Shadow Tactics: Blade of the Shogun (2016) review

shadow tactics

Rated: 3.5 / 5

I question how much I actually enjoy stealth games.  Aside from Thief I and II, I don’t normally go out of my way to play these sorts of games.  On the other hand, certain RPGs like Deus Ex, while not primarily a stealth game yet can be played as one, do end up causing me to take the stealth-tactic route.  Mainly because it seemed more logical to me to not try and be a one-man army, since games like those try to have a sense of realism.  Plus they subtly encourage you to try more pacifist tactics, lest you risk causing hostages to be butchered or something.  I don’t know, maybe it’s because of some subliminal shit that causes me to take the stealth approach in those games.  Or because I’m not that great of a shot (at least compared to online players), so I just play like a pussy.  But since this game was getting rave reviews, I thought I’d try it out.  And overall, it’s not too bad.

There are 13 missions in the game, each one getting progressively longer, complex, and challenging.  First mission is a great intro to the game system, the 2nd mission is a decent progression.  But from the 3rd mission and onwards, it doesn’t pull any punches with the difficulty.  You have to learn the capabilities of the characters inside and out, just as you’ll need to learn to utilize the controls for quick maneuvers to get the timing right, plus to utilize the ability to see the line of sight of specific soldiers/samurai/civilians.  Shadow mode for simultaneous character actions, each of their special abilities, knowing when to move by quickly, or crouch and move; when you should kill someone, when you should just try to avoid them, etc.

In other words, I strongly recommend using a controller for this one, rather than a mouse and keyboard.  This game seems more designed for control pads.

If it wasn’t obvious, this takes place in medieval Japan, during a time when the way of the samurai was ending.  So of course there’s going to be some challenge to their traditional ways, especially with the questions asked to or about the Mugen character (one of the five party members you’ll have through much of the game).  And, of course, they have to throw in a bit of women power (mainly with this one character who can disguise herself to blend in with the enemy), but they thankfully don’t go overboard with it.  It’s the same kind of thing you get with the film The Last Samurai, except the war-mongering samurai are given a more antagonistic light this time around.  Two significant events happen in the game to thematically represent this way of life coming to an end, signified by two major characters having their lives ended.

Theme aside, the game controls fine for the most part.  I found myself frustrated at points for not being able to pull off these plans I had in mind to get through a section, but that’s mostly on me.  Overestimating the capabilities of my characters, underestimating the number of enemies and their patrol routes (I needed to learn more patience, even if the whole thing seems like trial and error), and just getting angry knowing that, in hindsight, there was a better way to go about completing a portion of a level (if not the entire thing).  However, there were a few times where the NPC movement seemed glitched, with one or two guys being stuck together or to some object on the map and being unable to move.  This was rare, and I think it only happened at 3 points throughout the entire game, but it was noticeable when it did.  Nothing game-breaking, thankfully.

There are some caveats though, which I noticed during the last 3 missions.  Sometimes there’s a portion of the map that juts out just enough to stop you in your tracks unless you go around.  I’m not talking about a section of a cart or something, I’m talking about one or two fucking pebbles that your character should be able to just fucking walk/run across, but can’t, so you have to learn to go around these things and not hug the walls too much or else you’ll get stuck and then get caught by the asshole NPC you thought you were about to avoid until that shit happened.  So, you know, little frustrations like that, which again aren’t game-breaking, just irritating.

After the first 2 levels, I’d say each stage took me roughly 2 hours each to beat (on Hardcore difficulty mind you, I’m not that much of a pussy to settle for normal mode, especially when it felt like the game was pulling it’s punches, let alone beginner mode).  Which gives this game a playing time of roughly 25 hours.  A solid enough length for a game of this type.

And even after you finish a level, you can replay it again to complete challenges (of which there are 9 per level).  If you beat a level on hardcore mode, there’s a chance you will have completed at least 2 of the 9 challenges on a first try.  For the first level, I completed 8 of the 9 challenges (including a speed-run of beating the level in under 11 minutes).  I enjoyed them, at first.  But then I came to realize some of these challenges are just downright stupid.  For instance, one of the challenges in the first level is not to kill anyone.  You can knock them out, but they’ll come-to after about 40-60 seconds (I never timed it).  And it seems impossible to get through a level only by knocking people out.  But then I figured out the trick.  Knock someone out, dump their body in a well (I think there’s only 2, at most, in this level), rinse and repeat for everyone else in the way.  But this gets really fucking tedious when you realize there’s only 1 well that you can use for this purpose for a good portion of the level, so you’ll be knocking guys out, carrying their fatasses for up to a minute at a time trying to get back to this cocksucking well, dumping them, and doing it again and again, having to travel further and further distances while doing this.  When a challenge gets that tedious, I tend to stop giving a shit about them.  Seriously, don’t worry about the challenges, at all, during your first playthrough.  Don’t go back to those missions and repeat them just to do those challenges until you’ve completed the game.  These challenges have the potential to increase the amount of times it takes to complete a mission exponentially, sometimes for ridiculous reasons.

Or so I thought.  But then it turns out there was a way to do this quickly without needing to KO all that many people.  This hot shit Korean gamer (you fuckers and your god-mode Starcraft skills) makes me look bad:

So it’s watching this video that made me realize I’m nowhere near close to being a master at these types of games.  I may be capable of beating them, but I’m not capable of being great at them, at least not on my own without looking up how someone else “did it.”  This is one of those games that every stealth game ultimately ends being in a glorified sense: a puzzle game.  It’s not just about figuring out a way to progress though a stage, it’s also about figuring out the best most efficient way to do it.  And I will admit, I am not the best at figuring out that stuff on my own.  It infuriates me, but that’s on me, the game isn’t to be faulted for that.  You hearing me you asshole game journalists who bitched about the difficulty in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice!?

But anyway, if stealth games like these seem right up your alley, I say go for it.  It seems like one of the better ones released in recent years that I’ve learned about.

 

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System Shock (1994) and Quake (1996) review

So in celebration of cocksucking California passing bullet legislation, I figure I’d talk about the best defining first-person-shooters ever made, outside of Doom (made after Doom).

Surely everyone has heard of Doom being the first major defining first person shooter game, which is still awesome to this day.  True, Wolfenstein came before it, and was made by the same company (iD).  But let’s face it, Doom in superior to Wolfenstein in every way.  But there are at least 2 other first-person-shooters which have defined the genre and made it what it is today (well, one would hope; plenty of today’s games could take lessons from these).  Recently played through both these games.  So let’s start with the earliest one.

System Shock (1993)

Rated: 4 / 5

While Doom may be the first major first person shooter, it was limited in how the player could move.  In that the player could only turn on a 2-dimensional plane.  They couldn’t look up or down, only side to side.  Well, System Shock not only allows the player to look up and down, but also to crouch, to lay flat, to lean left or right, and even enter a virtual world where they basically get full 360 degree freedom of movement.  All this just one year after Doom hit the market.  Quite a feat, even if the controls were clunky as hell (this has since been mostly rectified thanks to the Enhanced Edition which grants the ability to play in a fashion more similar to shooters of today; believe me, you’ll want to play it this way).

And what else did this game accomplish?  It’s arguably the first FPS game to have narrative immersion.  You aren’t just playing the game just to get guns and ammo, and rack up a body count, and discover secret rooms, gain a high score, etc.  In this game, you are actually involved in a developing plot, with a flawed protagonist (you) against an antagonist partly made because of your past misdeeds.  It has warnings of the future, about AI, about cybertechnology (in the same vane as the Cyberpunk universe, except in space, on a space station).  And it’s also likely the first game to have “logs” littered throughout to give you insight as to what happened on sections of the space station prior to your arrival (just about every FPS game nowadays incorporates this).

And I’ll be damned if I wasn’t invested into what was going on.  The last third of the game is quite a ride.  And it’s great when you’re first starting out, because it’s like a survival horror.  Especially when you learn of the fate of the crew, and what SHODAN did to them, and what the origin of these mutants are.  But you get stronger as the game goes on, becoming more of a threat to SHODAN (the AI), which initially thought of you as insignificant in the grand scheme of eliminating all human life from the world, and replacing it with a new race of machines.

Honestly, when it came to the “Grenade” and “Patches,” I don’t think I even used half of all the available options throughout my entire playthrough.

If there’s any fault I can give this game, aside from the clunky control scheme and interface, it’s the level design.  Don’t get me wrong, it works just fine, but you can’t help but think that it was designed more for gameplay-sake than narrative sake.  In that the designs don’t make all that much sense in terms of how one would want to design a space station.  Alien: Isolation did a much better job by comparison (to make a more recent example).  That, and you could find yourself lost on what to do and where to find something if you miss it early on (like some notepad that has a passcode on it, or the numbers on certain screens).  That being said, the stuff that you can get stuck on isn’t anywhere near the worst I’ve seen from FPS puzzlers, especially from that time period.  Even Doom and Duke Nukem 3D had levels which players would find themselves stuck on for a while.

Regarding the difficulty (at least on Normal mode), it started out challenging, but after a while the game mostly feels like a breeze until the last couple levels.  If you spend enough time picking up ammo from each enemy you take out, and each crate that you find, you’ll have more than enough for whatever meets you later on.  Especially once you get the lightsaber (yes, this game has lightsabers).  You’ll be using bullets, and energy (the latter of which can be recharged through one-time use batteries, or an energy core located in various areas).  Every now and then, there will also be a first aid station that fully recharges your health (and you’ll be provided consumables for health as well).  Overall, it took me roughly 15 hours to beat.  That being said, there is a hard mode where you are given a time limit for beating the game.  7 hours.  Go longer than 7 hours, you lose.  Good luck with that.

Aside from the historical impact this had on gaming, it’s still a solid experience to this day.  Though it does end a little too abruptly once you beat the final boss (I mean, there’s no epic explosion or anything; it literally cuts to the epilogue after you hit SHODAN with the last bullet).

And did I mention they’re remaking this game?

 

And for the next step in the evolution of FPS games:

 

 

Quake (1996)

Rated: 4 / 5

This was the game that set the standard for every FPS game made afterwards, in my opinion.  Especially if you play with the HD graphics.  That’s a bit tricky to do though, for a few reasons (more on that later).  You move around like a normal modern FPS, shoot guns and collect ammo like a normal FPS (none of that “press a button to pick up the ammo pack” bullshit, you just walk over it to collect it), etc.  And it doesn’t try to be as ambitious as System Shock control-scheme-wise.  There’s no laying prone, or leaning left or right.  It’s just move, run, and jump, and that’s it.

