Category Archives: xbox one

Captain B.J. Blazkowicz resolutely takes on the Nazis

I’ve got bad news: I know all the spoilery bits for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus already. That’s just one of the few sacrifices I had to make to listen to Giant Bomb‘s 2017 GOTY deliberations, along with knowing where things ultimately go in NierR:Automata, Yakuza 0, and Persona 5. Oh well. Thankfully, I was able to complete both Night in the Woods and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild just before the year came to a close. But considering that I’m only just now finishing up Wolfenstein: The New Order, here’s hoping I forget many details about the much-talked about sequel…whenever I get to it (my prediction: somewhere in late 2019).

I got Wolfenstein: The New Order, along with the follow-up/prequel Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, The Inner World, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, during Microsoft’s big Black Friday sale in that crazy year called 2017. Anyways, I’m trying to make a more conscious effort to the play the games I buy instead of letting them sit for months unattended, and so I recently loaded up Wolfenstein: The New Order, kept it on the default difficulty setting, and quickly got about putting Nazis in their place. It’s good fun, if surprisingly straightforward, both in terms of gameplay and plot.

I’ll do my best to provide a plot summary. Some three years after the destruction of the Black Sun portal, the Nazis deployed advanced technologies, which enabled them to turn the tide against the Allies. On July 16, 1946, at dawn, U.S. special forces operative Captain William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, accompanied by pilot Fergus Reid and Private Probst Wyatt III, took part in a massive Allied air raid against a fortress and weapons laboratory run by General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse. Unfortunately, the three of them were captured and brought to a human experimentation laboratory where Deathshead forced Blazkowicz to choose one of his companions to die–either Fergus or Wyatt. Afterwards, Blazkowicz escapes the laboratory, but suffers a critical head injury, rendering him unconscious and putting him in a coma for 14 years. He comes back to life in a psychiatric asylum in Poland, now determined more than ever to find his friends and blast apart some Nazi faces. Phew.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a first-person shooter that, at many times, asks to you to do things stealthily. There’s also cover-based shooting and entire sequences where you are exploring an area or solving some simple puzzles. I came at this as I do all first-person things–cautiously. Unfortunately, when the chaos kicks in and you are discovered, the best thing to do is keep moving and don’t stop firing. The game is pretty generous with armor, health, and ammo pick-ups, so, honestly, go nuts. However, when I got to Chapter 12: Gibraltar Bridge, I hit a serious snag, finding the difficulty–even on the normal setting–to be a bit much to overcome. I’m not alone in this. You are basically climbing up a broken bridge, at a serious disadvantage, with numerous enemies high above you and out of sight. After about ten or so attempts, I gave up and dropped the difficulty down to “Can I play, Daddy?”, which at first bothered me, but then I had a good time mowing down everyone in B.J.’s way without even giving a second thought to taking cover or needing more health.

Perhaps my favorite thing about Wolfenstein: The New Order is its perk system. Instead of collecting XP and leveling up your B.J.–keep it clean, kids–to spend skill points on perks, you earn upgrades by doing specific tasks. Kind of like in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, where if you want to raise your blocking stats with a shield, start blocking with a shield more. These minor upgrades enhance Blazkowicz’s combat aptitude by increasing his maximum health, ammo count, and damage taken, which is all well and good, but you are playing on the easiest of difficulty levels this doesn’t matter much. Still, going after them is enjoyable, and I really had a good time sprint-sliding and killing Nazis to ultimately strengthen my skills at…well, killing Nazis. Also, you can totally take advantage of key checkpoints in certain levels to grind out some of the trickier perks, which I totally did.

So yeah, that’s Wolfenstein: The New Order. I’m currently playing clean-up on some of its collectibles and Achievements (none of them related to difficulty settings though), but I suspect after that I’ll move on to Wolfenstein: The Old Blood…soonish. Eh, maybe. I also need to finish Prey, and then I’d love to get into Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Eep, too many games.

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2018 Game Review Haiku, #4 – Wolfenstein: The New Order

Select your timeline
And start killing Nazi scum
Orders from B.J.

