LTTP: Resident Evil 7: biohazard

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It took a while but I finally played Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. I haven’t touched a Resident Evil game since Resident Evil 5 for the PlayStation 3. The demo of Resident Evil 6 was ridiculous but reviews scared me off. I didn’t consider either of them horror games – I didn’t even consider Resident Evil 4 a horror game. The last Resident Evil game to unsettle me was the Resident Evil Remake on the GameCube.  

It’s been well over 10 years since I considered a Resident Evil game unnerving and I’m glad they’re back at it with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. 

A brand new engine, aptly dubbed RE Engine, adorned RE7. It’s a solid engine and ran well enough on my GTX 1070 powered PC but it certainly showed its age when compared to the likes of Resident Evil 2 or Devil May Cry V. Textures were especially grimy looking in daylight. The night is full of terror — or at least — dimly lit and grungy confined spaces are. RE7 was in its element in the opening hours where everything is still a mystery and the imagination is running wild.  

The new first person perspective placed me right in the front row of the horrors. Gruesome faces and brutal attacks that would normally kill any human were directed right at me. I may have been playing as Ethan but I felt those knife and chainsaw attacks. The combination of disturbing faces and spine tingling sounds worked together to unsettle me.  

Resident Evil games were at their most unnerving when they were set in disheveled but familiar places. The creepy houses wrought with cobwebs, dust, and remains that lead imaginations down cynical paths built tension. RE7 had a handful of those houses. I found it a little silly that the Baker family had so many houses on their property. It lead to a couple of excellent areas in which to scare me but its believability unraveled with each passing hour. 

RE7 may have started out as a grounded horror game but it quickly revealed itself to be a tried & true Resident Evil game and all that entailed. Herbs? Knife? Inventory juggling, weird specialty keys, and light puzzle solving all surfaced themselves as the game and story unfolded. Umbrella Corporation, talks of cover ups, and biological weapons testing came back in force by the end of it all. It was somewhat predictable and trite, but it was classic RE fun. 

Fun scares and puzzles but the combat was by far the game’s weakest element. One could argue they’re continuing the franchise’s classic roots but that’s not a valid excuse for lame boss or easily cheesed enemy encounters. It felt like I was supposed to employ lame tactics in order to overcome the adversities. I didn’t enjoy the fact that I was just going through the motion of avoiding enemies or watching some dumb boss attack a pillar in a pathetic attempt to get to me.  

The controls took a bit of getting used to. Years of muscle memory with first person shooters built-up an expectation with regards to speed. There was a deliberate sluggishness to the Resident Evil 7. I was able to pull off everything I wanted but I was forced to play at their pace. Reloading of weapons took longer than I was used to. I also had the turning speed of a tank which could have been remedied by utilizing the classic Resident Evil quick turn, but it rarely came to mind in the thick of it. It reminded me of Red Dead Redemption 2’s first person mode. It felt like they literally took classic Resident Evil and plopped in a first person view. It works but it takes a bit of getting used to. 

After finishing Resident Evil 7: biohazard, I came away rejuvenated with the Resident Evil franchise. It’s fun dumb horror and I’m glad Capcom found their groove with this franchise again. I look forward to playing Resident Evil 2 Remake and the upcoming Resident Evil 3 Remake, but I hope to see Capcom return to a first person Resident Evil game again. They’ve proven it works and they’ve also proven they’re good at it. 

I liked it

Ratings Guide

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Review

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is my favorite 2D Zelda game. I’ve played Phantom Hourglass, A Link to the Past, and now Link’s Awakening but that 3DS original continues to be my favorite.  

I wouldn’t have played Link’s Awakening if Nintendo didn’t remake it for the Switch. The most Game Boy I experienced was Pokemon Yellow via emulator. I owned a Game Boy Advance but we only bought Pokemon Ruby for it. The Game Boy was a Pokemon machine and nothing else.  

For the longest time I mistakenly thought Link’s Awakening was a lite version of A Link to the Past for the handheld. There were some resemblances to the SNES classic but this was a wholly original adventure. However, it had some shockingly rudimentary side-scrolling segments. This was surprising coming from the makers of Super Mario. I realize it’s likely a faithful adaptation from the Game Boy days but those moments stood out as oddities considering the Goombas and other Mario hallmarks within them. 

