September 2016 check-in

I apologize for not posting last week and being a day late this week! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, to say the least. However, I posted a game impression to make up for last week, so check that out! I finally got with the times and played Journey!

Dragon*Con was a blast! Other than getting overheated the first day and having to return to the hotel early so I could be sick and sleep forever. But, ya know, I wound up seeing the panel I really wanted to see that day, so all’s well that ends well, I guess. My Yang cosplay was a hit!

Didn’t wind up doing Tifa on Sunday because reasons, but still had fun!

Been keeping busy. Trying to cook more. Played lots of awesome games that I can’t wait to talk about! Have time to play a lot more off the wall things since the big releases have been postponed. Currently playing Gravity Rush. It’s weird, but fun! Except for the occasional feelings of motion sickness.

No post next week, as I will yet again be out of town, so I’ll see you guys in two weeks!

An Emotional Journey – Journey impression

I have plenty of new games I could be reviewing, but instead I want to take a moment to talk about Journey. Mostly, I want to talk about Journey because it segues into the next review I want to do, but also because I’d never played it before, and it was just so stinkin’ good!

I’ve been getting burned by indie titles a lot recently, which sucks. Sucks even more so because normally I’d say I’m all about artsy, indie titles. However, I’ve been playing so many flops that I’ve gotten a little trigger-shy. All that is to say, I kind of wanted to play Abzu, but I was also terrified of buying it only to find out I didn’t like it. Sure, it’s come pretty highly recommended, but so were the other games I’ve been playing. Basically, word-of-mouth and reviews have failed me! Which is just so rude. But I digress.

So yeah, I wanted to play Abzu, but I was also terrified to commit to that idea. At which point I remembered, “Hey, I own Journey! I’ve never played Journey, but Abzu is supposed to be similar. I’ll play Journey, and if I like it, I’ll continue on to play Abzu.”

That deal made with myself, I loaded up Journey, full of trepidation and a readiness for disappointment. I’d heard so many good things, what if I’d built it up in my head? It couldn’t possibly live up to expectations, right? Also, what if, disappointingly enough, I’d just changed? What if something in me had snapped, and I didn’t like artsy, indie titles anymore? I didn’t think I could stomach that thought. I didn’t want to be that person!

So, spoiler alert, but crisis avoided! Turns out the other games I’d been playing really had just been over-hyped and under-performing. Journey blew my socks off, you guys! Or it would have if I made a habit of wearing socks when the weather is like ninety degrees outside. It blew my metaphorical socks off. So, with all that said, onward to actual impressions of the game!

I’m not going to go on about the look of it. It looks nice, there’s no denying that, but at the end of the day, that wasn’t the important part. Though definitely the settings are gorgeous and help in building the narrative. So while I don’t personally care about the graphics, the settings blew me away more and more as the game progressed.

When it comes to multi-player, I’m usually not a fan. I don’t know what has happened in adulthood to turn me off of online multi-player considering I used love MMO’s as a teenager, but at some point the idea of randomly encountering another player who could judge my skill level became a recipe for anxiety for me. All that is to say, I was super nervous about the multi-player aspect of Journey. However, I think they got the formula down perfectly! My first time encountering another player, I was a little nervous, then kind of excited, then kind of sad when they were gone. It only lasted a second though, so I moved on fairly quickly. The next time, though, I spent much longer with the person (at least I assume it was the same person, though I guess there’s really no way to actually know). We helped each other, encouraged each other (as much as voiceless, little sprites can). Somehow, without ever actually speaking to each other, I felt a kinship with this person. Then they were gone, and I was very sad. From that point on, running into people was an emotional roller-coaster comprised of excitement over a new friend and the inevitable disappointment of losing them. Honestly, while playing alone in no way detracts from the game, the implementation of the multi-player adds to the experience exponentially.

There’s not a whole lot I can actually say about the story mostly just because I’m not 100% sure just what exactly it was about. That’s not a bad thing, at all. With the lack of any dialogue, it’s honestly meant for interpretation to some extent. Of course, I have theories, but I don’t want to go into that here. Spoiler-free is really the way to be when going into these games. What I will say is that despite the silence, this is a story that truly touched me. I cried and I cheered, and honestly I just felt like this was one of the realest emotional journeys I’d ever gone on with… well, with any media. At no time does the story feel incomplete or lacking for it’s non-use of dialogue.

