The Banner Saga: Series Complete

The Saga has been completed. I started the game the day or day after it released, and I finished it up on Saturday evening. Having played all three and imported my saves throughout, it was a sweeping tale that was personalized for me due to choices I made while playing. I must say I rather enjoyed it, and will be sad to not have another to play in a couple of years.

I ran through the first game back in 2014, after hearing about it via Keen & Graev, though I didn’t provide much in the way of description or screenshots.

I beat The Banner Saga. Apparently there’s more than one ending though, so I’m interested to do another play through, but not right at the moment. My ending saw Rook’s daughter getting killed by Bellower, and us sending her off on a raft in a Viking-appropriate burial at sea. The abrupt ending didn’t really have much of an explanation, though I read somewhere that this is the first in a series, so perhaps more will make sense later. Either way, it was a fun game and I’d recommend it.

Things changed by the time I got around to the sequel in 2016, I was definitely more mindful of taking an abundance of screenshots to chronicle my journey here on the blog. You’ll have to visit that post for a recap of sorts, though I hadn’t finished the game to that point. I didn’t make a followup post, just mentioned beating it later on that year. At this point, having completed the trilogy, I’ve got a ton of spoiler filled screens in the gallery below. You should probably avoid those if you are planning to play the game yourself, but I’d be interested to hear about differences in your story. I know that in the first game either Alette or Rook die, so I assume in this last game that survivor will be in place to meet their end as well. I’m sure other variables exist, I know I was earning achievements based on certain things. I believe being a Kickstarter backer or buying the at release DLC provided you with some amazing allies that you wouldn’t normally have, and they helped me complete the game so quickly (and with minimal losses).

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As I said before about this game, and its predecessors, its more of the same, but it is a good same. I loved playing through this title, but the only thing that was a bit disappointing was the amount of questions I have now that it is done. The end was rather abrupt and left us hanging. Its clear that things didn’t go as you would have hoped, and yet there was a sense of finality to it. I guess it just wasn’t the ending I expected, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just different. I’d still recommend this trilogy to anyone who asked, it’s worth the asking price and I’m sure it will be bundled up nicely soon enough if you’ve never tried any of them.

The Council: Episode 3

The third episode of The Council released this past week and I missed the announcement, but managed to get it installed and completed by yesterday afternoon. Picking up right where the prior season left off, we have entered the catacombs in search of our main character’s mother. She ends up not being around, but one of Mortimer’s henchmen has been killed. President Washington finds you with the dead body and for whatever reason doesn’t immediately believe you to be the murderer, but wants you to attend the big meeting the entire story is centered upon, since your mother is still missing. Here’s where the meat and potatoes of the episode gets going.

Without being too spoilery, the meeting starts off with a fairly split group and only a few days to reach a conclusion via vote. You’re tasked with swaying some of the members’ votes, and then things go from bad to worse. A couple of main characters die. You finally find your mother. The supernatural is brought into question and sort of threw me for a loop. See, I was enjoying the fact that this was a political drama and though there are many religious and mythological references throughout, it was still seated in reality. It’s reminiscent of films such as The Da Vinci Code. At a certain point in my playthrough, supernatural forces are revealed to be at work (or perhaps the character making this revelation has gone mad) and this nearly lost me. I’m still suspending my disbelief, but I think the political intrigue and mystery elements were enough without introducing “demons” as a motivating factor for bad things to happen. How 18th century. Nonetheless, I’ll save my judgement for now because perhaps the person talking about demons is just crazy and we can get back to a more realistic viewpoint of the game. Here are my results through the next three chapters:

Overall I’m still enjoying this narrative adventure. Again, I’ll save my judgement until I can judge the series as a whole, but I do hope that it steers away from the lazy, supernatural answers it posed to give during episode three. Time will tell.

