Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Crown Season 1 Review

The Crown is the latest Netflix Original that my wife and I checked out and we simply love it.  It's a show about Queen Elizabeth and Season 1 is all about her transition to Queen when her father dies.

It deals with British monarchy, has a fantastic cast, and is really good drama.  I don't know how to sell it though.  I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of a way to explain why I like it.

I don't watch a lot of straight up dramas.  I guess this isn't quite that, since it is a historical piece and seems to be historically accurate.  Maybe part of the appeal is being an American and just not having a Monarchy.  It seems so foreign and interesting.

But part of it is just that the cast, setting, and plot are great.

My only complaint is that there's only one season so far!  We finished it and immediately wanted more!

If anything above sounds interesting you should most definitely check it out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Genius Game

The Genius Game is the best gameshow I've seen in a very very long time.  I hesitated to check it out after reading about it since it's in Korean and you have to read subtitles the whole time but... oh man, I'm so glad I pulled the trigger and watched it.

They take a ton of modern game design and board game design principles, mix them with social situations, and do amazing things with them.  I can't recommend this show highly enough.

The first season is on YouTube:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Suicide Squad Review

I finally got around to watching Suicide Squad!  It was... alright.

It definitely wasn't good.  But it wasn't horrible either.

I'm glad I've watched it at the very least.

In the end I the only characters I liked were Deadshot and Harley Quinn.  Everyone else felt like they were needlessly cluttering up the movie and wasting my time.

Not to mention the plot was boring, predictable, and pretty dumb.  I mean, I know it's a comic movie and I'm supposed to suspend my disbelief but I had so much trouble doing that for this movie.

If you're into comic book movies you should probably rent or borrow Suicide Squad once just to see it but chances are you'll never need to own it.  If you're not into comic books movies in general then you should definitely skip this one.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Owl Boy Impressions

Owl Boy is a really cool platformer that I ended up putting down.

I mean... it's gorgeous, it sounds great, the music is fantastic, you fly but it still manages to be a platformer, and all around it's a really cool take on platforming games.

But, it gets really hard.  I think I got decently far into it but I finally ran into a wall where I just kept getting destroyed.  I'm generally a good platformer player too, so it was surprising to find how frustrated I got with this.  I don't mind putting it effort when I feel like I'm learning how to play and slowly getting closer to my goal but some of the difficulty in Owl Boy is a huge spike that seems way too hard to overcome.

So, I set this one down.  If I ever want a super difficult platformer I might come back to this, but not in the foreseeable future.  But, I do love a lot of what the developer has done here so I'd love to see what they do with their next game.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Final Fantasy XV Review

I finished Final Fantasy XV already.  I've been home sick so I had a lot of time to blast through this game.  It was really fun and I liked it a lot!

But in a lot of ways Final Fantasy XV is an ambitious mess.  You can see that this game was caught in development hell for a long time.  There are a ton of different ideas thrown together and while some work... some just don't.  Some are super deep and others are barely fleshed out.  There are a lot of questionable decisions in the game design and just little inconsistencies too.  Overall, this game is ambitious and even though it doesn't always succeed at what it sets out to do... at least it tries.

But despite that, I liked this game a lot and I love seeing another mainline Final Fantasy come out!  It feels like this was a game Square Enix needed to get out of their development pipeline so they could finally move on and start on the next one.

Before I go further I should say that even though it's only been out for a few days I did put over 36 hours into the game since I've just been sick at home resting.  I did almost all the sidequests and tons of hunts.  I ended the game in the mid-50s for character levels.

Keep in mind that I like this game, but I really need to get a ton of nitpicks out of my head so how about we do those first:

  • The combat never really clicked with me.
  • This is the first modern open world effort for the studio and it shows.
  • The open world feels pretty empty compared to most modern games we're used to.  It's realistically dense compared to the real world, but that doesn't make for great game design.
  • Sometimes it feels like the worst parts of MMOs and Ubisoft open world games jammed together.
  • The side quests are very uninspired.  Kill X amount of things and find a thing are most of them.
  • Why can we only have one active quest at a time? Let me have more quest markers!
  • The road trip idea is cool but the execution needs work.  There's so much wasted time in the car when nothing happens.
  • There's a huge lack of talk in the car, and you spend so much time in the car.  Why don't they talk to each other more?
  • The camera framing isn't very cinematic in-engine when characters are talking.
  • Lips don't match up a lot of the time.
  • The second half of the main story feels rushed and has a completely different feel than the first half.
  • It seems like second half of the game was planned to be much more and fully realized with lots of open world areas but that didn't happen.
  • Every character not the main party of 4 feels underdeveloped.
  • Chapter 13 is really bad.  It totally breaks the flow of the game.
So those are my major gripes, my nitpicks.  But I really like the game in spite of them.  There are a  ton of good things going on with Final Fantasy XV.

When the four main characters are interacting this game is at it's best.  They feel realized and you definitely grow attached to them throughout the game.  I like the main character relationships a lot!

The main story gets told from their perspective and this game has some truly epic moments during the course of that story.  Almost all my gripes above are from the sidequests, not the main quest.  Not to mention that the story is actually easy to follow.  It's such a huge change from the word-salad that was FFXIII.  Good job getting back to storytelling Square Enix!

The progression system is really good.  It's a great mix of skill trees, experience points, and ability points.  I always had fun progressing and looking at my options for progression.  The side skills that are unique to each character are pretty cool too.  With Prompto's photography, Ignis's cooking, and Gladio's survival the only character who had a unique skill I didn't like was Noctus's fishing minigame.

Camping and sleeping to apply experience and gain levels is inspired.  It makes you take a break and just spend some time with your characters away from battle.  Whoever came up with that deserves a ton of praise.  Plus, Ignis will cook you a stat boosting meal for the next day!

