14 Reviews liked by guimachiavelli

While Harmony of Dissonance holds a special place for me because it refined the SotN formula so well, I'll concede that Aria of Sorrow is probably the best put-together title of Igarashi's Advance trilogy. Basically every element that was already in previous titles has been systematized to its fullest, with an equipment system that incentivizes repetition and exploration while at the same time offering you a map that is incredibly easy to navigate.
If anything, this is the main thing that, to me, makes AoS less attractive for me. It all feels so curated, so carefully selected, that it doesn't allow for breath in the same way that the more chaotic HoD allowed. As for the story itself, I think it works fine providing closure to the whole Belmont/Dracula arc, but you can't escape the fact that this is set after a mysterious apocalyptic event that has never been told in any form as of today. That doesn't make this title less interesting, but it does make it incomplete somewhat.

El último título oficial de la saga de Nathan Drake y el último juego de Naughty Dog antes de que entrara en la Era de Druckman y se volviera aún más pretencioso, inseguro de sí mismo y explotador, es también el título de Uncharted que se me ha hecho menos cuesta arriba. Claro que eso tampoco quiere decir que tenga muchas cosas buenas que decir sobre él. Desde el principio ha sido obvio que los juegos de esta saga aspiraban a recrear, en clave estética que no jugable, los altos vuelos de una película de aventuras y la grandiosidad del cine épico de Hollywood. Por el camino, seguramente, se esperaba que esta aproximación artística también crearía la misma profundidad filosófica o espiritual que una obra como En Busca del Arca Perdida o La Última Cruzada lograron alcanzar. Pero como siempre, lo que esta manera de imitar de forma tan servil ha demostrado una y otra vez desde principios de siglo es que, si te posiciones desde el principio como une artista endeuade a las tradiciones de otros medios, los resultados nunca traerán nada mejor que En Busca del Templo Maldito o La Calavera de Cristal.
El equipo guionista hace esfuerzos titánicos para que la fórmula funcione, y tal vez por eso esta historia me resulte la menos cargante de las tres (aunque me descubro echando de menos la simpleza del primer Uncharted, mucho más cercano a los Tomb Raider que mira tan por encima del hombro). Pero por el camino, el diseño de niveles se ha rendido por completo al formato de pasillos emperifollados a los que la franquicia siempre iba apuntando desde el principio. La relativa variedad que ofrecen los encuentros-arena queda siempre subordinada a la secuencia de acción más óptima: destruye siempre a los tanques, luego a los francotiradores, luego a los tipos con armadura y si acaso ya te vas encargando del resto a tu ritmo. El modo sigilo que aportará tanto dinamismo a The Last of Us aún es un proyecto a medio hacer. Y las secuencias de salto, como viene siendo habitual, son poco más que un ejercicio de saber a dónde apunta la cámara y saltar hacia allí. Lo único que nos queda por juzgar (más allá del extremadamente simple sistema de combate cuerpo a cuerpo) son las largas secuencias andando en las que el juego nos invita a adoptar un ritmo más lento, o pensar la solución a un puzzle, o dejarnos llevarnos por la historia. Y como ya he dado a entender antes, el esfuerzo es admirable en más de un aspecto, pero el impacto de estos caminos de baldosas amarillas queda en entredicho cuando cualquier actuación de carne y hueso aporta más energía que estas agotadas voces de doblaje y estos risibles conjuntos de polígonos animados.
