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#4321 Ocelot



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Posted 05 June 2018 - 06:25 AM

Alright, Zero Time Dilemma got really weird, and I can see why people hate it. Lemme just do a quick rundown of some of the late-game plot twists (big spoilers, if anyone ever plans to play this game some day):




I finished Yakuza Ishin, and I absolutely loved it. 62 hours of some of the best the Yakuza series has to offer. There was a while there where I thought it might end up being my favourite game in the series, but ultimately I don't think it stuck the landing as well as 0 and 2 did for me. Which is not to say the ending isn't great (it is!), just that it relies on some historical knowledge that I think your average Japanese player might be at least vaguely familiar with, whereas a white Aussie who learnt Japanese from video games had no idea about. Not enough to spoil the game, but enough to have me thinking, "Wait, what?" at a pivotal moment.


But, oh man, what a game it was. The Yakuza series has this unspoken rule that anything goes during gameplay, but in cutscenes the games will generally follow the rules of our real world. It's the reason you can clearly murder men in gameplay, but when the cutscenes take over they simply stagger away clutching their sides and apologising, and how a gun can be only a minor annoyance in gameplay but a genuine threat in a major story cutscene. But it feels like the developers got a little frisky when making this game, and sometimes the gameplay world bleeds into the cutscene world, resulting in some outrageous moments of pure hype. At a certain point in this game characters just start cutting BULLETS out of the air, and the bosses start getting borderline DBZ powerup sequences before their fights. One guy can straight up Instant Transmission, I swear to God. It's AWESOME!


I honestly don't know why Sega never brought this game out in the West. It's easily on-par with (or better than) every other currently-localised Yakuza game, and it came out in a period early in the PS4's lifespan when people were begging for new games. Are you telling me people wouldn't want to play a sick samurai sword game? Get out of my face, you wouldn't dare. I really hope Sega rethinks their decision at some point, even if it's only when the game's up for a PS5 remaster, because way more people need to be able to play it.


And, finally, I played a little bit of that there Dark Souls Remastered. This game is, what, seven years old now, and basically universally acclaimed? I'd still never even touched a moment of it to this day. And not because I doubted what people were saying about it or anything; I was perfectly willing to believe it was the masterpiece everyone claimed it to be, I just never thought it'd be my kind of thing. I like a game where you hit a guy with a sword, but I'm also easily frustrated, and knowing what I knew about the game's notorious difficulty and punishing perma-ish-death system, I always just wrote it off as a "you fellers enjoy yourselves" kind of situation. 


Buuut then this remaster came out, and it was cheap and 60FPS and, well, here we are. I played a couple of hours of it (I've just got past the angry pig with the unarmoured butthole and found an elevator back to Firelink Shrine), and, hey, it's pretty cool! It actually feels a lot better than I thought it would after seeing various bits of footage over the years. I always figured it'd be all loose and squirrelly from the way the character seems to be able to twirl on the spot and get the weightless corpses of enemies tangled around his feet, but it's actually incredible solid-feeling and responsive. And the combat, while a world away from anything resembling character action, feels great, too. It's not hard in terms of simply killing an enemy, but it requires you to think a couple of moves ahead in terms of whether there are other enemies around, where you're standing, what your stamina bar looks like and probably some other stuff I'm not thinking about yet. I like it.


So, I don't really know what I'm doing, but I just thought I'd give it a try and see how I do. I'm just playing as a Warrior, and I've been bonking fellows with a sword and occasionally a spear when I'm in a tight hallway, and I feel like I'm doing OK. I don't really know what to spend my souls on, but I figure Vitality and Endurance must be safe bets, right? I'm enjoying myself so far.


EDIT - How 'bout those Bell Gargoyles, huh? Turns out this game's pretty hard. I feel like I pretty much know what I need to know to win the fight, but now it's just a matter of putting it all together in one good run. Run to the left and circle around them when they do their flame breath attack, and dodge everything else, don't back yourself into a corner; I guess this is that "Git gud" I've heard so much about. I managed to kill one of them once, but I ran out of Estus and only had a sliver of health for the other. But I'm gonna get those guys, don't you worry.

#4322 Ocelot



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Posted 14 June 2018 - 01:29 AM

I need to tell you guys about this game called Vampyr, because I think I might love it. It's a new action RPG from Dontnod, the people what made Life is Strange, where you play as a vampire named Jonathan in foggy post-war London, and to be honest it's pretty janky and gives a really bad first impression, but if you stick with it for a couple of hours it turns into an incredible RPG with some of the most interesting RPG-ing mechanics I've seen in years. Let's get into this bad boy!


