Video Game Review: Conan: Exiles (PlayStation 4)

For my last video game review of the decade, I wanted to talk about something truly epic.

I bought this game without knowing much about it simply because it was a Conan the Barbarian game. I wanted to play a modern game set in that world, whether or not you could play as Conan or not.

Being that I never play multiplayer stuff online, this game, at first, felt like a waste of time. However, I found a lot to do in single player mode that made the game worth it to me and really, this game could be great or terrible depending upon what you want to get out of it.

Don’t go into this expecting a massive open world RPG with dozens upon dozens of quests like Skyrim. This is more of a survival game and it’s about living and prospering in Conan’s world more so than it is about simple adventure. But that’s not to say that adventure doesn’t exist, it does. But I’ll explain further as I work my way through this review.

The game starts with Conan sparing your life, as he unties you from a cross in the desert. From that point on, you have to figure out how to get food, water, how to make your own clothes and learn how to construct a shelter to protect you from the harsh elements of the desert wasteland.

As the game moves on, you gain experience, you get better at surviving and you discover new biomes (or environments) to explore and survive in.

Apart from survival, this is mainly a game about exploration. So if you dig survival stuff and exploring massive video game worlds, you should probably enjoy this game. It took time for me to adjust to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be clearly defined objectives or what I thought was a point to the game but when it clicks, it becomes fairly addictive.

Now getting back to what initially may feel like a lack of adventure, the game does provide it in a way.

First, exploration is an adventure and this game throws so many beasts, supernatural threats and savage men at you that traveling around is a challenge in and of itself. But man, walking from one end of the map to another is tough but it’s damn fun, as the world has a lot of different and unique challenges from biome to biome.

Also, the game may not have quests but it has great dungeons and the game’s developers are always crafting and making new ones, as the game has pretty frequent updates and tweaks, even 18 months after its release.

The game may lack a clear story or objective but each dungeon sets you on a path that pretty much serves as a one-off quest. And each dungeon feels unique and I’ve yet to play through one that wasn’t a fun experience.

On top of that, there are a ton of subterranean caves to explore, which aren’t specifically dungeons but they have their own challenges and treasures to discover.

There are also mini bosses and big bosses throughout the game. Almost every animal has a giant counterpart that is tough as nails to beat but rewarding when you do, as most have keys that open very helpful treasures.

I’ve been playing the game for a few months now and I mostly build cool cities with pyramids, castles and labyrinths but I really like going off into the wild and discovering new places. After all this time and exploring every biome, I still come across new caves and interesting locations every time I wander out beyond the safety of my multiple shelters.

Again, many people might not like this as it isn’t what most people would initially hope for in a gigantic RPG style sword and sorcery game but if you stick with it and give it a real shot, it will probably grow on you.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other open world survival RPG-type games.

 

Video Game Review: Fire Pro Wrestling World (PS4)

I had a Fire Pro Wrestling game back in the day for PlayStation 1. I enjoyed it but it didn’t consume as much of my time back then as WWF Attitude, a game where I had hundreds of customized wrestlers added to the mix.

The main reason why I gave this Fire Pro game a shot is because it featured wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling and I really wanted a game where I could play as Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, Guerrillas of Destiny, Tetsuya Naito and other massive Japanese stars.

I also wanted to create myself, as I do in every wrestling game, and live out the dream of beating the best to become a world champion.

At first glance, I love the visual retro style of these games. However, like those retro games, the gameplay mechanics leave a lot to be desired. While this certainly is more playable than those WWF games for the original Nintendo, it still feels like a button masher where you sometimes have to rely on unreliable luck.

In the creation process, there are so many options it is actually kind of ridiculous. Now I know that this is the real selling point for fans of this series of games but I found it poorly organized, overly complicated and heinously tedious.

I wanted this to be the wrestling game of my dreams and was damn excited to fire it up. But ultimately, I was left disappointed and kind of bored.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Fire Pro games as well as retro wrestling games.

Video Game Review: Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (PlayStation 4)

I enjoyed the first game in this series, so I figured I’d jump on this one, especially since I found it for twelve bucks.

