The Last of Us

The Mona Lisa of the modern gaming generation. It really is an amazing piece of artwork and has one of the most gripping and emotional narrative I have ever come across in a game. Released in 2013 by Sony Computer Entertainment and developed by a company we all love, Naughty Dog, they really know how to knock our socks off and they did so with this game. Honestly, I cannot find any faults with this game and you probably wont find many gamers who will. The game is set in a post apocalyptic world where a strain of fungus (Cordyceps) has mutated into controlling human hosts when infected. The fungus itself is based on a real life fungus whose spores infect insects and grow into their brains killing the host but reanimating it for a short period of time to spread more spores into more hosts. In the game the mutated fungus turns its hosts into cannibalistic creatures who will stop at nothing to infect you or kill you, they are referred to as “Clickers” owing to the clicking sound they make after the fungus completely disfigures the hosts head into this:

Concept art of a Clicker 

468px-Clicker

They really are indescribable and are quite terrifying once you come across one of them.

The narrative starts during the day one outbreak, you follow Joel and his experience with the outbreak. The opening sequence is extremely emotional so I wont spoil it for you, but lets say it is definitely full of “feels”. You do get to play a part in the opening sequence and you control his daughter and then Joel himself in this part of the game. It really gives you a great depiction on how modern society would deal with a viral/fungal outbreak. Once you have finished the highly emotional opening sequence it fast forwards twenty years and society has barely survived, the world has been reclaimed by nature and humanity has been reduced to small settlements as the fungus has claimed majority of the worlds population. Joel and the rest of the surviving inhabitants of a small settlement he is now part of has to scavenge to survive barely able to keep the growing epidemic at bay. The scavenging becomes a major aspect of game as you make use of the surrounding resources to explore and fight off any enemies. The remaining survivors have retreated into quarantine zones which are heavily policed. Joel becomes a smuggler with Tess in the Boston quarantine zone and eventually comes across the infamous “Fireflies” a rebel militia group who are opposed to policed quarantined zones. Enter Ellie a rebellious teenager who is apparently immune to the infection. She immediately becomes humanity’s only chance at creating a cure and the survival of the human race. The story-line focuses on Joel and Ellie’s relationship and the quest to bring her to a facility where she can be used to develop a cure for the infection. Their relationship becomes a massive focal point of the game as you really grow attached them both, their struggles and the impending feeling that not all is what it seems in regards to this facility. As the player you want nothing more than to help both these deep intriguing characters to live happily ever after in this harsh now unforgiving world that they have been thrown into.

The graphics and audio are exceptional as expected for a top end game and really makes you feel part of their ongoing struggle. Despite the horrifying Clickers and monsters, the overgrown scenery and detail is beautiful, you really feel like you are there. Here is an example of the graphics to expect:

An artistic design of a location in the post-apocalyptic United States:

The_Last_of_Us_visuals

Audio in the game adds to the immersion and gives you a feeling of playing an interactive film with brilliant actors and a quality screenplay/script. It adds to the suspense, terror and even awe in many of the numerous different environments and situations you find yourself in.

The gameplay is really impressive, you play in third person controlling either Joel or Ellie depending on the situation. Just like any survival horror or RPG you rely on scavenging and crafting to make weapons and health kits to help you progress. Depending on the difficulty you chose at the beginning of the game determines how often you come across resources making it a real challenge for the most seasoned of gamer. During the game both Joel and Ellie work together (including some friendly NPCs you come across) to overcome obstacles and combat making their teamwork invaluable to completing the game even indirectly adding to the relationship between the player and the two protagonists as you increasingly understand how hard life is now and the only way forward is to work together. There are a fair selection of weapons both craftable and obtainable giving you many methods to avoid detection and to protect yourself from any enemy. The mostly destructible environment assists in protecting you and even becomes integral in formulating strategies to take on the most hardiest of enemies.

