Hearthstone

I’ve been playing Hearthstone since it was released in beta. Over the years I’ve been playing off and on, but I’ve been really digging in since December. I’m a big Blizzard fan, and with the baby coming up I’ve been looking for more baby friendly ways of spending my down time. Until December I had been playing Overwatch pretty religiously, and I even posted about it a few months ago. But a typical Overwatch ranked match can take a half an hour. It’s not feasible to stop and feed a baby or change a diaper in the middle of a match. I’ve always liked Hearthstone, but I figure when the baby comes it’ll be easier to play Hearthstone than Overwatch, so I’ve been playing it a lot the last few months.
When I started getting serious about it in December, the meta surrounding the game was all about Pirate Warrior and Aggro Shaman. I picked up both decks and was fairly proficient with both. Aggro Shaman felt good because it was so consistent, but the burst potential with Pirate Warrior felt amazing. In my experience it was more dependent on draw than Aggro Shaman, but when the cards lined up Pirate Warrior was unstoppable. However, the meta at that point had gotten pretty stale, and if you weren’t playing one of those two decks, you weren’t going to find much success.
The Un’Goro expansion launched last month. It ushered in a new meta, removing two previous expansions worth of cards and introducing it’s own set. I stayed off the ranked ladder for a week to let the meta settle a bit. It’s still in flux somewhat, but the big winners so far seem to be Midrange Paladin, Pirate Warrior (again), and Quest Rogue. At least, that’s what I’m seeing at my level of play. Midrange Paladin is probably the most fun deck to play, the Murloc synergy is amazing. As I said I haven’t ever been a consistent Hearthstone player. I’ve been very casual ever since the game came out. However, this meta seems like the most diverse I’ve ever participated in, and Hearthstone seems to be in the best place it’s ever been in.
I’m currently sitting at rank 10 on the ladder, and I don’t play it super consistently. Hearthstone is something I do when I’m in the bathroom or watching something on Netflix, I never intentionally play it. I’m assuming when I have a baby I’ll be napping with it a lot, so I figure I’ll play it a lot when the baby is a newborn. It probably won’t work out that way, I have a lot of ideas about how things will be when the babies here and I’m sure I’ll be disabused of a lot of my assumptions. However, I’m trying to steer my hobbies into a more baby centric space, and playing hearthstone on my phone while my baby sleeps on my chest seems like a step in the right direction.

I’ve been playing Hearthstone since it was released in beta.  Over the years I’ve been playing off and on, but I’ve been really digging in since December.  I’m a big Blizzard fan, and with the baby coming up I’ve been looking for more baby friendly ways of spending my down time. Until December I had been playing Overwatch pretty religiously, and I even posted about it a few months ago.  But a typical Overwatch ranked match can take a half an hour. It’s not feasible to stop and feed a baby or change a diaper in the middle of a match.  I’ve always liked Hearthstone, but I figure when the baby comes it’ll be easier to play Hearthstone than Overwatch, so I’ve been playing it a lot the last few months.

When I started getting serious about it in December, the meta surrounding the game was all about Pirate Warrior and Aggro Shaman.  I picked up both decks and was fairly proficient with both.  Aggro Shaman felt good because it was so consistent, but the burst potential with Pirate Warrior felt amazing.  In my experience it was more dependent on draw than Aggro Shaman, but when the cards lined up Pirate Warrior was unstoppable.  However, the meta at that point had gotten pretty stale, and if you weren’t playing one of those two decks, you weren’t going to find much success.

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The Un’Goro expansion launched last month.  It ushered in a new meta, removing two previous expansions worth of cards and introducing it’s own set.  I stayed off the ranked ladder for a week to let the meta settle a bit.  It’s still in flux somewhat, but the big winners so far seem to be Midrange Paladin, Pirate Warrior (again), and Quest Rogue.  At least, that’s what I’m seeing at my level of play.  Midrange Paladin is probably the most fun deck to play, the Murloc synergy is amazing.  As I said I haven’t ever been a consistent Hearthstone player.  I’ve been very casual ever since the game came out.  However, this meta seems like the most diverse I’ve ever participated in, and Hearthstone seems to be in the best place it’s ever been in.

