18 s over 25 Reviews
1 - This is gonna be a long one.
2 - This review has no story spoilers.
3 - I recommend reading my analysis of the Shovel Knight's base game first.
After finishing Shovel Knight (SK from now on), I gave this one a try, seeing as it is common opinion that Specter of Torment (SoT from now on) is better than the base game itself. Because of that, I came with high expectations about this experience and I gotta say: I found it somewhat disappointing.
I do think I understand where the mainstream opinion comes from, so I'm gonna talk first about what seems to be the ways that SoT seems to be better then SK and I'm gonna try and explain why I don't really feel that to be the case. I do concede before starting two things: that the overall themes and aesthetics are more authentic and focused than the original, that feels basic and more dependent on nostalgia in comparison. And that the history of SoT is undisputedly more evolved. It just has way more to it than the serviceable story and of SK but it's really nothing to sing home to outside of the 'retrogamer' niche, so I'm not gonna talk about it. It also has some nice elements that are best left unspoiled.
Movement and combat, the two main cornerstones of this game, are faster, more fluid and more rensposive. Those are not necessarily good things, but I think that instinctively everyone enjoys being more in control of your own character at first, even if that is not in unity with the rest of the game's design. It just feels better by example to be able to mash the attack button and get an actual corresponding speed to your inputs instead of the slow animations of Shovel Knight. In general, you feel much more in control this time around, being able to run faster, wall run, wall jump and even move around in the air using the dash attack mechanic on enemies and props. In theory it gives the developers a lot more room to create plataforming and combat challenges and gives the player more ways to think about how to act given a certain situation.
There is also more inventive items this time around, which grants a lot of newer and more exciting possibilites in gameplay when you contrast SoT with SK. I mainly used Will Skull because who doesn't like Estus Flasks(?) and the Hover Plume for being able to cheat some plataforming segments and even sometimes gather gold I lost. There is also a new selection of armors, I really only used the one that diminishes your health but makes your attack more powerful, the other did not seemed interesting. You can also upgrade your magic items by paying the same gold you use to buy armors, which brings a theoretically nice element of player choice.
My problem with the way Specter plays is that the fact that he's fast feels more like a feel-good cop-out decision from the devs to appease player criticism than a thoughtfully implemented mechanical change that brings new and challenging situations to the table. Like I said, it feels good to be able to attack fast, but when most enemies die in two or even one hit, it kind of destroys the careful balance of the game that in many ways is still designed around SK. It's just easy to get hit, mash the attack button and kill everything around you with no effort, especially with the right armor upgrade.
The dash-attack mechanic is also something that at first felt really good and made me excited about the game would offer, but it quickly became that I'd mostly just press the attack button in a straight pattern until enemies died, something especially common in sub-boss encounters at the middle of the levels.
On the subject of magic items, the problem is now two-fold: Not only most of the magical items are superfluous, two of them are actually overpowered. Those are the ones I previously mentioned, the Will Skull and the Hover Plume. The problem with the Will Skull is that it just heals too much for how much magic you get - you get a few points every time you kill something regardless if it's the first or not and it's common to come across little refils on the floor. Either It should replenish less health or you should receive less darkness overall, and I tend towards the last one because I believe the Hover Plume also feels way less expensive than it should, considering it's basically a way to cheat out plataforming abilities that would otherwise prove challenging.
At first I thought the armor set that gives you more damage but takes out your health was going to make the game more challenging, but it actually makes it easier for you to play dumb because it's so easy to regenerate health. The only way to make the game actually challenging overall is to break all the checkpoints for cash, but I always afforded all upgrades to magic items and had no interest in playing with other types of armor. I also feel that breaking all of the checkpoints makes the game way too hard, so it's either very easy or too hard for me to feel motivated to play.
On the plataforming side of things, the feeling that the game has many more ways to move around excited my imagination and made me wonder the ways which the game was gonna ramp up it's difficulty, but I found that outside here and there it never really does anything too hard with the plataforming. It shows all of it's tricks very early and doesn't really develops from them, which is a shame. I only felt really challenged in the elevator mini-game and some segments in later levels. And again the last level is not really that much of a climax in terms either combat or plataforming.
Overall, Specter of Torment brings a lot of new ideas to the table but some of them don't really mash together well and the game suffers for it. Every time something new appeared I felt that it would lead to more well developed places than the game actually took me. I'm not sure it is any better than the more concise design of Shovel Knight, even though the story certainly is more rich. One step forward, one step back.
Shovel Knight (base game) is probably the most solid 2D plataformer I ever played. Granted, I'm not much of a retro gamer, but you don't need to listen to me, it is pretty much agreed upon as of 2020 that this is one of the best games of 2014. I don't really have a lot of experience in the genre to establish enough comparative ground for a through and through analysis, so I'll be brief.
