Still, curiosity outweighed my better judgment and I decided to give this game a try anyway. I’m glad I did—I Am Setsuna has its moments of being enjoyable—but the poor writing was enough to ruin the whole experience by the end and cause me to question why this game falls so short.
Now, reviews generally exist to answer the question of whether something is good or not, but the answer to that question is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no in this case. In fact, if my notes are any indication, the answer is “yes, then kind of, then yes again, then no no no no why is this happening, then ehhh, then yes again,” which is a roundabout way of saying that the game is worth it overall despite having some pretty glaring issues.
[A]t the end of the day, this is a game that borrows so heavily from other games that it's entirely bereft of originality or creativity. That's not the same thing as being bad, of course, but Final Fantasy 15 takes so many cues from other games that it lacks any kind of individual identity, and considering how many games have done the same things better, you're best off just playing those instead.
Let’s get this out of the way early—Torment: Tides of Numenera doesn’t live up to or supplant Planescape: Torment in any way, shape, or form. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a worthwhile game on its own, however, and even a simulacrum of something as justifiably venerated as PS:T feels like a welcome bulwark against the waves of mindless games that ask nothing of the player and offer nothing in return. This is a game for those who love lore and large chunks of flavor text so overwhelming that one could conceivably drown in them, and while that makes the game impenetrable to those mass-market gamers who require an easily digestible story and lots of visual pizzazz to enjoy a game, it also allows it to be incredibly rewarding and memorable for those willing to put in the time to read through it all.
Overall, Vikings is an enjoyable game with environments that are destructible enough to be weirdly satisfying and gameplay that’s entertaining enough to carry it (provided you have a gamepad), but it lacks any kind of narrative weight and begins to run out of ideas for varied boss fights toward the end.
Its opening few hours proved mildly amusing, if a bit underwhelming given my high expectations, but the game soon after won me over in a big way to the point where countless softlocks, bugs, and typos couldn’t stop me from playing. While the way you get into combat is reminiscent of the encounters in Chrono Trigger, its biggest takeaway from that game is instead rock-solid pacing that avoids wasting your time with nonsense padding, and there are a handful of features taken from other games that are equally welcome. All of this coalesces into something that’s simultaneously a brilliant homage to classic jRPGs and strong entry in the genre in its own right.
[T]he thought of playing another second of this awkward, predictable tripe is so unbearable that I stopped and resolved to never continue. That’s not to insinuate that this is the worst game I’ve ever played—merely that magical mix of underwhelming and tedious that isn’t appallingly terrible in the way some games manage to be, but pointless enough to get in the back of your head reminding you of the million other things you’d rather be doing.
The Surge is a game that appeared to borrow the difficult combat from such games while departing from that formula, hence my interest in it, and while it eventually falls into lockstep with other such titles by doing the same basic things Souls games end up doing, there are enough interesting wrinkles and gameplay improvements here to make it worth a playthrough or two.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia suffers from an identity crisis in almost everything it does. For example, one early dialogue exchange sees an enemy drop a surprisingly crude word apropos of nothing, and then the game subsequently wastes ~25 hours holding your hand through a comically absurd story driven entirely by the brain damaged stupidity of both lead characters. Fire Emblem Gaiden’s story has been fleshed out to a certain degree for this remake, but only the inconsequential bits seem to have received this treatment, leaving the lore at roughly the same level as the original. The end result is that the bare-bones prophecies and plot developments force relatively complex characters to act in incredibly simple-minded ways at times, flitting between being legitimate leading characters and idiots so infuriatingly dull and shortsighted that it’s a wonder they can remember to breathe.
One minute I was steamrolling my way through levels on the first try with a few boss-type exceptions that required a bit more effort, and then an annoying earlier boss was suddenly doubled up and the entire screen was awash in bullets that most of my paltry skills were helpless to do anything about. The few that helped had cooldown timers that ensured that I was stuck without them for the majority of the fight on each of my ~30-40 attempts, each preceded by the same 5-minute level.
Valkyria Revolution is a game lacking any semblance of entertainment value, an abject failure that should have never been allowed to happen. This isn’t just a bad game when compared to the rest of the series, but a game so wholly inept and loathsome that the other games would have simply never been made if it had come out first.
[G]ames are my preferred method of avoiding people, and my view of games like this is generally that they exist as bait for the kind of Youtubers whose video thumbnails consist of them making a ridiculous face, so it’s saying something that I found myself holding my controller in a white knuckle grip and getting mad at little pixel art cartoon guys.
Pirate Queen’s Quest has redeeming elements, such as a great final boss fight and some Risky hijinks that subtly manage to pull her back a bit from the uncomfortably senseless malice she showed in the base game (which felt wrong after the events of Pirate’s Curse), and the upgrade mechanics really allow you to break the game in an entertaining way, but the chest placement and overall lack of an interesting plot or story resolution hold it back in a big way. If you’re already crazy about the series, this is an obvious “buy” regardless. If you’re not, it’s probably best to wait for a sale.
Maize is a weird little game that blends a bunch of genres together while defying their individual norms. It’s an adventure game, but it either hints at or blatantly tells you what items will later be used for. It’s a walking simulator, but you actually do stuff other than walking (including a bizarre dancing minigame at one point). It’s a comedy game, but there’s also an underlying sense of mystery in the early parts of the game. It’s character-driven, but you never actually meet several of the more important characters beyond reading their passive-aggressive post-it exchanges littered throughout levels. Really, it’s all of these things and none of them.
The reason I bring this up is that the same thing seems to happen every so often with modern developers, leading to surprising, quality games that are instantly familiar and yet totally unique. That’s Battle Chasers: Nightwar in a nutshell.
First, a little context that most people will be aware of, but that’s bound to be lost over time: a game journalist was recorded struggling to get past Cuphead’s tutorial level in the runup to its release, something that caused much embarrassment as well as questions about what kind of playing proficiency it’s reasonable to expect/demand from those in the industry. Now that it’s finally out, there’s been a veritable flood of outlets putting out videos of employees making it through levels unscathed and reviews that are quick to mention how difficult—but fair!—most of the game is. I imagine many of these people genuinely liked it, and that’s nice for them, but let’s not pretend that the overwhelming praise has nothing to do with the fact that the game has become a litmus test for reviewer competency as far as the gaming public is concerned. Let me tell you about my decidedly less positive Cuphead experience.
Then there’s Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, a game that breathes fresh life into the series in the same sense that characters being ripped to shreds in a zombie movie before returning as members of the undead technically have fresh life breathed into them. This is an abomination, and that’s coming from someone who could be considered a bit of a Bubsy apologist.