Friday, 19 August 2016

Hiatus

Well, I keep saying I'm going to come back to this, and I keep not having time. So I guess I'm officially announcing a hiatus. Maybe I'll manage to post a review every now and then, but since this has always been a zero-income project, I just don't have the time when I'm working long hours 6 or 7 days a week. I hope I'll be able to come back to Post-Launch Reviews soon, but until then, many thanks to loyal readers and the r/patientgamers subreddit!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Back soon!

Content drought has gone on longer than I expected due to being really busy. But I should have time to get back into some games approximately now, so I'll try to put something up soon. I've started on Crysis 3 because I forgot I have Far Cry Primal, so one of those will probably be the next thing.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Checking in... again

I really haven't posted here in a while. Damn.

Haven't had a lot of time for gaming recently, but I'm working on finally finishing Shadow of Mordor's DLC. I'm also just about ready to write up a review of Destiny and its expansions, so I'll try to do that soon.

In other news I got a heavily discounted copy of Far Cry Primal, so even though I don't normally play or review games when they come out, I think that might just be my next one after I wrap up those two I just mentioned.

Hopefully I'll have a Shadow of Mordor DLC post next week and Destiny after that, but we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Checking in

No review yet, but here's an update on what's happening.

I currently have a few games on the list.
  • I spent a month playing Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns when it launched, but I've lost interest or been working on other things - still haven't played it enough to be comfortable with a full review, especially since I haven't tried raids. 
  • I need to get back to Shadow of Mordor's DLC so I can properly finish up that review.
  • I'm slowly picking at The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask while I'm on transit, but keep getting distracted by Pokémon Shuffle updates. The other thing giving me trouble is that I want to play with sound, but my ears have problems with earbuds, and I got rid of a bunch of hair so regular headphones leave my head super cold in Canadian winter.
  • Got access to an original XBox hard drive so I can finally play Halo 2 and maybe Silent Hill 2 (unless I can borrow a PS2 and play the original version), which would be next on my list, but...
  • Got peer pressured into picking up an XBox One and Destiny a few days ago, so I'm going to be distracted by that for a while.
I'm also working on some other projects on top of my job, so my schedule's tight. Hopefully I'll have something to post soon!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Top 10 Games 2015

Welcome to another Post-Launch Reviews yearly retrospective! 

As I'm looking at this blank page, 2015's picks feel a little thin - I had two periods where I had to slow down on gaming this year so I have a smaller pool to chose from. Plus I feel like I was impressed by fewer games overall. But once I actually go back and look at the reviews I wrote, well, maybe it's not quite as short a list as I thought. On the other hand, once I highlight the games that HAVE to be on the list, I felt a lot more ambivalent about the remainder, and I'm back to "which of these did I actually like enough to put on the list".

As always, this is a list of my favourite ten games I played this year, not a list of the best games that released this year. So here we go - top ten games of 2015, in more or less the order I played them.

Titles are links to full reviews.

(when I load the page, some of the titles end up behind the images. After messing around with layout I still don't know what's causing it. Tried a fix and it seems more okay now; hope it works better for everyone else.)
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Looking back at the review I wrote early in the year, it seems I was more addicted than I was enjoying the game. I've warmed up to it since then and would love to get in some multiplayer games. The turn-based approach combined with a whole lot of exploration and building are what overcame my usual dislike for complex strategy games. With the expansions in place, Civ V is wonderfully complex without being overwhelming.
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Tomb Raider is the model of how to do a reboot right: lots of respect for the original but with plenty of new elements and great design. The island is full of detail and the hub design provides a good balance of exploration and forward pressure. It's a little disappointing the tombs are so small and optional, but the story as a whole is true to form, and I didn't really have much of a problem with the main criticism of the game (the alleged incongruity between the character writing and the amount of violence). Looking forward to the next one.

F.E.A.R.

A classic I always enjoy. I've played through it probably 5 times now and the horror is still effective - this is a perfect example of how to build a game with intense action combat that still manages to be quite scary through tone and atmosphere. The story is quite strong and appropriately horrific, and the gunplay and slo-mo still hold up. And there's just something about that harsh, high-contrast lighting that gets me on edge.

Metro: Last Light

The only major issue with this game - the gameplay style compared to its predecessor - was solved. Not only solved, but solved in the best possible way: you have the option to play action-style or more survival-oriented, which is pretty cool. It's a great sequel to one of my favourite games: looks better, adds more to the lore and the world, and continues the story in a way that makes sense and builds on the last game. Very well done, and now I want to replay it.