Step 1: OK, so check this out: vampires eat people, right? And RPGs (good ones, at least) are all about making choices about how you're going to treat people and whether you're going to be a Paragon or a Renegade, or a cool customer somewhere in between. So what Vampyr does is give you a world where every NPC in the game is named, with their own personality, sub story, side quests and social links with other characters, with an excellent Mass Effect style dialogue wheel and wonderful branching conversation options with each of them. Apart from generic enemies you fight in combat sections, there are no nameless, faceless NPCs here; it's a really intricately crafted and interlinked world of people. Those links take the form of friendships, professional rivalries, family relationships and all manner of others, and, of course, you find out through the old RPG routine of talking to everyone and exhausting dialogue trees. Vampyr treats new morsels of information as keys that will unlock new branches of those dialogue trees, so if you're anything like me you'll want to spend hours just moseying around prying into everyone's private business so you can find out everything about them, open up new sidequests and generally just find out all the hot gossip.


Step 2: Alright, but now check THIS out: you can eat every named character in this game. All of them. In the midst of dialogue there's a button you can hit to mesmerise them with your vampire powers, walk them out into the shadows and suck'em dry. Whether you can glamour a certain character is governed by your Mesmerisation Level, so it isn't a complete free-for-all where you can eat every NPC at the start of the game and break the story entirely (I'm assuming certain important story characters won't be edible until towards the end), but I think that's pretty cool all the same.


Step 3: Right, you with me so far? Now see if you can hang with THIS: as a classy gentleman vampire, you don't want to drink just any old blood. In fact, Vampire Jonathan is a physician, one who specialises in blood transfusions no less, so he has an innate sense for the quality of a human's blood. In gameplay terms, this manifests as a checklist of things you can do with each of your potential victims to improve the quality of their blood, and thus the quantity of XP you'll receive if you decide to have a nibble on them. If you just walk up to a new character and chomp'em, you'll miss out on a lot of potential XP that you might have been able to reap if you'd spent a little time getting to know them, getting them to reveal their inner secrets, maybe completing a side quest for them that sets their mind at ease and makes their delicious blood all the sweeter. It becomes this perverse game of solving people's problems like a good little RPG protagonist, but at the same time feeling like you're just fattening up all your little piggies for the inevitable feast :P


Step 4: BOYS, this is where it all comes together. This game doesn't have a difficulty setting, instead the game's challenge is predicated on how much XP you can suck down to buy the necessary stat upgrades to spec your character out just right. You'll get a drip feed of XP from conversations and unlocking new hints about characters, a decent chunk of it from completing quests, but by far the biggest source of XP comes from sucking the blood of characters in the game. If you manage to complete all their little substories and get their blood to maximum tastiness level you can get HUGE blasts of XP from them. And the game tells you this right as you load it up: if you want the game to be easier, you've gotta eat those dudes.


So, I think this is brilliant. I think it's not only an incredibly clever RPG mechanic, but a wonderful new twist on the morality system and even a pretty cool way of designing a game's difficulty level, and they're all tied together. If you're struggling with the difficulty you have to consider biting some of the people that you're trying to help in the game, but then you also have to consider what's going to happen with all the other characters they're linked to, and what you might be missing out on later in the game in terms of unlockable substories or sidequests. You obviously want to complete those characters' sidequests to fatten them up to get the most XP out of them, but in doing so you learn their stories, and then it becomes a matter of "Can I kill this guy knowing that he has children at home waiting for him?" And then how is everyone else going to react if people around them start going missing?


I honestly don't know, and I find it absolutely fascinating. I'm trying to play the game without chomping on any of these people, because I generally like to play a goodie-two-shoes in RPGs, but also because I'm really enjoying all the dialogue trees and character relationships and I don't want to lock myself out of them. I'm so curious about what might happen if I started gnoshing these guys, though! The game tells me there will be consequences, and the atmosphere they've created so far is enough for me to believe them. I'm definitely going to have to do another playthrough once I finish it.


I don't think I've been this enthralled with just wandering around talking to characters since The Witcher 3, which is probably the highest praise I can muster. To be clear, I don't think Vampyr's technical aspects are up to the comparison (the writing is a bit plain and the voice acting lacks personality, for starters), but considering this was probably made on a much smaller budget I'm still really impressed. The actual action gameplay is kind of a Bloodborne-lite in design, but far short of that game in execution; the combat really doesn't feel very good, but it's at least manageable. The meat of the game is definitely in the RPG-ing, and I'm really surprised by how much I've been enjoying it so far.

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