Game: Dragon’s Dogma, Dark Arisen

Dragon's Dogma: Dark ArisenFinished Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. Puhh, this game is the far worst of all games … I like.

It’s very difficult to judge this one. There are so many interesting ideas integrated into the game, yet at the very same there are so many RPG 101 flaws, it makes one cry. It’s basically a Skyrim, Witcher 3, Two Worlds, Dark Souls cross-over, with huge boss monsters and the ability to climb on those while fighting.

* Pawns: you can create a bot to join you and you can add two more of these bots. They act as party members and accompany you throughout the land, which is cool. But the AI is rather poor and then: these pawns never shut the fck up! One nearly goes nuts of at least one of this idiots commenting on the scenery. Nearly every 5 seconds. Once, all my pawns jumped off a cliff into their death – which they do from time – and there was silence! My God, this was great! It nearly felt like Dark Souls… Also Pawns: when you think about it, you having basically cannon fodder at your disposal, which is acting like humans, talking like humans, pretending to be inferior to you and you basically act on them like they are trash… viewed with this perspective, it’s a little disturbing.

* Crafting: there’s crafting with a lot of different ingredients to do, yes. But most of the “treasure” you find, is just plain junk. Seldom you find a weapon or armour of good use and crafting take the route: you crate “from” not “to”. Meaning: you have X, let’s see what Y you can create with it. I think it should be the other way round: I want Y, let’s see if I have all X to create it and what’s missing. The approach in Dragon’s Dogma is just wrong.

* Only 1 save game. As an Open World game. No further comment needed.

* No mount or fast travel on a large map, but stamina depleting while running the landscape. No further comment needed too. This is stupid.

And there are some really bad ones, like the artificial wait states in the game menu, the pseudo-philosophical gibberish of the dragon and world’s lore, the endless backtracking and repetition and the very, very dull quests.

Still, it is not a fully bad game and there *are* some moments of enjoyment.

Light, with many, many shadows.

Nearly not to recommend, 6/10 6 out of 10

Game: Blackguards

Blackguards(Not quite) Finished Blackguards. Played all on Linux.

Blackguards is the battle mechanics of The Dark Eye. You are commanding a party of up to 5 different heroes and engage in various figths throughout the story which itself lets you visit various places in southern Aventuria.

Granted, the game has some nice ideas and the battles themselves are quite entertaining. But the game suffers from many drawbacks:

* First, the difficulty level in “easy” is very high. That’s why I quit the game at the end boss, Urias. Since at this stage it’s more a matter of luck than tactics.
* You can easily skill your heroes in a very wrong. You have no chance to re-skill.
* The story is somehow confusing and not very intriguing.
* The graphics in some places are quite good, which makes the bad rendering in the cut-scene even more obvious.

To sum up: a nice idea with potential, sadly wasted: 5/10 5 out of 10

Game: Metro Last Light

Metro Last NightFinished Metro Last Light. Played on Linux.

Metro Last Light is an FPS in the (very close) tradition of Half-Life 2. You play Artyom in Moscow after a nuclear war. The public government is broken, nonexistent and anarchy prevails. People fleed into the Metro (hence the name) to survive and escape the radioactive fallout. Mutants roam the streets and in the tunnels, adding up to the danger. Your character is a Ranger of The Order and finds himself in between the different factions like The Red (communists), Reich (Nazis), Bandits, … Though the game is very linear, the storyline is quite intriguing and in the course of actions you find friendship, are betrayed and discover a plot of mass destruction which – of course – you have to prevent.

And it is this story alongside the graphics the game shines. These two things are the strong points of Metro Last Light. Ok, the story abates to the end.

Next is your weapon arsenal: you have a good choice of the usual FPS weapons. There’s also some limited weapon crafting in the game.

… but then there is the gameplay itself. Looking closely, Metro Last Light is no match for Half-Life 2. Yes, the graphics are better and Metro has some nice immersive stuff, like wiping your mask. Yet, the game is thrifty when it comes to actual numbers and player orientation, guidance. You do not know your health stat in numbers or the quality of your guns. You have to judge the effectiveness of a weapon by the looks of it or how it feels to handle it. You also have no map of any area.

