Despite being very excited about this game and pre-ordering the collector's edition (contrary to my typical avoidance of pre-orders), it took a couple months before I was able to spend much time with it. My strategy guides for Civilization V: Brave New World was a lot of work and took up a lot of time. I was only able to play bits and pieces of Dark Souls II during that time and didn't make much progress. I was hoping to have a review out in time for the PC release, but that didn't happen. Then I was hoping to publish the review before the first DLC hit, but that didn't happen either. I'll probably review the DLC later, once all three have been released.
Full disclosure: I haven't actually finished the game yet, but I do feel that I've played enough of it to be able to write a review. If completing the game changes my opinion considerably, then I will revise this review as I've done with other games in the past (including the first Dark Souls). I've also considered getting the Steam version, since it may be better than the console versions. If I do play that version, I may revise this review to include opinions on that version.
But for now, I've only played the PS3 version,
Table of Contents
Is Dark Souls II a victorious successor to a masterpiece of design and storytelling?
This is a game that caught my attention back in the beginning of the year. I was on the lookout for new horror games to whet my appetite, and the novelty of this little Indie game had me intrigued.
The teddy bear actually comes off as a bit of a creeper at the beginning of the game..
The novelty of Among the Sleep is that the player character is a two-year-old toddler. I actually think that this is a very clever conceit for a horror game. The world can be a very big, scary place for a small child, full of things that are outside of the child's control and beyond the child's understanding. A young child is completely dependent upon its parents or caregiver, which makes them inherently very vulnerable.
Unfortunately, since the game is being played by adults, we can't play the game with the ignorance and naivety of a two-year-old, so we would see any real-world environment as exactly what it is: not scary.
So in order for this to work, the designers would have to be very clever in how the environments are presented. Easily he most effective part of the game is the early chapters when the child is lost in a closet and then exploring the house after waking up to find his mother and teddy are absent.
The first person perspective puts the camera very low to the ground, which makes the ordinary environments look large and menacing. The character moves slowly and clumsily (running for more than a few second results in the character falling on his face). Thus, simple hallways seem long and treacherous. Even interactions as simple as opening a door require a small amount of puzzle-solving since the character can't reach a door handle without climbing onto something. This section takes good advantage of the central concept of playing as a toddler by using the legitimate hugeness of the real world, and tapping into our own innate desire to protect and shelter children, in order to make the player feel small and vulnerable.
You even pause the game and access menus by covering your eyes with your hands! Hooray for a lack of object-permanence!
It is a promising start to the game.
But instead of expounding upon this and turning an otherwise mundane environment into an intimidating one, the design quickly shifts into a blatantly-imaginary, whimsical dreamscape. This disconnect from reality suddenly shatters the immersion of the child character, and squanders the inherent novelty of the game's central concept...
The mother plays an important role in the narrative,
but the player doesn't interact with her long enough to develop any attachment to her.
Now that I've finished my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's new civilizations, I want to take some time to look into some of the legacy civs that have received updates since Brave New World. France received a major revision in Brave New World out of the box, having its national trait completely redesigned, and one of its unique units was replaced with a powerful new unique improvement.
Humans have been occupying the land of France for at least 1.8 million years. The caves of Lascaux are a famous paleontological / archaeological site, as its cave paintings are some of the earliest and best-preserved examples of early human art and culture. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region was split up between numerous Germanic tribes. One Germanic group, the Franks, eventually came to control most of the region, and this is where the term "France" was eventually derived. They set up the first French Kingdoms, which gained strength during the medieval periods despite threats from the Vikings and English. The European Enlightenment can trace many of its roots to the intellectual circles of France, which eventually culminated in the French Revolution that deposed and executed King Louis XVI and established a fledgling Republic.
Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of this young Republic in 1799, eventually declaring himself the Emperor of France. He was a military genius of the time and an expert in the use of artillery. He conquered much of Europe from Spain all the way to Russia, and even fought campaigns in Africa (although these campaigns were not successful). His conquests helped to spread French culture, ideals, and reforms around the world, including widespread adoption of the metric system, new military traditions, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. His armies eventually fell victim to the harsh Russian winters, which halted Napoleon's aggressions and forced a withdrawl. His reign eventually culminated in a devastating defeat at Waterloo (then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands). He was forced into exile on the island of Saint Helena, where he eventually died of stomach cancer in 1821.
One of Napoleon's nephews, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon III), launched an enormous public works program in Paris in the mid 1800's in order to build hundreds of kilometers of wide boulevards and streets, replace the sewer system, construct parks, and be the first city in the world to install artificial lighting (originally oil-lit lanterns). This made Paris into the world's first "City of Light", allowing people to work and engage in recreational activities around the city during the night, eventually establishing a 24-hour culture and the urban nightlife.
I don't typically get excited about E3 the way that other gamers do. I try not to buy into hype, since I've been burnt before. I prefer a good review over the most stellar of previews. E3 tends to be a lot of pomp and circumstance; a cacophony of light and sound and flashy presentations of scripted, pre-rendered previews that are hardly ever representative of the final product.
I also haven't been paying much attention to the new consoles. They just don't excite me that much. Most quality games are seeing multi-platform releases these days, which usually includes a high-quality PC port that is at least as good (and sometimes better) than any console iteration. Gone are the days of sub-par, buggy PC ports. Or at least, that is how it seems to me. So I just don't see the new consoles as being worth while as long as I have a decent gaming PC. And in fact, these consoles will likely be inferior to good gaming PCs within a couple years. So what's the point in investing in one?
There are a few games on the horizon that look intriguing. I've already talked about Evil Within and Alien Isolation as being two of my most anticipated games of this fall. Both of these games will have PC versions that I will likely purchase, so no need to invest in a new console yet.
There's also a new project by the developers of Demon's Souls that was announced as a PS4 exclusive. That game could have the potential to sell a PS4 to me, but I'm going to wait to see more of the game before I get too excited.
But E3 did have one stand-out surprise that really piqued my interest. It's a new game by a developer called Hello Games. The game is called No Man's Sky.
This game was presented during the PS4 E3 press conference, but it's likely to see a PC version as well. If not, then this title could also turn into a PS4-seller for me.
The game is being advertised as an "infinitely-expanding procedurally-generated science fiction universe"... [More]
After 2012's Amazing Spider-Man tie-in game presented some interesting ideas, I was really hoping that Beenox would have an opportunity to take the things they'd learned and apply them to a new, stand-alone Spider-Man game that would not be constrained to the plot and release schedule of a film tie-in. Sadly, that hasn't happened yet, and we have a new movie tie-in game that suffers from almost all of the problems associated with a movie tie-in.
Once again, Beenox was smart enough to know better than to follow along with the movie's asinine plot and opted to write their own side-story. Unfortunately, this one isn't as well written or as well presented as the previous game. It could have been a good story, but plot is clumsily-executed, and the associations to the movie only drag it down further.
The Kingpin is comically (and ridiculously) oversized.
The bulk of the story is based around Wilson Fisk (the Kingpin) using rising crime rates as an excuse to deploy his private anti-crime task force in New York city. His company partners with Oscorp (who supplies the task force with its tech), and sells the task force to the public as a way of stopping crime and ending the vigilante justice that has plagued the city. But secretly, the task force is really out to destroy rival crime bosses and give Kingpin a monopoly on New York's organized crime underworld.
There's another secondary plot about hunting down the serial killer Cletus Kasady, who is killing criminals. This plot is only barely tied to the Kingpin thread, but it takes center stage during a large chunk of the second act of the game, and almost seems to become the main story - almost as if the writers couldn't decide if they wanted the game to be about Kingpin or about Carnage.
Web-swinging uses pseudo-physics that requires more active involvement from the player.
It's more rewarding than the prevoius game, but still not up to the level of earlier Spider-Man games.
Aside form a couple obligatory super villain boss fights with Electro and Green Goblin (Harry Osborn), the game has very little relation with the movie on which it is supposedly based... [More]
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