Escribiré sobre esto de forma más fría, pero creo que mi principal observación de estos juegos, por lo menos ahora, es que son extremadamente anti-jugadore. En ningún momento dejé de sentirme como si estuviera interfiriendo el drama de instituto de une profesore de teatro, y aunque participar está bien, siempre acabé con un agujero en el estómago y, por qué no admitirlo, con un poquito de rencor por no haberme dejado improvisar.
The last title of the Nathan Drake trilogy, and the last Naughty Dog game before it entered the Druckman Era and became more pretentious, self-conscious and exploitative than ever, it's also the Uncharted title that I've found to be the least tedious to finish. Of course, that's doesn't mean I have many good things to say about it. It's been always obvious that these games have aspired from the beginning to reach the same highs, at least aesthetically, of adventure movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and epic movies like Lawrence of Arabia. It does feel like they hoped that by copying the surface elements of these movies they would be able, somehow, to reach the philosophical or spiritual depth that a work like The Last Crusade managed to achieve. But as always, what this slavishly imitative approach has proven time and again since the turn of the century is that, if you deliberately put yourself below the artistic heights of other media, you'll be only be able to achieve medioucre results that won't be that much better from Temple of Doom or The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The writers here have made a herculean effort trying to make this work, though, and perhaps that's why I find this game to have the least annoying story of them all- though more and more I'm finding myself longing for the simplicity and Tomb Raider-esque approach that the first Uncharted took, despite obviously trying to distance from them. But along the way, however, the level design of the game has completely surrendered to the stripped down corridors format that they seemingly wanted to fall into. The variety offered by arena encounters is always resolved through the same sequence: always begin with the tanks, then the snipers, then the armored guys, and eventually you'll take care of the rest. The stealth mode that will bring so much dynamism to The Last of Us is still half-baked here. And the jump sequences, as usual, are little more than an exercise in knowing where the camera is pointing at and jumping there. The only thing left for us to judge (beyond the extremely simple melee combat system) are the long walking sequences in which the game invites us to slower our pace, or solving a puzzle, or ponder about the story. And as I've implied before, the effort is admirable on its own, but the impact of these yellow-bricked roads is undermined when any flesh-and-blood performance brings more energy than these exhausted voice-overs and laughable polygons.
I'll write about this more coldly, but I think my main contention with these games now is that they are extremely anti-player. At no point did I ever stop feeling like I was inside a teacher's high school theater project, and while participating was fine, I ended up confused and a little bit upset that they didn't let me improvise a little along the performance.