I’m currently sitting at rank 10 on the ladder, and I don’t play it super consistently. Hearthstone is something I do when I’m in the bathroom or watching something on Netflix, I never intentionally play it. I’m assuming when I have a baby I’ll be napping with it a lot, so I figure I’ll play it a lot when the baby is a newborn.   It probably won’t work out that way, I have a lot of ideas about how things will be when the babies here and I’m sure I’ll be disabused of a lot of my assumptions.  However, I’m trying to steer my hobbies into a more baby centric space, and playing hearthstone on my phone while my baby sleeps on my chest seems like a step in the right direction.

Review – Horizon: Zero Dawn

A great action game full of robot dinosaurs.

Growing up, I was always obsessed with dinosaurs.  I knew every dinosaur by name and my parents bought me a ton of dinosaur books.  I even bought one of my old favorites recently for my incoming newborn.  When I saw the trailer for Horizon: Zero Dawn, I was immediately intrigued.  The game blends two of my favorite things in the world: a post-apocalyptic setting and dinosaurs.  Actually, the dinosaurs are  robots, but functionally they act like dinosaurs.  The game also features a strong female lead who shoots a bow.  My wife loved the new Tomb Raider games, so I bought this one for her because I knew that she’d like it.  I also knew I’d love it, so I’ll admit to an ulterior motive.

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Combat

The combat in Horizon is excellent.  It’s hard to describe, but the tactile feel of the bow is really impressive.  When you shoot it and hit the side of a dinosaur, it has a punch to it that most games don’t have.  You can shoot an entire clip in Call of Duty or Battlefield and the guns don’t have the same feeling you get from the bow in Horizon.  It’s really great.  There are a number of skill points you can invest in as you move through the game that add cool and interesting abilities to your character.  This is not new to action games, but a lot of these abilities add dimensions to the combat that elevate this game above your average action game.

There aren’t a ton of weapons in this game, but the ones that are present are great.  Like I said, the bow is outstanding.  Many games use bows, but this is probably the best video game bow I’ve ever used.  Outside of the bow, the tripcaster was especially good.  The Tripcaster lets you place a tripwire on the ground, and the wire is rigged to an explosive.  Since stealth plays fairly heavily into the combat, it is very satisfying to set up a complex series of trip wires and then lure enemies into them.  While the number of weapons in this game is low, each one had something interesting to add to the combat.

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Fighting the robot dinosaurs is the real meat and potatoes of this game.  Most of your time spent in Horizon is spent fighting giant robots.  Each of these robots can be scanned for weak points.  The weak points typically have some kind of weakness, fire, frost, or electricity.  Horizon introduces a new kind of weakness called tear.  Tear is a stat that you can increase on your weapons, and it increases the likelihood that you will tear off a component when you hit a robot.  Horizon slowly introduces new dinosaurs as you explore the gigantic world map.  There is a large variety of dinosaurs, and seeking out every last one helped motivate me to explore every corner of the world map.

While shooting dinosaurs is a pleasure in this game, shooting humans is not much fun.  The combat dragged for me when I fought the humans.  They were either too few — which made them easy and boring, or there were so many in one area it felt impossible to get past them.  I hope in the inevitable sequel they either limit the human enemies or revamp them.

Story/Characters

Horizon’s main character is Aloy.  She’s a strong woman who overcomes all odds.  She’s a little tropey in that way, and I found her personality to be a little wooden.  Most of the NPC’s she meets through out the game aren’t much better.  The facial animations and overall graphics are great, but I didn’t find the characters to be written all that well.

The story however is really cool.  There’s a reason the world of Horizon is post apocalyptic, and finding out how we got from present day to robot dinosaurs was really interesting.  There’s some cool twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.  However, there’s a lot of Die Hard-esque set pieces in this game and even though I was playing a game about robot dinosaurs, I found some of it to be a bit unbelievable.  This game is definitely not shooting for realism.

