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What games did you complete? 2019 Edition

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1. GRIS (Switch)
A beautiful and bittersweet experience with absolutely stunning visuals and music. I don’t really want to say much else as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. The end really got me in the feels. Recommended. 
 

2. Katamari Damacy Rerolled (Switch)

Got a couple of constellations left, but the credits have rolled (LOL), so this is in the done pile. Recommended. 

 

3. What Remains of Edith Finch? (Xbox)

Enjoyed this just as much on my second play through. Excellent game.

 

4. Guacamelée 2 (Switch)

More of the same, really, which is fine by me. 8/10

 

5. Gato Roboto (Switch)

Cute little Metroid clone. Finished it in 3h30m with 75% completion rate. Well worth £6 if you want something simple and you like cats. 7/10.

 

6. Untitled Goose Game (Switch)

One of the most fun little games I've played in years. Being a dickhead is so much fun. 8/10

 

7. Sayonara Wild Hearts (Apple Arcade)

:wub: /10

 

8. Super Mario Maker 2 – Story Mode (Switch)

Really fun and great way to showcase some of the amazing ideas which can be realised with SMM2. A mix of fantastic levels in there with a few bastards. Still some courses to mop up to complete the 99 story challenges. It has been a bit since I started this and some QoL updates have made the game much more accessible, which is nice, and the SM3D World style still makes me want a port of the Wii U game or, even better, a new SM3D World.
Moustache /10

 

9. Luigi's Mansion 3 (Switch)

One of the most beautiful 3D games I have played, packed with incredible characters, animations, music and some of the most inventive boss battles I've experienced. Exploring the Hotel is always a delight, with each new floor successfully ratcheting up the silly on the previous one and mixing up the mechanics nicely to avoid repetition. There are so many nooks and secrets I've yet to explore, and will be going back for all the jewels and Boos. Highly recommended.
Poltergeist /10

 

10. Pokémon Sword (Switch)

Some dodgy graphics aside, this was an absolute tonne of fun and removed the excessive bloat from Ultra Sun. Really enjoying my time in Galar doing Max raids and faffing about trying to complete the Pokédex. 
Recommended.

 

11. Assemble With Care (Apple Arcade)

Short and sweet and a nice little snack game which can be done in under two hours (took me a bit longer because two of the levels glitched out, forcing a restart).

 

–––

 

Abandoned Games

 

 

 


i. Bloodstained Curse of the Moon (Xbox)

From the gushing praise this was getting, I thought it was going to be great. I really didn't like it at all. Not because it's a retro game – I've actually enjoyed some of the NES games in the Switch Online service – but because of really dull, sometimes infuriating level design, uninspired enemies and an annoying final boss (dual-stage with un-skippable and overly long transitions!) which pushed it over the edge from diverting curio to load of time wasting balls. A couple of the bosses were OK, character swapping mechanic wasn't as good as it seemed at first. 
 

 

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Dec

 

31/12 Emily is away Too (PC) This is very good at what it does but it's nostalgia for something I didn't really experience, I was too old for this game. The experience of using messenger apps in school is just completely foreign to me. As such I was left untouched by the experience in the same way younger people would probably have felt about Digital:a Love Story.

 

26/12 SuperHot (PC) SUPERHOT IS THE MOST INNOVATIVE SHOOTER I'VE PLAYED IN YEARS! (end message) It's John Wick:the Game with bullet time.

 

25/12 Frog Detective 2:the Case of the Invisible Wizard (PC) Perfect Christmas afternoon gaming and just as charming as the first. Don't expect a long complicated adventure game, just play it for the charm.

 

22/12 Frog Detective 1:the Haunted Island (PC) In complete contrast to the other two I completed this month Frog Detective is short (one hour), tiny (it takes place on a really small island the size of a room) and yet the writing is so charming I came away loving it. You are the Frog Detective, the second best detective in the region. You must solve a mystery involving a ghost in a cave. I got it on some Humble Bundle but I loved it so much I picked up the second.

 

14/12 Death Stranding (PS4) I've never quite seen the appeal of Kojima's games. They've always felt a little awkward to play, I didn't really enjoy insta-fail stealth games (or games with very little room to improvise. And the women in his games have always been treated kind of oddly. It was the trailers that hooked me though. As bits of media on their own they're like tiny horror movies. And the trailer that came out the week before? It was eight minutes long and I didn't mind being spoiled as I was going to wait and maybe skip it.

 

It completely sold me on it. And while many trailers reveal too much in three minutes this long trailer just made me more interested in the mystery it presented about this broken world and the place of the people surviving in it. I read early reviews and everything reviewers seemed to hate about it just sold me on it more. The Postman crossed with QWOP? This sounds amazing. US Gamer's review where they described it as being like a PS2 game (but in a good way) sealed the deal for me. I bought it day one.

 

For the past month my partner and I have been completely transfixed by Death Stranding. Some of this is down to the pacing, for such an expensive project the game itself feels incredibly low key. This might be sci-fi but it's' more along the lines of Silent Running or Moon for the most part. Or, I don't know, has there been a sci-fi road movie before? The landscape is the star of the game. It feels more like Iceland than America but it feels vast. And Mules (violent rival couriers who act like bandits) and BT's (the ghosts) provide an obvious threat the real threat is the weather turning on you, or that rock you missed until you tripped on it, that river that was too deep, that hill you were too impatient not to run down.

 

Kojima's copped some crap for filling this with "his Hollywood friends" and that's understandable given the phoned in performances some have given over the years. It's paid off here. The casting is spot on and the acting is amazing. Yes, the characters all have the standard weird Kojima names, and they're all eccentric but they're all convincing. One performance bought my partner to tears at one point. They're only let down by some lack of editing, I think Kojima needs to just trust that we'll put the strands together he's laid out in front of us, he doesn't need someone reinforcing the point five seconds later. Those worried about previous creepiness, there is no Quiet or Pas style weirdness here.

 

The crossover with other players structures is a thing of genius as well. I was worried that after week one my America would be littered with ladders and bridges and icons but they've developed a system that allows you to strike out on your own at first. And once a place is "on the map/network" some other player structures bleed through into your game. Rather than finding this annoying I felt gratitude towards the player who'd planted something just in the right place and hammered the like button. It also made me feel that by building structures carefully I might also be helping out someone else in their time of need.

 

I could go on and one but that would be moving into spoiler territory. 

 

Suffice to say, my game of the year. Possibly of the decade with what it's trying to say. But this is definitely marmite territory. Some are going to loathe it for the same reasons others love it.

 

02/12 Gris (PC) It's a visual marvel and does what it set out to do I think which is be a 2D version of Journey or ABZU or any of a half dozen walking sims. At first I felt like it was going to be a right to left mood piece like Far:Lone Sails, but near the end it really picked up with some clever puzzling. I didn't reach for a FAQ once, I'd be on the verge of walking away only to solve it in my head. I do have one misgiving about it but I want to roll it about my head a bit before writing it. The art can't be faulted though, it's stunning.

 

Previously

 

 

 


Nov
63. 21/11 Yoku's Island Express (PC) 
62. 11/11 Tomb Raider (2013) (PC)
Oct
61. 30/10 Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PS4) 
60. 26/10 Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Megadrive/PC) 
59. 18/10 Super Mario Bros (NES/Switch) 
58. 12/10 South Park:The Fractured But Whole (PC)
Sep
57. 22/09 Untitled Goose Game (Switch)
56. 15/09 NieR: Automata (PS4) 
Aug
55. 31/08 Song of the Deep (PC) 
54. 30/08 CAPSULE (PC) 
53. 25/08  A Normal Lost Phone (PC)
52. 24/08 Nier (360)
51. 21/08 Scanner Sombre (PC) 
50. 19/08 The Gardens Between (PC)
49. 11/08 Hitman:Absolution (PC) 
48. 06/08 Machinarium (PC) 
47. 04/08 Shelter (PC)
46. 01/08 South Park:the Stick of Truth (PC) 
Jul
45. 30/07 Warioware Gold (3DS) 
44. 20/07 Escape Lala (PC) 
43. 20/07 Holoscope:Another Day Another Data (PC) 
42. 20/07 Comedy Quest (PC) 
41. 18/07 VVVVVV (PC) 
40. 15/07 All Our Asias (PC) 
39. 13/07 Rumu (PC) 
Jun
38. 27/06 TIMEframe (PC) 
37. 18/06 Reigns:Her Majesty (PC)
36. 16/06 Escape Goat (PC) 
35. 12/06 Hotline Milwaukee (PC) 
34. 10/06 Roundabout (PS4) 
33. 09/06 Just Cause 2 (360) 
32. 06/06 Maniac Mansion (PS4/PC) 
31. 06/06 Abzu (PC)
30. 02/06 Armored Warriors (PC/Arcade) 
29. 02/06 Warriors of Fate (PC/Arcade) 
May
28. 28/05 Knights of the Round (PC/Arcade) 
27. 21/05 Spider Man (and The City that Never Sleeps DLC)
26. 14/05 Knack (PS4)
25.05/05 Captain Commando (PC/Arcade) 
24. 05/05 The King of Dragons (PC/Arcade)
Apr
23. 30/04 Battle Circuit (PC/Arcade)
22. 29/04 Final Fight (PC/Arcade)   
21. 22/04 Old Man's Journey (PC)
20. 18/04 The First Tree (PC)
19. 14/04 FAR:Lone Sails (PC)
18. 13/04 The Darkside Detective (PC)
17. 03/04 Final Fantasy 15:Episode Ardyn (PS4)
Mar
16. 27/03 Space Pilgrim (Episodes1-4)
15. 19/03 Red Dead Redemption (360)
14. 17/03 Where on Google Earth is Carmen Sandiego (Browser)
Feb
13. 24/02 Universal Paperclips (Browser)
12. 13/10 Florence (iOS)
11. 10/02 Squidlit (PC)
10. 10/02 Plug & Play (PC)
Jan
9. 28/01 Killing Time at Lightspeed:Enhanced Edition (PC)
8. 28/01 Assassin's Creed Origins:The Curse of the Pharaohs (PS4)
7. 27/01 Awkward Dimensions Redux (PC)
6. 27/01 Home (PC)
5. 27/01 Explosionade (PC)
4. 13/01 Kero Blaster (PC)
3. 12/01 Bandersnatch (Netflix)
2. 05/01 Assassin's Creed Origins:The Hidden Ones (PS4)
1. 01/01 TRAUMA (PC) 

 

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  1. Middle Earth: Shadow of War
  2. Apex Legends
  3. Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset
  4. Elder Scrolls Online: Murkmire
  5. Oxenfree 
  6. Dragon Quest XI 
  7. Forza Horizon 4 + DLCs
  8. ABZU 
  9. Sniper Elite 4
  10. FFIX 
  11. Hyper Light Drifter
  12. Superhot 
  13. Snake Pass
  14. Yokus Island Express
  15. Gears 4
  16. Gears 5
  17. Batman: Arkham Knight + DLC Episodes
  18. Metro Exodus 
  19. Rise of the Tomb Raider 
  20. Bloodstained
  21. Into the Breach
  22. Ori and the Blind Forest
  23. The Outer Worlds 
  24. Dead Rising 4 
  25. Mirrors Edge 2
  26. Crysis 3
  27. Battle Chasers: Nightwar

 

Last one of the year.

 

#28 Halo: Reach - Never played this, I think it started off a little weak and I was taking the piss a bit at stuff like the guy without his helmet in the opening scene who looks like a default character creator mannequin, or a bit where I had to activate a massive anti-air chaingun which fired a very piddly sounding five-shot burst at a Phantom that slowly drifted away fine. But I'd forgotten the best levels in Halo games tend to come later, and it goes big with lots of crazy setpieces and creative levels that you imagine had to max out the 360 pretty hard, like there's a bit on the burning cityscape map where you go inside a lift and you think "it'll block my view out, unload the environment, and then load an interior that has a static skybox out the window", and it never does, it keeps you an unbroken view outside the whole time while also loading a massive interior with loads of effects.

 

That's a huge number of games I've completed this year, and over half of them were in the last few months and due to Game Pass and assorted freebies (and also copious free time due to a house move that seemingly got delayed every week freeing up my weekends). Aside from a few very high-end titles like Red Dead that I can't see making it on there, I genuinely don't think I'll need anything else next year.

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Couple to report on

 

FF XIV:Heavenward - PS4

Bloody brilliant. Loving FFXIV and they have taken all the lessons from ARR and improved the whole experience. I'm obviously getting the benefit of recent patches as well but I had a blast playing through this with my Summoner. As an ex WoW player I am continually amazed by the friendliness of the players in instances for the most part. A bunch of dungeons have been brilliant fun with understanding people involved, it's been great. And beast tribe quests are waaaay better, crafting is now a lot better, it's just a brilliant game that I will be back to. I'm taking a break now to play some other stuff, but I'll 100% be back, I miss my character already.

 

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition - PS4

I owned this on the PS3 and never got too far. This time I stuck with it, and really enjoyed it. It's not 'proper' Tomb Raider, but I can't see that being too popular today. The combat was annoying, and there was too much. The optional tombs that were meant to remind me of the original were tiny but intriguing. The QTE stuff is a bit meh. 

 

But despite that moaning I really, really liked it. I warmed massively to Lara as a character. I liked the spiky relationships with the others. And I even liked the collectathon stuff as it felt more like original TR. Working out how to get round an environment to find a GPS cache was actually fun. And the whole game looked gorgeous. It was just a good solid adventure game with some nice touches, I had a ton of fun playing it when I wasn't swearing at the combat. And then I saw the complete edition of the sequel for just over £7 on PSN so I know I have more to come. I think it was a review of Sid Meiers Pirates on Consolevania that said sometimes you just have to take off the wank hat and enjoy a game, and thats what I did with this. A really good piece of action adventure. 

 

Previously

Spoiler

 

Persona 5 Platinum Trophy

Ni No Kuni II

Ni No Kuni II : Lair of the Lost Lord

Danganronpa v3

The Unfinished Swan

Ni No Kuni II : Tales of a Timeless Tome

Zero Escape : Zero Time Dilemma

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call

FFXIV : A Realm Reborn

TLOU : Left Behind

Sayonara Wild Hearts

Resident Evil 4

 

 

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31. Assault Android Cactus + (Switch)

 

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(Some gifs - not my own:)

Spoiler

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Spoiler

aac_drill.gif

Spoiler

aac_shiitake.gif

 

Assault Android Cactus + is a very enjoyable, highly accessible and increasingly frantic twin-stick bullet hell shooter with a silly name.

 

As a rule, I don’t tend to gel with shooters, having this year already abandoned the likes of Ikaruga and Danmaku Unlimited 3, but I’d noticed that this game had received some positive reviews, and so, after watching a few YT videos, I thought I’d give it a go when I saw that it was on sale a few weeks ago. As I don’t have much experience of this type of game, the only other game I can liken it to is Nex Machina, which I also completed this year: both games plonk you in the middle of shifting arenas that are very quickly flooded with, literally, hundreds and hundreds of enemies that you have to whizz around blasting through, collecting power-ups along the way, before facing a multi-phase boss battle at the end of each of the game’s five stages.

 

The biggest difference between this and Nex Machina, however, is that there are no difficulty levels to choose from and you can respawn infinitely. This doesn’t mean that the game is easy, though, as your character is constantly in danger of running out of power (being an android), meaning that you are compelled to pick up the battery top ups that drop at the end of each wave. The challenge comes from killing enough enemies to cause these batteries to appear in the first place, and then from actually getting your character to them, past the swarms of enemies and bullets, before you run out of juice and have to retry the stage. To get a high score, you also have to keep killing to keep your chain combo going. In practice, these two mechanics combine to force you to play aggressively, requiring you to recklessly fire your way through the horde with all guns a-blazing, often taking a hit or two as you do so. It makes a big change from other games of this type I’ve played that encourage you to park yourself as far away from the enemy as possible and make very slight adjustments to your positioning in order to avoid the sheets of bullets headed your way.

 

Overall, I thought this was great fun to play and very satisfying. From what I can tell, despite the sheer amount of carnage taking place on screen, the Switch version (which is a port of the PC original) is locked out at 60 FPS in both docked and handheld mode; I certainly didn’t experience any slowdown, anyway. It took me about 4 hours to get through the campaign, but there’s a host of extra modes, including a quite frankly alarmingly-frenetic new game+, as well as an endless challenge, a daily challenge (screen shot above is me in second place in the world for today's challenge!), and an FPS mode, not to mention up to 4-player single-screen co-op, which I’m looking forward to trying at some point, although I imagine it may well melt my brain.

 

Despite seeing the credits, it’s the sort of game that you can dip in and out of very easily, so although I’ll be moving onto something new soon, I’m going to try to come back to this every now and again to see if I can’t improve my scores for some of the stages. Add me (JamieJohn1990 / SW-2649-7243-6308) if you’re playing on Switch so I have someone to compete with!

 

7/10 (although this may increase if I spend more time on it.)

 

Playing next: As mentioned, I'm going to keep dipping into this, but I've also got Death Stranding coming in the post soon, which I may try to play before the end of the year. The icon for Slay the Spire has been sitting on my Switch's homescreen for a good while as well, so that might need to get played.

 

Played Previously:

Spoiler

1. Gris (Switch) - 6/10

2. RDR2 (PS4) - 8/10

3. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch) - 9/10

4. Hyper Light Drifter (Switch) - 8/10

5. Nex Machina (PS4) - 7/10

6. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment (Switch) - 8/10

7. The Room (Switch) - 6/10

8. Spider-Man (PS4) - 7/10

9. Monster Hunter World (PS4) 9/10

10. Gucamelee 2 (Switch) 7/10

11. Celeste (Switch) 9/10

12. Just Shapes and Beats (Switch) 6/10

13. Gato Roboto (Switch) 5/10

14. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (PS4) 9/10

15. Vanquish (360) - 6/10

16. Resident Evil VII (PS4) - 8/10

17. Resident Evil 4 (PS4) - 9/10

18. Hob (Switch) - 7/10

19. Katana Zero (Switch) - 7/10

20. FFVII (Switch) - 8/10

21. Dark Souls III: The Ringed City (PS4) - 9/10

22. Prey (PS4) - 8/10

23. Link's Awakening (Switch) - 7/10

24. The Talos Principle (PS4) - 8/10

25. Untitled Goose Game (Switch) - 6/10

26. Cuphead (Switch) - 8/10

27. Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch) - 8/10

28. Baba is You (Switch) - N/A

29. Resident Evil 2 (PS4) - 8/10

30. Luigi's Mansion 3 (Switch) - 7/10

 

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40. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

3-16 Dec

I bought this cheap as something to play for a couple of weeks before going away for Xmas and it did its job. I ran through the last few parts pretty quickly to get it finished and even dropped down to easy for the last battle, after one already rather long failed first attempt. Normally I wouldn't have tried to tackle it so soon and was probably a bit under-leveled.

