Tag: god of war

Old and In The Way

1. I took my much-needed mental health day yesterday, although as it turns out I was also legitimately sick with bad allergies and a worse stomach, and so most of my day was spent sleeping.  This is not a bad way to spend one’s time, especially since I don’t get much of an opportunity to indulge in it.  But it wasn’t the ideal “batteries-recharged” sort of break I was hoping for.  Still, I take what I can get.  At the very least, it was a break from News.

2. I’m roughly halfway through “Oathbringer“, Brandon Sanderson’s massive 3rd volume in the Stormlight Archives.  I re-read the first two massive volumes (because it had been a while, and I’d forgotten quite a lot), and then I had to read the little novella that he specifically asks you to read before starting Oathbringer properly, and so here I am.  I think I’d be enjoying it more if I hadn’t read so much of it already, if that makes any sense.  Or, rather – I’m very much ready to read something else.

3. So:  I think I’m at a point in God of War where all the stuff that’s left requires me to be really good at the game (i.e., the volcano trials), or really patient and also really good (i.e., the endless farming grind for Mist Echoes), and I’m not sure I’m ever going to be that good.  This is not necessarily a bad thing – I definitely got my money’s worth, and for the most part that game is extraordinary – but I suppose there’s a part of me that’s sad that I’m not going to ever 100% it, especially since there’s not that much left to do.  This is less a criticism of the game and more just a reflection of the reality that I’m not as good at games as I thought I was.  This is a bitter pill to swallow, though I suppose it was inevitable; I’ve been gravitating towards playing things on lower difficulty levels for a while now because my time is limited and I like to see as much as I can, and anyone who goes out of their way to taunt a 42-year-old dad for playing single-player games on easy has too much spare time on their hands anyway.

4. On the flip side, this also means that I’m free to dip into my backlog again.  Ni No Kuni 2, I am all yours for the time being.  And also Yakuza 6, of course.  But I’m probably done with Far Cry 5, I think.  I’m at the point in that game where there’s not enough side stuff to do because I’ve done most of it already, which means I sorta have to engage with the narrative, and the narrative is soooooooo bad.  It’s rare that I come across a game where the story is just profoundly and offensively stupid, but here we are.  Oh well.

Anything exciting happening out there?  Tell me some stories.

The First Many Hours: God of War

Current status:  Any and all synonyms for exhausted.  Mentally, physically.  Resources depleted.  Running purely on caffeine vapors and anxiety.  Trying to keep it together.  In desperate need of a mental health day, while knowing that such a day probably can’t happen until at least next week at the earliest.

Look: I’ve read and watched my fair share of dystopian fiction, and the thing that never gets mentioned in those works is the unceasing exhaustion and overwhelming despair that comes of perpetual outrage.  Or the near-constant stress-eating and resultant GI distress.

This latest fallout from the WHCD this past weekend is just the icing on the cake.  I cannot come up with a witty retort, so I’m gonna let Burneko handle it:

…As you’ve surely read by now, Wolf joked that [Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee] Sanders’s makeup—her “perfect smoky eye”—is made of the ashes of the facts she burns.

That’s about as gentle a way as anyone could come up with to lampoon the single most relevant fact about Sanders and what brought her to a station in life that would make her a reasonable subject of lines in a White House Correspondents’ Dinner monologue in the first place. A frank and honest description of who she is and what she does would be much more harsh: Every day, Sarah Huckabee Sanders plants herself, by choice, between the public and the facts of what’s being done at the very highest levels of American executive power, and does her damnedest to break and delegitimize the means by which the two are brought together. She is one of the most visible and powerful people in American civic life, and she uses her visibility and power—she chooses to use her visibility and power—to confuse the public and degrade its grasp on the truth, rather than to inform or empower or serve it. Her willingness to do this on behalf of Donald Trump, day after day, and the unmistakable teeth-gnashing relish with which she does it, are the substance of her power, and the reason why anybody knows who the fuck she is at all. What history will remember about Sanders is that she is the scum of the fucking earth, and not the jokey means by which one comedian pointed out this inarguable fact—and that’s only if the senile rageaholic pissbaby moron on whose behalf she shames herself on television every day doesn’t annihilate the human race, first.

