Mass Effect 3 (2012)

It’s been a couple months since I played Mass Effect 3, but I have not written anything about it because I could not express my utter disappointment through words alone. Still, I have to make an effort to try to articulate what went wrong with the final game in the legendary Mass Effect trilogy. Maybe that’s being a little harsh as the game up until the final mission is good, great even, but the ending leaves a permanent stain on the entire franchise.

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The positives of Mass Effect 3 mimic the previous games in the series. Strong storytelling, interesting characters, and a heavy emphasis on player choice. Additionally, Mass Effect 3 plays very similarly to Mass Effect 2 as a cover-based tactical shooter. There are a few new abilities to play around with but for the most part the gameplay is about the same as its predecessor. The big difference between the two games is how quickly the story ramps up. While Mass Effect 2 told short, episodic narratives and focused on your squad members, Mass Effect 3 places less emphasis on your team and more on the galactic war threatening the destruction of all life. The previous two games in the series have been building up to events of Mass Effect 3, and it delivers convincingly with a massive scale war. The game really does a phenomenal job at setting up a David vs. Goliath narrative and making the player really feel like they are the galaxy’s last hope.

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Many of the missions that you will play in Mass Effect 3 are life or death for certain species, planets are on the line. As you travel across the galaxy with your small squad of elite soldiers you will encounter past squad mates and witness how they rose to glory in their respective races. These moments are immensely gratifying as you watch Shepard’s old pals lead their races away from certain destruction and work together to destroy a common enemy. And with the emotional highs, come the tear-jerking moments. You will have to make difficult decisions, and some friends and acquaintances might not survive. These types of moments are what Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were lacking, nothing bad ever happened to your squad who you had become so attached to. I guess BioWare was just saving all these moments for the last game, as they are plenty of them.

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The first major issue that I have is not just with Mass Effect 3, but with its publisher, EA. EA likes to make money, and is willing to sacrifice product quality and player experience for it. In the case of Mass Effect 3, that means loads of important content being locked behind downloadable content (DLC) that you must pay extra for. There are numerous DLC missions that are integral to the story and background of the game, and that’s unacceptable. Furthermore, you can buy Mass Effect 3 for $10-$15, but if you want all the essential DLC, you are going to need to pay an extra $60. The price for these missions has not gone down and they don’t go on sale either, so even 6 years after the release of the game you must pay top dollar to get the full experience. This is not just an issue with Mass Effect 3, every game published by EA suffers from their greedy mentality. It’s just unfortunate for Mass Effect 3 that a lot of its best content is locked behind a paywall.

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The biggest issue with Mass Effect 3 is just how much of a letdown it was as a conclusion to the franchise. First and foremost, the mission lacks the oomph-factor. I would have absolutely loved to see previous squad mates show up to the final battle backed by their armies to assist Commander Shepard and have some impact on the gameplay and mission itself. But the biggest flaw is not the entire missions, but the last 10 minutes. I don’t want to spoil too much, but very little is explained to the player. After three story-driven games I wanted to see a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, but I was met with a punch in the gut. The player is told through some expository the reason for the Reaper invasion, but it does not make a whole lot of sense. Furthermore, the final villain is just portrayed terribly. I really don’t know what the developers were thinking. To drive the issue home, there are three choices for the end of the franchise. And realistically, all of them lead to the same conclusion. Every single choice that the player made in all this time playing the series was absolutely pointless. For a story-driven trilogy with emphasis on player choice, this was so far out of the ordinary that I am still in shock. To further rub it in the player face, very little is explained after the final choice. You really do not learn how the galaxy turns out as a result of your choice. Overall, I felt hollow and immensely disappointed that the series ended on such a low note.

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As a whole, Mass Effect 3 is a fine game, it adopts much of what made previous entries to the series so great. If the ending of the game was not such an absolute dumpster fire, Mass Effect 3 would be on par with Mass Effect 2 and the series would be immortalized. Still, the Mass Effect trilogy is legendary. I wish there was a more fitting conclusion, but even without a hard-hitting ending Mass Effect 3 is still unforgettable.

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Waluigi Doesn’t Deserve to be in Smash

After Nintendo’s E3 conference centered around the reveal of Super Smash Bros Ultimate fans have been in an uproar over the exclusion of Waluigi. I don’t think highly of Waluigi, and I think even less of the fans behavior. The outcry surrounding this one particular character is insane, and people need to take their outrage down a notch. Would I like to see more characters in Super Smash Bros Ultimate? Yes. But the reality is that roster space is limited and character slots are valuable. As such, Waluigi should bring something to the table that every other possible candidate doesn’t. Personally, I don’t think he is worthy.

Who would he replace?

The entire point of Super Smash Bros Ultimate is that every character from four previous games would be playable in the game. So right off the bat, you cannot replace any of those characters with Waluigi. Next, there are 3 newcomers to the game: Inkling, Ridley, and Daisy. I think it is indisputable that Inkling and Ridley are far more deserving to be in the game than Waluigi. They both are main characters from major Nintendo franchises while Waluigi is a side character who only appears in spin-off titles.

Moreover, those characters are from underrepresented series. Inkling is the only character from Splatoon to be added to Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and Ridley is the third character from Metroid. The Mario series already has like 10 characters in the game, Waluigi would be overkill. The only debatable newcomer is Daisy, but Daisy is an “echo” fighter, meaning that she simply copies her moveset from Peach. Daisy was easy to create, and an entirely new Waluigi character would not be. I imagine that Daisy was a quick addition to the game while Waluigi would require much more work.

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He is not a major character.

There are a lot of characters that get requested to be put in Super Smash Bros. Obviously, Ridley and Inkling were probably the two most desired characters and they both made it in the game. Other than that, Bomberman, King K. Rool, Shovel Knight, Banjo & Kazooie, Bandana Dee, Decidueye, and Shantae were all also some high-profile choices that were commonly requested. Like Waluigi, none of those characters made it into the roster either and I think they are all probably more deserving.

