Quick Thoughts: Games on the Cheap

Generally speaking, there are far too many games released in a given year to play them all. Sometimes you have to spend your limited expendable funds carefully, and that means skipping some titles in favor of others. What’s great about our current gaming climate, is that typically a year or so after a game releases (or stops releasing DLC) it typically has a “Game of the Year,” “Complete” or “Ulitmate” edition. This bundle will save you money, because a) you didn’t pay full price for the base game and b) you now get all DLCs included for either the same asking price or less. Give it a little more time, and you can usually catch these bundled titles on sale and save even more money. You won’t be on the cutting edge, playing the newest, hottest games on release, but in the case of most titles, you’re not missing anything by playing them late. In most cases I’d argue you’re smarter that the guy who pays $60 at launch for a title and then pays $10-20 per DLC on top of that. Nevertheless, I have found a few titles I’ve wanted to play in recent years but hadn’t gotten around to, bundled as I’ve mentioned and on sale to boot. It was very difficult to resist a copy of each of the games I’m going to discuss, and yes that means I purchased them once I saw the price was right. Let’s jump in, shall we?

I absolutely wanted to play Horizon: Zero Dawn when it released. The first time I saw it at E3 I knew it was a title that would be up my alley. I’m at a stage in my life though, that some games that I believe will be enjoyable aren’t always. I’ve also been trying to cut down on spending on games due to the fact that so many either collect dust or disappoint me. But for $10, I knew I needed to grab a copy, particularly because the Complete Edition came with bonus goodies and the game’s lone expansion The Frozen Wilds. I have not been disappointed by this title, and the inexpensive nature of the purchase doesn’t affect this — it’s a damn fine game. You play as Aloy, a young girl outcast by a tribe in a post-apocalyptic world where robot creatures roam the landscape and tribes of humans fight among themselves.

There’s a lot to digest in the early portions of the game. It’s clear that “the Old Ones” died off for some reason or another, and somehow, robots have formed into various beasts (perhaps a form of evolution or created by the dead ancients). You’ve been taken in by Rost, an outcast from the Nora tribe. He has sheltered you, but as a little girl you don’t really understand why the tribe won’t talk to you. On one fateful day, you end up falling into a cave that is a ruin from the old days, and find a “focus” which looks eerily similar to a bluetooth ear piece, but is definitely more useful. It provides information on the environment and things within it, becoming an excellent tool. Wanting to rejoin the tribe, Rost agrees to train you for “the proving” which is a ritual that allows tribesmen to become “braves,” and for outcasts to rejoin the tribe. The meat of the game is a third person shooter style, with some stealth elements, RPG progression, and a beautiful world to explore. It’s open world to a degree, though you’re held back for a time as you grow up, complete the proving, and become a “seeker.” Having that title allows you to leave the sacred lands of your people, and find answers. At certain points you are given “choices matter” styles of conversation prompts, and are allowed to choose your path. I assume these actions have consequences, but not many have shown up yet. I’m still in the early portions of the game though, so perhaps some of these will come back around. Overall the game looks great and plays great. It’s a title on the level of games like those made by Naughty Dog, where the graphics are top notch and the game play and story matches its beauty. I’m in love with it, and definitely look forward to what comes next.

I bought the original Titanfall for PC. In the past year I’ve decided to boycott Origin though, as I prefer my PC games to be linked up through Steam. As such I wasn’t going to buy the sequel on PC (and have already purchased a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisiton for PS4 so I can avoid having to use the additional platform). That might sound stupid to some, but I don’t mind playing EA games on the console, whereas I’m annoyed with the company on PC. So here we are. Titanfall 2 looked amazing when I first saw it — it’s more of the same, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. However, I just didn’t pick it up on release and hadn’t though about it for quite some time. Seeing the Ultimate Edition on sale for $8 though, and I was sold. This being a multiplayer game, there was worry about whether or not people would still be playing it, but unlike its predecessor, this one has a single player campaign, so I knew at least I’d get to experience that. So far, it’s been okay. Very similar to Call of Duty campaigns I’ve played in the past, just with the benefit of being a better game than CoD.