I take solace where I can, folks, and right now it’s listening to good music, snuggling with my family*, and, after my family has gone to bed, obsessively playing God of War.

Speaking of which.  I’m at least 30 hours into it.  Currently doing a tricky side quest in Niflheim, newly unlocked.  Can’t stop thinking about it.

Let me back up a second.  I’ve recently been doing a thought experiment at work; I keep a Google Doc in a tab and any time a game pops into my head, for whatever reason, I’ll write it down.  I’ve been doing this for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it happens quite a lot, and I’m wondering what triggers it.  As a weird example:  for the longest time, any time I gave my son a bath, I’d start thinking about a certain sequence (the dockyard shootout)  in Max Payne 3.  (I have no idea why, and I don’t know if I want to know why.)   More to the point, I’ve been trying this out because sometimes I’ll be in my basement, utterly paralyzed by my backlog and not knowing what I’d want to play first; the log reminds me what I’ve been thinking about, and perhaps the paralysis can end.

I’m in no such paralysis at the moment, of course, because every free waking moment I have is spent being thoroughly absorbed by the aforementioned God of War, which is, thus far, probably one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life.  It’s probably fair to say that part of my above-mentioned exhaustion is that I spent the bulk of this weekend’s evenings playing far past my usual bedtime.  Like, 3-4 hours past my usual bedtime.

Because this is not a traditional review, I’m not particularly compelled to tell you about mechanics, though they are wonderful – like a lot of actual, professional critics, I found myself spending a lot of the early hours just throwing my axe into things and then summoning it back, and even 30 hours later it never gets old.  It is, indeed, one of the most satisfying weapons I’ve ever used in a game.

Nor am I technologically savvy enough to describe the graphics in any sort of meaningful way.  Let me simply say that, while I don’t know if it’s the best looking game I’ve ever seen, it’s certainly among the very top.  I can’t give it full marks if only because this is the first game I’ve really spent any time playing on my PS4 Pro / 4K HDR TV setup, and having seen what the X can do in that setup, I can see that the Pro isn’t quite as powerful.  (If I’m splitting hairs, I’d say that the X port of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is better-looking than the PS4’s version, and is also probably better-looking than God of War on a pixel-by-pixel basis, though it’s fair to acknowledge that each game is doing wildly different things.)

And I don’t want to discuss the story, because it should be experienced first-hand.  I accidentally spoiled myself on a mid-game plot point and almost immediately regretted it.  What I can say, though, is that the relationship between Kratos and his son, Atreus, is far better written than I’d ever give this franchise credit for.  There’s a thoughtfulness behind every line of dialogue, and the voice acting is marvelous.

Here’s what I can say, and I know this is going to sound weird – this game feels like it was built for me, specifically; the 40-something tired father with not a lot of free time.   It is paced exactly the way I’d want it to be paced – much like Uncharted 4, the combat is exciting and dynamic but is also spaced out evenly, and there’s just as much emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving as there is on beating the hell out of demons.   The game is beautiful, and it knows it, and it knows you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny, and more often than not there’s a useful treasure hidden away in those places, and so you’re encouraged to go off the beaten paths.  Indeed, sometimes those paths go to rather unexpected places, and the rewards are generally always worth it.

More interestingly, I feel like the game understands how I’m interacting with it and responds accordingly.  The interstitial dialogue as you’re travelling from place to place does a wonderful, effortless job of world-building and character development, and it does it through subtlety (inasmuch as a character like Kratos can be subtle).  If I need a break from killing things, there are always tons of non-violent things to do.  Hell, even just pausing before a combat section so that I can re-outfit my weapons is satisfying; there’s a hint of puzzle-solving that goes along with each encounter, and you can see the results of your decision-making immediately.  It’s wonderful.

As much as I was enjoying Yakuza 6 and Ni No Kuni 2, and also kinda diddling around in Far Cry 5, this is the game that I’m gonna want to keep coming back to.  The new Tomb Raider and Red Dead Redemption games don’t come out until the fall; this will more than suffice in the meantime.