 

Anyway, solid action RPGing, which delivered in the areas I want - exploring, fighting and treasure hunting. The rest of it, like story, characters and the intricacies of item management, I found easy to ignore. It's best when you set out on a long trek into uncharted territory and stumble upon an unexpected location to poke around, eventually coming home with a sack full of loot after some close encounters. A few more enemy types would've been nice, but the group combat with AI pawns works well most of the time, even if everything's a bit rough around the edges.

 

There's clearly tons more to do and plenty more depth if I want it, but I'm happy with seeing the credits and moving on.

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Another couple to end the year:

 

Jenny LeClue – 15/12

 

Like Tangle Tower, another detectivey game with chatting and puzzles and intrigue. A surprisingly atmospheric setting and story with puzzles of differing difficulty and success. Worth your time.

 

Jedi: Fallen Order: 15/12

 

What an ending eh? Unexpected and astonishing. The stuff leading up to it? Very enjoyable and I didn’t seem to suffer from the issues as much as others did (I turned off the ‘Give EA Your Data’ option as recommended). But I felt that just as things were starting to get going the game ended which is a shame. One thing that did annoy me that I haven’t seen/heard mentioned elsewhere is that, save for Kashyyyk, the levels felt like…well, video game levels. They were more like Mario Sunshine void levels than a real space and that did cause a disconnect for me. I still enjoyed ‘WHOM’ing my way through Stormtoopers and Darth Maul’s cousins enough to give it a weird R2-D2 or BB-8 lighter thumbs up.

 

Previously and finally

 

Spoiler

23/10 – Lego Harry Potter Complete Series

24/10 – Assemble with Care

24/10 - Pilgrims

19/11 – Luigi’s Mansion 3

17/10: Tangle Tower

12/10: What the Golf

12/10: Cricket Through the Ages

25/09: Link's Awakening

18/09: Batman - Arkham City

09/09: Batman - Arkham Asylum

01/09: Fire Emblem: Three Houses

01/09: Yoshi's Crafted World

27/07: World of Final Fantasy Maxima

28/07: Horizon: Zero Dawn

23/06: Steamworld Quest

22/06: What Remains of Edith Finch

18/06: Assassin's Creed Odyssey

01/06: Picross S3

27/03: Monsterboy and the Cursed Kingdom

08/03: Kingdom Hearts 3

06/03: Super Smash Bros Ultimate – World of Light

04/01: Darksiders 3

04/01: The Gardens Between

02/01: Yoku’s Island Express

 

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Assassin's Creed - PC

 

Astonishingly, I haven't played a big ticket Ubisoft game since the last Prince of Persia. I haven't missed all the discussion about their catalogue and the ubiquitous Ubisoft formula, though. It's all right up my alley as I love a good collect-athon and the story of the Assassin's Creed games have always intrigued me. Hard to believe there are so many out there now. I've always wanted to play one, just never got around to it.

 

I'm aware that the first has a reputation for being the weaker, nascent version of what they would refine from the second game onwards, but I want to experience it from the start. I also know the underlying story throughout the games gives up halfway through, but I still wanted to experience how it all began and indulge in that wacky Desmond plot thread that runs through at least the first few titles.

 

Anyway, the first Assassin's Creed is just what people said it was: repetitive and lacking in ideas. Even me being the patient type, doing exactly the same kind of mission to learn about your target started to grate by the end. The assassinations themselves were good fun, but it was to easy to fluff them and have to inelegantly kill the target, and too much work to get to the point to go back and try them again with finesse.

 

Everything else, however, I loved. The movement feels great. I never tired of climbing and leaping over rooftops. In fact, I wish there were fewer irate guards around as they got in the way of the acrobatics (that constant beeping when you were spotted was a bit annoying, come to think of it). I think the game looks amazing for its age. The layouts of the three big cities felt organic and bustling with life. Moving back and forth from the shadowed, noisy streets up to the sunlit rooftops felt great. I would often spend some time just walking around just listening to the background chatter and seeing the sights. I was worried the flat, blocky buildings of the Middle East would be as repetitive as the game but the designers found masses of variety in the look of each place, even if you can spot the same prefab building blocks dotted around after a while. I'd never have thought that setting a blockbuster action adventure in the 12th century Middle East would have proved popular but I thought this captured the atmosphere of the era very well (in a skewed videogame-y kind of way).

 

Believe it or not, I actually spent about as much time hunting for flags as I did playing the plot, simply because it gave me a chance to explore the city more and appreciate how it was put together. I never did get all those flags, though. At one point after completing the main game, I accidentally deleted my save and didn't have the heart to go back, least of all because there's no Achievement tied to this one on PC.

 

I immediately loaded up the second one to see how it followed up. Weirdly, it didn't look or feel as good right off the bat. I settled into it after a while and it got a lot better once I adjusted to the rhythm and I'm looking forward to continuing at some point. Assassin's Creed 1, though, is its own unique beast. I've not played the others yet, but I'm guessing there's not another quite like it after this. Repetitiveness aside, I though it was a great world to get lost in for a few days.

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05/12/2019 - Viking: Wolves of Midgard (PC)

 

This Titan Quest-em-up had a troubled launch, effectively having to almost relaunch as 2.0, so I'd hate to have played the original iteration.

 

It's an ARPG where the skills aren't fun, even the most basic enemies (at the lowest difficulty) become damage sponges, loot is uninteresting and the maps are unimaginative -and sadly it's a game that is built around you replaying the same maps over and again to build up money, resources and XP, else you start falling behind the level curve of the enemies. The problem, of course, is that replaying them is far too tedious - so I didn't (which contributed of course exacerbated the damage-sponginess).

 

The skills never really feel powerful offering, either, so levelling up never really feels very significant. There is a plot in there, somewhere, but it is so dull and presented so flatly that I gave up caring pretty early on. Likewise, the crafting element never felt very fleshed out so that was put to one side.

 

I originally started it 18 months ago, played about 3 missions and put it on hold; I only started it again recently because I had that ARPG itch and I wanted to start Grim Dawn once I have the expansion. [heads off to the Steam sale] And, in fairness, when I picked it up again late November I did focus pretty much solely on it until completion - but I can't say I ever really enjoyed it. 

 

Is it too much to ask for a good ARPG these days?

 

21/12/2019 - Starcrawlers (PC)

 

A grid-based dungeon crawler with a sci-fi bent - and I mostly really liked it.

 

The plot is fluff and to do with the disappearance of the crew of a star ship, which you have to keep returning to for the core plot missions. Outside of that though you need to build your crew up by taking on a variety of jobs to earn money, loot and XP - though in complete contrast to Viking, do so here was actually fun! The tasks themselves never amount to anything more elegant that 'go here, kill everything and press a button/kill a named boss/collect some items' but with 8 different character classes to choose from in your 4-person team there were a range of skills to play with.

 

And the skills were interesting; you had your usual direct damage and DOTs, buffs and debuffs but also skills that you setup through usage of other abilities and then could trigger - I suppose 'ultimate' attacks, really. It was also interesting in that there were no direct heal skills at all - only some that triggered heals (but about 3% of HP) as a side-action, or you had to use medikits, which in the early game were very expensive. This meant you needed to think about your turns, especially with the bosses.

 

There was plenty of loot, too, and the different tiers and stats meant gear actually did alter things and clearing a dungeon in the hope of some L33T stuff was worthwhile, rather than a chore.

 

It did have issues though.

 

It was too long, for starters. Steam says I played for 58 hours and, whilst some of that will be idling in the menu, it certainly took a chunk of time. And the reason for that was - similar to Viking - you needed to grind side missions to find new gear first and foremost (because levelling - other than giving a skill point - didn't offer much). Each core mission needed you to be around a certain level else you would get battered by enemies with thousands more HP than you (this remained true the whole game) and attacks that could one-shot you - and that from normal goons.

 

So enemy HP and attack power was another issue. Like I say, fairly early on their HP zooms massively upwards and without careful team management you would meet a hasty demise. Even after hitting the level cap (level 30) my team had HP around 1,100 - and even the lowest enemy had nearly 4,000, with many hitting 5-figures. The bosses were, as you would expect, a step-up from this too, to the point where you could have over 100,000 enemy HP on the field. Luckily, combat was fun enough to mitigate this, but there were certainly some real spikes to get over.

 

The loot, too, suffered a bit from the RNG; I brought in a new character late game (his ultimate skill dealt the most damage in the whole game if you could set it up correctly) but despite doing random missions in the hunt for loot (I was already at the level cap so wasn't getting any XP), I never found a good weapon for him, thus not allowing him to fully unleash all that power. This is compounded by the fact you can't actually buy any gear directly (only accessories), only having the option of a lucky dip for a number of credits, which not once gave me anything good.

 

Still, the positives were much better than the negatives and that loop of 'Set up team -> Do mission and get loot/XP -> Level up' was compelling and engaging enough for me to spend so much time with it - a real little treat. The dev has hinted at an announcement soon about what is happening next in the universe - I'd be happy with some refinement of the same, to be honest.

 

Previously completed:

Spoiler

17/11/2019 - Vampyr (PC)

06/11/2019 - Homefront: The Revolution DLC x3 (PC)

27/10/2019 - Bad North: Jotunn Edition (PC)

16/10/2019 - Homefront: The Revolution (PC)

20/10/2019 - The Terrible Old Man (PC)

27/09/2019 - Unavowed (PC)

05/09/2019 - Star Wars Battlefront: Resurrection DLC (PC)

31/08/2019 - Her Story (PC)

25/08/2019 - Battlefield V (PC)

03/08/2019 - Tacoma (PC)

10/07/2019 - Stars Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 (PC)

14/06/2019 - The Technomancer (PC)

10/05/2019 - Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes (X360)

30/03/2019 - Tyranny (PC)

20/03/2019 - Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PC)

03/03/2019 - Wulverblade (PC)

24/02/2019 - Star Wars Battlefront 2 (PC)

22/01/2019 - Alan Wake (PC)

21/01/2019 - Adam Wolfe (PC)

05/01/2019 - Simulacra (PC)

 

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November

8. The Evil Within 2 (PS4) 9/10

 

I've been meaning to add this for a while and haven't gotten round to it, which is a shame really as it's not as fresh on my mind and I like to give a detailed description of my thoughts soon after finishing a game. I can definitely say that I loved this one though overall even if they did make it feel very "The Last of Us" in game play style. It's been a few years since I played the first game and one thing I remember about the first was that it was harder and seemed to have more instant death traps and a focus on traps in general which were great but less a part of this one, but still the sequel managed to give me those survival horror vibes and a story I liked. 

 

TEW2 has this kind of open world vibe mixed in with the classic linear style gameplay which manages to tick both boxes for me as I like both styles. I played it on Normal, and while I think I might have gone for hard (maybe) on the first game, one of the downsides with this is that it's actually quite easy to run away from enemies and lose them once they spot you, leading to a situation where you become less scared of being spotted. Early in the game I felt a lot more tension as I was playing it much more carefully, where as later I just found  myself taking more chances. 

 

Some of the scenes have great ideas including the speaker on the controller which uses an excellent approach for an enemy you need to sneak around and REALLY adds to the tension. I also loved the sound design during another bit with a huge boss that looked like it was made out of glue. I loved that one of the bosses I fought merged with props from the background to form its general appearance as it comes into the game, and then there's another one (with a camera) that is SUPER freaky, but I've heard this was part of a DLC from the first game. Still though I never played that DLC and can imagine a lot of people haven't in general so I was glad it made an appearance here. 

 

Another thing I found myself getting into quite a bit was the mini shooting galley game that you can play part way through, returning back to it as often as you like. I managed to do almost everything with this including the hardest shooting galley mode. There's puzzle type game a bit like shooting at columns or a puzzle game like it but involved shooting boxes which fall down and link together based on the colours you shoot. That's addictive once you get into it. 

 

Really enjoyed it and would recommend. 

 

December

9. Resident Evil 0 (PS4) 7/10

 

I've been after playing this for years but never really got round to it because it was traditionally a Gamecube release and I've never owned one. Finally years later, the Origins collection got released with REmake and 0 together on the PS4 and I think the Xbox too and a while back I was able to try out REmake for the first time. That one I gave 10/10 as I've always liked the traditional style RE games (having only played those) and REmake was the perfect enhancement on a brilliant original which to me made it better than the others, where as I'd previously preferred 2 over 1. RE0 on the other hand didn't quite make the same sort of impact. 

 

In some ways it's a good game because graphically it holds up really well and has a similar style to REmake. Some of the background animations are really cool such as when the train begins to move and climbing onto the roof of the vehicle is awsome how they have stylised it. The downside is that once you get beyond the train, it's very much like playing REmake again but not quite as good as it isn't as fresh as when I played REmake. The biggest problem though which I thnk affected a lot of people is how they introduced two players and had you messing with a badly organised inventory system giving you only 6 slots per character. To add to that, you have to continually drop items on the floor rather than use the classic boxes to store them, so it becomes massively messy and a pain in the arse when you start picking up the wrong items. I had a situation were it took about 5 attempts to finally pick up the thing I wanted because of so many things in the same spot. On top of that, there's a limit to how many you can drop in a room so they end up being spread about and it really lends itself to back tracking a lot. Having two characters means switching between one another to get past certain sections and often they will become temporarily split up meaning the items you have in your limited inventory become important and could otherwise lead to massive inconvenience if you haven't got the right things with you. 

 

Still though, I managed to persevere and got to the end in about 15 hours or so, although I'd say it's more than that because the way I played it involved regularly restarting my save points in order to try and better the same run between saves without using as much ammo or health replenishments. The game is quite liberal with how many ink ribbons you get though so that isn't too bad, but when you are playing for the first time, you don't actually know what to expect so it can be a rather slow and repetitive play style. It was cool to see how it leads up to the first game at the very end, but overall very much feels like a remixed version of the first game and I think I'm now ready to FINALLY after all these years play RE4 and beyond with a newer updated style of play. 

 

 

Spoiler

 

1. Iconoclasts (PS4) 9/10

Finished this at some point in Jan and as I've mentioned above, I did really enjoy this once it gripped me. From the top of my head I think I spent about 20-25 hours on it in total and really loved the art style as it plays out like a classy 16 bit title with nice colourful pixelated graphics and some nicely designed areas and characters. The many bosses were enjoyable as they all felt and looked visually very different from one another. It's a metroidvania style game more orientated on the metroid side but does indeed as Badger mentioned, have a lot of story to it. I did get into this more as it progressed as it gets darker the further you go into it. The music is really good and I enjoyed the different move-sets you pick up to use in order to progress and solve areas which often play out in a puzzle manner. The fact that this game was made by one person is truly amazing and I'd read it took the guy 7 years and even led him into a spiral of depression because of how long he'd taken with it. I got it on PS+ and it was definitely one of my favourite indie titles I'd played in a while.

 

2. Assassin's Creed Black Flag (PS4) 7/10

So far I've managed to play all the console versions in order over 7 years including the Liberation spin off and I've personally appreciated the way each one has been tied together in an ongoing modern day story with desmond and the Abstergo shenanegans. I can also understand I'm massively in the minority here and even more so now as there are just too many games meaning the majority of people won't have played them in order or have remembered the story. Of course, the games themselves which form the foundation of each game have been great, and Black Flag is no exception. I would say though that after the inital 20 hours I spent on it, I did begin to tire of the look finding and repetition. I think it took me about 50 hours or so which is a fair bit less than AC III, but I think I just got fed up of the sea after a while. Initially though, I was massively impressed with the way it felt like an extension of 3 and Liberation, but felt once again fresh and those seamless moments of attacking a fort from the ship then literally jumping ashore and attacking were great. They did get repetitive after a while though with the exact same formula repeating over and over. I got a bit fed up of the underwater missions as they just felt slow, sluggish, and annoyingly vulnerable when avoiding sharks, not to mention having to continually top up oxygen to breathe. It's not that I disslike them, but when I see them as a series of 12 I've got to do, it plants the vibe chore into my mind and that's what Ubisoft are great at doing.

 

The modern day story finally cuts off Desmond, but still tries to keep remnants of his past involved and even brings Liberation into it and explains how that is connected, but overall it's worse in this. You are a faceless character with no personality in first person mode, and not much seemed to happen. The puzzles are shit, I remember the rock hard ones in the Ezio trilogy and they felt so rewarding and interesting in comparison. Still though, it's impressive that the story has connected across a 6/7 year period to this installment and I've enjoyed going through it over the years so it almost feels like a little Netflix series. Again though, most people wouldn't care and I can totally understand as it wouldn't mean anything unless you really followed it all from the beginning. The next one for me to play is the DLC thing which I did have on PS+, but annoyingly I've cancelled that now. Verdict here is that it's pretty good but did get somewhat boring eventually.

 

3. Zelda Link to the Past (Snes via SNES Mini) 10/10

 

Started this about 6 months ago and returned recently to finish it off. I got into it massively the more I played and it holds up extremely well today. The last time I played this was in 1995 so it's been a very long time, and much like my return to Super Metroid some months back, there's that feeling of nostalgia with memories cropping up but it still felt very fresh. I purposely tried to keep away from any guides and managed to get almost everything apart from 3 quater hearts, one of which I can see inside a cave in the top left corner of the map next to the forest high up on a ledge. I was surpried at how long it took me to get to the end as I must have spent at least 25 hours or so. Great game.

 

4. Bravely Default (3DS) 7/10 [18th July 2019]

 

It's been ages since I finished a game as I spent months on Bravely Default trying to pick away at it, for it only to feel like the game would never end. The final playtime was about 138 hours and including reattempts at failed fights, I can easily add another 10 hours on there or so. 

 

So interestingly, this is the first 3DS game I've played properly since only picking one up earlier this year and I have to say there are some cool things about the 3DS which made the experience quite refreshing from conventional console gameplay. First of all the actual 3D element works really well with this and I spent almost all of my time with it switched on about half way. It helps bring out the layers of the backgrounds and the villages and towns tend to look amazing. Another feature I found cool was the fact that you can draw notes with the stylus on a blank pad and add a few colour changes to the pen type. I used this to mark down the locations of locked treasure chests in the dungeons as I went through it, something I haven't done for a long time but really adds to the engagement of the whole thing without having to pull out a separate piece of paper or just rely on googling the locations. 