Source

While there is a story, it’s not something that will be at the forefront anymore than it was in Doom (made by the same company, iD).  This game is all about the gameplay and shooting the shit out of demons, pure and simple.  Over the course of the game you get more guns to shoot, and more enemies to shoot at.  However, it’s not as diverse as Doom.  By comparison, the variety of enemies will seem limited.  In Quake, you get 8 weapons and 7 enemies.  In Doom, you basically got 8 weapons and 10 enemies.  But what it lacks in diversity compared to Doom it makes up for in some of the best level design (and enemy placement within said levels) I’ve ever seen in an FPS.  The design is tight, every door, hallway, secret, platform, enemy; it all seems designed with intent, with everything very well thought out.  Masterminds designed the levels for this game.

And while there isn’t a story per-se, you do get the sense that you’re in a sacriligious place.  A place outside of your world, your own dimension.  Why are you even there?  Why even visit a place like this?  Well, reading the instruction manual, pretty much for the same reason you visit Hell in Doom: demons are invading through a portal, so it’s time you return the favor and invade their world, and throw them a very big hello party, courtesy of humanity from Earth.  Our protagonist doesn’t like illegal aliens invading his fucking turf.  So, naturally, he decides to gear up and blow some of them away.  It’s a challenge of his manhood and masculinity, which is why the gun is always front and center, like it’s your massive erection, blowing out bullets and beams and shells and rockets.  And if you’re into it enough, you might also get a stiffy and cream yourself in the ecstasy of all the carnage.  At some point you’ll probably scream like you’re having an orgasm.  Like Trent Reznor does.

And to stand apart from most other shooters, this is more of a gothic horror.  It’s like you’re in a fucked up medieval castle that’s out of time in some hellish realm with hints of sci-fi thrown in.  It’s rather unique.  And to make it even more unique, the soundtrack was done by Nine Inch Nails (NIN).  And to make their presence even more significant, there’s a Nailgun, with ammo packs containing the NIN logo.  It’s more atmospheric rather than in-your-face; it conveys a more subtle horror and disturbance that slowly seeps into your skin.  The music is every bit as important as everything else contained within the game.  It would feel incomplete without it.

Unfortunately, incomplete is the standard version people tend to get nowadays with this game.  Whether you purchase it on Steam or GOG (I prefer the latter), the soundtrack is missing (because of rights issues).  Well, that’s no completely true.  GOG did manage a workaround, though you are forced to play it with the inferior graphics (more sprite-based than 3D model based).

So on that note, here’s the 3 main ways you can play it once you purchase it on GOG (assuming you’re not using an alternative method):

Quake GIF
Quakespasm mod, which allows the music to be played, with tweaks (see below).  Full 3D models.
Game GIF
Standard GOG version, with no music.  Sprite-based models.
Quake GIF
Horrendous GOG workaround that doesn’t look great at all, but does allow the music to play.

Otherwise, if you can manage to play a version of it with the best graphics and the music thrown in, it’s a great experience.  The only downside to it is that there’s only 2 boss battles, when clearly there should’ve been 5.  There’s basically 5, uh, “dimensions,” with each dimension having a certain number of levels.  Only in the first dimension is there a boss at the last level, and the fifth dimension is basically a glorified (get to the final boss of the game) level.  There were some production troubles that prevented them from having the time and budget to program in the other bosses, so they scrapped them and made the last levels of dimensions 2-4 basically be like any other level, except progressively more difficult.  Not necessarily bad, as the challenge is still great and the level design is impeccable as always.  But it’s just tragic to think of what could’ve been.

 

Mods (for Quake only)

Ok, so first things first.  While there are a couple bits of software out there that basically do the same thing, this is the one I used.

Quakespasm

Download this, put in the files/folders (from the GOG download) needed in the Quakespasm folder, and you’re good to go.  Will run in the best quality.  However, it still won’t include the music, not right off the bat.  Still needs some tinkering to get that to work.  You’ll need to either copy-paste over the mp3 music files the GOG game has stashed away in one of the folders and put them in the Id1 folder; each music file should be titled track02.mp3 or track02.ogg (.ogg is the best format), with the “02” number being anything from 02-11 (there is no track01, there isn’t supposed to be).

how to use quakespasm

And honestly, that’s really the only mod you’ll need.  However, if you want more levels out of quake, there are several fan-made campaigns which add a crapload of content, including cutscenes (in a similar vane as Red vs. Blue, except these guys try their best to take it all seriously).

 

Nehahra

This is a fan-made campaign that is absolutely massive.  If you want to check out fan-made content, this is the absolute best place to start (though the cutscenes do run for too long in my opinion).  There are others in existence, to be sure, but this is the best starting point.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it works with Quakespasm (at least I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work with it), so you’ll be dealing with the more sprite-based graphics.  It’s still good.

 

 

PS: And yeah, I know, I didn’t really have much to say about these games other than just recommending them.  I’m not the best when it comes to video game reviews, I’ll admit.  Difficult to summon the willpower to discuss the graphics, audio, gameplay, story, and replay value.  I tend to be more about philosophical aspects, or food for thought, when it comes to my reviews, and games tend to be difficult about that stuff because they’re more about challenging yourself, and seeing if you can take on that challenge and succeed, and have fun along the way.  Adding a narrative is a bonus.  If you want a solid review for each game, I provided videos to LGR.  He is second to none when it comes to reviews for games like these.  So consider this article a recommendation for the games and the LGR reviewer.  That being said, there may come a day where I come across a game that is so narrative dependent, so devoid of any real gameplay, that I may just end up reviewing it like a movie.

 

https://media.tenor.co/images/a2f1e259c2476b72ad4f3845efcef461/raw

Sonic Generations (2011) and Sonic Mania (2017) review

Sonic Generations

Rated: 3 / 5 (good, but may be a while before I play it again, if ever)

So I haven’t played a Sonic the Hedgehog game ever since Sonic Heroes (2003) on the Nintendo Gamecube (GCN).  Up until that point, I enjoyed virtually all the games found on the Sega Genesis, which is why I’ve purchased a few retro Sonic Collection discs for a few systems off and on.  The best 2D Sonic game being Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and the last decent one being Sonic CD.  I did play Sonic Adventures 1 and 2 on the GCN, and enjoyed them at the time, but I’m not so sure if I’d enjoy playing those 2 nowadays.  Those games work when the levels are designed for Sonic and speed, but they were still a bit finicky and glitchy even when those levels were being played.  But regardless, it showed potential in what the 3D setting had to offer, more-so than Sonic Blast.

Right there, during the landing, I should’ve been able to hit that wire and grind on it, but didn’t.  That’s just 1 of several things that bugged me about the 3D platforming segments.

Unfortunately, it also showed everything the 3D setting had to offer.  Playing Sonic Generations, it doesn’t seem like anything has really changed since Sonic Adventures other than getting their priorities straight in knowing what the best things have been about putting Sonic into a 3D platforming environment.  Restricting movement so it’s more 2D-ish.  The jump-spin-dash.  Grinding on rails.  And that’s pretty much it, and even now they seem unable to make it glitch-free.  There were numerous times playing this 2011 game that I got pissed whenever there was a glitch, a bug, a misstep and a cheap-shot with the level design.  Moments where I should’ve been running along the wall until I hit the speed ramp only to either fall off the wall for some reason, miss the speed ramp due to circumstances a bit beyond my control, or the speed ramp launching me on the wrong direction.  That’s just one instance in one level where things irritated me.

Witness it go from 3D to 2D right before your eyes.

And the game has at least one moment like this in every other level that involves the 3D gameplay.  It never got as bad as that one abomination that came out on the PS3 and X-Box 360, not even close.  But still, considering how much practice they’ve had at this, and considering how much it rips off levels from older 3D titles, you’d think the experience would be more slick.  It doesn’t ruin the game, but it provides needless irritation.  And at this point, this seems to be the best they can do when putting Sonic into a 3D setting.  This is it.  The limit has been reached.  3D platformers aren’t meant to be this fast-paced.  They can’t handle it without resorting to some form of 2D restriction, which defeats the purpose if you ask me.

But since this game calls itself Generations, it also let’s you play as Sonic in the 2D setting.  And guess what?  It has less bugs and cheap shots compared to the 3D segments.  Easier to play, and still challenging in all the right ways (but it never got too challenging, or arguably not quite challenging enough by the end).  It reminded me of why I enjoyed these Sonic games in the past, but it never got to the point where I thought this succeeded in being its own thing.  Mainly because a good portion of the levels were straight up ripped from previous Sonic games, both that I’ve played before, and those that I haven’t (Sonic Colors being one of them).  But at this point, I missed playing good Sonic games badly enough that I was willing to give the game a pass like I did Star Wars: The Force Awakens and just enjoy it for what it did provide.  Though it had nowhere near enough boss fights considering how often they showed up in previous games.

There’s only 4 boss fights, and the constant hints dropped on “how to beat it” got really annoying considering how self-evident that it is, and that the game doesn’t have as much faith in the players as old-school games of the past did.  Fuck you and your faggoty-ass hints.

Oh, and the cutscenes were a bit annoying.  I never really got into any of the new characters past Sonic Adventure DX (even that one brought in some annoying side characters).  Shadow is an emo only millennial retards who think they’re Generation X believe is cool.  Don’t know or care about that white/silver hedgehog.  And most of those individuals who are supposed to be friends of Knuckles all suck.  The only solid characters in this franchise has ever been Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Robotnik/Eggman, and Metal Sonic, and that’s it.  I’m willing to cut Amy a small break, but everyone else I just tolerate as best I can while enjoying the gameplay.

So the game is fun, but it could’ve been more if the bugs were worked out and it tried to be more of its own thing.  The 2D gameplay worked far better than it did in Sonic 4 Episode 1 (I didn’t bother with episode 2 considering I wasn’t digging the way the mechanics worked in Episode 1), but it just made me miss the gameplay in Sonic 1, 2, and 3 & Knuckles.

The semi-boss fights between Shadow and Metal Sonic and some other white emo-hedgehog trying to out-emo Shadow aren’t half bad though.

That being said, it is worth noting that there is a mod for this game that allows you to play the Sonic levels from Sonic Unleashed, which many say was the best part about that game.  I haven’t tried it myself, but if I ever get the urge to play this again, I might give it a spin.

Anyway, I found out about another Sonic game that I ignored for a while until the praise for it became deafening.  So what was this one all about?

 

Sonic Mania

Rated: 4 / 5

I don’t fucking believe it.  They got it right.  This shouldn’t be possible.  A Sonic game that has sprite-based graphics released in this day and age?  A Sonic game that finally replicated the gameplay of the old classics perfectly?  Feels like the old games?  Just as long as the old games?  Has more content than the old games?  That just might be better than the old games?