* I just wanted to mention that my current favorite thing is the way my son plays with the back of my hair when I’m carrying him downstairs in the morning.  He is half-awake, floppy-limbed, and can barely keep his eyes open; but when I pick him up, he puts his arms around me and runs his fingers gently through the very short hair on the back of my neck.  It is the sweetest thing – I have no idea if he even knows that he does it – and it makes my day.

self-care for the self-aware

 

In these troubled times, it’s important to take time out for self-care.  Self-care comes in many different forms.  For me, lately, one of those methods has been to do some serious heavy-duty organization of my digital media.

Last night, I spent almost two hours curating smaller playlists out of my gargantuan “Favorites from the Spotify Discovery” playlists.  While I appreciate that Spotify’s algorithm knows me so well, it’s made my “best-of” playlists untenable; until last night I’d simply been putting my favorite tracks into a mega-list for each year, and by year’s end I’d have 150+ songs, and so when I’d start a new list for a new year I’d stop listening to the previous year, and so there’s dozens of songs that I’ve kept that I haven’t had a chance to really absorb.  This is nonsensical, I know, but you have no idea how nice it is to know that all the weird space jazz that Spotify feeds me can live in one readily identifiable place.

There’s a lot that I don’t miss about my high school / college / post-college years, but one of the things that I do miss quite terribly is that back then, it was very easy for me to carve out a solid chunk of hours to obsessively listen to music.  I don’t have that luxury any more; my commute is too short, I can’t listen to music at work, and my evening hours are hit-or-miss.   There were a few moments last night while I was in the midst of this curation session when I’d say to myself, ooh, that’s an album I want to spend some time listening to, I’ll get to it later… and then I’d realize, wait, when exactly is “later”?

Anyway.  I know it’s ridiculous, but I sorta have to do this organizational stuff in order to streamline my creative process.  My new computer arrived last week, and it’s awesome, and everything works the way it’s supposed to, and now I have to accept the fact that I haven’t done anything creatively as far as music goes in far, far too long.  (Hell, I need to remember how some of my software actually works.)  And I know that the first few times I sit down to start composing, I’m gonna be rusty and turn out some stupid shit.  But rather than beat myself up about it, I need to make sure that I’m showing up to my sessions in a good mood, and that means I need to listen to inspiring stuff.  And so while it’s fair to say that this could be seen as a highly contrived excuse for procrastination, it’s also productive and useful.


Similarly, I spent a very satisfying hour last week sorting my PS4 Pro’s game library into folders – Sony Exclusives, PS VR, Indies, Multi-Platform.  I sincerely hope that Microsoft lets me create folders for the X, someday; they sorta do this already, in terms of how you can sort your library, but it’d be nice to be able to further customize those categories.

Look, I know this is a super-ridiculous thing but I love it and it makes me very happy.


So last week I took a much-needed (though not terribly satisfying) staycation, and I played a bunch of stuff.

1.  Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.  I’d gotten this on PS4 last year, got stuck, and then forgot about it; but I figured I’d give it another go on the X – I was, if nothing else, curious to see how the X shaped up to the PS4, and the developer happened to mention that if they sold a certain amount of units, they’d be donating a certain amount of their proceeds to certain mental health charities, and that felt like a worthwhile thing to contribute to.  So, yeah – this game is fucking amazing, and it looks extraordinary on the X, and I’m really glad I finally finished it.

2. Yakuza 6 / Ni No Kuni 2.  You couldn’t pick 2 more different games to start playing at the exact same time, but here we are.  Of course, these have been put to the side because of God of War, but I’ll get to that in a sec.  I really like both of what I’ve played of these two, so far, though, and I hope to get back to them in a bit.

3.  Far Cry 5.  So I’ve beaten 2 of the 3 sub-bosses, and I’ve done a fair amount of side stuff, and I’m honestly not sure I need to 100% this.  When I’m goofing off and exploring, it’s fine; when I’m paying attention to the story, everything sucks.

4.  God of War.  Well, look – this is gonna be the main thing I’m playing until I finish it, and even then I don’t know that I’ll want to put it down.  It’s an extraordinary experience on nearly every level.  This is the clear frontrunner for Game of the Year until Red Dead 2 comes out later this year, and the bar for RDR2 is very, very, very high.  I don’t really want to talk about it until I’m done with it; it needs its own post.  Just get it and play it and enjoy it and love it.  And also hug your children.