Truthfully, I don’t know when this Waluigi hypetrain got in motion. Only in the past few years have I seen Waluigi gain a whole lot of attention and before that he was a throw away character. I think that he is some internet culture phenomenon that is popular solely as a joke. Sure, the existence of a bizarro Luigi who can only say “WAHHH” is kind of funny, but I genuinely feel the majority of his popularity exists due to meme culture. Waluigi’s entire existence came about because Wario needed a partner for the original Mario Tennis. Since then, he has not starred in any of his own games, nor is he a main character in any game. He is a spin-off filler character, and that is not debatable.

Realistically, Waluigi’s meteoric rise in popularity is only because he has become a meme. Super Smash Bros games are timeless, and I would be pretty disappointed if the developers added a meme character in the game over a major character from another franchise. Sure, it would be hilarious now, but the nature of memes is that in a few years it won’t be funny anymore. If Waluigi is added now, years down the line people will be asking “Why was Waluigi included over X,Y, or Z again?”.

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The fans behavior is disgraceful.

Ok, now for the serious part of the article. The real issue at hand is that fans have been acting terribly since the reveal of the Super Smash Bros Ultimate roster. It was pretty evident at the Nintendo E3 presentation that the game’s director, Masahiro Sakurai, was determined to fulfill many fan requests. They brought back every single character from every previous game, that in itself is pretty crazy. Furthermore, they added two highly requested new characters, Inkling and Ridley. And they added the somewhat popular Daisy as an echo fighter to boot. So, what is the fanbase’s response to the fulfillment of many long-time requests? To go completely ballistic apparently.

Seriously, is it worth making such a fuss over Waluigi after Sakurai and his team worked hard to include numerous fan desires? I would be surprised if the developers ever listened to fans again. It was stated directly that they went through great lengths to include every previous character and Ridley in particular was difficult to design. Yet the developers are treated like garbage because of the exclusion Waluigi. Furthermore, harassing a game developer over Twitter is immature and unacceptable. The fact that there is such an uproar about this is absurd. What about EA’s predatory practices? What about the pre-ordering problem? What about microtransactions? What about cash-grab DLC? Seriously, of all the things people choose to get upset about, it’s Waluigi. Unbelievable.

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I’m all for tons of different characters being included in Super Smash Bros Ultimate, even Waluigi. But including characters takes time, resources, and money, so roster space is ultimately limited. Inlcuding Waluigi as a joke character over numerous other worthy choices is kind of bizarre if you ask me. Waluigi is a meme, and memes die off. Still, regardless if whether or not you want Waluigi in the game over anybody else, don’t act like a jerk. Harassing the developers over social media and writing angry posts about Waluigi is just disrespectful. Even if you’re joking, remember that people’s literal livelihood was making Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and berating them and their efforts because they didn’t include a meme is unacceptable. Maybe I’m taking this too seriously, and honestly, I didn’t care much about the issue at first. But when a developer goes out of their way to appease fans and they get flak for it I can’t help but get offended. Games are meant to be fun, the community should strive to be friendly, not full of vitriol and hatred.

A Hat in Time (2017)

Few games can hit the nostalgia nerve without being a direct remake of a game that you played as a kid. Somehow, A Hat in Time manages to take me back to the early 2000s despite being a brand new 2017 game. Inspired by the likes of Banjo Kazooie, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Psychonauts, this game combines elements from these classic and memorable games to take the player back in time to experience pure platforming bliss. A Hat in Time is witty, charming, and a wholesome game that anybody can jump into and have a blast.

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Perhaps the most nostalgic game for me is Super Mario Sunshine, despite all its issues I just feel happy playing that game. The sunny environment, the upbeat music, and the extremely varied levels makes it a game that I look at back with great fondness. A Hat in Time heavily emulates Super Mario Sunshine in its structure and presentation but it modernizes it for a new generation to enjoy. You play as Hat Kid, an adorable little girl who is piloting a spaceship on a journey home when her travels are interrupted. The player must hunt down timepieces to fuel the rest of her trip and make it back home. From the hub of the spaceship, you can choose from four separate areas each with numerous levels. Levels can be any number of challenges, some are mini-games, some a boss fights, some are collectathons, some are free-roaming, but most are tasks based in platforming. Quality level design and variety make this game a blast to play.

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The other shining feature of A Hat in Time is in its characters and charisma. Hat Kid will encounter a number of different characters, each one is goofy in their own right. Each area has an episodic story told through the levels that has you interact with the characters. Moreover, even though Hat Kid is a silent protagonist, she still displays plenty of emotions and has a few funny moments. A Hat in Time just oozes charm with its lovable characters and story. Furthermore, the vibrant colors and cheerful music are sure to keep you joyful.

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A Hat in Time method of progression is similar to most 3D Super Mario games, but with a twist. You unlock new areas by collecting timepieces (similar to Stars, Shines, or Moons from the Super Mario series), but Hat Kid herself can unlock new platforming tricks through the use of hats. As you progress through areas you can collect optional balls of yarn that are used to craft a number of different hats. Some of these hats provide simply quality of life bonuses like the ability to sprint or a hat that shows where the next objective is. Other hats have necessary abilities to progress through levels. You can swap these hats around whenever you want, and you can even equip special badges to get even more small bonuses. These hats provide some a nice feeling of progression that gives the player a bonus incentive other than just timepieces.

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There are a few minor problems that I have with A Hat in Time. First in foremost, while the game takes the best features from early 3D platformers, it also comes with one of the worst, the camera. The camera controls in this game are unwieldy and occasionally frustrating. In tight spaces especially. Frequently the camera will become locked and you cannot rotate it around to see your surroundings. This can be enormously annoying because sometimes you cannot even position it to see where to jump. The next issue that I have is that while three of the four areas are phenomenal, one is just a letdown. The area Alpine Skyline lacks the charm of the other areas because there are no characters or major objectives, it is a simple free-roam to collect a few timepieces. Moreover, these are the longest timepieces to obtain in the game by a longshot. You have to undergo 15 minutes of lame free-roam platforming to reach the real areas where the timepieces are even located. Its unfortunate because A Hat in Time is short as it is, only having three worthwhile areas makes that issue even worse. Still, I guess it bodes well for A Hat in Time that I wanted more of it, it shows that I really did enjoy the game.