The game is very dim light in many, many places and interactive objects do not light up. Well, at least too weak for me to be noticed. I’m sure, I missed a ton on my playthrough. On the other hand, the game shows a lock symbol in your face when you cannot interact with a locker. But not on the thousand other objects, why?

On some maps, I got lost very easily. It’s not that the maps are big, but sometimes just confusing, e.g. in the Swamp I circled for ages until I found finally the gas. More often then not, I did not know where to go and stumbled to the next level rather by accident than by plan.

And finally, the save game mechanics: you have one single save and it’s checkpoint based. WTF?! This is just plain righteous stupid. When you got the next level, this is it. You can’t go back and try different things, different paths. For me, as a completionist, this is unacceptable. More than once I just stumbled to the next level by opening a door (e.g. Venice) and all my plans in doing different, new things in the level just before vaporized. That nagged on me more than once.

… or the hidden in-game moral level deciding which of the endings you will be offered. You do not get any feedback for some “good” and “right” actions, though I read online, that you get bad points for killing a lot while you get good points for various good deeds. Among these is … wait for it .. squeezing a teddy bear(?!). There’s no feedback on this right within the game for the player. So this is hard to verify.

Another, somehow irritating element: the game has a lot of spoken parts. Now, the voicing is in English with a heavy Russian dialect. This supports the idea, that the game takes place in the Moscow Metro. Without this, only the occasional signs in Cyrillic would give you this idea, since the game world could be likely anywhere else: Paris, New York. However, the people also talk with Russian English among themselves and the longer you think about this, the more awkward this appears. I mean, this dialect is very hard to blend out. It is omnipresent when you listening to the game. And as such it always stresses the fact, that the speaker is not speaking his mother tongue. As a result, it feels like no-one in the game speaks his mother tongue but turns to some clumsy Russian English when they speak among themselves, especially when you are around. Once I got this idea, it festered and then it’s just been super wired walking around people and listening to them. As if I have a big cap phrasing “Foreigner: at least try to speak English” on my head. That became quite silly in the end.

And, yes: it crashed about every half hour.

Summary: Metro Last Light has excellent storytelling, high-quality graphics, and some little nice immersive but fails badly on the details on game mechanics and overall gameplay. For me, the dumb choice on game saves has cost the game 2 points. An additional big minus for the obvious deliberate withhold of game information and playing stats for the player. The rest are minor quirks.

6/10 6 out of 10

Game: Total War: Warhammer

Total War: WarhammerFinished Total War: Warhammer. Played on Linux. Well, “finished” may not be the precise term. I’ve mastered the Grand Campaign with The Empire, The Dwarfs, Bretonnia, Greenskin, Wood Elves, and the Vampire Counts… and this game is awesome! It is the sort of game that gets you hooked on playing “just the next turn”.

The graphics and the sound is nice and captures the Warhammer look & feel known and expected from the tabletop game. Apart from some minor glitches (e.g. having some crashes) and some wired idiosyncrasies (e.g. navigating armies across the sea is not calculated by the pathfinding algorithm, need to “exchange” troops to be sure the same army is in the attack range of the other, …) the game plays very smoothly. Each faction has their unique playing style, and some are harder than others. However, each has its own pros and cons.

Ok: micro-management of cities and overall gameplay could be more complex in the campaign part. Yet it does not stand in your way. One will also find some optimization here in there in the player navigation on the menus when one really wants to find something, e.g. more than once I found myself typing escape to abort a hero’s action, only to be confronted with the “Exit Game” dialog, huh?

Ah, yes and the stupid implementation of probabilities! The game tells you that your hero has a success chance of X%. Well, the game did already role the dice on that one and only shows you this number it had before(!). It took me a while to figure that out. I read that this is to prevent Quick-Save – Quick-Load series until your hero succeeds. … which turned out in a Quick-Save – Quick-Load if the hero fails to save the money spent. Errm, this is not how math works, does it?