Level design in this game really takes the cake for me as the fundamental aspect of this game that makes it so good. Every level is aesthetically and mechanically distinct. Story is good enough for a game that puts itself as an homage to retro games. Songs and sound design in general are competent. Shovel Knight (the actual Shovel Knight, not the game) mechanical design is simple and very effective, but with one issue I cannot ignore: I found in myself using fireball pretty much the entire game - all of the other magic abilities seem to have very marginal use. It's nice to have a lot of items when you have freedom to tackle situations any way you want or when the game throws different situations at you that require one correct answer. But neither is the case here.
Another low point I found to be the difficulty. For me, I found that the game started challenging but proceeded to fluctuate a lot in terms of difficulty in the middle to the end of the experience. The actual final boss of the game is not particularly difficult compared to the last two boss encounters that precede it and The Flying Machine and Explodatorium were levels way harder for me than most of the endgame. But I must stress those are very small issues. It is either competent or excellent at everything else. Great game.
Horizon Zero Dawn
This was one the games that I most anticipated in 2017. I gotta say though, it was a disappointment. Though the overall aesthetic is quite impressive, it manages to be very, very bland in all other aspects, borrowing heavily from other open-world RPGs (and sci-fi media) that came before it. Lots of style and very little substance.
To summarize: The Resident Evil: HD Remaster is a great improvement over the original Resident Evil and it's Gamecube counterpart, making it one of the best Resident Evil experiences to date, up there with REmake 2 and RE 7. Updated graphics and quality improvements to it's mechanics make the original surival horror experience shine once again as it did in 1996. However, it's writing remains *really* campy, which detracts from the 'horror' aspect of it.
For starters, the new control scheme is superb. Exchanging the old tank controls for a simplified joystick movement was a superb, necessary design decision. It still retains the option to use the old scheme if that's your thing, which is nice.
That's not the only time that this game thinks of it's old playerbase. Several tweaks in the experience have been made in order to confuse, surprise and scare RE veterans - Crimson Heads, the fuel pipe section and the new 'dog corridor' dynamic come to mind, amongst other, smaller things.
I really dig the static viewpoints, too. As it has been said countless times, this design decision gives absolute mastery to the designer as to how a player should feel at any given moment - this game is 'mise-in-scène' porn for film enthusiasts. The framing of some areas is such a magnificent setup for some very effective scares that I dare not spoil here. When you need to take out monsters without being able to actually see them, it is too such a tense, unnerving moment.
I do believe that further improvements could have been made for quality of life. I don't like how you can't just pick one ink ribbon apart from the rest in the chest, or the fact that you can't discard/drop items. There are surely more examples of this kind of jank to be found, as this is still basically a gamecube game with some improved graphics.
I also think that with the improved movement, it becomes much, much easier to not spend ammo or health items. By the end of my first run with Jill, I had an obscene amount of herbs and ammo in my chest. I think the game could actually be a little bit harder just by making itens more scarse, which is why I think this game works best in the beginning to the middle, not so much after that.
It's biggest flaw is by far the writing, as I mentioned in the beginning. My god, it is just bad. All cutscenes contain some pretty cringe writing, really really bad stuff. The overall narrative just doesn't make much sense, from character motivations to the Spencer mansion itself. If another remake is made, it would need to revisit the story entirely, I believe. Lisa's story too is bad (and the boss fight is pretty meh), even though her character design is very well made.
In conclusion, this is still a superb game and a unique experience that Capcom may end up forgetting entirely in favor of new design trends. So definetly pick it up if you can.
As of 2020, this game still holds up so goddamn well. Played through the first level a year ago at a friend's house. It was a basic 'kill all baddies holed up somewhere' situation. The game is absurdly realistic, featuring one of the best peeking mechanics I've ever seen and a level of tactical player choice I've definetly never seen before. One by one I killed the baddies and one by one my teammates died. It culminated in me needing to hunt down the last bad guy after storming a room with two baddies, using only an AK and a flashbang. At the end of my confrontation with the last baddie I was literally sweating. What a game!
This game is really old and the loop of constant combat and very basic writing reflect that. As I only played it quite recently, I didn't found it to be really compelling. But I can see how much it shined like the sun, twenty-something years ago.
I can't remember the last time I liked an FPS this much. Probably a decade ago.
Titanfall 2 has excellent gameplay and level design. Short but dense campaign. Serviceable story. Everyone should try it out sometime.
Limited as it is, what this game proposes itself to do, it does *so* well. I love it.
Spec Ops: The Line
Everything that it accomplishes thematically is amazing, but the gameplay is very, very bland.