Reviews by jurassicutility

85

Great game, but still needs some polish.

jurassicutility | Oct. 10, 2014 | Review of Wasteland 2

Well, Brian Fargo's famous kickstarter project has finally been officially released, and it's pretty good! I've already sunk about 20 hours into the game, and I've really only scratched the surface in terms of game content. Something I think should be said though is that if you're a fan of the earlier Fallout games, and are expecting Wasteland 2 to be just like those... you might want to moderate your expectations. While inXile most definitely wasn't lying through their teeth when they marketed Wasteland 2 as a spiritual successor to Fallout 1 & 2, it does differ from those games in some important respects.

For one thing, Wasteland 2 is more combat focused and doesn't emphasize some of the role playing elements that are in the Fallout games. When you start the game, you get to chose the starting stats of 4 characters, and can recruit a team of up to 7 characters that you directly control in combat. This is in contrast to the Fallout games where all of the focus is on a single player character. While Wasteland 2 has three different skills that are related to negotiation, negotiation doesn't really play the same role it did in the Fallout games. In Fallout, it was viable to create a high charisma character build so that you could simply talk your way out a majority of the game's conflicts, but in Wasteland negotiation is more less something you do to get some extra experience here and there. The world of Wasteland 2 is also a lot different than Fallout's, despite the similarity in settings. The writing of Wasteland 2 is high quality, but the story is generally more serious in tone.

The turn based combat in Wasteland 2 is pretty standard, but enjoyable. You can take cover behind walls and other objects to get a hit% and evade% bonus, and having a height advantage on your enemies will do the same. After playing a bit it becomes clear that certain weapon types are clearly better than others. If you wanted to completely break the game, you should create a starting team that all have points put into assault rifles. ARs do a lot of damage in proportion to their AP cost, have as much range as most sniper rifles, and generally outclass all of the other weapon types. The tooltip for the skill suggests that ammo availability is a problem for ARs, but this isn't really true since you can easily buy all the ammo you need from stores. Shotguns are particularly pathetic, and I actually decided to completely start over when I realized that my starting team of people skilled with pistols, melee and shotguns were extremely underpowered.

Another niggle I have is with the camera. Cursor dragging the camera around is a little more sluggish than I'd like, and you can only rotate the camera into four fixed positions. This becomes a problem when you enter small, narrow buildings since you'll always be flailing the camera around trying to get an angle where you can actually see the chest or safe that you're trying to click on. Walls also don't turn transparent when they obstruct the view on your team.

There are also a substantial number of bugs with missions not completing when they should, and these become worse the farther you progress in the game. I expect that these will eventually be patched out, but it's a shame that the game still has such issues after spending such a long time in early access.

Despite some balancing issues and bugs, Wasteland 2 is a very engrossing CRPG that is well worth your time.

80

Good, but with some reservations.

jurassicutility | Oct. 10, 2014 | Review of Metro: Last Light Complete Edition

Metro: LL is very similar to the first game, i.e., a moody FPS set in a post-apocalyptic near-future with strong writing and thought provoking themes. In some ways it's better than Metro 2033, and in some ways it's worse.

Let's start with the improvements:

1) The stealth sections no longer make me want to gouge my eyes out! This time around you can do instant lethal or nonlethal take-downs on enemies when you're standing right next to them - sort of like Dishonored if you need an example. Your character also has a light indicator on his watch that lets you know whether you're in a dark or light part of the stage which makes it more clear which parts of the environment will actually conceal you. You still can't move bodies, which is a bummer, but as long as you take down enemies in dark places the bodies usually won't be noticed. The enemy AI is also a lot more forgiving about whether or not an alarm goes out when you get spotted. When you enter an enemy's line of sight, you hear a scare-cord and have a second to get back into the shadows before the enemy realizes that you're an intruder. Unlike in Metro 2033, every enemy in the immediate area doesn't know your location when a single enemy spots you. You have to be making a lot of noise with un-silenced weapons to really bring a lot of heat upon yourself.