But still: a must-have for strategy fans, a feast on tactics.

9/10 9 out of 10 (for the glitches).

Game: Darkest Dungeon

Darkest DungeonFinished Darkest Dungeon. All played on Linux.

Darkest Dungeon is a Grinding Galore. Heros are sprawling into your little hamlet, which you should improve over time. With these heroes, you try to overcome the evil which is housing in five different areas. Little by little your heroes improve and level up.

What sets Darkest Dungeon apart is, that although your heroes are leveling up, your heroes are sure to die and you must never get emotionally related to them. They are exchangeable.

Additionally, your heroes do not only have a life bar representing the life of each hero, but also a stress counter. Certain actions in the game provide stress for your characters and when this bar hits 100 points, your heroes get an affliction. At 200 they die of a heart attack. Yet, if they survive they sure are getting some quirks which debuff (or positive quirks also buff) your hero. Luckily in the hamlet, you can relax your heroes and cure them of negative quirks.

But also on the highest character level, the bosses are too powerful and will party wipe. This after hours of training these characters in several dungeons.

If you want to really finish the game, you likely need 100 hours or more grinding and leveling up your characters. And this is, quite frankly, not my type of game then anymore. It would be nicer if they would have introduced more levels and difficulties for extra hardcore grinding players. But though three difficulty levels are given, they do not vary much.

Graphics is comic-like nice and the programming is pretty flawless.

7/10, 7 out of 10, because of the unnerving grinding focus.

Game: Chaos on Deponia

Borderlands 2Finished “Chaos on Deponia”. Played on Linux.

This is the second instance in the Deponia series. It brings back the “Deponia” experience playing Rufus again, the notorious, infantile boaster. And you meet the characters of the first episode again, like Goal.

Though, I have to admit, that this game feels like the developers wanted to spin the story further of Rufus been in love with Goal, fighting his rival Cletus, getting to Elysium and saving the planet… but run out of ideas. The riddles are abstruse (e.g. the music in the dark alley) and sometimes just weird (e.g. the baby dolphins). Quite often you (at least me) have to resort to trial and error. Hints are super subtle.

The main character, Rufus, is a charm, and the humor is there. But, uhm, I think the one word which sums it all up is “awkward”.

A big minus for the riddles but still a big plus for the setting and the protagonist: Rufus at Deponia.

7/10.
7 out of 10

Game: Pillars of Eternity

Pillars of EternityFinished Pillars of Eternity. All played on Kubuntu Linux.

Pillars of Eternity is are a very nice remembrance of one of the golden ages of RPG: it’s a Baldur’s Gate arrived in the modern days.

You play a “Watcher”: someone who is capable to look into one soul and see memories of this particular person. This knack let you know if someone is telling the truth or lies to you. On a new world called Eora, you strife the landscape of Drywood. Here chances are, that babies are “Halloborn”, without a soul. The locals are desperate and taken quite fanatic actions, e.g. killing advocates of the so-called animancer. You are to investigate this phenomenon and as it turns out will confront the history of this place, the gods, and a lot of opponents in the path.

The whole story is narrated textual. There is a ton to read and shows how much the developers of the game lay their heart in it. The landscape is a beautiful design and the combat is fun and one major plus-point of the game.

Though the story got confusing from time to time and characters are seldom rememberable. Also, I can’t help to repeat “less is often more”. There are tons of buffs and spells with little variance as it seems to me. There are three things, which annoyed me most: the artificial restriction to only camp a limited number of times by having a maximum of 4 “campfire supplies” (for whatever this is) is stupid (if I consumed more, I have to return to some settlement to buy new one. What a waste of time!), the loading takes “ages”, and the difficulties of dragons. For the last, I got my party up to level 16 and still could not face the Adra dragon or the alpine dragon. Everyone else was a piece of cake. So I let all dragons (but the Skydragon).