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As a whole, A Hat in Time takes the player back to a simpler time in video games. Just some nice, wholesome fun. I can say with utmost certainty that anyone can enjoy this game. Whether you are a complete newbie or an older gamer looking for a hit of nostalgia, A Hat in Time is sure to impress. I wish the camera was not so janky and that there were more quality areas, but overall it was a heartwarming experience. For these reasons I give A Hat in Time a 9/10. I hope we will see more games like A Hat in Time being produced, as it was simply a pure and joyful ride down memory lane.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 (2017)

The genre of computer roleplaying games (CRPGs) is fairly unpopular and has not seen a lot of attention in recent years. While many classics such as Diablo, Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, and Planescape: Torment are seen as incredibly important titles there not much demand for these types of games anymore. As the medium of gaming as progressed, the slow, methodical, and classic style of RPGs has become niche as it was replaced by action-adventures. These types of games are inspired heavily by tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons, with heavy emphasis on character building, numerous progression options, dialogue, and stats. This tradition has been upheld by Divinity: Original Sin 2, which is a deep, creative, and addicting CRPG. As a disclaimer, Larian Studios recently announced that they are going to release an enhanced version of the game the fixes some of the things that I am going to write about, so some of this review may be obsolete in a few months from now.

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the newest entry in the longstanding Divinity series, but don’t fret, even as a story heavy RPG this game is not is not dependent on its predecessors. Even though I have not played any of the previous games, I completely understood and was drawn in by the story of Divinity: Original Sin 2. The central theme of the game is focused on an otherworldly magic called source. Few individuals can tap into this source and it allows them to cast powerful spells and abilities. By accessing source however, it allows monsters from the void to travel to the world and attack bystanders. The player is one of the few who can tap into source and is persecuted for it. You join up with companions who are in a similar situation and attempt to uncover the mystery of source and the void.

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The gameplay of Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an isometric turn-based RPG. The player can control their own avatar and up to 3 companions throughout the world. As a CRPG, the game has a very heavy emphasis on dialogue options and different paths. In the starting area alone, there are 7 or 8 different methods of progression to move forward. It is immensely satisfying to hunt down all the numerous paths and branches and make choices that reflect on your character’s personality. Of course, many paths and options are locked behind stat-checks, clever responses, and special abilities, so you have to find the path that suits you. Like its pen-and-paper predecessors, Divinity: Original Sin 2 lets you create and build your own character from the ground up. Even if you mess up and make a bad choice, the game lets you redo your stats so there is no need to worry about min/maxing. Aside from character building and decision making, Divinity: Original Sin 2 supplements its gameplay with turn-based and strategic combat.

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While the combat is usually not the focus of a CRPG, Divinity: Original Sin 2 does a fantastic job at making it addicting and gratifying in its own right. There are plenty of different classes, skills, builds, items, and strategies to play around with. The interesting thing about Divinity: Original Sin 2 is how many of the abilities interact with each other. You can use rain to put out fire which creates steam which you can strike with electricity to create a static storm. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Tons of different elemental abilities and status effects interact in unique manners to allow for some dynamic and creative strategies. Even more intriguing was the decision to allow players to partake in “cheese” strategies to effectively break the game. “Cheese” strategies include things like teleporting enemies into pits before the fight even starts, or littering the battlefield with explosive barrels preemptively, or having one of your characters leave combat to buy potions while the rest are locked in a turn-based affair, and much more. These creative solutions break the game and almost feel like cheating, but the developers intentionally left these things in the game to allow for player freedom and ingenuity, and I quite like that.

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With the combat that Divinity: Original Sin 2 offers, there are a slew of issues that can plague any instance of combat. The first being that the game is fairly confusing and daunting at first glance. With dozens of different stats, abilities, skills, items, environmental effects, status effects, and combat nuances there is a lot to soak in. Realistically, it does not take too long to understand the basics, but I can see how many people may be dissuaded by the depth of the game. The next issue is balance, as with any game, some abilities and classes are better than others. However, some abilities are so wildly powerful that I wonder how they are even on the same plane of existence as many of the weaker skills. What really busts the combat are the crowd control effects, things like stuns, knockdowns, taunts, slows, etc. These abilities generally deal solid levels of damage while also incapacitating the enemy. Sure, they have cooldowns, but with 4 characters and each with a dozen different ability slots you can easily chain crowd control together in a way that never lets the enemy perform an action. The only downside of these skills is that they require you to break the armor of the opponent before you can crowd control them. Battles become a race to destroy the opponents armor and indefinitely stun-lock them before they can do the same to you. As such the difficulty can be a little binary, you either break their armor before they break yours and the battle is a breeze or vice versa and the battle is nigh impossible.

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The one massive issue that I had with balance was the leveling system. Levels are massively impactful in this game and they take a long time to earn. A singular level increases your power exponentially, and this creates a plethora of problems. Battling enemies who are higher level than you is ridiculously difficult, and battling lower level enemies is incredibly easy. The slow gain of levels means that you can be level 9 with 99% experience, but you are still going to struggle against a level 10 enemy. And finding more experience is not easy, especially since it takes 2-4 hours to gain a single level. You can get roadblocked by higher level enemies and have to turn back and hunt down easier foes. This especially is frustrating when you are in the middle of a quest because you have to abandon your progress and come back later, and by that time you will have forgotten the details of what you were even doing. More frustrating still is how armor and gear scales just as quickly as the player. A level 10 common piece of armor is often better than a level 9 legendary piece of armor. Having your best equipment being made obsolete by common clothing in a single level is infuriating. Moreover, it means that you have to constantly keep track of all 10 pieces of armor on 4 separate characters to make sure that is always up to date. When you get a new breastplate for example, you have to check if its better than any one of the 4 that you currently are using. Constantly reequipping your characters is mind-numbingly boring and tedious, but it is absolutely necessary.

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Despite its issues, Divinity: Original Sin 2 has flashes of brilliance and is easily one of the best modern CRPGs on the market. I could get over the balance issues and leveling system, hell they could be easily patched and rectified, but there is something much more detrimental to the game. The biggest issue that I encountered was just how the game got worse in nearly every aspect as I got further in. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a long game, but it wasn’t just fatigue or the desire to “be done” with the game that hampered my experience. The game is split into 4 distinct acts, each taking place in a new map. Act 1 was absolutely phenomenal, tons of side quests, a gripping main story, polished level design, and while it was fairly linear it still offered a ton of different branching paths. Act 2 was much larger, but to its own detriment. Too many directions to go with very little guidance, and the issue with the leveling system rears its ugly head. Much of the map is nearly impossible to tackle early on because you are not a high enough level. This means that you have to explore the entire area just scrounging for enemies that you can actually fight. Act 3 is a short and uninspired area that lacks any side content.

