense (similar to FF13), without much that is compelling or even understandable going on to make me care.
Combat doesn't stray too far from what has been established in past Tales games.
The game presents a bunch of combat options (custom combos, exploiting weaknesses, guarding and guard breaks, etc...) but engaging in those systems isn't that necessary or rewarding, so combat just ends up feeling very spammy.
This is on top of the fact that the combat itself lacks impact and feels floaty and unresponsive.
I found myself feeling like I was missing something fundmental, but also spamming my way through fights without any problems.
The world is high contrast and can be visually appealing at times, but is mostly fairly boring and generic. The few dungeons I played also were just unengaging, with puzzles that didn't make much sense or have much coherency.
Similar to my past experiences with Tales of.. games, I ended up just not having much reason to continue playing, so I dropped this one pretty quickly.
Another ring in the tree of cinematic shooters. It has better tech than Uncharted 3, making it a visually stunning game, but it's mostly the same. I think it wrapped up the series pretty well though and it has the best story of all of them, so I guess I'm cool with it.
Halo 3: ODST
Halo 3: ODST
Hoisting one of the most impeccable atmospheres ever seen in gaming, ODST dives into Halo 2 (yeah, weird) with a noir-influenced story more penetrative than ever. The music strongly fortifies the game's atmosphere, with the score being lead by more somber instrumentation and composition, being led by saxophones and softer pianos. Each level is it's own unique trip, with none much similar to the rest. The game also birthed Halo's now-famous horde mode Firefight, which none of the games down the line could come close to, in terms of improving this one. The only serious complaint I have is the game's length, and even then, I'd rather a fantastic short game than a long boring one, and we definitely recieved the former.
Resident Evil 2
Such a great game. This game redefines what it means to be a remake. I really like how the two stories are intertwined with each other. One of the scariest games I've ever played if I'm honest. I personally enjoyed Claire's campaign a lot more than Leon's but Leon's was still really good. My main issue however are certain painful puzzles that sometimes ruin the pacing and flow of the story that they clearly made really difficult to stretch the game out. Also I would've liked the stories to be a little bit more different as some moments felt like I was doing the same thing as before. But overall this game kicks ass and I would seriously recommend playing it. You do really have to use your brain however. Since I'm stubborn and refuse to search up tutorials it took me so long to complete but I think that it was worth it.
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