22 votes

Tildes Game Review Journal - September 2021

I really enjoy reading through the weekly gaming threads where people talk about what they're currently playing. Those often give really interesting in-the-moment commentary, and I was thinking it might be nice to have a spot for more formalized "I'm finished with a game" thoughts and reflections.

This thread is for when you're done with a game and you want to give your finalized overview of it. Did you enjoy it? What did it do well? What were some of its frustrations? Would you recommend it to others? That sort of thing.

For ease of readability, please bold the title for the game you're reviewing.

If this is something the community likes, I'm thinking it could be a recurring monthly thing. Consider this month's post a trial run to see whether this is a concept worth continuing.

5 comments

  1. emnii
    Link
    Dishonored 2 I've been playing this game off and on since it came out. Yesterday, I finally finished it. Dishonored 2 is a game that I want to play carefully and thoroughly but I don't have the...

    Dishonored 2

    I've been playing this game off and on since it came out. Yesterday, I finally finished it.

    Dishonored 2 is a game that I want to play carefully and thoroughly but I don't have the attention span to do that for long stretches of time. Every level is large and packed full of little details. I want to see them all, but there are baddies all over. I want to take them all out, but I'm playing non-lethal for the good ending.

    This makes Dishonored 2 an exercise in restraint for me. Instead of charging in, I'm going to scout enemy patterns and try to catch them off guard. Instead of quickly murdering them, I'm going to choke them out slowly and hide the body. Instead of going to the objective and doing the objective as quickly and efficiently as possible, I'm going to skirt the edges of the map and look for that alternative solution to murder.

    Over the course of five years, I can't say I remember every detail, nor can I say I love the game, but I can say I love what it does. It's got amazing level design, every option is viable, and it's fun to play. But it's also stressful and demanding, not something that should be played half awake.

    6 votes
  2. kfwyre
    Link
    Another Lost Phone: Laura's Story This is a standalone sequel to A Normal Lost Phone and follows the same conceit as the first game: you have found someone's phone and you must look through the...

    Another Lost Phone: Laura's Story

    This is a standalone sequel to A Normal Lost Phone and follows the same conceit as the first game: you have found someone's phone and you must look through the messages, photos, and apps on their device in order to piece together the former phone owner's story.

    The game does a great job of mimicking phone interfaces and features that we're used to, and progression in the game is tied to unlocking various features or apps by finding passcodes or key pieces of personal information in the game. Your first obstacle in this one is getting the phone connected to WiFi, for example.

    I really like this idea in theory, but in this game I actually felt this was a bit of a hindrance in practice. There is a lot of information to sift through, and I started the game without taking notes on things, so when I finally found prompts that needed my input, I realized that I knew that I'd seen the information I needed but couldn't remember for the life of me where it was. I ended up using a hint guide at parts not to solve the puzzles, but simply to locate information I'd previously found because I didn't feel like scanning through hundreds of texts in order to try to find it.

    That said, these puzzles are light and infrequent. In fact, once you know the solutions to unlock everything, you could technically complete the game in 60 seconds or so -- as I did after finishing the game for the first time in order to get some achievements that I missed.

    The real feature of the game is its narrative, and, as such, you'll spend most of your time in the game reading rather than puzzle-solving. The game's story is told through text messages, emails, and calendar entries, and understanding what is going on does require some cross-referencing, as these are often not self-contained. You'll have to take what you learned in one text message and link it to something in the owner's email inbox, for example. Like the first game, the direction of the narrative is hard to talk about without spoiling it, but I'll note that I guessed where things were headed fairly early on and I still appreciated piecing things together and seeing the plot play out. I think the game tackles some significant real-world issues skillfully and with resonance.

    I also appreciate the game's subtextual commentary about how much information can be gleaned from all of the data on a person's phone. The game is, of course, designed to have a focused story with closure, but I feel like someone could get similarly deep insights and narrative progression from my life if they had complete access to everything contained on my phone.

    The game runs for about an hour and a half, give-or-take, and doesn't outstay its welcome. I completed it in one sitting. It can also be played independently of its predecessor, and it's a safe bet that anyone who liked one will also like the other. If you have any interest in text-heavy (pun acknowledged) narrative-driven games, I'd recommend it.

