The Outer Worlds (PC)


I picked up The Outer Worlds shortly after it launched. Played through it during a week of vacation.

Expectations

I was a huge Fallout New Vegas fan. This game is intended to be a spiritual successor, so I had high hopes for a new action RPG single player experience with a deep story and lots of opportunities for character customization.

Gameplay

Overall the gameplay was very similar to what I was expecting. Interesting places to explore, solid weapon mechanics and different ways to tweak my character.

Graphics and sound were solid. Nothing spectacular but I didn't find them distracting.

One thing that stood out for me playing through this game, was the lack of bugs. I only encountered one real issue, that was resolved by re-loading a save. The whole gameplay experience felt cohesive and polished.

Story

The writing in the game is excellent. There are several companions in this game, and you can have up to two join you during the campaign. They have different personalities that contribute to the overall story and branching dialog options.

Character customization

The companions that add to the story and dialog also add to the character customization. Different companions can add increased damage, defence, etc when they're travelling with you.

Negatives

I did like the base building in Fallout 4, nothing like that exists in this game, but I can understand why that wasn't added. It seems like the developers were focusing on adding polish on core aspects.

One thing I didn't expect, was that there was no big over-world like a true open world game. This game has a lot of large maps, interconnected by spaceship flights. Again, not terrible, and the maps did look nice.

Conclusion

Overall, a very solid and fun game with nice character customization and a great story, Lived up to my expectations, 9/10.

Nintendo Switch: Breath of the Wild

I was hesitant to get into this game. I'm not a huge Zelda fan, I did play Ocarina of Time and enjoyed it overall. My main problem with that game was just staying interested in the story over what I consider a long duration.

I started the game, put it down for a long time, used a gameshark somewhere in the middle, then put in a real push to beat it. Didn't feel very satisfying to complete due to what I considered cheating with a gameshark and forgetting the story before finishing it.

With this newer Zelda game, I figured I'd learn from my mistakes with Ocarina of TIme. Going into it, I made a decision to not look anything up and to play it through without a large gap in the middle. 50 hours later I finished and enjoyed it overall.

Spoilers below:

I started in the big open world, really enjoying everything that was happening. Progression was slow, but still satisfying enough that I'd keep playing for hours.

Around the 30 hour mark I started getting impatient. Along with the awesome open world, were tedious game tropes that degraded my experience:

- A _stealth escort_ mission, where certain actions over a 20 minute period had to be done in a sequential way. I missed a small thing early in this mission, got to what I thought was the end twenty minutes later and there was nothing to do. Had to back-track. Escort missions are bad enough, but the two additional layers of forced sequential actions and stealth (I dislike both mechanics) made this immensely frustrating.

- To expand your inventory, a NPC in a random location (I spoke to a lot of NPCs trying to find out where exactly) has to be given items. Collecting stuff is super fun, why they decided to wall it off behind a random encounter is beyond me.

- The final boss fight has a boss-mode that can only be beaten with a few moves in the game (moves that I rarely used and didn't think to try). I could have spent a couple hours trying every conceivable attack, dying and getting frustrated until the stars aligned... but invincible attack-specific bosses are pure cheese. Give him more health or something, instead of breaking the mechanics I've been playing the entire game with for the last 49 hours.

- (not as bad as the others) To get some exposition around the story, I had to find random places and take pictures.

I had to look up the first three issues, and didn't finish the last. Why there couldn't be a hint via simple exposition for these? Spirits literally telepathically talk to you throughout the game, it wouldn't have been that much of a stretch.

Anyway aside from those three issues, I found the game to be otherwise perfect and extremely addictive. The graphics despite being primitive were good, combat was fun, puzzles were simple but fun, and collecting items was fun but not great (durability negated getting cool weapons).

7/10

Far Cry New Dawn (PS4 Pro)


I've been on a bit of a Farcry kick recently. I picked this game up a couple months ago and decided to give it a shot.

New Dawn is on par with Far Cry 5 (review) and Far Cry 4 (review), with some minor subtle differences.