Este juego es fascinante. Es como si cada cosa que existe en él hubiera sido tomada por una criatura alienígena y extremadamente horny que descubrió a la Humanidad a través de capítulos viejos de Law & Order. A su manera, eso también lo hace en uno de los juegos más divertidos que se han hecho nunca (la paradoja Death Note).
Si queréis desmontar la teoría de Sid Meier de que los juegos consisten en "decisiones interesantes" y nada más, enseñad este juego en la clase y observad cómo se apaga la luz en los ojos de tus alumnes.
This game is fascinating. It's as if every decision taken had been made by an extremely horny alien that learned about Humanity through reruns of Law & Order. In its way, this is one of the funniest games ever made thanks to that (the Death Note paradox).
If you want to disprove Sid Meier's theory that games are about "interesting decisions" and nothing more, show this game to your students and watch the light slowly fading from their eyes.

This review contains spoilers

Cw: Discussions of real-life genocide
This “review” contains heavy spoilers up to and including EW Level 83 but nothing beyond that. It’s also not really a review as much as it is an in-depth analysis of a small part of the game. If you want to know my opinion on the game, read my other review.
I’m German. The nation-state that claims sovereignty over the territory I live in is a direct successor to the Greater German Reich, more commonly known as Nazi Germany, one of (if not the) most oppressive and genocidal nations to ever exist.
From a pretty young age, I’ve been taught about the history of the Nazis. Their crimes, how they came into power, how universal their hold on the German population was. But there is one thing you’re not really taught about in German schools: What happened after the Nazis?
Denazification was a set of policies by the Allied and Soviet forces that aimed to free Austria and Germany from all influences of national socialism. The most famous part of this were the Nuremberg trials, but the largest parts were getting rid of government officials with Nazi sympathies, a ban on Nazi writings and symbols, that sort of stuff. If you see a German street named after a person who lived in the 20th century, there’s a very high chance it was called the Hitler or Goebbels street until 1945.
Denazification was only a partial success. National socialism was everywhere for 12 years, it was deeply ingrained into every part of German society. Getting rid of it entirely would have been a lot of work. And also, the Germans didn’t really like this, and the cold war was more important now and everyone wanted Germany as an ally.
I mentioned earlier that I was taught about the history of the Nazis. My grandparents weren’t. They grew up in a period where people were too ashamed of what happened to talk to their children about it. I barely know what my great-grandparents did, but I don’t really need to be told either (except for one of my great-grandfathers, he was a young engineer in east Prussia when the Red Army came and recruited him to keep their Distillery repaired, and he learned a great recipe for Pelmeni there that my family still uses).
And I wasn’t really taught everything either. I was taught about the Holocaust against the Jewish people, but the genocide against Romani, disabled, and queer people barely got mentioned. Of course this is in part because the amount of people murdered in each of those groups doesn’t even come close to the amount of Jewish people murdered and I’m not trying to accuse any of my teachers of anything, but it’s also worth mentioning that those three groups still face legal discrimination today (not saying there’s no discrimination against Jewish people of course).
Every now and then there are stories about nation socialist police group chats or soldiers, and nobody is really all that surprised. Last month, a group of Reichsbürger, members of an ideology that refuses to acknowledge that the German Reich is no longer legitimate, were raided for planning a coup. Among them were members of the 4th strongest political party in Germany right now. This barely changed anything about their poll results.
What happened after the Nazis? They're still everywhere.
Garlemald is not a 1 to 1 analogy of any real empire, and I appreciate that a lot, it makes the worldbuilding a lot more interesting. It does, however, have obvious influences. The Roman empire is the obvious main one, but so is fascism. While it doesn’t always politically fit the definition of fascism, the aesthetic inspiration should be obvious to everyone.
I think the writers didn’t really know what to do with Garlemald after the end of the Stormblood Main Scenario. You had already won 2 pretty spectacular victories over the empire, but it’s a massive empire and it doesn’t just disappear from that. But in patch 4.2 we are introduced to the Popularis, a faction of pacifists that want to stop the empire’s conquest. While it turns out that the leader of the group you met was a fraud and a traitor, the Popularis themselves are shown to be genuine. Their leader, Maxima, even defects from the Empire to help you.
But the Popularis never achieve anything. There’s lines here and there about Empire leadership trying to get rid of them but for the most part they’re irrelevant for the story from now on.
Then we find out that the Empire is just a tool. It wasn’t created by the Garlean Solus Galvus to bring peace and security to his people (which, to be clear, would obviously still not justify an empire) but by the Ascian Emet-Selch, as a tool to hasten the return of his god Zodiark. The Empire’s goal of bringing peace and stability is the opposite of why it exists. It exists to destabilize the world so that more calamities can happen. That’s why “Solus” hadn’t chosen an heir. The ensuing civil war was a feature, not a bug.