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #129 – Night in the Woods

Small-town mystery
Drop-out Mae must find herself
Poems, ghosts, crimes, god

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2017

Happy holidays, dear readers! Gather round, gather round, for I have a tall tale to tell…

As always, I’m back to wax and wane about the games I did not get to play this year because I’m only one person with two hands and so much time on them to play these wonderfully entertaining things. My bad, but also–whatever. There’s always next year, and the year after that. To refresh everyone’s memories, because I’ve been doing this Grinding Down feature for a few years now, here’s a bulleted list of previous entries, and I do suggest y’all dig in to play detective and figure out whether or not I’ve played any of these games since these age-old posts:

I’ll spoil an entry from that bottom 2010 list that I’ve still not touched, some nearly eight years later: Red Dead Redemption. Oh well.

Naturally, there are more than 10 games that I didn’t play this year, but not all of them are things I was interested in from the get-go. Such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, NieR Automata, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Yakuza 0. I’m sure they are all worth trying out eventually. But enough about those. Let’s get into the ones that I probably would have played if…I could have played them. Er, don’t think too hard about that sentence.

10. Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy

Did you know a new Professor Layton game came out this year for the Nintendo 3DS? Yeah, me neither. Huh. I had a pretty busy year on my 3DS, with Ever Oasis and Miitopia taking over much of my handheld gaming time. Evidently, this stars a new protagonist for LEVEL-5’s classic point-and-puzzle adventure series–Katrielle Layton, who becomes embroiled in a casual, quizzical quest in search for her missing father. Y’know, the Professor Hershel Layton. I felt a little burned out after Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, but I think I could dip back into this series next year. Also, screenshots show that you get to redecorate the Layton Detective Agency and dress Katrielle up in different outfits, so I’m more than intrigued, plot aside.

9. Cuphead

I have never been interested in difficult platformers, doing only the bare minimum in Super Meat Boy to get to the end credits and staying away from many of these. Though I did recently beat this weirdo. It sounds like the run-and-gun Cuphead is also just as tough. But I wouldn’t be playing it for the challenge, rather to see every inch of art and animation. See, the game was heavily inspired by the rubber hose style of animation used in cartoons of the 1930s, like the stuff coming out of studios like Fleischer and Walt Disney Animation. It seeks to emulate the most subversive and surrealist qualities, and if you don’t know what that means, look at the screenshot above. Maybe we’ll get lucky in 2018 and get this as a Games with Gold freebie.

8. Thimbleweed Park

I didn’t play Thimbleweed Park, a brand new point-and-click adventure game developed by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick for PC and modern consoles in 2017, for the obvious reasons. It’s a spiritual successor to Gilbert and Winnick’s previous games Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, both of which I’ve still not played. Ugh. Send me directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. At least I do have access to both of them, so here’s hoping 2018 is the year I finally tackle those genre classics, and then maybe I’ll see what is going on with that creepy clown.

7. What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch doesn’t sound like a happy time. This follows the titular character, a young woman revisiting her old family home as she recalls and discovers the stories of deceased family members. So, it’s probably a somber affair, though I do know that at some point you turn into a shark and roll down a hill. Shrugs. It comes from Giant Sparrow, the developer that brought us The Unfinished Swan, which I enjoyed a good amount, and I imagine this is a wild ride, the best experienced in one big gulp.

6. Rime

Rime, one of two new games from Tequila Works this year alongside The Sexy Brutale, which made the side-scrolling cinematic platforming survival horror Deadlight back in 2012, sounds like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild minus all the combat. Which, honestly, is perfectly okay with me, considering I often tried my best not to get into fights in that game because I’d just end up losing health, weapons, and arrows without getting much to replace them. It’s about a young boy that has washed ashore on an abandoned island, with the main focus being on solving environmental puzzles. It looks both gorgeous and relaxing.

5. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Speaking of relaxing, that’s the vibe I get from Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. It’s an adventure game set in an open world environment, which doesn’t sound like anything unique, but the tone seems to be real low-key. Hey, welcome–stay a while. The game’s primary goal is collecting magical creatures, known as sprites, to banish an ominous shroud known as the Murk. Along the way, you can take part in non-violent activities like farming, fishing, and crafting while exploring the island, and that’s the part I’m most interested in. Last year, I was all about that sweet pixely Stardew Valley, and this seems to share some of the same traits.

4. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin 2 sounds like the end-all, be-all überlegen CRPG, with content bursting at the seams and a story that reacts to nearly every single one of your choices, no matter how major or minor. That’s cool. Maybe I’ll try it some day. Though there’s that terrible part of my brain that says I shouldn’t until I’ve at least played Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity, Divinity II, Divinity: Dragon Commander, and Divinity: Original Sin. You can’t tell because this is just written text, but I’m laughing hysterically over here.

3. Pyre

Supergiant Games is a rad developer with some highly imaginative titles. I loved Bastion, and I was a little mixed on Transistor. Pyre looks gorgeous, but I don’t know if I’ll get into the fantasy sports element since I don’t even like normal non-fantasy sports, but I have to imagine that the plot will draw me into this strange, amazing-looking world. Here’s a quick plot summary, which sounds fascinating: you controls a character who has been exiled from society and quickly meets three other exiles. The three exiles then discover that the player-character is literate and invites them to join their party, nicknaming them the Reader. The Reader aids the exiles and other exiles met during the course of the game in their travels through the land of purgatory as they look to cleanse their souls via defeating other exiles. Yowza.

2. Tacoma

I played a bunch of Gone Home in 2017. It’s still a masterpiece. Fullbright’s follow-up Tacoma is another exploration game, this time set aboard a seemingly-empty space station in 2088. You play as Amy, who has an augmented reality device that allows her to review the actions and conversations of non-player characters that were part of crew that had been aboard the station. These recordings can be manipulated, fast-forwarding or rewinding as necessary in order to see what happened and move the plot forward. It’s another rummaging simulator, but this time aboard an abandoned spaceship, like Prey but without the constant fear of a coffee mug trying to kill you. I also think the polygonal character models look super neat.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

I don’t have a Nintendo Switch, and I probably won’t for a long time. That’s just how these things go, too many consoles, not enough money, space, and time. Thankfully, I was able to play Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild this year via the Wii U version, which is fine. Then again, when I think about it, I haven’t played many of the big Mario marquee titles over the years, like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, both Super Mario Galaxy titles, and so on. So this isn’t anything new or shocking, but the twist is that Super Mario Odyssey is the first one in a while that I’m actively interested in playing. The hook of using your hat to take over enemies and use their abilities to better yourself seems fun and instantly reminds me of Brave Fencer Musashi. I also really like how organized the game is when it comes to tracking how many moons you’ve collected, and that the collectibles are your ship’s currency to get you to new places.

And there we have it, the top 10 games I didn’t get to play in 2017. I hope I can play one or two of these some time in 2018, but there’s never a guarantee on that (see the previously mentioned Red Dead Redemption at the top of this post).

But that was me, and now I want to know more about you. What big or small games did you not get to touch this year? Tell me all about them in the comments section below.

Gobbling up that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Fourth game of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds played, first with a squad of two friends and a random. Mark this day (last night, technically) down in my gaming history.

Let loose in Prey’s luxuriously haunting sci-fi playground

It truly is surprising to me that I didn’t fall for Fallout 4 as much as I initially imagined I would, considering the hours and thoughts I put into Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. The game didn’t strike me the same way, and I’ve tried going back to it several times, only to get as far as rescuing Preston and his people and bringing them back to Sanctuary, before losing interest. Still, I love all things Fallout-related, like Fallout Shelter and cute little collectibles, and am super curious to see how the Fallout board game works, especially since it can be played solo, something I actively look for now in my tabletop games. However, this post isn’t actually about Fallout 4, it’s about Prey, the new hot thang from Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda in 2017, which is turning out to be the Fallout 4 game I wanted all along.

