The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
It’s kind of incredible how The Witcher 3 can be the most exciting and interesting open world game I have ever played, but also be plagued with wonky controls, weird glithces, open world jank, and requires a patch almost every other day. In spite of all of that, it remains one of the most incredible, character-driven experiences I have played. Period. It harkens to success stories like Persona 4 and Mass Effect 2 as far as intertwining characters and developing relationships.
I’ve sunk almost assuredly over 100 hours (many of which were deeply committed to gwent) into the game at this point, and as I near the end of the story, I feel something that only a few games tend to evoke in me: melancholy. As powerful as the side-story content has been, the idea of this tale ending really saddens me. I want to spend time with these characters forever, but I know there are still twisted tales left for me to explore at the end of the “story” because the content here is just so excellent.
Where Bethesda relies so heavily on its world, the Witcher manages an interesting world filled with characters that you want to hate/love/meet. It takes everything up a notch and is absolutely one of the most exciting games to come out in a long, long time.
I’d hate to gush about this game too much, making my opinion of all of its merits sound like the end of a self fulfilling prophecy. I’ve been singing The Witcher’s praises for years as one of the great RPG series that people are ignoring and now that the latest entry has sold over four million copies in its first two weeks, it’s almost like a small vindication. But to remark on all of its qualities too positively—it’s thinking man’s action combat, it’s truly teeming world, it’s powerful and poignant storytelling—might find me rattling my talking head to the big media drum, ignoring the game’s actual problems in order to justify an opinion I pretty much settled on to about this game years before it came out.
It isn’t perfect, that’s for sure. There are blogs far and wide covering the games many graphical and mechanical glitches both major and minor. Though the combat is good, especially in its focus on preparation-over-execution, it still isn’t incredibly transparent. For example, why are there light and heavy attacks, when there doesn’t seem to be too much of a difference in usefulness between them? Checkpointing is weird and fast traveling can be a pain, as well. This is very much a modern open world game with modern open world issues.
It’s also the best open world game ever made. There is no better example of world building than in The Witcher 3. Characters have strong and personal motivations for things both great and wholly insignificant. Despite much chatter about it’s lack of diversity, the Witcher 3 is one of the few games that handles diversity in a mature and unpatronizing way. It’s not just about different people having different roles, but it’s also about watching how social inequity effects these people’s everyday lives, and what the individuals do to rise above, or be dragged down by it. It’s not enough for CD Projeckt Red to allow Geralt to simply play amongst Elves, but the non-stop narrative helps paint a picture of what living like a elf is like, both in quests and when you pass them on the way to the blacksmith. Just like the original works of Sapowski did years ago.
It couldn’t have gotten here without Skyrim, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Assassin’s Creed, etc., but The Witcher 3 is the high point of what is a crowded Western RPG market desperately in need for a change of pace. The only way I couldn’t recommend this game to you is if you have better things to do with 100+ hours.
Life is Strange: Episode 3 – Chaos Theory
You know Life is Strange is something magical when, three episodes in, it is still full of shock, awe and surprises. The game has no right to be as good as it is, but there is just a level of love and care here that you don’t see in the modern adventure games coming out of the prolific Telltale. Every bit in Life is Strange has its purpose and in the end, knocks you off your feet.
Coming out of the end of Out of Time, I didn’t think there could be a stronger and more emotional ending. But here I am, dumb-founded and left to contemplate on where Dontnod can go next. The nuance, the investment and the care are all there. This is a world with style, beauty and most of all, character.
That’s what Chaos Theory is all about; character. In the end, Max and Chloe’s relationship sits at the core of this series and with no idea of what could possibly come next, I await patiently for The Dark Room to roll out sometime in July.
Not A Hero
Considering Roll 7’s previous games – OlliOlli and OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood – Not a Hero’s over-the-top violence is somewhat of a surprise. This is an English crime film in pixelated technicolor, just replace the wrinkly old gang patriarch with a time traveling humanoid rabbit who’s looking to run for political office.
The shooting and sliding of Not a Hero is deceivingly devilish. Seems simple enough to hide behind cover, and shoot things on a 2D plane. But each stage has it “One More Thing…” moments, not to mention a set of bonus objectives that help push those scores to the upper limits. A very fun game that will be the perfect grab in this month’s rumored Steam Summer Sale.
