How’s the Witcher 3 DLC? Worth picking up?
In preparation for Sonic Mania we’ve been dipping into the classic four again, and I’ve also picked up Sonic Rush for the DS (which I’d never played before).
The original four still hold up - and my son absolutely loves the Chemical Zone (so he should be chuffed with Mania). But I’ve found Rush a little disappointing, after a good start.
At first it seemed like it was a great follow-up to the originals, particularly when it came to the physics (which so many of the later games have got wrong, to varying degrees).
But as I’ve started to get into it I’ve realised that the positive surface elements initially conceal some quite poor level design that comes to light a little later. There are some quite hollow speed sections that more or less put you on rails the whole way, some cheap enemy placement that punishes you with a collision without giving you any hope of reacting in time, and some sections that are virtually game-breaking in the way they’re impossible to pass even when you do everything right. (There’s a section on one fairly early level that I still haven’t cracked after countless tries.)
A shame, as the art style and overall approach to the game are pretty good, and Blaze is one of the best new characters added to the franchise since S&K.
I thought that Rush was a step-down from the Sonic Advance 3 games in almost every way. It’s kind of impressive really. Sonic Advance 3 was a blast (though pretty frustrating at points).
Just as the main game pushed the envelope, so too does the DLC. Their official estimates are:
- Hearts of Stone: 10 hours
- Blood & Wine: 20 hours
I’m quite certain I got a lot more than that out of both - they could have easily released B&W as a standalone sequel game, it was that major.
New enemies, weapons, quests, locations, areas, armour, abilities - hell, B&W is worth it just for the city of Beauclair.
I remember thinking the Sonic Advance game I tried was a bit ropey physics-wise, and a bit basic in terms of the art/design and gimmicks. A bit like playing the old Master System/Game Gear versions.
I always find Sonic games a bit poor in terms of physics. Mario he is not.
But there’s always something a little sadistic and a little pleasing about platforming sections with that blue hedgehog. Gotta go fast, he says, until he’s faced with pretty much anything that interrupts our usual programming of holding right on the D-pad until the level ends.
Oh, it’s not about the physics being realistic or anything. Just accurate to the way he should move, as per the original games. Some of the modern iterations went through a phase of having him return to the ground very suddenly and sharply after jumping, which throws all your calculations off.
And Sonic has always been a mean platformer as well as a speed-fest. Getting the right mix is important, and as good as Sonic Mania looks, a lot of its success (or otherwise) will depend on the level design, which is impossible to judge at this stage.
The videos make me think they’ve got this nailed. There was one clip that showed the odd “come to a complete stop when you hit a slope at a certain angle” quirk that the original game engine had.
Talking Sonic Mania the opening animation was uploaded on YouTube yesterday.
Very Sonic CD!
It’s interesting to see the lift goes 1, 2, 3, K(nucles), M(ania) effectively ignoring the pretty poor Sonic 4.
So, save for 3 cauldrons and 4 bandit camps, all that remains on HZD, some 80-odd hours later is the finale quests.
It’s a strange game: The exploring, acquiring and learning new weaponry, utilising that on robo-enemies ranging from the small to the absolutely fucking massive is excellent. The story-telling and characters are good, but tends to be better on the sidequests, albeit not equal to Witcher 3. But the main quest gameplay? Too often reverts to the worst videogame bullcrap. The game is set up to be played a certain way and it rewards the player’s understanding of that way, but the main quest throws that out the window in favour of straight up fighting which it really isn’t designed for! It’s as if they ran out of imagination.
I did a sidequest, Traitor’s Bounty, that was just awful and it culminated in 3 guys with super-armour and weapons - not a fun quest by any standard. The sequel to it though, Queen’s Gambit, was superb and I took out a Corrupted Thunderjaw no less. Had a quite satisfying resolution too.
So, started the big next part of the main quest - and yes, enter the humes. Whenever this game throws humans in, it nosedives. Sure, setting up a deathfield of traps is fun, but it’s still a pain, very much modelled on the Batman Arkham system, which is now getting on. On one part they spring an ambush, 3 dudes wearing black in a dark corridor - I could barely see them, but they had perfect sight of me! Yes, they still died, but it wasn’t good. A later fight decided to go for waves, which is also a pain - I’m done, oh look, they’re dropping in - literally - new enemies.