Don’t let the opening fool you, there’s plenty of new content to be had here.

Well now I believe in miracles.  The hype and word-of-mouth is true.  This is the best Sonic game to be released since Sonic 3 & Knuckles.  Sonic accelerates and runs and jumps just like his old self (fuck you Sonic 4, this is how it’s done!).  There is a boss fight in every act (making this the most boss-heavy Sonic game in existence).  And the challenges move gradually in an upward curve with perfect precision.  This game offers the challenge that’s been missing since the first 2 Sonic games (as much as I love Sonic 3 & Knuckles, it lowered the difficulty level down a notch or two compared to the first 2 games), while building upon the perfection in gameplay with the 3rd Sonic game.

Now, like Generations, this game has a decent number of levels that are rip-offs of the old levels from the old games.  But unlike Generations, it tweaks the levels in such a way that they feel more fresh, and isn’t afraid to add in brand new additions of their own that fit the classic setting like a glove.  I worried that I’d just get another Sonic game that people praised just because it’s too much like the classics.  But my worries began to go away after getting through Act 2 of the first level, and completely evaporated by the time I was halfway through.

And the bosses, for the most part, are something different compared to what I’ve seen in previous Sonic games.  Sure there are those that are a bit familiar, but none of them are carbon-copies of those from the old classics.  They all feature Robotnik, or Metal Sonic, or on of Eggman’s creations as usual, but they are all implemented in a way that is fresh and challenging.

I’m not showing any other bosses beyond this.

The levels are pure Sonic design.  All begin and end at the same point, but there are at least 3 ways minimum per level to get from point A to point B.  And to further encourage repeated plays, there are 2 elements.

1.) If you got to a checkpoint with the minimum amount of rings (I think it’s 30 rings), you can jump into the stars and go to the classic “Get all the blue spheres” level, just like in Sonic 3.  As brain-burning and adrenaline-pumping as ever, and they get hard as hell too.

2.) But then there’s something completely new (unless I missed some 2D Sonic game that did something like this).  When you jump into a hidden giant ring, you enter into 1 of 7 levels where you can get a Chaos Emerald.  And this is the most challenging part of the game in my opinion (though some of those Blue Sphere levels may have a say in that).  It becomes semi-3D, in the sense that it feels like a classic 2D system emulated 3D using sprites, where Sonic has to run around in a seemingly 3D environment that’s a bit on the rails.  Racing around a track, speeding up each time you collect a set number of spheres, needing rings to stay in it while you lose a ring each second, and catch the balloon/ship/thing holding the emerald before time runs out.  And you can’t catch it until you boost your speed twice.  Trying to find each spot in each level where this giant ring is at increases the replay value enough as-is with the game.

Similar to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, if you don’t have all 7 emeralds by the end, you just fight the end boss and treated to a decent ending.  But if you do get all 7 by the end, in addition to being able to go Super Sonic (with 50+ rings), you gain access to a final secret boss and the true ending (which doesn’t add much more than the original did, but it’s enough so as not to get taunted by Robotnik after the credits).  I’ll admit I haven’t collected all the chaos emeralds (have only done 4 so far, and I got too stressed out trying to get the 5th, so I bowed out and watched a video to see what’s supposed to happen).  This game really makes you work for them, and really makes you work for that ending, more-so than Sonic 3 made you work for those emeralds.  Which is why it’s optional in terms of making it through to the end.  You won’t reach the secret final boss, but that’s the breaks.  This is a game that isn’t afraid to make players work for the reward.

No shit new generation Sonic.

And there is more.  After playing through a game, you unlock the ability to play as Knuckles, like you could in Sonic 3 & Knuckles.  And as usual, the game is more difficult when playing as him.  On top of that, there’s DLC which adds 2 new characters into the game for you to play as for even more challenge (I haven’t purchased the DLC yet, but I’m currently job-hunting right now, so I’m intentionally limiting myself in what I will purchase).  The game offers everything an old-school Sonic fan can want, and offers everything current videogamers need in a game with platforming at sonic speed.

If there is one thing that I can dock the game for, it’s with the story it tells.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to lower the score for this, as this isn’t a game where the story matters all that much.  It’s more of a comparison to the story told in Sonic 3 & Knuckles.  Eggman seems to have come across some emerald that can alter time or dimensions, and Sonic is forced to go through various places to track Eggman down, all the while he’s building up a giant mecha.  It’s a bit difficult to determine the story from what is shown in the gameplay, which is reason enough to hold the story told in Sonic 3 & Knuckles in higher regard.  The story is told in a more straightforward manner, shown more simply (Sonic and Tails fly to the last known location of Eggman after destroying the Death Egg in the previous game, but run into Knuckles who impedes them every way he can, because he’s working for Robotnik, but is deceived by him as Robotnik only wants his chaos emeralds, something that belongs to Knuckles, and the emerald is used to repair the Death Egg and to be taken off-planet for some unsaid purpose; all the while there are hints here and there indicated that the chaos emeralds making Sonic go Super Sonic is etched in legend among Knuckle’s people, as shown in an ancient image carved long ago, Super Sonic being a being that can save the world from the evil that invades it).  Sonic Mania tells the story in a more confusing abstract manner, allowing for only vague understanding outside of reading the story online somewhere.  Again, nothing I’ll bash the game’s score for, but it’s one thing that Sonic 3 & Knuckles did better.

In fact, now that I think about it, this game seems to be missing that one other element that Sonic & Knuckles provided.  Lore hints dropped within the game.  We see Knuckles and his secret chaos emerald temple early on, and we see all that stuff in the Hidden Palace Zone in Sonic & Knuckles.  It’s only 2 brief bits in the entire game, but they’re there.  With Sonic Mania, it opts more for just telling the story through sprite cutscenes at the end of each level.

Outside of that, this game is better in almost every way.  Though I will say this regarding the music.  The new music scores are fine, and renditions of classic tunes are fine.  Except for one.  The music from Hidden Palace Zone in Sonic & Knuckles, that is a classic theme that is easily my favorite among the classic Sonic games.  The remix is a step down from the classic beat in my opinion.  I don’t think many, if any, 16-bit scores are going to top that beat for me personally.  That being said, this remix is still good in its own right, providing its own epic feel with that guitar riff.  I think it’s just the nostalgia factor in me that overpowers the new stuff.  You be the judge.

And lastly, this game did the one thing I wasn’t sure was possible.  It made me enjoy playing videogames again, and not just make it feel like a chore being done in the hope that I would find the spark to rekindle that joy.  This game is a gamer’s game, and it’s the game that Sonic fans can’t point to for all the non-believers and say, “This is Sonic!  This is why Mario can suck our dicks!”

 

Highly recommended game, for both Sonic and non-Sonic fans.

 

The Witcher 3 (2015) review

Rated: 4.5 / 5

Nudity ahead.
Sex ahead.

Exhausted.  Weary.  Done.  Finished.  I first played this game when it first came out; finished my first playthrough after roughly 80 hours.  I enjoyed the experience, though I was glad to see it end.  3 years later, I got back into it again, knowing that there were expansions to play, updates that polished the rough edges (reducing the number of bugs and annoyances), and graphic enhancements which make the game look spectacular (something only the modding community provides, but CD Projekt Red is a beast of a game company that truly cares about its customers and its product, so they did the enhancement themselves with the update).  With the expansions, I think I clocked in at over 100 hours, maybe 110.  And I don’t intend to get back into this for a long time.  I started this up again soon after I finished a playthrough of The Witcher 2, which was several months ago.  I thought I could plough through this and then play on New Game+ and take that into account for this review.  But I don’t have the willpower.  I don’t think I can invest that many hours into something like this without taking so long of a break I forget some story elements.  I don’t intend to get back into this game for a long time, even though I enjoyed the experience.

Make no mistake, this game is a masterpiece. The gameplay has improved that found in Witcher 2.  They did away with Quick-Time-Events thank God (combat in of itself should be its own natural sort of QTE; come to think of it, aren’t all non-turn-based videogames QTEs in their own way without having to be obvious about it?  Press this button now or you die?  Jump now or you’ll fall?  Shoot this enemy or he’ll shoot you?  You know what, QTEs suck.).  The leveling system is as good (if not better) than it’s ever been.  The (open) world is more immersive than its ever been in any other Witcher game.  The diversity of choices and the short/long-term consequences they entail are numerous to the point of mind-boggling (there’s like, what, 20 different endings you can get with just the main story, never mind how the side quests can turn out.  And no rational individual will complain about the game being too short or lacking in content (as if they could bitch about that with the other 2 games).

While the story isn’t as good as that of its predecessor, it’s a solid enough conclusion to this game trilogy, and easily ranks among the best game franchises that has ever existed.  And it went out with a bigger bang than Mass Effect 3 (I’ve been comparing the Witcher games to the Mass Effect games so far, why stop now?).  The characters are all as memorable as ever, and some of the side quests are just as memorable, if not more-so, as the main quest itself.  And like the other Witcher games, you will be faced with decisions that will challenge you on an ethical level.  Many players have different experiences with the story due to the decisions they made, due to their thought processes, and it can be a real conversation-starter when discussing why they chose one path or another.

So why do I give this only 4.5 / 5 rather than 5 / 5 like I did the 2nd game?  It’s not because of the bugs and glitches, though they are there (no open-world game this large is ever going to be bug-free, not in this day and age).  It’s not because the gameplay is worse (it’s better).  It’s purely for selfish and personal reasons.  There are two reasons, and both have to do with the narrative (what can I say, the narrative is the main reason I play these games).

1.) The main story gets docked a partial point.  Why?  Because of Ciri.  Don’t get me wrong, her character is fine, the motivations she has and everyone has for seeking her out is fine.  But the whole, “She has powers greater than anyone else,” element got on my nerves at a couple points, especially when the Wild Hunt lays siege to Kaer Morhen.  Once a significant character gets killed, and it looks like the Hunt will finally get Ciri, she all of a sudden goes apeshit and scream forever (arguably to the point where it gets comical) and emanates this power that the Wild Hunt can’t take and are thus forced to retreat.  That’s the big eye-roll moment for me.  I was willing to take her powers of fast movement and exceptional strength.  She was strong, yet still vulnerable.  But once that bit happened, it just comes off as a deus ex-machina.  And the whole, “She can’t control her powers,” excuse just makes it worse.  I hate this shit of pulling magical saves out of your ass at the last minute.  The other two Witcher games had magic, but kept them firmly grounded with their strengths and weaknesses.  But that moment reminded me of the most irritating elements many animes contain.  Thankfully, this only happens once, maybe twice, tops.  But since it impacts the story, I can’t ignore it.