2) Weapon upgrades! In the last game, you just kind of had to buy or scrounge around for the specific weapon load-out you wanted to carry on you. For example, if you wanted a silenced pistol you would need to find or buy a pistol that had a silencer rather than just having one added to the pistol you already have. Pimping out your equipped weapons also gives you something else to do with your cash other than buying more bullets.

3) The port for the Original Metro 2033 definitely left something to be desired. Vsync never worked, and I had to rely upon a third party program to stop the awful screen tearing. I was also getting awful frame-rates on the lowest settings until a bit of research revealed that an obscure setting in the config file was causing the game to render itself 4 times over without any actual gain in visual quality. Metro: LL is a lot better in that respect. AMD users will probably need to turn off advanced PhysX to get decent performance, but I was able to get a stable 60 fps at medium settings with my less-than-stellar system.

Things I didn't like:

1) The game is bit too easy. I played the game on Hard, and basically breezed through the game. Part of the problem is that the improvements to the stealth system perhaps go too far in the opposite direction from the original game. Guards in Metro: LL come across as kind of blind and stupid since it's easy to run through an area full of enemies and knock them all out one by one. Another problem is that the game just throws too much ammo and air filters at you. I rarely had to use my precious Military Grade rounds to buy more ammo, and at the end of the game I had something ridiculous like 30 minutes worth of air filter time. Even on normal, I felt like I was just scraping by in Metro 2033 and the game actually felt like a fight for survival. This might be because the Metro series has a kind of weird approach towards difficulty modes. I've read comments about Metro 2033 claiming that Normal (the mode I played it on) is actually harder than Hard or Ranger mode because everything dies with only a few shots on higher difficulties (because of "realism"), but enemies on normal are bullet sponges.

2) A very weak finale/action sequence. Without really spoiling anything, the last 20-30 minutes of gameplay feels really half-baked, and a little at odds with how the entire rest of the game plays. It's not quite as bad as Metro 2033's rushed, end-of-the-deadline action sequence, but it was kind of sad to see 4A Studios slip up towards the end of the game... again.

Overall, I found the game to be a pleasant 14 hour jaunt. The story is quite good, and I found the ending fairly satisfying. Players that really liked the atmosphere and story of Metro 2033, but were repelled by the awful stealth mechanics might want to give this game a try. I would recommend waiting for a sale. While I'm a fan of the series, it's not overwhelmingly better than the first and probably not to everyone’s taste.

90

Satisfying mixture of old and new.

jurassicutility | Oct. 10, 2014 | Review of Wolfenstein: The New Order

This game is actually better than I'd been led to believe. I came into the game expecting it to be a competent, if fairly brainless shooter. It's more than 'competent' though. In fact - I think it might be one of the best games of the year. Given that the game is an over-the-top, Nazi killing simulator, I was expecting the story to be more of an afterthought. Surprisingly though, the game's alternate history story is compelling and the game does a good job with world building by peppering the levels with optional conversations and newspaper clippings that help make the world seem more alive. I was expecting the story to go for camp humor, but the game takes itself very seriously at times and the quality of the writing is such that it doesn't come off like some 12 year old's idea of what's is dark and gritty.

I also admire the game's design philosophy, as it does a good job of combining the better elements of new-school and old-school FPS design. For example, the game's health system is a hybrid between health pickups and regenerating health. The way it works is that you can only regenerate health in blocks of 20. If you were to start with 100 health and then lose 95, you'd only be able to regenerate up to 20. I like this system a lot, since it alleviates some of the 'die and retry' repetition from older shooters, but still encourages you to keep moving instead of just hiding behind a wall while you wait for your health to recharge.

The levels are well-designed, with lots of large open rooms, secrets and multiple paths. The controls are nice and responsive, and there's a decent selection of weapons with balanced strengths and weaknesses. You can slide into cover, or shoot while sliding. You can also dual-wield almost every single weapon in the game for an increase in rate of fire while sacrificing accuracy. There are situations where you can take out enemies using stealth, or just go in guns blazing. There's also a perk system that levels up organically based on things you do in the game rather than experience (like x number of head shots with the pistol, or stealth kills using throwing knifes).

