Friday, December 9, 2016

Pokémon GO Finished

Game: Pokémon GO
Release date: 2016
Platform: Android
Date started: 17 July 2016
Date finished: 25 November 2016

- Get to level 20 
- Defeat a Pokémon guarding a gym 

I set pretty easy and simple conditions for the game to be considered "finished". I didn't want to choose something like "complete the Pokédex" because it's not entirely clear which Pokémon are available right now and they are still adding new ones.  I got to level 21, defeated, claimed and defended gyms and caught/evolved 80 unique Pokémon. Basically I experienced pretty much everything that the game has to offer at this moment and unfortunately it's not much. The game is fun to play for the first couple of days but it gets old very fast due to it's repetitive nature. Catching the same Pokémon over and over again isn't fun and once you take over some gyms, there's nothing else to do. No wonder so many people stopped playing.

Augmented reality

The idea behind the game is genius. You walk around in a real world and search for Pokémon which will appear around you randomly. Once you bump into one, you can actually see it through the phone camera and try to capture it. Along a way you can get items from Pokéstops and battle in gyms which are at fixed locations, usually landmarks. It's a game that encourages you to go outside and explore the environment. There weren't that many Pokémon in my area so I took trips to nature in order to hunt Pokémon but quickly I realized there were more Pokémon living in the urban areas than in forests. I caught more Pokémon in 5 minutes on a town square than in 2 hours hiking through the woods. Shouldn't it be the other way around? The GPS tracking doesn't work properly, I could leave my phone lying on the table and my character would still run around the screen.

Pokémon GO map looks like GPS navigation

The gameplay

When trying to catch a Pokémon, you don't have to weaken them like in every other Pokémon game.  All you have to do is throw a Pokéball at them (with a little finesse) and that's it. The creature animations are very well done as they dodge and bounce back Pokéballs you throw at them. In this game Pokémon aren't getting stronger through fighting, they get stronger by eating candies. Whenever you catch a Pokémon you get candy which you can use to level up the same type of Pokémon. Not only does this go against the core concept of Pokémon, it also makes leveling rare Pokémon almost impossible. Your starter was literally useless before they introduced a new feature in one of the later patches in which you can choose one of your Pokémon to walk around with you and get stronger by doing so. The problem is, it will still level up at the slower rate than the other Pokémon which are common in your area. You can only walk one Pokémon at a time so forget leveling both Squirtle and Rhyhorn for example. The battle system has no depth to it. You just attack by tapping the screen. You may try to dodge some attacks by swiping the screen but it feels pretty random. There's no depth to it. All they had to do is copy the old Game Boy turn based system and it would work perfectly. Did they think the casual playerbase is too stupid to understate the game that was meant for children? When Pokémon GO came out and everyone was playing, it was a great social experience. People were hunting together, taking over gyms etc but it all happened outside of the game. The game itself does not have any social features. You can't see other trainers on the map, you can't battle other people or trade with them. There's not even a friends list.

My strongest Pokémon

The verdict

Pokémon GO is the biggest waste of potential in video game history.The game became a true phenomenon when it came out, everyone was playing it. If the fighting and leveling systems were done right, if they had essential features in place, if they expanded the development team and rolled out updates faster then many people would stick with it. There is still hope for the future, they are still working on new features and trading was announced but considering the rate they were pushing out updates, I don't have much faith in Niantic. If only they'd outsource it to some more competent developer. 

+ it's Pokémon
+ augmented reality
+ free to play
+ encourages physical activity and exploration
+ Pokémon animations

- no PvP
- bad fighting system
- terrible leveling system
- repetitive
- no friends list
- inaccurate GPS tracking
- more Pokémon in urban areas than in nature


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Next to play: Pokémon GO

Game: Pokémon GO
Release Date: 2016
Platform: Android

- Get to level 20
- Defeat a Pokémon guarding a gym

I've been playing this game for some time now. The first 2 days I was playing I thought it was really cool but it got old quickly. There's just not much to do in the game and a lot of features are either done poorly or missing completely. I'll still play until I reach level 20 and then I'll decide if I'll keep playing or not based on state of the game in that time. There's a lot of potential in Pokémon GO and it can be improved in so many ways but honestly I don't have that much faith in Niantic. That's why I didn't set my conditions to catch all Pokémon available. I don't even know how many out of the original 151 are obtainable in the game at this moment.

Here are some of my stats:

Level: 8
Team: Instinct
Pokémon seen: 33
Unique Pokémon caught: 32
Distance walked: 22.9 km

Press X to continue

I have been pretty busy with work this year so I haven't been updating the site or playing almost any of the games I set out to finish.  The little free time I had for gaming I spent mostly on Quake Live and Starcraft 2 multiplayer instead. Now I decided to get back on track and although the year is slowly coming to an end I'd still like to beat more games than in the previous year. So let's have a little recap...