Overall, I give this a 10/10, this game really is deserving of all the accolades and Game of Year awards, its impressive and gripping in every aspect. Once you have played this game you can understand why it is so critically acclaimed and deserving of high ratings. I cant fault it and I am extremely excited for its sequel.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

Dec

Kingdom Hearts

One of Squaresoft’s masterpieces, taking everything we loved about Final Fantasy and RPGs and mixing it with all our childhood stories and characters that Disney created for us during our youth. A strange combination you may think and how could it possibly work, to be honest I thought the same when it was mentioned to me in 2002 upon its release to Playstation 2. My cousin told me about the game at one of our family parties, we used those opportunities to discuss up coming games and other interesting gaming news. Needless to say I was intrigued so I asked my folks to get it for me for my birthday or Christmas of that year. Christmas rolled around and I got what I hoped for. Opened the packaging and went for it and I was not let down by it, it really was a masterpiece.

You follow the main protagonist Sora in the immediate setting of the Destiny Islands, it’s a very small set of islands and you really do get a feeling of claustrophobia as you explore it. Sora spends most of his days exploring and having fun with his two friends Riku and Kairi, you start to notice the crossover when characters such as Wakka, Selphie and Tidus are also inhabitants of the island, as children. They act as tutorial characters and introduce you to the games mechanics before throwing you deeper into the Disney/Final Fantasy crossover realms. Like any RPG the protagonist has a love interest, hence Sora having a soft spot for Kairi and focuses on her and her friendship at the beginning but Riku starts to feel that there is much more to this universe and starts to question everything and wants to escape this island and explore the world. He inspires Sora and Kairi to do the same thing but they are not as determined as Riku is and you start to sense that Riku knows more than he is letting on. As the story progresses strange things start to happen on the island and Sora starts having weird visions and dreams of Riku reaching out to him while he is engulfed by the ocean waves.

Eventually, a darkness surrounds the island and Sora loses both Kairi and Riku and has to face a strange enemy, which is introduced as the heartless. You try to fight them off with a stick but quickly discover that it is useless and once cornered and overwhelmed you are given a weapon in the shape of a very large key. Nicknamed the Keyblade respectively. You make quick work of the enemies but eventually the islands are destroyed and you drift into space. Enter Donald and Goofy, two of Disney’s biggest names. Donald is introduced as the wizard to the king (Mickey Mouse naturally) and Goofy a respected knight. Sora lands in Traverse Town and is discovered by Pluto and eventually Donald and Goofy who eventually join up with him and become very much inseparable.

This brings me on to game-play, after some story building you discover the universe is built up of many different worlds. All of which are based on Disney films and are now struggling with the heartless. Your task is to defeat this new foe, however to reach each world you have to fly through space between each world in a Gummi ship created in a workshop run by the Chipmunks. The inter-world space travel is hilariously fun, you can create any type of ship with very little limitations and it always ends up looking like a mismatch of strange shapes. Great fun. You eventually meet all of your favorite childhood characters from Aladdin to Hercules while helping them fight off the horde of heartless that are trying to swallow the universe. Final Fantasy story-lines also get displaced into these worlds and you come across Cloud, Squall, Yuffie and many more taking part in their side quests adding an interesting crossover element to the game. Introduction to the combat system, all in real-time, Sora, Donald and Goofy fight continuously as monsters spawn all around you. You really build on your reaction skills as the fights get harder and timing/dodging plays a major factor as the difficulty increases especially in boss battles. Magic and summons as well as techniques are a major aspect of the game, including items, items play a major role like in any role playing game and help you customise and build new Keyblades. Spells are taken directly from Final Fantasy and are self explanatory the only difference is you now have to aim them due to the battles are now in real-time. Summons add another fun aspect to the game, unlike Final Fantasy games they are not Gods or monsters that can command catastrophic destruction, they are characters from Disney that have fun yet helpful abilities to assist you in battle. Techniques are also a nice new addition and they add combos and special attacks that can change the tide of battle and increase MP and HP depending on which abilities you chose and who you chose them for.

One criticism I have is the fact that Donald and Goofy are CPU controlled and can either be rather helpful in tight spots or stupidly annoying and wasteful. You can chose an algorithm in how they act but its vague and not overly helpful. Example, losing a chunk of health choosing to heal yourself only to hear Donald squeal “SORA!” and heal you at the same time, you tend to respond with “… for f**k sake Donald, I got this.” or just sighing in disbelief.