2.) The side-quests and in-depth lore.  Again, the side-quests are fine and all, and the lore is great.  But I can only stand delving into them for so long before my, “Can we just get this fucking over with already!” personality gets unleashed.  Perhaps I am to blame, I don’t tend to play these games in small doses.  I sprint through them for consecutive hours on certain days.  But just because I do that doesn’t mean I’m not invested and interested in all the little details the world has to offer.  But there was too much for me.  And the side-quests get monotonous after a while, despite the differences ins stories and characters, and the way some progress and how occasionally they throw a curve ball at you (like how taking on a monster contract usually has you tracking and killing a monster and going back to the one who posted the offer for a money reward, but sometimes something happens along the way the links to another quest, or takes an unexpected yet refreshing turn).  Patterns begin to emerge after playing for a while.  I suppose this is inevitable for any game that runs this long.  And I shouldn’t complain since the secondary quests are optional.  But some of them can have an affect on the game ending, including the choice of ignoring some specific side quests.  It’s what I call too much of a good thing.  Many won’t mind that the game has all this, and that’s fine, to each their own.  But I base my ratings on my personal experience and on my own personal tastes, and that’s just how it is.

It makes me compare this to Skyrim.  I enjoy all the side-quests much more in that game.  I can’t get enough of them.  So at some point, I had to ask myself why that is?  Why do I enjoy spending just as much time (if not more) in Skyrim (modded, mind you) than I do in The Witcher 3?  Then I figured it out.  It’s not because one is primarily first person and the other is primarily 3rd person.  It’s because Skyrim is more of a true RPG experience, where you have more control over your character, how he/she/it levels up, and what they do in the world.  You have more control, more customization, and aren’t playing as someone else so much as you are playing as yourself, or playing as someone you want to be in that world.  With the Witcher, you’re playing as Geralt.  You can decide which choices he is going to make, but ultimately it’s still Geralt making those choices rather than you.  Geralt will always act and talk in a way that is appropriate for that character and his personality, and no choice made in the game will contradict that.  In Skyrim, it doesn’t matter as much because you have more control, it’s more about you.  It’s also more immersive when comes to how you play and what your lifestyle is like.  Being a sneaky thief, a sneaky assassin, a blunt-force warrior, an all-powerful spellcaster who shoots fire/lightning, a spellcaster who heals, a chemist, a smith, a mixture of any or all of the above.  It’s a more personalized experience.  With Geralt, you can only play a Witcher.  Sure you can determine if you want to focus more on sword-based combat, magic-based combat, or being an alchemist who makes the swords or magics stronger due to alchemy, but you’re always going to play the same way in terms of fighting enemies in the open and slaughtering them in order to get things done (though some dialogue choice could prevent a couple battles from happening).

Because of those intentional limitations, the game is more narrative-based.  The narrative is good, but it’s long.  It’s not perfect, but it’s not disappointing either.  Too good to say it’s terrible, not good enough to justify the game length.  I felt a bit guilty when I stopped caring about what some of the books were telling me about the world and its history.  I felt I was missing out when I stopped reading every letter I got.  Because ultimately they all resulted in the same thing, go to point A to get this or kill that, then go to point B to see the resolution or see how to get to point C.  In Skyrim it’s not much of a problem because you can see yourself as a character who goes through the world not giving a shit.  But in the Witcher, it seems like you should give a shit.  And it’s exhausting to give a shit for that many hours, even with the breaks, because it gets monotonous.

So this will make the game experience different for some people.  Some will relate more to Geralt and the world, and will thus stay invested no matter what.  Others who don’t relate as much will eventually grow tired of this and start ignoring some books/letters, and start skipping through various dialogue conversations in many parts of the game just to get through it faster.

I sort of had that issue with the first Witcher game, had much less of an issue with that in the second Witcher game (probably because it’s the shortest, though 30 hours is nothing to scoff at; plus it had the best story that I can always get invested in), but began to have that issue again with this game after about 30-40 hours.  It sounds like I’m being ungrateful that there’s so many hours of content, but I would prefer to have every hour investing and enjoyable rather than just a certain percentage of those hours be enjoyable.  And that’s the risk of having so much in a narrative-based game like this that isn’t as personalized as Skyrim; the monotony becomes more apparent faster.

But regardless, when those great investing moments are there, they hit hard, and make it worth playing through to the end.  And the endings are a gut-punch in their own way.  Some are satisfying, others a bit more devastating.  It encourages replay to see how different decisions result in the different outcomes.  But considering how exhausting this game can be, I’d rather just see the alternatives played out on a YouTube video by players who are more into this game than I ever could be.  The two times I played, I was perfectly happy with the outcome (if you ask which ones I got, I’ll answer in the comments).  And yes, the outcome was different for each playthrough.

The rating is one of respect and admiration.  I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I gave it anything lower than a 4.5.  I feel bad enough not giving it a 5.  But a 4.5 is nothing to scoff at.  This game is a masterpiece in it’s own right, and it’s made by people who are passionate about it and who give a damn about their fans (because of that, I pre-ordered this game, and I never do that; and I will do it again when Cyberpunk 2077 comes out because CD Projekt Red has earned that much of my respect).  The game may be a labor at times for me to get through, but it does feel worth it in the end.

 

Mods!

Oh, right, there are mods for this game.  I’ll only mention the ones that I used for my playthrough.  There are others, but I don’t feel like re-researching through them all again to recommend what are considered the best.  Keep in mind, the ones I’ve downloaded aren’t likely the latest versions.  Some might have made mods that are similar but better or easier to implement with less work.  And I’m not going to lie, I thought the gameplay was pretty much fine without the mods.  The weight limit seemed right, combat was fine, the graphics were good, everything seemed perfect.  Except for the nudity and sex.

Ciri Bath Bandage Removal

I didn’t use this mod just because I’m a pervert (though I am).  It just always felt off going into a sauna covering your private parts.  Kind of defeats a bit of the purpose in my opinion.  Though this does relate to another issue I had with the non-modded version of the game.  Compared to The Witcher 2, there’s an awful lot of covering up and hiding the sex scenes and nudity.  Which brings me to…

Background girls nudes 0.4

Just seemed like some of the women in the brothels and whorehouses needed to be skimpier, or just altogether nude to advertise their assets.  But that’s just to see those you come across as you journey through some cities (and no, I don’t use the “all nude” version, just the version that alters specific women types).  It’s more for immersion, I swear.  But the nude mods don’t stop there…

The Wild Nudity Project and Vagina’s For Everyone and Naked With Genital and Naturally Bushy

I don’t remember if I used some or all of these mods, but at least two are needed to work together to overcome removing the bra and panties during the sex scenes.  There’s a few versions of these mods.  But because I’m only a half-assed pervert, I didn’t opt for the whole, “All females are naked everywhere,” version.  Just the one where it removed the undergarments.  I went for this mod after dealing with that one witch who sought a plague and/or cure for the plague.  The cinematic with her at the lake, it didn’t seem to fit the dialogue while she was wearing bra and panties.  They talked like she was fully naked.  It lead me to do a little research, and I found out they censored the game a bit to make it internationally friendly, mainly because some assholes in the Middle East won’t accept a game with that much nudity and blatant sex.  But I’m a fair man.  I believe in equality.  No anti-game-censorship would be complete without…

Naked Geralt

Finally, a proper naked Geralt mod.  Unlike the version in The Witcher 2 which made him dickless and without balls, his whole man-package is on display for everyone to see.  And there’s one last thing to take into account…

…which contrary to some opinions doesn’t require a mod.  It’s clearly obvious with the way the sex scene went with Triss that the camera angles got altered to the point where it’s distracting that there’s more going on than with what is being shown.  Too many close-ups and weird cuts.  If you don’t want to track down a video showing how raw they can get, you can enable Free Camera.  To do so, you need to edit a file titled user.settings.

[General]
DBGConsoleOn=true

Once you type that in under the [General] section (assuming you don’t just need to switch it from false to true), you can press the ‘~’ key to activate the camera, fiddle with where it’s aimed at, and try to capture the good moments.

So, yeah, those are the mods I use.  Feel free to do the same if you want more adult content (plus making it closer to the intended uncensored version that those pansy Middle Eastern people can’t handle).

Ah, but there is one non-adult mod I use, and it’s a simple but necessary one in my opinion.

 

Open menu during dialogues and cutscenes

This allows you to go to the menu during cutscenes, in case you need to answer a phone call, take a shit, or actually interact with real non-digital people (just in case you have a real social life).  This is a lifesaver mod.

 

And, so, there it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ending on full-pervert mode.

Resident Evil 7 (2017) review

Rated: 2.5-3 / 5 (depending on my mood)

Completely Tangent Intro

So I was playing through The Witcher 3, with all the DLC installed.  And after, I don’t know, between 50-60 hours of playing, as good as that game is, all I could think was, “Goddamnit, isn’t this fucking game over yet?  How fucking long is this thing?”  I feel bad saying that, because it is a really good 5/5 game I plan on reviewing some time down the line so I can say I reviewed the entire trilogy.  But I guess epically (I don’t give a fuck if that isn’t a real word) long games and me don’t always mix.  I’m the kind of guy who prefers game lengths (as in from beginning to end of one play, not including replays) to be between 8-20 hours, maybe 30 hours if it’s good enough.  And I knew what I was getting into, because I played it a long while back and I remember clocking in at just under 80 hours of playtime.  Throw in a couple DLCs that each add an additional 6-8 hours of playtime, and you see why it is that game is so goddamn long.  The Witcher 3 is one of those games that I just can’t power through like I normally do for most games, it’s too long for that.  It’s more like one of those games where you just do 1 quest (either a main quest or a secondary quest, maybe throw in a few treasure/monster hunts for the hell of it), savor it and the details, and then stop.  Rinse and repeat for another 50 sessions or so, and then there it is.  Otherwise someone like me gets burned out.  Granted, it didn’t start to happen until I was about 40 hours into it, but that’s 40 fucking hours!  I thought about holding off on reviewing that game until I play it through again on New Game+ mode, but fuck that.  That’s like doing a marathon of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the extended cuts, and then saying you’re going to do it twice in a row.  Not me.

So what does this have to do with Resident Evil 7?  Well, for starters, it’s an easier to digest game that clocks in at an acceptable 9-10 hours on a first playthrough on Normal difficulty, which gave me a sigh of relief compared to the daunting task of finishing a Witcher game.  Snack time.

He chose foolishly.

 

The Actual Review

Ok, so first of all, I have played most of the previous Resident Evil games.