My 2015 in gaming

Games finished:

24.08. [PS] Heart of Darkness (1998) 7/10
06.09. [PC] System Shock 2 (1999) 9/10
23.10. [PC] Life Is Strange (2015) 9/10
20.11. [PC] Game of Thrones (2015) 6/10

After failing to beat Mortal Kombat II for 8 months, I decided to ditch my "play only one game at a time" rule and started playing other games along with it. The first one I beat was Heart of Darkness on PlayStation. It's a beautiful but at times frustratingly hard 2D platformer. For a game that tried so hard to feel cinematic, it had a surprisingly bad story. Still the character animation was so good it puts most of today's games to shame. Then I proceeded to beat System Shock 2 which I actually plan to replay using different character skills and maybe some mods. Playing it in co-op would be sweet too. Life Is Strange was the biggest surprise of the year and it ended up being one of my favorite games of all time, despite all of it's flaws. I liked it so much I bought the limited edition that includes an art book and a soundtrack. The last game I beat in 2015 is another episodic game- Telltale's Game of Thrones. This one was a bit of a letdown. It started really strong and the ending of episode 1 got me hooked but unfortunately the game got worse with each episode and the ending that sets up a new season was pretty anticlimactic. So in the end I've beaten only 4 games in 2015, which is still more than just one (Mortal Kombat) in 2014.

Mini awards: 
Best 2015 game I played: 
Life Is Strange
Best game I've played in 2015 (regardless of the release date):
Life Is Strange

Limited Edition

Art book looks like Max's ingame diary

2016 Progress

Let's take a look at the games I'm currently playing and how far into them I am.

Mortal Kombat II

Date started: November 1, 2014
Konditions:  Finish the game with every character on normal difficulty with 4 credits available

I haven't made any progress in Mortal Kombat since I started playing this game almost 2 years ago. I've chosen Liu Kang as my first fighter, I've learned all of his moves and combos and I can easily progress through the early stages with flawless victory until I hit a brick wall. The difficulty scales up fast and the cheating AI reads your keystrokes and responds to your moves with perfect counter or block. I'm considering dropping the game difficulty to easy, which is still hard btw (there is also "very easy" option available).  


Date started: July 8, 2015
Conditions: Beat all solo adventures on all difficulties, get rank 5 or lower on ranked play

I am unlocking everything with earned gold instead of spending money, This means a lot of grinding and daily quests so it takes a while to unlock all the adventures. I've already beaten  Naxxramas, Blackrock Mountain and now I'm collecting gold to unlock the second adventure of League of Explorers- Uldaman. The best rank I've achieved this far was 11 on ranked play but I was missing a lot of cards that were used competitively. The game should get a lot easier when I unlock new cards and build a decent deck. 


Date started: September 21, 2015
Conditions: Beat all 3 campaigns, Terran, Zerg and Protoss

I've already finished the Terran and Zerg campaigns so the only one left is Protoss. After beating StarCraft I'll move to it's expansion - Brood War. 

Penumbra: Overture

Date started: October 30, 2015
Conditions: Finish the game

I've only played Penumbra for 2 days but I felt like I was fairly far into it before I got stuck on a generator puzzle and haven't played it since. I don't think the puzzle will be hard to solve, I just need to pick it up again. I was quite enjoying the story and the atmosphere.

Besides Mortal Kombat, all the games should be easy to beat except for HearthStone which will bee more time consuming since I'll have to grind to unlock game content. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Game of Thrones Season 1 Finished

Game: Game of Thrones Season 1
Release date: 2015
Platform: PC
Date started: 8 July, 2015
Date finished: 20 November, 2015

Conditions: Finish all episodes of the season 

I finished this game last year and started to write a review but then I got side tracked by life so here it is, almost a year later.

Game of Thrones is the first Telltale game I've ever played and I would probably enjoy it a bit more if I haven't played another episodic game shortly before it - Life Is Strange. While Life Is Strange lets you control the character most of the time, Game of Thrones is mostly made of interactive cut scenes. When the game decides to give you control, you can only move through a very limited space so there isn't much to explore. "Puzzles" are so simple they could hardly be even called that and all of the action is done through tedious and unresponsive quick time events. A lot of times I felt like I didn't press the button in time or failed to press it completely yet the character still performed the action successfully. It felt very random. So the gameplay is really dull but this is the kind of game you play for the story that is directly influenced by the choices you make. Or is it?