 

BD itself has incurred one of those love hate relationships, as it is actually really a brilliant title and I can definitely see why people compare it to FFXII as far as classes go and the focus being around fighting bosses, but there's a continual loop of repetition that becomes a key part of the game and does leave you thinking "did they really just do that" by the time you've seen it all through. The first half of the game plays like a classic PS1 era FF game with a bit of a smaller budget feel to it, but still manages to look and feel great.You go about your business fighting bosses (and lots of optional ones) which often end with the gaining of an asterisk; this being the item you get to become a new class. There are around 26 classes in total and each one can be built up in level just by having it equipped and gives you the ability to learn new skills. There are lots of other additional ways of altering abilities and stats and armour etc and this really does make the depth of characterisation very deep and unique. The game is by no means easy, as it throws new ways of having to deal with fights the further you go and you really need to start experimenting with different classes in order to beat some of the boss fights. Some of them are ridiculously crazy toward the end but I managed to do them all. With the second half of the game I'll put it in a spoiler tag, as it possibly spoils a few things and personally would have put me off if i'd have read this before, but I'm glad I managed to persevere to the end as on reflection, the game it great and has a great end to it all. 

 

Spoiler

The first half of the game involves trying to revive 4 crystals in the world and takes a fair while to do as I think it must have been 40 odd hours before I got to the end. Each one is split into its own chapter and the game naturally feels like it's getting to the end once you do the final part, however you couldn't be further from the truth. And while it's a good thing that there would be more, it's heavily heavily repetitive in a way that feels super padded, as you'll barely see any new content besides the additional dialogue and changes with the story. The problem is, you end up being woken up back at the beginning of the whole game and forced to beat every boss fight all over again, but it's in this sort of parallel world. The advantage here is that you already have your team and can fly to all the locations, but there's a lot of continued dialogue and the difficulty gets steeper meaning you end up having to grind, but grind in locations you have already been without any new areas to discover or reason other than to beat the same people. This took a fair number of hours, at least 20 or so to get all the bosses and also the crystals need resurrecting too. After all of this is done, that's chapter 5 out of the way.......only no, not again chapter 6 is the same fricking thing, you wake up in yet another parallel universe of the same place and are forced to do the same thing again. Again, things do change with the story slightly but it's very very slow and repetitive. The biggest issue with all of this is that it doesn't just happen that time, but also again on chapter 7 and AGAIN on chapter 8. You have to do the same shit 5 times in a row. 

 

The later chapters do change things by making it more and more difficult each time, and start to group bosses together. By the last chapter, you are fighting 4 bosses together at the same time and in one case it's 5. This is where tactics become massively important as not only is each universe harder than the last, but their combined abilities make things work together in a way that can fuck you up in seconds. To add further insult, right at the end of doing all of the side missions (bar one), in chapter 8, you enter one of the last towers for the umteenth time only for the bosses to all appear again in here but regrouped and amongst those is one of the worst in the game entirely. 

 

It's ridiculous how it way designed this way, as you are fighting the same people and visiting the same places, yet by the later end of the game, the insanity that you are going through is also reflected amongst the characters in the game. The ending is pretty good and you feel the scale of the whole thing by the time it's all over. I'd never want to do that again though. 

 

One of the key changes to this type of RPG, which harks back to turn based style of battles with menus, is that they incorporate a Brave and Default system which essentially allows you to choose if you want to take one turn or more than one up to a set limit per character. This is balanced by the fact that you have to then wait longer for your turn to come around next, and the enemies also have the ability to use this system too. It's easy to get everyone to use all of their possible goes in a single turn, but then you end up increasing the likelyhood of getting major damage as you have to wait longer for the entire party until anyone gets their next turn. You can also use the block turn in a way which perfectly complements this game and is often the one thing I hardly use in RPG's of turn based nature. In BD, by blocking, you actually not only block a large portion of damage, but gain an extra brave point to use as an extra turn so it gives it more use other than simply wasting a go. 

 

The music great, however due to the repetitive nature later on, you end up hearing the same selection of tracks over and over and over. The voice acting I kept in English and while Agnes's voice can sound a bit...airy fairy, I didn't mind it at all and really grew to feel for the characters the longer it went on. In some ways I wouldn't recommend this game for people other than the more committed of RPG's of the older turnbased era, and that's purely down to the long amount of time you spend in a loop of repetition which shocked me more than surprised me at what they actually did. A lot of this was down to me doing every side quest, and I noticed that a the side quests in particular were always more difficult than the main story fights. I can also say that it's likely to be far more boring and pointless if you don't bother with them as a lot of the progression in the story was found through those. BD is a huge grind fest, but it is fun. By the end I'd levelled all my characters up to the maximum level and saw both the unintentional fake ending and the final proper one, which I very almost missed thinking I'd done it the first time. 

 

5. Vampyr (PS4) 8/10 (August)

 

I'd finished spending an absolute age playing Bravely Default, slowly over the course of 5 months and wanted something different in just about every way and Vampyr was one of those I'd been intrigued about ever since I'd seen Jim Sterling do his video on it a year earlier. It's one of those AA tier games that deserve the support and this one is no exception. 

 

It's a fairly sizeable open world type affair without feeling beyond what it needs to be, and that's quite important here because it strangely doesn't offer any sort of fast travel option, which personally didn't bother me much but I can imagine it would for some. It's still big enough that I'd have expected to have seen it to at least travel between districts at some point in the progress of the game. You exist as a man-turned-vampire aka an Ekon, in a post world war 1 era of London, where tensions are high and the streets are filled with vampyric activity including lesser beings known as skals and other beasts, organised militant gangs out to hunt vampires and fear ridden civilians often found in several district areas and dotted about randomly, usually offering some sort of side mission. 

 

You spend the whole game trying to learn about who you became and why it happened, all the while trying to help or hinder the many civilians you meet along the way, and expending their lives for your benefit results in more XP needed to improve upon a set of upgrades which branch into further upgrades in some cases. I personally attempted to spare as many people as possible, and pretty much amost achieved this aside from two individuals of probably about 50. The first one most people would probably have indirectly affected due to the way it presents you a choice which comes across as deceiving, and upon visiting this person later, I realised they had turned wild and needed to be put down. The second one just felt right, largely down to the selfishness of the person and impact it would have on he community as a whole. I thought this was going to make more of a difference to the main story, especially as it meant separating ties to an important organisation, however this doesn't result in the expectations I was to realise and even ends up with the broken bridges being fixed in some ways due to how the story had to progress towards the end. I purposely remained vague as not to spoil things, but if you have played this game then you'll likely know which bits I'm referring to anyway. 

 

The combat isn't the best as some people mention but I got on with it especially as I got far enough in, largely down to getting stronger, but also due to having to deal with being massively under-leveled and take on many enemies with a bit more finesse. There's the element of having to absorb and use blood to pull off a range of moves, however one important one is self healing and blood can be taken from enemies by biting on timed button appearances or through weapons. Once you have a good weapon to do this which is modified for maximum efficiency, then (as a secondary weapon) you can very quickly keep building that bar back up and continue the heal cycle. There is the auto health gauge thing in place, but once you're in the thick of things, this doesn't really work. You also have a stamina bar which will go down upon just about every action, and can really stop you in your flow very easily if you aren't paying attention. Once it's levelled up enough, you can really push yourself, but earlier on it will frequently pause your actions and leave you vulnerable to attacks. 

 

Of course, being a Dot Nod game, it relies heavily on the story narrative and the importance of talking to and questioning many of the characters you meet, hiding branching conversations as hidden until you accomplish certain goals, usually by obtaining relevant information from someone or somewhere. This also affects how much XP you can get if you happen to take their lives, of which you can do at any time provided you have the relevant mind controlling level. For me this wasn't as essential as I hardly killed any of the npc's. It makes it a better game though i'd say if you try to persevere. The story aspect is really good actually and I enjoyed how it all led to the end conclusion, however I remember having ideas of how it could have gone, or rather how I was expecting the story to have gone but wasn't quite that. It would have been great if...

 

 

The whole existence of a vampyr was that they existed as angels who had lost touch with god and become poisoned and remained immortal, but condemmed to drink blood. There was more to this but I can't quite remember what was going through my mind at the time. Anyway the actual story and bit at the end was great, especially when the vampire in the chair says the line about not quite being able to hear Johnathan and to "come closer"



I also loved how his sister came into it and became one of the bosses. The woman in the theatre and the irish guy were both good moments too. 

When I first played Vampyr, I felt like I'd been reminded of numerous other games I'd played which felt inspired somehow. Deus Ex was one of them, particularly the first Deus Ex. I also had vibes of The Last of Us and of course Bloodborne in some visual aspects of it all and mood. Then I'd feel like I was reminded of Dead Island when facing the interface menu and slow irritating as fuck load times. The music was often really cool and generally it was a good game. Without risking it being a far too long piece of waffle, I'll end on that note and say that I recommend Vampyr. Oh and re-Deus Ex reminder, I just thought I'd add the bit where Johnathan walks into Dr Swansea's office and the arpeggiated music plays. It's like Adam Jensen walking into Sarif Industries head office once Johnathan was stood there with his huge trench coat and the music kicks in, while the boss talks, followed by choose a branching conversation piece. 

 

6. Final Fantasy XII : Revenant Wings (Nintendo DS) 7/10

 

I once created a thread just for this game to see what sort of reactions I'd get and was quickly told that shit is what it was, therefore I left it and didn't touch it for a while. I'd picked it up as a game to take on holiday but didn't get the time to play, or rather the fact it was an RTS was bugging me. Turns out it's not actually that bad on the whole and at least it took me just short of 40 hours rather than the horrific 145 or so I spent on the mainline FF game. This is by no means anything in the same league as that title either, but as a separate and very different approach to FFXII, it is something you can kind of get into. 

 

Revisiting all the music from XII was great to hear again even if it was a little lo-fi in comparison, especially to the remastered efforts. It was also good to see the main characters all make an appearance and see how they introduced key npc's from XII into this to play a bigger role. It wasn't all that long ago I actually finished XII, possibly a year maybe, and so it was quite fresh to make the connection with the game all over again but take on a new story. The game itself couldn't be more different, as it's much of a downgrade graphically, but it still look alright for what it is, and it's also an RTS which involves ushering people around with your trusty stylus in groups or as a whole in order to attack enemies, or destroy their crystals and take over summoning portals. It isn't without it's irritating issues, as I discovered while playing there'd occasionally be character just stuck wandering on their own face first in a rock or the most annoying one is when one of your characters happens to set off a group of enemies by choosing to take a short cut you didn't want them to go anywhere near. There are missions where you must protect CPU controlled character and I've had pain in the arse moments with those where the uncontrollable suicidal freaks will just wander off head first into enemies without a care in the world way ahead of your party, but then other times they'd remain close. Of course one death means it's game over. There are various change ups in the conditions to beat levels but they tend to focus on destroying the enemy, taking over their summoning portals or shattering the enemy crystal while preserving yours at all costs. Some are different one off types including a vaan only mission where he has to take on a solo stealth mission to get past enemies without being spotted, and it is just not designed for this as it was brutally difficult to pull off for no reason. This type of gameplay never repeated again but it took me so many retries to beat. 

 

Most people won't have played this and so won't relate but it has it's own unique story that happens sometime after the story of FFXII, and all your old characters become involved again and some new ones. The small screen isn't designed for this sort of thing, but you can get away with keeping your group together as a single section for pretty much all of the game almost. It still requires a lot of frantic clicking later, and the gambit system is shite. It literally gives you the option to auto use a skill, but never increases from more than one gambit, leaving you to manually pull off skills. When the screen gets frantic with so many character at once, it can be very difficult to quickly pin point individuals to do things to such as the all important raise from the dead one downed. Each character has a special, and Penelope's is extremely useful in that she can instantly heal everyone (eg 30 characters on screen at one kind of ordeal), however her quickening (as they call it) almost never seemed to work when I wanted it to and caused me unnecessary deaths. When a single battle can be like 20 mins, that is annoying as hell. But I persevered and finished it. 

 

October

 

7. ESWAT: City Under Siege (Megadrive/Genesis) 7/10

 

This was the chosen game of choice for the Retro Game Club over in the respective area of Rllmuk last month, and although I've got it on one of those Sega Classics compilations for the PS3, I hadn't tried it out until last week. Now, I'm a big fan of Super Contra, Gunstar Heroes and other run and gun types of the 90's, so this fits in quite nicely although it took me patience and time in order to really appreciate what ESWAT has to offer. Initially I was quite disappointed by what ESWAT was offering and became frustrated very easily having to repeat the first couple of the stages over and over, never quite beating the second boss. It was only when progressing beyond did it open up and start to really click. There's a methodical approach to taking on each stage and beginning with Easy isn't like what Easy would be in this day and age, but rather rock hard difficult. That is until you really try to work out the best approach to things.

 

ESWAT opens with the first two stages being rather different than the rest of the core game, which is where it really shines as you later gain a flying suit and actual weapons other than the underwhelming default hand gun. Until stage 3, you're stuck with no abilities to gain whatsoever. I'd been struggling on the two terminator esque bosses (à la the Super Contra ones that jump about) at the end of stage 2 for a while and was tiring of having to repeat the level again. Eventually I manage to just about get by on occasion only to find the third stage boss super difficult. That was until I realised the little exploits and best ways of approaching them. Suddenly each stage was becoming easier to do just by understanding the correct way of progressing and meant I'd progress bit by bit. I'm not really one for save states, so tend to restart from the beginning each time, and each time I'd become better and then progress further until the whole game was over. 

 

One of the biggest annoyances in terms of mechanics of old is probably the way that you can easily lose a weapon if you are not careful as it employs that gradius style system where you scroll through weapons but then lose it if you have it selected upon death. Part of the learning curve is to know when to give up and switch to the default weapon with the expectation of death. Generally, the graphics are the old chunky platform kind and look pretty good for the time. The level variation is better than I thought as I soon realised that each one was an attempt to be a completely different theme so it keep things fresh. The music is catchy and I continuously find myself humming the music from different parts of ESWAT, even looking up the OST earlier today while at work. 

 

Overall it was better than I originally thought after giving it a chance, growing on me over time. Once I'd finished the game, I opted for a replay on Normal difficulty and felt that it wasn't that much harder leading me to complete it almost in a single continue. Super Contra does this much better as the move sets develop for enemies and things are hugely noticable in terms of difficulty. I haven't yet tried hard but feel generally over this. It's an interesting curio and one I never played in the past. 

 

Would I recommend it, probably not to anyone unless they've definitely played FFXII and want some kind of connection to that, but to also expect something entirely different and watered down but with it's own challenges that do actually get really tough in places. It was interesting to try out a regular DS game in my new 3DS at least and actually I'd say it looked better than what I was expecting. The story isn't amazing but it's OK. I paid £8 for the physical copy (yeah I like those things) and happy to have gone through it for the curiosity of it all.

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I got a free month of EA's Origin Access so took the opportunity to play a couple of things.

 

Titanfall 2 (single player) - Great campaign. Didn't feel like a tacked-on mode. The environments looked really good (although that factory was a bit pointless) and it really picked up pace after the first couple of chapters.

 

Shooting was good, too. Had a satisfying feel to the weapons playing with a joypad. It was pretty easy-going even on hard. And I think I preferred the fast-moving pilot stuff rather than the Titan sections although they grew on me after a while.

 

No multiplayer attempted although I'll definitely pick this up for another go at some point.

 

Star Wars Battlefront 2 (single player) & This looked amazing. Best-looking game I've played in a long time and the tech for faces really helped sell it. Masses of detail in the environments and good use of scale. It definitely felt Star wars.

 

Unfortunately, unlike Titanfall 2, this felt more like an excuse to use the multiplayer maps for a single player mode than something unique. After a decent start, it jumps all over the place and stops concentrating on its main plot. There's levels where you play as several Star Wars heroes but they just seem in there to introduce how they'd play in the multiplayer and introduce a map rather than essential to the story.

 

Combat was minorly satisfying. Once I'd gotten used to the special abilities it got a bit better but the combat didn't have the same weight to it that Titanfall 2 did. The flight combat was similarly spectacular but ultimately a little too easy to be awesome.

 

It really nailed it with the atmosphere but didn't quite get everything else right. If only there was a way to combine the combat design underpinning Titanfall 2 with the world-building of Star Wars. Hmm...

 

Played a bit of multiplayer but probably not for me even if the complete lack of loot box stuff now makes it way more enticing.

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Had a slow December and only finished off the superb Yakuza 0 and Wreckfest.

 

Spoiler

Jan

Late Shift (Xbox One) 6/10

Gears of War 4 (Xbox One) 6/10

The Gardens Between (Xbox One) 9/10

Abzu (Xbox One) 7/10

Mutant Year Zero (Xbox One) 8/10

 

Feb

New Star Manager (Switch) 9/10

Halo 5 (Xbox One) 6/10

Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One) 9/10

Metro Last Light Redux (Xbox One) 8/10

Crackdown 3 (Xbox One) 7/10

 

Mar

Call of Duty: MW Remaster (PS4) 8/10

Nier: Automata (PS4) 9/10

 

Apr

What Remains of Edith Finch (Xbox One) 9/10

The Division 2 (PS4) 8/10

 

May

Ryse (Xbox One) 6/10

Quantum Break (Xbox One) 5/10

Steamworld Quest (Switch) 7/10

 

Jun

Moonlighter (Xbox One) 8/10

 

Jul

Oxenfree (Xbox One) 8/10

Days Gone (PS4) 8/10

911 Operator (Switch) 7/10

 

Aug

Slay the Spire (Xbox One) 9/10

 

Sep

Picross S (Switch) 8/10

My Friend Pedro (Switch) 7/10

Beat Saber (Oculus Quest) 9/10

 

Oct

Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch) 9/10

Superhot VR (Oculus Quest) 9/10

Yoku’s Island Express (Switch) 9/10

Untitled Goose Game (Switch) 7/10

Neo Cab (Apple Arcade) 7/10

Assemble with Care (Apple Arcade) 7/10

Tint (Apple Arcade) 6/10

Detroit: Become Human (PS4) 7/10

 

Nov

 

Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch) 8/10

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order (PS4) 8/10

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Xbox One) 7/10

COD: Modern Warfare 2019 (PS4) 8/10

 

Dec

 

Yakuza 0 (PS4) 10/10

Wreckfest (PS4) 7/10

 

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26/12/2019 - Gears of War 4 (PC)

 

My last completion of the year is possibly one of the most derivative - this could easily be any Gears titles, they never really change much. It looked nice and ran superbly on my hardly state-of-the-art PC, so kudos to the team at Coalition for their wizardry there. I played most of it in co-op with a friend, with the intention of then doing the same for 5, but I think I need a bit of a break, because I feel it's going to be very much more of the same.