The game is just... a lot of fun. There isn't any one thing that makes this game stand out when compared to other shooters, but it does many things very well and manages to feel very fresh while not doing anything particularly new. Machine Games did good here. I really hope that we'll see a sequel from them at some point!

90

Worthy of bearing the X-COM name.

jurassicutility | Feb. 5, 2014 | Review of XCOM: Enemy Unknown (NA)

Overall, I've been quite pleased with the game. I loved the original X-COM to death, but I feel that both games are good for different reasons. The reboot is missing quite a few of the original game's features, but I think what they were going for was to minimize a lot of the boring micromanagement you ended up doing in the original game and tighten up tactical combat (which was the best part of the original game anyways). I think the smaller squadsize of the new game actually works to make fights more tactical. In the original, soldiers were basically disposable pawns, and the lack of any range limitation meant that sniping tactics were WAY too effective. In the new game you're actually forced to use squad tactics if you want to survive a fight with the aliens.

There are some gripes I do have about the new game though. The lack of randomized levels is regrettable. There are only about 15 distinct level maps, and after a few hours of play you will find that you've already seen about all of the unique maps, and know exactly where the good cover and likely alien spawns are. There are also no Base Defense missions. I can actually understand why they did away with the randomized levels, but WHY NO BASE DEFENSE FIRAXIS?! It was such an important part of the original game's flow! It's supposed to be when you have to face the consequences of how you planned - or didn't plan - your base layout.

Besides that though, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a very good game. I'd recommend it anyone who was a fan of the original and is willing to approach it with an open mind.

80

Surprisingly good

jurassicutility | Feb. 5, 2014 | Review of Sonic Generations

I was a little surprised by this game. It had been ages since I'd played a Sonic game, and after hearing about how bad some of the more recent Sonic games had been I was a little wary about the good things I'd been reading about this game. Like, is it a good game, or is it just 'good by comparison'? Sonic Generations is most definitely a good game even when considered by itself.

The main gimmick in Generations is that, because of time traveling shenanigans, the Sonic of the present must join forces and revisit places from past Sonic games. Each level in Sonic Generations has two versions that you need to beat. One plays like a classic 2D platformer in the style of the Genesis Sonic games, and the second is a 3D interpretation of that level that plays more like the recent Sonic games. This means that classic Sonic fans get to play 3D style reinterpretations of classic Sonic levels like Green Hill Zone, and people that have played, say, Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 get to see 2D versions of levels from those games.

The premise is a bit of an attempt to cater to Sonic fans, but the game has more going for it then nostalgia. The 2D levels are all pretty well-done with solid level design, and the controls feel about right. I'm less crazy about the 3D levels, but they're still fun. Those levels seem to have a lot more 'blink and you miss it' spots where you have to premeditate where you need to jump or avoid an obstacle, and some places where it's hard to get enough distance coming off of ramps or jumps to get to certain areas. The final boss and the zone before it were pretty weak, but other than that the main levels were fun and well-designed.

The game took me about 8-10 hours to beat, so it's decently long for a platformer, and there's also quite a bit of re-playability in the form of challenge levels and the ranking system. After playing the main levels, there's a lot of extra challenge levels that you can play that unlock artwork and music when you complete them and have a ranking system based on how quickly you finish. The main levels also have rankings, as well as hidden red rings that also unlock music and artwork. I'm still playing the game (up to 17 hours according to Steam) because I'm trying to S-Rank all of the challenge levels, and there's like 80 of them.

Despite some minor niggles, I found Generations to be very enjoyable and I think this was a good faith effort from Sonic Team. Some might get more mileage out of it than others, but that's okay.

90

Highly recommended.

jurassicutility | Feb. 5, 2014 | Review of XCOM: Enemy Within (NA)

Opening fanboy statement: This expansion is so freaking good, and well worth the $30 starting price.

