An absolute dream or nightmare?
Pretension is a fickle element that has slowly seeped its way into the contemporary gaming community, whether if it’s an added spice that caters to your flavour or an intolerable trend that’ll shortly meet its demise. With the rising popularity of the smaller, independent development, video games have reached a level of obscurity and experimentalism that was seldom found in the fostering years of gaming. During the indie development scene’s infancy, Copenhagen based developer Playdead arguably kick-started, at the very least contributed to, the popular indie movement with their atmospherically eerie experience, Limbo. To some, Limbo was an inaugural experience that was equally brilliant as it was obtuse; to others it was a hollow vessel with a high cadence for pretension and a shallow excuse for gameplay. I reside somewhere in between the high praise and the intolerable distain; it was an interesting gaming experience that ultimately forgot to be fun. Playdead’s second effort has been taken by storm, receiving unanimous praise from copious gaming outlets, with critics dishing out perfect scores left, right, and center. After my first brief playthrough, my emotions were rather conflicted as I couldn’t differentiate astonishment from confusion, enjoyment from disappointment. It’s been a little over a week since I concluded the three-hour experience, and after marinating my conflicted thoughts properly, I can safely say that Inside is an excellent game that will definitely not resonate with everyone. Some of you will absolutely adore this abstract gem, some of you will loathe it with a fiery passion, I cannot stress its polarizing nature enough! It’s definitely not the masterpiece that critics are claiming it to be, but it’s most certainly an experience that I immensely enjoyed. Just understand that you’ll be left with more questions than answers once the credits drop, and its rather obtuse ambiguity can be perceived as intriguing at best and pretentious at worst. Lastly, if you didn’t enjoy Limbo in any capacity, then chances are that Inside won’t have the required finesse to sweep your heart. Inside is a haunting experience, that simply dug its claws deep within me and ceased to ever let go.
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A brave new world
150 hours. That is in no way shape or form an example of hyperbole, it’s the factual length of my first expedition into the exquisitely detailed and rancorous world of The Witcher. Now 150 hours of gameplay is no small feat and is extremely impressive to say the least, but every single hour would be meaningless if the moment to moment gameplay was incapable of warranting the gargantuan experience; in a similar manner to any open-world game, the vast world created is meaningless if the world itself is a lifeless shell. The genre needs to have core gameplay and objectives that are meaningful and rewarding in their own right, and a world that can breathe and be as amiable and vulnerable as the people who inhabit said world. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a remarkable experience that not only meets all these expectations, but surpasses them exponentially, in a manner very few open world games are able to achieve. The large expansive world of The Witcher 3 may be its greatest star yet as the world itself is dynamic, volatile, and exceptionally gorgeous. The world is quite literally your sandbox and you’re free to hunt, race, liberate, fight, gamble, craft, and explore to your heart’s content. Each task carries significant weight and never emits that monotonous aura which has plagued the sandbox genre for years. Meaningful gameplay, paired with an exceptional, engaging world is a delicious combo that is seldom crafted successfully, yet CD Projekt RED have nearly done this, creating one of the most optimal open world experiences to date. Unfortunately its extremely poor exposition, repetitive and shallow combat, and copious amount of graphical disruptions hold The Witcher 3 from being the perfect masterpiece it easily could’ve been. Despite its discrepancies, however, The Witcher 3 proves to be an engaging form of entertainment that severs the line between player freedom and exploration and merges them together into one solid foundation. The Witcher 3 is one of the most expansive games I’ve ever played; regardless of my current state of progression, there was always something engaging to do, a banal moment in time simply never existed. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best games I’ve played this year, no questions asked, and is the best choice if you wish to get the most bang for your buck.
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Since I never wrote a review for the first act of Broken Age, let me share my thoughts on act one before diving head first into act two. Broken Age: Act 1 is a phenomenal work of art that is endearing, clever, humorous, challenging, and absolutely gorgeous. Broken Age has one of the most vibrantly beautiful art styles I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing, something ripped straight from a children’s storybook, catering to an underused pastel design. The writing and characters were done wonderfully thanks to director Tim Schafer’s immaculate work and the fantastic performances given by Elijah Wood and Masasa Moyo. The story is a well-rounded coming-of-age adventure, learning about independence, responsibility, and one’s ultimate place in the overarching world. It’s extremely well-written and its respectful, never forceful, approach to comedy is a welcomed touch. The puzzles are most definitely challenging at times, but never too unapproachable and/or unachievable. They require a delicate slice of patience and will incept a rewarding “ah ha” feeling of discovery. On top of the well written story, act one is wrapped up in one of the most tantalizing and brilliant cliffhangers that I have ever experienced regardless of its medium of entertainment. To sum it all up, I absolutely loved act one of Broken Age as it was clever, refreshing, and most importantly, it revitalized a dying genre. The cliffhanger was brilliantly written and inserted at such a riveting moment that I couldn’t help but want more. It was one of my favourite games of 2014 and its successor crawled its way onto my anticipated games of 2015 list. So does Act two live up to the insurmountable expectations that were gloriously left by its predecessor? Unfortunately, Act two can’t even hold a candle to its older brother.
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