Archive for October, 2015

Life is Strange or A Strange Game of the Year?

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Played & Explained with tags on October 20, 2015 by Rabidgames

Careful, spoilers – including ending spoilers – below!
(Unless you can rewind time to make things unseen in which case feel free to go ahead.)

So, that was it. That was the long-awaited Episode 5 of Life is Strange, Dontnod’s masterpiece out of nowhere. But could the finale meet or even exceed the expectations?

First of all, it’s a roller-coaster ride. In these two to three hours, poor Max relives a lot of things, and emotionally, there are defeats, triumphs and despair. Things get even crazier than before, and not only story-wise. In terms of gameplay, the closing stages of Life is Strange surprise with a repeating corridor we know from PT (R.I.P., old friend), a bit of avoiding enemies’ cones like in theold-fashioned Metal Gear Solid games, of course including cheating via means of time, and finally, a collage of scenes reminiscent of Bioshock Infinite.

Besides a few new gameplay mechanics (if you want to even call it that way), the last episode of Life is Strange involves what we all have come to love: Long dialogues, quiet moments where we can take our time, sometimes just watching Max sitting down and reminiscing, and of course, the puzzles, even though the last episode feels a bit light of puzzles. And Life is Strange also plays even more with different realities, multiverses and the concept of the butterfly effect. These three hours are quality gaming time and will leave you exhausted but not entirely satisfied.

The only thing souring the bittersweet finale is the fact that Life is Strange ends the way most of us predicted – saving Chloe or saving Arcadia Bay. Even worse, whatever you choose, both endings negate pretty much the entire previous game – at least at first sight, from a gameplay perspective. If you take a philosophical look at it though, the ending shows us a mirror – did we spend all this time helping everyone to just say “fuck this town” and save Chloe? Or, if we centred the game around Chloe, do we sacrifice her for people we didn’t care about? The one or the many? Yes, the ending is disappointing at first, but it makes sense from a meta perspective – a bit strange for a game indeed, but a nice experiment.

And finally, who’s to say saving Chloe now will return reality back to normal forever? What if reality keeps claiming Chloe’s life? Or is the storm caused by Max using her powers? So what if she ever uses them again? The big question aside, there are a few more open questions depending on the final decision, but surely, the finale of Life is Strange is more complete and fulfilling than the road kill Lost presented.

So where does this leave us? It is clear the episodic format suited Life is Strange – it gave us room for thought, time for theories, and the expectations were rising and rising. In terms of gameplay, the use of time was refreshing, the mix between the coming of age tale and the mystery surrounding Arcadia Bay managed to be pretty much perfect, and also the mix of dialogues and puzzles was never boring – one tiny critique could be the puzzles felt too easy at times, especially in the beginning. And at the end of the day, Life is Strange actually met the expectations by giving us some closure in an – admittedly – rather expected way. But the way there has been a great ride!

Rarely has Rabidgames been that emotionally invested in a game, and even more importantly, rarely has a game not just allowed, but rather asked us to just sit back and relax – sometimes even directly. Life is Strange has always tried to challenge our understanding of games … if you wanted, you could rewind time times and times again so you could see all different outcomes or just dialogue options before you continue. If you wanted, you could just sit there, listen to the great soundtrack and philosophise about the very same questions Max was pondering over. And if you take this into account, the ending also makes sense.

And besides philosophy, meta levels and new ways of understanding gaming, Life is Strange has been fun. Great fun! And to be honest, it has been a more than welcome diversion from all the other games out there that always follow the same pattern. And mostly for this reason, Life is Strange is a Game of the Year contender in Rabidgames’ book. Finally, we have a game that brings some true innovation beyond graphics, frame rates or size. A game that challenges us not just go forward, but to go back in time – or just do nothing, just to sit there. And when have we done this the last time before – be it in a game or be it in our lives?

Rabidgames says farewell to Arcadia Bay: Yes, Life is Strange is an entirely different kind of game. As opposed to life in that small Oregon town, it might not be the end of the world as we know it, but it surely enriches the gaming world with a new perspective of time. And be it Game of the Year or not, it certainly was time well spent. Surely, life can be strange …

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Wasteland 2 or A Ticket to The Old Times

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , on October 15, 2015 by Rabidgames

Finally, tactical turn-based RPG action on the PS4, and even with dry post-nuclear desert air! Not exactly humble, the Wasteland 2 – Director’s Cut describes itself as “the Godfather of post-apocalyptic RPGs” … However, most of you might ask “what the hell is Wasteland anyway”? Well the first game was released in 1988 and was pretty much THE inspiration for the beginning of the Fallout series more on that later. By the way, this is what encounters in video games used to look like back in the 80s:

Let’s say that to the older ones among our ranks, Wasteland 2 feels like the first two Fallout games. To elaborate this for younger gamers, it is a mix between Fallout’s post-apocalyptic world and X-COM’s tactical turn-based combat. Well, pretty much like Fallout 1 and 2 played which in turn were inspired by the first Wasteland

But enough with history lessons! Above all, Wasteland 2 brings turn-based combat to the PS4, and it is a brutal hardcore game. As a matter of fact, Rabidgames did so many mistakes during the first two attempts it took a third fresh start to finally come up with a balanced team of Desert Rangers able to survive just the first multi-stage mission! And even then, running a bit too quick or careless can mean quick death in the wastelands. Constant saving is strongly advised, but even then, you might find out you should have built your team differently.