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Conclusion

Horizon is easily my favorite game this year so far.  It’s a game that combines many things that I already like and features some really impressive combat. Despite some small shortcomings, it’s an extremely well polished action game.  My wife and I are both playing through it separately, and  we compare notes every couple of days.  I’m probably going to start over again, I am still addicted to the combat in this game.  Check it out if you like dinosaurs or fun.  Thank God one of my anticipated games this actually turned out decent.

Mass Effect Series

An overview of the original Mass Effect trilogy.

Mass Effect: Andromeda came out last week, and from what I hear it’s huge.  I’m sure I’ll be posting as I play through it, but I figured now is a good time to look back on the original Mass Effect trilogy.

Mass Effect 1

I heard about Mass Effect after it came out.  Apparently, there was a lot of hype around this game before it came out, but I was still in the “honeymoon” phase of dating my wife at the time (not my actual honeymoon) so I wasn’t really paying attention to video games.  A guy at work told me about it and said I should get it.  I picked it up at Best Buy and started it that night at home.  I had just recently purchased the new Xbox 360, and I remember the resolution on the game was so high that my crappy little TV wasn’t able to render the text of the game sharply enough to read.

Mass Effect was a revelation for me.  It was a watershed moment.  It told an adult story set in an infinitely interesting universe, and showed me that video games could be made for adults.  As I mentioned above, at the time I had kind of moved beyond video games in favor of more mature pursuits.  But the first Mass Effect brought me back in a big way.

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These games are set in the nearish future, about 150 years from now.  Humanity has moved deep into galactic space and met up with several other alien civilizations. The player character Shepard is given freedom to explore the galaxy as a Specter, a champion for the human race.  The story involves Shepard discovering an alien conspiracy to kill all sentient life in the universe and preventing it from happening.  The story is great, and the characters are even better.  Tali, Garrus, Wrex, Liara, and several other characters immediately felt like real friends to me.  You recruit these human and alien allies into your crew and go on space adventures with them.  The story is interesting, but the character development and interactions with each other are really what made these games so special.  It was really astonishing to me that a video game was able to convey this level of characterization.

I’ve since found out that this game came as a reaction to the fact that Bioware lost the Star Wars license, and it clearly shows.  The game is set in space, it’s full of aliens, there’s a “force” like power called biotics, etc.  The only thing it’s missing is lightsabers.  The in game codex narrates itself as you hover over entries.  The first time I played through this game I used that codex like a book.  I listened to every single entry, hungry for every last morsel of information I could get about the Mass Effect universe. There are many choices that you make in this game that have implications on the later games in the series.  You can carry over a save file from this game into the next two and your choices are reflected in the world.

The combat, even at the time, sucked. And it definitely hasn’t aged well.  But the universe and characters are so fascinating that after we got married, I got my wife into Mass Effect.  She’s played through all the games several times over herself.  It’s really that great.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 is the best RPG I’ve ever played hands down, and probably my favorite game of all time.  I loved the world and the characters of the first Mass Effect, and when the sequel came out, I had a ridiculous amount of excitement leading up to release.  Usually when there is that much anticipation, you are never satisfied with the result.  Mass Effect 2 lived up to the anticipation and surpassed it in almost every way.

First off, all of the ally characters in your ship are interesting and have a fleshed out background.  The sense of characterization is even better in this game than the first, and the allies you get are diverse, interesting, and fully realized.  Each ally has loyalty missions that you can complete to unlock additional abilities.  These loyalty missions also flesh out more of the ally’s motivations and personality.  By the end of the game, you feel like you really know these people.  You care about them like you care about your friends.

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The combat is also vastly improved from the last game.  The first game had terrible shooting and a glut of abilities.  This game pared down the abilities and tightened up the shooting.  It is not the best shooter ever, but it is definitely competent.  It feels great to slow down time, pick off three targets with abilities, and keep shooting.

