This week I played Yakuza 0, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dark Souls III, and Bloodborne.
Last week’s post can be found here.
Yakuza 0 (PS4 Pro)
My feelings on this game remain largely unchanged from last week: it’s a spectacular, ridiculous, epic, bizarre crime drama. The sheer momentum at which it progresses makes it a difficult game to put down. I’ve made my way a few hours into the second character Majima’s arc, and it left off on a big cliffhanger, at which point I had to take a break because I hadn’t been able to put the game down all day.
Now that I’m a little farther into it, I am beginning to see a little bit of the jank behind the curtains. I mentioned last week that I had very little to complain about and, while that remains mostly true, some of the issues that the game has are beginning to rear their head. Mostly it’s that it is sometimes difficult to control the camera while you’re fighting, which can make your attacks frustratingly difficult to land. That and I’ve noticed a great deal of screen tearing while running through some of the streets, which is something I didn’t even know was possible on consoles. I’m used to that being a PC issue.
Still, it’s a phenomenal game, one that I recommend most people at least check out, because of its unbelievable audacity and more charm than one would expect about a crime drama centered around Japan’s most infamous gang.
Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
Well, the honeymoon period is over, and my pacing on this one is slowing down. I find myself hitting the same areas I had trouble in in the first game and, while this time I am having much less difficulty in those areas, they tend to stand out as parts of the game that just aren’t designed particularly well. I still plan on at least trying to see this one through, as I still find it weirdly compelling. Something about the way that your main character moves is actually very satisfying, and picking up the glowing diamond collectibles on the map satisfies a weird completionist itch; I often find myself running pretty far out of the way to pick up those crystals and hear that satisfying sound cue. And the character’s super jump is satisfying as well. It’s a fun, grand and deeply flawed JRPG.
Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS4 Pro)
Man, it’s hard to believe it’s been a little over three years since this game came out. Time sure goes by fast. I played a bit of this back when it first released, but dropped off of it sometime around hitting the third or fourth big area. Something about the MMO-ish design really rubbed me the wrong way, and doing fetch quest after fetch quest to fill in a big, open, weirdly empty-feeling map got boring fast.
And yet here I am, three years later, having just bought the DLC on sale and booting up the game to give it a third go (I tried picking it up again about a year ago and failed miserably). I don’t exactly know why; maybe I like MMO design more than I care to admit. Maybe I’ll play it for another four hours and drop it yet again, to pick it up in another year and try to power through.
It is weirdly compelling, though. There’s definitely something here, something interesting and unique, hidden behind bland mission design. Every positive to the game also has a negative: the maps are big and beautiful but feel bizarrely sterile, not quite real but more like facsimiles of real places filled with question marks and exclamation points for your character to interact with. Half the time those missions are just fetch quests, involving walking from one NPC to a group of enemies that you hold down a button against, occasionally pressing another button to pull off a stronger attack (which, as I write this, I realize is not all that dissimilar to Xenoblade). Occasionally a story mission will pit you against a stronger enemy or group of enemies, and suddenly the game’s difficulty spikes hugely, without having properly prepared you for such a jump.
And yet… Like I said, it’s strangely compelling. There’s a “one more mission” quality to it. Filling up those meters feels good, if artificial. The characters are pretty well written, as well, and while the story seems pretty damn generic so far at least the banter between your teammates is engaging and interesting. Basically what I’m trying to say is that, despite the fact that I think a lot of the design decisions aren’t that great, I’m having a good time with it. It’s scratching a specific MMO/RPG itch that I’ve clearly been having lately and, while I don’t think it has the depth that Xenoblade has (for better and worse) it is still engaging.
Dark Souls III/Bloodborne (PS4 Pro)
I’m lumping these two together because I didn’t really get to play much of either, and they’re both quite similar in design. I started a new character in Dark Souls III, a knight, which focuses on heavy armor and a sword and shield combo. Not my traditional play-style, but I figure with the announcement of the upcoming Dark Souls Remaster coming to the Switch and other consoles, I should get used to the more traditional, less fast-paced Dark Souls gameplay.
I picked up my Bloodborne character where I left off, which was near the beginning of the DLC. The DLC in Bloodborne is astonishingly difficult, at least at first. I’m no SoulsBorne genius, but neither am I bad by any stretch; if I’m playing at my best, I can handle most basic enemies with relative ease, and many of the bosses only take one or two tries. The Bloodborne DLC is wonderfully designed, both from a visual and gameplay perspective. It manages to take everything you’ve gotten used to in the game and flip it on its head, all while dialing the difficulty up to 11. It is an excellent piece of DLC, a perfect add-on to what is one of my favorite games ever made. I’m glad that I haven’t played it before, simply because it means that I get to experience it for the first time. It’s that good.
Eventually the plan is to purchase and play through both Dark Souls III DLCs, of course, but with everything else on my plate I can’t commit to that just yet.
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That’s pretty much all I’ve been playing lately. Thanks for reading, and Stay Optimistic!
Have any suggestions for games you’d like me to play? Let me know in the comments below!
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