Shadow of the Colossus (2018 Remaster): Complete

Over the weekend I put some more time into this classic title and was finally able to complete it last night. All in all it wasn’t a very difficult game, but for its time it would have been a tad more difficult, only because we weren’t as apt to Google game walkthroughs. For the most part I was able to figure out the puzzle of each colossi, but there were a couple tricky ones (particularly the last boss) that required some research to complete. One thing I forgot to show off the last time I posted about the game was the fact that there is a gallery of comparison shots and it really shows off how much better this version of the game looks. Hearing this from someone is one thing, seeing for yourself is another:

Such a huge difference when the pictures are put side by side! It’s night and day, really. The remainder of the bosses I had to defeat continued to ramp up in difficulty, but as I said it wasn’t anything too terrible. I don’t think I had to take a break and come back later save for on the final boss, as in most cases I quickly dispatched the colossus and moved onto the next. Here are most of them, falling in battle, along with some other generally nice looking screens:

Spoiler alert, your horse falls into a chasm helping you get to the final colossus, and a moment of silence was had for its loss. After the final colossus falls, there is a long drawn out epilogue that is half watched and half played. If you haven’t completed the game yet, I’d avoid the rest of this post.

If you’re still here, I’ll explain what’s happening in the pictures above. Basically there is a group of shamans or druids or something like that which were revealed a couple of fights prior to the last boss in a short cutscene. They are travelling to the shrine where you began your journey, but its not clear at that time what they are planning to do. After defeating the last colossus you aren’t immediately teleported back to the shrine. These folks arrive first, find the dead girl on the altar, and start mumbling about things when you do finally teleport back. When you arrive it’s clear that something isn’t quite right; the shadowy figures you’ve seen throughout the game are also appearing now to everyone else. You rise like a zombie and move in to attack the priests. A fight ensues, you’re stabbed, it doesn’t kill you, then you are covered with the shadowy substance and it is revealed that an evil demon was broken into 16 shards and those shards placed within the colossi, and now he’s possessed the character you’ve played the whole game. You briefly get to control him and attack the people, but they end up escaping across the bridge and destroying it on their way out. Of course, now that you’re dead, your lady friend has awoken. More happy news, your horse didn’t die, but it clearly broke its leg and is now hanging out with your friend. Roll credits.

A strange ending to say the least, and not really much of a wrap up. The priests sealed this temple with some sort of spell to keep the demon locked away, but now this chick and your horse are left behind with no other people in sight. Seems like you cursed her to a doomed existence. I guess we’ll never really know.

You can get a copy of this title for $40 right now if you’re interested in trying it yourself. I’d recommend it.

Mini-Impressions: Crash Bandicoot and Shadow of the Colossus Remasters

Recently I wrote about moving on from gaming experiences that I just wasn’t feeling. Monster Hunter World was one of those games that was surrounded by hype and many people were enjoying so I took a risk and bought it for full price. Apparently the game isn’t for everyone though, as I ended up not really caring for it. As such, I traded it in at Gamestop and picked up copies of two older games that have been remastered on the PS4: Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy and Shadow of the Colossus. In both cases I have already played through a bit and can report that I’m thoroughly enjoying these titles much more than the game I traded in. The former title is nothing like MHW, though the latter could draw some comparisons, only because you are hunting down Colossi, which are still much larger than the “monsters” I saw in MHW. Either way, I’m a happy camper with this decision, and wanted to share my thoughts on these games.

I already mentioned that I had prior history with both of these games, but I hadn’t completed any of them. I only played the original Crash Bandicoot sparsely, and never touched the sequels and I only personally played the PS3 remastered version of Shadow of the Colossus. Crash is instantly recognizable, and I love the intro loading screen that shows the original Crash use a machine to turn from his low-poly form to his newly updated version. I distinctly remember levels off of the original and they look much better with the updated visuals. The core gameplay remains the same, it’s a unique platformer (for the time) that uses varying points of view that would later become trivial in game design but was something new during the era. Details that I maybe didn’t take in on my first try during the PSOne days are clearly visible, and there is room for replay given the differing collections and unlockable areas. It clearly was the Playstation’s answer to Mario and Sonic, and to a degree I think it was a great series and definitely provided new challenges for the genre. The only think I think would make this collection even better is if they were to remaster Crash Team Racing. I would literally play the shit out of some CTR particularly if you could have online functionality for the racing and the battle mode! Was my favorite game of the series (and one of my favorite PSOne games of all time!).