The majority of your early decisions in the season won't affect the story much. Some scenes might play out a bit differently and dialogue might change but even the minor plot points will remain untouched. At one point in the game, if you play your cards right, you can secure a marriage with a lady from another house which would give you a significant advantage. However it doesn't matter if you pursue her or not because the marriage will be prevented anyway. That's just one example of the many where the game will screw you over no matter what you do. I felt cheated because they give you illusion of choice but in reality you are completely at a mercy of the script. The choices themselves were tough to make and a lot of times I felt like I wasn't making the right decision. I like that because it felt true to Game of Thrones. Telltale stepped it up big time with episode 5 and 6 that feature some choices with ambitiously big consequences but we can't really judge the scope of it until season 2 comes out.

Story and characters

Going into the game you have to accept that no matter what you do, you can't change the events of the books or TV show, they have already been written. Instead the game can give you a small glimpse behind the scenes as playable characters often rub shoulders with the cast of the HBO series. The story begins during the Red Wedding (season 3 episode 9 for reference) and continues on along with the show until around the start of season five. It follows 5 members of House Forrester, a small noble house very briefly mentioned in the book. Forresters are Stark's bannermen, known for their fine craftsmanship and supply of ironwood, which is a very valuable resource in Westeros. The house is in shambles after lord Forrester and his army got massacred during the Red Wedding night. Now his young son Ethan has to take over and become a new lord. Aside from Ethan, you also play as: Gared Tuttle, a former squire of Lord Forrester who gets sent to the wall after exacting revenge on Bolton soldiers who killed his family. Mira Forrester, a handmaiden of Lady Margeary in King's Landing. Rodrik Forrester, Gregor's firstborn son who got badly wounded on a battlefield and Asher Forrester, a rebellious fighter exiled across the Narrow Sea. They will try to do everything in their power to save their house which is threatened by the Whitehills, a rival house that wants to take over the ironwood supply.

All of the playable characters are pretty bland, Gared and Mira being the worst offenders. Rather than having a unique house traits, they very much resemble Starks. Rodrik was my favorite but not due to his personality. He has a really nice recovery story arc where he had to rise from being a wounded cripple to a respected fighter and leader he once was. I thought some of the side characters were much more interesting. I liked Rodrik's ballsy little sister Talia and Ludd Whitehill was a villain that I loved to hate. Speaking of great villains, Ramsey Snow will appear from time to time to completely ruin your day.

Some of the NPCs were more interesting than main characters. I liked Talia and I absolutely hated Ludd.

What really bothered me were illogical story problems in the game. At one point I gave an order not to let enemy soldiers inside the gates and five minutes later they march into the main hall and nobody ever questions how they got in. Later we find there's a traitor in the house and figuring out who the traitor is was one of the more intriguing aspects of the game for me. Unfortunately the traitor thing boils down to simplest possible formula and his motivation doesn't make any sense. A huge letdown.

Then there was this stealth mission on which Daenerys sends Asher and his 2 buddies. You had to complete the goal without getting distracted and killing anyone but guards. During the mission your friend Beskha bumps into her former master who made her do terrible things. Naturally she wants revenge. So you complete this insanely hard and dangerous mission for Daenerys but she still won't help you because she finds out about this one dead guy. Asher could've easily said that he saw them
so he had to be killed in order to not compromise the mission but fuck the logic. What's worse is that Beskha ends up feeling bad for killing the guy who ruined her life but feels nothing about killing dozens of guards who were just doing their job. This kind of writing would never fly on the show.

The presentation

Every Telltale game has a slightly unique visual style and this one is no exception. This time they went with a look that resembles oil painting. It looks pretty good during the static shots but falls apart in motion. The character movement feels very wooden and the animation tends to skip at times. Facial animation is even worse, as most of the time the characters wear same dumb expressions. On the other hand both the new cast and HBO stars gave a solid voice performance. The only one that felt a little bit off was Christopher Nelson as Ethan Forrester.

Ironrath, Forrester's home

The ending of episode 1 was the highlight of the season for me and it was very much in the spirit of GoT. Episode 2 continued on strongly but the series started going downhill from that. Third episode felt like more of the same and then each episode got worse the season continued. I enjoyed the parts of the game that took place at Ironrath the most. I was surprised to find a lot of people liked Mira's intrigues at King's Landing but I didn't find it interesting and often wanted to skip to the next segment. Asher's journey wasn't great either but pretty much everyone agrees that segments over the wall were the worst even tho the setting and the mystery alone had potential for something special.

The verdict

The game is made for the fans of the show (and books) so don't even bother picking it up if you haven't watched the series. If you are a fan then it's something to play while you're waiting for the next season of the HBO series but you probably won't take it for anything more than a filler. The final episode doesn't provide a satisfying closure, instead it blatantly sets up season 2.