Ok, maybe not most.  Just Resident Evil 0 (GCN), 1 (GCN remake, which is the best way to play it, minus the dumb fucking decision to throw in the crimson heads), 2 (my personal favorite out of all the games, but that’s another story), 3 (arguably the best one next to 2), Code: Vernoica (the first Resident Evil game I didn’t really care for all that much next to RE:0, plus I hated them bringing back Wesker and making him and the protagonists come straight out of The Matrix), 4 (the main reason people like this game is because of the updated third-person gameplay which is done well, and the self-awareness at how ridiculous it is; I thought it was just ok, albeit an entertaining time regardless), 5 (played it co-op with another real human being too; otherwise the only memorable thing about it is finally seeing Wesker die, though he should’ve stayed fucking dead in the first fucking game), and a couple of the spinoff games which aren’t memorable enough for me to even remember the titles.  As for Resident Evil 6, I skipped out on that shit.  As far as I’m concerned, it got over-the-top enough with Code Veronica and 5; the franchise needed to die rather than keep coming back to life (which I guess makes the Umbrella Corporation a metaphor for Capcom).

Seriously, this is some of the Matrix shit they’ve been doing since Code Veronica.

And then this game comes along.  So it’s more or less a reboot for the franchise, moving away from the superhuman heroics (thank fucking Christ), and turning to a more immersive 1st-person horror-shooter (not on-the-rails like House of the Dead or those mediocre at best Wii games).  And it didn’t star any of the leads we’ve become accustomed to.  And I’ve heard positive reviews about the game.  So I decided to snatch it up off of Steam while it was on sale, but didn’t start playing it until about a week ago, when I found out that about a couple months after purchasing it they released a Gold Edition of the game.  Well fuck you too Capcom!  You see why I’m hesitant to purchase any brand-spankin’ new game within the first year it comes out (patches for bugs aside)?

So how was it?  Eh, it was ok.  I don’t know man, I don’t know if its because I’m getting too old for most games, or because I’ve played so many that it becomes very difficult to please me outside of nostalgia-baiting.  Or maybe it’s because the current state of the game industry makes me a little sick to my stomach, more so that all the gross-out moments this game shoved in my virtual face.

I will say that, by the end of it all, it did feel like a Resident Evil game.  But at the same time, it also felt like it took as many steps forward as it did backward, which frustrated me.  The main thing to discuss in that regard is the one thing I usually play games for nowadays, and that’s the story and/or characters.  Because games nowadays focus more on the look/feel/flash than they do on the gameplay.  And when it comes to first-person-shooters (FPS), that’s probably all that genre has left going for it.  Gone are the days where you could just play something like Doom I and II (the newer one from 2016 does not count) or Duke Nukem 3D, or Painkiller: Black, or Descent I-III.  You know, shooters with virtually no narrative or story outside the instruction manual (back when games came with those), where all you had to do was get weapons and blow shit up.  Those are a-dime-a-dozen, and it’s not exactly a high bar to meet when it comes to crafting an FPS game.  So we need to have story and characters to help stand out from the rest and get us gamers more easily immersed into the game.

So, story.  You play as some random dude who’s wife has disappeared, and you receive a message from her to stay away and forget about her.  So rather than forget about her and get another smoking hot wife to bang, he decides not to heed her advice and go out into the middle of “I buttfuck my daughter; redneck swamp land” nowhere, and decides to approach a house that looks like it’s been abandoned for a few years, if not a decade, crawls through swamp water and sewage and bugs and rotten food and other shit (maybe literally) until he finally finds a backdoor into the house where she is supposedly located.  You know, it might be because I’m not the heroic type, but I would’ve decided that she’s not worth this, and drove out of “I buttfuck my daughter” land back to “I buttfuck any hot chick who isn’t related to me” land (though with this franchise there would probably be a twist to that).  I mean, at least in the other Resident Evil games, the protagonists were thrust into these sorts of situations against their will, and usually due to extreme circumstances demanding extreme measures.  Either that or the protagonists were so muscular and heroic and martial arts masters that it just seemed by-the-numbers by their standards.

“Give grandma the hammer!”

But I digress.  Our protagonist eventually goes on to find his wife, who then goes berserk and kicks the crap out of you and saws your hand off, before you get captured by some redneck dad named Bubba who introduces you to the rest of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family (seriously, the parallels are impossible to ignore unless you haven’t seen that movie; the original Tobe Hooper movie from the 70s, none of the remakes you smart-asses).  Well, it got me a bit interested.

The thing is though, there’s something about these graphic styles for these games that put me off.  Something about the 3D modelling, the way they talk, the way they act, how they can never smile right.  And most important of all, how hard it tries to be realistic with the graphics.  It’s just something about that sort of emphasis on realism in a videogame that just doesn’t suit me.  I just can’t help but have the attitude of, “Who are you trying to fool?  You could have the effects as bad as Goldeneye on the N64 or as good as, I don’t know, whatever game exists now that people consider to be top of the line in terms of graphics, and it would all be the same to me.”  Bit of an exaggeration, but hopefully you see what I’m getting at.  It might just be a personal thing, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in thinking this.

Side-tracked again; back to the story.  So let’s just say that as the game goes on, the main villain/monster turns out to be some Ring/Grudge/Ju-On/F.E.A.R. chick.  Alright, you know what?  If this game is going to pull cliches like that out of its ass, it really should do so with a more tongue-in-cheek attitude.  But it plays things straight.  That trait is endearing in the first 3 Resident Evil games, but that doesn’t appeal to me here.

The last thing I’ll mention about the story, kind of.  There’s this moment in the game where you have to “make a choice.”  Whoah, a choice?  Where your decision affects the events in the game as well as the ending?  Do tell!  There’s nothing to tell.  Like most games that do this, it’s not really a choice.  It doesn’t matter who you choose to save.  Sure the choice does give you a different ending in the long-run, but it’s really stupid how saving one kills them both, saving the other gives you a happy ending with one of them living.  Would’ve been more intriguing if saving one gets you that girl at the end, while saving the other gets you that girl.  Not going to work that way, so the game just kinda beats you up for making a choice that seems more ethically wrong, I guess.  So it ends up being a waste of time inserting this so half-assedly into the game.  But it could’ve worked well if it had that tongue-in-(butt)cheek attitude.  Hey, if this game is going to be immature about this shit, then so am I.  On that note, when the decision came up, I chose the non-wife (Zoe).  Why?  Well because Zoe kept helping me in her own way with getting out of the place through a good portion of the game, while the wife (Mia) did nothing but do spouse abuse so extreme I’m surprised she didn’t resort to slicing my dick off.

There is a problem with this game, and I’m pretty sure I heard about it well-before ever purchasing it, but I think I chose to forget about it thinking, “No, that just can’t be.”  But it’s definitely there (poor choice of words).  So here’s the problem.  There are no zombies.  There’s not one foot-stepping, undead-moaning, dick-sucking zombie in this entire game.  Nothing in this game qualifies as a zombie as far as I’m concerned (anyone who says otherwise is stretching the definition too far).  Sure there are people who aren’t normal people, but they’re not normal in the same sense that all the regular enemies in Resident Evil 4 aren’t normal.  You know, in Resident Evil 4, all those not-zombie people had a decent enough awareness, they could talk, they could run a bit, and they could weld weapons, and they could mutate and shoot black stuff out of their heads.  Pretty much the same thing here, except the not-zombies in this game can pass off as normal people (at least as far as isolated hillbillies in a swamp can go for normalcy) .  They walk and talk like normal people, but they’re just stronger than average and are almost impossible to kill by any regular means (but in a Resident Evil game, nothing is regular).  And there’s only like 3, maybe 4, of them.  The rest of the time you’ll either be against these black gooey man-alligator things, giant mosquitoes, fat blubbery fucks, and the lickers (when they show up).  So boss fights aside (which are just mutations of the not-zombie people), there’s only like 4 different enemy types.  And that’s it.  Even the first Resident Evil game had more variety than that: zombies, zombie dogs, zombie spiders, hunters, zombie birds, zombie snakes, zombie wasps; and those aren’t even the bosses.

And speaking of bosses, yes, this game has enough variety in bosses to satisfy me.  But Jesus Christ do they go over-the-top with these boss fights.  Granted, they’ve been over-the-top ever since Resident Evil 2 (and it’s hard enough to resist a jumping the shark joke with the first game), but this game was aiming for more gritty realism goddamnit!  The fights get more over-the-top as the game goes on, and so do the mutations and monster forms.

See what I mean?

There are some nice nods to the first Resident Evil game.  Once you get involved in this “game” section where you go through some traps and such, some old-school Resident Evil music plays, and some nostalgic sound effects will go off when you press some buttons.  I appreciated the nostalgia.  Also didn’t hurt that it was one of the more memorable parts of the game, going through these Saw-like sections.  And the game almost convinced me that it was tongue-in-cheek.  But only for that section, the rest of the game thinks it’s too good for satire apparently.

At a few points in the game you get to watch some VHS tapes, which treats you to some lost footage films done in the same vane as The Blair Witch Project.  Now, the first time this happened I was interested, and there’s one other time where it does serve a legitimate purpose.  But for the most part I found them to be irritating distractions.  These should be sections that are cutscenes, but instead the game has you play as the person shooting the video (which makes zero sense for the last “video”), which gets even more annoying when you realize you can still screw up and die and have to start over.

As the game went on though, once you’re finally able to grasp what exactly is going on and how things got to be the way they are (ie why there are monsters), the game actually wasn’t half bad.  Plus I also became sympathetic to the swamp family, noting how they were before and after the incident, and how they’re crying out for their souls to be freed.  A bit of a touching moment I wasn’t expecting from a game like this.

So, despite my gripes, I can say the game is fun enough to be worth a play.

 

Other Notes

Now, with that all being said, I’d like to take a moment to talk about gaming in general, my personal opinions on the matter.  As I said earlier in the review, I fear my tastes in gaming have changed.  I fear I may not really be all that much of a gamer anymore.  Honestly, I try to do board games more than video games simply because I prefer playing against other human players, face-to-face.  You know, for face-to-face social interaction, something I believe society is in dire need of, rather than isolating ourselves and using social media as an illusion for legitimate social interaction.

Gaming to me should be fun.  And fun games for me personally, from what I’ve determined when looking back over the years, come in 3 categories:

1.) Short and sweet.  Basically games from the Sega Genesis and SNES time period, where the games were short, the difficulty was high, and you had to play it multiple times to get good at it.  There are plenty of games that are that old that I would still play to this day, like Contra (practically any of them, especially Hard Corps), Castlevania I III and Bloodlines, Starfox 64 (or the SNES version), among others.

