Friday, August 28, 2015

Next to play: System Shock 2

Game: System Shock 2
Release Date: 1999
Platform: PC

- Beat the game on "impossible" difficulty
- Play it only in the dark and with headphones on

Even tho I've never finished Shock 2, it's still one of my favorite games of all time. I've beaten demo countless times. When I finally got the full version my hard disk crashed as I was about halfway through the game. Then life happened and I didn't quite get back to it even tho I love the game. Now finally after all these years I'm about to witness the game in it's full glory and I cannot wait.

What do I expect?
I expect the game will be good all the way through and won't let me down. Hoping for some horror and I hope the monkeys will still scare me as they did when I was a kid:)

Heart of Darkness Finished

Game: Heart of Darkness
Release Date: 1998
Platform: PSX
Date Started: January 31, 2015
Date Finished: August 23, 2015

Conditions: Finish the game on a medium difficulty 

I was almost at the end of the game when  my disk stopped working. Fortunately I found  a replacement and I was able to finish the game.

The game is about Andy, a young boy who doesn't pay any attention in class yet somehow he's able to construct a functional flying machine and lightning gun out of scrap metal. He suffers from nyctophobia (fear of the dark) and has a loyal dog named Whiskey. Sudden eclipse happens while they chill in a park and Whiskey gets kidnapped by the darkness...somehow (it happens off camera). Determined to rescue his friend, Andy runs home to his treehouse full of fantastic inventions, grabs a Tesla gun and takes off in his flying machine. How does he even know where to look for Whiskey? Up in the sky he collides with a flying darkling and crashes into a cliff. By the look of it he must be from Arizona. He gets attacked by shadowy creatures and the game throws tons of them at you from the very beginning which is a very odd since the first 5 minutes are one of the hardest in a whole game. Instead of  giving players some time to familiarize themselves with controls and whatnot, they throw at you an angry mob of shadow creatures that will literally tear you apart. I can't understand that decision. After a while Andy meets Jar Jar-like creatures called Amigos and they are just as annoying. The twist ending will answer all the questions you could possibly have about this weird world and it will sort out all the things that didn't make sense. I see how some people could hate the ending but it didn't bother me. But I'm surprised they put such an effort to make this game feel cinematic but they didn't write a very good plot. It's kinda terrible actually. What is also surprising is they hired a film and TV composer Bruce Broughton (Homeward Bound!) and a symphonic orchestra but they only used the music during cut scenes. There is no music during the gameplay for some reason.

The game has great pacing and keeps changing things up so it's always interesting. Starts with some shooting sections, then you lose your gun and you have to run away from the enemies using your platforming skills. Andy gets a new power after coming in contact with a glowing green rock. Now he can shoot things as well as make seeds grow into trees. The later ability is used for puzzles. There are a lot of environmental puzzles where you have to move objects to a specific place and then activate them. They are not hard to figure out. Right in the beginning the game shows some interesting mechanics. Shadows can attack you and the only way to get rid of them is to destroy objects that are casting them. Great idea but sadly the game doesn't use it often and it feels like a wasted potential. The game has beautiful backgrounds and amazing animation. It can be frustrating at times, the last level made me scream at a TV for one hour straight but I enjoy the challenge (unless it's totally unfair like MK2). Heart of Darkness is officially the first PS1 game I've ever beaten.

Sauron, is that you?

+ animation
+ character design
+ gorgeous backgrounds
+ brutal death scenes
+ good mix of shooting, puzzles and platforming

- story
- shadow mechanic not used enough
- rough start


Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Hearthstone priest deck

This is my first Hearthstone deck. It is my creation. I haven't looked at internet  decklists or anything.With it I plan to reach rank 5 or lower on ranked play (I am at 14th right now). There aren't any super expansive cards in it, Maexxna is the only legendary. This whole deck is based on synergy but sometimes it seems like it needs too many things to come together to succeed. Creatures can't really stand on their own. Most of the creatures have 1 attack power in order they get boosted up by Hobgoblin. If he is on the table, Micro Machine enters the battlefield as 4/4 for example and Demolisher becomes a 3/6 a and that's not too shabby. Cleric, Lightwarden and Shadowboxer are a great team. There are situations when opponent is playing really passive and my hero or creatures aren't damaged at all. Enter Imp Master. With his ability he can grant that there will be s sure target to heal every turn, which compliments especially Cleric. Lightwarden can get ridiculously strong in a single turn if I play Holy Nova and have a lot of damaged creatures on board.  Maexxna is trere for cleaning big enemies and 8 health is quite enough with the healing to wipe of the opponents side of the board. I know as I move up the ladder, the games will only more difficult for this deck but I have a couple of ideas how to improve it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Game of Thrones Episode 5: A Nest of Vipers Finished

Warning: spoilers ahead

Unfortunately I got the ending spoiled and I knew from the start that I'll be able to save either Roderick or Asher. Before I even started the episode I already decided I'll let Roderick live. I like both of them but he is more suited to be a lord and his whole recovery would make a nice story arc. However when I finally reached the scene and saw the context, I had to leave Roderick behind since it made more sense in a way I played his character. He would choose to stay. I was looking forward to see Asher and Roderick rule and fight side by side so it was pretty disappointing the way it ended. The whole situation was bullshit anyway, archers would kill both of them just like they shot down every soldier that tried to get in under the gate. So even one of them making it out alive requires suspension of disbelief.
I feel stupid for carefully observing character actions and trying to figure out  which character was a traitor. They did exactly what I was afraid they're going to do. If you choose Royland for a sentinel, Duncan would betray you and vice versa. In my case the traitor was Royland and his reasoning was he tried to save the house and thought Roderick was too weak. My Roderick might have been physically weak but he never shown any type of weakness, didn't submit to anybody and always stood up to Gryff. Even Ramsay said something like "so I heard you're the man who cannot be broken". Even his physical recovery was going well so it makes no sense he would view him as weak. And how would betrayal help the house anyway?
I liked the part with the fighting pit, headbutting "The Beast" was fun (didn't enjoy the fight tho, don't like QTEs) and talk with Tyrion was slightly amusing. Gared's part was the least interesting.