    That said, I'd also recommend keeping a pad of paper nearby and making note of every number you encounter in the game as you go. It'll save you some time from having to fish back through hundreds of texts going "Where was that room number again? I KNOW I saw it here somewhere!".

    5 votes
  3. Bullmaestro
    (edited )
    Link
    Crackdown 3 For the record, I have never played Crackdown 2. The original was a surprise hit for me and was one of my favourite Xbox 360 games. It initially sold well because Microsoft packaged...

    Crackdown 3

    For the record, I have never played Crackdown 2. The original was a surprise hit for me and was one of my favourite Xbox 360 games. It initially sold well because Microsoft packaged access to the Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta with it. Many people weren't expecting the game itself to be good, yet it was Realtime Worlds' first and only successful release.

    By all accounts the sequel sucked and Crackdown 3 was even worse still. I completed a normal difficulty run where I eliminated their Logistics and Industrial divisions, but kept all the security division lieutenants alive before taking down Neimand. My skills by finishing were 5 in Strength and Firearms, 4 in Agility and Explosives, and 2 in Driving.

    I have three major problems with the game...

    First major problem ... it has what I'd call a reverse difficulty curve. At the beginning you are weak to the point where strong enemy units would rip you apart. I'd recommend hitting level 3 in all skills (except driving because driving is almost pointless) before taking on any of the core objectives aside from supply points and propaganda beacons. Once you reach the point where you can competently take on powerful foes, you'll have a much better time rather than be ragdolled by melee brutes and instagibbed by snipers.

    What exacerbates this reverse difficulty curve more is the fact that the headquarters of TerraNova and its three subsidiaries, where you fight the three CEOs and eventually Niemand herself has a liberal amount of checkpoints, making death not really punishing at all when climbing the skyscrapers to take on these bosses. Compare this to Crackdown 1 which had the perfect balance of difficulty, with an intended linear progression path. Corridor Tower and the final fight against Zuang Lun Wang was an incredibly fitting and challenging finale compared to TerraNova HQ, which I blitzed through two-thirds of without any deaths. The Security Wing was the only one that gave me even remotely any trouble because I hadn't eliminated any of their kingpins, and even then I got through it after like... two deaths.

    Second problem is that the bosses are inconsistent in terms of their difficulty. The only two bosses I genuinely had trouble with were Reza Khan (the Quarrying lieutenant) and Neimand (the final boss.) Both of those bosses were incredibly tough due to endless spawn waves that would kill you quickly and because both fights dragged on very long due to their mechanics. Getting Khan low exposes a core which he draws energy from which you have to DPS down. Problem is so many troops spawn that you can't get up close to the core and damage it without taking lethal damage yourself. Neimand meanwhile is the hardest boss in the game because her boss mechanics are incredibly cheap by comparison to everything else. It took me well over an hour of attempts to kill her because after the third-phase begins, elite TerraNova troops litter the arena and can pretty much 3-shot you, even at Level 5 Strength.

    I actually had to cheese both fights:

    • Khan by using Peacekeeper Beacons to handle the adds, which you can't really use when taking on any other kingpin because resistance troops can't reach the boss arenas.
    • Neimand by hiding behind cover on a distant platform, using noise from her nuke attack to jump at the correct time and unloading rockets straight in her face when she charges down the centre. If you stay out of cover for more than about 3 seconds with her, her bodyguards will destroy you. Apparently the adds are manageable if you use Singularity Grenades, and I would highly recommend reaching Level 5 Explosives to unlock them before even taking her on. I obviously didn't do this.

    Third problem... lockdowns are pointless and can be skipped entirely just by exiting and reloading the game. Why would you even subject yourself to ten minutes of fighting off whole waves of TerraNova's most elite troops that can kill you with ease?

    I also find it funny that Terry Crews lending his voice to an NPC was a major marketing point for this game, when said NPC dies within the first cutscene of the game. Did he ask for too much money or something?

    Overall I'd rate it a 7/10. Not much different from Crackdown 1, and I wish the endgame were more challenging without feeling incredibly cheap. Sumo Digital did an okay job with this one.

    5 votes
  4. emnii
    Link
    Ion Fury It's impossible for me to talk about Ion Fury without comparing it to Duke Nukem 3D. This isn't just because they're both Build engine games but because they're extremely similar Build...

    Ion Fury

    It's impossible for me to talk about Ion Fury without comparing it to Duke Nukem 3D. This isn't just because they're both Build engine games but because they're extremely similar Build engine games, more so than Blood or Shadow Warrior.