So, later on I end up in the Sun-Ring where the game decides to strip Aloy of weapons and armour. Great, that’s fun, no, it really isn’t. So do what I need to get those back and in the fight that ensues I watch a Corrupted Behemoth run straight a solid stone pillar! If it’ not doing stuff like that i’s always out of camera shot, but the game wasn’t finished being an idiot…
On the next quest I’m sure I was supposed to walk into the village and have a huge fight. Stuff that, I grabbed a high spot and bombed the hell out of them instead. Kept doing that until the last bit where a Corrupted Thunderjaw turns up, so I go about it in the usual fashion - except no damage! Turns out it takes no damage until you get close enough to trigger a cutscene, whereupon the Nora come out fighting and then it takes damage. It’s that bad. So, I still took out its weapons, set it on fire and so on, but it was easily the worst way to take one of these on. Strangely there was a Deathbringer in the valley earlier and that just vanishes afterwards - very odd.
So, went to Gaia Prime - turns out I’d previously explored - and killed everything in - the area, so it was an easy waltz to the entry. After that some rather devastating but very well-executed story sequences hit.
I finished it off by getting the Shield-Weaver armour, involving some puzzle bollocks that shouldn’t have been there - they contributed nothing of worth to it.
Might finish it tomorrow, might not.
So, turned out I did need to do the bandit camps after all thus:
Then I looked and saw a pale horse. Its rider’s name was Death
So it was for the bandits, all the bandits. Save for the last camp, doing these with the Shield-Weaver armour was the definition of overkill, but very fun.
So the endgame beckons… One day, one day I’ll play an endgame that isn’t total arse - to be fair Yakuza 0’s was actually pretty good. HZD’s really isn’t, the best way I can summarise it? Imagine a guy on a balance beam, he takes a few steps forward, slips, cue crushed balls - and the game does that again and again.
Doesn’t look like spoilers work anymore so click to read, don’t say you weren’t warned.
It starts with a boss fight with Helis, who ain’t actually man enough to go mano-a-mano, nah he has a load of goons with him, those die quick. But Helis? Oh no, this supposed human takes more ordinance to kill than a damn Thunderjaw! Which really breaks the story completely because he is still supposed to be human, a human does not get to walk through 10+ explosive tripwires - story goes out the window in favour of video game artifice. Still, finally killed the arsehole so next bit?
The next bit has you using the same type of cannon from the Free Heap mission and it’s as inaccurate as ever - the game then throws Deathbringers, plus a host of corrupted enemies - Watchers, Scrappers, Longlegs, Ravagers, Bellowbacks then, just for fun, as you’ve got this crappy, unreliable cannon, throws in a load of Glinthawks and a Stormbird. Yeah, it was as fun as it sounds - not very. So you get through that and it really is more of a chore than the big climatic action sequence it wants to sell itself as and what happens?
Well, the game strips you of health and then you have to leg to the Spire. Once there you have a Corrupted Deathbringer boss, plus Corrupted minions and a time limit. This is not forgetting of course that the Deathbringer can always regenerate the weapons you blow off it and never runs out of ammo. I did it with 5 mins to spare but was it good? Was it fun? Absolutely not, it was a pain in the arse.
The storytelling and the characters remained very good to the end, what let it down was the gamewplay and structure of the final quest. The penultimate quest was very well-executed and I was very happy I got the All Allies Joined trophy, which is what I was really going for.
It’d be fair to say I probably hated around 75% of the main quest, certainly the majority of it - the narrative was excellent but the bits in-between the pieces of it? Far less so, especially the human enemy sections. In contrast I found most of the sidequests, errands and other miscellaneous pieces far, far better.
The world design is quite brilliant, setting a new graphical standard for the PS4, with a high variety in environments but with a geographical sense of logic to how they work, altitude being a key indicator.
The robot creatures are a triumph of aesthetic design and gameplay, in that you will have to frequently changes strategy and tactics - it is massively satisfying to take out an entire set of enemies having prepared everything - you can even do this to a Thunderjaw, though be very careful in how you set it off, those things can kill you quick and do not go down easily no matter what preparations you make.
I racked up just over 88 hours on it, but certain pieces of it did really piss me off. There’s also a good few, quite key, mechanics in it that the game doesn’t do that good a job of explaining too - the aiming being one example of this.