 

Incorporating some horde-like sections was about the only variety we got, so it was just a case of running from kill-box to kill-box and, considering that I never really think the weapons are all that much fun, it was quite dull after a while - so needed to be played in small doses, for which the bite-size chapters was a boon.


It's hard to say much about it really because it is all fairly unremarkable. I suppose, much like COD, it's a series that is now better appreciated for its multiplayer content and so expectations should never be that high - something to remember when I finally get around to playing 5.

 

Previously completed:

Spoiler

21/12/2019 - Starcrawlers (PC)

05/12/2019 - Viking: Wolves of Midgard (PC)

17/11/2019 - Vampyr (PC)

06/11/2019 - Homefront: The Revolution DLC x3 (PC)

27/10/2019 - Bad North: Jotunn Edition (PC)

16/10/2019 - Homefront: The Revolution (PC)

20/10/2019 - The Terrible Old Man (PC)

27/09/2019 - Unavowed (PC)

05/09/2019 - Star Wars Battlefront: Resurrection DLC (PC)

31/08/2019 - Her Story (PC)

25/08/2019 - Battlefield V (PC)

03/08/2019 - Tacoma (PC)

10/07/2019 - Stars Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 (PC)

14/06/2019 - The Technomancer (PC)

10/05/2019 - Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes (X360)

30/03/2019 - Tyranny (PC)

20/03/2019 - Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PC)

03/03/2019 - Wulverblade (PC)

24/02/2019 - Star Wars Battlefront 2 (PC)

22/01/2019 - Alan Wake (PC)

21/01/2019 - Adam Wolfe (PC)

05/01/2019 - Simulacra (PC)

 

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41. Blazing Chrome

22-30 Dec

A very effective homage to 16-bit Contra games that gets everything right except perhaps the most important thing. It looks and sounds the part, controls pretty fluidly and sets a solid but fair challenge. Levels are reasonably varied and the bosses are big and require some learning. I enjoyed playing through it and may return to give other characters a try. But it just lacks the spark of imagination of its source material, and even when it gets a little experimental there are no real wow moments. It's one thing invoking the classics, but the real standout quality of the older games was how they pushed the boundaries of the genre. And that's not something you can recreate through mimicry, no matter how respectfully it's done.

 

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10. Super Castlevania IV (SNES - via SNES mini) 8.5/10

 

I've managed to squeeze just one more game into my 2019 completion list for the year and looking back it's actually quite small. 

 

SCVIV came up in this month's game over in the retro area as the Retro Game Club game of the month, and gave me a good excuse to go back to another classic on the SNES. I've been through a few of these now and this was one of those that left an impact on me despite only ever playing through it once in the mid 90's. I remembered it being tough at times and feared having to replay the last few bosses, but I've chipped away over the last week or so without needing any sort of save state help either. 

 

We all know the music is excellent and visually I really like the design and variety of the stages. There's definitely a who range of ideas that get thrown into the mix as you progress and it add to the journey all the while getting harder as you make progress. The password screen I'd forgotten about entirely but it's helpful to have and necessary really. There are some frustrating moments where I found myself falling through things such as jumping on a set of stairs or falling through a rotating wheel, and often you can die from spikes and things in an instant death scenario just from being remotely close to them. It felt like the hit boxes were on the outside of these threats dotted around the stages. Still though, by repeating stages and getting to grips with the layout and enemies it becomes something I got better at tackling and made steady progress. Some of the earlier bosses felt more like a rush to take them down as quick as possible, however some of them later on I spent some time trying to learn the patterns, pretty much a requirement by the time you get to the end especially. 

 

It has that clumsy feel at times but also the game has been designed to fuck you over so that the simplest nudge from an enemy will cause you to land to your death. The challenge is in learning these danger points and knowing how best to approach them. On occasions there'd be a glitch causing one too many enemies to appear in a spot or cause twice as many projectiles to be fired continually. Someone in the Retro thread pointed out that the whip has this nice heavy impact about it with the way the enemies and things react to strikes and that's also something I like about the game over the others. 

 

It's nice to have gone back to the CV game I first played. I know there's another one on the SNES too, but this was the one that always impressed me the most. SotN is better but this is a different type of game with a more arcade approach to it and impresses me with the whole range of ideas they throw at you as you go and for that reason it never gets boring. 

 

 

Spoiler

 

1. Iconoclasts (PS4) 9/10

Finished this at some point in Jan and as I've mentioned above, I did really enjoy this once it gripped me. From the top of my head I think I spent about 20-25 hours on it in total and really loved the art style as it plays out like a classy 16 bit title with nice colourful pixelated graphics and some nicely designed areas and characters. The many bosses were enjoyable as they all felt and looked visually very different from one another. It's a metroidvania style game more orientated on the metroid side but does indeed as Badger mentioned, have a lot of story to it. I did get into this more as it progressed as it gets darker the further you go into it. The music is really good and I enjoyed the different move-sets you pick up to use in order to progress and solve areas which often play out in a puzzle manner. The fact that this game was made by one person is truly amazing and I'd read it took the guy 7 years and even led him into a spiral of depression because of how long he'd taken with it. I got it on PS+ and it was definitely one of my favourite indie titles I'd played in a while.

 

2. Assassin's Creed Black Flag (PS4) 7/10

So far I've managed to play all the console versions in order over 7 years including the Liberation spin off and I've personally appreciated the way each one has been tied together in an ongoing modern day story with desmond and the Abstergo shenanegans. I can also understand I'm massively in the minority here and even more so now as there are just too many games meaning the majority of people won't have played them in order or have remembered the story. Of course, the games themselves which form the foundation of each game have been great, and Black Flag is no exception. I would say though that after the inital 20 hours I spent on it, I did begin to tire of the look finding and repetition. I think it took me about 50 hours or so which is a fair bit less than AC III, but I think I just got fed up of the sea after a while. Initially though, I was massively impressed with the way it felt like an extension of 3 and Liberation, but felt once again fresh and those seamless moments of attacking a fort from the ship then literally jumping ashore and attacking were great. They did get repetitive after a while though with the exact same formula repeating over and over. I got a bit fed up of the underwater missions as they just felt slow, sluggish, and annoyingly vulnerable when avoiding sharks, not to mention having to continually top up oxygen to breathe. It's not that I disslike them, but when I see them as a series of 12 I've got to do, it plants the vibe chore into my mind and that's what Ubisoft are great at doing.

 

The modern day story finally cuts off Desmond, but still tries to keep remnants of his past involved and even brings Liberation into it and explains how that is connected, but overall it's worse in this. You are a faceless character with no personality in first person mode, and not much seemed to happen. The puzzles are shit, I remember the rock hard ones in the Ezio trilogy and they felt so rewarding and interesting in comparison. Still though, it's impressive that the story has connected across a 6/7 year period to this installment and I've enjoyed going through it over the years so it almost feels like a little Netflix series. Again though, most people wouldn't care and I can totally understand as it wouldn't mean anything unless you really followed it all from the beginning. The next one for me to play is the DLC thing which I did have on PS+, but annoyingly I've cancelled that now. Verdict here is that it's pretty good but did get somewhat boring eventually.

 

3. Zelda Link to the Past (Snes via SNES Mini) 10/10

 

Started this about 6 months ago and returned recently to finish it off. I got into it massively the more I played and it holds up extremely well today. The last time I played this was in 1995 so it's been a very long time, and much like my return to Super Metroid some months back, there's that feeling of nostalgia with memories cropping up but it still felt very fresh. I purposely tried to keep away from any guides and managed to get almost everything apart from 3 quater hearts, one of which I can see inside a cave in the top left corner of the map next to the forest high up on a ledge. I was surpried at how long it took me to get to the end as I must have spent at least 25 hours or so. Great game.

 

4. Bravely Default (3DS) 7/10 [18th July 2019]

 

It's been ages since I finished a game as I spent months on Bravely Default trying to pick away at it, for it only to feel like the game would never end. The final playtime was about 138 hours and including reattempts at failed fights, I can easily add another 10 hours on there or so. 

 

So interestingly, this is the first 3DS game I've played properly since only picking one up earlier this year and I have to say there are some cool things about the 3DS which made the experience quite refreshing from conventional console gameplay. First of all the actual 3D element works really well with this and I spent almost all of my time with it switched on about half way. It helps bring out the layers of the backgrounds and the villages and towns tend to look amazing. Another feature I found cool was the fact that you can draw notes with the stylus on a blank pad and add a few colour changes to the pen type. I used this to mark down the locations of locked treasure chests in the dungeons as I went through it, something I haven't done for a long time but really adds to the engagement of the whole thing without having to pull out a separate piece of paper or just rely on googling the locations. 

 

BD itself has incurred one of those love hate relationships, as it is actually really a brilliant title and I can definitely see why people compare it to FFXII as far as classes go and the focus being around fighting bosses, but there's a continual loop of repetition that becomes a key part of the game and does leave you thinking "did they really just do that" by the time you've seen it all through. The first half of the game plays like a classic PS1 era FF game with a bit of a smaller budget feel to it, but still manages to look and feel great.You go about your business fighting bosses (and lots of optional ones) which often end with the gaining of an asterisk; this being the item you get to become a new class. There are around 26 classes in total and each one can be built up in level just by having it equipped and gives you the ability to learn new skills. There are lots of other additional ways of altering abilities and stats and armour etc and this really does make the depth of characterisation very deep and unique. The game is by no means easy, as it throws new ways of having to deal with fights the further you go and you really need to start experimenting with different classes in order to beat some of the boss fights. Some of them are ridiculously crazy toward the end but I managed to do them all. With the second half of the game I'll put it in a spoiler tag, as it possibly spoils a few things and personally would have put me off if i'd have read this before, but I'm glad I managed to persevere to the end as on reflection, the game it great and has a great end to it all. 

 

Spoiler

The first half of the game involves trying to revive 4 crystals in the world and takes a fair while to do as I think it must have been 40 odd hours before I got to the end. Each one is split into its own chapter and the game naturally feels like it's getting to the end once you do the final part, however you couldn't be further from the truth. And while it's a good thing that there would be more, it's heavily heavily repetitive in a way that feels super padded, as you'll barely see any new content besides the additional dialogue and changes with the story. The problem is, you end up being woken up back at the beginning of the whole game and forced to beat every boss fight all over again, but it's in this sort of parallel world. The advantage here is that you already have your team and can fly to all the locations, but there's a lot of continued dialogue and the difficulty gets steeper meaning you end up having to grind, but grind in locations you have already been without any new areas to discover or reason other than to beat the same people. This took a fair number of hours, at least 20 or so to get all the bosses and also the crystals need resurrecting too. After all of this is done, that's chapter 5 out of the way.......only no, not again chapter 6 is the same fricking thing, you wake up in yet another parallel universe of the same place and are forced to do the same thing again. Again, things do change with the story slightly but it's very very slow and repetitive. The biggest issue with all of this is that it doesn't just happen that time, but also again on chapter 7 and AGAIN on chapter 8. You have to do the same shit 5 times in a row. 

 

The later chapters do change things by making it more and more difficult each time, and start to group bosses together. By the last chapter, you are fighting 4 bosses together at the same time and in one case it's 5. This is where tactics become massively important as not only is each universe harder than the last, but their combined abilities make things work together in a way that can fuck you up in seconds. To add further insult, right at the end of doing all of the side missions (bar one), in chapter 8, you enter one of the last towers for the umteenth time only for the bosses to all appear again in here but regrouped and amongst those is one of the worst in the game entirely. 

 

It's ridiculous how it way designed this way, as you are fighting the same people and visiting the same places, yet by the later end of the game, the insanity that you are going through is also reflected amongst the characters in the game. The ending is pretty good and you feel the scale of the whole thing by the time it's all over. I'd never want to do that again though. 

 

One of the key changes to this type of RPG, which harks back to turn based style of battles with menus, is that they incorporate a Brave and Default system which essentially allows you to choose if you want to take one turn or more than one up to a set limit per character. This is balanced by the fact that you have to then wait longer for your turn to come around next, and the enemies also have the ability to use this system too. It's easy to get everyone to use all of their possible goes in a single turn, but then you end up increasing the likelyhood of getting major damage as you have to wait longer for the entire party until anyone gets their next turn. You can also use the block turn in a way which perfectly complements this game and is often the one thing I hardly use in RPG's of turn based nature. In BD, by blocking, you actually not only block a large portion of damage, but gain an extra brave point to use as an extra turn so it gives it more use other than simply wasting a go. 

 

The music great, however due to the repetitive nature later on, you end up hearing the same selection of tracks over and over and over. The voice acting I kept in English and while Agnes's voice can sound a bit...airy fairy, I didn't mind it at all and really grew to feel for the characters the longer it went on. In some ways I wouldn't recommend this game for people other than the more committed of RPG's of the older turnbased era, and that's purely down to the long amount of time you spend in a loop of repetition which shocked me more than surprised me at what they actually did. A lot of this was down to me doing every side quest, and I noticed that a the side quests in particular were always more difficult than the main story fights. I can also say that it's likely to be far more boring and pointless if you don't bother with them as a lot of the progression in the story was found through those. BD is a huge grind fest, but it is fun. By the end I'd levelled all my characters up to the maximum level and saw both the unintentional fake ending and the final proper one, which I very almost missed thinking I'd done it the first time. 

 

5. Vampyr (PS4) 8/10 (August)

 

I'd finished spending an absolute age playing Bravely Default, slowly over the course of 5 months and wanted something different in just about every way and Vampyr was one of those I'd been intrigued about ever since I'd seen Jim Sterling do his video on it a year earlier. It's one of those AA tier games that deserve the support and this one is no exception. 

 

It's a fairly sizeable open world type affair without feeling beyond what it needs to be, and that's quite important here because it strangely doesn't offer any sort of fast travel option, which personally didn't bother me much but I can imagine it would for some. It's still big enough that I'd have expected to have seen it to at least travel between districts at some point in the progress of the game. You exist as a man-turned-vampire aka an Ekon, in a post world war 1 era of London, where tensions are high and the streets are filled with vampyric activity including lesser beings known as skals and other beasts, organised militant gangs out to hunt vampires and fear ridden civilians often found in several district areas and dotted about randomly, usually offering some sort of side mission. 

 

You spend the whole game trying to learn about who you became and why it happened, all the while trying to help or hinder the many civilians you meet along the way, and expending their lives for your benefit results in more XP needed to improve upon a set of upgrades which branch into further upgrades in some cases. I personally attempted to spare as many people as possible, and pretty much amost achieved this aside from two individuals of probably about 50. The first one most people would probably have indirectly affected due to the way it presents you a choice which comes across as deceiving, and upon visiting this person later, I realised they had turned wild and needed to be put down. The second one just felt right, largely down to the selfishness of the person and impact it would have on he community as a whole. I thought this was going to make more of a difference to the main story, especially as it meant separating ties to an important organisation, however this doesn't result in the expectations I was to realise and even ends up with the broken bridges being fixed in some ways due to how the story had to progress towards the end. I purposely remained vague as not to spoil things, but if you have played this game then you'll likely know which bits I'm referring to anyway. 

 

The combat isn't the best as some people mention but I got on with it especially as I got far enough in, largely down to getting stronger, but also due to having to deal with being massively under-leveled and take on many enemies with a bit more finesse. There's the element of having to absorb and use blood to pull off a range of moves, however one important one is self healing and blood can be taken from enemies by biting on timed button appearances or through weapons. Once you have a good weapon to do this which is modified for maximum efficiency, then (as a secondary weapon) you can very quickly keep building that bar back up and continue the heal cycle. There is the auto health gauge thing in place, but once you're in the thick of things, this doesn't really work. You also have a stamina bar which will go down upon just about every action, and can really stop you in your flow very easily if you aren't paying attention. Once it's levelled up enough, you can really push yourself, but earlier on it will frequently pause your actions and leave you vulnerable to attacks. 

 

Of course, being a Dot Nod game, it relies heavily on the story narrative and the importance of talking to and questioning many of the characters you meet, hiding branching conversations as hidden until you accomplish certain goals, usually by obtaining relevant information from someone or somewhere. This also affects how much XP you can get if you happen to take their lives, of which you can do at any time provided you have the relevant mind controlling level. For me this wasn't as essential as I hardly killed any of the npc's. It makes it a better game though i'd say if you try to persevere. The story aspect is really good actually and I enjoyed how it all led to the end conclusion, however I remember having ideas of how it could have gone, or rather how I was expecting the story to have gone but wasn't quite that. It would have been great if...

 

 

The whole existence of a vampyr was that they existed as angels who had lost touch with god and become poisoned and remained immortal, but condemmed to drink blood. There was more to this but I can't quite remember what was going through my mind at the time. Anyway the actual story and bit at the end was great, especially when the vampire in the chair says the line about not quite being able to hear Johnathan and to "come closer"



I also loved how his sister came into it and became one of the bosses. The woman in the theatre and the irish guy were both good moments too. 

When I first played Vampyr, I felt like I'd been reminded of numerous other games I'd played which felt inspired somehow. Deus Ex was one of them, particularly the first Deus Ex. I also had vibes of The Last of Us and of course Bloodborne in some visual aspects of it all and mood. Then I'd feel like I was reminded of Dead Island when facing the interface menu and slow irritating as fuck load times. The music was often really cool and generally it was a good game. Without risking it being a far too long piece of waffle, I'll end on that note and say that I recommend Vampyr. Oh and re-Deus Ex reminder, I just thought I'd add the bit where Johnathan walks into Dr Swansea's office and the arpeggiated music plays. It's like Adam Jensen walking into Sarif Industries head office once Johnathan was stood there with his huge trench coat and the music kicks in, while the boss talks, followed by choose a branching conversation piece. 