    Ion Fury is Duke Nukem 3D with weapon alt-fire and reload and minus all the space levels and most of the quips.

    This game checks a lot of boxes for a great neo-retro shooter. Enemy variety is a good mix of tough and easy, shooters, crawlers, flyers, and melee.

    Almost all of the weapons have a use and that extends to the alt-fire modes. The only weapon I didn't have much use for was the clusterpuck. It was the most limited weapon, which implies most powerful, but I never found it useful for more than a grenade, and the baseline grenade had better uses, like a seeking mode.

    Levels are varied and highly detailed. This is doing what a lot of Build games do well, which is that nearly everything can be interacted with.

    I played on the equivalent of medium difficulty and found that to be an appropriate challenge. Caught off guard, I got ripped apart. I came to expect enemies to show up where I'd already wiped them out after getting a new key item, but never because they teleport in from thin air. There was always a secret corridor opening up or trap sprung.

    I found it to be a bit long though. I started it in 2019, but ended up putting it down after finishing the first dozen levels.

    5 votes
  5. PetitPrince
    (edited )
    Link
    Project Wingman I got 90 hours out of Project Wingman (PW) and enjoyed most of them. I finished the campaign mode it in all available difficulties, and got all but two achievement completed. I...

    Project Wingman

    I got 90 hours out of Project Wingman (PW) and enjoyed most of them. I finished the campaign mode it in all available difficulties, and got all but two achievement completed. I think it's more than enough to give it a proper review. I still have the same opinion I had when it was released :

    Whoa, it's really really good.

    And more so when you learn it was built with tiny team. It's basically one guy doing the game proper (code, artwork) , one guy doing the plot and final guy doing on the music.

    Project Wingman (PW) is a love letter to the Ace Combat (AC) series and comparison between the two of them are inevitable. So as a reminder, AC is a game :

    • Where you fly realistic military fighters plane
    • With semi-arcade gameplay where you pitch/roll/yaw like on a simulator on one hand but have a bajillion ammo on the other hand
    • Set on some sort of alternate history setting (it's another planet than the Earth, but it's totally real-life fighter jets).
    • With a plot where the player begins as a noname and finish with a legendary status and whose moniker is feared across the battlefield
    • Where you end up with anime experimental plane and/or WMD
    • Where yo go through a tunnel with your plane at some point

    And PW checks all those marks with flying colours.

    The plot is that you play a mercenary looking for cash (this justify buying planes and certainly gives some AC0 flavor) , but you soon dive into the international Cascadian vs Pacific Federation conflict (the North American West Coast vs the rest of the Pacific Rim, two super-powers at war like in AC5). All of this takes place almost in our Earth, except it's long after a cataclysmic volcanic event that has reshaped most of the Earth and has spawn it's own era name ("After Calamity" or AC, because the game is not shy to be display its homage). At some point the Federation invades the Cascadian capital, but you will go back to it in later mission (hi AC6 !). There's of course less visual polish compared AC (remember: three peoples, not a whole company with dedicated cutscene team) so no portrait, no ridiculously stylish insigna and no semi-live action cutscenes. But the voiced briefings are there, and most of the plot and setting flavor is delivered through in-game voiced dialogue which range from serviceable to actually pretty good. The final duel is a bit rushed in its build-up, but still feels as bombastic as in any good AC.

    The gameplay is basically Ace Combat with modern niceties. That means, as mentioned before, that your controls are centered around the plane rather than centered on your camera. So to go right, you don't just press right on your joystick, but rather you must roll right first and then pitch "up". And this is really optimized for a gamepad (but you can remap the controls for a HOTAS if you are lucky to have one).

    The rest is arcady as hell, and that's fun. Nearly every plane has the same machine gun and standard missiles. The goal is to maneuver you plane long enough behind your enemies to lock your missiles and shoot them, with some special weapon to spice the combat, without forgetting that there's other planes targeting you. There's no need to manage fuel nor the human physiology. There's even a funny mention of the players exceptional tolerance toward G abuse were the copilot (well, the WSO - Weapon Specialist Officer) blacks out. And in that regard, having someone voiced else sharing the same cockpit as your is a first for AC. Her moniker is "Prez", and even if she's someone totally optional plot-wise, it's not hard to read stuff like "Prez best waifu" on reddit.

