Backloggery Challenge Update One

With one game out of two out of the way I need a break from Final Fantasy for a while, so I’m going to take a brief intermission between FFX and X-2.

I’ve decided that during this intermission I will beat another game and Backloggery’s fortune cookie has already put forward Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon (3DS) as the game to beat. I am eagerly looking forward to it. I have fond memories of playing through it about a year ago, but ultimately not beating it. Like so many games I own I didn’t even come close to beating it due to having other things to do that weren’t gaming.

It’s strange how a person accrues so much of the things they love, but ultimately find they have no time for them. As my income has risen so has my consumption and yet I still find myself with very little time to do the things I love.

Final Fantasy X HD (PS4)

Final Fantasy X is a game that is the most badly paced of any game I’ve played. It doesn’t know how to balance story with combat at all. In several instances you’ll do a boss marathon and then be treated to some story. Each overstays its welcome.

The gameplay is wonderful. The sphere grid is a wonderful and refreshing change in building a character especially once it opens up with the unlocking spheres and allows you to build them however you’d like. Turn based combat is a plus in my book since I was raised on the pre-2000s Final Fantasy games where turn based was the only system. The only problem I have with the gameplay is that you’ll get massive stretches where it’s nothing but combat and it doesn’t seem like the game, especially for being so story driven, knows how to balance this with other non-combat oriented things.

The story was good for a while in the beginning. The scene with Yuna and Tidus laughing is especially poignant, but otherwise there was very little character work done after a while. Everything gets swept up in the overarching plot narrative and ultimately ends up orphaned. There are small things that are meant to show us these characters, but no one has anything like the Tidus-Yuna overarching plot in the game. It feels like lots of missed opportunities rather than anything substantial.

One thing that really stood out to me is how radically the difficulty of the game shifts once you get to Bevelle and go on to Mt. Gagazet. It seemed utterly bizarre that the game should get so difficult when up to that point it had been mostly trivial to beat any challenge it threw out. I like a good challenge, but it felt like the game had decided that it was the Dark Souls of RPGs with how difficult everything got. In light of how the final part of the game was a breeze I don’t understand why that portion has such a huge difficulty spike.

This game is good, maybe even borderline great. If it had a more even pace where the story wasn’t running too long and the combat was less a boss rush in several instances it would be great. As is it’s a good game. A great Final Fantasy game, but not a great game in itself. That pacing cannot be overestimated for how dire it is at times. I feel as if I’m one of those veterans who talks about how when they were in combat they wished they were at home and when they were at home they wished they were in combat when it comes to the pacing of the game. That’s how dire it is. The combat and story portions do not know when to quit and exchange positions.


The Backloggery Challenge

So I own 322 games according to my Backloggery list. Of those I’ve only beaten a grand total of 35 and fully completed 6. I am ashamed.

So I’m going to spend the summer doing the Backloggery Challenge where I use the fortune cookie on the Backloggery site to decide which game I play next. All games I have yet to beat are open for the challenge. 281 games in total. Ranging from PS1 classics to modern PS4 indies. Everything from Final Fantasy to Dark Souls, Galak-Z to Super Meat Boy. Hopefully I will discover some gems and curb my spending on video games (for a time).

How long will the challenge last? Just this summer. How many games am I aiming to complete? At least 15-20. When you’re as far behind in your backlog as I am it’s really a matter of buckling down and doing it. Hopefully I can maintain a schedule that allows me to complete at least a game a week.

First up on the Backloggery Challenge is a doubleheader of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD for PS4.

I’ve never played a modern Final Fantasy to completion, so hopefully this goes well.

Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One)

After spending 15 hours with it I have to say Sunset Overdrive is not the bad game that people led me to believe. If anything it is just terribly lacking in energy. From its environments to the way the player moves everything feels uninspiring. By far the greater problem though is that its checkpoint system is incredibly bad, and with a game that featured the same recurring bug that I encountered, that’s a helluva thing.

The story is trash. The game goes to uninspiring and boring places with its characters. The Fargarthians aren’t that interesting and become a played out joke not long into their arc. The Oxfords are boring and yet one more played out joke. The dialogue in this game is horrendous to the point where every use of “fuck” fails to punctuate a moment because the moments are lacking in overall emotion and feeling. Nothing this game does works to evoke emotion in a player, aside from frustration. Its humor is really boring and lacking. Not because it’s offensive or anything, but because the game doesn’t try hard enough. It’s like a stunted neanderthal of humor rather than the fully realized homo sapien version one would expect from veteran writers. The story is by far the weakest part of the game and one that I feel free to pass on entirely because it’s so unimaginative.

I try not to judge things based on what I think they should be, but on what they are, but one thing that really irked me was that no one in the story ever points out the player is a superhero. No one else seems capable of the player’s feats and if anything I really enjoyed the apocalypse that came to sunset city. So why would I want to leave? The game never brings this up.

The gameplay is alright. The big problem with the gameplay is that it’s so lacking in energy. The explosions should be bigger, the amps more aggressively popping off, the whole thing should’ve been ratcheted up two or three times higher. In its current state SSO feels like a game that is a mess of raw ingredients rather than a complete meal. I’m not saying the game is half-finished, just that the gameplay feels like it’s still in a raw state. It felt like this game was trying to be bigger and more radical than it could be on current hardware.