And beside some bugs (once I had a full crash) the game runs smoothly on my Kubuntu Linux.

A feast for friends of old RPG with some minor quirks.

8/10.
8 out of 10

Game: Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2Finished Borderlands 2 – Well sorta.

Borderlands 2 basically Borderlands (which I reviewed here) plus with more weapons, bigger landscape, more characters, more vehicles, bigger …, more …, bigger … and it’s awesome great!

Interestingly there’s no real new game change. It’s all the same. But it still remains a fantastic deal of fun. Yet, I needed 160+ hours to finish the main quest and all (at the time of writing available) DLCs. BTW: the Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is by far the most brilliant DLC ever made for a computer game. The integration into the game, the humor, the sidekicks to other beloved franchises (like Dark Souls) are just … fantastic.

Though, even after 160+ hours, I have not completed all quests. From the 1001 quests (well there are not that much, but it feels like that) I still have some (~10-15) open which turned out to be basically grinding at its best.

And besides the somehow awkward interface (I more than once sold a weapon by mistake to Marcus, since the interface jumps up and down, when selling stuff – why? Or why is this somehow shaped 3D view of the interface? When selecting a weapon to compare to the inventory I sometimes found myself in a clicking orgy jumping back and forth between equipment slots and the backpack.) there’s this somehow “trend” in the AAA game industry: provide some quests to keep your players at the game for tons of hours by giving them mere senseless tasks. This is work. As a plea: please stop this. 20h – 30h hours of a game can be enough if it is well written and want to tell a story. 100h and more is not a sign of quality but if quantity. Even 200h of bad game doesn’t make it any better. And, for me, that’s not what I’m particularly looking for. Ok, Borderlands 2 is a brilliant game, but even here this tendency to go for 150+ hours turned into actual hard work.

Still: besides this last grinding stuff and the weird interface, I still highly recommend Borderlands 2 as one of the best loot shooter available.

9/10.
9 out of 10

Games: The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 - The Wild HuntFinished The Witcher 3 including both DLCs yesterday, 3rd Nov. 2018.  

Oh my god! This game is perfect!

It’s not that the landscape graphic is simply breathtaking. I deliberately walked around and refused to ride on Roach. Just to get the immersion in this detailed feature-rich world.

It’s not that the developers packed detail after detail into this game. E.g. Geralt is growing a beard if you are not going to the barber every now and then. Even after 200 hours of gameplay I still see new details. This is amazing!

It’s not that the gameplay is rightfully balanced. I finished the game at the hardest level but one. Rolling, dodging light and heavy attacks, etc. all are fluent. It’s a feast for the eyes to see the Witcher fight.

It’s not that there ain’t stupid “go there, bring me this” side quests. Even the simplest job goes into an intriguing mini adventure with twists and turns. The main quest in the main game but also in both DLCs is great!

… and sometimes hilarious. Remember the 3 drunken witchers trying to invite sorcerers to their party via the crystal telescopes? Or talking to Roach after using a hallucinatory drug?

It’s not that the world is immense and there are tons of things to do.

It’s all of the above and much, much more.

This game is incredible. One of the best games I ever played.

11 stars out of 10.
11 out of 10

Games: The Book of Unwritten Tales

The Book of Unwritten TalesFinished “The Book of Unwritten Tales” on 15th March 2018 – again, a second time.

This is a real the nice adventure to play on the market. You switch between the characters of Wilbur (a naive gnome), Ivo (a sexy elven maid) and Nate (a scoundrel and moreover a philanderer). With these three you try to save the world from the wrath of the witch Mortroga. That’s pretty much all to the story to say.

Yet, the developers packed the way to save the world with a lot of gags and laughs which are not exaggerated or intrusive. Every now and then references to modern pop culture are made with a wink.

The riddles are rather easy to solve and the whole game is fluently solved. The ending, however, is rather sudden.

All in all a lovely adventure in a beautiful fairytale world and absolutely worthwhile a trip.

8 out of 10.8 out of 10