Nintendo have always been very good at creating a beautiful and timeless aesthetic for their 2D games and I think this may be their best work yet. Unfortunately uncharacteristic performance dips frequently plague the overworld and even occasionally in dungeons. They were not game breaking but it was odd to see these issues so prevalent in a Nintendo developed title. I even waited a few months in hopes for a patch but ultimately gave up on that idea. 

These issues are even more boggling when a more graphically and technologically ambitious title like Luigi’s Mansion 3 is so performant.  

Thankfully the flow of the game was not nearly as bumpy. I hit some trouble spots with locating a few entrances but after night’s sleep I was able to pick out that cracked wall or finally recall the part of the map that I didn’t revisit yet. Progress was not as straightforward as it could have been but that’s part of the original’s DNA. 

Remakes in general are tricky propositions. How much does one change? How faithful does it have to be to the original? Some of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’s flow issues could have been ironed out but that would have resulted in a much shorter game. Upon reflection, I think this remake did a bang up job walking that line between modernizing and remaining faithful to the original. If I can pick up a guide referring to the Game Boy version and have it still be relevant in this 2019 remake, I think they’re onto something. It’s a shame about the performance issues though.  

I liked it

Ratings Guide

The Outer Worlds PC Review

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I think Fallout 3 may be last Bethesda-style RPG that I enjoyed and will enjoy. I tried Obsidian Entertainment’s Fallout: New Vegas which was so buggy on PC at launch that I effectively wrote it off. I didn’t much care for Skyrim either. I learned my lesson and didn’t bother with Fallout 4. I was tired of the treks across post-apocalyptic wastes and clunky action. I haven’t returned to one of those Bethesda-style action RPG in 7 years and was going to keep it that way until The Outer Worlds launched on Xbox Game Pass. I heard rumblings of it being Fallout meets Mass Effect and was intrigued.

Obsidian looked like they were on a quest to prove to the world that they could make a better version of one of those Bethesda-style action RPGs without the bugs and a strong narrative backbone. The space faring sci-fi setting was a departure from the Fallouts and Elder Scrolls of the Bethesda but anyone who’s familiar with Bethesda’s work will see past the aesthetic differences.

They made one of those games at a smaller and more manageable scale. It wasn’t a sprawling, detailed or intricate Bethesda’s behemoths but it was certainly lightyears ahead on the stability front. It also looked markedly better thanks to superb art and that Unreal Engine 4.0 magic.

The game makes a wonderful first impression filled with promise of adventure and good times. There were fun and humorous moments in dialog, hacked terminals, and combat. Then I landed in Monarch and — very much like its citizens — I was tired of it. I met with the new corporations and factions, heard their stories, and was bored of it all. The runaway capitalism schtick was no longer hitting its mark. Conspiracy theories seeped in to replace it but by the time I reached the jewel of the Halcyon colony, Byzantium, I was jaded and desperate to wrap up my time with this game.

Building my character was fun and motivated me to engage with the quests, combat, and exploration. I liked the perk system and the choice of accepting a flaw in favor of a perk point. I took the concussion flaw for an extra skill point after suffering repeated blows to the head. In retrospect, that hindered me a bit because I focused on expanding dialog and hacking options with a sprinkle of engineering and science on the side. I wanted to keep options open and was willing to forgo combat effectiveness for it.

The combat was serviceable. Tactical Time Dilation was an interesting take on Fallout’s V.A.T.S. It gave me the opportunity to slow down time, target weak spots, and inflict status effects such as blinding or crippling enemies. I could have finished the game without it but then I would have been forced to fight in real time and that wasn’t ideal considering my lack of investment in combat skills. A mixture of cheesy tactics and TTD took me far and I would argue that it may have taken me too far because I was melting against the likes of Universal Defense Logistics in the latter stages of the game. When I was looting UDL forces for better armor on the run up towards the end, I realized something had gone awry.

