Game of the Year 2018 Day 3 of 3

  1. God of War
  2. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
  3. Marvel’s Spider-man
  4. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII
  5. Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee
  6. Yakuza 6
  7. Forza Horizon 4
  8. Dragon Ball FighterZ
  9. Monster Hunter World
  10. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

How many franchises can pull these kinds of drastic changes between games? God of War’s formula was working. It was getting stale but it was working. Sony and Santa Monica Studio didn’t have to shake things up but they did, it worked, and I loved it. 

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission sold me on PlayStation VR. It was a fantastic fusion of 3D platforming and virtual reality gimmicks. By the end of it, I felt it validated my purchase of the PlayStation VR. 

Marvel’s Spider-man is easily the best Spider-man and rivals some of the best superhero games of all time. It’s also my favorite adaptation of Spider-man and that includes the movies. 

I didn’t buy a Call of Duty title since Call of Duty: Black Ops III. I initially skipped the two Call of Duty games that featured single player campaigns. I eventually picked up Infinite Warfare on sale for it’s campaign but I realized that I was just here for the multiplayer component. And it’s worth it. 

The Kanto region has never looked as good as it did in Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee. It’s the ideal blend of old and new. 

Yakuza 6 did right by Kiryu Kazuma. Coming from the heights of Yakuza 0 was never going to be easy but this grizzled yakuza still managed to entertain despite the age.  

Forza Horizon 4 was my first foray into the Forza spin-off and I had a great time. I didn’t see it until the end but I still enjoyed what I played. I’m not the biggest fan of open world racers but Forza Horizon 4 won me over. 

Dragon Ball FighterZ was a childhood dream come true. I just wished I dreamt of solid single player and online modes as well.  

Monster Hunter World showed there’s a lot to like about this long running franchise. Capcom built a solid foundation for the future and I look forward to the sequel that allows me to play co-op without jumping through cumbersome hoops. 

There’s a lot of love of video game history in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I have yet to sink my teeth into it but what I tasted was enough to keep me wanting. 

God of War PS4 Review

God of War put Sony’s Santa Monica Studio on the map during the PlayStation 2 days. While their PlayStation 3 output wasn’t a barn burner like Naughty Dog’s Uncharted and The Last of Us titles, they were still a force to be reckoned with. I loved God of War III but felt God of War: Ascension was superfluous at best. It’s been 5 years their last big title and was very curious how they were going to make their mark on the PlayStation 4.

When I first laid eyes on this reinvented God of War, I didn’t know what to make of it. On one hand, it looks like they threw out everything but Kratos, the name, and reinvented with modern sensibilities. On the other hand, they threw out all the memorable and distinctly amazing qualities of the old games as well – primarily the scale and gravitas. I was very curious how this game would turn out and I was going to find out on day one.

God of War was a long game. I don’t know my hour count but I played it on a regular basis for over a month. My total playtime was inflated due to my decision to play on Hard difficulty but despite that wrinkle, there’s a lot of game here. I’m sure a significant percentage of that game is spent traversing via row boat but since they weaved in fun little Norse mythology related stories during these moments, I still felt it was worthwhile content. Even though they built in the ability to interrupt and resume boat stories, I still took the time to just sit in my boat and listen to Mimir’s tales.

We’ve heard intentions for Kratos to move from his Greek stomping grounds for what seemed like ages now. The idea of Kratos moving into the Norse realms seemed absurd to me. How were they going to justify pitting this angry Spartan against Odin and his ilk? Apparently the answer was: Kratos just wanted to get away. Portraying this world where different mythologies occupied different regions of the world made a lot of sense — it’s how it is in the real world, why wouldn’t it be like that in God of War’s version of Earth?

I loved how Kratos was ashamed of his past life in Sparta. He slew numerous Gods, Titans, and mortals alike during his quest to take down Zeus. Moving to Midgaard and starting a new family was the last thing I expected Kratos to do but here we are. He has moved on from avenging Calliope to raising Atreus. Kratos was learning to become a father in function and not just in name. While we saw Kratos interact with Calliope in God of War: Chains of Olympus, the relationship was never explored like this.