 

6. Final Fantasy XII : Revenant Wings (Nintendo DS) 7/10

 

I once created a thread just for this game to see what sort of reactions I'd get and was quickly told that shit is what it was, therefore I left it and didn't touch it for a while. I'd picked it up as a game to take on holiday but didn't get the time to play, or rather the fact it was an RTS was bugging me. Turns out it's not actually that bad on the whole and at least it took me just short of 40 hours rather than the horrific 145 or so I spent on the mainline FF game. This is by no means anything in the same league as that title either, but as a separate and very different approach to FFXII, it is something you can kind of get into. 

 

Revisiting all the music from XII was great to hear again even if it was a little lo-fi in comparison, especially to the remastered efforts. It was also good to see the main characters all make an appearance and see how they introduced key npc's from XII into this to play a bigger role. It wasn't all that long ago I actually finished XII, possibly a year maybe, and so it was quite fresh to make the connection with the game all over again but take on a new story. The game itself couldn't be more different, as it's much of a downgrade graphically, but it still look alright for what it is, and it's also an RTS which involves ushering people around with your trusty stylus in groups or as a whole in order to attack enemies, or destroy their crystals and take over summoning portals. It isn't without it's irritating issues, as I discovered while playing there'd occasionally be character just stuck wandering on their own face first in a rock or the most annoying one is when one of your characters happens to set off a group of enemies by choosing to take a short cut you didn't want them to go anywhere near. There are missions where you must protect CPU controlled character and I've had pain in the arse moments with those where the uncontrollable suicidal freaks will just wander off head first into enemies without a care in the world way ahead of your party, but then other times they'd remain close. Of course one death means it's game over. There are various change ups in the conditions to beat levels but they tend to focus on destroying the enemy, taking over their summoning portals or shattering the enemy crystal while preserving yours at all costs. Some are different one off types including a vaan only mission where he has to take on a solo stealth mission to get past enemies without being spotted, and it is just not designed for this as it was brutally difficult to pull off for no reason. This type of gameplay never repeated again but it took me so many retries to beat. 

 

Most people won't have played this and so won't relate but it has it's own unique story that happens sometime after the story of FFXII, and all your old characters become involved again and some new ones. The small screen isn't designed for this sort of thing, but you can get away with keeping your group together as a single section for pretty much all of the game almost. It still requires a lot of frantic clicking later, and the gambit system is shite. It literally gives you the option to auto use a skill, but never increases from more than one gambit, leaving you to manually pull off skills. When the screen gets frantic with so many character at once, it can be very difficult to quickly pin point individuals to do things to such as the all important raise from the dead one downed. Each character has a special, and Penelope's is extremely useful in that she can instantly heal everyone (eg 30 characters on screen at one kind of ordeal), however her quickening (as they call it) almost never seemed to work when I wanted it to and caused me unnecessary deaths. When a single battle can be like 20 mins, that is annoying as hell. But I persevered and finished it. 

 

October

 

7. ESWAT: City Under Siege (Megadrive/Genesis) 7/10

 

This was the chosen game of choice for the Retro Game Club over in the respective area of Rllmuk last month, and although I've got it on one of those Sega Classics compilations for the PS3, I hadn't tried it out until last week. Now, I'm a big fan of Super Contra, Gunstar Heroes and other run and gun types of the 90's, so this fits in quite nicely although it took me patience and time in order to really appreciate what ESWAT has to offer. Initially I was quite disappointed by what ESWAT was offering and became frustrated very easily having to repeat the first couple of the stages over and over, never quite beating the second boss. It was only when progressing beyond did it open up and start to really click. There's a methodical approach to taking on each stage and beginning with Easy isn't like what Easy would be in this day and age, but rather rock hard difficult. That is until you really try to work out the best approach to things.

 

ESWAT opens with the first two stages being rather different than the rest of the core game, which is where it really shines as you later gain a flying suit and actual weapons other than the underwhelming default hand gun. Until stage 3, you're stuck with no abilities to gain whatsoever. I'd been struggling on the two terminator esque bosses (à la the Super Contra ones that jump about) at the end of stage 2 for a while and was tiring of having to repeat the level again. Eventually I manage to just about get by on occasion only to find the third stage boss super difficult. That was until I realised the little exploits and best ways of approaching them. Suddenly each stage was becoming easier to do just by understanding the correct way of progressing and meant I'd progress bit by bit. I'm not really one for save states, so tend to restart from the beginning each time, and each time I'd become better and then progress further until the whole game was over. 

 

One of the biggest annoyances in terms of mechanics of old is probably the way that you can easily lose a weapon if you are not careful as it employs that gradius style system where you scroll through weapons but then lose it if you have it selected upon death. Part of the learning curve is to know when to give up and switch to the default weapon with the expectation of death. Generally, the graphics are the old chunky platform kind and look pretty good for the time. The level variation is better than I thought as I soon realised that each one was an attempt to be a completely different theme so it keep things fresh. The music is catchy and I continuously find myself humming the music from different parts of ESWAT, even looking up the OST earlier today while at work. 

 

Overall it was better than I originally thought after giving it a chance, growing on me over time. Once I'd finished the game, I opted for a replay on Normal difficulty and felt that it wasn't that much harder leading me to complete it almost in a single continue. Super Contra does this much better as the move sets develop for enemies and things are hugely noticable in terms of difficulty. I haven't yet tried hard but feel generally over this. It's an interesting curio and one I never played in the past. 

 

Would I recommend it, probably not to anyone unless they've definitely played FFXII and want some kind of connection to that, but to also expect something entirely different and watered down but with it's own challenges that do actually get really tough in places. It was interesting to try out a regular DS game in my new 3DS at least and actually I'd say it looked better than what I was expecting. The story isn't amazing but it's OK. I paid £8 for the physical copy (yeah I like those things) and happy to have gone through it for the curiosity of it all.

 

November

8. The Evil Within 2 (PS4) 9/10

 

I've been meaning to add this for a while and haven't gotten round to it, which is a shame really as it's not as fresh on my mind and I like to give a detailed description of my thoughts soon after finishing a game. I can definitely say that I loved this one though overall even if they did make it feel very "The Last of Us" in game play style. It's been a few years since I played the first game and one thing I remember about the first was that it was harder and seemed to have more instant death traps and a focus on traps in general which were great but less a part of this one, but still the sequel managed to give me those survival horror vibes and a story I liked. 

 

TEW2 has this kind of open world vibe mixed in with the classic linear style gameplay which manages to tick both boxes for me as I like both styles. I played it on Normal, and while I think I might have gone for hard (maybe) on the first game, one of the downsides with this is that it's actually quite easy to run away from enemies and lose them once they spot you, leading to a situation where you become less scared of being spotted. Early in the game I felt a lot more tension as I was playing it much more carefully, where as later I just found  myself taking more chances. 

 

Some of the scenes have great ideas including the speaker on the controller which uses an excellent approach for an enemy you need to sneak around and REALLY adds to the tension. I also loved the sound design during another bit with a huge boss that looked like it was made out of glue. I loved that one of the bosses I fought merged with props from the background to form its general appearance as it comes into the game, and then there's another one (with a camera) that is SUPER freaky, but I've heard this was part of a DLC from the first game. Still though I never played that DLC and can imagine a lot of people haven't in general so I was glad it made an appearance here. 

 

Another thing I found myself getting into quite a bit was the mini shooting galley game that you can play part way through, returning back to it as often as you like. I managed to do almost everything with this including the hardest shooting galley mode. There's puzzle type game a bit like shooting at columns or a puzzle game like it but involved shooting boxes which fall down and link together based on the colours you shoot. That's addictive once you get into it. 

 

Really enjoyed it and would recommend. 

 

December

9. Resident Evil 0 (PS4) 7/10

 

I've been after playing this for years but never really got round to it because it was traditionally a Gamecube release and I've never owned one. Finally years later, the Origins collection got released with REmake and 0 together on the PS4 and I think the Xbox too and a while back I was able to try out REmake for the first time. That one I gave 10/10 as I've always liked the traditional style RE games (having only played those) and REmake was the perfect enhancement on a brilliant original which to me made it better than the others, where as I'd previously preferred 2 over 1. RE0 on the other hand didn't quite make the same sort of impact. 

 

In some ways it's a good game because graphically it holds up really well and has a similar style to REmake. Some of the background animations are really cool such as when the train begins to move and climbing onto the roof of the vehicle is awsome how they have stylised it. The downside is that once you get beyond the train, it's very much like playing REmake again but not quite as good as it isn't as fresh as when I played REmake. The biggest problem though which I thnk affected a lot of people is how they introduced two players and had you messing with a badly organised inventory system giving you only 6 slots per character. To add to that, you have to continually drop items on the floor rather than use the classic boxes to store them, so it becomes massively messy and a pain in the arse when you start picking up the wrong items. I had a situation were it took about 5 attempts to finally pick up the thing I wanted because of so many things in the same spot. On top of that, there's a limit to how many you can drop in a room so they end up being spread about and it really lends itself to back tracking a lot. Having two characters means switching between one another to get past certain sections and often they will become temporarily split up meaning the items you have in your limited inventory become important and could otherwise lead to massive inconvenience if you haven't got the right things with you. 

 

Still though, I managed to persevere and got to the end in about 15 hours or so, although I'd say it's more than that because the way I played it involved regularly restarting my save points in order to try and better the same run between saves without using as much ammo or health replenishments. The game is quite liberal with how many ink ribbons you get though so that isn't too bad, but when you are playing for the first time, you don't actually know what to expect so it can be a rather slow and repetitive play style. It was cool to see how it leads up to the first game at the very end, but overall very much feels like a remixed version of the first game and I think I'm now ready to FINALLY after all these years play RE4 and beyond with a newer updated style of play. 

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I've done pretty well this year, although as ever I seem to spend a lot of time re-playing old games. However, I also made a concerted effort to play through some PS4 and 3DS games that have been sitting in either my "to play" or "to buy" pile for years. Yay, progress!

 

Let's go back to January, then:

 

- Crash Bandicoot (PS1). I got an urge to play this and all the other PS1 Crash games on my Vita, so I did. This is probably the hardest of the three but I cleared it to 100% anyway. This game always reminds me of the early PS1 days when I borrowed my sister's PlayStation before I had my own. The music in particular is nostalgic and instantly takes me back there. It's honestly a decent platformer, from that weird era when 2D games were going out of fashion and Mario was changing the world.

 

- Crash Bandicoot 2 (PS1). Completed to 100% also. As above, but this one is legit better in every way. Refined mechanics, new moves and some very devious secrets and hidden levels. Again, really weird playing this again after so long! :lol:

 

- Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (PS1). Completed to 104%, missed one gem for collecting all gold relics. Yeah, this must be where the weird completion stats started in Crash games. Naughty Dog did incredible things with the PS1 hardware, but otherwise it's not quite as essential as no.2. The new moves and extra controls also don't carry over to the Vita quite so well, requiring some fiddling. The 1950s themed motorcycle sections put me in the mood for...

 

- Full Throttle Remastered (Vita). Completed twice (played through it a second time with the audio commentaries). So I've played the original via SCUMMVM years ago and I wanted to give the remastered version a try. The new graphics are lovely, faithfully redrawn and consistent in style. A fantastic package and a pleasure to play through again.

 

Nothing for February. Still working through things.

March:

 

- Rayman Origins (Vita). Completed all levels with all electoons, plus the bonus level. This was a really nice platformer with a lovely flow to its level design. Some frustration aside, I enjoyed it a lot.

 

- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PC). Finally completed this after being on it for months. All story missions done at least once, total completion at 49%, total playtime 84 hours. I've given my opinions on this game in the Retro topic, as it concluded my otherwise retro Metal Gear marathon. Short version: really very good, but clearly unfinished.

 

- Her Story (PC). Pieced the story together and viewed all clips (4 hours). This was fantastic and I can't say why without spoiling it. I will definitely have to play the follow-up game from the same developer.

 

- Pony Island (PC). Played it to the end... I think? And then deleted it (2 hours). This was another delightful nugget to be consumed in a single evening. Again, I don't want to spoil what's so good about it if you haven't played it. I guess it's sort of a platformer crossed with a desktop simulator with some puzzle solving, but it's also totally crazy and disturbing. There is one moment where it legitimately freaked me the hell out and I will recommend it forever for that if nothing else.

 

April:

 

- Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee (PS1). Completed once, got the bad ending (11 hours). So this is a platform game in the form of Another World, Flashback and so on - precision canned animations, and very deadly traps. It's obscenely hard, very frustrating and you need to replay the whole thing if you fuck up and get the bad ending due to not rescuing enough thingummies. I didn't really want to. It's ugly as sin, but the pre-rendered technology was pretty clever technically.

 

- Cave Story+ (PC). Completed the main story mode once, on 'Easy' (5 hours). I can't recall if Easy is the default mode but I wouldn't have wanted it to be much harder than that. I quite enjoyed it - it's fun to actually play but it's a very odd game. More involved and deeper than the traditional retro games it's imitating, but still feels under-cooked in a few ways.

 

- Sunset (PC). Played through once (3 hours). Another PC indie game one-nighter. This is a story-driven game where the environment tells the story, a bit like Gone Home, but set in the 1970s amidst a South American revolution, and all within the walls of a single apartment. It feels like it's going to end after every 'day', but it just keeps going. I did enjoy it but I was growing bored (and sleepy) by the time it finally concluded. Worth a look, I guess.

 

May:

 

- Super Mario World (SNES mini). Okay, so I love Super Mario World; I've had it on my list of all-time favourite games for years, but I realised I'd only ever played the GBA port and not the original. So with my SNES mini, I decided to correct this! And, to be honest, I kinda didn't like it as much. :o Maybe the game itself is harder or maybe playing on a TV is just a bit laggier, but I found it frequently frustrating. I was dying all over the place and really struggled on some of the later levels. I'd also completely forgotten where the secret exits were and didn't particularly feel like looking for them. As such, I 'finished' the game with the first ending only, having opened only 48 exits. I don't want to ruin the good memories.

 

- Pilotwings (SNES mini). Yes, I added this game to my SNES mini via a simple hack. It should have been on there in the first place - a shocking omission. It's really good! Using save states instead of writing down passwords (and abusing said save states a little bit towards the end), I cleared all the lessons and expert lessons. As an early title for the SNES, this was a game that really showed off what the specific hardware could do.

 

- Shadow of the Colossus (PS4). Completed on normal and hard difficulties. One of my favourite games on the PS2, again on the PS3 and on the PS4 it's better than ever. 60fps on a Pro console is a game-changer, and it looks gorgeous. A phenomenal game and one I will probably go back to again before too long.

 

June:

 

- Alunda (PS1). Completed once (41 hours). The short version is this is not a very good game; it's like Zelda but with all the fun sucked out of it. For the long version, see my comments in the Retro folder from back in June.

 

- Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4). Well, I really liked the previous two Arkham games (never played Origins) so it took me far too long to get around to this one, but as I said, I was making a concerted effort to get around to missed games this year. Knight is another winner, though Asylum remains my favourite. Overused Batmobile sections aside, I loved it. Completed on normal, all missions and side missions done except for the Riddler trophies, which can frankly sod off. Watched the 'extra' ending on YouTube instead. Playtime: 34 hours.

 

July:

 

- Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS). Waiting for games to get cheap is how I roll. Well worth the eight quid or whatever it cost me. I must admit, I never quite grew into the notion of all battle commands requiring stickers, like it never felt right to me as a hoarder to keep using stuff up just to fight enemies. But I had to let it go and just get on with it, and I'm glad I did. This was a nice game. Not amazing, but a nice bit of Nintendo papercraft charm. Completed 100% (with the help of a guide for the last few stickers!) (37 hours).

 

August:

 

- Spider-Man (PS4). I posted my thoughts (and photos!) in the dedicated topic. To summarise, I think the swinging mechanic - the most important part of a Spider-Man game - is still lacking something, yet despite that this is still my favourite Spider-Man game, so everything else must be good. The combat, which I initially hated, became my favourite part. So much so that I played and played and played to 100%. I don't necessarily want the DLC but I look forward to a sequel, for sure.

 

September:

 

- 3D Sonic the Hedgehog (3DS). Yeah, I frequently replay Sonic games. With the first two, I have two options for the definitive experience - the Retro Engine remakes on iOS/Android, or the stereoscopic conversion for the 3DS virtual-"Megadrive 3D". This time, I went with the latter, and as well as completing them both in September (all Emeralds run, no cheating!) I played through them again on Christmas day, because Christmas day has to be Sonic day. Has to be. :)

 

- 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (3DS). As above. The sequel goes kinda crazy with the 3D effect, with even the grass overhang on platforms 'popping' out. These are really clever conversions because they're still basically Megadrive games with all the limitations therein. It's just that they've had Z-depth information added to every object, pixel, sprite, whatever. The special stages are insane, I have no idea how they managed to make them 3D. That said, the characters look like they're floating above the tunnel floor - the effect isn't quite right. Everything else looks excellent, though - and some of the glitches from the original game are fixed. I completed this with all Emeralds again - Supersonic ending.

 

- Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. (3DS). Completed once on normal, rescued all Pi'illo Folk (44 hours). Sits below Superstar Saga, naturally. Probably on par with Bower's Inside Story, or maybe slightly worse. But come on, all of these games are good, even the ones that are less good. More thoughts in the topic thread.

 

- Octodad: Dadliest Catch (Vita). Indie PC game that I decided to get on a handheld instead, because that's where I actually have a lot of time to play things. This is a game that is 'intentionally' frustrating, like that's the point of it. A bit like Goat Simulator but less funny. No, maybe more funny. I dunno. It's a one-note idea that doesn't outstay its welcome. Completed once on normal difficulty.

 

October:

 

- Astro Bot Rescue Mission (PS4). Completed all levels and challenges, rescued all Bots and collected all capsules. I've typed enough words about this game, but the short version is: it's amazing. If you've got a PSVR but haven't got Astro Bot, get Astro Bot. If you haven't got a PSVR, get a PSVR. And then get Astro Bot.

 

- WipEout Omega Collection (PS4). I got at least a medal (mostly golds) in all HD/Fury events, and finished all the 2048 events except for A+ and prototype challenges. I also played a few races in VR, but then I got sick. So I think I'm done with it. A very nice remastered collection for WipEout fans. Just a shame the custom soundtrack feature was changed from how it worked on PS3.