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The ending to this game is also incredible.  Throughout the game, you pick up upgrades for your ship and your allies.  There is a series of choices that you make in the final mission.  If you don’t have the ship and your allies upgraded properly, some of those allies will die.  If you make the wrong choice or send an ally to fulfill the wrong role, they will die.  I’ve heard you can even fail the mission and have everyone die.  In a series that is built on characterization and player choice, this structure is perfect.  You care about the people in the game and your choices have a direct impact on their survival.  It creates a tense and thrilling ending with high stakes, even if the last boss is kind of dumb.

Again, this game specifically really hit me hard.  I love it.  I’ve played through the whole game countless times.  I’ve unlocked every single Xbox achievement, I’ve romanced every possible character, I’ve chosen every possible combination of choices.  The storytelling and the characters in this game is, for me, the gold standard for what video games can achieve.

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3  was a letdown.  The returning characters were great as always, but I did not connect with any of the new allies.  The story was also a big bummer.  The ending was ridiculous and tropey.  The biggest strength of the first two games was in their writing and their characterization.  The story in this game went into some weird spirituality thing that didn’t make any sense in the Mass Effect universe.  And the final decision Shepard made was so large and far reaching in the Mass Effect canon that the next game in the series had to move to a new galaxy to avoid the ramifications.  The thing that I loved about the first two games was missing in Mass Effect 3.  The storytelling and the characterization that I fell in love with was gone.  Or more accurately, it was intermittent.

The choices you made in the first two games certainly had resolution, but a lot of that resolution felt forced.  It felt almost like the developers felt pressured to have Shepard run into everyone he had met over the course of two games and have some kind of interaction.  It didn’t feel natural to me. Some of it was good though, in particular the resolution of the genophage side story.

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The side missions in this game are also terrible, and an indication of where Bioware was headed.  Your quest log fills up very quickly with meaningless fetch quests, and they are often obtained by running by someone on the citadel.  There’s very little in the way of meaningful, interesting side content in the game.  When you’re racing around picking up 10 “somethings” that some nameless NPC asked you to pick up (without even having a Mass Effect conversation), it drains any fun out of the side quests.  This was also reflected in Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game they put out a few years later.  That game is filled with filler side content that adds almost nothing meaningful to the game.  I don’t have anything written up for the new Mass Effect: Andromeda yet, but unfortunately it looks like that trend has continued into that game as well.

It’s not all bad though.  The combat in this game is the best out of any of the games.  The shooting was as tighter than the last game, which I felt was the only weakness in Mass Effect 2.  It also made the new multiplayer component really fun.  The multiplayer is made up of co-op, wave based survival maps.  You and several other players survive wave after wave of enemies. If the shooting was weak, this multiplayer would have been terrible.  Thankfully, it’s probably the bright spot in this game.

Summary

The first Mass Effect trilogy is great.  The storytelling and characterization in the first two games is unparalleled, and while the third game forgot what made the first two great, it’s still worth the time to play through.  Mass Effect 2 is probably my favorite game of all time, so if you like sci-fi and shooting, I can’t recommend this trilogy enough.

Review – Nioh

Final wrap-up on my time with Nioh.

This is more of a wrapup than a review, but I figured I’d keep the format consistent.  I talked a lot about Nioh here and here, so read through all three posts for a more complete picture.

I finished Nioh last week.  I said a lot about it in posts, but I figured I’d wrap up Nioh now that I’ve completed it.

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Nioh is an unabashed Dark Souls clone.  While that can turn many people off, either because of the Dark Souls gameplay or the fact that it is not wholly original, it is an absolutely worthwhile game.  I had a ton of fun with it while it lasted, and it’s huge.  There are five regions in the game, each of them containing probably in the neighborhood of 10 missions.  That’s roughly 50 missions, each of them full of complex and challenging combat.  I came close to finishing all of the side missions, but when I finally got to the end of the game I sprinted to the end.  I didn’t do any of the side content in the last region.