Finally it’s biggest success is Aloy, as they’ve created an excellent lead character and hero. One of Aloy’s best traits is she’s confident without being arrogant or acerbic, she’s not a character who is abrasive in order to maintain their ‘edge’, she’s confident enough that she doesn’t need to be. As a game character she gets and keeps the player interested, in part this is due to the brilliant opening tutorial which really gives a sense of attachment to the character.
How do I rate it overall? That’s a hard one, it does a whole lot of things very well but that main quest is seriously flawed in its gameplay. A flawed masterpiece? Yeah, that fits. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do with the upcoming DLC, hopefully more robots, less humans, at least in terms of enemies.
It is, in every sense, a very good exclusive for the PS4. It has a gameworld and adversaries like no other and realised in a way that it probably couldn’t be until the current generation of consoles came along. Have you played a game like this before? No, you haven’t.
Well, I just went through the whole Doom2 on UV… And yes, that final level is just ridiculous on UV. I’m sure it’s possible, hell I might’ve done it with another 50 tries (you really need good luck, which kinda sucks in a game like that), but I ended up cheating because eh… not worth it. It’s like a x1000 difficulty spike between that level and the rest of the game
Anyways, I enjoyed it all, but I gotta say, I ended up with the distinct feeling I liked the first Doom better, because I thought Doom2’s maps were a bit more repetitive and somehow boring, design wise… the music track were certainly better in the 1st one too. Plus there’s a weird difficulty curve in 2… sort of like, the first 8 levels are super easy (i had to check I was indeed playing in UV), then it gets super hard from 9 to 20 or so… then the rest are easy-ish again until the very last level which is insane hard. The secret levels are waaay too easy as well, but that might be because of the censorship and how they might’ve removed the original ennemies (maybe those were harder, who knows).
After fiishing Doom2 tho, I went straight into the brand “new” episode (No rest for the living), which as far as I know is the last “offcial” expansion for the game… I looked a bit into it, it wasn’t developped by id themselves, and was released in 2010, so recently-ish, for one of the consoles… however I’m playing the Doom3 BFG edition, so it’s all there… Anyways, I had never ever played those maps and I gotta say: WOW I was soooooooooooooo impressed with them… the level design is ridiculously good, even with the engine’s limitiations (being 20+ years old and whatnot), whoever did those maps did a really great job, and yeah, they’re sort of vastly superior to anything before them… but then I suppose, no surprises since they were released in 2010, nit 1993
So yeah, if anyone loves classic Doom and hasn’t played that newer little campaign, I definetly recommend it.
Anyways, it was really a blast playing through the whole thing. Still a VERY solid experience almost 3 decades later… no wonder it’s one of the most popular games ever.
Oh and in other news, the other day I did 2 things I never though I would: I bought a Blizzard game, and it was a pre-order =P
Yes, I’m talking about the HD Starcraft+Broodwar re-release… I’m kind of hyped for it because SC was suuuch a huge thing for me during highschool… I don’t think I’ve really gotten into any RTS since then, so I’m really looking forward to revisit it with new modern graphics, since in theory, they won’t touch the engine at all, it’s just an HD re-skin of the old game and that’s exactly what I’m looking for (me, and millions of Koreans it seems ).
So yeah, I caved in and pre-ordered (since it’s cheap enough, 15 bucks, but I must’ve paid around 11 cause of regional pricing), something that I never do, ans will probably not do again any time soon. And funny enough it’s the first Blizzard game I’ve bought since… well the original Starcraft + Broodwar games I bought on CD 20 years ago. I wish this meant Blizzard going back to a friendlier way of doing things, but probably not, so fuck em.
Anyways, it’ll be released soon, so I’m kinda hyped. And btw, in the mean time, the original game (plus Broodwar) is free-to-play now (I think forever, but who knows) and has been for a couple of months, so that’s pretty nice, if anyone wants to go down a trip on memory’s lane. I’m just gonna wait for the remaster, personally, but considering there are still tournaments with millions of spectators going on two full decades since release, I’m pretty sure that game is a safe bet to waste your time on =P
What’s the friendlier way? How did things change with Blizzard?
Well not being total greedy douchenozzles for one…
I dunno… something changed within Blizzard after SC / WC3, I suppose the mega ultra success they had with WoW… they took forever to make some of the more-on-demand sequels, then when they did they were overly expensive along with some shody in-game transaction practises and whatnot… mind you, all triple A companies do that as well, but Blizzard used to be this very cool consumer-friendly back in the day… or at least that’s how they were perceived.