In Prey, the player controls Morgan Yu, either as a man or woman, exploring the space station Talos I, in orbit around Earth–Moon L2, where research into a hostile alien collective called the Typhon is underway. Unfortunately, because you know nothing can ever go right with doing science stuff in outer space, the Typhon escape confinement, and Morgan must use a variety of weapons and abilities derived from these nightmarish alien monsters to avoid getting killed while searching for a way to escape the station. It’s a haunting tale of loss and domination, told through environmental storytelling and revealing audio logs that bring to life many, many characters that are very much dead and destroyed. Or sometimes turned against you. Either way, the narrative is strong, believable.

Prey is a systems-driven adventure, playable in a number of ways. An immersive sim, if you will, in the same vein of BioShock and Dishonored, letting you make your way through levels and complete missions, but not enforcing the means by which you must get the job done. Which makes sense considering this is French developer Arkane’s bread and butter for the last eight-ish years. Still, the amount of freedom you have is almost unheard of, both in terms of playing style and exploration, especially once you get to the Talos I Lobby and have access to the no gravity area just outside its walls, which lets you travel just about anywhere you want on Talos I, so long as you’ve unlocked the right doors and can survive the trip. Early on, I suffered from choice anxiety and stuck to the main path, but I do plan to return and roam more freely next time.

Lucky for Yu–cue cymbal crash sound effect–the space station you are on was designed to also research and produce Neuromods, which go right into your eyeball to help make humans faster, stronger, and smarter. These are where you get your skill points from, to upgrade powers and unlock abilities, and you can find several around the environment, but what I found refreshing is, if you want and have the crafting resources to do so, you can make as many as you want through the Recylcer and Fabricator. It almost felt like cheating when I 3D-printed three of them in a single sitting (light spoiler detail: there will be a moment in the story where you can’t do this anymore for reasons, so strike while the iron is hot). My playstyle so far has been mostly human powers, like hacking and gaining more health from kits and food, with a light touch of aliens powers, specifically Mimic and Kinetic Blast. I like being able to repair broken turrets though they now see me as an alien threat since I’ve unlocked too many non-human perks. That was a neat surprise.

Life in Prey is harsh, tough. The might sound obvious when discussing a space station amuck with telekinetic and transforming monsters that want to eat your flesh and soul, but I thought I’d say it anyway, to justify to myself very soon that it is fine to dial down the difficulty setting. I’m currently playing on whatever the default it is, and I’m trying to play it like I would Fallout 4–stealthily, sneakily, avoiding as many fights as possible. Unfortunately, you will have to get your hands dirty eventually, and this is where I struggled with the combat. The guns don’t feel great, even after updating my silenced pistol a bunch, and they clearly want you to use the GLOO cannon to slow everything down and whack it with a wrench, but that’s easier said than done when the enemies move far more swiftly than you. Health and suit armor drops quickly, and resources, so far, are extremely limited. Occasionally, I’ve had to sneak by enemies through creative means, like throwing items for distraction or turning into a banana. Yup, you read that last part right.

I’m near the end of Morgan’s quest. Still, whenever I am done with Prey, whatever that means since I may be curious in a second playthrough on the easiest of difficulty settings to see what life is like with, say, only alien powers or doing my best to read every single e-mail I can find, I think I might need to revisit System Shock and give it a fairer shake than trying to play it when extremely sleepy during an Extra Life stream. Or System Shock 2. Or Dishonored. Or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Look, I have a lot of immersive sims on plate, so I better start feasting.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was indeed full of peril

Hyperemesis is severe or prolonged vomiting, usually as a condition occurring during pregnancy. It’s also the only word I could seem to find to truly rhyme with nemesis. Sorry, but pessimist doesn’t exactly cut it. Thankfully, in the Lord of the Hunt DLC for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, there’s a lot of vomiting happening when riding on the back of a Wretched Graug, so it does tie in nicely with the subject matter at hand. All’s well that ends better, I guess.