But the new emperor is different! Varis isn’t an Ascian and he fully believes in the empire’s stated goal of bringing peace to the world (which, to reiterate, absolutely still makes him a villain). Or so one might be tempted to think. There is a cutscene in I think 4.5 where Varis talks to the various alliance readers and basically tells them “Yes, I also hate the Ascians, but the way to defeat them is to do exactly what they want”. I didn’t mention this in my Stormblood review because it didn’t feel relevant at the time but looking back it really shows that the empire’s role as a plot device supersedes any development that could be happening there.
Throughout 5.0 the Empire exists mainly to threaten the release of Black Rose and then at the end, Zenos (who came back for SOME FUCKING REASON) kills his father, the Emperor. There would be no winners in the coming civil war, in part thanks to Fandaniel’s meddling, but in part also because Empires can not last forever. By the time Endwalker starts, the nation of Garlemald is no more.
After figuring out a way to deal with the tower of the Telophoroi that have been popping up all over the world, the Ilsabard Contingent gets sent out to what used to be the capital of the Garlean Empire. They have two goals there: Deal with the Tower of Babil, which seems to be a central piece in the Telophoroi’s plans, and
Help the people of Garlemald.
As I hopefully made very clear in the opening of this text, dealing with the survivors of a nation with violent, racist, authoritarian, and imperialist ideals is incredibly difficult. I personally do not know how to do it. And I don’t think a Final Fantasy game is the right medium to explore a question like this.
I mentioned that after 12 years, national socialism had ingrained itself into every part of German society. The Garlean Empire existed for over 60 years. When you arrive there to help the starving and freezing Garleans, they despise you.
At first, you try to help a small group of civilians. They make it very clear that they do not trust you and that they do not want the help of a savage like you. At some point, one of them attacks Alphinaud, one of your closest friends, and yet the game never asks, “do these people deserve our help?”. It instead asks, “Are we like invaders for doing this”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of radical hope and redemption, but at the same time, I’m a queer person. If a person that has declared their hatred for me and suddenly they need help, I’m not going to put myself in a vulnerable position to help them on the off chance that me helping them changes their mind and they suddenly don’t want to kill me anymore. And yet the game forced me to do exactly that. And don’t try to justify this by saying that FFXIV has always been about helping or seeing the good in everyone or something like that, we’ve been killing Garlean soldiers since ARR.
The story of “helping” these people ends with one of them hating you so much that she runs away from you and dies. Good riddance. The game frames this as a sad thing, but I hope you’ll forgive me if I shed no tears for the people who tried to kill my friends.
After that, you run into a Garlean soldier who tried to steal food from you. He tells you that his legion is still around so you get sent with him to negotiate getting them some help, because apparently we’re so much into helping now, we’ll even help armies that are at war with us. It goes about as well as you might have predicted. Alphinaud and Alisaie get taken hostage and their Legatus talks to you about how your dream of peace through harmony and multiculturalism can never be achieved and how everyone needs to be united under Garlemald to achieve peace. Even with the capital in ruins and his soldiers freezing around him, he still believes in the lies of the Empire.
Eventually there is a fight that breaks out between this legion and your allies, a fight that ends as soon as the legion learns that they are literally the very last remaining people fighting for Garlemald. Now it has finally sunk in that they’re not going to win. Their leader kills himself (which the game frames as tragic LMAO) and the others get your help. Not because they ask for it, or acknowledge their weakness or anything like that, but because they’re too weak to resist anymore. In the end, you despite everything, you don’t win because you were more kind. You won because you were more powerful.
I haven’t done any patch content yet so apologies if this gets brought up there, but nothing that happened in the MSQ addressed how the Garleans will move on past the empire. All it did was show just how deeply ingrained the empire’s ideology is everywhere. And then it just expects you to move on from that, go and save the world.
What will Garlemald look like in 80 years? Will the people there wonder what their grandparents were doing during the days of the Empire? Will there be people arguing over whether the Garleans have done “enough apologizing” and need to get back to being proud of their heritage? Will there even be any apologizing? There certainly wasn’t from Japan.
This part of the MSQ opens a massive can of worms, then refuses to deal with that and tells you to move on. Nobody would have complained if the can of worms just hadn’t been brought up at all. I haven’t even gotten into the awful and frankly pointless body swap thing that happens immediately after this because it doesn’t really belong to this (that’s how pointless and out of place it is) but combining it with this awful and surface-level exploration of what to do with the survivors of an authoritarian state makes this my least favourite stretch of all of Final Fantasy XIV.
Last month I saw a reddit post pointing out that the soldiers at the Garlean consulate in Thavnair still call you a savage after beating Endwalker. People thought this was a funny example of them not updating NPC dialogue to reflect changes in the world, but I disagreed. Why wouldn’t they call you a savage anymore? It’s pretty obvious they still consider you to be one.