Adding to that feel is a soundtrack that seamlessly blends into the game. None of the music ever stood out in my mind simply because it integrates so well with the game-play and story. Never once did the music over-power anything or seem at odds with a scene. It was simply there to offer support to the emotional resonance.

Basically, all-in-all, Journey to me seems to be a game that stands the test of time. It’s been four years since its initial release, and yet even still remains a game that simply blew me away despite even my jaded attitude going in. I also really don’t think I’d mind giving it another play-through, which says something considering a lack of replayability tends to be a problem I often feel many artsy, indie titles (and even plenty of AAA games) suffer from. I’m sure not much would change, but I feel like there would definitely be more to discover in the world. Plus it’s just an amazing journey (I do not apologize for the pun). If you haven’t played it, I cannot recommend this game enough. It’s only a few hours long, and now is definitely the time to pick it up, even if just for a rainy day, since it is currently one of the free games on PlayStation Plus this month!

Living My Childhood Aspirations to be an Astronaut – No Man’s Sky review

No Man’s Sky

Developer: Hello Games | Publisher: Hello Games | Available On: PC, PlayStation 4 (reviewed) | Release Date: August 9, 2016 (PS4); August 12, 2016 (PC)

No Man’s Sky has been out for just around a month now, and if you haven’t heard of it, I honestly would love to know what space rock you’ve been living under. Considering the hype surrounding the game pre-launch and the amount of controversy it has been seeped in since it came out, I think by now basically anyone who games knows about this game. However, I’m not here to talk hype or controversy. No, I’m here to review the game. That said, I want to go ahead and get any and all disclaimers out of the way. First, this has proven to be a divisive game, so it’s a pretty fair assessment that plenty of people will have an opinion differing from my own. I’m all about discussing all angles. My only stipulation is we do it like adults. Secondly, I started in the camp of not liking it and have since decided I really enjoy it, so this is going to be a slightly positively skewed review. Thirdly, I realize this isn’t the game for everyone, and that is perfectly fine and will be discussed. Finally, I’m not here to talk about any direction the game may take in the future, as I simply don’t know. As such, this review approaches the game for what it currently is, and not what it may potentially become.

Now that I’ve officially been boring and perhaps overly P.C., let’s talk No Man’s Sky! So if you’ve been living under aforementioned rock, No Man’s Sky promised a journey through the cosmos where you could encounter somewhere around eight quintillion procedurally generated planets. Was that the number? Either way, for those of you keeping track at home who can’t even begin to imagine that number, that converts to about five-to-seven metric fuck tons. That’s a wide margin, I know, but look, conversions were never my strong suit and it’s been a long time since I took a math class.

So what do you do with these planets? Well, I think the nitty-gritty of that part was largely up for debate, and I won’t claim to have been an avid follower of the game pre-release to verify, but the main goal was to find your way to the center of the galaxy. Now you’re up to speed on what I knew going in. I wasn’t super sure what to expect from this game before release, as I’m sure many weren’t, so I’m going to try and shed a little light on just what to expect from the game if you somehow haven’t already bought into the kool-aide.

Visuals & Gameplay

I want to say the game looks good. I mean, it doesn’t look bad, per say. Actually, once things are rendered, it does look very nice. Ya know, assuming you aren’t on a hideous planet. However, because the whole thing is procedurally generated, everything loads up super grainy, which is quite honestly nothing but a pain when you first come to a planet and are trying to decide just where to land. After all, you don’t want to land in the middle of nowhere where there is absolutely nothing around, because then you need to try and fly somewhere else, which then just becomes a waste of the fuel in your launch thrusters. Wasting your fuel means hunting down plutonium to refill them, which basically is what the gameplay experience boils down to – resource mining so that you can use those resources to mine more resources. That’s basically the main thing you’ll spend your time doing.

