A little while a go i wrote a small peace on the upcoming free games on PS+. In the post i mentioned a worry over the fact that “This War of Mine: The Little Ones” was one of the included games, and too my knowledge that was a DLC and i worried it may force players to buy the main game in order to play. Well, my buddy over at Cheap Boss Attack said that it would be the full game, and i was going to leave it at that as i wasn’t sure 11 Bit Studio would ever respond to my inquiry. But, to my surprise they did in fact email me back confirming that the PS4 addition of the game was simply named after the expansion and would be playable for anyone who picks it up next month.
You know what i’ve always liked about Sony and Playstation? The Controller. I;ve found the PS controller to be the most comfortable over all, and i like that it has never changed in any meaningful way. Yes, you can fell the difference between the PS4 and PS1 controllers, but they’ve stayed pretty consistent. Well, it seems like some idiot convinced Sony that emulating the god-awful Xbox controller was a good idea. Microsoft hand-sore has evolved in much the same way, becoming more palatable over the hardware generations, but one of the main reasons i don’t like the Xbox is because i don’t like the controller. Because of that the fact that this exists with Sonys Ok is……a lot more understandable that i’d like to admit but still something that bothers me on a personal level.
Okay lets be real here: Espots that use controllers tend to use Xbox controllers and Sony is going to want in at some point. Most PC games with controller support only are really only designed to support Xbox controllers and with Steam now allowing full PS4 controller support it makes logical scene to give people a version of the controller they’re probably already more familiar with. But, if the internet has taught me anything it’s that just because something make logical scene that doesn’t mean i have to like it. So if you’d like to spend $113 on this abomination, go head.
The more i see of this game the more the exact same issue pops out at me: the levels seem almost lifeless. I’ve said before that in game that may not be an issue and that i can’t say for sure until i get my hands on it. That remains true now, but this trailer does help illustrate why i’m concerned. Look at the part at around 23 seconds in when the character pulls the lever on the slot machine. Look at the vast empty space that surrounds it. Look at how there are almost never more that three enemies on screen in big open spaces. I really hope i’m wrong about this: i really enjoyed what little i played of Banjo Kazooie as a kid and want to see more games like it and after Mighty No. 9 i’d really appreciate one of these throwback games to…you know…good. But for right now, i’m worried. i would love, LOVE, to be wrong but until i hear from reviewers i trust that it’s good i’ going to have to lower my expectations.
By William Shelton
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Systems: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed), Mac
Developer: Lince Works
Publisher: Lince Works, Merge Games Ltd., Maximum Games
Obtained By: Review Code Provided by Lince Works
Aragami is not a bad game, but I think it will be mistaken for one by a lot of people. The stealth action gameplay is flawed but enjoyable….for a while. For the first few hours I was having a blast, but by the mid-point, were I stopped, I just wasn’t anymore. Nothing had changed and it took me a little to figure out just why I wasn’t enjoying my self as much any more. Then it hit me: nothing had changed. After the first few missions the game just runs out of steam and new ideas.
You play as an Aragami, a vengeful spirit, summoned by a young girl named Yamiko to free her from captivity and bring ruin upon those who killed her people and imprisoned her. In order to do this you must collect several talismans before the night ends and the light kills the Aragami. This is Video Games 101 story stuff: kidnapped girl, eight macguffins, ticking clock, go. Hell, change a few names around and this could be the gritty reboot of Zelda. Yamiko even accompanies you as a ball of light and actually says “hey, listen” at one point.
The classical nature of the games story doesn’t hut it as much as it’s predictability. When you obtain one of the talismans the Aragami is hit with a rush of memories that are supposed to be foreshadowing a future twist, but I guessed it almost instantly. This had me wishing the game would cut the pretense and get to the point. Or at the very least they could have done a little better in the sound department to make the story more enjoyable to sit through.
Okay, it’s unfair to blame the entire sound department. The issue is the voice work for the two leads. The actors for Yamiko and the Aragami might have done a fine job but I wouldn’t know as the developers put on a thick layer of echo on each one of them. I get what Lince was aiming for, making it sound like these two come from different planes of existence, but I found it got on my nerves pretty fast. Everything else works just fine: the music has a nice traditionally Asian sound to it, the kills are cartoonishly gruesome which fits nicely with the stylized visual aesthetic and your main power (a short distance teleport) has a subdued “whoosh” that conveys the speed and stealth ninjas are associated with.
The gameplay fairs better for the most part. In the way only stealth or horror games can get away with, the player character is incredibly weak and most foes can kill the player in one hit. Because of this it’s best to keep out of sight and in the shadows. To reinforce this, shadows are now more important than they are in most other stealth games. The Aragami has several supernatural powers at his disposal that deplete energy which can only be refilled by standing in shadows. And that teleport you have from the beginning can only transport you to a shadow covered area. With all of this combined I really did feel like a stealthy badass once I got into the games rhythm. Getting into that rhythm was part of the problem however.