XCOM: Enemy Unknown (with Enemy Within expansion)

The combination of base building and turn-based tactical combat is a strange mix that you might not expect to work, but it really really does. Like Civ V, XCOM is an exception to my usual discomfort with strategy games, and it's great. It's amazing how I felt so attached to my soldiers, and the customization and replayability are off the charts. Cool aliens, great aesthetics, lots of layers of strategy.
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Video games based on movies are bad? Well, not this one. Alien: Isolation is a remarkably faithful sequel to the original Alien movie, with absolutely masterful dedication to the film's aesthetic and tone. Some elements are unnecessary and some bits drag on, but overall the game is an excellent sci-fi horror, and it gave me some real shocks and surprises. The alien's AI will is different between games and even between attempts at a level, so it'll keep you on your toes. And I have to reiterate the greatness of  Amanda Ripley.
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I loved Bastion, but Transistor really blew me away. I'm sure the sci-fi setting has a lot to do with it, but I also loved the gameplay - I didn't know it was possible to do so much with four ability slots. The combining and recombining of abilities is a great system to experiment with, and combat is both action-packed and tactical. Plus the art direction and music and voice acting and story and writing in general are top-notch. Loved this game.
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This is not the kind of game I usually enjoy, but to fully explain that thought would thoroughly spoil the ending, so I won't. Instead I'll say that this is one of the most visually astonishing games I've ever played and should really be experienced at maximum, but the story is powerful as well, and damn, that ending. To reiterate a point from the full review, Gone Home flirted with horror themes and disappointed me, but Ethan Carter did it right.
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I wanted to like Shadowrun Returns, but it was too generic. Dragonfall, on the other hand, is everything I could have wanted from a Shadowrun game: a well-characterized misfit crew in over their heads, everything going wrong, small-scale stories and the experience of shadowrunning and exploration of the intricacies of the setting that all lead into something big. Plus it's got a pretty solid tactical combat system.
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This game gave me something I've never experienced before: a strong sense of solidarity and attachment with a complete stranger and near-zero communication. The game is beautiful and the environments are lovely; the ending seemed a little underwhelming at first but what's really important is the journey. 
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Honorable Mentions

I had to cut down from 15 games on the list this year, so here's a quick look at the five that didn't make the cut, and why.
  • Pokémon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire: Despite calling these the best Pokémon games to date, I think I'm finally starting to burn out on the formula. This year it went from something I play whenever I'm on transit to something I'll finish and set aside.
  • Lost Planet 3: Loved the new perspective on the world and the ice planet visuals, but it doesn't quite feel right without the thermal energy survival element.
  • Saints Row IV: A blast to play, but nowhere near as memorable as Saints Row III.
  • Dishonored: Great gameplay and worldbuilding, but meh story.
  • The Walking Dead Season Two: Excellent, but didn't quite feel as impactful to me as the first.
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Closing Thoughts

I'm starting to realize that I get most excited to play AAA action games, but indie masterpieces are usually the ones that leave the biggest impact. I don't think it's that indie games are somehow better at story and emotion - it's more that AAA games are so focused on size and graphics and scale and depth and replayability that there tends to be less focus or room for an emotionally impactful story.

To be clear, I'm not saying one or the other is better. There's great stuff you simply can't do on a small budget, that you can only find in big-budget AAA titles. But there is something to be said for a highly focused artistic title as well. I won't make sweeping statements about the quality of AAA or indie as a whole, I'll just say that it's important to evaluate games on an individual basis or you'll miss some real gems.

Well, enough rambling. That's the list for 2015! I've already got a bunch of games I'm really looking forward to for 2016 - Silent Hill 2, Assassin's Creed 4, most of the Halo series, The Evil Within - as well as a bunch of wishlisted titles that will probably soon be discounted enough for me to add to the backlog. We'll see what makes the cut next year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Journey

Post-Launch Review
Journey (PS3)
Developer: Thatgamecompany
Released: March 2012
Played: complete in ~2h:30min

About

A robed pilgrim moves through the desert toward a distant mountain through the ruins of civilization, sometimes alone, sometimes with others.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Post-Launch Review
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC)
Developer: Monolith Productions
Released: September 2014 (North America)
Played: ~98% complete in 20h
Note: DLC will be covered in one or more later posts, likely coming in the next week or two. Or maybe three. Whenever.

About

Talion, a ranger of Gondor guarding Mordor's Black Gate, is killed along with his family during an orc attack. But Talion finds he hasn't truly died - instead, he is bound to an elf wraith with little memory. Barred from death, Talion and the wraith set out for revenge on the man who cursed them, the Black Hand of Sauron, fighting their way through the armies of Mordor.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Slowing Down

I meant to post this earlier in the day - sorry!

I regret to inform you that the review schedule will be slowing down from one per week for the foreseeable future. Between a new job, a writing project, the Guild Wars 2 expansion, having a social life, and one other issue, I'm finding it difficult to find time for reviews.

That last issue is one that's kind of cropped up before, but this time it has a new spin. I started these reviews because I was playing tons of games anyway so I might as well do something with that. A couple of times over the last few years I've started to feel that the weekly review schedule was becoming a chore rather than a fun hobby, but each time I've pushed myself to keep playing and got over it.

This time is a little different. I've been feeling more and more over the years that the more games I play, the fewer games truly impress me. Either that, or they start to blend together in my memory when I play over fifty games a year. Ask me what I've played recently that was good and I'll probably have to check this site to remember.

So yeah, slowing down for a while. I'll still be posting reviews, but at a slower pace. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Walking Dead Season Two

Post-Launch Review
The Walking Dead Season Two (PC)

Developer: Telltale Games
Released: epidodic; December 2013 through August 2014
Played: complete in 8h:24min

About

After the events of season 1, Clementine ended up with Christa and Omid. The three travelled together for some time until bandits broke them up. Suddenly finding herself alone in the woods, Clementine encounters a new group of survivors - who, as it turns out, have problems of their own following them...