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There are a few other gameplay aspects, things such as combat and sort-of socialization. The combat doesn’t feel great, however, whether you are on the surface of a planet or in space, and the “socialization” kind of feels really arbitrary? I mean, come on, I’ve learned way more Vy’Keen words than just “interloper,” yet somehow that’s all I ever seem to understand. Never mind the approval system which gives you know indication of just what any one standing means, especially when it’s different every time I talk to different aliens of the same race. In one space station I’ll have one Vy’Keen decide I’m a “special partner” while the other seems to think I’m something else. Though the Korvax at least all seem to be in agreeance that I’m simply a Traveler of the Atlus.

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Korvax know what’s up!

 

 

On the technical side of gameplay, the game gives almost no instructions. It will let you know how to fly your ship early on, but when it comes to everything else, it’s pretty much up to the player to figure it out. There were a lot of things I didn’t even know I could do for the first hour or two of the game. There is a control scheme you can reach through the menu, but even that didn’t seem super intuitive to get to.

Finally, the only “multi-player” concept I’ve come across is discovering systems and planets that have already been discovered by other players. It’s a neat concept, but one that I unfortunately find more annoying than enjoyable, if only because discovery is tied to monetary reward. If you’re the first to discover something, you can upload it and earn units (No Man’s Sky‘s currency). The couple of times I’ve come across something that someone else has already discovered, I’ve very much felt like what was the point and quickly flown off to the next system.

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So everything I’ve said so far seems pretty sour grapes, but like I said at the beginning, I actually really like the game. The planets, once actually rendered, are fairly breath-taking, and I’m always excited to land on a a planet and see what I’ll get. There are so many times I’ve had what I can only describe as “tourist moments” where all I want to do is run around the planet and take pictures of the terraine. And while combat doesn’t feel great, especially at first (where it feels downright awful), there’s something the feels highly rewarding and addicting each time I win in a dog fight out in space or take down a sentinal. Now that I finally have some good multi-tool upgrades and understand how it all works, sometimes I get it in me to just go take something down for the fun of it. Also, even if I do spend like 98% of my time resource mining, I still get stupid excited each time I find a rare resource. All that is to say that while the things you can do are limited, that doesn’t necessarily make them any less fun if you can take the time to appreciate what the game currently is instead of what you wish it was.

Characters, Story, & Atmosphere

Basically what this section boils down to is that there are a couple of different ways to play the game. You can just freely explore, following no specific path, which is the way to get you absolutley no where except to maybe find cool stuff. You can follow the path of the Atlus, which gets you different tech (I think?), and is also how you learn more langauges and lore (sort of?). Or, you can just go straight to the center of the galaxy.

I’ve been following the path of the Atlus. I thought I wanted to go straight to the center, which is why I had some aliens point me in the diection of the nearest blackhole, but the more I’ve played, the more I don’t want it to be over.

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Ultimately, the path you take depends largely on what you get enjoyment from. I’m a lore and story kind of girl, so following the path of the Atlus is what seems super interesting to me. But maybe you just want to know what’s at the center. Or maybe you want to just see as much as you can (to that, I wish you good luck!). No matter what, it seems to me that they have a path to appeal to anyone who has figured out how to play the game in a way that is entertaining to them.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, as things stand, this is a hard game to recommend. After all, despite the fact that I have now said goodbye to my life in deference to exploring the stars, I started out really not liking it. While I have every intention now of continuing my journey through space, I think if you’re feeling uncertain about No Man’s Sky, wait it out, watch some gameplay footage, and see what they do or don’t add in the time to come.

While I would love to say buy it if you like lore or collecting or exploration, ultimately this game has had such a varied reception between each individual regardless of what they do or do not typically enjoy. It has things that I think can definitely be improved upon even without adding brand new features as Hello Games has already discussed. No matter what though, I urge you to remember that at the end of the day, this is a game with fantastical scale that despite Sony’s backing was in all actuality developed by a small indie team. Whether or not you feel the game in its current state is worth the $60 price tag falls to you. However, I do think it may be worth checking in periodically to see if that valuation changes at all based on what they add or change as time passes.

In the meantime, I shall continue to explore star systems of No Man’s Sky between other gameplay experiences.

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Gotta expand my vocabulary, after all!