Video Game Review: Dark Souls – Remastered (PlayStation 4)

It took me a long time to beat this game and even after such a long journey, I didn’t want it to end.

Dark Souls is an incredible body of work from the general game design, the boss fights, the gameplay, the creativity that went into it and because of just how f’n challenging it is.

While some want to claim this is the hardest game ever made, it isn’t. There are games I haven’t beaten and I beat this one fairly easily and decisively, even if some bosses gave me real trouble. I’m looking at you Ornstein and Smough, as well as the black dragon, Kalameet.

I love the whole feel and tone of this game and even though it’s pretty well populated with monsters to fight and NPCs to interact with, it still churned up feelings of isolation and loneliness in a similar fashion to the masterpiece, The Shadow of the Colossus.

This game is dark, feels cold and you almost feel as if the kingdom you’re in is some form of Hell or Purgatory.

The two things that make this so great are the design of the large, interconnected world, as well as how different most of the boss fights are.

In regards to the world you play in, there are a dozen or more unique areas but most of them are connected directly to the other areas through multiple paths and shortcuts. This game has, hands down, one of the best and most well thought out worlds ever designed for a video game.

With that, you don’t have to conquer each area in any specific order. While there are certain tasks you have to complete to access some places, every playthrough of this game can be vastly different. Because of that, I’ve been playing through the “second quest” and who knows, I may playthrough this several more times. Granted, I need to move on to the second and third games in the series, as they’re already sitting on my shelf.

Looking at the boss fights, many are really damn challenging. There are a handful of bosses that took me a half dozen times (or more) to defeat them. Sometimes, I had to leave, build up my stats or hunt for better weapons and armor.

One thing this game did, is it gave you a real sense of accomplishment whenever you were finally able to topple a really hard boss. Other games certainly give you a sense of accomplishment but this game does it on a different level and much more frequently. Because of that, it makes you more invested in it.

This is a game that forces you to “get good”. You may find portions of it to be a breeze but if you don’t spend enough time building up your stats and holding on to your souls, you’re going to hit walls that force you to have to work hard to climb over them.

In the end, this is as good as people led me to believe. It lives up to the hype and even exceeds it. Frankly, it is one of the best video game experiences I have ever had.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other Dark Souls games, as well as other games by Hidetaka Miyazaki like Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man (PlayStation 4)

I bought this game way back when it came out but I didn’t actually play it until this year, as I had spent about 18 months completely immersed in Conan Exiles and The Witcher 3. Between that, I also spent a lot of time playing hundreds of retro games on my RetroPie.

I can’t say that this was worth the wait, as it’s really just mediocre.

The graphics as far as how the city looks and the smoothness of gameplay are great but the characters’ designs certainly don’t blow me away. Also, most characters don’t look like how you’d expect them to and I’m not sure why. The game sort of ignores the comic book designs and tries to go with something more “realistic” and cinematic, akin to the films. I feel like it’s trying to meet the comics and the films somewhere in the middle but it fails at that.

As far as the gameplay goes, it’s fun but it’s way too similar to the Batman: Arkham City games. Granted, I love swinging through New York City and seeing the iconic sites but after really exploring for a day or so, even that gets old.

My real issue with the game is the story. I just don’t like it and it puts a lot of emphasis on villains that aren’t all that popular to begin with like Mister Negative. While I don’t mind the character, he is the primary antagonist for the first two acts of the story. While Norman Osborn is the mayor and Otto Octavius starts out as a good guy, there are still so many great, iconic Spider-Man villains they could’ve used as a focal point. Is Mister Negative even C-list?

I also heard all this noise about how many villains were going to be in this game and after playing through it, I’m completely underwhelmed. Sure, there are many baddies but it’s the cast of villains that they went with that are the problem. Plus, there are glaring omissions that are a bit baffling.

I get that you might not want to do a full fledged Hobgoblin or Venom story but the game could’ve introduced their normal selves, as both had interesting backstories that tie back to either Peter Parker’s personal life or the lives of his friends and allies.

Beyond that, Mary Jane is just kind of Plain Jane and she’s not even a model or actress. Instead, they made her an investigative reporter and her character is basically just ginger Lois Lane. Mary Jane is nothing like Lois Lane and this creative choice was just strange.

Speaking of MJ, I hate when this game makes you play as her or pre-Spider-Man Miles Morales. I bought this to be Spider-Man. Not his no superpowers having peeps. And there are just too many of these stupid side character sneaking missions.

Complaints aside, this is still a decent game that laid some groundwork to build off of. I’ll probably check out the sequel, if it’s ever made. I’ll also probably play the Miles Morales spinoff when it’s not still full-price.

The thing is, this could’ve been something great had they made it more loyal to the source material and not used a scrub that casual fans won’t know as the big bad for the first two-thirds of the game. Can you imagine if they made a Batman game and the main villain was someone like The Clock King?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: its Miles Morales spinoff game, as well as other recent Marvel games and old Spider-Man games.

Video Game Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PlayStation 4)

I’ve wanted to play this for awhile but I put it off for so long. After seeing the television show, however, I was inspired to finally play the most recent game in the franchise. I was also told by several people to just play this, as I didn’t need the previous two games for context due to this game pretty much filling you in on everything you need to know.

Even though this was the third game, it was the first one released for consoles. That’s another reason why I played it. Also, it was on sale on the PlayStation Store just after the TV show proved to be a massive hit.

While I’ve heard people debate for years as to which is better, this or Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there are some stark differences between the games despite many similarities.

To start, this is much more character and story driven. That works for it in that regard but I kind of like the anonymity and mystery of your Skyrim character and also the customization options the game gives you. But I don’t want to write up a comparison, I’ll just say that I still prefer Skyrim but this is a very worthy game in the action fantasy genre.

The graphics are incredible, there doesn’t seem to be any major glitches and it runs and plays really smoothly with mostly great mechanics. Although, I think the horse riding is a bit wonky and I mostly preferred to run around on foot. It was also easier to fight random things in the wild when you aren’t on horseback.

I thought the story started strong but about two-thirds of the way through the main quest, I was growing tired of it and I dipped out of it to catch up on side quests. Now while a lot of these are fun, some of them get to be repetitive after awhile. In fact, I mostly enjoyed hunting down and killing beasts. The rest of the missions felt more like busy work or wastes of time. And then there are just so many side quests. Every time I cracked out a half dozen, I’d have triggered more new ones than ones I’d completed.

Still, this is a great game. I’m mostly done with it but I’ve put in so many hours that I started to get burnt out. I know that some people want the games that they love to go on forever but this feels like it is overloaded, which isn’t a criticism I’ve ever had for an epic RPG.

My only other negative is that there isn’t enough diversity in the environments. One thing I loved about Skyrim and even Conan: Exiles was that different parts of the map were completely different biomes. With The Witcher 3, most of it all looks the same.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other epic fantasy action games of the modern era: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls: Online, Conan: Exiles, etc.

 

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: 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.