The dungeons in Final Fantasy XV are some of the best I've ever seen in any game.  The sense of presence and atmosphere is amazing.  Every dungeon designer for any future game needs to play through the dungeons in Final Fantasy XV to see what they're stacking up against.

I can't believe I got this far without talking about the music.  You can pick up all the previous Final Fantasy soundtracks to play in the car while you're driving around which is pretty cool.  But even better than that is the Final Fantasy XV soundtrack itself.  It's fantastic and I love the music.  It'll stay with me for a long time.  I would put this soundtrack right near the top of FF soundtracks.

The main feeling I'm left with after beating this game is that I wish it had a New Game Plus mode.  I would love to take my overpowered characters through the game with their current powers while skipping all the side quests and just enjoy the story again.  I think I'll enjoy the game even more the second time around now that I know what I'm in for.

For now, I'm just going to pick away at some of the end-game content and enjoy the world a bit more before setting it down.  But I'm definitely holding out hope for a New Game Plus.

Since this is a mainline single player Final Fantasy game I need to rank it within my existing list.  This one was hard to place but it ended up fairly near the top... in the number three space right between Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII.

Final Fantasy Ranking
  1. IX
  2. X
  3. XV
  4. XIII
  5. VIII
  6. VII
  7. VI
  8. IV
  9. V
  10. XII
  11. II
  12. I
  13. III
Total Completion Time: 36 hours 55 minutes 31 seconds

S1E42 - Pokemon - “It’s just a really cute game, you know?”

Pokemon (plus Pokemon Sun and Moon)
  • Like pretty much everyone else these days, we grew up with Pokemon. And with it being the 20th anniversary of the series, we wanted to talk about the wonderful little pocket monsters and our history with them.
  • For the most part, Void has kept up with the series, playing through each iteration and seeing the changes that have come from Pokemon Red and Blue and Yellow all the way to Pokemon Sun and Moon. Beej, however, has only played Blue and Omega Ruby, so our takes on the series are different, but we both love it.
  • In terms of the games themselves, the generations iterate very slowly, and despite being 20 years later, the games are fundamentally the same. Each generation gives you modern conveniences and quality of life improvements that make the newer games well worth playing if you enjoy the formula.
  • Given the length and popularity of Pokemon over the past 20 years, there have been oodles of pokemon spin off games. One of our favorites was Pokemon Snap, where you travel on rails, competing for taking the best photos of the critters in the jungle. It was a weird concept and totally fun.Most recently, there has been Pokemon Go, and there have been a ton of improvements made lately. We aren’t playing it as much as we were in the beginning, but we certainly are still interested in seeing where it goes.
  • Void really loved the TV show, and he still watches it with his kids. The multi-generational aspect of the anime are really awesome, and it’s great that he gets to share stories about the same characters with them. Somehow, Ash and Pikachu are still the protagonists of the show, despite being revamped multiple times. Beej, on the other hand, never watched the show--he was just a bit out of the age range when it debuted.
  • The Pokemon Trading Card Game was Beej’s favorite, though. In high school, he and his friends were always playing it together. They were big card game people. Void, though, just collected the cards and traded them but rarely played the game. It’s still going, which is cool, and it’s still just as fun.
  • The release of Pokemon Sun and Moon has been really cool. It’s a totally new area that’s based around Pacific Islands, and Void is nearing the end of it (Beej will eventually Gamefly it). There are tons of little UI improvements to make it easier to select things you will use (like pokeballs in battle), and there’s more of a story than ever before in Pokemon Sun and Moon (and Void actually cared a bit!).
  • In both Pokemon Sun and Moon, there are visual indicators of match-ups which tell pokemon types’ strengths and weaknesses, and this is a major improvement for players who don’t have time to memorize the whole pokedex. The ride pokemon replace HMs, and you can call them from anywhere to use their utility abilities without wasting slots in your team. So you can finally have the perfect team you want without worrying about getting stuck out in the world.
  • Pokemon Sun and Moon are not hard, but they may be the most challenging pokemon game yet because of the inclusion of trials instead of gym battles. Overall, they’re Void’s favorite pokemon game.
  • There are rumors of a third game in the Pokemon Sun and Moon series for the Nintendo Switch. Beej would likely wait to play that one if he can afford a Switch when it comes out. He’s a big fan of waiting on Game of the Year-type rereleases anyway.
  • Both of us, though, tend to skip post-game content. Neither of really enjoy filling out our pokedex, and Pokemon Sun and Moon are no different. We go occasionally to kill some time hunting fun pokemon or Legendaries, maybe to hatch an egg or two, but for the most part, we like the stories and the content, but hate the repetitive aspect of post-game content. We are kind of hoping that Pokemon Sun and Moon have extra stuff after the main game, but we doubt it because it’s still Pokemon Red and Blue at heart
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Throwing in the Towel on Uncharted 4

Uncharted 4 was the only game throughout my latest Gamefly stint that I actually used the "Keep it" button to hold onto.  I had played about 6 hours of it at the time, thought I was probably half way through the campaign, and was having a lot of fun.  I thought I would finish it leisurely since I could keep it for really cheap.

Now I'm something like 15 or 20 hours in and I thought I must be near the end.  But, I looked and I'm only a third of the way through the game.  I can't do another 30-40 hours of this game.  So, I'm throwing in the towel.

I really don't know why games feel like they need to be super long to be worth it.  I love a good short game these days.  They seem to tell a more impactful and less drawn-out story.  Firewatch is still in the running for my game of the year and it clocks in at around 3-4 hours for a full playthrough.

So... even though I had fun with the beginning of Uncharted 4 in the end it was just too long of a game without enough variety to keep in interesting for me.