Tag Archives: QTE

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.”

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Begin your King’s Quest by outwitting four other knightly candidates

I have zero association with Sierra Entertainment’s King’s Quest series, despite its legacy in the point-and-click adventure game genre and my love for entertainment based on pointing and clicking. I remember hearing something once that these Sierra games were punishing and reveled in killing the player from time to time, and that’s lived inside of me ever since. From what I can tell, it helped pioneer the use of animation and pseudo-3D environments, as well as introduced the notion of players solving puzzles and advancing by using items found earlier and stored in their inventory, which is a big deal. It’s on my “want to play eventually” list, along with Loom and Day of the Tentacle, which I do own copies of the latter, but I don’t know when exactly that day will arrive.

Anyways, “A Knight to Remember,” the first episode of King’s Quest and free to download on the ol’ Xbox One, is a series reboot from The Odd Gentlemen, which you may know from their work on The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. Well, that’s where I know them. It tells the story of the likeable yet overly excitable Graham, who’s working on becoming a knight and, eventually, the king of Daventry. That’s not a spoiler, seeing as the main meat of the game is told via flashback, from an older, bedridden Graham in bed, many years later after he became king. He’s telling the story of his life to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn. Still, as a young knight-to-be, he needs to outwit four other candidates for the open position and make his name heard.

King’s Quest is most definitely a modern point-and-click adventure game, one clearly designed for a controller and home console, but still retaining many of its genre roots. For instance, there’s no tutorial or quest log to remind players about what they should be doing. One needs to quickly learn how to figure stuff out for themselves; that, or try every item on every other item, which is usually my go-to attempt when stuck. There’s also multiple solutions to puzzles, and, strangely enough, Graham can die, though since this is told via flashback the narrator quickly walks back any life-ending decisions like that. It also very much does not follow in the footprints of Telltale Games’ hand-holding, decision-makers, and for that I am thankful.

You control Graham like you would any avatar in a 3D character-action title, and there’s some sick cape physics to admire. Gameplay consists of exploring locations, talking to people and navigating through dialogue trees, picking up items, using said items, and surviving quick time events. You’ll put your wits to work occasionally and do a whole lot of walking. Let me touch on that last point a bit more because it is where I struggled with the game the most, to the point of almost walking away from it entirely, pun totally intended. See, King Graham, you’re not the only one with the good wordplay.

One of the better advancements in point-and-click adventure games is the introduction of a mini-map or the ability to double click on edges of screens to have the protagonist either move there automatically or simply jump to the next location. When a game is structurally built on revisiting the same locations over and over and over, some of which are four or five screens apart and broken up by loading screens, this is paramount to maintaining a good pace and not forcing the player to watch in stark boredom as Graham meanders to and fro like there’s nothing better to do. Lastly, you can’t skip dialogue, and I suspect that my six to seven hours with this first episode alone could have been trimmed down immensely if The Odd Gentlemen made room for a few more user-friendly design concessions.

Visually, King’s Quest is my jam. Specifically, my cel-shaded jam. This results in environments with a hand-painted effect that looks cartoonish, magical, and, somehow, completely natural. Characters stand out against these backdrops, but only initially. For this first episode, locations are limited, but strikingly varied. Graham ends up in the village of Daventry, inside the castle briefly, visiting a theater, exploring a darkened forest, and creeping through a cave home to a massive dragon, who may or may not be friendly, depending on how you interact with it. Strong, ambient lighting and minute details help round out this fantastical world into something believable and lived in. At one point or another, it felt like moving through a painting. This is also all backed by a good soundtrack and strong voice acting, specifically Christopher Lloyd‘s deadpan delivery of puns.

If I’m being honest, the reason I finally sat down and played King’s Quest is because it is a large, sizeable install and I wanted to open up some space on my console for other games. That said, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing the other remaining episodes any time soon, but maybe they’ll pop up in a nice bundle down the road or just eventually become part of the Games with Gold program. I mean, I already know Graham becomes king, but I guess it is all about the journey, after all. We’ll see if I ever see it through myself.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #46 – Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom

Stop robots, transform
Camera sucks, limp punches
Press buttons as told

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.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #30 – Tales from the Borderlands, Episode 1 “Zer0 Sum”

2017-gd-games-completed-tales-from-the-borderlands-zer0-sum

Vault key deal goes south
For Rhys, Fiona, and friends
Zer0 loves haikus

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.

