So I was about to write some thoughts about games I’ve been playing in a tweet on Twitter, and I realized that Twitter has become a complete shitshow. Why am I using my hard-earned time and creative thought on a website that is currently a trash fire burning in a dumpster on fire that is in another dumpster that is also on fire, when I could write a thing on my own website? I pay for this website! Why don’t I use it more frequently?
Anyway, this is going to be pretty freeform. I’m going to try to get back into the habit of writing on here regularly, so this has no format, no structure, no real cohesive point. I’m just putting thoughts to paper (or digital screen, in this case) and sending them out into the world like little baby birds. Go free, my young thoughts, and eat a worm.
Resident Evil 4 Remake
I played the original on PS2 back in the day and like everybody else I thought it was a solid game. Unlike my feelings towards The Last of Us being completely overrated, I understand Resident Evil 4’s place in the pantheon of “best and most influential games ever made.” What it did for third-person shooters and QTEs for the whole of gaming cannot be undersold. It is a very well-done, solid game that has great replayability.
I only played it once, though.
Yeah, I know. Unlike, well, pretty much everyone else in the gaming sphere, I played RE4 once, I enjoyed it, and then I shelved it. I did not rebuy it on multiple new systems as Capcom re-released the hell out of it (Skyrim eat your heart out). I did not revisit it just to feel something again – I had other games for that. In fact, I’ve played the much maligned Resident Evil 6 more times than I have Resident Evil 4 because it has co-op and my friend and I laughing at the absurdity of the action in that game was worth replaying it to me.
It wasn’t that I thought it was bad, or even mediocre. Resident Evil just hasn’t ever been *my* series. RE4 was actually the first Resident Evil I ever played. I hated 5. I skipped 7. I did play RE2 Remake, but didn’t touch the remake of RE3. All this is just the long road around to say that I didn’t come into this game with any baggage. No “how can they remake the greatest game of all-time” thoughts. Just…interest. It’s been nearly 20 years since I experienced RE4, so I remember the plot vaguely. I know there’s a little Napoleon man that’s a piece of shit. I know you don’t shoot at the lake. I remember the intro village sequence. But that’s really it.
I like RE4 because it’s a shift from horror to action. I’m not a huge horror gamer (as I’ve probably said in the past) so things like RE4 and Dead Space really hit the exact mid-range I’m looking for: tense but I don’t feel like I want to shut the game off because I’m too tense (here’s looking at you RE2 Remake).
The problem so far with the remake is that the action is a little too overwhelming. The sound design is a little overcooked – the enemies are all shouting at you, but there aren’t good indicators of where the sound is coming from. It could just be my sound setup – I don’t have surround sound so maybe headphones would have helped here – but I’m frequently ambushed by enemies because I can’t figure out where they are approaching me from. I spent a good couple minutes trying to figure out where a dynamite-throwing villager was located because he had a Nolan Ryan arm and was able to throw dynamite into a quite large area, but the curses he was throwing in my direction were so ambiguous in their location I had no idea where he was.
And then sometimes the enemies ambush me completely silently! In the early game there’s a chainsaw-wielding villager you can get the drop on – so I took my time to ambush him with my scoped-in rifle. I thought I had time to get a few shots in, only to be grabbed by another villager doing a Solid Snake impression and ended up CQC’d into a Spanish Chainsaw Massacre. I had spent a bunch of time clearing the preceding area and making sure there weren’t any enemies – the fact that two spawned behind me in complete silence was more than a little frustrating.
As I’m playing this, I find myself comparing it not to the original game, but to the Dead Space Remake that released in January. While it had its own share of frustrations (I hate you, little projectile-throwing heads) I found that game to be a much more satisfying return to 2000s horror – at least so far. Granted I only just finished Chapter 4 in RE4 so I’ve yet to even enjoy Ashley’s company for more than 30 seconds, so who knows how that will impact my feelings. And the briefcase is still the most fun inventory system the RE series has implemented; playing Inventory Tetris doesn’t get old.
It definitely still feels like RE4 at its core though, so for a remake I think it’s doing its job.
Like a few of the SNES JRPGs it emulates, Chained Echoes takes a little while to get going. It has an intro that throws quite a few plot swerves at you (including pulling the rug out from under me barely 30 seconds into the game, which made me laugh) and the way it introduces the main cast feels slow and deliberate. But then coincidence brings them all together into one giant party and the game takes off in its brilliance.
Here’s the deal: if you love 90s SNES RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV or VI, Breath of Fire, ANY of those classic turn-based RPGs – Chained Echoes is going to be right up your alley. It’s not going to convert any newcomers though, because while it takes time to both poke fun at and utilize tropes from those old games, it’s still one of those games.
Now it adds a bunch of modern sensibilities and cool mechanics, but it’s still a turn-based RPG at its heart. The fact that you refill all HP and TP (technique points – your ability points in this game) after each battle is honestly fantastic – it allows you to always consider your full kit in every battle, and contrary to what you might think it doesn’t lessen the challenge of the game. The Overdrive system works perfectly in sync with this: as you attack or take damage your Overdrive meter fills. Once you hit the sweet spot (the green area in the picture above) you get a boost to your attack and defense. Every ability has a type, and once you’re in Overdrive certain ability types will lower the Overdrive gauge so you can keep it in the sweet spot – because if you go over into the red zone, you Overheat and your characters start suffering penalties instead.
It really makes it so you have to consider your party’s makeup and which ability you want to use next to make sure your Overdrive stays optimal. In addition, you can pair up party members and switch them out at will on their turn (very close to FFX, my favorite battle system of all the FFs). So instead of just having 4 party members per battle, you will have up to 8 total participants. It solves another issue of the older JRPGs which is sometimes you have important story characters that just warm the bench for 90% of the game. Now everyone feels like a part of every battle.
