Tag Archives: open-world game

Let’s all go exploring with Breath of the Wild

It took me a little over four hours to complete the initial opening chunk of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and that’s perfectly fine. I’m talking about the part when Link, after emerging from the mystical cave of resurrecting people after 100 years because it’s cool to do so, must go complete four shrines to acquire all the necessary powers and hang-glider to start him proper on his journey to destroy Calamity Ganon. I’m not mad. Really, not even the slightest. Those opening hours helped teach me tricks and techniques that I’m still using currently to survive and puzzle my way to victory in Hyrule, some twenty-ish hours later.

Right. I got a copy of Breath of the Wild for my Wii U back in June, after I finally finished putting together the second chapter of my ongoing journal comic project Death, Divorce, and Disney. I’ll use this very sentence to plug it hard, so please click and read away. I’m not going to talk too much about the game’s plot, for two reasons. One, from a summary stance, it’s pretty bare bones. And two, there’s a lot I don’t understand yet, like Link’s relationship to Zelda and Hyrule’s people or why these shrines exist, and so on. That all said, we’re playing as an amnesiac Link, who awakens from a hundred-year slumber to a mysterious voice that guides him to defeat Calamity Ganon before he can destroy the kingdom of Hyrule. It’s not too far off from A Link to the Past, where a non-amnesiac Link awakens during a nightly thunderstorm, summoned to the castle by Princess Zelda’s voice to stop…uh, Ganon.

Back to my original point, about how long I spent in the “tutorial” section of Breath of the Wild. I got hung up for a while on how to access the two shrines located in the colder, snowy section of the Great Plateau. I assumed I needed better clothing to keep Link warm, and I was mostly right. It turned out I needed to figure out a recipe for the helpful Old Man and, once satisfied, he’d pass over some magical shirt to keep Link from freezing his nipples off. The problem was I didn’t know how to cook, and in a very non-Nintendo way, the game did not provide me with a hand-holding walkthrough to ensure I knew how to do this. I figured I just walked up to a pot on an open flame and there would be a prompt waiting for me, kind of like what happens in Fallout 4. Nope. All I kept seeing was “sit,” and so I sat, stuck. Turns out, you need to go into your inventory, pick a bunch of ingredients to hold, exit the menu, and then stand by the pot to get the prompt–so far, it’s one of two things I’ve had to look up for the game, and I deeply regret it.

I’m now much deeper into the story and map, but also totally not. It just feels that way to me because the hour count on the game’s save slot has gone way up. There’s still a lot to discover. In truth, I’ve completed a smidgen of shrines, found a few Korok seeds, climbed a couple tall towers, unearthed three lost memory spots, and haven’t taken down a single Divine Beast, though I do have the quest from the shark-people to do so whenever I please. But that’s up to me and my discretion. Personally, I like the less intense side quests, like finding horses or returning chickens to a pen, or just collecting ingredients to try my hand at cooking. Also, taking pictures of weapons and bugs and flowers to fill out the Hyrule compendium is good, wholesome fun that reminds me dearly of Beyond Good & Evil.

When it comes to waging war, I’m not great at combat, and part of that is me feeling like I’m missing a dodge button or something. Early on, I remapped the jump button, and that has helped a bunch, but timing your way around an enemy’s attacks is still a bit tricky, which has, naturally, made me rely more on loosing arrows from afar and being a sneaky elf. Y’know, just about how I play every RPG I get my grubby mitts on. Like many, the idea of breakable weapons breaks my heart, but at least unlike in Dark Cloud, Link isn’t far from a full inventory of things to use when one weapon breaks. It does, however, mess with your head a bit because you’ll find a cool, powerful weapon as a reward in a shrine and then be reluctant to use it in the field because you don’t want it to disappear. I don’t know. It’s a weird system, and I need to learn to not love my gear because nothing is permanent.

Also, Breath of the Wild is the game that actually got me to admit defeat and buy one of these plastic things:

I kind of want more, which is a dangerous thing to say out loud. And not just because they make a magical chest full of fish and raw meat fall from the sky once a day. I have a love for tiny figurines.

Anyways, Breath of the Wild. It’s really good, and I’m completely content to take my time with it. Sometimes I’ll play it for several hours in a night and then not return to it for a few days. That’s okay. Despite having a quest called “Destroy Ganon” since the start of the game, the in-game world is seemingly in no rush to see that actually happen. At least that’s the vibe I’m getting. If anything, my current adventures are leading me far away from Calamity Ganon for the time being and into the fins of a bunch of shark-people that taught me how to swim up waterfalls.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #37 – Saints Row IV

2015 gd games completed saints row iv

Earth is gone, POTUS
Out for revenge on Zinyak
Superpowers help

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

The Division’s straightforward formula has been activated

tc the division further impressions

I’ve been playing Tom Clancy’s The Division–from here forward more succinctly written just as The Division, because, really now, I don’t think Tom Clancy the author man had anything to do with it–for about two weeks now, plugging away at keeping virus-laden Manhattan, New York as safe as one possibly can during these tough times. I’ve also given a lot of bottles of water to those in need for clean, sometimes trendy, attire, and I’ve also done my fair share of shooting “bad” dudes in the fleshy bits while hanging back to heal my teammates and distract enemies. It’s a cover-based shooter, for better or worse, and good fun with a group of friends.