So, anyone who wants to have fun with Wasteland 2 needs two things in abundance: time and patience. Lots of both. Even creating your four Desert Rangers can – and should – take at least half an hour. Just heed this warning: the combat skills are important, but the other skills are necessary as well. A balanced team is the only means of survival in the desolated wastelands, a lesson many will learn if they start unprepared, just because we think games are cake these days and we get presented everything on a silver plate. The tutorial is rudimentary, so trying everything out yourself is key to success!

While the gameplay in Wasteland 2 is dead-serious, the surroundings surely aren’t. There is sarcasm to be found during the character creation, some dialogues are hilarious, and the trophy list features absurd gems such as “Get an STD”, “Give the Night Terror 20 pieces of candy” or “Tip 5 cows”!

This pretty much leaves us at this point: If you liked X-COM, Wasteland 2 could be to your liking. While the combat is a tad more forgiving and there is no risk of running out of time, other factors like running out of ammo, cash for ammo or simply setting up a team that can survive make Wasteland 2 devilishly hard. Just know that everything in here is an old-fashioned games, from graphics, menus or stat growth to the difficulty level and the time and planning you need to invest.

So, a word to any gamers who want something different on their PS4 or One than just AAA or 2D rogue like indie games: Buy Wasteland 2! And X-COM as well for the previous generation! Show the publishers out there we want genres like turn-based RPGs on consoles!

Rabidgames thinks: Wasteland 2 is fun. Not for everyone, sure, but if you have time, patience and you can stomach having to start afresh a few times (or cheat by looking a perfect team up online), you gotta buy Wasteland 2!

Star Wars Battlefront or Yoda, Where’s my Content?

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , on October 11, 2015 by Rabidgames

So, finally, the Beta for Star Wars Battlefront has arrived from a galaxy far, far away … After the creative decision to not integrate any campaign or even the once awesome Galactic Conquest mode, many had the feeling the new Battlefront would be just in for the quick interstellar buck.

And judging from the Beta, they are right. What do we have? First, there are Survival Missions – 4 rather small co-op maps in total, one in the Beta – and these small maps feel just like a Beta version of Mass Effect 3’s amazing co-op multiplayer. Where Mass Effect 3 managed to sine with the innovative use of powers and races and actually made us want to unlock yet another race – or finally the Asari Adept – Battlefront is just plain boring wave after wave of the same enemies with minor variations attacking you. Walkers are extremely boring – after figuring out it is incredibly easy to do some damage do an AT-ST, fleeing around a corner, recovering health and then rinse & repeat, it’ll make you want to fall asleep.

Dropzone is a team-based capture-the-flag variation with up to 16 players. It plays like any other similar multiplayer – fast-paced, a bit reliant on luck where the pod lands, but all in all, pretty boring. We’ve seen it before. A billion times.

Last but finally worthy, the Walker Assault on Hoth – and this where Battlefront finally plays and feels like a Battlefront game! A massive, epic 20 vs 20 battle where you can control X-wings, TIE fighters, walkers, turrets or maybe Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader – here is where the fun is. True, it’s easier for the Empire to win here, but the reason may well be the tactical expertise and firepower of the Imperial forces over the rebel scum. In terms of fun, it’s hard to imagine most of us will enjoy this map more than a few times a day though – unless you love seeing Luke crushed to death cruelly:

Sure, stomping around Hoth in a massive AT-AT is truly fun, but with regards to the whole game … there is only a total of 7 (seven!!!) multiplayer maps, each with its own mode. That’s it. Clearly, what we see here is that the new Star Wars Battlefront offers exactly zero longevity. There is some customisation to be had, but judging from the demo, it is nothing to write home about.

Battlefront essentially feels like a Battlefield game with a few tacked-on Star Wars gimmicks (they are bombastic and cool admittedly though). While this alone could still be fun, the lack of different modes is the one thing that really hurts the game most though. And with the lack of a campaign or a galactic conquest mode to enhance the game, there isn’t much to do but these well-trodden multiplayer battles. Coincidentally though, we know there will be DLC reinforcements arriving when the The Force Awakens … honestly, had Palpatine that blunt with getting control of the galaxy, he would have failed.

Rabidgames uses the force: Surely, Yoda AND Palpatine disapprove. This incarnation of Battlefron is an empty husk, trying to cash in on the good name. There is no innovation, there is nothing but fine gameplay and shiny graphics … pretty much Destiny all over! Worth a tenner? Yes. Worth full price? For the Emperor’s sake, hell no!