Being a Titanfall game, you get the requisite boots on the ground action along with the mechs that you pilot. There’s still wall running and double jumping, fast and furious gunplay and of course, MECHS! It’s a blast to run around, jumping and sliding and calling down your titan to fuck shit up. I have yet to play the multiplayer but I did check out the menus and saw a pretty healthy population despite being fairly late when I was playing. I think because it sets itself apart from other shooters on the market it has managed to keep a following. I’m glad that not everyone is off playing Battle Royale games and still appreciates a good ol’ fashioned FPS. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about this one soon.

The last game isn’t a bundle deal, but is a remastered version of a game I first played on PS3. Burnout Paradise was a fantastic title that came out of nowhere for me. I believe it was my sister’s (now-ex) husband who showed me the game, and I only played it at his house and didn’t get too much out of it. I just remember thinking that it reminded me of Need For Speed Underground, which was one of my favorite NFS titles of all time. The remaster here takes the original game (and appears that the DLCs are present, so perhaps this is a bundle after all) and polishes it up a bit. The intro movie is still clearly PS3 graphics, but once you get into the game it looks a bit better than its OG version, and definitely runs at a higher frame rate.

You start the game with a crappy car and have a semi-open-world to explore. Like the Need For Speed games, you can roll up to points on the map that will start up a race, or can battle with random NPCs on the road. There are also stunts and collectibles along with challenges where you can pit your high scores against those on your friends list. It’s the same experience as before, but due to my limited time with the game in the past, I can now delve further into it. I managed to upgrade my license and open up a few new cars in my first session, and I look forward to getting down with more racing — it really is a blast.

As I said, I’ll likely have more thoughts on these games as I progress. At this point I would say they are all worth your time, even if you don’t get them for as cheap as I did. Each scratches a different itch, and I’m pleased with the expenditure.

Getting Started in Destiny 2

I was late to the party with the original Destiny, and I guess you can say the same is true with its sequel. When the first one released I was slightly interested but didn’t get around to purchasing it until after The Taken King came out. I didn’t play much then either, only checked it out for a little while but had a sour experience with a so-called friend and that turned me off from the game for a while. I ended up going back to it and running through all of the main story and side quests through The Taken King, and even purchased the next expansion but didn’t put much time into it after that. I had the intentions of picking up Destiny 2 at release just so I could hit the ground running and play the game while it was still the new hotness. But then when Destiny 2 released, it was pretty universally panned by critics and people whose opinions I trust, so I didn’t bother. Well, at this point the game has just released it’s first major expansion, Forsaken, and Sony decided to give it out for free as part of the Playstation Plus program.

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I downloaded the game right when I found out it was available early. I convinced my best friend that he should download it as well, and we have been able to get in a couple of sessions together.

Session 1:

I’m not really remembering all of the issues people had with the game upon its release, as that was a year ago and my memory isn’t what it used to be. Still, having played it myself now I don’t really see much of a difference between this game and the first. There was a little snippet at the beginning when I logged in where my Destiny save game was imported into this game and I got to see the things I accomplished in the first iteration. The two characters that I had played were still there too, one being the Warlock I started with and the Hunter I ended up running through the game to max level. The storyline is a little convoluted but essentially a big alien threat has attacked The Traveler and essentially robs all guardians of their light.

Despite the fact that my friend and I were in voice chat together, we had to play through these first bits of the story alone. We have the big attack and you’re pretty fucked up, you come too and wander about for a bit, then we’re treated to some cut scenes of the storyline and then eventually you wind up in a place called “The Farm” which is shown on the map as a separate place from Earth, but still looks very much like Earth when you are there. Whatever the case, it’s the new Tower, and you get your social interaction here along with some vendors, your bank, mailboxes and the Crucible guy.

The main story pushed us to head to where a bit of The Traveler had broken off and landed near by. We’re warned that it’s a place of death, but after killing off some bad guys, we get our light back and can move on to bigger and better things.

Graphically it’s still a beautiful title. I really thought Destiny was up there with games like Uncharted that can really push this system to its limits. It’s surprising that a game can look this good on a stock PS4, considering most games are a bit more washed out. I assume on a PS4 Pro or on PC it looks even better, but it was free here, so this is where I’m going to play it.

By the end of our first session I was level 3, as we took a couple hours to get to the point where we could even play together, and by that time it was getting late so we called it a day. We got together to play again last night, and ended up pushing further into the story.