Since Far Cry games share core gameplay (collect stuff in a big world, kill enemies, capture bases, ridiculous story)... there's not much to say other than comparing it to others in the series.

Cons

  • No annoying capture scenes like in Far Cry 5
  • Instead of cult members or rebels, in this game there are millennial enemies in paintball outfits, who drive around listening to stereotypical millennial music
  • There is a tiered weapon leveling system, meaning you can't explore the map freely without first grinding for better weapons
  • NPC dialog is awful
  • The graphics seemed downgraded. Texture pop-ins and 2D tree sprites really stood out. There was also a lot of dust blowing around, I found distracting

Pros

  • No tower climbing to reveal the map
  • Expeditions are short side missions that give a change in scenery
  • The companion system is carried over from Far Cry 5, it's still good except for their dialog
  • The protagonist isn't over-the-top annoying or cringe-worthy
  • Wraps up the Far Cry 5 story nicely
  • The endgame is more enjoyable and open-ended than in previous games

Conclusion

This gets a 7/10. It's the best Far Cry game I've played yet. It's got the simple addictive gameplay loop that the series is known for, with some nice minor enhancements for the endgame.

I'm hoping Ubisoft reduces the amount dialog and story in their next game, instead focusing on cool combat with unique enemies.

Far Cry 4 (PS4)

Intro

A few months ago I completed Farcry 5, it was the first game in the series that I finished.

I had started Farcry 4 years ago in 2016, but just got bored a few hours in. Decided to pick it back up and give it another shot as it's successor was pretty solid fun, after putting in some time.

Gameplay

Overall, the gameplay was similar to Farcry 5, traverse a big world collecting stuff, kill bad guys in outposts, a few dream/hallucination sequences, and an over the top main villain.

The combat is solid and satisfying.

The story was meh. I can't really remember any details about the protagonist.

When it came to traversing the map, there was only one powered aircraft, and it could only go to a certain elevation. Given that there are a ton of large mountains in this game, traversing the open world was tedious at times. One other point about traversing the world, they really went overboard with the grappling hook mechanics.

Before picking this game back up, I had read that the tower climbing was tedious. It wasn't too bad, I would have preferred more combat focused outposts instead of towers though. They're not fun to climb, they are just something that kind of exists in the game.

Crafting was a larger part of the game than I realized at first. I found myself having to spend a lot of time hunting to get skins so I could carry an adequate amount of ammo, health packs, etc.

Graphics and Sound

I played this on the PS4 Pro, and the graphics were absolutely terrible compared to any other PS4 game. It definitely looked like a PS3 game.

Sound was good.

Conclusion

It was alright, easy to play and never really too difficult. Fun to waste time with, 5/10 due to the enjoyable combat and collectables... but completely forgettable story and terrible graphics.

FAR: Lone Sails Review (PC)

I was looking for a quick game this weekend, came across FAR: Lone Sails on GOG.

Graphics

Some stutters, but after turning off v-sync things seemed to run smoother. Great artwork and a consistent steampunk theme. Nothing spectacular but very enjoyable and atmospheric.

Gameplay

There were no 'Press X to operate the vehicle' in your face tutorials, which I found very refreshing. The gameplay mechanics were built up in a gradual manner.

Gameplay consists of some very simple puzzles that are fun to solve. It contained just enough interactivity to keep me entertained for a short afternoon gaming session.

Sound

Very atmospheric soundtrack and effects. All nicely fitting with the mellow steampunk theme of the game.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a way to unwind and take in the scenery, without super challenging gameplay, this is the game for you. It's a mellow experience the game provides, and to get the most out of it I had to be in the right mindset on a relaxed Saturday afteroon, very similar to Journey.

9/10 (one point off for the graphical stuttering)

Conan Exiles (PC)

Conan Exiles is an open world crafting and building game. I like to play these games on easy, and just chill out base building / grinding for resources.

