Game: The Last Of Us Part II

The Last Of Us Part IIFinished The Last Of Us Part II yesterday. Played on PS5.

This is the sequel to The Last Of Us Part I.

The first installment of this series is a masterpiece.

This is not.

The first part had stunning graphics, an interesting (though already simehow tiresome) world building and an excellent written and presented story line.

The story in The Last Of Us Part I is the main reason, why this one is a masterpiece.

The story in The Last Of Us Part II is disappointment. It seems that the main inspiration of the storywriters have been watching to many “The Last Jedi” and “Game of Thrones season 8”. The demontage of your favorite characters and a boring, nonsensical storyline.

Hard to write without any spoilers, but the game lets you play as Elli and as her antagonist Abby in equal parts, iterating between the two back and forth. There is only one single theme here for each and everything: Revenge! Full stop. Up to some very stupid character decisions. Do not ask, if the uniliteral decision of the Fireflies in the first part to save human kind are worth the costs (and are in accordinace with human values – they are not). Do not ask, why noone in the whole story ever explains his or her actions to the counterpart. Do not ask, if Elli is really the only one immune. Do not ask, if there could be alternatives to this storyline and how they could be turned out, if just people talk to each other. This list can go on and on.

I take the LBGTQ theme as somehow outstanding and a nice touch.

Noughty Dog tries excessively to destroy Elli as a beloved character and to get the audience to like Abby (the Lef storyline or the heavy manipulative playing with Alice, the dog). The fail in both.

E.g. there is a fight between Abby and Elli (not the final one but in the theater), in which you play Abby and try to outsmart and fight Elli, otherwise Elli kills you. I got satisfied by letting Elli kill me. Several times. That felt good. But since the story does not progress if Elli kills Abby, I finally fought Elli and won. That was annoying.

The story just does not work. Too much nonsencial descision, too much doing the same things over and over again, too little of world building (and there could be a ton!), too much of plot armor for the main characters.

Insane good visuals, but a boring, stupid storytelling.

This is the “Game of Thrones Season 8” version of The Last Of Us.


6/10 6 out of 10

Game: The Last Of Us Part I

MiraFinished The Last Of Us Part I. Played on PS5.

The Last Of Us Part I is a masterpiece. Mainly you play Joel 20 Years into a zombie apocalypse. Joel lost his daughter at the beginning of the cataclysm and struggled to survive ever since. After 20 years he is a grumpy old man living from smuggle jobs. The government, or what is left of it, is acting totalitarian and fighting civil unrest. The situation is very grim. Adding to this is a group of rebels calling themselves Fireflies.

In the midst of all this, Joel and his partner are tricked. To regain their stuff they are urgent to “deliver a package” to some other Fireflies. The delivery turns out to be a 14-year-old girl Elli. The Fireflies desperately need her, since she is the only human in existence – at least to the player – which is immune to the virus infecting fungus turning all people into zombies.

Grumpy old Joel does not want to have anything to do with her and even talks to his friend to turn back and leave Elli, but as his partner dies, he makes this delivery is tasks and wants to bring Elli to some place from where she can go on finding the Fireflies.

What ensues is a journey throughout a devasted landscape. Gradually Joel and Elli befriend each other and finally, Joel feels responsible for her as a father. Which has dramatic consequences in the end.

How the story unfolds is compelling and very well exercised. Even though I could not get any sympathies for Joel, how this storyline is presented and turned is excellent.

The gameplay focuses on stealth and scavenging missions. You get levels with a set of opponents (humans and/or zombies) and a growing array of weapons and skills to beat them. Most time you play Joel, but sometimes you get some missions as Elli too.

The visuals are stunning and insanely detailed. Even though the gameplay gets repetitive the presentation of the story and the world setting is great.

Sadly, you do not have any chances to alter the track the of the story in any way. As a player you have no agency or dialog options or anything. The whole story is pretty railroaded without any possiblities to take turns.

Still, the visual presentation and the narrative are excelling: 9/10

9 out of 10

Game: Elden Ring

Elden RingFinished Elden Ring – Played on Linux, flawless.

Elden Ring has all the ingedrients of the Dark Souls series: faszinating combats, loads of intriguing weapons, spells, and an awesome environment. Elden Ring shines additionally that it is now fully open world plus you can now spring and crough and sneak up behind enemies.

And a horse.

Which you’ll need since the land “in between” is enormous. Not only on the surface, but underneath is another continent to explore.

All this in the very line of Dark Souls gameplay.

Including a confusing story line of the Golden Order and the Erd Tree.

It is a perfekt Souls game.

With one minor drawback: it’s way too big. Much. Too. Big.

9 out of 10.9 out of 10

Game: Mira

MiraFinished Mira. All played on Linux.

Mira is not really a game but rather an interactive graphic novel. You play Mira, who is working in an orphanage sometime after World War II. One of your children is sick and there’s medicine but some stranger demands the medicine too and threatens you.