All in all it's one of the weakest and possibly shortest episodes.

+ Ramsay                     

- short length
- lack of facial animation
- boring QTEs
- Gared's segments
- forced choice

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Life Is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room Finished

Game: Life Is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room
Release Date: 2015
Platform: PC
Date Started: July 30, 2015
Date Finished: July 30, 2015

This is my favorite episode so far. It starts really melancholic but halfway through it gets really dark and turns into something like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or True Detective. The episode is twice as long as the previous ones and it should take 3-6 hours to finish, depending on how much you explore. The first third of the story Max spends in the alternative timeline where she has to deal with consequences of time travel that made her best friend paralyzed. She witnesses Chloe's pain as well as her parents mental and financial struggle. Max and Chloe watch Blade Runner and talk about childhood memories before Max is faced with the hardest decision in her life. Getting back to the original timeline was a relief. I've heard some reviewer called it "cowardly and convenient cop-out" but I disagree. If anything, staying in the alternative universe would be a cop-out since that would make all your previous choices absolutely irrelevant. This way we get a nice window in "what if" alternate universe and see just how little control Max actually has over time and how her actions could unpredictably spiral out of control.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Conversation with the drug dealer Frank is the highlight of the season for me because that scene shows just how much the choices you made in previous episodes affect the situation. And there are so many factors that can change. Did you let Frank take David's gun? Did you steal the money from the handicapped fund? Did you talk with Nathan about Frank? Did you ask the cop about Frank? How did you deal with Frank's dog? Did you find the gun in Frank's RV? Did you let Warren beat up Nathan? All these choices add up to the complex algorithm. And of course, the way you handled the situation with Frank in this episode will probably have consequences in the finale.

Once you get a client list from Frank, you have to connect it with other clues in the best puzzle in the game. They really stepped it up with this one. When I saw the complex detective board I was like "oh no, this will take a while" as I just wanted to move on with the story but it didn't take long and I found myself in a full detective mode focusing on every detail. The puzzle isn't very difficult but you will have to think about it and solving it will feels very rewarding, especially cracking the phone code. 

It's been a while since a game made me take notes. Writing the numbers down came really handy later on. btw I didn't write dog names for the puzzle, I just wanted to know who bought what drugs

After that the game takes a dark turn as we get to visit some creepy locations and uncover disturbing secret. Ashly Burch again delivers a heartbreaking performance during the emotionally intense scenes but I feel like all of the actors stepped up their game for this episode. Leading up to this episode I was under impression that the end of the world party will be the setup for the big finale but nothing huge happened there. The ending didn't really shock me. 

Collectible photos and my episode 4 choices 

+ twice as long as other episodes
+ choices and consequences
+ detective board puzzle
+ emotional roller coaster

- lip syncing is still an issue


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Life Is Strange Episode 3: Chaos Theory Finished

Game: Life Is Strange Episode 3: Chaos Theory
Release Date: 2015
Platform: PC
Date Started: July 29, 2015
Date Finished: July 29, 2015

In this episode the girls break into principal's office at night in order to look for more clues about Rachel Amber and Kate being drugged. The way Max enters the locked office is really clever and it hasn't cross my mind that her power could be used in that way. There are a lot of quiet moments in this episode where Max and Chloe just chill and talk about life or Max and Joyce go through old family album. These scenes feel genuine and strengthen character relationships. We also find more about some side characters like Frank, Rachel and Nathan. By the episode 3 Max got out of her shell and she's much more confident than before and even Chloe mentions that.

Max and Chloe can potentially be more than just best friends

In the reviews for the first 2 episodes I complained a lot about illogical puzzles. Episode 3 doesn't suffer from that. There is a cool verbal "puzzle" where you talk to 3 people in the diner and use the information you got from one on the others, all while rewinding time, manipulating them all in order to get the keys. There are a lot more dialogue options in this episode. I like that Max can have fun with her rewind power and do some dangerous things just to see what happens. On the other hand nosebleeds and headaches from episode 2 seem to be completely gone now, although she sometimes comments on how careful she must be with overusing her power. Ashly Burch, the actress who plays Chloe, did a great job in this episode. She really nailed the emotional scenes. We found out that Max's powers are far greater than she imagined when she jumps way back in time while focusing on the old photograph. Focusing with keyboard and mouse was pretty clunky but I've heard it's a lot easier with a controller. The ending changes everything completely and I haven't seen it coming. Life Is Strange is getting better and better with each episode.

First snow, then eclipse and now dead animals. Tinkering with time has consequences 

+ ending
+ character relationships
+ more dialogue options                    

- clunky focus controls
- what happened to nosebleeds and headaches?