The story has promise, banking on at least my fear about both chemical warfare and the mass hysteria that unearths during the annual Black Friday shopping event, which, with every new year, begins to expand and trickle into the Thursday prior. Maybe even starting on Wednesday night for some greedy stores. Anyways, a smallpox pandemic called “Green Poison” is spread on banknotes and then circulated around, forcing Manhattan to be quarantined by the government. The U.S. government jumps into action, activating sleeper agents in the population who operate for the Strategic Homeland Division to assist emergency responders, now called the Joint Task Force (JTF), in restoring order. You play as one of these agents, doing things like retrieving important personnel and combating criminal groups, like the Rikers, which are escapees from Rikers Island.

To be honest, and I don’t know if this is because I’ve played the majority of story missions cooperatively with a group of chatty souls, where it is often hard to pay attention to cutscenes and ambient dialogue, but the story seems like all premise and nothing truly substantial. I’ve rescued people, but they aren’t interesting or important to much else that happens afterwards, and every scenario is built around getting the Division agents into a room full of low barriers and red, explosive barrels to have a chaotic shootout. That’s fine and all, considering the shooting gameplay is solid and enjoyable, but a lot of the action doesn’t feel very purposeful. Especially when you walk away from a story mission with only a new weapon blueprint and some XP.

I completed the last main story mission a few nights ago, and the reason I know it was the last main story mission is because a screen pops up afterwards, telling you about going into the Dark Zone and promising more content in the future. I don’t really even know what happened. I hid towards the back while my higher level teammates shot down a helicopter. I thought we were looking for a cure or a means to get there, but I don’t know why we did this, and why the plot ended here. Seems like it stopped too short, and the rest of any story bits can be picked up via the hundreds of collectibles scattered across the map. I’d like to tell you that I won’t go and get them all, but this is me…I love setting a waypoint and heading to it to grab a thing.

If anything, The Division has a fashion problem. Which is unfortunate, because it’s the aspect of the game I’m drawn to the most. Yup, you read that right. I’d rather play dress up than shoot up. I love dressing up my avatars in games like The Sims or Animal Crossing: New Leaf or Fallout 4. It helps bring out both my personality and theirs, and getting a new piece of clothing to try on is exciting. Not in real life, but digitally…yes. I can’t really explain it. Alas, the clothing drops in The Division are drab and dull and barely contain any character. I’ve mostly leaned toward outfits that feature sharp oranges or blues to at least stand out a bit in this colorless world. Thankfully, your clothing inventory is separate from gear and has no limit, but it can still be overwhelming to sift through in search of a new hat or pair of hiking boots.

I hit the level cap of 30 last night, which now unlocks daily missions–basically the same story missions you’ve already done, but at a higher difficulty with the promise of good loot–as well as high-end gear. Which means a gun that does more damage, a backpack that provides more health, and so on. You know, numbers going up. I haven’t experienced much of the Dark Zone yet, with intentions of entering it after checking off most of the story-central stuff. Unfortunately, I still have like three hundred different collectibles to get, not an exaggeration, as well as two more wings to upgrade back at my main base of operation. I suspect I’ll keep playing, certainly to get all these items, but also because I bought the game’s season pass, and there’s more content down the road. Hopefully it’s more than just a bunch of generic-sounding missions that force you to aim a gun at someone who is also aiming a gun at you.

Overall, I’d say that The Division is a pretty good game, with some severe weaknesses when it comes to its story and mission variety. It is at its most enjoyable when playing with friends, telling stories, making jokes, and occasionally paying attention to the dangers that actually lay ahead. Running to and fro across the map by myself reveals just how lonely of a time one can have in Ubisoft’s diseased New York City, and getting into firefights along the way results in either being amazingly easy or the most difficult struggles of your career as a secret agent. I prefer a crew and playing a part in said crew, which, for me, is to toss out a turret to distract enemies while running around and ensuring everyone is healed up. I’ll also occasionally fire a bullet at someone. It’s camaraderie that keeps The Division together, keeps me navigating through less-than-impressive menu UI. Without that, the sickness will win.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #25 – Tom Clancy’s The Division

2016 gd games completed tom clancy the division

New York very sick
You have been activated
To shoot bad humans

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #61 – Fallout 4

2015 games completed fallout 4 institute ending

Sided with my son
For a better Boston, not
Knowing ’twas over

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

There’s chaos to create in Just Cause 2

gd early impressions just cause 2 xbox-360

When I first got my Xbox 360, some many years back, I maintained a small collection of games, doing what I don’t do now, which is finishing one before getting another. That all said, I did delight in some extra dessert now and then by downloading free demos of upcoming games, such as the ones for Crackdown 2 and Dragon Age II. I think you can still download free demos to this day, but at this point I have little time for teasers and would rather just wait for the full thing to either come out or be dropped into my library as a monthly freebie. The times, they are a-changing.