The graphics are a combination of Disney’s high quality 3D artwork and Japanese anime/manga artwork for the crossover characters. Impressive and really brings to life your childhood heroes and villains as well as your favorite Final Fantasy characters you only previously saw as hideous polygons years previous (excluding Final Fantasy X characters). It is very easy on the eyes and is not overly complex, decent for its time but more focus is clearly made on the story and the mechanics rather than the graphics. However, you tend not to mind because the story-line is amazing, I honestly can’t think of anything more fun than teaming up with Disney’s finest to explore and relive my childhood while saving them from heartless demons.

Overall, I give this a strong 9/10, considering it was a massive risk for both Disney and Squaresoft/Square-Enix to team up on a game, it paid off and then some. It has a massive cult following now and is one of the most critically acclaimed RPGs of today. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Disney and loves Final Fantasy, the nostalgia is amazing.

Dec

Final Fantasy XV

One of my favorite, if not my all time favorite franchises to date, despite its ups and downs during its reign as one of the leading RPG franchises in the golden era of gaming. This installment really rebuilds Square Enix’s reputation. It’s not back up to its illustrious past but its a start in the right direction.

Final Fantasy XV (or fifteen for those who can’t read Roman numerals), just like every Final Fantasy game, it is set in a completely different world/universe with a new set of protagonists and antagonists. Set in the world of Eos and you follow the character Noctis prince of the Kingdom of Lucis, now when I say this I can already see you imagining swords, shields and a medieval backdrop. Well it does have swords and shields but no such medieval backdrop, it is very much modern and futuristic. Quite the running theme in RPGs these days. Noctis has a band of friends/bodyguards who travel with him around the whole game. Saves you doing mini story-line quests to gain followers. Noctis’s party consists of Gladiolus Amicitia, his bodyguard; Ignis Scientia, a prodigy military tactician and Noctis’s advisor; and Prompto Argentum. Despite all their levels of expertise and their roles for the prince, you do gain a sense that under all of that they are indeed close friends. The storyline focuses around Noctis and his new wife to be Lunafreya and the looming danger of the Empire of Niflhiem (sounds vaguely familiar if you are a fan of the franchise – points to those who guess where from).

As a typical Final Fantasy game there is a focus on the combat system as there is normally a lot of controversy surrounding it. Back in the day up til Final Fantasy XI it was a turn based combat system which everyone enjoyed. Ever since the release of Kingdom Hearts and other RPG’s with real time combat systems Final Fantasy has incorporated it into their games with mixed results. I personally liked the combat system despite me being a strong advocate of bringing back the turn based system. It has all the attributes and fun of Kingdom Hearts’ combat system with added elements of teleportation increasing the fun of battles tenfold. Afterwards, making you feel like an absolute G when you teleport from ledge to ledge hacking down your enemies with ease. Limit Breaks play a major role in the combat system and double up with Noctis with a finishing blow for extra damage if you manage to remember to press the designated button during the quick time sequence. However, the only negative of all this is that you can get lost in massive “cluster-f**k” of a battle not having a clue what you’ve attacked or killed or who in your party is suffering damage.

The graphics of the game are again very typical of a top end game being released on the new next generation consoles. The amount of detail is phenomenal, including the mascots of the series. CHOCOBOS! Even Prompto gets excited about the prospect of Chocobos. As soon as the side quest came up to ride one I immediately dropped everything I was doing in the game as joined in the increasing excitement Prompto was reveling in and went on a search for my favorite mascot of the series to ride into the sunset. However, most of the time you do drive a car or Ignis drives it for you. You are a prince after all. The details on cities and monsters including the mechs-enemies are extremely intricate and impressive. Even the character designs are interesting not one character looks the same and they genuinely look mostly flawless in appearance even the battle scars on certain characters look better in the game than they do in real life. I can only imagine it will look better on a PS4 Pro.