It adds a lot of new things to the gameplay and gives you about half a dozen maps, instead of a measly two like the first game. So it gets some points for that.

However, this just gets to be really repetitive and I didn’t care about the story on the same level that I cared about it in the first chapter.

To be frank, this becomes kind of a dud after you’ve played it for awhile. I just got bored and about halfway through the game, I stopped playing it. I didn’t just quit like I would a bad game, I just didn’t have much urge to fire up the PS4 after awhile and once I got my hands on another game, this got stored away on the game shelf.

The graphics are solid and the gameplay mechanics are tight for the most part.

Although, flying the dragon was a bit clunky and took some getting used to. But that’s my only complaint regarding the game’s controls. But still, flying a dragon should be the greatest thing in the game and it’s far from that.

Maybe I’ll finish this on a rainy day but I’m in no rush.

It was a decent continuation with great care given to the mechanics and gameplay additions but it’s like they left no creativity for the story. It’s only fun to a point and then you’d rather just leave the house and get an ice cream sandwich.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the game before it: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Video Game Review: Mad Max (PlayStation 4)

This fills the void in my heart of Fallout 4 being a broken trainwreck. Sure, it’s not really the same type of game, as this plays more like a post-apocalyptic Grand Theft Auto with mechanics that are very, very similar to Batman: Arkham City but it is a superb post-apocalyptic action adventure that hits its mark damn well.

From the start, I was captivated by the game. The opening scene that sets the stage for the main plot was fantastic and balls to the wall badass. This immediately felt like Mad Max with an extra level of gravitas thrown into it. I was pumped to play this while the credits were rolling after that intro scene.

The gameplay also starts with a bang, as you aren’t hindered by tutorials that take too long.

I love that the game also has a territory system similar to the board game Risk but with much more complex and layered ways at taking territory away from the enemy. The bulk of the game is wrapped up in these tasks, as you try to wrestle territory away and free the wasteland from tyranny. All the while, you work at building up your allies’ camps, which benefits you greatly in the game.

Surprisingly, even with a lot to do, you can blow through this game rather rapidly if that’s your gaming style. But you can also take your time, explore, pick up scrap (basically in-game currency) and get lost in vehicular combat, which is a hell of a lot of fun.

Additionally, the graphics are solid, the weather system is intense and the controls are really fluid. There isn’t much to pick apart.

All in all, this game is a literal blast and a fuck ton of fun. I hope a sequel gets made at some point but that’s probably unlikely, as this didn’t even get any DLC content.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: any of the Grand Theft AutoSaint’s Row or Batman: Arkham games.

Video Game Review: Fallout 4 (PlayStation 4)

Having loved Bethesda’s work on FalloutFallout: New Vegas and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I have been chomping at the bit to play Fallout 4 for awhile. Although, when it comes to video games that consume mass amounts of time to play, it can sometimes take me a few years before I can devote that much time to them. Life is a busy bitch when you get older.

So by the time I was ready to jump into this game, I was able to get the expanded “Game of the Year” edition and for rather cheap. That’s one big benefit I have by buying video games a few years too late.

Anyway, the enthusiasm I had for this series sort of went away as I started playing this. Let me clarify that I mostly like the game but after giving this a go for the first few days, I just felt like I was playing a game I’ve already played.

Sure, Fallout 4 takes place in a new location but it feels incredibly similar to Fallout 3. It’s in a northwestern American town that is surrounded by lots of patriotic shit. This one takes place in Boston, Fallout 3 took place in Washington, D.C. But this one does feature Fenway Park as a major location in the game, which was pretty cool being that I’m a big baseball fan, especially in regards to the history and culture of the sport.

But the map just wasn’t very exciting and didn’t feel like a new experience, really. Sure, there are some cool places and things that are fairly unique for this game but exploring the world map just didn’t seem as fun as it did in Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. The only part of the world map that was exciting was the nuclear zone, as it was friggin’ ominous as hell, dark, dreary, desolate, full of tough as balls monsters and cool secrets. Plus, you need a hazmat suit before you even try to venture off into this part of the map.