Soon you discover another world behind your own and you are drawn into the mystical world of Slavic folklore. You realize that you are the lost daughter of Mokosh (Mother Earth) and you met the stranger again who reveals his story to you.

The story is a Slavic Alice in Wonderland version but very melancholic.

The point-and-click adventure featured beautiful hand-crafted sceneries but fell short on several terms. First technical: the interface mechanics are lacking. The UI feels awkward. Second, the story does not create any emotional bindings. The characters and themes are interesting but are not really introduced or explained. There is so much potential for more but wasted. And finally the length of the game, it’s over after 60-90 minutes.

Still, it’s an interesting but short trip into Slavic mystic fairy tales.

5 out of 10

Game: The Dwarves

The DwarvesFinished “The Dwarves” on Linux.

The Dwarves is inspired by the successful novel by Markus Heitz with the same title. In that, it follows the story nearly 1:1 with a few deviations. You play Tungil Goldhand, a dwarf who has been raised at his master’s place Lot-Ionan, one of the wizards of these lands. You have been called to make an errant to a once former student of the wizard. Along the journey, you find the lands overrun by Orcs and Albe and soon a “road movie”-like trip unfolds in which you plea to become the high king of the dwarves to fight the great evil Nod’onn. You are joined by a host of different characters from which you can pick three to join you in battles. You gain experience and new skills.

King Art made here a decent game. The story has some turns, the game design is great, and the animations are smooth and these are the great pros of this game.

However, the gameplay is a bit lacking. There are 3 setups: a travel map on which you have sometimes some encounters you solve with multiple choice answers. This is where the story proceeds. Then there is some “discover” mode in which you walk around a closed area and interact with items, and finally, there is the battle mode in which you and up to three companions are fighting waves of orcs and sometimes bigger or more dangerous foes.

It is this battle map mode which the weakest, but you play the most. In essence, normal attacks do marginal damage. You have to deal with special skill attacks, which do cost several action points. These action points do regenerate over time and when you have some success on the battlefield. Basically, you just stop, issue special attacks to everyone, and wait until you have enough action points again. That’s it. And this is repeated ad nausea.

Plus a good collection of bugs. E.g. I could not get Tungil to equip any health potion. The game started I had, but when the battle started Tungil had no potion at all. I tried this several times. Tungil always missed the potion. At some times I could not convince any of my characters to move. Path finding is abysmal. My characters always tend to block each other. All no real blockers, but painting a weak image. One particular thing is: when you want to load an old save game, the button to load is placed right. However, the game asks me “Do you really… ?” and places the commit button now left! It’s not a bummer but hints that quite some issues are a bit amateurish.

7 out of 10.7 out of 10

Game: Far Cry

Far CryFinished Far Cry. Played it fully on Linux. Flawless.

You play Jack Carver who is on a boat with a girl Val. Coming nearer to an island, Val leaves you heading for the beach. And all of a sudden you get attacked. Stranded you make your way across the mercenaries infested island. You find a smartphone that lets you talk to Doyle. This guy directed through the whole landscape and helps you free Val. You uncover the plot that some mad man used mutagens to create mercenaries with superhuman powers. However, the experiment went awry and the monsters start to attack the mercs. Your job is … well … to “peace” the island.

Island, mad monsters from genetic experiments on humans, the maiden in distress and you as some sort of Rambo. I think this sums it up.

Back in 2004, when this game has been released the graphics must have been awesome! You can see miles and miles ahead. This is really nice. The weapons you get feel strong and do have some severe impact. And the AI of the enemies is astonishing!

… but the game uses checkpoint mechanics for savegame. I played at a medium difficulty level and some parts of the game are right out easy and some are frustrating! I think I made the pursuit with Val driving in the Jeep by mere luck. And while I’m at it: you can drive vehicles too, yes. But the handling of these vehicles just sucks. When you switch into 3rd person’s view to get more of the surroundings you simply cannot steer the vehicle any longer.

You can crouch and crawl, giving you more variants of cover. However, kneeling makes a twig an impossible obstacle to overcome and crawling makes a pebble into the Himalayas.

Sometimes this made me mad grinding my teeth.

Yet, the enemy AI and the graphics are really great. 6/10. 6 out of 10

Game: A Plague Tale: Innocent

A Plague Tale: InnocentFinished A Plague Tale: Innocent. Fully played on Linux.

You play Amicia De Rune in France, 1348, who is forced to flee together with her brother Hugo from the family estate. The inquisition is after both, the English army roams the lands and the plague, the black death, is everywhere. The Grand Inquisitor is on the search for Hugo, which also suffers from a mysterious illness and, like his bigger sister, you try to protect him and find help, shelter and a cure. It’s a very pity story of two young children trying to survive in those times.

At its core, the game lives from its stealth mechanics. Later on, you get very proficient with your sling and learn to not only throw stones but alchemistic slugs.

The game is visually stunning and right out beautiful to watch. The scenery has soo much detail and has been built with love. Though, the game is rather explicit in rendering France in late 1348. The body count is very, very high.

The cons include some severe frame drops in hectic situations, which made the game nearly unplayable. Also, the controls are a bit quirky.

