17 Reviews liked by strenkth
Playing this free content provided to the game is astonishing, because the gap in the last part of the story was enriched in such a beautiful way.
In the original game most tasks could become tedious towards the end as you bounce around places too often with only crumbs of content. With new characters and quality of life upgrades (such as Safe Travel which is simply a great idea) I felt like at every other part of the story: at ease. And at the same time it felt like a masterful balance act to include even more to the existing universe. There is a whole new island and just this combined with the background of Stella is a stroke of genius. Satisfying and admirable till the very last moment of Spiritfarer.
The developers really outdid themselves. At times I did not want to do anything else than to see what's next for these characters. I fell more in love with a game that holds a special place within me.
Kudos to Thunder Lotus
Tales of Arise
One of those games that doesn't even slightly fall short of the immense hype it has surrounding it as every bit of Mother 3 is incredible. I haven't played this game since 2016 but I still remember almost every bit of the story, that's how memorable and impactful it is. Just play it.
Flawed or not, the only thing I could consider Xenogears as would be a masterpiece. Words simply cannot express how immensely deep this game goes as it may very well be the pinnacle of video game depth and lore.
I could go on forever about the MANY reasons why I think this game succeeds so greatly in various ways, but to put it bluntly I truly believe that Xenogears is the most intellectually and brilliantly written story of any video game (or form of media) I have ever experienced. The battle systems are flashy, satisfying, and fun, the music is nostalgic and beautiful (Afterall it was composed by Yasunori Mitsuda), the art direction is beyond impressive for a PS1 title (albeit sometimes the camera can be pretty jank in certain areas); but what really carries this game is it's unmatched narrative paired with not only some great protagonists, but arguably the best handled cast of villians in gaming.
With what the development team had going for the game in terms of an incredibly tight budget, a team composed almost entirely of amateur programmers, a single man working on 99% of the game's English translation (Richard Honeywood is the fucking GOAT), and a 2 year time limit to release the game, Xenogears turned out to be absolutely phenomenal in my eyes, flaws and all. Easily one of the best and most unforgettable experiences I will ever have playing not just a JRPG, but a video game in general.
Tales of Arise
Have some very mixed feelings about this JRPG, especially in a year of 11/10 JRPGs, but I would be lying to myself if I didn't enjoy my trek with this eccentric anime cast (except for Law, he sucks).
What really bothered me was that the game could not decide what revolution should look like, and who should carry it out. This isn't to say there is a "right answer", but I feel like the game struggled with its themes and could not stand by an idea unless said idea was "I fight for my friends".
The main cast really carries this game for me (especially with their hyper anime combo attacks). Their struggles and dynamics are pretty solid here, which is really what I crave out of a multi-hour long JRPG. Each character being playable and having unique ways of fighting enemies helps push their personalities beyond the story layer of the game.
This is the first Tales game I've ever managed to finish and while it didn't land every shot it tries to make, it honestly makes me consider trying out more of them, so it did something right!
It's easy to take a glance at Cruelty Squad's unpleasant artstyle and dismiss it for being obvious and unsubtle about its intent, when most of critical praise seemingly rests on its ability to create a playable shitpost deep fried meme that bluntly satirizes the sewer corporate modern age we live in and not much else inbetween. That however would be understating the talent and craft that is required to make such effective "heavy handed" art like Cruelty Squad.
Baffling to realize that this was Ville Kallio's first shot at videogames, because he displays such a strong understanding of the medium and utilizes so much of its strengths in ways that no other developers have really tapped into to create what I can only describe as a arthouse masterpiece of counter intuitive art and game design. Our infactuation with cyberpunk dystopia has created such pleasing worlds to look at in all of fiction that the only thing Cruelty Squad had to do was present the existential nightmare we already live in it its true colors. Making a house the most expensive item that gates you from the rest of the game's content might come across as portentous hassle for the player and an easy cheap jab at Capitalism™, but it doesn't make its statement any less truer and effective.
Getting accustomed to Cruelty Squad vomit inducing textures ends up becoming an inevitability, and the game beneath it surprisingly reveals enough enticing complexity and kinesthetic gratification that will distract you from the uglyness of it all. DNA taken straight out of Quake make traversal in Cruelty Squad's industrial purgatory oddly satisfying and addicting to exploit as you discover there is fun in retrying missions to find new secrets in the open ended maze like levels and speedunning CEO and landlord assassinations, raking in the dough to invest and buy more expensive game changing implants that further blur the line between man and biomachine monstrosity. Sooner than expected, you end up forgetting the garish mismatched colors and low poly disorienting textures that assault your senses, and Cruelty Squad ends up becoming just another game to master like all the others that came before it.
Were this any other game, I would be taking down a couple of points for it losing its luster after the initial hours, but Cruelty Squad losing its repulsiveness over time just ends up reinforcing its message that much more. In the same way that Cruelty Squad visualizes what violent videogames must look like to our parents, it displays for a brief moment the reality and future humanity has devised for itself, as if putting on the They Live glasses for the first time. But eventually we get used to it. And we forget, we comply, we find pleasure in it. Luckily we get the chance once in a while to experience something like Cruelty Squad to remind us that we are all just meat sacks ticking up and down on a graph, selling ourselves short to the highest bidder.
PS: The easiest method I found out to make quick money in Cruelty Squad was to kill Elon Musk's personification over and over again and betting on the stock market right after. Something very poignant and cathartic about that. Don't tank my crypto next time, asshole.
Guild Wars 2
With 3 legendary weapons completed and everything else done and pretty much every single achievement possible this concludes my huge nostalgia for MMO's.
After the closed beta I grinded as many gems as I could and after a 3 year break I was probably Bruce-Wayne-rich and have sent so much random gold to players. A true gem in my life
I'll be honest in admitting that the mental damage I endured over the years from purposefuly subjecting myself to the clutches of the internet had made me apprehensive and cynical of Disco Elysium's preceeding reputation, but having gone through its rollercoaster of drugs, alcohol and communism, I am truly glad to be able to add this one to the list of all time great CRPGs that continue to be undisputed as the smartest videogame experiences you can have.
Having the confidence that even Planescape: Torment lacked, Disco Elysium ditches the combat completely and takes the biggest strength of the genre to immerse the player in his own perceived virtuousity and egotistic idealization, dice rolling from a caricature of extreme ideology to the next, only to have such deified facade shattered and mocked as the cracks start to reveal what is behind the constructed mask. Dystopic and endlessly ravaged, Revachol opens up its angry chasm to reveal an unflincing sad mirror in its politically charged inhabitants that reflects back to us a vast ocean filled with boats blindly passing by each other in the mist blasting Sad FM.
Immensely thought provocking, always hilarious, and with some of the best interconnected writing I have seen in the genre, Disco Elysium has definitely cemented itself as a modern age classic that will make even the biggest game bro go "yes, please, keep politics in my game!". An unabashedly leftist game that manages to avoid falling into the usual misgivings of being obnoxious, obvious and self centered as its contemporaries often do, and that beautifully exposes our innate ability to project our deepest grudges and hangups into unreachable dreams and expectations that further disconnect us from the acceptance and understanding we so demand from others. In the end, everything is escapism. But we can never truly escape, can we? Whatever I end up saying about Disco Elysium says more about my view of the world than the game itself, but I think that's what makes it such a great piece of art.
You did look fucking cool smoking that cigarette, Kim. And you knew it.