Well, way back in 2010, I sampled a bit of Just Cause 2, as this demo did not hold your hand, but rather set you free. There was a short cutscene to explain why Rico Rodriguez, the man with the grapple hook and hunger for explosions, was on this tropical island, and then you have thirty minutes to do whatever you want. I remember restarting it multiple times, trying something new with each go and really enjoying any and all chaos I could create. Strangely, this never did result me in purchasing a full copy of Just Cause 2; thankfully, all I needed to do was wait five years and then I’d get a free copy from Microsoft.

In Just Cause 2, you take control of Rico Rodriguez, an undercover U.S. operative on the Southeast Asian island of Panau–which is not real, people–to track down a former friend, who has disappeared with top-secret intel and a lot of money. There’s also an oppressive dictator to deal with, as well as three rival gangs who are waging war on the island. I’ve only done the first two or three story missions, so not much has unfolded yet, but I’m sure I’ll get to all these plotlines soon enough. Y’know, once I get my fill of running amok and blowing up enemy territory.

Let’s get this out of the way: the story is not written well, made only more ridiculous by the wooden voice acting. Rico’s actor sounds like he is reading the script for the very first time and they only have the ability to do one take. Good thing I’m not here for the story, as playing and making things explode feels really good, especially when you can use Rico’s magical zip-line thingy to zoom away from all the destruction. Like a true cool action hero. I’m not stellar yet at performing stunts while riding on top of vehicles and aiming the grappling hook is occasionally a nightmare. Still, if you can hit an enemy on a rooftop with it and pull them off to their tumbling doom, I highly recommend it. The gunwork doesn’t feel amazing, but I am more of a grenade-tossing maniac from on high sort of chaos creator.

Truthfully, I didn’t mean to dive right into Just Cause 2 after finishing Lara Croft: Guardian of Light and deleting it from my Xbox 360’s hard-drive, but the game was in my download queue already and automatically started once it saw there was enough space opened up. I’m still working on Final Fantasy IX‘s third disc, LEGO Jurassic World on the Nintendo 3DS, and need to get back to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, especially with V only days away from release, though I won’t be getting to it until I finish Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes. Oi. Talk about chaos, right?

Collected all those scattered Blast Shards in inFAMOUS 2

infamous 2 collected all the blast shards

I’m nearing the end of inFAMOUS 2–sorry, quick aside, but I previously wrote the game’s name as inFamous 2, and the copyeditor in me will not rest until I owned up to the error and corrected it going forward even if it is a weird way to write something–and I don’t expect to ever play it again despite their being two paths to go down. One is good and saintly with ice powers in tow, and the other is evil and dark, circled by fire. If you know me, you know which way I’m playing; for those that are new, I’m always a good Samaritan first. It’s not that I don’t enjoy playing evil from time to time, but I get the sense that the game doesn’t change a whole lot by doing a few missions morally different.

With the last mission, I assume it’s the last since it is called “The Final Decision,” in sight, I’m trying to wrap up a number of side stuff before I close the book on Cole’s second chapter. My main objectives are finding all the Dead Drops, liberating the second island fully, and collecting all the Blast Shards. Maaaaaybe play a few more user-generated levels. Out of those three dreams, I’ve now found all hidden Blast Shards, and as a collectible, they are both a lot of fun to collect, as well as extremely rewarding in that a set number of them increase the amount of electricity power Cole can use. They remind me a bit of Precursor Orbs from the Jak and Daxter franchise, and nothing of those dumb flags from Assassin’s Creed. There is certainly an art to collectibles, something I’d like to explore down the line.

Basically, any time you ping the New Marais map for sources of electricity, Blast Shards appear for a second or two as a blue dot. Then you gotta find them, and they are relatively easy to see as they are glowing crystals, but most of them are tucked up high on rooftops or ledges, meaning you have to do some climbing. In total, there’s 305 of them, and you’ll come across them every step of the way early on in the game. It’s only after you’ve found about three-fourths of them that you have to begin paying attention and hunting them down, which is not as tiresome as one might think, thanks to Cole’s superhero powers of zipping up buildings and gliding across telephone wires. I found my 305th one out in the water last night, and upon collecting it, Cole accidentally took a dip, dying from the splash. Regardless, I got the Trophy, and I do believe it’s my first Gold one, unless I got one in Vanquish.

Tonight’s goal is to find three (or maybe it’s four?) more flying birds for the rest of the Dead Drops. I think I have run out of side missions though, meaning I can’t free the second island from enemy oppression. Might be wrong, might have to check online to see if there’s anything else I can do. After that, it’s off for Cole to fight the Beast, use the RFI, and watch another classic ol’ Western with his best bud Zeke. Mostly because then I can download Sleeping Dogs (free this month for PlayStation Plus users!) and have some more zany open-world fun, though probably with a lot less zapping and sticky ice grenades. Can’t say that for sure though.