Shadow of the Colossus is similar to the above title in that it is a remaster, but it’s also a game that has been remastered twice. Originally released for the Playstation 2, it became a cult classic. This is the same game, only much better looking. I have seen the original in action as I used to watch my old roommate play it when we lived together. I recognize and understand how to beat some of the early colossi because I’ve seen it done. I also purchased the first remaster of the game for PS3, and though I think it did look better than the PS2 version (at the time my memory of the two would have been more recent) this new remaster takes the cake. Having already paid for the last remaster (that should only count as upping the resolution because it’s still night and day different), playing through this game should count as clearing something else from the backlog. For those of you who already purchased this the last time and didn’t ever complete it I’d say you should pick it up as well, and if you’ve never played one of the other versions definitely give this a whirl.

The story is simple enough: You are trying to bring a loved one back to life, so you travel to this temple and place her on an altar. You are met by a celestial voice that says that you can bring her back to life if you are to defeat the 15 colossi in this land, but that it will come at great cost to you. After that it’s not much dialogue, you’ll use your special sword to use the reflection of the sun to direct you to your prey. From there you’ll open up new areas and find more to take down. Fighting the colossi is interesting and varied. Typically there will be some sort of weak point that you can damage to bring the beast down and then you’ll climb onto it and stab at another weak point (or more) to kill the beast. You have a stamina gauge when climbing however, so you have to do things quickly and wisely to finish the task at hand. There’s a pretty awesome photo mode included where you can get some awesome screen shots and I appreciate that as a blogger. Each time you kill a colossi, you’re filled with this black smoke/goo that is shooting out of their weak points and then teleported back to the original temple. Your body will lie there until you gain consciousness, you’ll be surrounded by dark figures that I assume represent those that you killed, and the idol of the slain colossus will crumble. I have a feeling those dark souls are part of the “great cost” I’ll be paying to bring my loved one back to life. At this point I’ve taken down the first three colossi and discovered the fourth.

I’ll report back once I’ve struck these games from the list.

Batman: Episode 5

Despite finishing up my playthrough of this title last week, it’s been fun spending some time going back over the events in my mind this week. I love being able to share gaming experiences whether they are bad or good, and in the case of this game, they were pretty good! Let’s run through my choices for the final episode, shall we?

As the episode opens, it seems that Penguin has set a trap for Batman, but I end up going as Bruce Wayne. At Cobblepot Park, we meet the masked menace again, but this time he’s got a trap set and Gotham police are taking the brunt of it. Gordon can’t seem to get close enough to make an arrest, so I offer to go in. Unarmed, I approach Penguin and start up a conversation trying to make a distraction for Gordon, apparently I failed at this, but it didn’t seem all that detrimental to the plot.

Later, there is some exposition between Bruce and Alfred, and he is expressing his regret for not pushing Bruce’s father into a better life, and not telling Bruce the truth earlier, etc. I reassured Alfred, and said that none of that matters, that we have to save Gotham. A very Batman like thing to do I suppose.

Selina is leaving town, but not before stealing some Wayne Tech from me. I confront her, she gives it back, we have a little moment where I tell her she’s more than just a thief, and she rides off into the sunset. Not much of a happy ending there.

During the final confrontation with the leader of the Children of Arkham, down below the building itself in some hidden chapel, Alfred has been captured and is being tortured. In order to set him free I reveal my true identity and remove my mask. The villain would have left with this information but ends up being smashed by falling debris before my secret could get out.

Gordon is now the interim Commissioner, and at the end of the day he is giving an address to the city and I have a choice to go as Bruce or Batman. Given the fact that Bruce’s reputation was shit on this whole series, I went unmasked to try and raise that reputation again.

I’m curious to see how these choices might tie into the new season. I will likely pick that up at some time, but I’m not in any rush. It’ll probably go on sale sooner or later (maybe by Summer?). If I do, you know I’ll have more to share and will do so here. Stay tuned.