Which is why I was glad to hear SC+BW remix would be only 15 bucks which is a fair price for the work they’re doing on the game(in terms of graphics and all the things around it), even though they’re leaving the core of it intact. The reality is, these days they could’ve charged at least double, even triple that amount and it would’ve sold like crazy.
I’m still deep in Chrono Trigger. I’m pleased to find there’s huge swathes of the game I’d completely forgotten, though it’s not like familiarity was marring the rest of it. I have completely given up on the Pokemon-lite extra mode though.
I’ve managed to sneak in a cheeky half hour of Sonic Mania before having to go pick up the kid from nursery.
Initial thoughts: it feels right. It handles just like those first few Sonic games.
I’d recommend not looking at the achievement / trophies list. I didn’t look - just got stuck in - and a couple near features revealed themselves naturally and gave me a very pleasant surprise.
I see what you mean. They did get bought out and things changed. The release of Diablo 3 really pissed me off being such a long-time Diablo fan, but since then I think they have learned their lesson and changed their ways to be more supportive of their consumers. They have released so much free content for Diablo 3 to enhance the end-game, and Overwatch gives all new heroes for free.
I singlehandedly blame Millarworld for my launch day purchase of Sonic Mania. I haven’t managed to play it yet, but I will.
The best thing about the old-school graphics is how fast the thing downloads. It’s a pretty appropriate move for Sonic the hedgehog.
I’ve got a few hours of Sonic Mania under my belt and I’m going to put down some (pretty much overwhelmingly positive) comments and thoughts below.
Spoiler tags as I think this game and the surprised within should be experienced for yourself rather than read about.
It opens with that SEGA!" call! Magnificent!
That title screen! Chunky pixels, Sonic wagging his finger and the rotating Green Hill Zone coloured Sonic face at the bottom all make this feel instantly familiar.
I actual let the title screen keep playing and watched the animated intro (which I’d posted in another thread) which is a nice nod to Sonic CD. Another, more subtle, Sonic CD reference in the fact that of you let the animation run a second time or has a different song playing underneath - a nod to the two different version of soundtrack on Sonic CD.
Green Hill Zone act 1… Oh, it’s actually the first level from the first game! It’s a pretty clever way of reassuring you that it plays and handles like a classic Sonic game by actually giving you this. That said it doesn’t stay identical to the original game. This is the case with all the old levels - there are old sections which let your muscle memory kick in and the new sections fit seamlessly in. This can either be in the form of bits added in or, in some cases, the second act being completely changed for storytelling reasons.
Story is there but told through the classic way of having sprites roll on screen, dance around a bit and roll off again.
The music is spot on. It’s not directly lifted but sounds pretty darned close only with the harsh chiptune rasp sanded off. The sound effects and power up themes all sound like they’ve been directly lifted. It’s quite fun playing “where’s that sound from originally”. The same can be said of some of the mechanics (example, clearing smoke in Oil Ocean is the same mechanic of pulling a switch as scaring away ghosts in Sonic and Knuckles).
The fire shield has really upped its game - burning wooden bridges and setting oil slicks.
Some of the animations are a little bit too smooth - the look up and look down ones. Doesn’t really matter but it always looks a bit odd to me.
Personal favourite nod to the past: playing a round of Dr Robotniks Mean Bean Machine as a mini boss had me rolling in laughter. Seeing a clockwork bomb Amy Rose who’ll latch on to you and explode also got a chuckle.
Tails isn’t actually a useless piece of shit who just gets in the way. I actually said “Good work!” to him at one stage!
The game is hard. If it didn’t have the save system similar to the one in Sonic and Knuckles I’d be screwed. I like the lack of midlevel quick save, always feels a bit like cheating.
While it’s hard it’s never cheap when it kills you. Every death is on you and you only. You died because you fucked up.
The game is occasionally spectacular. One moment that actually made me gasp when it happened was when I was launched from the foreground to the far background in the Metal Madness Zone. I don’t remember this happening in Sonic CD and was a genuine surprise when it happened this evening.
Summation? It’s excellent. Plain and simple. Sonic 2 levels of excellent, potentially the best game in the franchise. This could be down to the “greatest hits” feeling it sometimes has but, trying to look at it impartially, I think it’s great as it’s own thing. I haven’t used the word nostalgia as I think that’d do it a disservice. Nostalgia, to me at least, has an edge of “I remember this being better than it actually is” and Sonic Mania doesn’t fall in to that at all.