2.) Games with an engrossing story and good characters.  The first one to really pull this off for me, which I still maintain to be the best (even if this is predictable) is Final Fantasy VII.  Memorable characters in storyline so fucking good I was willing to bear through the typical issues plaguing J-RPGs (random battles, some grinding, repetitive combat).  I’m not sure how I’d feel about this one today, but Skies of Arcadia on the GCN wasn’t half-bad either.  Tales of Symphonia had decent enough characters and story, and a pretty solid real-time 2D combat system to go along with it.  Kane & Lynch (the first one) I consider to be underrated.  And Spec Ops: The Line, whew, that whole game is designed to be a huge gut-punch to those who play third-person shooters regularly and don’t think much about the people they kill (look at you Uncharted).  Silent Hill 2 is probably one of the best, if not the best, character study games of all time.  And, of course, Metal Gear Solid 1-4 and The Witcher 2Starcraft is arguably the best RTS game in terms of storylines (especially if you read the background story given in the game manual), though I do need to play Warcraft IIIMass Effect 1-3 (though less so for the first one just because the side missions make the game’s pacing suffer considerably).  So, in other words, games that you talk about like they were movies when you’re done with them.  But God help you if you play a game solely for this reason, and it ends on a cliffhanger with no sequel ever happening (fuck you Valve for not wrapping up Half Life 2).

3.) Games that are paced well and do something right with the overall design, especially level design; and maybe throw in some semblance of a story as a bonus.  Super Mario World could arguably be the best designed out of all the traditional Super Mario games in regards to level/game design.  Resident Evil 2 is the go-to horror game for me to this day, mainly because it absolutely nails the zombie sounds, both the moans and the footsteps; and how it gets under my skin during the portions where no music is playing; it’s paced pretty damn well too, and has tremendous replay with different bosses you can face; and it really knows how to time a couple of those jump-scares; plus I believe limiting the player’s view to fixed camera positions works to the game’s advantage when it comes to horror and creating tension with the player.  Doom I is the best Doom game in terms of pacing and progression, both in terms of level design, the weapons you acquire, and the types of enemies that appear.  Doom II isn’t half-bad either, especially with the level design, but the pacing isn’t quite as there, and exists more as a reason for you to just go insane with the shooting, to just unload all those bullets into all those hordes of enemies.  It’s one of the reasons why I believe level design is the most important aspect when it comes to crafting an FPS, the second-most important aspect being pacing (types of enemies that show up on each level, which weapons you have each level).  Usually the one genre I cut a bit of slack are RPG games, especially The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, mainly because of the mods.  Valkyria Chronicles I think is pretty damn good too in terms of gameplay (plus I think the story and characters are so unintentionally hilarious it should be a case study; they have practically every anime cliche/stereotype in the book thrown into that game).  And there’s the Dark Souls games; these are games that aren’t afraid to challenge you, and it’s the kind of challenge that I like.  And then there’s Master of Orion (the first one, from 1993), which I firmly believe is the best 4X-civ game ever designed to this day, despite the dated graphics (at least it’s not Atari graphics and older, my tolerance for dated graphics doesn’t really extend further back than the 90s).  Lastly, I’m terrified of getting into X-Com: UFO Defense again, not because it’s a scary game (though it is tense as hell), but because of how addicted it is; first time I played, I started at like 9am, and next thing I new it was dusk; that scares the shit out of me if a game can make me lose track of time like that.

But anyway, there are some game genres I’d rather not touch just out of personal preference, like sports games and racing games (Grand Theft Auto V I guess could be considered an exception).  Aside from those, I’ve become quite picky when it comes to games.  Probably because I’d rather use my free time doing something else now.  Then again, it could be because the people I used to converse with about gaming in general are no longer around, giving me no one to talk to about this stuff once I’m done with it.  And no, writing reviews about games and bitching about them and/or praising them isn’t enough.  Or it could just be I’m going through a phase.  But considering how much less frequently I’ve been playing videogames over the past couple years compared to how often I’ve played in the past, I doubt it.  I guess it’s possible to reach a stage in your life where you’re gamed out, and are only willing to game on things you know for certain are of high quality (ie suited to your preference).

As for Resident Evil 7, it’s just going to be another one of those games that isn’t really all that special to me.  Entertaining and fulfilling, sure, but so is a burger from Burger King or Jack in the Box or Carls Jr.; just because it’s fulfilling doesn’t mean it stands out compared to the other games/burgers that are out there.  And at this point in my life, I’d rather indulge myself in games that do stand out.  As far as I’m concerned, most of those games are in the past, not in the present or future (with some potential exceptions, like Cyberpunk 2077).

The Witcher (2007) review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

Note: I have only played this game with the Full Combat Rebalance (FCR) mod. Any input I provide based on the combat gameplay will be a reflection of this, as this mod does give the game a significant overhaul.

Yep, regressed from the 2nd game into the first one. Why? Because I recall from playing it years ago that it was decent so long as you were patient about it. Also because I wanted a refresher on some of the characters before getting back into The Witcher 3. And like in my previous review, I did a (modded) playthrough which I recorded, edited, and uploaded as videos in a movie-like format (currently ongoing). This proved to be more difficult than editing footage for the 2nd game because:

1.) I was nowhere near as familiar with this game as I was with the 2nd.

2.) It’s longer. Five chapters plus a prologue and epilogue vs. the 3 chapters and prologue/epilogue of the 2nd game. This game can easily run you 50 hours of playtime, and unfortunately not all of those 50 hours is fun (more on that later).

3.) Much of the stuff that I wished was a meaningless sidequest, uh, isn’t, exactly. Some of the minor stuff in some of the chapters ends up playing into the main quest of each chapter.  That may sound nice, but it isn’t, because most of these side quests just aren’t very interesting (something rectified to the extreme in the 3rd game).

 

Gameplay and Comparison to Witcher 2

So here’s the thing about this game vs. it’s sequel. Aside from this being graphically inferior (that’s expected), the gameplay is also considerably different. This isn’t an over-the-shoulder (sort of) run-around hack-and-slash like the 2nd game. It plays more like a top-down point-and-click hack-and-slash ala Diablo and Titan’s Quest and Torchwood. You click where you want to move to, your character moves to that spot. You click on an enemy to attack, Geralt will proceed to do a sword combo on it (a combo that increases in sword swings and damage the more you upgrade Geralt, assuming you spend time upgrading his swordsmanship). And there’s 3 different attack styles: fast, strong, and group. Strong attacks are effective against enemies who are unarmored, fast attacks are good against those that are armored, and group attacks are great for when you’re surrounded by foes (though it’s usually best not to get surrounded or flanked). Of course, there’s also magic spells to cast, but I used those rarely in my playthroughs. Granted, if I played on a higher difficulty, that would likely force me to adapt to using spells more often, but the game isn’t worth putting that much effort into in my personal opinion. Others may find it more to their liking.

In any case, I found that I had to think more tactically in combat in this game compared to the sequel.   In Witcher 2, I could mostly just hack-and-slash without much worry, especially on the later levels. In this game, I couldn’t do that, even when I was leveling up pretty high. The game succeeds at this partly by not increasing your vitality when you level-up, thus keeping things tense with each combat situation in each chapter. Plus it adds an extra level of interactivity by giving you a small window of opportunity to chain moves together by clicking on the enemy at the right time when the sword symbol changes to a certain shape/color.  Click at the right time, you land more seamless blows.  Miss it or click too soon, the enemy will likely get more decent hits in before you can start chaining sword blows again.

Leveling up is also different compared to the 2nd game. When you gain enough experience points to level-up, you don’t just gain “talents” to be spent on whatever, oh no. There are 3 types of talents, bronze, silver, and gold. Bronze talents you get on every level-up, silver talents occur less frequently, and gold talents less frequently than that. And these talents aren’t just spread across magic, swordsmanship, and alchemy like in the 2nd game, it’s more branched out than that. There’s a section for strength (increase damage), dexterity (increase dodging/parrying), stamina (increase resistance to poising/bleeding/etc.), and intelligence (making magic and alchemy stronger). That’s just one section. Then there’s a section for upgrading each spell type (Aard, Quen, Yrden, etc.). A section for upgrading silver sword attacks (good against monsters) in either fast, strong, or group style, and another section for doing the same with steel swords (good against humans). Don’t like it as much as the simplified leveling system in the 2nd game, but it’s decent enough. Did make for some somewhat difficult decision-making, which isn’t much of a bad thing, especially when you can see the results of your leveling choices and see where you may need improvement depending on your play-style. I don’t prefer use of magic, but others likely will.

And then there’s the potions and oils, which you make using an alchemy process.  Potions strengthen you in some way, while oils are put on sword blades to make them stronger against specific enemy types (humans, specters, insectoids, etc.).  Only 1 oil type can be applied to a sword at a time, while you can drink as many potions as you want (theoretically), but each potion you drink poisons you more, and if you go too far into the drinking, your health will start getting sapped, so you need to choose your consumption wisely.  The main potion I consumed throughout most of the game is the Swallow potion, which regenerates your health faster than normal.  So, yeah, you’ll be swallowing a lot.

Another thing about the gameplay is, like in Witcher 2 and 3, there’s a day/night cycle. Time moves, and NPCs will be in different locations depending on whether it’s day or night, or even dawn/afternoon/dusk/midnight. But unlike those games, this mechanic, while immersive, proves to be frustrating. It gets goddamn annoying when you realize time dictates when and where characters are that you need to interact with in order to complete quests, and you can’t fucking find them until you either wait or meditate to the right fucking time. This wouldn’t be so bad if this game had a tracking system as good as Witcher 2, where you see the destination/objective on the map which is tracked in real-time. Not so in this game. Each quest objective is always listed in the same static map position, regardless of the time of day, so you have to wait for that time of day to interact with so-and-so. This is why I liked Grand Theft Auto V, and least in that game, when you reach an objective and it’s no the right time of day, the game fast-forwards until it is the right time and lets you carry on from there. The day/night mechanic is more trouble than it’s worth, and it drags on the game length needlessly. The immersion is not worth this.

Another little annoyance is the running from one destination to another.  Really wish Geralt could run faster from place to place.

Lastly, a lot of the NPCs are recycled.  As in it won’t take long to notice that many of them look the same.  Get’s particularly frustrating when some of the npcs that play a role in the main plot are hard to distinguish from some anonymous merchant on the street.