Session 2:

More fighting on Earth as my Hunter and my friend’s Titan leveled up and went on Adventures, participated in public quests and followed the story to it’s end here. Clearly there will be more to do on Earth at a later time, but for now they’ve sent us to Titan to help out with some network building.

We also see Cayde being held captive by our antagonist, and because I’m not blind or deaf I have already heard the spoilers about his demise and the plot of Forsaken having to do with getting revenge for him. But since I don’t know the particulars, I’ll play my way through and see for myself. If this ends up sticking like I think it will (we’ve been having a blast so far) I will likely pick up Forsaken once we’ve completed the main story.

When I was playing the original Destiny, I never did end up playing any of the game’s PvP mode, Crucible. I decided that I wanted to try it out. That was probably a bad idea. I assumed that as you entered into matchmaking, you would be paired up with and against other players of similar level/power. That doesn’t seem to be the case, as one guy was level 20 and the other 50 (?) I think. Either way they were much better equipped and felt way to hard to kill. We did get kills nonetheless, but lost the match and decided that we should level up a bit before bothering with that again. It does feel pretty good as shooters go but I didn’t like the level disparity.

By the end of our second session I was level 7 and had looted my first exotic from a quest. Nothing too special but I’ve found my groove. I don’t really like the new subclass that you’re stuck with at the beginning, and look forward to opening up others. I’ve found that while playing in a duo, I can experiment with my weapon loadout more though, and have settled on a Scout Rifle as my primary and a pistol for the side arm. I do like me some auto/pulse rifles and sub machine guns too, but for now these have worked as my friend’s titan is typically using a shotgun so he heads in first and I take out the long range targets. Overall it’s been a blast and I look forward to progressing through it!

The Walking Dead: The Final Season (Episode 1)

I knew it was coming, but it surprised me to find out that the last season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead was upon us. I guess I never really paid attention to the release date. I hurriedly picked up my copy of episode one of this four episode final season, and played through it ASAP. We’re seeing Clementine’s journey come to an end, and there was a beautifully rendered introduction that allowed us to relive key parts of that journey. It’s been four separate games and a number of years since this adventure began, and though I am sad to see it beginning to come to a close, it will be interesting to see where this little girl turned fierce woman ends up. Picking up where The New Frontier left off, Clementine had been reunited with AJ once again and were back on the road. Our story follows them scavenge for food when of course they come across trouble. They end up in a school run by kids and find a rather tight knit group — though something doesn’t seem quite right.

The graphical engine is a bit more refined than I remember in the last season, but for the most part the game plays the same as others. I felt like there were more action oriented combat sections, but there were plenty of slow dialogue-filled scenes as well. I won’t completely spoil things but the results of my season will. You should probably avoid the next screens and my reasoning to follow if you haven’t played this game yet.

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The major choices in this episode were varied. I chose to kill the couple in the train station to get the key off of one of them (they were both walkers at this point, when they were still people they poisoned themselves). Otherwise I could have chosen to send AJ into the room behind the locked door, but I didn’t want to send him on his own. I was with the majority of players on this. I didn’t go with the crowd on the next choice, which was whether to hunt with Aasim or Louis. Louis seemed to try to hard to throw himself at Clem so I went the other way. During our first night at the school AJ insisted that he sleep under the bed. I told him he didn’t have to but he begged so I let him. Looks like most people convinced him to try the bed (side note, he sleeps in bed on the second night). Later, we go back to the same train station where shit went awry the first time around, and Clem is confronted by a raider who wants the same food we had come for. I chose to push his ass out the window for walkers to feed on. Fuck that guy. Lastly, during the final confrontation with Marlon, I chose to petition Violet to help me out, and she came to my aid. AJ took matters into his own hands, though.

This season was different from all of those that came before in that there were some missable trophies and I didn’t realize that until I completed the chapter. There are a few collectable items, and certain dialogue choices that lead to trophies that I missed. As disappointing as it would be to have all the Platinum trophies for this series and miss out on this one, I’m not sure I want to go back and play through to find them all. I suppose if I do I will do so before the next episode releases so that I can be more mindful of this the rest of the way through. Either way I enjoyed the episode and The Walking Dead is still my favorite of Telltale’s series. Let me know if how your episode ended up, if you’ve played.

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.