Thoughts on season 2

+ hard decisions
+ HBO cast
+ a few shocking moments

- no closure
- bad animation
- QTEs
- segments beyond the wall
- story problems
- traitor reveal

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Life Is Strange Season 1 Finished

Game: Life Is Strange Season 1
Release Date: 2015
Platform: PC
Date Started: February 7, 2015
Date Finished: October 23, 2015

Conditions: Finish all episodes 
                     Collect all photos 

Life Is Strange is a second game developed by Dontnod Entertainment, the studio that made Remember Me, a game that was criticized for it's combat and linearity but praised for it's visual design and memory remix. Memory remix is a mechanic that allows you to enter and rearrange people's memories in order to manipulate them. Even tho it was the most interesting aspect of the game, it was heavily underused and you didn't get to play with it more than just a couple of times during the entire game. Enter Life Is Strange, a game build from the ground up around a mechanic inspired by memory remix- time travel. Who would've thought that time travel and choice based gameplay go hand in hand so well. After you make a decision, you can observe short term consequences then rewind and see what would happen if you chose something different before finally settling down with a final answer. However you can only foresee short term consequences and the right answer isn't always clear. Your decision might have a long term impact you will only see in later episodes so you still have to choose carefully.


You play as Max Caulfield, an 18 year old photography student who just returned to her home town after being absent for 5 years. She plans to reunite with her best friend Chloe with whom she lost all contact. One day during a class she experiences a vision of a tornado destroying her town. Then she witnesses a a girl getting shot in a school bathroom which somehow awakens her ability to turn back time and she prevents the murder. All over the school there are missing posters of Rachel Amber, a girl who recently disappeared. The way people talk about her, she seems almost too perfect. Could the disappearance be related to the event in the bathroom earlier? Soon Max gets reunited with Chloe and at first things are a bit awkward but it doesn't take long until the dust of the old friendship falls of and they decide to solve the mystery togehter. The game deals with some topics that aren't usually explored in videogames such as bullying, suicide, teen pregnancy and drugs. But what makes the game so good is a constantly present sense of mystery that makes you wonder what's going on and you will think about the game between playing the episodes. Life Is Strange is heavily influenced by TV shows (Twin Peaks, X-Files), movies (Donnie Darko, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and even web series (Riley Rewind) but still somehow retains it's own unique identity. That is mostly due to relationship between Max and Chloe that is at the heart of the game. Their friendship is portrayed in believable manner and I don't recall any other game that did a better job in doing so. Even a lot of side characters really grew on me during the season even tho I disliked most of them during the first episode. There were many heartbreaking moments in the game that made my eyes watery even tho I don't usually get very emotionally affected while playing games or watching movies.

The relationship between Max and Chloe is at the center of the game


The game has a distinctive art style that's somewhere between cartoony and realistic. All the textures in the game are hand painted and there's a huge attention to detail. It's the lightning that adds a final touch and makes the game pretty. The animation looks natural and the voice acting is pretty good. Ashly Burch, who plays Chloe, delivered a great performance and stole the show but some of the side characters are voiced by the same actors and it's noticeable. It's a shame they didn't hire some more actors for supporting characters. The soundtrack is one of the strongest points of the game and adds a lot to the atmosphere. It is mostly composed from licensed music along with original tunes by Johnatan Morali, the frontman of the band Syd Matters which is also featured.


The game is very cinematic but it isn't mostly made of running cut scenes like Telltale games. Most of the time you have a control over the character as you wonder around, explore areas and interact with people and objects in third person. Looking at things and reading notes is strongly encouraged and paying attention to some seemingly insignificant information might turn out very helpful later down the road. A lot of the puzzles in the game are built around the time rewind mechanic. The puzzles in the first two episodes aren't that good but they get a lot better in episode 3 onward. There's one excellent puzzle in episode 4 that made me feel like I'm doing real detective work. Solving it felt super satisfying.  There were also a couple of simple stealth sections thrown in but they are very easy since you have the power to rewind time. The rewind mechanic itself has a cool looking effect and it's use is not limited. Still you can't rewind past the last automatic save point in the area you're currently in.


Life Is Strange is really enjoyable game with a great atmosphere, likable characters, awesome soundtrack and choices that have consequences. This is episodic game done right. Only the finale was a little disappointing but it didn't ruin the experience for me so I'm giving it 9/10.

You can read separate SPOILER reviews for each episode:

Episode 1 review - 8.5/10
Episode 2 review - 9/10
Episode 3 review - 9/10
Episode 4 review - 9/10
Episode 5 review - 6.5/10

Note that prior to launching episode 5, Dontnod released a huge patch that improved lip sync of previous episodes and added a few features which make replaying individual chapters a lot easier.

+ choices and consequences
+ character relationships
+ sense of mystery
+ heartbreaking moments
+ great soundtrack
+ good voice acting and motion capture
- at times cringeworthy dialogue
- multiple characters voiced by same actors
- weak finale
- unanswered questions