I don’t want to retread too much ground on Nioh, so I’ll just focus on the end here.  The end is comprised of a series of very difficult challenges, with the final mission involving a gauntlet of previously defeated bosses before reaching the final boss.  I think there are 7 total bosses in that last level.  While it does make this last mission very difficult, I think it illustrates one of Nioh’s biggest weaknesses.  The repetition of enemies and environments got to be a bit frustrating by the end.  I got very tired of fighting the same five or six different yokai by the end, and the environments were even less diverse.  By the time I reached the end, I had beaten each of the bosses in that level several times over already.  These bosses had been recycled for some of the side missions, so I think the weird lightning lion boss in the final level was actual the third time I fought him in the game.

I get that it can be hard to consistently design interesting and difficult bosses, but this game is huge.  If they had pared down the number of missions, the game would have felt more focused and the repetition in the enemies and environments might have been less noticeable.

That said, the last mission is a beast.  The lead up to the actual bosses is long and very challenging, and beating 7 bosses in a row is ridiculous.  It took me a few hours just to get through that one mission.  I had a huge sense of accomplishment when I finished, which is what I look for when I play this kind of game.  There is an epilogue mission, which was ok. Just two bosses, and they were pretty tame.  But taken as a whole, that last section of the game was incredibly difficult and fun.

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With all that said, all the things I’ve previously written about Nioh still stand true.  The combat is on par with Bloodborne for me, I just absolutely love fighting in this game.  And I think if the developer makes some adjustments for the sequel, they could easily out do Dark Souls.  Nioh is a great game, and if you love Dark Souls and samurai’s, you should definitely play it.

Updates – 3/9/17

Updating on a few recently discussed topics.

Just updating the blog on a few random things I’ve been posting on lately.  Things are heating up for me at work so I haven’t been able to put a ton of effort into my writing, so I thought I’d catch up on some things I’ve been talking about recently.

Wife/Baby

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Roughly what my wife looks like right now.

My wife and baby are doing great.  She’s about 20 weeks right now, so we’re definitely over the mid way point.   All the fatigue she was feeling is gone, really her only struggle right now is the growing belly.  I got her a body pillow to sleep with, so that has made her more comfortable.  The baby is healthy, we’ve had many ultrasounds and doctor appointments recently and everything is looking good.

That painting at the top of this post is a project my wife is working on for our nursery right now.  We’re going for a Noah’s ark theme, and I love how this painting looks.  She does crochet and draws, so this is right up her alley.

Expectant Father

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GREAT book for soon to be dads.

I have been reading several parenting books for new parents, and for whatever reason most of them haven’t clicked with me.  I don’t know if it’s the style or the tone that puts me out, but I really don’t like most of the books I’ve tried to get into.  My wife found this book, The Expectant Father and gave it to me.  It breaks every month of a pregnancy down and helps me to understand what’s happening from a male perspective.  This is very valuable to me as most parenting books for new parents are written for the mother, and the portion for the father gets boiled down to “be supportive.”  That’s not very helpful for me, I’m already super involved and supportive to my wife, I need more than that.  This book is giving me what I want,  it’s helping me understand the pregnancy from MY perspective.  I highly recommend it to other soon to be fathers.

Crib/Saw

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This is a picture of what the crib should look like when it’s done, according to the plans I bought.

So I’ve definitely been procrastinating hardcore on the crib.  It feels like a weight hanging over me at all times, I really just need to get it done.  I have the miter saw out of the box and ready to be attached to my work bench.  With that and the router I got for Christmas, I have all the tools and materials I need to make the crib, I just need the motivation.  Honestly it’s making me feel guilty that I haven’t done much with it yet, I’m probably just going to go berserk in the next weekend or two and blast through the whole thing.

Nioh

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Nioh’s spider monsters in action.

I’ve reached the last region in the game, and I’m pretty sure I only have a mission or two left.  I love this game, it’s fantastic.  I wrote about it recently and my time with it since has only solidified my opinion that it is worthy of the Dark Souls lineage.  The combat in this game is extremely satisfying, and it’s complex in a way that surpasses Dark Souls.  I  have a few complaints about the game, but I’ll probably do a wrap up post once I’m done with the it and talk about them there.