Some people have called this game “The Kill Bill game we never got.” A woman wears a motorcycle helmet and wields a katana, the rest of that analogy im not so sure about, considering there is no smart, tactical, turn-based stealth to speak of in the Tarantino classics. Evading gunshots and other swordsmen on your quest to kill the men and women who betrayed you is a thinking man’s stealth game. Timing your jumps to knock enemies down and not get shot is one of those fine zen moments in games when you turn alot of information into picture perfect execution. It can get pretty tedious though when rooms get big and harder to traverse in just a few jumps. It’s also only in Early Access, which is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser itself.
Splatoon started out as a Mario Sunshine spin off and ended up being one of the best titles of the year. A wide variety of weapons with new maps/weapons coming in weekly updates, the game has a heavy focus on multiplayer. Covering the map in your team’s color feels so rewarding and actually makes good use of the Wii U two screen set up for once. No voice chat isn’t sorely missed with matches only lasting three minutes. Of course even with the main focus on the multiplayer the game has some very memorable single player boss fights. This is a fresh take on multiplayer shooters and has the same level of charm and polish we’ve come to expect from Nintendo.
Playing Splatoon for the first couple of hours, I instantly fell in love with this game. The main game mode is called Turf Wars, where you are given a variety of paint guns and the objective of covering as much of the map with paint as possible. Simple as it sounds, there is tons of enjoyment that will come from this mode. After plenty of hours of playing I truly fell in love with the whole idea of the game, thinking it is very clever and easy concept to understand.
As great of a game this is, there is a lot of technical flaws that hinder the experience. For an example matchmaking takes quite long to get into a random lobby. Sometimes, it even makes you wait five plus minutes to get into a match. I see this as a major problem because I am worried for the community not being as strong as they would like it to be.
Multiplayer is a huge section of this game and we would like to see at least 10 maps. Splatoon was launched with 5 maps, which gets boring after playing for numerous hours. There will probably be DLC in regards to new maps and weapon items, but for launch I think they should’ve added doubled the amount of maps they started with. A plus side on variety content I do believe that their is enough variety within the weapons side of things. They have nearly two weapons for each “class”, and I see that as being enough for a brand new title.
Playing Splatoon is an absolutely different experience then your typical multiplayer online shooter. With that being said, I truly think Splatoon has what it takes to sell consoles. It is a fun, colorful and desirable multiplayer experience. I would definitely say that Splatoon is worth your time and money, and on the plus side, there is some free DLC out with hopes that we are getting tons more.
Magicka makes it debut to consoles with its newest game in the franchise, Magicka 2. The story follows a wizard locating the child of prophecy, while preventing the evil Orcish hordes getting to him first. The game overall does a good job allowing players new to the franchise to understand the previous story with no previous knowledge. The game could take you anywhere from eight to eleven hours to complete, but this all depends on how quickly you get through levels and what difficulty you choose. There are three different difficulties, ‘Bananas’ mode being the hardest and I advise you to stay away from it unless your a veteran of Magicka. Magicka 2 also gives their players a good sense of replay value, having the ability to go back in chapters to unlock various secrets.
The best way to play Magicka 2 is with a friend, or in fact, with multiple friends as it could be super difficult at times. The player can invite three friends, having up to four characters going through the campaign mode. Co-op campaigns are somewhat of a lost piece of art that recent games decided to do away with, but Magicka 2 does a great job making it fun and interesting to play co-op again. This isn’t the only mode that you and your friends can jump into, you could also dabble into the trial or challenge modes. The challenge mode will have you survive 20 waves of enemies who will get increasingly tougher. This mode can get pretty chaotic, especially since friendly fire is on. If you played HellDivers this year it could easily be compared to Magicka 2, each player must play their role if they wish to succeed in the mission. It could cause some heated moments especially if someone drops the ball and it turns into a downward spiral to everyones death. Moments like this make Magicka 2 exhilarating to play.
Besides the technical part of the game, Magicka 2 is a beautiful, artistic game. Surprisingly enough, going into it for the first time, I had not-so-high expectations, but after a couple of hours, the game started to come together, from the well done vistas to the deep spell casting gameplay. Magicka 2 feels good enough for players who haven’t played the original Magicka to have a sense of whats going on and it gives its core fans some new elements to play with. For $15, it has enough bang for your buck for me to say go out and give it a try.