Look, I have mixed feelings about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, a game I put about 32 hours of my life and thumbs into, a game based on Lord of the Rings–which for those new here is something I care about greatly–that probably didn’t need to be based on Lord of the Rings, but perhaps then I might not have ever given it a glance so it’s kind of a double-edged, flaming, Uruk-decapitating sword. In the end, I think I would have preferred this not to be based on Lord of the Rings and, as a result, something I would have skipped and left forever on my “did not get to play this year” lists. It’s a perfectly fine, even good action game, and a terrible game playing around in the Lord of the Rings realm, and this is coming from the dude that has three copies of Aragorn’s Quest–for the Nintendo DS, the PlayStation 2, and the Nintendo Wii.

This original non-canon story set in the legendarium created by J. R. R. Tolkien tells the troubling plight of generic face, “Dollar Store Sean Bean” Talion, a Ranger of Gondor responsible for guarding the Black Gate of Mordor, who bonds with the wraith of the Elf Lord Celebrimbor to avenge the deaths of their loved ones and…do other things. Such as behead a bunch of Orcs, find hidden collectibles, and climb tall towers to reveal more of the map. Also, like, spoiler alert, try to make a new Ring of Power. Knowing that none of this actually fits into the final timeline of events helps ease the silliness and unnecessary-ness of it all. You’ll also run into Gollum early on in the action adventure, who, via tracking missions, will help reveal some of Celebrimbor’s past. Lastly, and here’s the part I really found real amusing, you do face off against Sauron (via someone else’s body) at the end in sword-to-sword combat, and quick time events are involved.

Combat is mindless and mashy and never in a fun way. Each encounter, more or less, went the same, with Talion getting a few hits in to up the combo streak and then mashing one of several button combinations, such as X+Y or A+B, to do a thing. These things range from instantly killing an enemy or branding it to fight for you or creating a blast of energy to stun foes and so on. The whole ebb and flow is built around these moves, so you’re constantly bouncing between dudes to keep the combos up. It can quickly become chaotic and frustrating, especially when you begin to take damage from ranged enemies, which messes up your rhythm greatly. Towards the end of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and in its two pieces of DLC, I worked extra hard to avoid big confrontations unless they were part of the mission at hand because they were a lot of work for little reward besides some XP and the chance to maybe stumble upon a named bad dude. Also, there were so many different button combinations that I forgot many and mainly stuck with one or two. Ugh.

As I’m wont to do, I tried to do everything in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, knowing I’d be uninstalling it once finished it. This included getting all of the collectibles and playing the two bits of additional content. Lord of the Hunt was fine, but ultimately more of the same, only saved by the Dwarf Torvin and his colorful dialogue. However, The Bright Lord was beyond frustrating, and I almost walked away from it altogether. See, in that piece of DLC, you play as Celebrimbor some 3,000 years prior to the game’s main plot, which means you don’t have every ability Talion had, have less health, limited powers, and must focus on branding Orcs to fight for you versus getting your own hands dirty. I eventually had to re-train my brain on how to handle combat, staying up high, calling in branded Orcs over and over, and slowly whittling the army down. The final fight, this time not a QTE test, ramps everything up to 11, having you deal with multiple warchiefs along with a big baddie that can revive warchiefs; I will say that I beat it taking the most cautious and cowardice-laden path possible.

It’s a bit of a bummer that the two games I bought during 2016’s Black Friday sale, this and Dragon Age: Inquisition, turned out to be rather disappointing. Here’s hoping the games I got this yearPrey, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, and The Inner World–don’t follow the same trend. I’d also like to not have a year go by before touching these, though I am currently sneaking my way through Prey and enjoying its atmosphere and immersion. So there, progress.

Also, I can say with almost 100% certainty, unless given to me at zero cost and beside a delicious-looking sandwich and promised that everything will work out fine in the end, I’ll not be getting Middle-earth: Shadow of War, which sounds like all this over again…only worse due to the inclusion of loot boxes and end-game grinding. No thanks. If anything, I think this is now the best time for me to pop back to something LOTR-related and untouched in my collection, such as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for the PlayStation 2. Remember, as the wise ol’ Gandalf once said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”