E3 2016: much ado about nothing

I’d hoped to have posted my impressions of Sony’s press conference much sooner, but events have conspired against me.  I suppose it’s for the best, since I have the benefit of hindsight now and I feel that I can be a bit more objective about what Sony had to offer.

Did Sony “win” E3?  Was this “the greatest press conference ever”?  I’ve seen several tweeted headlines that answer in the affirmative to both of these questions, but I’m not convinced.  Again – I’m writing this a few days after the presser, so I’m not nearly as breathless with anticipation as I might’ve been during the actual event.

Sony’s actual press conference was certainly not the epic, no-doubt-about-it mic drop of a few years ago.  (And when I look at that recap, I am simply stunned by what I managed to be stunned by.)  I did find it much more substantive and tasteful than Microsoft’s, though that could’ve been the live orchestra.

More to the point, the games – or, rather, the portions of new games that were presented to us – seemed more mature, more sophisticated.  This new, Norse-themed God of War reboot feels like a Naughty Dog game, with a nuanced relationship between a father and son.   Horizon similarly looks quite astonishing, although it’s hard to know how to extrapolate a full game experience from that 7-8 minute demo.  We have a 2016 release date for The Last Guardian, which is nice, even if I haven’t read any preview coverage that managed to get a clear handle on what it is.

Honestly, I’m mostly excited about the Crash Bandicoot remasters.  And also the PSVR, which comes in at a price point that I can most probably survive.

This is all well and good, but now that’s it’s been a few days I’m more concerned about what we didn’t see – like No Man’s Sky (which I suspect was withheld simply because they’re in crunch time and didn’t have time to show anything without severely cramping their style).  And of course Sony did not talk about the “Neo”, which begs the question – will my PSVR work better with the new hardware?  Can I afford a Neo and a Scorpio while still paying my mortgage?  Will my wife leave me if I buy them both anyway?

* * *

With regards to the rest of the show: I am the wrong dude to ask.  Work has been crazy, and whatever free time I’ve had this week has been devoted to posting about gun control and how horrible Donald Trump is. But I can run off a few bullet points:

  • I bought Trials of the Blood Dragon after hearing about it at the Ubisoft presser because I love the Trials games, and after 15 minutes with it I can tell you that whoever decided to make a Trials game where you get off the motorcycle and engage in shitty platforming/shooting segments needs to get fired immediately.
  • The South Park game looks awesome.
  • Ubisoft’s winter-sports thing looks promising, though I’ve heard some absolutely dreadful impressions.
  • I must cop to admitting that Call of Duty in space actually looks pretty neat.
  • I very nearly pre-ordered the ultimate edition of Forza Horizon 3 earlier today.  I don’t know why, nor do I know why I stopped.
  • I’m willing to give that standalone Gwent game a look, though I never played more than the tutorial in Witcher 3 proper.
  • Speaking of which, I need to get back to that Blood & Wine DLC.
  • Also need to get back to Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, though to be honest I’m not enjoying it all that much.  It feels like EA’s first draft of a Ubisoft open-world game, and you can take that however you want.

>God of War 3

>I took a sick day yesterday – because I was sick – and so I managed to play the entirety of God of War 3 while I was home.

The short version is that while it’s good, it’s not as good as God of War 2. Even if the graphics are technically snazzier, and it does amazing things with scale and perspective, it’s not nearly as inspired as GOW2. It’s paced well enough, and it still does its style of combat better than anyone else, but it’s just not particularly memorable.

I don’t necessarily have a long version just yet; at the end of the day, the game doesn’t really warrant that much discussion. And that’s mostly because Kratos is one of the least likable protagonists in the medium. When he’s kicking ass, he’s great – and he kicks a lot of ass over the course of these 3 games. But in the cutscenes, he’s a one-dimensional, sociopathic vengeance machine, so maniacally single-minded in purpose as to be completely unrelatable.