 

The Story

So that’s the gameplay. Then there’s the story. Long story short, it’s not as good as The Witcher 2’s story. Mainly because it’s not as intriguing with the plot and characters and political intrigue (though this game does still provide that albeit in watered down doses), but also because it takes a while for things to click into high gear. The prologue is typical introductory fluff. Chapter 1 is more of the same, with most of the events proving to be insignificant to what would come later, and is more of a stand-alone chapter to get the player more acquainted with the gameplay and the “decisions have consequences” feel. Oh, right, you do get to make choices in this game that produce different outcomes, but unlike the sequel, there are no alternate endings. Only 1 endings, and how you get there can alter slightly, and almost no decision you make will alter how the sequel(s) play out; save for saving or killing Princess Adda (whom you get to bang, of course), but even then it’s just a minor afterthought brought up in Witcher 2, and hardly even noticeable in Witcher 3 without a mod if I remember correctly.

So like I was saying, the Prologue does get the story going, giving you a goal and motivation. Chapter 1 more-or-less just gets you acquainted with the gameplay and only 2 other significant characters (for about 5-8 hours). Then comes Chapter 2, which is easily the slowest fucking chapter in this entire fucking game. So many sidequests that, to this game’s credit, do link up to the main quest. But in hindsight nothing really significant happens in Chapter 2. Chapter 2 exists to get you familiar with the main city you’ll be spending most of the game in, and those who live within it, and some backstory.  The gangs, thugs, drug addicts, poor people, old people, the hospital, those infected by the plague, the knights of the Order, the town watch, the grave-digger, the humans and non-humans, some people from Geralt’s past, etc. It sounds nice and all, but not for 10 fucking hours with the plot progressing at a pace so slow even snails would be feeling sorry for you. Chapter 2 is a glorified detective/mystery, where solving it doesn’t really accomplish much or move the plot forward hardly at all. It’s just for atmosphere and getting you familiar with the world.

Thankfully, once you get past Chapter 2, it only gets better from there. The political intrigue picks up in Chapter 3, where you wonder about Triss’ intentions and ulterior motives, you get more involved with the conflict between the Order of the Flaming Rose and the Scoia’tael, learn some interesting things about the criminal organization the Salamandra, and how they link into different sects high and low, and how they are used by those sects. And it only gets better from there. And I have to admit, by the time it got to the epilogue, a plot twist came up that, to this game’s credit, I honestly did not see coming, even if in hindsight I should have.

Chapter 4 slows things down a bit, but not to the extent of Chapter 2.  And, again, it slows things down so you can get familiar with a particular character who pops up off and on throughout the previous chapters (excluding the prologue).  Then when it gets to Chapter 5, full steam ahead all the way through to the prologue.  It becomes pretty damn difficult to stop playing the game once Chapter 5 hits.  And it all leads to a potential “end of the world” scenario.  You know, like just about every single fucking RPG game ever made because creators/writers/corporations think having the stakes set that high is the only way to have a rousing and intense finale.  I always roll my eyes at plots like this about as often as I roll my eyes at forced love interests in both games and film, because both usually come off as cheap and easy ways to get the player/viewer invested in the character(s) and/or plot.  If you want my appreciation, make the characters interesting via their interactions with one another, their motivations, their personal journey and character arc.  Which is why I have an appreciation for Witcher 2’s plot because it accomplished exactly that.  The plot isn’t about the end of the world so much as the fate of a nation (or several), and how the leaders have their own personal goals, how they each treat their own people, and how your character feels about that and if he will side with any of them, or none.  On top of that, there are also character well aware of his amnesia who may or may not be trying to take advantage of him because of that.  Is he being used?  Is he choosing to be used?  Does he (or anyone else for that matter) have free will?  What’s the price to pay for existence?  Did you do the right thing?

Now in this game, it does focus primarily on the purpose of Geralt, what’s his motivation, what’s his character.  They make this simple by starting the game off with him as an unknown prisoner who breaks free to make a name for himself and save the world.  Wait, I got that wrong, that’s like every Bethesda game ever made.  They make it simple by starting the game off with him running through the wilderness being chased by some ominous unseen figure calling his name (like the opening to the Witcher 2, but with worse graphics and camerawork), and he awakens at Kaer Morhen (home to a school of Witchers), with no memory.  Then the place gets attacked, and he is off on his own to find out about the attackers, get their Witcher shit back that was stolen from them, and learn about himself in the process.

Now, it’s the “learning about himself” that is key here, in an attempt to make the players become attached to Geralt.  The player is faced at several points in the game to make decisions that not only have consequences, but determine just what kind of a character Geralt is going to be now.  Will he be like his old self?  Will he follow the Witcher’s code?  Or will he choose a side in the ongoing conflict between the Order and the Scoiatel?  This may seem a bit more common in today’s RPGs, and I can’t say this is the first game to do this (the earliest in current memory is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), but 2007 seemed to be a big year for games like this where this sort of “choose your own adventure” RPGs became more prominent.  After all, this game was released in the same year as Mass Effect (though it doesn’t look as good from a graphic’s standpoint).

Now, while this “choose your own adventure” element seems nice and all, the game becomes a bit of a dick about the whole thing during the later chapters.  If you choose not to remain neutral during the events of Chapter 4, characters in Chapter 4 and 5 won’t let you hear the end of it.  Basically, the game is just straight up telling you, “How dare you play it your way!  How dare you not stay lore friendly and true to the Witcher’s code!  For shame!”  Basically made me flip them the bird before reloading to an earlier save prior to one of those “choices” and go for the more neutral path.  Yes, I’ll admit it, the game shamed me into doing it, and I was pissed about it.

So anyway, the story does get good, it just takes a while to get there. And by a while, I mean 15+ hours. This is not a short game. Hell, I positive it takes longer to get through than Assassins of Kings does.  According to howlongtobeat.com, this game is anywhere from 10-15 hours longer than Witcher 2, and it feels that way during the early sections.  But, again, if you have the patience, and can withstand some mediocre voice-overs and some slow slogs, the game does manage to feel worth it in the end.

 

Comparison to Mass Effect

It’s worth comparing the two (briefly) because, despite the fact that both games play completely differently and occur in entirely different settings, both games share similar flaws, and were released in the same year (2007).  I’ll be the first to admit that Mass Effect is the better game compared to The Witcher.  That being said, I’d be hesitant to play either game again in the near future, especially Mass Effect.  Why?  Because the decisions you are forced to make in The Witcher are more thought-provoking and intriguing than in Mass Effect, in my opinion.  Plus, while the side quests aren’t THAT interesting in The Witcher, I’d take those over the monotonous side quests of Mass Effect.  In The Witcher, at least the side quests involve some preparation and learning, where you have to prep yourself for the monsters to go after, and fight differently for each one.  Some of the environments are similar (particularly the caves), but most of the time the encounters are in distinct areas to give them a different feel.  In Mass Effect, holy Christ!  The side quests sucked ass!  Similar levels/rooms/buildings (to the point where I’m positive they were clones of each other), the same fucking enemies making the same fucking comments (which they took comedic jabs at in Mass Effect 2), and it became a chore real fast.  But when it came to the main quest(s), I’d have to give the edge to Mass Effect.  The story was told better and paced better, if you discount the side quests.

And also like Mass Effect 2, Witcher 2 could be played by carrying over your save file from Witcher 1 and have some influence over the plot in that game.  However, it was much more significant in Mass Effect 2, just about everything you did in the first game had an impact in the 2nd game, a significant and noticeable impact too, even with those shitty side quests from the first game.  In Witcher 2, to be honest, it really doesn’t matter that much if you carry over the save or not (again, something heavily rectified in Witcher 3).  And that’s all the comparisons I’ll make for those 2 sequels.

In regards to the gameplay, Mass Effect is more involving, where you have to constantly aim and shoot (or aim and cast, depending on your preference), and had a greater variety of play-styles compared to that of The Witcher.  Granted, Witcher has variety too, where you can focus on spells or swords, or a combination of both, but the variety is greater and more noticeable in Mass Effect.  Plus Mass Effect had more tactics where you could direct squad members to attack other enemies in a certain way, or hang back, or use an item/ability, etc.  In The Witcher, it’s only your character Geralt, and his fighting styles, and that’s it.  But Mass Effect’s tactical play comes at the cost of pausing the gameplay so you can click on an ability, aim it at an enemy or ally, and then un-pause it.  Some people like this style of play, and to be honest it didn’t bother me all that much in Mass Effect.  But games like Dragon Age: Origins (released 2 years after Mass Effect and The Witcher) where you’re doing the same thing except from a top-down perspective just didn’t gel with me.  So I probably would’ve hated The Witcher if it incorporated this aspect so heavily.  Granted, you can pause mid-battle to get a better angle on things, but this didn’t happen very often with my playthrough.

I know that CD Project Red was a small-time indie company at this point, so they had less finances to work with when making this game, and it is admirable that it turned out as good as it did under the circumstances.  But it is what it is, and I can only judge it by how I feel now, and I’m not going to take it easy on it just because of the circumstances surrounding the making of them game, I’m just going to judge the game as-is.  Both games are good, both have faults, and Mass Effect is probably the better made one overall.  But neither one is something I would likely want to revisit while it’s still fresh in my memory, especially when the sequels to both games are so much better.

Mass Effect’s strongest point is its story and universe-building, getting into the races, their interactions, and how the main character can impact all of them. The central character(s) tend to be secondary to that. This does not mean the characters are weak, they each have their motivations and such. However, they seem too influenced by what you (acting as the protagonist) do and want to happen, being less independent in their own right. The game cuts a fine line between them acting on their own and acting based on how you want, and it works fine as is. It tends to be on the fan-service side in regards to characters.

While the Witcher has a world-building aspect to it in terms of Temeria and its occupants, it’s focus is less on that and more on the character of Geralt himself. How much is he influenced by others? Should he be influenced by them? The characters in The Witcher come off as more independent and self-motivated than those in Mass Effect. While Mass Effect has the aspect of, “Your leadership and influences those around you.”  In other words, the lives of most other major characters seems to revolve around the main character, and thus revolve around you.  The Witcher seems to be the reverse of this. It’s more like, “How much are you influenced by those around you?” Because the game continuously jabs at you for the decisions you make, making you wonder if you made the right decision, or if there ever was a right decision to make. In this case having the game end the same way no matter what, while changing the way it gets there, fits perfectly because of the whole fate/destiny theme being brought up. The free will theme being an extension of the player pulling the protagonist’s strings. Or is it the player having their strings pulled by others in the game?  Either way, the message is the same.  You may or may not choose to get caught up in a cause, or to stay neutral to them all; but no matter what you do, do not forget about yourself and what really matters to you, what your principles are, and if choosing or not choosing a cause runs the risk of you being forced to violate your principles.  The fact that Geralt is imperfect and is guaranteed to make mistakes (regardless of players trying to choose the lesser of evils, or not) is what makes him a fascinating character, and is what makes the game every bit as memorable as Mass Effect.  That, and he’s capable of banging more broads, and of different races too (speaking of similarities to Mass Effect).