The good

Something I wasn't expecting, this game doesn't appear to have a fast travel system, or any way to see location markers outside of the full-screen map. This made traversing the environment a lot more satisfying compared to other games, as I was actually plotting a course and avoiding enemies.

Building mechanics are pretty good, on par with what I expected from a building/crafting game. Similar to every other one I've played.

The meh

The graphics are okay. There were a lot of weird graphical glitches. Passable at best.

Combat takes some getting used to. I'll press a button and my character will do something for four or five seconds before I regain control. It feels clunky...  however maybe that's the intent, as the weapons I'm using are pretty heavy.

The bad

There is apparently a plot to this game. However, I have yet to know what I'm supposed to be doing or where I should be going. It kind of bugs me that I have absolutely no direction or way to plan for later parts of the game.

Conclusion

Conan Exiles is scratching the itch I get for games of this type. It's comparable to 7 Days to Die. I can see myself putting in a decent amount of hours just building stuff and leveling up my character.

Monopoly Family Fun Pack (PS4)

This is the perfect game to just chill out with when I'm tired.

Monopoly Family Fun Pack has a few different versions of Monopoly, I stuck to the classic one. The game is exactly what you'd expect, a polished implementation of the board game.

You can customize all the usual rules, and if you're on PS4 can use the PS4 Second Screen app to control the game. They've got a nice GUI for it... I didn't even know this was possible.

Overall very solid. My only gripe would be the trading system is slightly clunky, but other than that, definitely getting a lot of enjoyment out of this purchase! 9/10

Far Cry 5 (PS4)

Far Cry New Dawn recently came out, and as a promotion on the PSN store, Far Cry 5 went on sale for $15, so I bought both of them.

First impressions

I have never beaten a Far Cry game before. The series has been around forever, but there are lots of other games out there to play and I just never got around to it.

I started playing New Dawn, but about thirty minutes in, thought maybe I should play through the previous game before exploring... as some of the NPC dialog wasn't making any sense story wise.

So, I loaded up Far Cry 5. First impressions of both games were that they are running on a pretty good engine, and the graphics don't look too bad. They're not spectacular, other games have graphics that are just as good or better.

Five hours in

At this point, it's very apparent that the story is hamfisted. The shooting mechanics are pretty satisfying. The perk system and weapon customization, while very shallow offer at least some character customization.

Ten hours in

The story is getting really bad at this point. I'm getting warped into cutscenes that make little to no sense, and the villains speak... but nothing of consequence is really said. Friendly NPCs are boring to interact with. All of the story is just a vehicle to deliver missions that involve killing a bunch of people at a base. It's still pretty fun.

Something I thought was cool was the companion system. Although they speak a lot which can get annoying, sometimes they'd do some cool stuff like get into vehicles by themselves and follow me around. I found one that had an RPG and stuck with her for much of the game. Lots of explosions.

Sixteen hours in

I've beaten the game by now. The ending was terrible. Character customization and the occasional interesting open world interactions were really all that kept me going.

Conclusion

I feel like if Ubisoft fired all the story writers, and just built more cool systems to interact with in their open world, the game would be be more fun.

Overall it was satisfying though, and I got my $15 out of the deal. A solid 6/10. I'll likely play through New Dawn, but I've had my fill of Far Cry for at least a few months.

Max Payne 3 (PC)

I beat the original Max Payne on PS2. Skipped the sequel due to life getting in the way, and decided to pick up the third entry today to see what it had to offer.

I remember the original game having a great story. Max was an interesting character with all of his flaws, and his fall from grace was interesting. The story was gritty and immersive. The bullet-time weapon mechanics were solid as well.

Pros

Max Payne 3 has the same solid bullet-time events of the first.

Cons

This game is incredibly watered down:

- Four hours in I have yet to care about Max, the family he works for, or his partner. The story is incredibly boring.

- The game is challenging at times, but if you keep dying it will automatically decrease the difficulty by giving you extra health and ammo each time you spawn. I don't remember this happening in the first game.