 

- Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS). Completed all 25 levels at least once, generally around intensity 3 or 4 (11 hours). A surprisingly good game let down by the discomfort of its control scheme. That said, I was willing to put up with it and pretty much loved it anyway. Glad I finally got around to playing it, and glad I waited for a super-stable 'New' 3DS to play it on.

 

November:

 

- Tomb Raider II (PC). So this was the second in my 'retro replay' Tomb Raider marathon, after modding the shit out of it. Like the first game last year, I streamed every level to Twitch/Youtube and posted my thoughts in the Retro folder. TR3 is next on the list but I don't know when I'll get around to it.

 

Finally, onto earlier this month - December:

 

- Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros. (3DS). So it's come to this - crossovers. :lol:  I'll just quote myself from the "3DS Resurrection thread":

On 06/12/2019 at 16:23, Sprite Machine said:

Paper Jam is alright - it's still an "M&L" game rather than a Paper Mario game (and developed by AlphaDream). It's basically more of the same RPG formula but with a third character to control and some mechanics streamlined. In a few ways, it improves over the previous Dream Team, for instance the 'giant' turn-based battles have become realtime papercraft arenas, while the battle card system gives more tactical options compared the badge system from Dream Team. Where it's lacking is in substance, I think. There's no sort of 'underworld' or alternate battle system like the dream world or Bowser insides from previous games, and the Mushroom Kingdom doesn't provide as vast a landscape in comparison. I half expected to visit the world inside the paper book but it never happens (sorry, spoiler!) which makes me think the team ran out of time or budget. In fact, the game comes to an end rather quickly, though part of that might be down to the swifter pacing and the fact that the usual drip-feed of tutorials is shoved into the menus instead of the dialogue. Still, it's a fun premise and it's a decent game overall, but not up the high standards of the rest of the series. The music isn't as good, either.

 

 

Finally, some more SNES mini games to conclude the year:

 

- Super Castlevania IV (SNES mini). Completed once, but had to use some save states to help me near the end. That Dracula fight, man. Ouch!

 

- Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES mini). Yet more bastard hard run-and-gun gameplay. I did pretty well, but by the time I could get to the half-way point comfortably, I couldn't be arsed to replay the first three levels again, so I stuck a save state down and carried on from there a few more times. Then I used more save states during the final level, and just before the final boss. Didn't get a chance to try 2-player. It's good, though - just relentlessly difficult, man! How did we play these games back then? Patience, lots of it.

 

- Super Mario Kart (SNES mini). Finally went back to this and got golds on the 100cc and 150cc modes. The latter needed some save state help, as the game is just ridiculously unfair. I mean that literally, it cheats! Rubber-banding and phantom pick-ups. And a pox on those who nudge you slightly during a perfectly-planned power-slide and push you into wall facing backwards. Fuck you, man! :angry: I mean, it's clearly the best Mario Kart game but it's also just the worst. The Worst.

 

- Star Fox (SNES mini). Aka Starwing. Forced my way through all three routes eventually. So apparently, the Super FX ship was supposed to be more powerful than it ended up being in its first iteration. I wonder if a better chip would have smoothed out the appalling framerate in this game, as it's a struggle to play it in 2019 - even for me. Don't get me wrong, it was an amazing feat for its time, and it's still a somewhat enjoyable game to play today, but I really did struggle to get through some bits of it. It loses its magic after the opening level, I reckon. Dat music!

 

 

Abandoned games on 2019:

 

Crash Team Racing (PS1). I loved this back in the day, but the technology is pushing the old PS1 hardware a little too far for me in 2019. Also my Vita screwed up and I lost my save file, so I abandoned it. It has made me want to play the remake, though.

 

- Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (Vita). This is another instance of the hardware being unsuited to the job. Absolutely appalling framerate on Vita (sub 20fps in parts, I swear!) - I gave up on this version minutes into starting. For a game that was so smooth, this is a piss poor port that loses its single defining "feel". Thankfully, it came with the 60fps PS3 version at no extra cost, so I will play through them all properly at some point in the future.

 

- Micro Machines V3 (PS1). Also on Vita. I abandoned this because it's too fucking hard! Well, I dabbled with the 1-player Challenge mode, which is the part that's too fucking hard. It's a game for multiplayer parties, really, but it was nice to revisit it.

 

- Tumble VR (PS4). Abandoned for now; may dabble some more next year if I'm looking for something to play in VR. It's a nice enough game, I just never got fully into it. Also, I experienced a bug on one level, which has put me off it a little.

 

- Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (PS4). As above, I will probably never 'complete' this. However, it is excellent and original and brilliant. It just needs multiple people all willing to practice with each other, and I can't often find the time to do that. So, abandoned for now.

 

- Star Trek: Bridge Crew (PS4). Another one that needs multiple players, and I don't have an online sub, so I've only played it solo. Which is fine, just fiddly and difficult. And slow, very slow. But it's something I will go back into and dabble with in future. It's my own personal virtual Star Trek bridge and that's just really damned cool.

 

- Ultrawings (PS4). So, on the one hand, this is really cool and clever and neat. On the other, it gives me motion sickness and the controls are hard to adjust to because you can't feel what your hands are doing. I also didn't like the structure enough to keep playing it, and actually couldn't work out how to unlock more events (I know now, you have to fly over new airports and 'buy' them - this is not made clear in the game!). Ultrawings is an experience I will share with other people who want to see some VR, but it's not something for which I have the stomach to keep playing myself. At least not for now.

 

- Rock Band 4 (PS4). I think I just came to realise, finally, that I will never, ever 'complete' this game. But I just play it for fun on Expert guitar, occasionally get the drums out, and even more occasionally have a little Rock Band party. And that's fine, I will dabble with it for years. I'm just not trying to finish it in any sense.

 

 

We shall see what 2020 brings...

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Last one of the year, I guess:

 

Homesick (PC) -  I got this one off my Secret Santa, thanks. It was one I'd put on my wishlist ages ago because I thought it looked alright and then forgot all about what it actually was.

 

What it is then, is a short first-person adventure game where you explore an abandoned building, trying to work out what's going on. It's a good looking game, which was what partly attracted me, contrasting between the peeling, rusting environment and the bright light and greenery that intersperse it at key points.

 

Puzzles were alright and mostly good to figure out. It missed some feedback about what you'd actually accomplished, but the sections and interactive elements were small enough that you couldn't really go wrong. Most frustratingly, in order to read any of the text in the game to get more from the plot, you had to translate a code. There's a sort of reason why in-game but it got extremely tedious after a while. I ended up just reading all the  literature on a Steam translation guide someone had posted.

 

It was a nice game overall. I didn't realise it was a Kickstarter game and mostly the work of one person - impressive if so. I noticed, though, that the promised stretch goals of extra in-game stuff didn't seem to have materialised but it was decent enough of an experience to stay short and sweet.

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Thought I was done for the year but bought and finished Far: Lone Sails. Currently £9 on Switch and although short at around 3 hours was beautiful and thought provoking with some interesting mechanics and light puzzling. 8.5/10

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31/12/2019 - Murdered: Soul Suspect (PC)

 

Well I certainly wasn't intending to finish anything else but, in the early hours of this morning, I decided to make a run at the last bit of this.

 

I'm not really sure what type of game this was meant to be, but I know what it was - a mess. It had parts of a walking sim, adventure, action and puzzler and every element was either undercooked or downright bad.

 

The premise was that you were murdered whilst tracking a serial killer and you came back as a ghost (with the ability to make audible footsteps) to try and solve it before being reunited with your dead wife up above.

 

First and foremost, whilst much of the time was spent walking around, the narrative wasn't strong or engaging enough to tie everything together. The puzzles, such as they were, were either physical (how do I get around this object?) or mental (which clue I have found is relevant here?). Both types were rubbish, with clues being pretty obtuse in some cases (and not actually answering the question being asked) and physical mainly just padding things out.

 

Then there was the awful 'action' scenes, where you had to sneak up on demons to execute them, lest they see you and drain your, er, death-force? Spirit power? I don't know. Anyway, it leads to some half-baked stealth sections and is neither fun, integral to the story (because the demons don't seem interested in any of the other ghosts around) or challenging. It's clearly there because somebody figured none of the other components would be strong enough to hold it together (which is still true).

 

The puzzles are very basic - you essentially walk around the investigation area pressing X when prompted and then pick one or more of the clues to propel the story forward. It's neither taxing nor interesting.

 

It was a real disappointment; I thought the original thread on here all those years ago pitched it as a fairly average little game (thankfully quite short) but I think that is rather flattering and ultimately not worth anyone's time.

 

Previously completed:

Spoiler

26/12/2019 - Gears of War 4 (PC)

21/12/2019 - Starcrawlers (PC)

05/12/2019 - Viking: Wolves of Midgard (PC)

17/11/2019 - Vampyr (PC)

06/11/2019 - Homefront: The Revolution DLC x3 (PC)

27/10/2019 - Bad North: Jotunn Edition (PC)

16/10/2019 - Homefront: The Revolution (PC)

20/10/2019 - The Terrible Old Man (PC)

27/09/2019 - Unavowed (PC)

05/09/2019 - Star Wars Battlefront: Resurrection DLC (PC)

31/08/2019 - Her Story (PC)

25/08/2019 - Battlefield V (PC)

03/08/2019 - Tacoma (PC)

10/07/2019 - Stars Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 (PC)

14/06/2019 - The Technomancer (PC)

10/05/2019 - Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes (X360)

30/03/2019 - Tyranny (PC)

20/03/2019 - Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PC)

03/03/2019 - Wulverblade (PC)

24/02/2019 - Star Wars Battlefront 2 (PC)

22/01/2019 - Alan Wake (PC)

21/01/2019 - Adam Wolfe (PC)

05/01/2019 - Simulacra (PC)

 

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So this year I got through 69 games. Down on the 80 plus I got through last year and again the high number is totally down to how many short games I played through.

 

My game of the year was Death Stranding, a game I just wasn't interested in buying until I saw the trailer one week before. Suddenly I needed to know everything and every bad bit of information that leaked out made it sound like my sort of game. It's The Last Jedi of gaming really, you're either going to love it or hate it and everyone's reasons for either loving it or hating it will be the same issues. I'm going to uninstall it soon, 90+ hours is enough of my time.

 

What should be game of the year for everyone is Untitled Goose Game. It's short. It's slight. Non-gamers have at least loved watching others play it in our circle.  It's the funniest game I played this year.

 

I finally played Nier this year realising that my old second hand 360 will probably die soon. I bounced off it a couple of times and the fishing quest almost did me in but I fell in love with it despite (maybe because) of it's weird ugliness. The music is sublime although the short looping drove my wife nuts. Which wasn't the case with Nier Automata another title I'd bounced off hard in 2017. Even better music, an even more thought provoking plot and this time my partner also fell in love with it. She's now taken to using Emil's "Oh dear" as a response to massive catastrophes.

 

In terms of music a huge shout out to FAR:Lone Sails. I've played through this twice now and I love its musical journey I might just play it again this year.

 

Gris is possibly the most gorgeous looking game in the pile I played although I'm still on the fence as to whether I liked it or not. Biggest disappointment for me this year was the end of Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I loved the game mechanically but I can see why the previous two strayed away from traditional South American treasure hunting. This game was what some would call "problematic" which might have been forgiven if

 

they hadn't pulled the punch at the end

This lead me to replaying the Tomb Raider reboot which I enjoyed a lot more than I did on my first run through.

 

I could go on and on. I adored Spider Man and enjoyed the copy of Red Dead Redemption I found in my collection. Retro wise I didn't do as much as  I wanted to although I did finally play through Super Mario Bros (yes, the NES one) and enjoyed it and Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle which I hated sadly.

 

The weirdest platform I played on this year was Netflix with Bandersnatch. Which is totally a game given that it's flow charts make Detroit's look simple.

 

Anyway full list below.

 

 

Dec
69. 31/12 Emily is away Too (PC) 
68. 26/12 SuperHot (PC) 
67. 25/12 Frog Detective 2:the Case of the Invisible Wizard (PC) 
66. 22/12 Frog Detective 1:the Haunted Island (PC) 
65. 14/12 Death Stranding (PS4) 
64. 02/12 Gris (PC)
Nov
63. 21/11 Yoku's Island Express (PC) 
62. 11/11 Tomb Raider (2013) (PC)
Oct
61. 30/10 Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PS4) 
60. 26/10 Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Megadrive/PC) 
59. 18/10 Super Mario Bros (NES/Switch) 
58. 12/10 South Park:The Fractured But Whole (PC)
Sep
57. 22/09 Untitled Goose Game (Switch)
56. 15/09 NieR: Automata (PS4) 
Aug
55. 31/08 Song of the Deep (PC) 
54. 30/08 CAPSULE (PC) 
53. 25/08  A Normal Lost Phone (PC)
52. 24/08 Nier (360)
51. 21/08 Scanner Sombre (PC) 
50. 19/08 The Gardens Between (PC)
49. 11/08 Hitman:Absolution (PC) 
48. 06/08 Machinarium (PC) 
47. 04/08 Shelter (PC)
46. 01/08 South Park:the Stick of Truth (PC) 
Jul
45. 30/07 Warioware Gold (3DS) 
44. 20/07 Escape Lala (PC) 
43. 20/07 Holoscope:Another Day Another Data (PC) 
42. 20/07 Comedy Quest (PC) 
41. 18/07 VVVVVV (PC) 
40. 15/07 All Our Asias (PC) 
39. 13/07 Rumu (PC) 
Jun
38. 27/06 TIMEframe (PC) 
37. 18/06 Reigns:Her Majesty (PC)
36. 16/06 Escape Goat (PC) 
35. 12/06 Hotline Milwaukee (PC) 
34. 10/06 Roundabout (PS4) 
33. 09/06 Just Cause 2 (360) 
32. 06/06 Maniac Mansion (PS4/PC) 
31. 06/06 Abzu (PC)
30. 02/06 Armored Warriors (PC/Arcade) 
29. 02/06 Warriors of Fate (PC/Arcade) 
May
28. 28/05 Knights of the Round (PC/Arcade) 
27. 21/05 Spider Man (and The City that Never Sleeps DLC)
26. 14/05 Knack (PS4)
25.05/05 Captain Commando (PC/Arcade) 
24. 05/05 The King of Dragons (PC/Arcade)
Apr
23. 30/04 Battle Circuit (PC/Arcade)
22. 29/04 Final Fight (PC/Arcade)   
21. 22/04 Old Man's Journey (PC)
20. 18/04 The First Tree (PC)
19. 14/04 FAR:Lone Sails (PC)
18. 13/04 The Darkside Detective (PC)
17. 03/04 Final Fantasy 15:Episode Ardyn (PS4)
Mar
16. 27/03 Space Pilgrim (Episodes1-4)
15. 19/03 Red Dead Redemption (360)
14. 17/03 Where on Google Earth is Carmen Sandiego (Browser)
Feb
13. 24/02 Universal Paperclips (Browser)
12. 13/10 Florence (iOS)
11. 10/02 Squidlit (PC)
10. 10/02 Plug & Play (PC)
Jan
9. 28/01 Killing Time at Lightspeed:Enhanced Edition (PC)
8. 28/01 Assassin's Creed Origins:The Curse of the Pharaohs (PS4)
7. 27/01 Awkward Dimensions Redux (PC)
6. 27/01 Home (PC)
5. 27/01 Explosionade (PC)
4. 13/01 Kero Blaster (PC)
3. 12/01 Bandersnatch (Netflix)
2. 05/01 Assassin's Creed Origins:The Hidden Ones (PS4)
1. 01/01 TRAUMA (PC)

 

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Here's everything I didn't get round to writing up earlier, and now I can put a line under 2019!

 

Halo 4 (Xbox One, MCC version):

 

Way better than I remembered it from when it first came out. A couple of duff vehicle sections aside it's non stop action, plenty of great set-piece fights, the Mantis bits are great, grand scale, architectural weirdness. So much promise that never quite came together in the sequel. You don't get much more Halo than that I guess. The Prometheans are unfairly maligned. The knights are more worthy opponents then the Brutes ever were, thwarting your attempts to engage them at distance and rushing you down at close quarters. They also have the kind of distinctive silhouettes that made the original incarnation of the Elites so iconic. The Watcher / Knight resurrection mechanic is a very cool riff on the recharging sheilds forcing you to comit to the finishing an enemy off that made the Elites in Halo:CE such dramatic foes. What are the crawlers though? If the Knights are post singularity forerunner humans then are the Crawlers their dogs? Am I killing hundreds of ghost dogs?

 

The story is a morass of bullshit although the central idea of fleshing out the Master Chief as a manufactured sociopath left adrift when the systems that maintaim him fall apart is cool. Sadly the execution is muddled at best, the treatment of Cortana as a character being a significant example. Post singularity love interest or surrogate mum? Pick ONE. Don't do both. That's just weird.

 

Halo Reach (Xbox One, MCC version):

 

The best one overall in my opinion (although maybe too somber and self serious for it's own good) taking the grounded, human setting of ODSTs city and widening the scope to a whole planet. Plenty of knowing tributes to Halo:CE levels, you get your Silent Cartographer beach landing bit and your Truth and Reconcilliation night time sniper action. There's a fair bit of rushing structures, getting inside them, blowing up reactors and jumping out while they explode, which is the kind of simple moment to moment level progression that the whole franchise could have benefited from more of. The Elites are back which is very welcome, but they feel slightly lacking compared to their original incarnation. Their animations and howls of rage and exhilliaration are all toned down. That's made up for by grand scale and breakneck pacing and it's pretty obvious playing both games one after the other that 343 leaned heavily on Reach as the blueprint for Halo 4.

 

Some decent glaciers.

 

By the end of the game the story collapses in to farce under the sheer weight of heroic sacrifice after heroic sacrifice but Jorge's storyline stands out as a terser, smarter exploration of the same themes of alienation and rootlessness that Halo 4 wades around in.

 

Wraps up with a dramatic fight in the rain against waves of enemies, a tense encounter with some super powered elites, a brief nose dive in quality with a shit turret section, but then redeems itself with that final section.

 

Ruiner (Xbox One):

 

Intersting take on a twin stick shooter where you're typically only fighting two or three enemies at a time and they can soak up a lot of fire before they go down. Lots of dashes and switching weapons on the fly gives it an almost character action feel. Overall if suffers from repeating the same handful of boss battles throughout the game, pace destroying town sections and a story with a distinctly edge-lordy whiff about it. Fantastic design and production values but the performance on a One S suffers a lot. I can't remember much about how I felt playing it only a month and a bit on but I didn't rank it that highly on my big list of what I've finished at the time, although I honestly couldn't tell you why now...