And, why is Dodge and Jump at the very same key and the hotspots for actions are somehow sometimes off? More often than not, I sprinted away from the rats and wanted to jump on a wall to escape. Yet, jumping and dodging are at the same key and instead of jumping on the wall I “dodged” back, right into the middle of the rats. And died.

Throughout the chapters, the game gets slightly repetitive and your options are rather low. This is not an Open World game. You follow a very narrow storyline about the children. That’s it.

Yet beautifully told.

8/108 out of 10

Game: Dark Souls 3

Dark Souls 3It is done. I’m done. I finished Dark Souls 3. With all DLCs. Beating all opponents in the game with at least 4 different builds: Pyromancer, Knight (from Deprived), Mage and Cleric. Played for more than 400 hours. Mostly on Linux (flawless!).

What to say? Well, I recommended Dark Souls 1 as a masterpiece in the past. And Dark Souls 3? It’s all Dark Souls 1, *but even better*! Dark Souls 3 is simply awesome. The only thing to note is that again, From Software stories are hard to follow and do not unfold. Another point is, that some ways are simply too long. E.g. why do I have to walk back into firelink shrine to the smith to adjust my Estus flask distribution?

Yet, the environment, the look & feel, the mechanics are simply some of the best.

Sure, it’s hard. Yes, it sometimes makes you cry. But then again, it never really is full unfair. You always have the idea, that you could manage it.

A masterpiece.

10/10 10 out of 10

Game: The Lord of the Rings – War in the North

The Lord of the Rings - War in the NorthFinished The Lord of the Rings: War in the North.

You play either a Ranger (Eradan), an Elf (Andriel) or a Dwarf (Farin) in a team of three to face the lieutenant of the Dark Lord, Agandaûr, which decided to conquer the North of Middleearh for his master. In the course of the game, you visit some landmarks from the movies like Rivendell, travelling through Dungeons and defeat Orcs and Trolls alike.

All in all, not a bad game.

And that’s on the plus side. But the game has some flaws and one major real downer.

The gameplay is some rather fast pace combat hack & slash looter. But without a focus system, which gets pretty chaotic if there are many foes to combat with.

The story is so linear and full of cliché it actually hurts.

The surroundings are pretty nicely done and some places are really new and add to the universe, like Nordinbad, but every time you run against invisible walls. These are mere countless in the game.

Sometimes the designer treated their players like morons, e.g. when you click “Start” the game asks you “Do you really want to start the game?” or the embarrassing attempt to explain the setting and storyline in dialogues. Having played the Ranger my character goes into other NPC like this: “So I’m ranger hero fighting evil all day. Now tell me, who is this ‘Sauron’ you are talking about, and who are you ‘Gandalf’?” Now, this example is a bit stressed and not in the game, but these lines are not far off. There is a better way to introduce the player to the setting than to have the hero of a game silly lines.

Next, I played with a controller and there is no explanation of the movements. I actually learned by accident how to run and roll in the game far too late.

As already said, the story is a bit naive and very railroaded.

But all these flaws are pale in comparison to the one major: the game has no soul. It has no character. It’s a game which was made to have a game adaption of a big movie to milk money from the players.

As such: technically not bad and not a bad game at all.

But, … well.

6 out of 10.6 out of 10

Game: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Hellblade: Senua's SacrificeFinished Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.

This is not a game but rather an experience. You play Senua a Celtic female warrior from the Pict tribe. You are suffering from psychosis and are hearing voices. So your clan exiles you for been “cursed by the Gods” and been inflicted with “the darkness”. Yet you return and find your whole clan massacred by Northmen. Even more, the only one who has been fond of you, your lover Dillian, brutally slaughtered. It is this moment in which you totally lose it and find yourself in a nightmarish world. Picking up the head of your lover (sic!) you travel to Helheim, the realm of Hela, daughter of Loki, to free the soul of Dillian. All the way you are facing illusions, hear voices in your head and fight your way through Northmen fighters appearing right out of some dark mist.

This is a trip into a psychotic mind and tries to mimick what people with that condition see and hear. Playing it with headphones is crucial since the Ninja Theory did a great job in making binaural 3D sounds. So you hear those voices sometimes right next to you, then from afar back, then on the left in front of you, etc.

And the Unreal 4 Engine is painting a gorgeous environment. This game has a marvellous, breathtaking scenery of the Orkney Isles.

Yet the game mechanics are very, very minimalistic: there is no inventory, no map, no quest-givers, no log, no nothing. It’s just you, the environment and the voices. Sometimes you get some visions from other people. Combat is light attack, heavy attack, parry and dodge. But that’s it.

At first, this feels weird and anachronistic. But after some time one gets accompanied with this interface and starts enjoying it. Even the combat feels intense since often then not you are facing more than one enemy at a time and you have quite some time keeping those foes at bay.

All in all a very, very clever and well done “game”.

On the con: there is only one save file and the games make auto-saves on checkpoints. For me, this is a big downer.

9/10 9 out of 10