The way the game is structured right now is really only conducive to using one gun for the whole game. I ended up using the explosive teddy gun more than anything else because it was good at wiping out hordes in one shot. The game rewards your playstyle with badges, but the real problem is that they didn’t make badges easy to get if you wanted to switch up styles or anything. So instead of being able to swap from one single shots to automatics with ease you’re pretty much locked into whatever gun type you’ve got the most badges with. Which really cuts down on the player options. Badges weren’t a bad idea, but the devs probably should’ve encouraged badge diversity by making the environments and the gameplay reflect those styles. Like there’s no reason to take a wall run badge when most of the areas are filled with only bounce and grind objects.

Amps, the upgrades you receive from missions and otherwise, are not all that good either. Most of them are lamely elemental affairs, things like “freezes enemies” or “burns enemies”. Rarely are they anything all that conducive to building a playstyle around or doing anything crazy with. This should’ve been a way for a player to feel more powerful and become more engaged, but like everything else in this game it’s a system that wasn’t put out in its fullest state.

One of the things that struck me with this game is how sterile everything feels for an apocalypse. This is the most clean, well-lit apocalypse I’ve ever seen. I don’t mind colorful and shiny, but it seems like the environments haven’t been lived in at all. Even the bandit camps feel too clean for the end of the world. Save for a few set piece areas there’s not a lot differentiating any of the major parts of the city from one another. This is one of those things that I feel points to a lack of energy in the game’s composition. Everything feels so lacking that it’s not enough to be bored by, but not enough to feel good about either.

I encountered one fairly major bug that caused me to give up on this game. AI followers getting stuck on parts of the landscape and endlessly running forward while not moving at all which in turn stops all progression on a given mission. This wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that checkpoints in this game are nonexistent and you can’t reload a checkpoint from before a fight. No, you have to relive the entire preceding parts of a mission over and over again in order to progress if so much as one AI follower gets stuck. I did that pigeon roast a dozen times, and every single time the confrontation with the bandits that followed would have an AI follower get stuck on a piece of terrain and cause me to be unable to progress. Without a proper checkpoint system there’s nothing a person can do but keep roasting pigeons over and over again. I hate that entire segment with a fiery passion.

All in all the game isn’t the worst thing ever. Neither is it the best thing ever. It occupies a middle ground between hate and happiness. There are some moments of joy, but only ones you’ll find if you’re into making your own fun beyond what the game is capable of offering. The game occupies a place of indifference in my heart.


Sleeping Dogs (PS4)

After spending 10 hours on it, I’ve seen all Sleeping Dogs has to offer. What it has to offer is challenging combat and lots of fun missions to undertake. What it fails to do is go anywhere with that combat and has perhaps the worst driving in any game I’ve ever played.

The real meat of the problem with combat is that it doesn’t offer any new enemy types after a while. You’re stuck with the same enemy types with different skins throughout the game. When the game decides that you’re getting too comfortable with those enemies it decides that they need to be armed with cleavers or guns. Unfortunately that’s the only variation you’ll find in enemy configurations. Enemies don’t do anything particularly different with weapons other than striking for about a quarter of your health for each hit.

It doesn’t help either that most of the problems of combat are the input lag from controls and the lack of progression. Getting the abilities that increase or reduce strike damage does very, very little to reduce the amount of time you spend fighting or the amount of uptime you have before you die. So those enemies with very little variation become your very good friends whether you like it or not because they don’t die any faster as you get through the game. As well the input lag from controls means that you’ll be spending a ton of time getting your ass kicked because combat changed, but oh wait you entered square, square, and held square so Wei Shen is stuck going into a combo that leaves him vulnerable. Often times I would hit counter just in time for Wei Shen to skip the attack I was trying to counter and instead sit there with his arms held out in the failed counter position (which leaves him vulnerable to being attacked too).

Another problem of the game is the inability to make the counter graphic a lighter color. I can barely see it most of the time. Looking through options shows there’s no way to make it white or blue or any other color like you would reasonably expect.

The things I liked about the game are that combat feels exactly like an action movie. This game does everything in its power to make it exactly like a Hong Kong action movie. When you get on a roll in combat and are slamming dudes face first into air vents, or grappling one of the grapple enemies and frantically hitting triangle over and over again, or simply sliding across a table in slow motion firing your gun into dudes it’s all great. Even car combat feels real good. When you slam into a car and it goes flipping through the air it is excellent. As well, when you are firing rounds into cars and they do their action movie stunts into the air as a result of a blown tire it’s one more mark in favor of this game. Action hijacking is also a highlight of the game because it is the purest most action movie thing that one can do.

The story is also excellent. Very much in the vein of Hong Kong crime thrillers. The only problem I had was that it takes such a drastic turn after the wedding that it feels like the stakes got too high.

With all this said I have to say one last thing: The driving in this game is bullshit. The camera isn’t smart about its positioning when reversing. The cars handle poorly and accelerate weirdly. Competing in some of the street races is one of those things that actually made me so angry because the cars handle like such shit that I actually turned off the game. Driving in this game, especially when you’re forced into several street races for story reasons, is so bad that I would easily take off whole points for it. Also fuck Enduro. Seriously, fuck Enduro. If you ever play this game and encounter Enduro run away as fast as you can.

All in all I’d say it was a positive experience for the most part. Aside from driving nothing frustrated me too much. The combat remains challenging throughout and especially as you get further into the game and enemies are armed with various weapons. The progression system could be a lot better. Combat could take better advantage of the face buttons to expand the combos you can do rather than relying on one context sensitive strike button. The story is definitely the high point of the whole game.