I probably could have avoided most of my deaths with judicious expenditures but I was stubborn and was willing to send my companions out as fodder. I am certain I would have changed my reckless ways if I had chosen a difficulty beyond “hard” where companion permadeath was enabled.

When I heard of the inclusion of companions and their quests, I immediately thought of Mass Effect 2. I misplaced my optimism for these companion quests because they were generally uninteresting and rote. I spent far too much time helping Parvati secure a date. Getting Vicar Max high in search of enlightenment was a letdown. And the others? Insurance fraud and wild goose chases. These quirky quests and tidbits were given too much limelight in the Outer Worlds. They may have contributed towards the ending I received but I didn’t like the pay offs.

The faction quests unlocked material change in the world and they offered insight to the political workings of the colony. Trying to find the balance of happiness for all parties was intriguing. Did Obsidian intentionally want me to prefer helping these corporations over my companions?

I came to The Outer Worlds with thoughts of Mass Effect mixed with a Bethesda-style action RPG. Instead, I got a Bethesda-style action RPG with a dash of Mass Effect flavoring. The first few hours of it was great but I felt all of it outstayed its welcome due to its limitations. I started to see familiar faces on new characters. I grew weary of the same talking heads with their tiresome tales of woe. It’s been 10 years since my last enjoyable foray into this style of RPG and unless there are drastic changes to the formula, it will be another 10 before I revisit it.

I don’t like it

Ratings Guide

LTTP: Dragon Quest VIII [3DS]

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I started Dragon Quest VIII on the Nintendo 3DS over a year ago – it may even be closer to two years at this point. It didn’t keep my attention like Dragon Quest VII. I visited a new town, move the plot forward a bit, and eventually put it on ice for a month or so before repeating the cycle again. It took the pending release of Dragon Quest XI for the Nintendo Switch before I got back on this horse and rode it towards the finish line.  

It was surprisingly easy to get back into the groove of things after each hiatus. The story was exceptionally simple to follow and didn’t require much of my attention. I felt the main story arch and side quests in this game paled in comparison to Dragon Quest VII. It was a far more intimate story from the outset which kept me engaged early on. Each new character’s introduction invigorated the story but it wasn’t long before everything began to wane. I didn’t expect the game to be filled with a large number of character introductions and backstories, but I expected something else to take the baton. I expected intriguing side quests and a strong main story to pick things up. Each new town or area gave the game a fleeting jolt of excitement but when there’s more hours left than content, the game felt like a struggle to wade through. 

Accelerated battle speeds and the use of A.I. Tactics made the game’s numerous combat encounters tolerable. I eventually over-leveled via Metal Slimes and lived in the veil of Holy Protection during the back third of the game but I generally didn’t care enough to involve myself in the battle system. A 50/50 mix of “Fight Wisely” and “Focus on Healing” took me through the final boss with relative ease. I felt like I was more of a party manager taking care of the strategic side of things and only involving myself when it was absolutely needed.  

Jessica’s outfit was ridiculous back in 2005 and it’s still ridiculous today. Her outfit was doubly stupid in the snowy mountains when everyone was shivering. It was blemish in an otherwise beautiful game. Toriyama’s art and cel-shaded technology was a marriage that stood the test of time; the game still looks great on the Nintendo 3DS. 

The voice acting was a big deal 14 years ago but it’s a slog today. Every spoken line of dialog was excessively slow and I ended up thumbing past much of it. I didn’t miss much. I really could have done without the “COR BLIMEY”. Bless them for trying to make it work with the Toriyama aesthetic though. 

A functioning day-night cycle with puzzles and events tied to the time of day made highlighted the fact that this feature must have been another technological advancement at the time. The handful of use cases were well done but contrived.  

The PlayStation 2 version of Dragon Quest VIII was the first game of this long running franchise that I ever laid hands-on. I barely scratched the surface of it before laying it down for more tantalizing games at the time. My journey throughout this Nintendo 3DS re-release was filled with similar diversions where other games easily drew me away. For all its charm and elegance, waning narrative hooks left me with too many natural departure points. The story started out strong but there just wasn’t enough worthwhile threads or beats to keep me going. I felt there were many charming novelties that elevated an otherwise middling JRPG.  

It was okay 

Ratings Guide

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