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Finally, Act 4 is an utter disaster. Most of the fights feel like nonsense that require you to use “cheese” tactics or overpowered abilities to even stand a chance. There are very few options or paths of progression for many of the quests, some literally only have 1 possible option which is a far cry from Act 1’s branching decisions. It’s a shame because after such a long playthrough you want to enjoy the end and the resolution to all the major quests and plotlines, but many of the late game fights just feel like the developer is throwing the kitchen sink at the player. Worse still, the game’s performance drops drastically as the game slogs on. Glitches become commonplace, framerates begin to suffer, and load/save times skyrocket. I feel like Act 1 was meticulously designed, tightly crafted and tested extensively, Act 2 was still solid but not nearly as carefully planned, and Act 3 and 4 were just rushed.

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Overall, Divinity: Original Sin 2 still may be one of the best CRPGs ever made, even if it is a dwindling genre this game manages to demonstrate why these types of games can be so fun. Divinity: Original Sin 2 showcases the best of the genre: branching paths, witty dialogue, fun character building, and creative solutions. And it also has the worst of the genre: rampant balance issues, frustrating inventory management, and broken enemy encounters. As a whole, I think the goods significantly outweigh the bad. Acts 1 and 2 make up the majority of the game, and the one good thing about Acts 3 and 4 being oversights is that they are fairly short. Moreover, the developers are working on an enhanced edition of the game said to fix much of the balance woes and completely rework Acts 3 and 4. If the game was Acts 1 and 2 alone, it would easily be a 9/10, but sadly it just falls apart too much in its final act. For these reasons, I give Divinity: Original Sin 2 an 8/10. I really hope the enhanced edition fixes the issues that I have with this game, as this game has tremendous potential. The first act alone is a masterpiece of RPGs and is worth experiencing but prepare to be let down later in the game.

Ōkami (2006)

By looking at my avatar on WordPress it should be obvious that I am a huge fan of Ōkami. That being said, I have not played it since it was released 12 years ago. When it was remastered for the PC, I was overjoyed to return to one of my favorite games. It is apparent to me now that while Ōkami is an inherently flawed game, it still remains overwhelmingly charming, unique, and cozy. The remaster itself came with a new host of issues, but the base game is not perfect either.

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Ōkami is an action-adventure title that is based in Japanese folklore. You play as Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun who is represented by a white wolf. You travel the lands with your wood sprite companion, Issun, to dispatch of an ominous dark presence that covers Nippon. It is evident that Ōkami was largely inspired by The Legend of Zelda series, the format of Ōkami is nearly identical to that of its muse. A silent protagonist assisted by a small, incessant helper, travel the open world clearing dungeons as well as assisting townsfolk along the way. You gain new abilities to open new paths as you progress. Even though Ōkami took heavy inspiration from another series, it remains obviously distinct.

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The core focus of Ōkami is that the player’s main tool is the celestial brush, a heavenly painting instrument. The player can paint across the environment in a variety of different ways to achieve different effects. Drawing a sun to change the time of day, or a bomb to blow a hole in a wall, or a tree, flowers, or other foliage to make local critters happy. Even in combat, the celestial brush plays a large role. You can draw lines to slash, blind, stun, or slow enemies, making the brush a versatile weapon and progression tool. It is seamless to use and master, and it is the main form of progression in Ōkami. As you travel the land you learn new brush techniques to assist in your journey. This unique gameplay aspect is what sets Ōkami apart from similar games and it makes for an incredibly memorable experience.

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What I love about Ōkami is just how charming the whole experience is. It is obviously a feel-good game. Cleansing the environment of a malignant darkness and replacing it with foliage, cherry blossoms, and blooming natural features is immensely satisfying. Furthermore, Ōkami is centered around helping the citizens of Nippon, and it is rewarding to help around the countryside and solve problems. Amaterasu is both an adorable and fearsome protagonist, and she is incredibly expressive to make up for her lack of dialogue. The art of Ōkami was inspired of the traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e style of making woodprints. It certainly helps Ōkami stand out as this art style is rarely seen the medium of video games (and digital media in general). Its art style matches its story, as both are derived from Japanese culture. The story told in the game is a mixture of numerous Japanese folklore tales spun into one. All in all, everything about Ōkami is just relaxing. If anything, Ōkami just feels good to play.

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While it remains a classic game for me, it is obvious that Ōkami has issues. An incredibly long introduction sequence that takes forever before you can really start playing. There is a ton of dialogue which pads out the game length and can frankly get annoying when you just want to play the game. Your companion, Issun, is the biggest example of this. If you thought Navi, Tatl, or Fi from The Legend of Zelda were annoying, let me tell you they have got nothing on Issun. He constantly interrupts and is a major source for the overinflated level of dialogue in this game. The other big issue was that at times Ōkami can be a little repetitive. For example, there is one particular boss that you have to fight three times with no significant changes. Other than the repetition issues and excessive dialogue there was a single issue that I think is exclusive to the PC port of the game. Hell, it might be exclusive to just me because I searched for other people who had this issue but I was the only one that I found. The issue that I am talking about is how text boxes would often get stuck and I would have to wait 15-30 seconds to see a new line of dialogue. This was supremely annoying but I think I was the only person in the world to have this issue.

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Overall, Ōkami mostly holds up to my memories and standards. A few nagging issues brought the game down, but it is still a phenomenal game. It is incredibly unique, charming, and enjoyable to play. Whether you like similar games like The Legend of Zelda or action-adventure titles in general, definitely check out Ōkami. Ōkami is still one of my favorite games, despite its flaws. There is just something about it that draws me in, maybe I just like the fact that a cute wolf is the protagonist, but there really is something magical about Ōkami.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017)

The idea of an “independent triple-A” game is quite obviously an oxymoron, but still Ninja Theory make a convincing attempt at it with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. A triple-A game by definition is created by a massive developer and can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce. Ninja Theory is attempting to break the mold by creating an experience that feels like a triple-A title, but was cheaper to create, cheaper to purchase, and is a shorter and more focused experience. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice could easily be passed off as a niche triple-A title with its stunning visuals and production value. I really support Ninja Theory’s efforts as the industry seems to only focus on triple-A and indie games, so few games are released between these polar opposite designations. I would love to see more games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice that are not cheap little indie games but are not massive and sprawling triple-A titles, a happy medium would be appreciated. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a narrative-driven hack-and-slash which details the experience of Senua, a Celtic warrior who suffers from psychosis.