Conclusion

It could be nostalgia, but I feel that this game is a cash grab with the Max Payne title. The only redeeming quality is bullet-time events, 5/10.

Tetris Effect (PS4)

My first experiences with Tetris were in the early 1990's. I played the arcade version sometimes, but I did buy an original Gameboy and a copy of Tetris from a local used game store. This was my only game for a while as a kid.

I was never great at it, but I did end up beating the Gameboy version, and have a lot of nostalgic memories related to long family car rides... squinting at that green screen.

I haven't played much since then. When I bought Tetris Effect, I had no idea of the different game mechanics that made their way into the game over the years. Things like T-Spins and the 7bag randomizer.

Good

My Tetris play style is based on the classic version. Learning the new gameplay mechanics has been  challenging but also very satisfying. It's a great feeling when you're able to spot opportunities to create a sweet T-Spin, with the help of a held block and the 7bag randomizer. It adds a new level of strategic depth to the game that is super fun.

The visuals and audio in this game are spectacular. Progress and player speed impact the soundtrack and visuals in a meaningful and immersive way, with line clears and block rotations creating cool effects. These mechanics add a great layer of immersion that compliments the excellent gameplay.

Bad

There are almost no negative aspects to this game. The only one I can think of, and this is a very small issue, sometimes the particle effects are slightly distracting.

Conclusion

I love this game. It has just the right amount of nostalgia and cool new game mechanics, combined with excellent audio and visuals.

10/10

PS4 VR (PS4 Pro)

I bought the second version of the PS4 VR Black Friday 2018. In case you're wondering what the differences are between the first and second versions, the main difference is support for HDR pass-through. For more info, the second has model code CUH-ZVR2 and complete technical specs are available on Sony's PS4 VR website.

Physical setup

There are a lot of wires you'll be connecting, and a separate box that the headset uses, what Sony is calling a 'Processor Unit'. I was curious about why VR would require an additional box of electronics, with a fan in it, to augment a PS4 Pro. After some Googling, the non-official answer is this box handles some user interface layering on top of the console output. Take that with a grain of salt. My best guess is that the VR and PS4 software departments at Sony didn't get along, and the VR team just went ahead with a separate box to speed up time to market despite the cost.

After connecting all the wires, you'll have to calibrate movement tracking, and affix the headset so that things don't look blurry. This is all pretty easy and straight forward.

Actually wearing the headset is pretty comfortable for a couple hours. Although the padding did leave a checkered imprint on my forehead. I haven't tried it with glasses, I can imaging that situation being cumbersome though.

Gaming

There are lots of free demos on the PS store for VR, I decided to avoid these and buy a couple games. I bought Astrobot Rescue Mission and Tetris Effect.  For both games, the graphics were at a lower resolution but looked pretty good. I'll be reviewing both in-depth after I have a few more hours of playtime, but my initial impressions after about five hours in each:

Astrobot is very fun. Movement tracking is accurate, the puzzles are innovative and VR movement tracking is built into the core mechanics of the game. I was looking around corners, smashing my head through virtual walls, and shooting grappling hooks from my controller. It was great.

Tetris Effect is also fun, but Astrobot was the clear winner if the goal is to experience what the PS4 VR has to offer. The only real benefit of Tetris Effect in VR is that if you've got distractions around you, like somebody talking on the phone or pets running around, you'll have an easier time focusing on the game without hearing or seeing anything else.

Video

Watching Youtube VR was super disappointing. The resolution was worse than VHS quality at times. I would consider this functionality completely broken.

Other uses

The PS4 VR can be hooked up to any HDMI output and be used as a personal display. Resolution is kind of low, but acceptable. I've used it a couple times to play games from my Steam library.

After some research, it looks like there may be third party drivers to get movement tracking working on the PC. I haven't tried these though, they'll be a followup post most likely.

Conclusion

For purpose-built VR games on the PS4, the PS4 VR is super fun. There's not a huge library, hopefully more cool games like Astrobot come out in the future. For everything else, it's kind of disappointing.

It costs a lot for what it is, 6/10.