This review contains spoilers

"why should we help the disadvantaged without trying to get some amount of profit out of it?" is a genuine thing that is pondered in this expansion with no repercussions and i would have been less mad if stormblood wasn't so boring
at least the dungeons and trials were badass

I know that it might be part of the aesthetic but come on, couldn't instant-kill pits and spikes have been left in the old-school retro era? It ruins an otherwise amazing and beautiful-looking platformer.

En 2020, jugué por primera vez a este juego bajo una espesa nube de expectativas: era un juego triple A, pero uno que dirigía sus esfuerzos a contar una historia que trascendía las limitaciones a las que los juegos categorizados con ese descriptivo se suele estereotipar; era un juego violento (como cualquier triple A), pero su violencia existía para explorar una faceta de la naturaleza humana; era un juego de padres protegiendo a hijas adoptadas, el tipo de historia que había aprendido a odiar tras Bioshock Infinite, pero era la mejor historia posible de un padre protegiendo a su hija adoptiva.
Cuando lo jugué, se me hizo corto, pero su DLC me dio esperanzas de que tal vez esto era el principio de algo mejor, de un mundo en el que los triple A por fin se utilizaban para algo más que ofrecer violencia y gratificación instantánea. Pero al cabo de poco tuvimos la segunda parte, que regresaba al principio de todo y lo volvía a repetir, y me di cuenta de algo: The Last of Us no puede ofrecerte nada más que promesas de un juego mejor. Puede prometerte una explicación de por qué recrea la violencia con tanto primor, pero nunca te la dará; puede que te jure que tratará de contarte la mejor historia posible, pero siempre te dejará en un punto y aparte; y puede que te insista una y otra vez en que es un triple A "bueno", de los que "valen la pena" jugar. Pero lo único que puede hacer para valerse por sí mismo es compararse con la literal escoria del medio. Porque no es capaz de hacer nada por sí mismo.
The Last of Us es una franquicia vacía, hecha por gente sin espíritu artístico alguno, y que fiel a su programa comercial de venderse una y otra vez a jugadores nuevos, sabe muy bien prometerte cosas pero nunca te las va a dar porque sabe, en el fondo, que no puede dártelas. Y, en el fondo, es porque no sabe hacerlo.
In 2020, I played this game with a mountain of expectations: it was a triple-A game, but one that directed its efforts towards a genuinely moving story that trascended its moniker; it was a violent game, but its violence existed to explore facets of human nature; it was a game about fathers protecting daughters, the kind of story that I'd learned to hate since Bioshock Infinite, but it was the best possible story of its kind.
When I finished it, it fell short, but its DLC gave me hope that maybe this was the beginning of something better, of the moment when triple-As were finally beginning to be used to tell something better. But not long after, we got the second part, and that game went back to the beginning and repeated everything as if nothing had happened. Then it dawned on me: The Last of Us can promise you a better game, but that's about it. It can promise you better uses of its violence, but it won't be able to; it swears that it's trying to tell you the best story it can, but won't be able to finish it; and it may insist over and over that it is a "good" triple A, the one that is "worth" playing. But the only thing it can do to defend its position is by comparing itself with the worst games ever. Because that's the bar it set out to pass, and nothing more.
The Last of Us is a nothing franchise, made by people without artistic spirit, and faithful to its capitalistic project of selling itself over and over again to new players. It knows very well how to promise you things but will never give them to you because, deep down, it knows it can deliver.

Si queréis saber lo que pienso de este juego, mirad la reseña que le he dedicado al original, porque me niego a participar en esta charada de reedición.
If you want to know what I think of this game, check out my review of the original one, because I refuse to participate in this remaster nonsense.

No puedo decir que me haya gustado esta versión. Al contrario que la original para Apple II de Garriott, este juego te lanza en mitad su mundo sin pistas ni guías sobre lo que debes hacer, o una imagen chula. Así que al final te quedas con una experiencia desorientadora que llama la atención al principio pero acaba frustrando. Aparte de eso, diría que para algo tan viejo me sorprende lo intuitivo que resulta.
Can't really say I like this version. Unlike the original Apple II game made by Garriott, this one leaves you in the middle of the land without any clues or even a neat image. So it makes for a disorienting experience that might be tantalizing at first but frustrating later. Other than that, I think it plays very intuitively for something so old.

To me, this was the equivalent of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, in that it tries so desperately to give nuance and perspective to a franchise and concepts that the designers are pretty obviously embarrassed about, but don't have the courage to confront head on. As a result, the game feels like a cowardly attempt to revise the franchise's reputation in what ultimately is a pretty bland effort to make a game about smashing and beheading into a Last of Us lookalike. To compound things, they added an upgrade system that is utterly uninspired, and a companion that barely does anything because God forbid we run the risk of making Kratos' son mechanically annoying.
Overall, an incredibly spineless work. The fact that it received nothing but accolades probably means it's going to get more and more tone-deaf from here, so get ready for another Tomb Raider trilogy situation!

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