This doesn’t even get into all the overworld shenanigans – from crystals you can find to augment your weapons to secret treasures you have to use your brain to locate, it makes running around each maps interactive as opposed to just going from plot point A to plot point B and fighting enemies.
I’ve gotten so engrossed in this game that sometimes I’ve forgotten it’s not a classic SNES-era RPG, only to be yanked back into the present by a character yelling “I’m fucking tired of your shit!” The fact that all of this was done by one guy is absolutely mind-blowing.
I’m 7 hours into the game and while the first 2 hours took me a good two weeks, the last 5 all happened yesterday. This game finally has its hooks in me and while this section was very explanatory and less feelings, I wanted to showcase the systems in hopes to get people intrigued in trying this game out. It deserves the attention of anyone who likes these kinds of games.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
Wo Long may be falling to the same faults as Nioh and Nioh 2 – both games I thoroughly enjoyed, right up until when I didn’t. I don’t know what it is about these games that makes me suddenly drop them – Nioh 2 I was having a blast with and then just…stopped playing it. It might be the loot aspect – sorting through multiple copies of the same loot figuring out which 3% I want to add to which attribute is overwhelmingly boring to me. Nioh 2 did it, Wo Long does it, and the worst part is it’s not just like “Endurance” or “Attack Power.” It’s “damage to snakes” or “movement while in water” or “health restored by drinking tea while fighting zombies with a pot on your head.” When the screen with your stat bonuses from your weapon/armor/accessories requires you to scroll up and down because there are so many different ones, you’ve run into a problem.
The thing about Wo Long is that it is a game with a ton of systems but all of them don’t matter in the face of whether or not you are parrying. There’s a neat morale mechanic for each level in lieu of giving enemies actual levels, where the higher your morale is the stronger you are and it makes it easier for you to take on enemies of higher morale. You can also find flags and banners around the levels to raise your minimum morale. Each time you die your morale is set to the minimum, but finding these checkpoints keep you at fighting strength.
This is a really cool system! I wish it felt like it mattered in the grand scheme of things!
You have Five Phases that you level up: Wood, Fire, Water, Earth, and Metal. Each Phase corresponds to certain stats – leveling up Water gives you better stealth and makes you expend less energy when parrying. Fire is straightforward more attack, Earth is defense oriented. And each Phase also has its own magic tree – as you level up you get access to strong spells, and once again each Phase’s spells have their own distinct flavor. Wood spells are buff oriented, letting you restore health on hitting enemies or lowering recovery times. Metal is poison flavored, letting you debuff your opponents with damage over time.
This is a really cool system! I wish it felt like it mattered in the grand scheme of things!
Because you see, all of this stuff is cool, but it feels like none of it matters. The damage spells do insignificant amounts of damage and the buffs they provide don’t help when enemies can two hit kill you – restoring 4 health per hit when a boss deals in hundreds is useless. And the boss’s morale is always 20 (the maximum minimum if you find every banner and flag) so it’s really hard to come into the last fight in a level with any meaningful advantage.
Instead, you just parry parry parry. Wait for the big red dot with the unblockable attack and pray you have the timing right this time so you can do massive damage to their health and stagger bar. Otherwise you do pitiful damage and they can wallop on you in two or three hits. When every boss is like this, it feels like everything you’re doing when you level up and sorting through all the ridiculous loot is pointless.
It reminds me a lot of why I dropped off of Sekiro. The parry mechanic isn’t part of the skill set – it IS the game. Either you use it and do it right, or you die. I literally couldn’t beat a boss in Wo Long because I couldn’t work out the parry timing, so I summoned help from another player. They parried the boss four times and it was dead. That was it. I didn’t even have to do anything.
I want to enjoy the game and its systems, but when everything is trivialized down to one mechanic, what’s the point?
Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me
Coming off House of Ashes and The Quarry, I was really excited for Supermassive’s conclusion to season 1 of their Dark Pictures Anthology. Both of the previous games were excellent and the best they’ve put out – I’d say both beat Until Dawn for me in different ways.
Unfortunately The Devil In Me does not hold a candle to either of them. I think it squeaks out Man of Medan, but only on the merits of its theme because everything else – hoo boy. I played it co-op with a friend, and this game was glitchy as hell, with characters dying several times through no fault of our own but instead due to the game bugging out. Characters would get stuck in animation poses, button prompts would disappear, assets would float around on their own; it’s a technical mess.
On top of that, the co-op was poorly designed. I would be exploring an area while my co-op partner was doing a chase sequence, and before I could finish exploring I would find myself booted into the next area via cutscene because my partner finished the chase sequence. Backstories for the characters were half baked and dropped unceremoniously in the middle of the game.
Which sucks! This game’s theme was really cool – five people trapped in a murder hotel, having to deal with Saw-like traps as they try to escape. That shit is very up my alley and probably my favorite theme out of all four of the Dark Pictures games! But the characters suck! I wasn’t interested in the fates of any of them! It really blew coming off The Quarry where nearly every character was great (but especially Dylan and Kaitlyn), and also how Salim and Jason carried House of Ashes on their character development. The theme isn’t enough, you also have to be invested in the characters! And when you’re okay with everyone dying because you don’t give a shit, well, that’s poor horror writing!
So season 1 sort of ended with a whimper, but I’m excited to see what season 2 brings now that it’ll be PS5-only focused. Maybe they can iron out some of the technical issues.
And that’s it! I hope to write a little more regularly – this ended up longer than I expected. I’m hoping to do some more short-form thoughts in the mean time, maybe I’ll make this a once-a-month thing to talk about games I’ve been playing.