Now, let’s be clear – this is a man who ends up killing hundreds and thousands of people, monsters, and (eventually) gods – there’s not a lot here that is relatable to the average American 20-something. (Hopefully.) His tragedy and his raison d’etre is that he was “tricked” into killing his own family; but rather than looking at himself and seeing his own part in this, he instead has sworn revenge on anybody and everybody that might have been tangentially involved in the ruse. And so it goes; over the course of 3 games (roughly 24 hours of gameplay, all told), he exacts his revenge, tells anybody he encounters to get the fuck out of his way, and then rips off their heads if they don’t move quickly enough.

Ironically enough, the final third of GoW3 tries to make him the tiniest bit human again, to have something to care about besides killing everything he sees, to instill a sense of hope rather than revenge. I’m particularly curious to see how that fares with the rest of the target demographic; most of the reviews I’ve read seem a little down on the ending, and that’s probably because it feels a little clunky and out of place. I thought it was too little and too late.

The game itself also suffers a bit from a lack of ambition. Let me make myself clear; the game apparently had a $50 million budget, so it’s not like they weren’t trying to make it amazing. The problem is that, as I said above, the game isn’t particularly memorable. There are certainly a few set-pieces that are jaw-dropping, and there’s one puzzle in the later half of the game that’s actually pretty interesting in an M.C. Escher / Echochrome kind of way, but it’s not terribly difficult to figure out and it’s over with much too quickly. But the rest of the game takes place in rather non-descript dungeons and towers – come to think of it, it reminded me quite a bit of Prince of Persia in places, but without the magic.

If you must play a God of War game, I think 2 is the way to go, especially with the PS3 HD makeover. 3 certainly isn’t bad; it’s just not as good.

>Some quick impressions, a tangent, and then what’s next

>Sorry for the lack of updates; after I finished AC2, time get away from me.

So, here’s what’s been cooking lately:

1. Finished both halves of the God of War Collection. God of War 1 was very good, albeit excruciatingly frustrating in certain sections; I nearly broke my controller in half throughout several areas in the 2nd half of the game. God of War 2, on the other hand, was absolutely phenomenal from top to bottom; the HD upgrade looked fantastic, the combat was just as crisp and bloody, the locales were varied and gorgeous, the sense of scale was much more epic; I am now fully on board for God of War 3.

2. Dabbled a little bit in The Saboteur. I have a soft spot for Pandemic; I was bummed to see them dissolve last week. And I knew that the reviews weren’t really all that kind; I still figured I’d give it the benefit of the doubt. The reviews, unfortunately, were right. The game is glitchy as hell, and the free-running/wall-climbing feels awfully stiff, especially after playing AC2, which nailed it so well. It’s got interesting ideas; it’s just shabbily executed. Sad to say that this was becoming par for the course, as far as Pandemic was concerned; they peaked with Mercenaries 1.

TANGENT – It occurs to me, in the wake of The Saboteur, that game criticism has a unique set of criteria that other media don’t generally have, i.e., technical proficiency. An album can be recorded with shitty microphones and yet it still kicks ass, almost because of how lo-fi it is (Guided By Voices); film can work in much the same way. But a videogame’s technical shortcomings are never done on purpose, and they are nearly always detrimental to the player’s experience. No game has a shitty frame rate on purpose; screen tears and physics glitches and bugs will always be annoying. And these sorts of anomalies don’t really have similar counterparts in movies and music. Sure, a close listener can spot a rough overdub, and certainly there are continuity errors in film, but that’s not quite the same thing as hitting LB and X to perform a stealth kill in The Saboteur and having nothing happen, over and over again, until the Nazi you’re trying to murder turns around and then stands in one place shooting at you. The closest thing I can really think of is CG in movies, especially with a movie like Avatar – are the effects good enough to fully suspend disbelief? [I need to expand on this idea, I think; it’s early in the morning as I write this and this is isn’t as well formed as it could be.]

3. Played through the first stage of PixelJunk Shooter last night. It’s pretty good, actually; it’s got a great visual style, the music is terrific, and it has a really nice feel to it. You don’t necessarily realize that you’re actually playing a puzzle game instead of a dual-joystick shooter, and that’s probably the most impressive thing about it.

The next thing you’ll see on this site, aside from impressions on the new Zelda DS game, is our 2009 Games of the Year. And soon after that, we’ll post our Games of the Decade.