Plus the last act of the game will have you questioning whether or not you’re doing the right thing, and I love games that provoke that thought.  Indicates it’s smart enough to make a lot of grey rather than keeping things black and white.  Mass Effect tends to be more on the black and white side of things.  If you make a decision that doesn’t involve saving/sparing lives, sometime down the road you will be punished for it.  In the case of the Witcher, sparing a life or killing someone doesn’t always result in a good or bad thing.  And even if it does result in a good thing, down the line it could lead to a bad thing, and vice versa.  It’s what makes the better moments of The Witcher stick with me.  That being said, the sequels took this element and did it better, especially in Witcher 3.

The Witcher is a more deep thought provoking philosophical and character study at its core, while Mass Effect is more of a fun sci-fi ride with plenty of story and lore and, dare I say, universe to keep it interesting. That being said, both games have a bit of both, I’m just mentioning the main narrative strengths of each.  Looking back on both, the main thing that stuck with me regarding the Witcher was Triss’ mysterious backdoor political dealings in Chapter 3 (which ultimately made her a fully realized 3-dimensional character), and the whole finale from Chapter 5 and onwards which provoked a sense of guilt and wonder.  With Mass Effect, I enjoyed getting introduced to the universe and all that lived within, how the races worked, what their personalities and traits are, the first appearance of Saren, the confrontation with Liara’s mother and the spider monster, and everything from when the original creators of the Citadel are revealed and all the way to the action-packed finale.  Both games know how to put on a finale.

 

Why I revisited the game

I brought up earlier that one of the reasons I wanted to play through this again was to get familiar with the characters again. Because some characters who are in this game are not in the 2nd one, yet they make reprising roles in Witcher 3. Sure I could’ve just watched one of those 3-6 hour “movie version” videos online, and I was tempted, and that sure as shit would’ve been less time-consuming than this game, but I wanted to experience this game again, even if it’s for one last time. Plus I wanted to see if it’s still fun to play today. And I must admit, if you have the patience and are willing to invest into it and become immersed in the world, it is worth it. If you can get to Chapter 3, the rest of the game is a breeze in terms of pacing and progression. It becomes quite captivating at that point.  Plus it does have some unintentional hilarity with the dialogue.

So, the game is flawed, tests your patience, but is a decent enough experience. If you’re to play any version, makes sure it’s the Enhanced Edition (like how Witcher 2 got an enhanced edition, and how Witcher 3 got a Game of the Year edition). Despite the annoyances and frustrations, there’s enough here to make it worthwhile.  But it’s only worthwhile if you play all the way to the end.  That will run you around roughly 50 hours.

Pros:
* A good storyline with some intrigue and questions on morality and destiny, and will leave you pondering on some points.
* Some colorful characters.
* Combat on any difficulty above Easy can prove challenging in a fun way, encouraging tactics and positioning and timing, plus some prep-work that fits with the whole theme/lore of how witchers work.
* Great finale.
* Immersive and interesting world.

Cons:
* The plot pacing is spotty, and requires much patience before getting to the good stuff.
* Graphics are dated, even with the mods.
* Too many NPCs that look exactly the same.
* Voice-acting ranging from acceptable to laughable.
* Running from one objective to the next gets tiresome.
* Uninteresting side-quests.
* The dice-poker still sucked as much as it did in the 2nd game.
* The brawl mini-game is really not that good (gets better with the sequels, especially #3).
* The camera angles during some of the dialogue bits are terrible some of the time.

And should you choose to undertake the endeavor of playing this game, I know of some mods that will make it less painful. Which brings me to the other reason I’ve decided to go through this again. None of the videos are of the modded version, at least not in terms of graphics mods. Well, time to bring them up:

 

Mods

Rise of the White Wolf

Original on top, mod on bottom.

This is THE main graphics mod to get. Makes the game and characters look so much better. I mean, look at the comparisons between the vanilla game and modded game version of Geralt:
[Geralt image comparison]
And it not only makes the major characters look better, but also enhances the look of the UI. There’s one other mod next to this one that I consider mandatory. The only thing I don’t like is what they did with the druid chick and the water nymph.
[druid image comparison]

Full Combat Rebalance


Would not play this game without this mod. Makes combat more tactical and deep using a very simple method. It makes Geralt more susceptible to high damage when taking hits from the sides or the back (especially the latter). Something the developers liked so much they incorporated it into the second Witcher game. On top of that, enemies no longer just appear wherever just for the hell of it, they are more focused in areas they live in. Drowners stay near the water, swamp monsters stay near the swamp and/or islands in the swamp. In other words, enhances the immersion and lore, and gives a heavier dose of tactics to the combat.

Witcher High Res Character Models
Improves the looks of most other characters in the game that Rise of the White Wolf missed (though you will need to remove some files if you don’t want them overwriting that particular mod).

Witcher Overhaul Project
A mod that improves not only the textures, but also the sound.

-Dontforceminreqs Low Res Texture Fix
Unlocks the high textured graphic capability, so that you can see some detailed textures to take advantage of the mod(s) above.

Witcher Perfect Blood
Blood looks better, and so do the slashes on the characters. Worth noting that using this mod requires the Perfect Blood Fix

Permanent Bodies
Sick of not being able to teabag your enemies when they’re dead? Well now this makes it possible, at least when they get around to making a tea-bagging mod.

Perfect Rain Mod
Rain looks more natural.

Stop the Rain
If you think it rains too much, you’ll be given access to a scroll that, when read, gradually stops the rain. Immersion-breaking in the sense that Geralt has the ability to control the weather, plus I’ve never personally used it. But hey, for those who are interested.

The Witcher Alchemy Mod


Makes alchemy ingredients easier to see/identify in the inventory panel.

Plentiful Herbs
Increases the number of herbs you get for each time you pull from a plant. Good time-saver so that you’re not out picking every single bush and going out of your way to do so.

Leuvaarden Buys Salamandra Badges
Hey, now he actually does what he said he would do.

Missing Kalkstein and Leuvaarden Clues Fix
Makes Chapter 2 less of a hassle. And believe me, the less of a hassle Chapter 2 is and the faster you can get through it, the better.

Scabbard Mod
This mod is a bit buggy, so I’ve heard, and for that reason I haven’t tried it. But it is a bit popular, so I’m including it. Gives you actual sheaths for your swords.

Installation guide, if you’re interested:

1.) Create “Override” folder inside “Data” folder. Install everything into this with the (Override) indicator.

2.) Install (exe) Rise of the White Wolf https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/669/?
Don’t select the skyboxes option if you wish to use the skyboxes from Witcher Overhaul Project.

3.) Install (exe) FCR http://www.moddb.com/mods/full-combat-rebalance1/downloads/full-combat-rebalance-v16

(optional, buggy) 4.) Install (exe) Scabbard Mod http://www.moddb.com/mods/scabbard-mod/downloads/scabbard-mod-v104

5.) Install (Override) Witcher High Res Character Models http://www.moddb.com/mods/witchercharactermodels/downloads/the-witcher-hi-res-character-models
Delete the following files from the previous mod:
an_sheep_c1
an_sheep_c2
cr_adda1_g1
cr_assas1_c2
cr_beren1_c1
cr_beren1_g1
cr_bruxa1_c1
cr_bruxa1_g1
cr_deidre1_c1
cr_deidre1_g1
cr_drown1_c1
cr_drown1_c2
cr_elf5_c1
cr_elf5_g1
cr_eskel1_c1
cr_folt1_c1
cr_folt1_g1
cr_golem1_c1
cr_golem1_g1
cr_grav1_c1
cr_guard1_c1
cr_guard1_c3
cr_guard1_c4
cr_guard1_c5
cr_guard1_g3
cr_guard1_g4
cr_guard1_g5
cr_guard2_c1
cr_jaskr1_c1
cr_jaskr1_g1
cr_kalks2_c1
cr_knigh1_g1
cr_knigh3_c1
cr_knigh3_c2
cr_knigh3_g2
cr_lamb1_g1
cr_maggot_c1
cr_naked3_c1
cr_order2_c1
cr_order2_g1
cr_order5_c1
cr_order5_g1
cr_order5_g2
cr_order5_g3
cr_order5_g4
cr_order5_g5
cr_order6_c1
cr_order6_g1
cr_pries2_c2
cr_pries2_g2
cr_prof2_c1
cr_prof2_g1
cr_rayla1_g1
cr_scoia5_c1
cr_scoia10_g1
cr_toruv1_g1
cr_triss1_g1
cr_triss2_c1
cr_triss2_g1
cr_vanes2_c1
cr_vanes2_g1
cr_vesem1_c1
cr_were2_c1
cr_wicht1_c1
cr_wicht2_c1
cr_wicht2_g1

6.) Install (Override) Witcher Overhaul Project https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/703/?

7.) Install (Override) -Dontforceminreqs Low Res Texture Fix https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/649/?

8a.) Install (Override) Witcher Perfect Blood http://www.moddb.com/mods/the-witcher-perfect-blood-mod/downloads/the-witcher-perfect-blood-full-dl

8b.) Install (Override) Perfect Blood Fix https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/258/?

9.) Install (Override) Permanent Bodies https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/703/?

9a.) Install (Override) Perfect Rain Mod http://www.moddb.com/mods/the-witcher-perfect-rain-mod/downloads/the-witcher-perfect-rain-full-dl

(optional) 9b.) Install (Override) Stop the Rain https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/30/?

10.) Install The Witcher Alchemy Mod https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/197/?
Replace the RotWW files in “\ata\z_zrotww\items_optional”.

11.) Install (Override) Plentiful Herbs https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/31/?

12.) Install (Override) Leuvaarden Buys Salamandra Badges https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/659/?

13.) Install (Override) Missing Kalkstein and Leuvaarden Clues Fix https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/657/?

 

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings review

Rated: 5/5

Yep, a game review.  And with that rating, you can rightfully expect that this will be a glowing review with praises and hugs and kisses.  And sex and violence.  And mods.  And modded sex and violence.  It’s going to be one of those reviews, so I’m putting up the warning signs.

I am not kidding.  This will also include sexually explicit content.  You’ve been warned.

Anyway, this game franchise is based on a series of novels (though they did start as short stories before growing into novels that linked together into a cohesive narrative).  It’s important to use the term “based,” because it doesn’t exactly follow the storyline of the books all that accurately.  Rather, it has its own story with some inspiration from the novels, but keeps the characters and their motivations fairly accurate.

This game has a moment where they tell this story, minus the her begging to have sex part.

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