Overall, with story, graphics and combat system the game is very impressive. One thing I do like about the game is the unique skills each of your party members have. Noctis has fishing which can add some fun and relaxation to the game and a degree of competitiveness when trying to catch bigger fish. Prompto has photography which adds an element of social media to the game. After each day he will give you a selection of photos hes taken of you and your party during the day and as you look through it the characters will comment on what they think of the picture. Its a way of documenting your fight scenes and accomplishments which is cool. Ignis is your chef, he will good meals that will add increased stats for a selective time period which is incredibly handy but you have to gather the resources for each meal. Gladiolus has Survival which I really haven’t fully got my head round yet, it has increased in level but I have not noticed the benefits of it yet. Possibly increases the probability of finding natural resources and other objects within the world map. I’ll look it up. There isn’t much that is negative about the game really, it is not as gripping as some of its predecessors but still an interesting storyline which has me intrigued but if Square Enix build on this game they can bring back the glory days of Square and Squaresoft.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

Dec

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Now, since it has been a while since I have blogged about games I will start with a game I am currently playing.

Horizon: Zero Dawn released on 1st March 2017 by Sony Entertainment and developed by Guerrilla Games. Already a critically acclaimed game by big reviewing companies such as IGN, giving it a 9.3/10 and Gamespot giving it a 9/10. They have a good reason to give it such good ratings as from my first impression from playing it that it ticks 99% of what I like in a game.

Lets start with the storyline, you start the game as it builds around the protagonist “Aloy”, can’t help but think its a weird play on words of Alloy, I won’t spoil the game but there are similarities between her name/personality and backstory that strikes me that she is indeed a mix and match of materials, in my eyes the onomatopoeia fits. You learn that she is an outcast for reasons unknown and your guardian Rost is also an outcast again for reasons unknown. Even as I am half way through the main story I still don’t know why. I NEED TO KNOW… please tell me.

You then learn that this is a post-modern world setting where the “old metal world” was reclaimed by nature and reset the balance between ecosystems in an attempt to reverse the damage humans had caused. Humanity has been reduced to tribalistic ways and some animals have been replaced with machines. Strange right? I found it very intriguing and it compelled me to try to find out. Already a great start for me, its gripped me from the beginning and it is not like most of the modern games of today it doesn’t tell you everything you want and need to know in the opening cutscene, the game pushes you to explore and figure out the story for yourself.

You end up discovering what seems like a facility of the old world complete with futuristic computers, technology and complete with the charred remains of some of the inhabitants of that particular civilisation. You notice what looks like a handsfree bluetooth headset but as its a game its a lot cooler and obviously has a lot more going for it than meets the eye. I won’t spoil it for you but its tech becomes vital to the whole game.

The graphics are what you would expect from a Triple A game of the gaming boom. The detail is impressive and in parts it shows the natural beauty of the reclaimed lands and even shows the detail in the old derelict builds of the past civilisation. No two areas are the same in detail and you will find yourself in awe of the amount of detail of your surroundings before being jumped by a vicious Sabertooth Machine making visceral work of your body before you know it and then turning your body to dust, then having to start back from your last save point, frustrated that you got lost in the graphics of the game. To be fair despite the fact it is aesthetically pleasing the detail in damage is very limited if there is any your body doesn’t show damage and your health bar is the only indicator of damage you have received. Finally, the constantly changing weather adds to the overall aesthetics of the game adding to the gameplay and some of the tactics you apply to your gaming experience.

The gameplay is complex and interesting, you learn very early on that you need to make use of all the resources you come across. As it is based on a world where money is redundant and everyone has been reduced to trade. You do have a currency but it doubles up as a usable material for ammo for your weapons among other objects you either pick up or loot from dead humans or destroyed machines. You fight in real time with primitive and futuristic weapons however skill modifiers can assist and mix up the combat system quite effectively. The only negative thing I have to say about the combat system is how it works with the camera, I’m not overly sure this is intentional but owing the viciousness of the machines and their power they tend to either rush over towards you to tear you limb from limb with erratic attacks or blast you to dust with fireballs/lasers or plasma balls. The camera cannot keep up with the erratic behaviour of hostile targets and you can find yourself spinning around aimlessly getting ripped apart as you try and locate an enemy to take it down. I tend to dodge roll until I see the enemy again so I can make decision of how I want to attack.

Overall, the game is very good and definitely worthy of all the accolades it has received being the beginning of a new franchise. Including its difficulty level which you can choose at the beginning of the game allowing the bravest of gamers to attempt a very masochistic experience. I would recommend this game to mostly anyone who is a fan of RPGs with an intriguing storyline concept.

Anyways, I’ll stop rambling. I hope you enjoyed the read!

Dec