Pandora’s Star

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Pandora’s Star cover art.

I haven’t made as much progress as I’d hoped (that is the theme of my read through of this book), but I’ve definitely come around on this book.  I’m absolutely engaged in the book due to the world building and technology in this book.  The characters are mostly flat and bland for me, with a few exceptions.  I’m hopefully going to finish this book by next week.  Last year, I finished the White Luck Warrior somewhere around November.  I timed out my read of the next book, The Great Ordeal, to be right in the middle between that book and the release of the final book in the series, The Unholy Consult.  That middle date is next Wednesday, 3/15/17.  I’ve been dying to get to this book so if I don’t finish Pandora’s Star before then, I won’t finish it until after I’ve read The Great Ordeal.

Nioh

A fantastic Dark Souls clone.

Nioh is an action RPG in the vein of a Dark Souls game.  I’m a Dark Souls addict, so I’ve had my eye on this game for a long time.  It came out a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been playing it here and there.  I haven’t come close to finishing it yet, but I’ve spent enough time with it to talk about it intelligently.

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The overworld map in Nioh.

Nioh takes place in feudal Japan.  The player character is William, some white dude from London that is fighting his way through Japan.  Honestly, the story is so dumb I’m skipping through any cut scenes I come across.  I don’t really know why anything is happening in the game, the storytelling doesn’t come close to the level of Dark Souls so I’m just pushing past it.  I’m not playing this game for it’s story or it’s characters, I’m playing it because it has taken the Dark Souls combat and run with it.

The levels are spread across different regions of Japan.  You select a mission from an over world map, and each level is a self contained environment.  I don’t know how long the game is, but I just beat the 8th boss and traveled to the third Japanese region.

Combat in Nioh is excellent.  You pick one of five or six weapons and build out your character using stat points (a la Dark Souls) and skill trees.  The stat points feel familiar, but the skill trees add another dimension to character progression.  In Dark Souls, each weapon has a predefined move set.  There are many weapons, so combat feels varied based on how many weapons you use.  This game has much fewer weapons, but the move sets slowly build out as you progress through the skill trees.  While this system limits the variety of weapons, it gives combat a progression that Dark Souls doesn’t have.

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A yokai enemy.  There are lots of these guys in the first few hours of the game.

In addition, there are multiple stances for each weapon.  Low stance does less damage but makes your character more agile for dodging.  High stance does high damage but makes dodging much slower.  Mid stance is a balance between the two.  Depending on the situation, you have to switch stances to adapt to your enemies.  Sometimes you need to change stances mid fight.  You can also change between one of two equipped weapons at any given time.  The combat is fast and fluid, and I’d say it’s even faster than Bloodborne.  Bloodborne is probably the pinnacle of the Dark Souls series for me (I know it’s not an actual Souls game), so the fact that the combat is faster and feels more dangerous is huge praise.

The enemy design is interesting.  Many of the enemies are based on Japanese folklore.  There are yokai, which are demonic monsters and regular human enemies.  The yokai are fun to fight against, but the human encounters are more challenging.  The yokai each have about 3-4 different moves they’re locked into, so they’re attacks are easy to predict.  The human enemies are much more nimble, and can move between stances just like you.  This makes encounters with human enemies far more interesting than yokai, as their attacks tend to be much less predictable.  There are also red swords dotted across each map.  These swords represent a player character in another world who died in that spot.  You can summon a copy of that person’s character and fight them in your world.

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One of the early game bosses in Nioh.