Most of the skills available you have to unlock by finding a certain number of scrolls hidden throughout each level. Because of that, unless you search every nook and cranny of every level it can take you longer than it should to unlock basic stealth mechanics. For example, one skill allows you to dissolve bodies in shadows, but until you unlock that ability there’s no way to deal with the corpses you leave in your wake. In the early game that meant I was constantly putting guards in high alert as they found their fallen comrades.
Not helping matters is how many of the powers are more or less useless. After unlocking three or four of the abilities I really didn’t feel a particular need to unlock any more. And the ones I did were, once again, standard mechanics for the stealth genre.
The game makes up for this short coming, at least in the early hours, by being really well made and a lot of fun. While the controls took some getting use too (“Space” to kill? “F” to interact? Who came up with this control scheme?) once I got the hang of it I was never too bothered. But like I said at the start of the review, after a while the game just kind of runs out of ideas. The levels get bigger, but you face off against the exact same enemy types throughout and you’re doing the exact same thing in each level, breaking the power source for a light shield so you can move on to the next area. In the last mission I played before stopping to right this review they added the first new enemy type since the second level: a proximity mine that’s too easy to avoid. This is part of the reason so many of the powers feel useless; the player is never asked to adapt. Only once in my play time was I ever put into a situation that felt like it was shaking up the gameplay and that was dropped once I beat that part of the level. That’s why I think this is going to be misjudged as a bad game by a lot of people: if you play too much of it at once it begins to feel tedious and it’s easy to forget just how good the stealth is.
Special mention has to go to how not only how good the game looks, but how well the interface in handled. The cell-shaded look of the game is simply beautiful, and the hand drawn look of the flashbacks complement it well. And you never have to stop paying attention to how gorges the game is to check visibility meters or manna points as that’s all a part of the character. The Aragami’s cape tells you how much manna you have and the character darkens when hidden in shadows. Any and all information you need to know can be found with a single look at the character, and I really appreciated that.
In the end, a lot of bad choices keeps Aragami from being a great game, but it was an enjoyable enough. It’ll probably be even more enjoyable when played right, in short burst every now and again. I am very much looking forward to going back and completing the game, just not right now.
The Last of Us was one of my favorite games on the PS3, my favorite Naughty Dog game and easily in my top 10. So as you can imagine, i’m super excited to see this. Hell, i’ve been thinking about where a second game could go since i finished the first game. While this does look like it’s going exactly where i thought a follow-up would go, i’m more or less okay with that. I mean, lets be honest, the stories of Naughty Dog games tend to be less important that their abilities as story tellers. So long as Joe and Ellie are still as memorable and…i don’t think “likeable” is applicable here…..interesting as they were in the first game, we should be in for a good time. That being said, there are things that could be done better:
The first item on my wishlist is to make Ellie the player character. And no, this isn’t even just becuase of the need for more female protagonist in games. She was very much the focal point of the first game, and if this trailer is anything to go by, she will very much be the lead here too, so a switch in perspective would be very much appreciated.
Next up, no more platform puzzles. No more looking for ladder or floating platforms. None of it. The overuse of these types of puzzles was the biggest issue i had with the first game, so for fucks sake Naughty Dog, be more creative, yeah?
Don’t go morbid the entire game. The thing that the original game did right, the thing that made it stand out, was the fact that it made the darker moments matter by having something to contrasting them with. I know there is a temptation to just go darker with a sequel to make it feel more intense than the last one, and i’m fine with that so long as we still get those calm and quite moments to know what’s being lost once all hell’s let lose. If the status quo starts off as “Everything’s fucked”, then we have no reason to care when the shit hits the fan. To be fare Naughty Dog has been pretty good at this, but it’s still something i wanted to bring up.
So, are you excited for The Last of Us Part 2? Are you sick of grimdark games? Leave a comment below and let me know.
If you are one of those who strive to platinum every game you play then Sony just did you a massive favor. With the newest system update you now have the option of looking at the hidden information for these achievements, making it easier to get the most out of your games. Personally i never cared much about getting every trophy in a game (the only two platinum’s I’ve got are for the two Walking Dead Seasons, and those are pretty much gift rapped for you) but i like this addition well enough. And if you’re worried this may take out some of the surprise and intrigue intended, i repeat that this is only an option. So feel free not to partake if you so choice
By now you probably already know wither or not you care about the upcoming Final Fantasy game. Hell, if we’re being honest most of us probably knew what our level of excitement for the game before it was even announced. Personally i’m excited and willing to consume whatever content Square is willing to throw at me. That said, who thought this was a good idea? Pretty much everything is fine, but it seems like Square just spoiled a major plot point right from the start. The way one character is introduced seems to suggests their villain status is meant to be a twist of some kind. But right from the start we seem them say “i want to kill you Main Character”. I could be reading this wrong, but the scene at the dock to me implies he’s meant to be unassuming until his villainy is exposed. Yet everything else in the trailer is just “watch this guy be evil”. That’s bad trailer making Square. The game is still going to end up as my Christmas present to myself so i guess i can’t complain too much.