Just wanted to get that out of the way, because the new expansion is very much an expansion. This isn't some rushed, unsatisfying cash grab like many DLC packs seem to be. It adds a ton of new content, and addresses a number of niggling issues that myself and other XCOM players had with the base game. For example, 40 new maps have been added, and are able to rotate in and out with the old ones. This alone makes a huge difference, and is one of the main reasons get the expansion. The original version had, I think, 80 unique maps? It always felt like a lot less, because those are split between 3 or 4 basic mission types, and you'd end up seeing the same maps again and again during the course of a single play-through. The new maps are excellent, and comparing them with the old maps really makes me appreciate how much effort went into designing them. The maps are nicely large (a lot of the old maps are rather small and claustrophobic), and you see a lot awesome new settings like farmlands from the old, 1994 X-COM and even a base-defense mission.

There's also a new kind of resource called "meld", which is required to unlock a lot of the games new research paths and soldier upgrades. Each mission in the game starts out with two meld canisters, and there's a time limit on each of them before the meld disappears forever. This is kind neat, because the lure of meld may cause you to take risks that you normally wouldn't take, or go through patches of the map you normally wouldn't explore. The temptation may be to simply send a single soldier after meld canisters so you maximize the ground you cover while minimizing risk, but there's a new enemy type that's there to address that. The enemies in question are these weird, squid like things that turn invisible when you spot them, and only become visible after they sneak up on one of your soldiers and starts strangling him or her. This seems like a neat idea at first, but I feel the implementation leaves a little to be desired. The only way to pre-empt a strangling attempt is to keep all your soldiers close together and set everyone to 'overwatch' so that you can hopefully finish off the enemy right after it reveals itself and before it latches on to your soldier. Once it latches on, it does 2 damage every turn, starting with the first turn. In the early game, when the accuracy of all your soldiers suck, these enemies appearing is like the game saying "hey, one of your soldiers is just going to take two damage here, and there's nothing you can do about it". So, slightly annoying, but I like that they're there.

There's also a new human faction called EXALT that fights for the alien side, and it seems like they're meant to play the same role that alien bases play in X-COM: UFO Defense. During the course of a month EXALT will form cells in one of your funding nations, and if allowed to exist, will drain your remaining cash reserves each month. You can assign a single soldier to go on infiltration mission, which occurs off screen, and then later roust out the cell in a proper mission after a set period of time. Again, I think the implementation of this new mechanic leaves something to be desired, but it does add an interesting permutation to the strategy layer of the game. Basically, it encourages you to spend money as soon as you get it, because it's become a bit of a 'use it or lose' affair.

The research and upgrade paths that meld unlocks are a real highlight. Meld allows you to research gene modification and/or cybernetic augmentation. Pro-tip, one of the first things you should research is cybernetic augmentation. Enemy Within is actually significantly harder during the first few months than Enemy Unknown due to some not so obvious tweaks to some of the game parameters. I think the accuracy and critical hit rates of aliens have been bumped up on Classic Difficulty and I lost two Ironman Classic mode games in row, before I realized the reason I kept having to fight Mutons with default rifles by the third month was because they increased research times. Having a mech-trooper will really even the odds, because they have a punching move that does 12 damage and has no cool-down (that's enough to one-hit kill a Muton every turn!), and a move that destroys cover, and is unlimited use. The research requirements are also low, too low in my opinion, and you could easily have a mech-soldier by the second month. Gene-mods also seem pretty neat, which can grant soldiers abilities like being able to jump over buildings or chameleonic skin that allows them to become invisible in high cover.

Ah, so let's see. What else is there? Bug-fixes: a lot of the remaining issues that people would complain about incessantly like the teleporting aliens issue and the flanking bug are now gone. New mission types: The new "Site Recon" council mission is amazing, and is one of the best missions in the entire game.

One thing I've heard that's kind of a shame is that they didn't change the ending sequence at all. The final mission was kind of a push-over, and it would've been nice if they'd added a harder post-mission or something, but overall I'm really happy with what Firaxis managed to provide with this. I'd recommend buying the expansion if you're a really big fan, but you might be better off waiting if you merely liked XCOM: EU as opposed to loved it. Like I said before, I think it's worth $30, considering how much new content there is, and the number of game hours a quality replay will give you. I paid $22 after preorder bonuses, and felt it was a good deal. $15 dollars would be a steal.