 

Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor (Xbox One):

 

Pretty sure nobody from the Tolkein estate paid too much attention to this one because psychically exploding Orcs heads Scanners style does not seem on brand for Lord of the Rings.

 

All the fun here is in interacting with Uruk captains and the nemesis system. The story missions and ending sequence are just dull cruft in comparison to the endless procession of procedurally generated orc dickheads and their hilarious nonsense. Nothing in any game has made me smile this year as much as an Uruk captain launching in to a florid description of the ways he'll end your life before being instantly decapitated the moment he's finished talking.

 

Without the nemesis system this would be a duff Assasin's Creed clone with IP inappropraite levels of violence. The genius bit of design that elevates it is the simple idea of taking all the systemic chaos of a Ubisoft style open world game and adding one simple layer of persistence to the systems so each chance encounter with a powerful enemy has an inkling of significance and consequence. It's a crime that this design philosophy hasn't caught on.

 

The Bard's Tale Remastered (Xbox One):

 

Sands off the more sadistic edges of the 80s original while keeping the atmosphere and no frills dungeon crawling happily intact. I never got too far on the original when I was young because for some reason it never occured to me to make my own maps (I did manage to commit the entire layout of the 1st level of the cellars to memory though!) so it's nice to go back and get some closure.

 

It's a very tightly scoped game - a town not a city, with a handful of dungeons that link together in novel ways - with a balanced economy (resurrections and status heals cost more gold as you level up). When you reach the point where individual level ups start to lose significance the game compensates by introducing new magical loot on the later dungeon levels. Later on the dungeons become more convoluted and you get mired down navigating endless spinner traps and zones of darkness but a few simple puzzles and some decent meat and potatoes tactical combat kept me interested.

 

Tempest 4000 (Xbox One):

 

I was aiming to cement my position in the top 10 of all three XBL leaderboards but in the end I managed top 10 on classic mode then I think top 30 for pure and just outside the top 50 for survival. I've probably slipped down a fair bit now as it looked like there were still some regular players chipping away at it. I've left it too long to go back to now so I'll call it done. I didn't come close to clearing the game without continues but made it through all the levels twice in Classic mode.

 

I think it's an overall improvement on Tempest 2000 which would let you build up 10s of extra lives only to see you haemorrhage most of them on visually incoherent difficulty spike levels you had to strategically warp past. This is much more balanced although even after running through the game twice I found some of the later levels hard to decipher visually and mechanically. It's not as rich mechnically or visually as Space Giraffe was sitting somewhere in the middle of T2000 and Space Giraffe.

 

...

 

I played too many game in 2019, mostly at the expense of sleep, so I really need to scale things back for 2020. I've got Tactics Ogre, Jedi: Fallen Order and Outer Worlds left outstanding so they need finishing off first of all. I'm also thinking I should try and cross some classics off my must-play list. I finished about 3/4 of what I started, the only notable game that fell by the wayside was Outer Wilds which my posts in the game specific thread cover my journey with in detail.

 

I've been ranking everything I've played since I started posting in the "Games you've completed..." threads but the top 10 is looking a bit dull now thanks to the Master Chief Collection and how highly I rate the Halo series... Here's everything ranked for 2019 and my top 10 since 2017:

 

All games finished in 2019 ranked:

Spoiler

 

Halo: Reach (Xbox One, MCC version) 

Halo 3: ODST (Xbox One, MCC version)

Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox One, MCC version) 

Hollow Knight (Xbox One)

Celeste (Xbox One)

Halo 4 (Xbox One, MCC version)

Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox via BC) 

Tempest 4000 (Xbox One)

Ashen (Xbox One)

Blazing Chrome (Xbox One)

 

Halo 3 (Xbox One, MCC version) 

Control (Xbox One)

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Xbox One)

Gears of War 5 (Xbox One)

Yoku's Island Express (Xbox One)

Sonic Mania (Xbox One)

Dandara (Xbox One)

Halo 2 (Xbox One, MCC version)

Assassin's Creed Origins (Xbox One)

Shadow of Mordor (Xbox One)

Crackdown 3 (Xbox One) 

The Division (Xbox One) 

Bad North (Xbox One)

World War Z (Xbox One)

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus (Xbox One) 

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Xbox One)

The Bard's Tale Remastered (Xbox One)

Ori and the Blind Forest (Xbox One)

Steam World Dig (Wii U)

Assault Android Cactus (Xbox One)

Ruiner (Xbox One)

R-Type Tactics (PSP)

Creature in the Well (Xbox One)

 

 

A pretty decent mix of stuff. Creature In The Well was the only thing I'd describe as genuinely bad. R-Type Tactics is deeply flawed but at least interesting.

 

Top 10 since 2017:

Spoiler

 

Zelda: Breath of The Wild

Halo: Reach

Halo 3: ODST

Halo: Combat Evolved

Super Metroid

Hollow Knight

Fire Emblem Echoes

Shovel Knight

Celeste

Halo 4

 

 

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Right once again I neglected to update this after the summer so catch up/record for posterity

 

9. Titanfall 2 (PC)

 

I think this might be out of order now - lost track exactly and there was a couple of months gap between me starting another run through of this on my new PC  (probably April time) and me finishing this off (sometime in August probably) but anyway I fancied another trip through one of my favourite games of this generation on my new laptop and the bargain that is an annual Origin subscription game me the perfect excuse.

 

And well its still fabulous - possibly one of the best FPS campaigns of all time; snappy, bit of genre mix with the first person platforming and oh yes huge giant hulking robots.  Cause and Effect remains one of the all time jaw dropping shooter levels - completely out of the blue and drops the conceit after a single level - but shockingly tight in the execution - most games would have based the entire campaign around the idea but here its just one idea realised perfectly and then dropped for the next one.  In all honesty I'm not sure it looked better maxed out on full graphics settings than it did on my base PS4 but that's possibly just the rose tinted memories talking - it still looked pretty either way.

 

Still brilliant / 10

 

10. Batman Arkham Origins (PC)

 

So the Batman game that got away.  I think I've bought this at least twice (360 and Wii U) but somehow never got around to playing it despite the fact I love all the Arkham games.  But yeah anyway - I've made my peace with my last gen backlog (the machines have been retired from under the telly - anything that hasn't been played isn't getting played - and yeah there was more than a few) but well this is sat here on Origin and well why not?

 

Actually god knows what prompted me to play this, but I do love me some open world super hero action and I did indeed adore all three of Rocksteady's titles (yes even the Batmobile bits) and well for some reason I was put off by talk of it being derivative and the combat being 'off'.   So I decided to play it.

 

And well it was really good, as in really, really good.  As in criminally underrated good. It might not make quite the impression that Asylum managed but its probably my second favourite in the series.  It just felt much tighter than City and Knight (even if the map is double the size of City).  The replacement voice actors may have caused controversy but I think this is probably the best version of the Joker in a Batman game to date and the main plot line is easily the best realised.  The side quest stuff was always entertaining and always worth investigating but the main plot line was focused, well designed and a killer recital of the series greatest hits.  I do get the combat being slightly out - I couldn't string the combos I managed in Asylum, although the electric gloves kind of compensate.

 

Massively entertaining.

 

I am Batman / 10

 

11. A Hat in Time (PC)

 

Now its been a long time since I played a 3D platformer, Mario games aside of course, which given the number I played at a younger age I suppose shows how genres shift.  But I suppose that was the entire pitch for the game.

 

So anyway,  this caught a little controversy due to a blink and you'll miss it role for a You Tuber who turned out subsequently to be a white supremacist (oh and apparently the producer is a bit of a shit too).  There's a whole debate here between divorcing the art from the artist, but when it comes to games its probably worth remembering that this is far from a one man operation and well I have no doubt that lots of great games were made by people who have been unpleasant in the past.  The You Tube controversy seems like a little bit of a self inflicted wound but really the guy gets two lines in the game and a by line in the credits and that's it - one suspects it wasn't worth the potential law suit to remove him completely.

 

So lets focus on the good stuff; because there's a lot of good stuff here.  First of all this game is adorable, I mean seriously adorable.  Hat Girl is a charming lead and the supporting cast are both hilarious and beautifully realised.  The game starts off fairly traditional - the opening Mafia planet mashes up Mario 64 and Galaxy with a hint of Banjo nicely; Hat Girl handles well but its nothing you didn't play many times before (albeit at least 15 years ago).  But then it starts mixing things up; a who dunnite on a steam train, a celebration bounce around a Mardi Gras crowd pursued by a Mariachi band attached by an elastic band; the intricately designed spooky forest with secrets around every corner before cumulating the stabilisers off open world Alpine world which forces you to combine every new power up you've earned into a single string.  Suddenly the game stops being a celebration of things past and ends up becoming one of the best 3d platformers you have ever played.  And just for shits and giggles you get a smattering of eminently findable collectables which challenge just enough to figure out how to get to there and a selection of Sunshine style void levels which harken back to the origins of the genre.

 

Its magnificent stuff and contains just enough content to not feel elongated but make you damned sure you got your moneys worth.  I rinsed the lot, gathered every time piece and yarn ball and loved almost every minute.  Picked up the DLC for buttons and greatly looking forward to returning to it.

 

Would have been my GOY had it actually released in 2019 / 10

 

 12. Wolfenstein: The New Colossus (PC)

 

There's a lot to love with Machinegames reboot of the Wolfenstein series and I greatly enjoyed the previous two titles for both the meaty gun play and the intelligent writing.

 

This one however somewhat jumps the shark  on the slightly quirky story and ends up jettisoning some of the subtle writing of its predecessor for an all out WTAF plot twist which fails to get any less silly as it works its way to the climax (yes I am looking at you scene with drunk dementia ridden Hitler), despite still having some great character pathos moments which seem to have wandered out of a completely different tonal game.

 

The game however struggles to decide whether it wants to be a balls to the wall all out action movie shooter or a brittle stealth piece with an all too fragile lead and ends up satisfying neither itch.  Far too hard on normal but embarrassingly simplistic on easy I ended up switching the difficulty levels multiple times which lead to a curiously unsatisfying meander through what clearly could have been a fab alternate history shooter.

 

I'll still probably return for future instalments (for nothing else to see where they hell they go next with the increasingly ridiculous plot) and look forward to playing the spin off once it inevitably arrives on one of the many game subscription services....

 

Disappointing / 10

 

13. The Division 2 (PC)

 

Rarely has a game delivered me more hours of well designed and satisfying content and yet completely failed in its objectives to keep me playing on an indefinite basis.  I never got around to playing the original (although this is something I will subsequently right) as GAAS is not really my thing - Destiny aside (and that's a big aside given the 200+ hours I've given up to it and its sequel) and yeah this completely failed to engage the loot hot spot once the new content was exhausted.  One gun looks pretty much identical to another and once the numbers stop going up well there not much there is there?

 

Thing is it really didn't matter as I played 72 hours of single player content before wrapping things up (clocked every mission, side mission and all the episode I and II content) - its possibly one of the most generous games I have ever encountered.  The main campaign is one thrilling set piece after another, but impressively its chock full of 'side' missions that are also excellent.  And lots of open world stuff that's also rewarding and fun - the got to clear them all is just as much fun here as in Far Cry.  And just when you think you've finished it turns out you are only half way through

 

Its also bloody gorgeous (frantic fire fights in a Washington down pour is quite the experience) and pretty much nails the cover shooter dynamic.  Although supposedly a squad based affair, owing mainly to playing the game six months after release I basically was on my own 95% of the time but all the content was manageable - have drone and turret will travel.

 

The plot is a non entity of course but that really makes sod all difference.

 

I had a whale of the time and will surely be back to see what episode 3 has to offer and for those that complain about the endgame - when a game has given you this much fresh content is it really reasonable to complain its not endlessly replayable to boot?

 

14. The Outer Worlds (PC)

 

Obsidian final nail a solid, well realised game.  Its basically a first person Mass Effect with a Fallout meets Bioshock aesthetic and a hint of KOTR.  Best supporting cast of the year, nice straight forward but cleverly written main plot and plenty of side content for those of us that like to dig.

 

Way too much junk loot to collect  (why so much food with status effects you will never use?) and the combat is serviceable at best but great fun from start to end.

 

Felt like I robbed them by getting it at launch on Gamepass / 10

 

15. The Division (PC)

 

So I loved the sequel so much that I decided to try the original.  And its almost as good.  Almost.  Loved the feel of New York in the snow and the main campaign missions are just as good as in the sequel.  You can see however they worked hard on the side content as there's way too much busy work going on in this one.  And I really miss my drone.  Didn't stop me from doing it all though.  But again once it was done I stopped. 

 

More good solid cover shooter fun / 10

 

 

 

 

Spoiler

8. Vampyr (PC)

 

I do have a real fondness for Dontnod's material. Slightly wonky, not always quite realising the potential of their ideas but giving it a bloody good try.

 

This is pretty much the studios signature style writ large.

 

Its mega moody, graphically perhaps a tad basic in place (and quite why so many of the NPCs seem to be drunkenly swaying in conversation will remain a mystery) but hellishly atmospheric.

 

Basically we get a very dark main plot , a conflicted lead character and a wealth of NPC backstory which you draw together piece by piece before deciding whether to eat them, all whilst navigating an endless series of Bioware dialogue wheels.  What's not to like?

 

And yet this is an action RPG and one that doesn't pull its punches, the combat is kinetic and gradually falls into a rhythm but is never going to be a draw in its own right but its brutal enough to compel you, particularly if you choose not to play as a homicidal maniac (and the game does go to great lengths to discourage you from such a play style).

 

Its surprisingly tricky in places if you don't pace yourself, and your not eating everyone in sight, I was slaughtered by random mobs more time than I'd like to mention (and the game kind of gates that anyway by making everyone slightly tasty XP wise late game dining fodder, by which point you've realised that upgrading your weapons is as helpful as be becoming a more powerful vampire). And a couple of the bosses could have been dialled back a little given the games quirky approach to failing to replenish your ammo and health potions on a failed attempt.

 

But it weaves a good tale with only the odd misstep (the main romance suffers a little from failed signposting) and the core gameplay (hack slash and vampire blood baldes, loot the area and then do some talking) stays enjoyable throughout.

 

Its quirky, squared pegged and refreshingly unique. 

 

Overall a highly entertaining 30 hour or so experience.

 

7. Devil May Cry 5 (PC)

So much changes, so much stays then same.  A decade passes between the last numbered entry (writing dmc out is a bad mistake) and all is relatively similar. So this is more crazy character action eventually gifting you with a character that can flick through four different stances and half dozen weapons that can be deployed within a single combo.  No the story makes pretty much zero sense.  Yes the camera still is not quite all there.  Yes its still all amazing fun.

The PC version is perhaps not quite perfect; some slight frame rate pauses where you don't want them but I bloody loved this.  I've adored every preceding title (obviously not 2) and whilst I'm not sure this is quite the  game dmc  managed, its still pretty bloody ace.  Love it Capcom, keep it coming

6. Rage 2 (PC)

So the sequel to the ginger haired step child of iD's output.  I actually loved Rage, honestly swear to god though it was a great game.  Fucking awful ending but that rocket shotgun, well I can forgive a lot.

 Now this almost ended up on the abandoned games, much as I was thoroughly enjoying myself, the last update broke one of the final mission triggers, as in broke and quit to desktop.  But anyway I' had a blast up to that point and yes they did fix it last week so I got to see the credits.  And I came back to check which says a great deal about the game methinks.

So its low brain activity this and high on the open world wander around and blast something front.  But I do like me an open world where the moment to moment gameplay is enthralling and this does combat well like too few other than iD manage.  Its masses of fun clearing up the messy busy work of the map and I plugged about 35 hours in.
 
And it has a great shotgun, what more do you need.

Bizarre game structure, too sparse story.  All valid complaints, but when it comes to wrecking shit up, Rage 2 is on the money. Loved it

5. Super Lucky Tale (PC)

Pallet cleanser and a half decent 3d character platformer which is unusual in itself in 2019.

 Nothing outstanding but  lots of fun.

 3. Crackdown 3 (Xbox One/PC) (10/03/19)

 Well I had originally started playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider and whilst I was kind of enjoying it, it wasn't exactly gripping me.  And then this was released which I had to try.  I also got my first PC capable of playing modern games in well over a decade a week after starting it and was mightily impressed that my progress seamlessly carried over as did my Gamepass membership.

 And I bloody loved it.  The following is shamelessly stolen from my post on the thread as I'm lazy.

All the missions and side quests done and evil corporate bitch dispatched.  I still have a couple of gold medals on the races to get and about 150 orbs give or take but having thoroughly rinsed this otherwise I think I'll take a break before coming back to sweep (not yet returned a month later but I might still do).  Oh and I did none of the driving stuff because well, it feels a tad pointless in a game where you literally can jump large building in a single bound, and I am shit at driving in games anyway.

Anyway only a Gamepass game or not, this was massively enjoyable stuff.  Clever hooks, great weapons (that one from the top of the Science Tower is amazing), a clear crisp visual style and whilst no aspect is anything other that derivative of a 100 other open world games, it does them so damned well.  I have massively fond memories of the Incredible Hulk and Prototype games and this is basically those (and of course Crackdown 1) done for the current gen.

Oh and its bears repeating how much better this looks on a half decent PC to the standard Bone version, played half of this on the Xbox and then got my new laptop and its a striking improvement...

 So yeah its really good.  Would recommend/10

 4. F.E.A.R (PC) 13/04/19

So its been at least 10 years, actually thinking about it probably more like 15 since I had any kind of PC that was capable of playing much more than a bit of mild emulation or Minecraft at a push (dunno been Mac exclusive for the past 5 anyway so the grunt is inversely compatible with the available software anyway).  But yeah anyway, I was forty this year and as my birthday treat to myself (because lets face it no one else is going to post up the silly money required) I bought myself a gaming laptop.

 Being so massively out of the loop on such things, god knows if what I dropped £800 notes on was any good.  Its got an 8th gen I5 something processor, its got a 6gb 1060 GTX Nvida thing.  Its got a HD/SSD combo thing so Windows runs more smoothly than Mac OS does on my 2014 MacBook.  Having played Crackdown 3 on it vs my Mk1 Xbox One and properly gawping at the frame rate and resolution difference, its probably got some grunt.  It also has some very pretty lights on the keyboard when you boot it up and a very nice clicky keyboard so money well spent right?