My biggest complaint about the game, however, is its difficulty from the get go. Hell, one of your first few missions makes you have to fight a damn deathclaw when you’ve really got no experience or perks to speak of. It’s not an unbeatable situation but I had to expose a flaw in the games design in order to sort of cheat my way through the feat. Plus, in that same mission, you acquire power armor. It just makes everything seem very topsy turvy when compared to how the other two games played out.

Also, there are raiders and super mutants literally everywhere. Exploring the map is really damn difficult, early on. I found this to be a major annoyance, as I tend to like exploring my surroundings in these types of games. I think that it’s done to make exploring more pocketed to what your actual experience level is at. However, that seems odd as you also have to travel to Diamond City pretty early on in the game and it’s a hell of a real trek for just starting out and having to fight or evade groups of raiders and super mutants.

Needless to say, I had some frustrations with the game and it wasn’t very fun, as a low experienced player. So then I noticed that Bethesda allows you to use mods on the console versions of this game. So I tried a few out, not that I wanted to cheat but I just wanted to enjoy the game and have my battles with swarms of raiders and ghouls to feel a bit more balanced.

The mods made the game fun enough for me to not want to outright quit it after about ten hours. Although, the game should work and be balanced enough on its own. Everything felt lopsided early on and that wasn’t a problem I experienced with other Bethesda games before this.

Additionally, all the “dungeons” in the game feel very repetitive and not as imaginative as the dungeons from Skyrim or New Vegas. Those games had some great interior locations whereas Fallout 4 just seems like a lot of the same. Some places are interesting but a lot of the maps suck and are more like traveling through a knotted up snake than something more natural feeling. Also, a lot of these interior mazes make you have to backtrack through them, unlike Skyrim, which would typically reward you with a secret exit once you worked your way through these places.

In regards to the settlement building addition to the game, I’m not really a fan of it. I think that’s because it wasn’t a component in other Bethesda games and it just feels like something to waste my time and distract me from actual ass kicking gameplay.

The story in this game is also lacking. I was engaged by the main narrative in the other three Bethesda games but I just didn’t care about the story here. A lot of the missions were fun but I got more enjoyment from side quests than main quests. In fact, getting back on track with the main quest felt like a real chore.

Another issue, is that the graphics are improved but this doesn’t necessarily feel like a next gen game. I guess I’d have to fire up Fallout 3 again to really notice the difference but Fallout 4 doesn’t feel like a big enough leap forward in that regard. I haven’t played the older Fallout games since 2012 or so but the mechanics in this one felt clunkier than they needed to be. The controls felt more complex and it took a period of adjustment for me to get used to them but they never feel natural to me.

The only real positive is that this seems less buggy overall than previous Fallout games. Both of them felt littered with bugs that caused me to have to save often. Stuff like getting stuck in terrain and lots of freezing. This Fallout is better in that regard. I never got stuck in a rock and the game only froze up on me once.

I expected this to be at least a 9 out of 10 based off of my experience with other Bethesda games. It really disappointed, even though it was fun to play after getting some mods. But ultimately, I still quit after a few weeks because the mods eventually caused bugs and I didn’t want to go back to a really old save and play through some of the mundane missions again.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.

Video Game Review: Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 4)

I know, I know… I’m really late to the dance on this one but if it’s any consolation, I intended to play this game for a dozen years before picking it up.

I’m kind of glad that I did wait though, as I was able to play the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was rebuilt for that console from the ground up. Having seen comparisons of the original PS2, remastered PS3 and the rebuilt PS4 versions, I’m glad that I had the best possible incarnation of this game to play through.

That being said, as absolutely fabulous as this is, and I’ll get to the why in a second, it did have one thing working against it, that being PlayStation 2 era clunky controls. Now it wasn’t enough to hinder the experience and I’m sure it is completely accurate to the controls of the first version of this game but having just come off of Red Dead Redemption II, riding a horse in this was like a giant step back.