I loved seeing Kratos and Atreus’ relationship develop. They weren’t complete strangers in the beginning of the tale, but Kratos did not know much about his son. He knew of the basics (like the audience), but we got to know Atreus and his relationship with his mother and Norse mythology throughout the course of the journey. Watching Atreus grow angry, petulant, brave, cocky, and confident was captivating. When a game manages to evoke frustration towards a boy whom I grew to trust and rely on, there’s nothing to say but: kudos.

God of War showed an aged Kratos but an evolving one as well. He didn’t become a great father by the time the credits rolled. However, his relationship with his son did improve, albeit at an accelerated pace. Atreus learned a lot about himself and his father throughout the course of their journey to scatter his late mother’s ashes. He handled it in a believable manner but I felt he processed it in an unconvincing timeline.

Kratos and I also learned a lot about Norse mythology via Atreus and our traveling companion, Mimir. I enjoyed Mimir’s presence and found the game increasingly more engaging after he “stepped” onto the stage. Brok and Sindri were very helpful and added levity to many of the game’s proceedings but they didn’t give the context and flavor that I needed. I wanted to know more about the Aesir, the Valkyries, the Giants, and the realms that Kratos and Atreus found themselves in. Mimir filled the role I wanted and then some.

Mimir was not only helpful narratively, he also served as the literal eyes behind Kratos’ back. The unwritten rule in many third person over the shoulder games like this is to not attack the player from the behind. God of War didn’t care for those conventions and routinely strikes at Kratos from his blind spot. On screen indicators, and shouts from Atreus and Mimir give me a sense of where dangers are coming from. In theory this should be enough but when I’m in the thick of carving undead with Kratos’ magical axes, a single warning sign may not be enough. This was especially true early on.

I’ve played my fair share of From Software’s Bloodborne, so I’ve been conditioned to expect a certain pace for melee combat. I struggled with the combat for the first three hours or so. I died a lot. Some of it had to do with the fact that I played on hard difficulty but a lot of it was the relatively foreign nature of the combat. But once I got the hang of it, began upgrading equipment, and unlocking new abilities, the game clicked. I still died but it wasn’t’ a struggle like early on. There was only one battle where I struggled mightily and it was optional.

God of War reshaped my expectations for long running and successful modern franchises. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End made strides to evolve their character narratively but it didn’t make a drastic in gameplay. We need more games like this; the Breath of the Wilds and Metroid: Primes of the world. I’m happy to see developers of these franchises toss out the playbook and re-evaluate everything when it feels right. I don’t expect next God of War title to reinvent the wheel again but they should feel welcomed to do so the next time the franchise hits a rut. The pay offs can be tremendous.

Verdict:
I love it

Layoffs hit Santa Monica studio. New IP canned

Sony Santa Monica is one of my favorite developers. The talented studio behind the God of War franchise are known for producing hit after hit. Even though God of War: Ascension wasn’t the brightest star in their portfolio, it was a title of high production value.

According to IGN, approximately 50 employees were let go at Sony Santa Monica. They were associated with the new IP Stig Asmussen was leading. I was looking forward to what the God of War III director was up to. He did a pretty darn good job directing the third instalment.

With Irrational Games shutting its doors earlier this month and now this, I feel like no one is safe. Even big studios with blockbuster titles can end up on the chopping block. With all this talent floating about, I’m curious what the future holds. Will we see a new studio form up? A bunch of independent development studios?

Or is this the a sign of crumbling game’s industry?

Checkpoint: Why I Play Games Edition (Pt. 2)

checkpoint-why-i-play-games-edition-pt-2

Today I’ll shed light on one of my favorite reasons to play games: to learn new things. I was introduced to the concept of hostess clubs via the Yakuza games. I experienced some of the traditions involved with Golden Week through the Persona games. And how can I not give credit to the plethora of World War II games for familiarizing me with all those historic battles?

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