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It is evident right from the beginning of the game that mental health plays a key role in this game. Senua hears whispering voices in her head at all times, these voices gossip about Senua and occasionally aid or discourage her journey. The player is actually described as one of the voices that guides her. It is imperative that if you play this game you must play with a binaural headset, as these voices are critical to building tension and immersion to the experience. Not only does Senua hear voices, but it is apparent that much of the game is played in Senua’s mind. What she is fighting is often not real, and she visuals terrible imagery as a result of her psychosis. I would describe the game as a psychological-thriller, tons of unsettling atmosphere and a constant sense of dread are instilled by Senua’s psychosis.

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Moreover, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is undoubtably a dark game due to the nature of its content. Horrifying depictions created by the mind of Senua make it clear that this game is not for the faint-hearted or squeamish. Senua journeys through Helheim, the Norse version of Hell to save the soul of her beloved. She fights gods and foul creatures alike as she journeys through Helheim. The game has a heavy emphasis on Norse mythology, and I quite liked how some classic Norse tales are dictated to the player as you travel through the world. It may be just a small thing, but I really did enjoy hearing accounts about Sigurd, Odin, Thor, and the rest as I walked from place to place. Furthermore, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a masterclass in immersion. There is no heads-up-display (HUD) like in most games, there are no obvious tutorials, there are no button prompts, the only thing on the screen is Senua. Even the default difficulty in the game is “auto”, meaning that if you play well it automatically gets harder and if you play poorly it gets easier. Nobody has to mess around with the difficulty settings, you just play the game out and it will find the appropriate level of challenge for you. All of this combined with the psychological themes in the game made me really feel like I was actually one of the voices accompanying Senua. It is very easy to get immersed in the world, the atmosphere, voices, imagery, and lack of HUD really make the experience engrossing.

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It is obvious that the gameplay was not the main focus of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It is primarily meant to be an immersive, artsy, and narrative experience. The motif of Senua conquering her “darkness” may be a little heavy-handed at times, but for the most part the game hits the mark. Where it falls flat a little is in the gameplay department. Combat is initially a little slow as you get used to the controls, but as the game progresses it quickly ramps up. Your swings and strikes feel properly weighted and the controls are very responsive and easy to learn. The voices even play a big part in combat as they warn the player when an enemy is attacking you from behind, allowing you to dodge or parry and enemy that you did not initially see. Everything feels fluid and intense, and this is complimented by the pure spectacle of the combat. Loads of visual effects and beautiful animations accompany your attacks, making the whole experience engrossing. The issue is that the combat is not very deep, there are only a few enemy types and you mostly fight every enemy the same way. Once you master parrying no enemy could possibly pose a threat to you, and eventually the combat becomes tiresome and repetitive. Towards the end of the game, there are long and drawn-out sections of combat that feel like you are fighting an endless wave of enemies. By this point, the excitement of combat had worn off and it felt like a slog to battle my way through hundreds of copy-pasted enemies over and over again. This could have been solved if more complex enemies were introduced towards the end of the game, because by the half-way point I felt like I had seen everything the game had to offer in combat.

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The other aspect of gameplay are the puzzles. Most of the time progression is blocked by some form of puzzle. Sometimes you had to find a specific rune shape by lining up environmental objects. For example, aligning some trees and houses to create a “M” shape. Other puzzles include walking through magical gateways in the right order. Or finding a way to create a bridge by looking at it from a certain perspective. Generally, these puzzles were not great, but they were inoffensive. They are not particularly hard and they require very little thinking. For the most part I did not hate these puzzles, but I was not really in love with them either. Towards the end of the game the puzzles actually got somewhat interesting, but mostly the puzzles felt like filler. Apart from puzzling and fighting, the main thing you will be doing in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is walking. This is a narrative heavy game and plays as such. If you want constant action and are not okay with just soaking in the environment, atmosphere, and emotions that the game provides than this game is not for you.

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All in all, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice does precisely what it set out to do. It is a visually stunning game that could be passed off as a triple-A title, and it tells a surreal and twisted story about a woman suffering from psychosis. It is easily one of the most immersive games I played, and its atmosphere was captivating. While it does struggle a bit from the gameplay perspective, it does not significantly drag down the experience. Both the combat and the puzzles are passable, and at the very least are not frustrating. While I wish they both offered more depth as the game went on, they were not offensively bad either. For these reasons I give Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice an 8/10. It is an enthralling experience that portrays the effects of psychosis and grief on the mind of a Celtic warrior.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (2012)

Turn-based games are fairly decisive, you either love them or you hate them. I tend to be in the “love them” camp, and many of many favorite series are turn-based and strategic games. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a reimagining of the 1993 turn-based game X-COM: UFO Defense. The purpose of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is that the world has been invaded by aliens, and the player is put in charge of a worldwide organization to combat the alien threat. You oversee everything, from building your base and recruiting new soldiers, to making sure every country is safe and supports you, to commanding the squads during missions, every minute detail is a decision made by the player. XCOM: Enemy Unknown seamlessly combines two aspects: turn-based combat and base management. Both aspects revolve around each other and create an addictive feedback loop.

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Much of the gameplay of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is turn-based combat, in which you field a small squad of your planetary defenders against an unknown alien threat. Much of the time you are raiding UFOs that crashed, but you may also assault alien bases or simply defend cities and their denizens from being abducting. You have four different classes at your disposal: Heavy, support, assault, and sniper. As you train up your soldiers, they will progress along their paths and gain new abilities and talents to use in combat. Of course, aliens also get more threatening as time moves forward. After every mission, you will bring in a haul of resources from the defeated aliens, allowing you to research and reverse engineer the foreign technology. Allowing your own soldiers to field plasma rifles and other alien gadgets. This progression loop is immensely satisfying, you complete a mission, use the loot to upgrade your weaponry and base, and bring that new technology out on the next mission. Strategically maneuvering against opponents is not the only aspect of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, as there is also a solid base building facet.