Batman vs. The Joker and an army of ventilation gates

batman arkham asylum mash x to open vents copy

As you probably already know from the previous post, I beat Batman: Arkham Asylum over the weekend. It was really enjoyable and constantly full of stuff to do, even if there’s a few aspects of it that I found bothersome–more on that in a bit–and if someone had simply told me it was more or less Super Metroid plus Deus Ex: Human Revolution sooner, I would not be as late as I am to this crazy shindig. But whatevs, I did it. Not like I’m opposed to catching up on older games. But truthfully, I think I’m now good with Batman for a bit, not feeling the need to bat-glide right over to Arkham City or Arkham Origins. Though maybe that 3DS game has potential…

At the time of kicking The Joker’s clownish ass back behind bars and completing the game proper, my final stats were as follows:

  • Challenges – 2%
  • Riddles – 142/240
  • Upgrades – 18/20
  • Character Bios – 31/42
  • Completed – 73%

Not bad, not bad. But could be better overall. I’ve since gone back and upped all of those stats, now sitting at an 85% completion rate, with everything in the main campaign found, unlocked, and listened to. Whoop whoop, go moi. However, that means, in order to earn the remaining 15%, I have to not only finish all the challenges, which come in two forms, but also do them perfectly for all their medals. Which seems extremely difficult. In the Combat challenges, you fight against four rounds of enemies and earn points by combo-chaining attacks together, never getting hit, and using a ton of variety. In Silent Predator, you are tasked with taking out a group of enemies in a room from the main game itself, with three specific tasks to accomplish along the way. There’s a handful of each of these, and the difficulty between one and another appears to ramp up dramatically. I’ve tried a few and done simply mediocre on ’em, so I can officially wave goodbye to a 100% completion rate.

What I’m really here to talk about is how much you are required to mash the X button in Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s ridiculous. For all his brawn and muscles and high technology, Batman still has to mash on the X button to pull open/kick out ventilation shafts, rip down glass walls, and topple The Joker off a ledge multiple times during the final fight. That latter reason, I get–truly. But everything else feels unnecessary and is quite tiring, especially when you use the upgraded Batclaw to rip open glass walls from afar, which seem to take more button presses than anything else. Throw in the notion that you’re also, sort of, mashing X a lot during combat to dodge out of the way, and well…that button is getting some seriously loving. I’m not generally opposed to these kind of mini-mash QTE festivals, but Batman uses vents a lot, certainly more than doors, and I don’t understand why it couldn’t have been a simple single button press to open the vent. Is it more interactive? Sure, but it’s badly designed and does not make me feel like a badass superhero.

If you’d like to really stave off any sliver of interest to see how Arkham City and Arkham Origins play out, just let me know if this mechanic is still there. If so, I’ll pass on the mash.

Let’s give it up for extreme violence at E3 2012

First, a true fact: I am not at the physical E3, set at the Los Angeles Convention center, but I can still hear the clapping.

Clapping, in general, is a standard at a convention or event where someone talks and then pauses in anticipation. It’s also pretty much expected when shown something exciting, such as a new game trailer or even just a teensy weensy teaser to get the blood a-pumping and the heartrate up. It’s a reaction, and it is, more or less, a confirmation that what was shown was appreciated or desired or looked upon favorably. Golf claps and sarcastic, slow-building claps that are found only in cinematic talkies are different beasts. However, from what I witnessed via live-streams of E3 2012 press conferences, there are two instances of clapping that struck me as…woefully odd. Disappointing, too.

One happened during a live demo of The Last of Us, and the other during a live demo of God of War: Ascension, and both are sad reminders of why the media portrays gamers as violent-minded folk. When you clap for extreme violence, you are clapping with genuine excitement. You clap because you care.

In God of War: Ascension, during a boss fight, Kratos does his QTE thing and rips out a monster’s brain and then slices it in half, as if the ripping out the brain didn’t already do the needful. This got a rousing reaction from the crowd, with applause to back it up. In The Last of Us, Joel takes the head of a man attacking him and slams it repeatedly into a small dresser until the side of it–the dresser, that is–is covered in blood and the man is unmoving. The audience at the conference really liked this moment and decided to let the world know by starting giving it a round of applause.

Both of these moments immediately made me uncomfortable. I myself felt no need to clap; granted, I was watching from the other side of the United States, first in an office and then second in bed in my pajamas with a kitty cat by my feet. I spent most of the God of War: Ascension live demo reading the comments over at GiantBomb and laughing along, but I did watch the live demo for The Last of Us with genuine interest. I loved when Joel got shot and kind of stumbled back, but brushed it off due to the intense scenario he and that Ellen Page girl were in. I loved how crazy fast everything was happening, and I loved why Joel had to do that horrible thing to that man–to survive, to keep going. I don’t love the moment itself, but the push behind it. That kind of violence really shows the grittiness of the game and that it is in fact The Road and all post-apocalyptic tropes and themes, and that to keep on truckin’ one has to do what one has to do. By no means should these actions be applauded–but they should be understood. The audience members clapping like little kids on Christmas morning clearly did not understand what was happening on that big screen in front of them.

I’ll end with this polar opposite scenario then. In LEGO City Undercover–a debut videogame I now desperately want, but only on the Nintendo 3DS as I’m still not convinced a Wii U is worth acquiring–police detective Chase McCain races down a criminal, tackles him in broad daylight on a populated city street, and the evildoer explodes into LEGO bits and studs. No one clapped.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #15 – Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale

A halfling mage walks
Into a dungeon, grinds, grows
Kills dragon, the end

EDIT: Greg Noe submitted a haiku review of his own for Daggerdale, and as a lover of alliteration, I have to share with y’all. See it here:

Dwarf diviner ducks
To dungeon, drudges, deepens
Defeats dragon, done

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.