 But I digress.  Having got a potentially beast like machine that I can play on the sofa whilst the wife watches the real housewives of god knows where on the telly box, what's the first real test I should apply.  Well as I have a a Steam library of well over 100 titles, largely acquired for free thanks to the largesse of humble bundle et al,  despite not really being able to play any of them due to lacking an appropriate machine for the aforementioned time, why not a game from 2005?  That will validate my very expensive purchase right?  A game I probably have an unplayed copy of the 360 version somewhere still?

  I always fancied playing F.E.A.R.  I like FPS's, and I love the Max Payne bullet time thing, so its a no brainer right?  But never got around to it.

 Until now of course.  And I stayed the course and played the whole thing through.  Through the wonders of being able to grab some idle time and pop in the AirPods whilst the kids are glued to you tube and Mrs Dream is idly scrolling through Facebook.  Yup gaming laptop purchase confirmed as worthwhile (we'll ignore the fact that the Switch already empowered this sort of thing).

 And well its really good.  Its a simple conceit.  Its your first day as a member of some random top security assault force.  You are sent in to investigate some weird shit at some secretive corporation.  More weird shit ensues.  Suddenly you are in a massive gun fight and discover that miraculously and completely inexplicably you can slow time and shoot the shit out of everyone and everything without them really realising what is going on.  Which it turns out is just as well as in real time the bullets fly about 10 times faster than in a normal FPS and you would be turned to ribbons without this suddenly discovered super power.

 And so continues, through poor drawn warehouse after warehouse and later non descript early 00s silicon valley office space.  With more than a few trips to the basement and the sewers of course.   

 So yeah the environments are completely unimaginative and veer probably too close to parody of a early naughties shooter.  But the shooting, well the shooting is immense.  From the moment you become aquatinted with the shotgun and reel around cover to blow two assailants into slow motion death convolutions, completely obliterating the head of one of them, then you know you have a winner.  

 Despite being some 14 years old the game still looks impressive now you can turn everything up to max without worry.  Ignore the environments which haven't moved a huge amount on from Doom and focus on the particle effects, where frequently  you can barely see what is going on in the bullet strewn ballet that accompanies your movements.  Its simple stuff, explore a little, massive battle, explore a little more; but oh so moreish. And those explosions are magic.

 Its also tries a little psychological horror.  This is in the main ineffective but the odd jump scare works well.

 So yeah I loved it.  Loved enough indeed to put up with all the messing about in Big Picture Mode to get a working control scheme (because fuck mouse and keyboard, I'm on the sofa here) and putting up with the fact that the game likes to crash after about 10 minutes on every third boot.

 So yeah shortcomings a plenty but more than enough here to make you sad that Monolith have only been making LOTR Assassins Creed clones for the past five years - this is clearly their calling.

2. Crash Bandicoot (Switch)

 Well I did the grunt work on this as it appears about six months ago - then maybe got too frustrated it and meandered off.  So anyway, its a remaster and a really pretty remaster at that  I always had a soft spot for Crash but I'm pretty sure I never finished it on the Psone - stupid bloody save system probably saw to that.  So they fixed that and they made the game look - well pretty much as you remember it, only no this is how you expect games to look now - not the horror of what they actually looked at the time.

 So anyway Crash, its actually a really good game.  Maddeningly frustrating of course in places, but loads of fun and the sheer relief and triumph of beating a tough level is hard to beat.  No I didn't get anywhere near getting all the boxes or finding the hidden gems, its hard enough at it is.  But finally I beat the as it happens only about six levels I had remaining this weekend and yeah its a good game.

 Actually no its really good.  Obviously not Mario level 2d platform quality but its aged really well.  So one down two to go...

1. Shadow Warrior (XBone) 

So I'm on a Gamepass kick (because when you have a backlog of almost a hundred physical games that's logical right) , so I jumped straight from the very enjoyable Strange Brigade to this.  I always fancied this at the time - bit of a old school shooter action with shiny new graphics et al.  And well bugger me if it isn't really good.  Maybe its just lack of exposure to this sort of thing in the late teens of this decade, but it turns out that Doom (2016) wasn't a one off.  This is a full blooded (very bloody infact) run through all the cliches of classic 90s shooter style.  Flitting between quiet looting and exploration to massively frantic arenas of demons - some full throated weapons - and of course lots of locked door maze puzzles.  Maybe its just the nostalgia but this is so much damned fun.  Its got a great shotgun that you can upgrade to fire four barrels.  And its got a Katana that never gets old.  Its far from perfect of course, V sync issues probably should have been left in the last generation and on occasion its a bit too easy to get lost in very similar looking backdrops but after years of narrow corridor shooters this feels like a blast of freedom.  Oh and whilst I grew accustomed to the quirky controls (ADS on R3 is a new one for me) putting all the special moves as combinations of movements on the left stick and a trigger meant I rarely could pull them off with any degree of accuracy during frantic combat.  Just as well that shotgun is so good... 

I gorged on 17 hours or so of the campaign and never found it outstayed its welcome.  Just for a bonus it actually has a semi serious  story that is really beautifully told with some lovely water colour art and a bitter sweet ending to mix in with the quips and the cock jokes.

I downloaded the sequel straight away (god I love Gamepass)

 

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2019 was a decent year for me, as I've recorded a stonking 20 games finished. Mind you, three of those were DLC, but fuck it, it's my list and it's my rules.

 

PES 2019

"You can't finish a football game!", I hear you, and you're right. With games like this, I tend to consider it done when I've played some substantial amount, and here that meant three seasons of the Master League. That's a good hefty chunk of football, over 150 games when you factor in the cups and international fixtures. At least 30 hours of play if you moved immediately from match to match, but it's 127 hours on Steam so I guess I kept playing.

 

Anyway, PES 2019 is great if you like that sort of thing. Expanded licenses means it's now a game where most of the teams are all proper and stuff, if that's important (editing takes care of the rest for non Xbox One folk) and on the pitch the game remains lovely. I guess what separates it from FIFA for me is the power of having an individual player in space. Not a specific player, but any player. Finding the room to breathe is what the game's all about, whether that's through sheer pace, flowing passing, or just grabbing that yard to take a shot on goal. It's a series of thump-the-air moments that feel earned far more often than not. This is all offline, because fuck online. 9

 

Red Dead Redemption 2

I'd only played the original game at the start of 2018, so the sequel arriving about 7 months later was rather timely. Much has been said about Rockstar's constrained mission design, the over-complex controls, the systems in the game that don't have any real bearing on anything, but that all melted when given a sumptuous area of the Old West to live and breathe in for a few months. When it wasn't a third person cover shooter, it was a walking simulator. Take in the environment, go exploring, see what lies in store in almost every building in the world. Here's where some couple froze to death. Here's where a meteor decimated a family. That's what I loved doing most.

 

That, and shooting horses. 9

 

Crackdown 3

I had just begun a spell off work due to stress when this was released, so I duly signed up to Game Pass to give it a whirl. It felt just like my memories of the original game. A nicely open world to take in and explore at your own pace, it was classic arcade fun. I never did upgrade my agent to full capacity, or get all the orbs, I didn't feel at the time like I needed that. But bouncing around the world, making things blow up, climbing higher and higher and getting skills for kills all sent me back to the happy days of 2007. Crackdown 3 was as good as I needed it to be. 8

 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

It's been clear to anyone that the rebooted series has had a look at Nathan Drake's adventures and thought "I'll have me a bit of that", which has often meant that actual tomb raiding has taken a back seat to gung ho third person cover shooting. The third in the series does a very good job at bringing back the tombs, which are the best part of the game, but has taken a backward step in terms of the combat. Lara was ill equipped for close quarters melée, and yet frequently foes would charge her, disorienting the player and making things more frustrating. And then there's the whole uncomfortable white saviour vibe that it has throughout. There are two better games in the reboot series, never mind the series as a whole. 6

 

Abzû

Chilling out underwater, swimming around and doing a few bits and bobs, it's nice and calming but the lack of interaction with a random soul keeps this a step back from Journey. That, plus it felt like it took too long to really get going, and then when it did it was almost over. Let's say we're both at fault for that, though. 7

 

Mission ISS

Look, it has challenges and so I'm counting it. Wander around the space station in VR, smash a docking arm into the station one too many times to really kill any hopes you have of being an astronaut despite your advancing age, poor eyesight and lack of any relevant qualifications, and watch a video of a woman explain the toilet. It's a free VR experience and it's kinda ok. Can't explore the Russian module though. That's a shame. No score for this one.

 

Halo 5: Guardians

Halo's Halo, so there's a certain level of fun you're always going to have. Guardians is let down somewhat by continuing to feature rather annoying Forerunner enemies instead of letting you just punch Elites in the back of the head all the time, and has more than a few frustrating boss fights. It's been ages since I played 4, and I only ever did that one in co-op, so I can't really compare it to that properly but I'd much rather be playing several other games in the series than this. Also, no split-screen co-op means fuck you. 6

 

Double Dragon Neon

I wasn't really feeling this at first. I wasn't even sure I was in the mood when I first took Billy Lee to the streets to bash a few heads. Then the systems came together, the game started getting crazier, and I started having a whole lot of fun, smashing through it all in about a day. A fine game in a genre I don't really play much of. 7

 

Bioshock Infinite

I found most Bioshock games let down by being first person shooters that aren't that great at the shooting (Bioshock 2 is the exception), so come into their own when you're left to explore the world. Columbia isn't as interesting as Rapture, which is an issue, and its story isn't as good as the first game or the second's DLC. But despite being a big racist shithole, Columbia's not the worst place to be traipsing around for a dozen hours or so. The same could be said about England and I know where I'd rather be. 7

 

Bioshock Infinite: Buried at Sea

The first of our DLCs which I'm counting. Buried at Sea, split across two parts, is a very different game to Infinite, with a much more survival horror vibe which I definitely preferred. That it goes back to Rapture and tinkers with elements of the story isn't something I minded, given I'll just ignore it if I see fit to. Bioshock has always been Rapture, really, so this felt much more at home with the name, and a jolly good outing. 8

 

Volume

I loved Metal Gear Solid. I kinda liked the VR missions, but never played all of it because there's just so damn many of them. So an entire game of VR missions should scare me, but instead Volume is a mostly tight and enjoyable take on puzzle stealth with perhaps one or two missions which step the wrong side of frustrating. Plus it has Danny Wallace in it, so I can play half of the game expecting Zydrunas Savickas to show up. 8

 

Apollo 11 VR HD

Like Mission ISS, this is really just a VR experience, but again it has some challenges and so I'm counting it and not just boosting my numbers like with the DLC. Here, you get to watch some videos, sit in your chair and look at a launch from the perspective of the space daddies, and crash the Eagle into the lunar dust more times than you ever thought possible. I claim this as finished even though I never managed that last bit. I rewrote history so many times that day, I'm worried I'll start to think they all died up there. Even Michael Collins, killed by a space sniper. Can't really score this.

 

Inside

The shock waves are a high point. I don't know why they exist, this world that you're running through is truly fucked up, but then you hit this area with its rhythmic boom boom boom and despite watching a young boy repeatedly explode into a thousand gibs, you're still sitting there with glee. Inside is a terrifically tight game of set piece after set piece, with interesting challenges and raising so many unanswered questions. Here are two: what the hell is this world, and why was it so damned good? 9

 

Football, Tactics & Glory

Here's one that most might not have even heard of. The catchily abbreviated FT&G is a turn based football game, and it's ace. In each turn, you have three moves to try and score a goal - playing the ball out of defence, getting it to an attacker, and taking a shot, for example. If your players are good, their tackles will win the ball, their passes won't be intercepted, the goalkeeper won't save that shot. Where it gets interesting is with the special abilities that your players can acquire - long passes that travel further and more accurately than a hoofed ball, special flicks to beat opponents, powerful drives that are hard to hold. If successful, these grant you a free move. So the game shifts from simply giving the ball to your best players, to trying to engineer scenarios where you can take advantage of those free moves, increasing your chances of scoring.

 

The game progresses over the seasons through five divisions, with European football on offer as well for the best teams. The flaw, however, is that the AI doesn't (or at least, didn't when I played it - the game is still being worked on) react to your tactical successes, so if something worked because the AI weren't lined up to defend against it, they don't adjust and you can rack up a few goals before your players get tired. That lack of AI ability to react is what prevents this from being truly superb. You hit that point in the top division where you're just unlikely to lose. You can start over, pick another league, try to master a different approach, but the game's not working you any more.

 

But still, this is great fun while it lasts and well worth looking at for anyone who likes a bit of strategy. You might not even have to like football. 8

 

FIFA 19

What? ANOTHER football game? Yeah, but this time this is just The Journey, that story mode featuring a spoilt brat and his dreams of being the most hated footballer on the planet. At least, I think that's the plot. It's Alex Hunter's third season as a professional and at this point he's wrangled a move to his third "permanent" club. What's more, the cunt hopped across the city from Atletico to Real. He's surrounded himself with an entourage, he ignores his sister and best mate, and he's just the worst human being who ever lived. You never saw Hitler try to establish a social media brand.

 

Anyway, I don't like FIFA as much as PES, players feel a bit too light, I've got less confidence in what's going on. Some of that is down to me, I'm sure, but there's far fewer thump-the-air moments, and more goals that feel like I've just been lucky to get into the right position. I should note, I play this as the entire team, because this just can't sustain a proper AI v AI match where I control just one player. It's always turgid. But this is less a review of FIFA 19, and more of this mode that once made me happy to just nick a goal for a young player during his spell with Aston Villa in the Championship, but by now has me just longing for the sections where you get to play as Danny, who is at least down to earth despite liking banter a bit too much. Oh, and the spots where you play as Kim in the Women's World Cup are pretty good. But that Alex Hunter - man, what a fucking prick. 6

 

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I posted about this earlier in the thread, so I won't go into too much detail here. This felt like a first person Metal Gear Solid and, given the devs mentioned that as an inspiration, well done to them. I absolutely loved this, which is apparent in what I then went on to play for most of the rest of the year. The shfits to third person when taking cover really enhance the stealth gameplay, and more games should do this. Just not Doom. Don't do this, Doom. 9

 

Deus Ex: Human Revolution: The Missing Link

The DLC is a whole mission that gets integrated into the main game in the Director's Cut edition, but here I've had to play it after. And thanks to some glitching textures, I've had to play ito on the Xbox 360 and all. This is an enjoyable mission which probably mucks up the narrative flow of the main game, featuring a cast of characters who play no further role in the main storyline and, unlike the side missions in Detroit and Hengsha, aren't optional. Some lovely rainy water effects too on the ship's deck, then it's silver cargo crates for the rest of all time. Good if you want more Deus Ex, though. 7

 

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Happily, despite changing the control system, the game offers the previous game's mapping with the forewarning that you might not be able to do everything. They lied - you can do everything. I've talked about this one earlier as well, so here I'll just say that this wasn't quite as good. Mechanically, it's all top stuff, but I felt the storyline wasn't as tight for some reason. Human Revolution felt like a journey into the depths (or, more accurately, heights) from Jensen, a series of points of no return as he looks for answers, even though you could and did actually return several times. In Mankind Divided, Jensen returns to Prague so often it feels like every main mission is a chunk of DLC. I dunno, for that reason I didn't enjoy it as much. Or I could have just been burnt out on Deus Ex. 8

 

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: Jensen's Stories

More DLC! There are three of these and I wasn't initially sure I'd bother, as the game didn't make it clear if they were tiny little hour long submissions, or nicely fleshed out affairs like the Missing Link. Well, two of them are closer to the latter, so worth a dip. A Criminal Past is the best of them, a trip to a maximum security prison where Jensen is stripped of his augs, so you get to slum it out for a while. Good if you want more Deus Ex. I need a break from it. 7

 

Celeste

I end the year on one of those rare games that just feel special. Celeste started life as a Pico-8 game with a simple set of mechanics - you can jump, do a mid-air dash, and climb vertical surfaces for a while, across 30 levels. The main game keeps those same mechanics but applies them across several chapters, introducing new environments and mechanics, and telling the story of Madeline seeking to climb Celeste mountain in a bid to rid her of her own self doubt. The soundtrack by Lena Raine is absolutely stonking, with particular mention to the superb Confronting Myself, which syncs up with the gameplay brilliantly.

 

Celeste is great. Precision twitch platforming isn't for everyone, but Celeste does its best to make it so - options are available to slow down the game, offer multiple dashes rather than one, and even offer invulnerability, all without punishing the player or restricting them. You can confortably finish the game if you want to. Whether or not you'll be satisfied on doing so is up to you.

 

I played this on Game Pass, and have it on PC thanks to Epic, but still I bought it on Switch for another playthrough. I don't do that sort of thing. With Celeste, it was barely a decision. 10

 

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My final tally for the year was as follows:

 

 01/01 - SuperHot (PSVR) 

03/01 - Spiderman Silver Lining DLC (PS4) - 100% Complete

09/01 - Resident Evil Revelations (Switch)

10/01 - The Gardens Between (Xbox One Gamepass)

14/01 - The Eternal Castle (PC) 

22/01 - Resident Evil Revelations 2 (Switch)

01/02 - Resident Evil 2 Remake (PS4) - Leon Playthrough

04/02 - Resident Evil 2 Remake (PS4) - Claire (2nd Run) Playthrough

10/02 - Moss (PS4)

15/03 - Metro Exodus (PS4)

23/04 - Dangerous Driving (PS4)

01/05 - The Division 2 (PS4)

15/06 - A Plague Tale: Innocence (PS4)

15/06 - Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Switch)

19/06 - Bound (PS4)

20/07 - Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (PS4)

11/08 - Judgment (PS4)

06/09 - Dragon Quest XI (PS4)

13/09 - Gears 5 (Xbox One Gamepass)

26/09 - Control (PS4)

28/09 - Metro Exodus: The Two Colonels DLC (PS4)

10/10 - Astral Chain (Switch)

21/10 - Indivisible (PS4)

23/11 - Death Stranding (PS4)

08/12 - Disco Elysium (PC)

13/12 - The Touryst (Switch)

24/12 - Luigi's Mansion 3 (Switch)

27/12 - The Outer Worlds (Xbox One Gamepass)

 

28 title, including some real big timesinks. Finally getting the willpower to resist playing multiple titles at once has worked wonders, and resulted in one of the most enjoyable years of gaming I can remember. Lets see if I can keep it going in 2020.

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