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Similarly to how you upgrade your weapons, your main base will also become more advanced as time progresses. You must build laboratories, workshops, satellites, and power generators to keep up with the alien threat. Furthermore, you must strategically decide which missions to tackle, as often times you will be forced to choose which country to assist. You must attempt to keep every area at a low level of panic, or else they will drop their support for your project. Managing these different panic levels is crucial, and the player has to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of every choice. You also choose what to research and build, and doing these things takes a lot of time, so you must choose wisely to maximize your effectiveness. Outside of the base building and combat, XCOM: Enemy Unknown does not offer a whole lot, but that’s okay. The story is serviceable, it’s a pretty standard alien invasion story. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is what it is, which is a tactical turn-based game with base management aspects.

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There are a few key issues that I have with this game, the first being the randomness. Almost every turn-based game uses some form of a random number generator (RNG) to keep the player on their toes and create a different experience for every player. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is widely known for being very frustrating in this aspect, as a couple of bad dice rolls can lead to the death of a soldier. I’ll admit, I probably just have a personal vendetta against the RNG in this game as I have literally missed what was displayed as a 100% hit (turns out hit percentage is rounded up, so I only had a 99.6% chance but it was displayed as 100%). The frustration for me stems from the fact that it is very easy to get attached to your soldiers, and most players will probably have around 10-15 super soldiers that they rotate in and out of missions. Losing one of those guys on a .4% chance is infuriating. I would have preferred it if the game encouraged you to keep a much bigger group of usable specialists, because losing one guy out of fifty is not a big deal but losing one out of ten is.

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The other issue is that RNG is always going to feel bad, but there are plenty of ways to make the player not resent it so much. Modern Fire Emblem games for example use a system called “true hit” which, without going into mathematical details, make the chance to hit a target higher than what is actually displayed. For example, what is shown to be a 70% chance in Fire Emblem is more like an 82% chance. Another solution is to use “pseudo-RNG”, which would increase the odds of hitting subsequent attacks if you missed a high hit chance. The purpose of implementing either of these systems is simply for user experience. The developer should want the player to not absolutely abhor the RNG, as it can lead to rage-quits and a lot of anger. Furthermore, too many random odds in a tactical game like this will inevitably lead to a few select players getting absolutely screwed by the RNG.

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Other than the randomness, there were a few other problems I had with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The first being the lack of objectives in any given mission. The goal in most missions is simply to kill all the enemies, which is a fairly boring task and does not give the player a whole lot of incentive to innovate tactically. Also, aliens just wander aimlessly because they have no objective to defend. My favorite missions in the game were the ones in which you fought other human forces who are attempting to hinder you. In those missions, the player must either defend an encoder with secret information from the enemies, or you must hack the enemies’ encoder to obtain their information. In both types of these missions there is some sort of objective where all the action will be centered around which make the maps far more engaging. Implementing some sort of goal in every mission would go a long way to make missions more interesting and diverse.

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Furthermore, adding mission objectives would also alleviate the next issue, which is that the game is often just way too slow-paced. Because of the aforementioned randomness, the player must play extremely carefully as to not make costly mistake. The optimal strategy is to slowly creep forward a few tiles per turn until you reveal group of aliens through the fog of war. Once revealed, these aliens will automatically move to cover and be free to blast you on their next turn. The player is encouraged to move in a way that will reveal these enemies at the start of the turn, and then have all the rest of your soldiers follow up immediately to kill the aliens as to not give them a single action. Maps can be fairly large and your squad never gets bigger than six, and you are not going to split them up to cover more ground as that is an unnecessary risk. The player is left to slowly sweep a large area searching for the last aliens to exterminate. It can get fairly boring and respective after a while.

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As a whole, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a solid tactical turn-based strategy game. It definitely has major flaws that I hope are addressed in future titles. While the missions and base building can be addictive, there are a few things that need to be fixed. Slow and repetitive missions, no objectives, and the random factor of the game are the major issues that I would like to see fixed in the future. Hopefully, the next XCOM game can build upon the franchise and improve upon the foundation that XCOM: Enemy Unknown established.

The Witcher 2 : Assassins of Kings (2011)

It is always interesting to see how a developer progresses across games. Without a doubt the largest improvement I’ve seen is CD Projekt Red and The Witcher series. The first entry in the series certainly had a lot of heart and inspiration behind it, but it was an ultimately clunky and it underwhelmed me. That being said, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has made great strides to improve nearly every aspect of the game. The visuals, story and most importantly, gameplay, were significantly upgraded. There were still a few bizarre design decisions that baffle me, but regardless I consider The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings to be a stellar RPG and a must play game if you are remotely interested in fantasy.

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The most obvious improvement is in the gameplay department. The original game’s combat was point and click, most of the gameplay was pure preparation and understanding your enemy’s weaknesses. Thankfully, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings built on the preparation-based concepts from its predecessor. Gathering ingredients and performing alchemy to create potions is invaluable. Instead of just choosing a predetermined “fighting style” like in the original, in this game you proactively choose between heavy and light attacks depending on the enemy and circumstance. Furthermore, in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, you dodge, block, and parry by actually pressing buttons and responding to enemies’ actions, rather than being a static chance like in the original game. Item usage also got a massive overhaul, allowing the player to seamlessly integrate traps, bombs, and other related items into their combat repertoire. Still, I would not consider the combat in this game to be stellar, but it is beyond serviceable and was not a source of frustration like the original game. There is absolutely no doubt that the gameplay took gigantic leaps forward from its predecessor, and that is what is so remarkable about The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

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While the gameplay was undoubtably a massive improvement, The Witcher series is first and foremost an RPG, so story and roleplaying aspects should be the focus of the series. It is fortunate then that The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has such an engaging and gripping narrative. The Witcher is often described as a gritty, realistic, and mature fantasy series, it is not a fairytale story, and this title certainly follows that standard. The player regularly has to choose between the lesser of two evils, and you will often regret and rethink your decisions after the fact. It is obvious that these games are grounded in reality, even with their fictional magic, creatures, and world. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings tells the story of the monster hunter Geralt, who was framed for the murder of a king. As you hunt down the king’s assassin, you experience a wartorn land, humans fight nonhumans, and foreign invaders seek to seize the opportunity to claim power now that the king is dead. Geralt’s amnesia also begins to clear up throughout the story, which challenges previous knowledge and expectations that you have. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings tells a riveting story and I cannot wait to play the next game to see what happens next.