The bosses are probably the least interesting enemy so far.  Many of the bosses have a one hit kill attack.  Many of these attacks are not telegraphed in any way.  This means that you can start making progress against a boss when all of a sudden, through no fault of your own, you’re dead.  Bosses are a huge part of my enjoyment of Dark Souls.  When you come across a new boss in Dark Souls, there is a learning process that occurs.  You slowly come to learn the attack patterns of the boss and eventually overcome them.  There is a huge amount of satisfaction from learning these patterns and beating a boss.  In Nioh, when you’re trying to learn the patterns of a boss and you’re one-shotted, it can be extremely frustrating.  However, I’ve been able to make slow and steady progress against the bosses. I haven’t come across one that is completely unfair yet.

As I outlined above, I have a few problems with the game.  It’s certainly not perfect.  However, the combat is excellent.  It absolutely rivals the combat in Bloodborne, my favorite Dark Souls game.  I’m not sure if I like it more than Bloodborne yet, but I definitely plan on playing through to the end.  I may or may post an actual review once I’m done, I’ll play that by ear.  Either way, Nioh is a fantastic experience and I’m having a great time with it.

Review – Resident Evil

A return to horror pays off for Resident Evil.

Resident Evil 7 came out recently to strong reviews.  I’ve never been a huge Resident Evil fan, but I really enjoyed RE 4 and the reviews convinced me to give it a shot.  I heard that this game was supposed to get back to it’s survival horror roots.  I like horror movies, and I love forcing my wife to watch horror movies even more.

One thing that I think I’ve failed to mention on this blog is that I kind of hit the jackpot with my wife.  She enjoys watching me play video games almost as much as just watching normal TV.  For instance, I picked up Nioh (post incoming) the other night and set it to download before we went out for dinner.  When we got back, it had installed and was ready to go.  She was disappointed when I told her I was too tired to play it until the next night.  None of my other buddies wives do that, so I think I’m a pretty lucky guy in that respect.

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The primary antagonists, the Baker family.

In the past, the Resident Evil proper games have always been played from a third person perspective.  This game brings the series into the first person perspective for the first time.  This is a great choice, because the shift in perspective plays to Resident Evil 7’s strengths.  The game is set in a large plantation in the south of Louisiana.  Ethan, the main character, is searching for his missing wife.  The first person perspective brings the player in close and amplifies the horror aspects of the game.  Ethan has to explore a house filled with the murderous Baker family and a bunch of goopy sewage monsters.  Having the perspective in close makes the jump scares that much more effective than if the game was in third person.<

The pacing in this game is also very different.  Instead of constantly mowing down enemies with machine guns, encounters with enemies are much more rare.  A lot of the game is spent creeping around the house, solving puzzles, and trying to avoid fighting one of the Bakers.  The game creates a sense of tension and suspense by limiting the amount of ammo you receive, so you’re constantly worried about the next encounter.  I never ran out of ammo completely, but the game gives you just barely enough ammo to survive each encounter.  Subtle music and audio cues also increase the tension.  The first hour especially was very scary, it literally felt like watching a horror movie.  After the first hour or so the game falls into it’s natural rhythm of exploring, solving puzzles, and boss fights.  But that first hour was really something, and it absolutely freaked my wife out.

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Goop monster.

The combat itself is alright.  The enemies are susceptible to headshots, and the sensitivity of the movement and aiming is very slow.  The enemies move their heads a lot, so it can be difficult to consistently hit the goopy guys consistently.  Add to this that you constantly feel like you’re on the verge of running out of ammo and the normal enemy encounters are fun and increase the tension of the game.  However, the boss fights are super dumb.  There’s not much creativity going on with the boss fights, you basically just have to pump all of your ammo into them until they drop.  I was hoping for something that matched the rest of the game, but the bosses felt ripped out of the older RE games.  Point and shoot until they’re dead.  Maybe adding a puzzle boss or something that played up the horror focus of the game might have been a better choice.  I don’t know, I’m not a game designer, but the boss encounters were a glaring sticking point for me as I played through this game.

Resident Evil 7 takes the series back to it’s roots.  There’s almost no mention of traditional RE characters or settings (not even any zombies really), and I think that was a wise choice.  It feels almost like a standalone story told in the RE universe.  If they keep making games like this one, then I’m back on the Resident Evil train.