Also, some of the jumping and grabbing mechanics were wonky and shooting arrows is damn difficult when compared to more modern games. The boss fight with the sand worm was tough because of the controls and really nothing else. I feel like they could have vastly improved this but I also get why they didn’t. Just as I get why they didn’t change the subtitle font from Papyrus to something less cringe for a 2018 game. In 2005, Papyrus wasn’t quite the design faux pas that it is now but it does take something away from the absolutely gorgeous design of this game.

But putting the negatives behind, I can’t speak enough on how great this game is. It is stupendous, excellent and an incredible experience. I wish it was a longer game but you also get so much out of it that you don’t feel cheated in that regard.

Shadow of the Colossus takes place in a giant, vast kingdom where nothing other than a few birds, lizards and fish live. The empty world is haunting but it is also effective, as when you do get to your destinations, you are almost always blown away by the scale of things.

The game is really just sixteen boss fights. Plus, each one is a puzzle to solve. Each Colossus needs to be defeated but the way in which you must take them down is very diverse and incredibly creative. And just about every battle is a good challenge, requiring skill, patience, timing and a good amount of trial and error in trying to figure out how to damage them. I’ll admit that a few of them were a real bitch to figure out but none of them were so hard that I didn’t enjoy the process.

Above everything else, the one thing that this game does exceptionally well is how it creates a very unique atmosphere. The game features action and danger but it is almost peaceful and calming to play. It’s really hard to describe and can really only be experienced through actual play. But this does get a full recommend from me.

But being completely honest, I wasn’t sure what to think about it for the first hour or so. I really had to get the feel for the game and absorb what it was offering. It was so different than anything else I’ve played and I’ve been playing video games for almost 40 years. But the more you play this, the more it draws you in. By the time I was midway through the game, I was in love with it.

This is a masterpiece in regards to its design and its ambiance. It’s clever, creative and stunning to look at, especially in it’s PS4 form.

If it wasn’t for the control issues I had at key parts within the boss fights, I’d have to give this a perfect score. However, I can’t ignore those issues, as there were two boss fights that frustrated me only because the mechanics added an extra level of difficulty that didn’t need to be there.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: man, it’s really hard to think of anything. This is such a unique game but I guess anything good within the fantasy action RPG category.

Video Game Review: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PlayStation 4)

After recently revisiting all of the Peter Jackson film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, I was reminded how much I liked the old Return of the King game for Gamecube. So I saw that this was at least somewhat similar, in that it was pretty much a hack and slash game where you take on dozens of orcs at once. I figured that for $19 I’d give it a shot and well, it won “Game of the Year”, even though everything seems to get that accolade nowadays.

I don’t think I would have been as happy with this if I had paid full price when it came out but for less than twenty bucks, it’s definitely worth the value.

If you are a fan of the Batman: Arkham or Assassin’s Creed video game series, than this should probably be a lot of fun fore you. Now it isn’t as rich and dynamic as those other games but it has similarities in how the action works. The fighting style is very much like it is in the Batman games and you can interact with the environment parkour style like Assassin’s Creed.

I like the graphics and the fluid gameplay. Plus, running around Middle-Earth like a sword wielding maniac is a really good time. I like the Nemesis System within the game and that there is a lot of fun one can have with that cool feature.

However, things do get repetitive pretty quickly in a similar fashion to the first Assassin’s Creed. But as the game progresses and you get stronger, the challenge does become better and some of the more powerful orcs can be a real pain in the ass. So I do like how the game evolves as you play it longer and longer.

I don’t like that the game only has two main maps that you can explore though. They also aren’t very big and each time I got to a new map, I unlocked all of the areas pretty damn quickly. Like ten-to-fifteen minutes quickly.

This feels like a game that really needed to be expanded on and if I just stuck to the story and didn’t get distracted running around killing thousands or orcs, I could have blown through it in an afternoon or two.

But my complaints are why I would’ve been disappointed if I had paid full price. Again, for $19 (or less), it’s worth the money.

I’ll pick up the sequel soon, as it is also rather cheap now. I hope that one at least expands on things in new ways and isn’t just a simple rehash with new maps.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel Shadow of War, as well as the Batman: Arkham game series and the Assassin’s Creed games.