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Obviously, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings made notable improvements over the first game, but there are still a few strange design choices that cause nothing but frustration. The first is that potions are unusable during combat. At first glance this makes sense as it prevents player from stocking up on potions and just chugging one whenever you take some damage. However, this is already prevented because potions heal you gradually rather than all at once, so you cannot just chug for instant regeneration in combat. This is annoying because it is not always obvious when the game is going to throw you into a big battle or boss fight, as there is usually a long cutscene or dialogue segment beforehand. What usually ends up happening is that the player talks to another character, gets tossed into a boss battle immediately afterwards, and then has to reload a save from 10 minutes prior just to drink a potion and sit through all the dialogue again. Another odd choice was to separate the world into 3 different acts. This was possibly because of engine limitations rather than an intentional choice, but it is a flaw nonetheless. Once you complete an act, you cannot visit that area again or do its quests, which makes the whole world feel smaller and more confined. There are also a few usability issues I had with the game. The user interface was messy and difficult to navigate and I frequently encountered glitches and bugs which forced me to restart my client numerous times. These issues were common enough that they significantly hampered the experience, they are not just small nitpicks.

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As a whole, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings managed to make great strides to improve upon its predecessor. More developed combat and a gripping story make the game worth experiencing. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a quintessential action RPG, and it is no where near as clunky as the original. It is evident that CD Projekt Red put forth a lot of effort to improve on their flagship series, and it shows. If the next game improves as much as this one did, it may very well be a masterpiece.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (2015)

There have been few games that can match the feeling that Hotline Miami provides. The unreliable narrator and his hallucinations provide a sense of confusion and unease. The gratuitous violence was shocking but was a subtle commentary on violence in the medium. Additionally, the fast-paced gameplay was brutally precise, leaving a sense of adrenaline and accomplishment. The same cannot be said for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, it felt like an imitation of the original. Still, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is an entertaining experience, but it lacks the careful execution and craftsmanship of the original game.

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First and foremost, the gameplay and level design feels like a haphazardly created version of the first game. The level design in particular is a shocking downgrade. The series is based in a remarkably fast-paced environment in which the player partakes in shooting sprees and beatdowns on the mafia. What makes the game so interesting is that both the player and the enemies die in a single hit from a melee weapon or bullet. You have to quickly rush your way through levels to outpace the enemies and make sure they don’t catch you off guard. The player is encouraged to move rapidly to keep ahead of the enemies, you always want to be shooting first. The issue in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is that this style of gameplay often feels discouraged. There are so many long hallways that the game funnels the player into. You cannot see the enemies before they see you, leading to unwarranted deaths. Moreover, levels are littered with windows that make it impossible to rush through the level as enemies will spot and kill you instantly. Furthermore, each level is longer and houses more enemies, meaning it will take longer to complete each section. Melee weapons lack viability, as the open spaces encourage the use of guns. The giant floors and wide-open areas encourage caution and careful planning opposed to fury and bloodlust. This shift in dynamic is not suited to the series, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number feels more like a puzzle game than an adrenaline pumping and violent frenzy. Hotline Miami makes the player feel like John Wick, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number makes the player feel like a redshirt off of Star Trek.

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The other bizarre change is with the general format and presentation of the game. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a tale of numerous protagonists. This does create the feeling of confusion and disarray like its predecessor, but for a completely different reason. The original game was focused on a singular character who suffered from PTSD, psychotic breaks, and other mental issues, generating a sense that much of the game was a fever dream. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was confusing just because there were just so many constantly shifting perspectives. Nine different perspectives spread out across 27 levels is a recipe for forgettable protagonists. There were only a few characters that I even remotely felt interested in, the missions that helped make sense of the first game in particular were intriguing, but the rest I just did not care about. Additionally, the original game let the player swap “masks” that changed the character’s moveset and abilities for any particular level. In this game, each character has their own individual gimmick. So instead of choosing how you want to play, you are forced into certain playstyles and are obligated to put up with frustrating gimmicks. I will admit it was somewhat interesting when the storylines of the characters linked up as they crossed paths, but still I just was not particularly invested in any of them.

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As a whole, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number missed the mark for what made the original so impactful. Levels feel fan-made rather than professionally designed, and the gameplay as slowed downed tremendously. The more meticulous style may appeal to some people, but I feel like it just does not match the tone of the Hotline Miami series. Shifting perspectives create a sense of confusion like the original game but make for far less memorable characters. Jacket was an iconic character from Hotline Miami that will go down in video game history, but nothing similar can be said for the characters of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. On the plus side, the soundtrack is just as enticing as the first game’s. While I did rag on the game a lot, the core remains the same: rush through levels and kill the mafia. At the end of the day, the game plays similarly to the original, but lacks the nuance and flow. For these reasons, I give Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number a 6/10. The level design was just not up to par, which severely hampered the adrenaline pumping action which I’ve come to expect from the series.

 

Prey (2017)

It is well known that 2017 was an absolutely stellar year for games. One game that may have gone under the radar is Prey. There are a few theories for why Prey went so unnoticed, but the prevailing reason for it being overlooked is its name. Despite the confusion with its name, I think Prey is a solid title that definitely is deserving of more recognition.

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Prey shares its name with a 2006 game. Unintuitively, the games are in no way related, they are not even in the same genre. The Prey that was released this year feels more like three other series: System Shock, Bioshock, and Dishonored. Prey was obviously inspired by System Shock and Bioshock. The lonely, dark, and disturbing atmosphere portrayed in Prey is straight out of these series. You feel like you are trying to survive a utopia gone wrong, there is a heavy emphasis on survival compared to a standard first-person-shooter (FPS). You cannot tackle encounters with guns blazing like DOOM or Call of Duty, you must carefully and tactically use your resources and knowledge to proceed. Moreover, I say Prey is similar to Dishonored mostly because the level design philosophy is remarkably similar. That’s probably because they are made by the same studio, and if you’ve played Dishonored you will immediately recognize the hidden ducts and paths to sneak through the levels.