    Because licensing costs a lot of money, all the planes sounds like Chinese knock-off, but most of the classic planes are they. You have your American and Russian fighters, including all the most of the iconic ones (F-14, 18, 22, Mig-29, Su-27 and derivative, so on and so forth). Curiously, no A-10 (but a Su-25 with a ludicrous amount of air-to-ground missiles), and sadly no Euro delta wings either (byebye Mirage / Rafale / Typhoon / Grippen), with the elusive Avro Arrow instead. Oh and there's Harrier that can actually hover.

    There's some other changes to the AC formula that I find very welcoming:

    • You can now chose and customize your load-out instead of just choosing one special weapon. And loading the same special weapon several time is cumulative. The first time you max-out the multi-missiles slot it's quite neat. This is fresh and brings some welcome diversity in the early game.
    • In AC7 (and also 6 ? I never played it sadly) all planes can make high-G turns (even the A10). Here it's something that the player have to choose. It's either flares or supermaneuverability, but not both. It's a welcome gameplay trade-off but also a good hint about the plane's role (this one is a dogfighter, this other one is a gunboat).
    • There's an audible feedback when a given weapon has reloaded.
    • Machine guns are way more effective than in AC, incentivizing dogfighting instead of missile spam.
    • Giant planes are a common occurrence and are a valid target to your multi-missile, or even a well placed bomb.

    One thing PW could improve is mission variety. In AC you get from time to time some environmental challenge or timed escort, but here's it's mostly dogfights and objective destruction. I really like dogfighting so it's not a problem (shoutout to mission 11, which is a pure fanservice goodness), but I wouldn't blame you being weary destroying stuff again and again.

    Speaking of weary things, bosses in PW are fairer than in AC: there's no plot armor and (after a patch) the life bars are clearly displayed, and every stuff a boss can do you'll be eventually also be able to do.

    Next to the campaign there's a rogue-lite mode called Conquest. It's pretty meh.

    It's like Risk of Rain where there's a growing difficulty gauge with increasingly difficult ennemies, and you go from randomly generated missions to randomly generated missions, gaining money along the way to spend on planes and/or wingmen. The missions are mostly "destroy stuff", with sometimes some ground objects (not enough and/or not enough concentration to warrant some air-to-ground missiles or bomb) and sometimes boss squadrons. It's repetitive as hell, but it's not necessarily my main gripe.

    I feel the lack of a good sense of progression is what harms this mode the most. The plane unlock are permanent instead of per run, so there's a definite incentive to grind the mode and get the experimental endgame plane with the Macross missile barage weapon. You can also buy some wingmen and capital airship, but they quickly become just good enough as canon fodder and enemy bait.

    In Risk of Rain you have this constant risk-reward race where you could gain some meaningful powerups if you took your time to thoroughly explore a given level. Here in PW it's just grind until you get the best plane, then try your best no to crash onto a capital airship while applying hit and run tactics. I hope there's some balance batch in the future.

    There's no good AC without good soundtrack and iconic music. AC4 had Agnus Dei, Unsung War in AC5 made you learn your squadron name, you danced with the Spanish guitar in Zero in AC0 (my fave) , Liberation of Gracemaria made you patriotic in AC6 and Daredevil was an AI-crushing banger in AC7.

    For PW, you have Kings and I am happy to report that it's at the very least on par with the other ones. Hats off to Jose Pavli, he nailed the whole soundtrack. I look forward listening to some more of his composition.

    Finally let's talk VR. I don't know how they got the time to put it it, but there's fully functional, just-play-the-regular-game VR mode. Like many cockpit games it's an "additive" experience rather than an "exclusive" one, meaning you have the unique VR point of view but the gameplay stays the same. No motion gaming or fiddling with the cockpit contols then; you have to play with your regular gamepad and immersion may be lessened a bit for it. That said, tracking some targets by just moving your head is really something. It's such a simple thing but it makes you instantly more spatially aware. I wasn't motion sick even when doing crazy loops, flips and misc maneuver , but be wary that I do have my VR legs (only some very particular motion can make me sick).

    If Ace Combat or Star Wars Squadron is your type of game, or if you want to explore one of those forgotten niche of gaming, I cannot recommend Project Wingman enough. For 20-something eurobucks, it's value proposition is crazy high.

    4 votes