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The setting Prey is a space-horror and psychological thriller. You play as Morgan, a scientist with no memories as to what happened and what led to the dire situation at hand. There are mysterious aliens roaming the halls and the quarters are littered with corpses, and it is your job to decipher what happened. There are conflicting characters and perspectives that you weigh in your mind, somebody is lying to you about the situation. I’d argue that the story is simultaneously engrossing and lacking. The vast majority of the narrative and exposition is told at the beginning and the end of the story, and the entire in between section just feels empty. The opening to Prey is probably one of the greatest openings to any video game, or any media for that matter, ever.

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I usually loathe the slow and monotonous starts of games as a narrator or character spews expository dialogue at the player, but Prey starts differently. It feels simple and innocent enough, but the atmosphere just feels a little off and tension rises as you discover the reality that Morgan must now endure. As usual I really do not want to spoil anything, but Prey does an excellent job at building pressure and mystery for the first few hours. Sadly, after the initial introduction to the world there is not many narrative aspects to expand on the opening until the very end. The entire middle section of the game consists of “Do this, do that, find your way through the space station, and then I will tell you the truth”. This was incredibly disheartening and by the time I did reach the ending I feel like my interest in the outcome had waned after hours of being kept in the dark. That being said, the final sequences of Prey were phenomenal and were a great pay-off, but the middle section just left a bad taste in my mouth.

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The people over at Arkane Studios have built one of the most cohesive and intriguing worlds that I’ve seen in a game. The space station Talos I is a sprawling, living, breathing world that can be explored inside and out. The living quarters, lobby, arboretum, and other areas feel like a luxurious hotel that people actually lived in. Computer terminals with emails, innocuous notes, and the placement of objects goes a long way to make the world feel natural and realistic. Every corpse has a tag that can reveal their identity and you can uncover where that character worked, their background information, and possibly find terminals containing emails they sent or received. Again, this really ups the immersion that Prey provides. Also included are places like life support systems, the power reactors, and the­­­ maintenance tunnel that runs the length of the station. These areas are far sparser, as it should be. You can also visit the exterior of the station, and see all the sectors from the outside, and they make sense logically. The developers obviously put a ton of work into creating and maintaining this immersive universe.

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The meat of gameplay in Prey consists of three core elements: exploration, combat, and gathering/crafting. These elements work simultaneously with each other to create a gameplay loop in which the player explores a new area, dispatches of the enemies in the area, and then gathers all the resources to restock on ammunition and supplies. Early on, it feels like you are deprived of resources and you must conserve ammunition, grenades, and health packs because they are scarce. That aspect is certainly enjoyable as it makes the game tenser as each encounter no longer focuses on only survival, but also the cost of taking down enemies. You are encouraged to creatively kill enemies to save bullets, or even avoid the foes altogether. Despite this, as the game progressed I realized that I had a huge stockpile of health packs and ammunition building up since I was being so conservative, I almost wish the game did not give you so many resources. This way, creative planning would be vital and scavenge for resources would be a necessity.

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While Prey labels itself as a FPS, the shooting and gunplay is hardly a main focus. Prey feels more like a horror or thriller game than a classic FPS, and that’s a good thing. In DOOM for example, you blast through hordes of demons, you never really feel scared or threatened by these hellish creations. In Prey, the scarcity of the enemies is what makes them so dreaded. Most of your time will be spent exploring the station, cautiously looking out for any aliens, but for the most part the aliens are few and far between. This creates a psychological effect as you never really get comfortable at fighting these creatures. Furthermore, subconsciously you make the connection that if there is a lot of enemies, they must be weak so that you can deal with them in large numbers, and if there is only a single enemy, that enemy must be immensely strong. Prey falls into the latter category; any encounters are incredibly tense due to just how frightening these aliens are perceived to be. Moreover, a specific enemy can mimic regular objects in the environment, leading to fear even when you think you are safe. As you scavenge for resources, the coffee cup next to you could reveal itself to be an alien and strike at you. All these reasons just lead to an atmosphere of horror and dread. All that being said, the actual FPS features in Prey are rather weak. The gunplay feels unsatisfying as enemies do not even react to getting shot, it feels like there is no weight behind your bullets. If you are looking for a classic FPS filled with action and firefights, Prey is probably not for you. However, if you want a thrilling and fear-filled adventure, it may be right up your alley.

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The best way to describe the level design of Prey is that it mimics Dishonored. There are loads of alternate paths and routes through the levels. You can use your gloo-cannon to reach an inaccessible ledge, or you can use a special perk to jump higher, or you can find a keycard to unlock a door, or you can find a duct, or you can turn on the power an unlock another routes, or you can use your strength ability to move objects out of the way, or you can hack a terminal and unlock a path, and the list goes on. It feels like there is an immeasurable amount of ways to tackle any individual obstacle in Prey, and that philosophy also pertains to enemies. Using different guns, grenades, special perks, and melee attacks also remind me of the “playground” feel in Dishonored. The only difference is that in Dishonored you play as an elite assassin, the enemies are feeble compared to the player, but in Prey, you are the prey. The numerous options feel a little stunted in this game because you are not the hunter, so the player’s creativity is limited by the feasibility of their tactic. All in all, the level design is fantastic, but I wish instead of offering creative combat options which barely see any use, we instead had more polished and refined gunplay befitting of a FPS.

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Overall, Prey is a solid title that unfortunately did not get the attention that it deserved. Its name confused consumers and fans of the original Prey felt alienated by this brand-new game, while people who did not like the original did not give this game a chance. Either by branding itself as completely new entity, or perhaps by paying homage to System Shock or Bioshock, Prey easily could have gained a lot more traction and generated far more interest than it did. Prey tells a cohesive and mind-bending story, but unfortunately the pacing was slightly off. Moreover, Prey has some excellent gameplay elements to keep your blood pumping and heart racing, but the FPS aspects are just underwhelming. For these reasons I give Prey an 8/10. It is an outstanding and immersive psychological thriller with an unfortunate name. ­­