Archive for the Played & Explained Category

Farming Simulator 17 or Farm, Plough, Sow, Repeat

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , on October 30, 2016 by Rabidgames

There are games we don’t get. For instance, Rabidgames sees hardly any appeal in the artificially tough and overly repetitive Dark Souls games and even less in the hectic Devil May Cry antics of Bloodbourne, while the majority, or perhaps a very loud minority, praises these games as a  the one and only true saviour of gaming. And then, there are games hardly anyone gets, games like Farming Simulator 17.

First, it is kind of hard to get into the game. There’s a bare-bones tutorial that covers the basics, and then you’re out in the world of farming, either in the US or in Russia, and it’s good luck to you from there on. But there’s more than mere farming, Farming Simulator 17 also offers logging wood or being a rancher if that’s more up your rural alley. And then there are mods. It’s mostly just new tractors or other farming equipment, but new maps should hopefully be up soon, too.

But be it crops, cattle or wood, it becomes crystal clear very quickly that you need a special mind for a game such as Farming Simulator 17: Not only is the game insanely repetitive as you get to drive up and down and down and up fields all day long (in-game and real life, if you play a long session), and nothing else happens. Well, it’s a simulation, so that’s to be expected, right? Sure, but the eternal cycle of sowing, fertilising, harvesting, ploughing, sowing and so on that needs to be repeated for several fields every in-game day feels tiresome after even one hour. Just have a look and remember – you do this over and over again:

You do all of the above to earn money you then can invest into – better equipment to do the same chores a bit more effectively. That’s it. Farming Simulator 17 does not offer anything more than what you can see in the first hours. So when you feel like giving this game a try, make sure you’re fully aware of the repetitive nature. Now, it seems quite some folks enjoy the rural virtual life, because Farming Simulator 17 is not even the only (bi)annual farming simulator available on PS4, as Professional Farmer 17 proves. To each their own …

The open world of Professional Farmer 17 is also pretty boring – you can find 100 gold nuggets per map, but otherwise it is not impressive, diverse or worth exploring. If you’re used to games of a more violent nature, it’s a natural instinct to take a vehicle and test the physics. Well, Farming Simulator 17 is pretty … basic if you give that a go; pedestrians are just ghosts without substance and if you ram a car, the tractor bounces back – the tractor, not the car! But if you want to, you can still have some fun with the physics as the video below shows:

Rabidgames sighs: It takes a special mind to enjoy farming simulators, and yours truly does not possess such a mind. Repetitiveness is fine when you can blow things up, but ploughing, sowing or harvesting is pretty much almost all there is to the game. But there must be an audience, as yet another other farming franchise on the PS4 proves …

F1 2016 or Poles, Crashes and Glory

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , on August 23, 2016 by Rabidgames

Great games always use their engines as backdrops for the stories we can write. F1 2016 tells a lot of stories, and yes, even the first racing weekend of the season can include all the twists and turns Formula 1 has to offer. But let’s cover the basics first, let’s come back to that race later.

Remember F1 2015, the tech demo lacking content? While last year’s instalment felt like a crash just after the start, F1 2016 easily goes the full distance, although there are a few safety car sessions in there as well …

First of all, content-wise, there are no more previous season or classic modes any more, but F1 2016 comes with a massive career mode at its heart, making you really feel like a F1 driver – and you’re not just living the triumph and victories, the crashes and technical failures, you’re also having to work hard for it to make your success happen. Oh, and sometimes, spectacular, yet physically not absolutely correct crashes happen:

If you’re like Rabidgames and you pretty much suck at racing games, the game actually poses quite a challenge even on easy and with all driving assists activated – you really need to focus throughout the circuits, and in races, one tiny mistake can mean ruined tyres and being 10th instead of on the podium! F1 2016 is a game that asks you to study the tracks hard before you can reap the rewards.

While you can create your driver, the creation suite is a rather sad state affairs – maybe 12 face models with hardly anything to change, a few helmet designs, and that’s it … a bit sad for 2016. But hey, at least you can lead small countries such as Luxembourg or San Marino to their first ever Formula 1 victory! Afterwards, you can choose your team freely now in F1 2016 – but be careful, a top team Mercedes expects you to become world champion while Manor is happy with you grabbing perhaps a point or two …

But as soon as you created your driver and go through the first tutorials, the depth of F1 2016 shines through – while you can simply jump straight into your first free practice session to get to know the track, you can also play around with the settings to get to know which car settings suit your playstyle best. As a nice and well-integrated bonus, you can also earn points by fulfilling certain conditions throughout the weekend – from learning how to get your tyres working to outracing your dedicated rival, those points will help you developing your car throughout the season, so it is highly recommended to do so.

Back to the first race weekend of the season – after using the free practice sessions to get accustomed to the circuit and the gameplay of F1 2016, and after noticing the AI drivers have never heard about making way for faster cars the hard way, Rabidgames managed to qualify the Toro Rosso on the pole – which is quite easy with a somewhat decent lap on easy difficulty.Choosing 25% of the original distance, which equals 15 laps in Australia, felt long enough for the first race.

The formation lap went a bit wrong though after getting overtaken by a few cars that didn’t make way which is part of the regulations, yours truly failed at the start and ended up 4th … Only to get back to 1st within a few laps, unfortunately damaging the front wing so when boxing after lap 8, the front wing had to be changed which kicked Rabidgames’ Luxembourgian driver back to 7th. After a few overtakings and a few cars boxing though, it was back to first place.

But then came the rain. Visually beautifully looking rain, and rainy conditions is where F1 2016 looks stunning. Problem is, rain and old tyres aren’t exactly a fun combination, and while Ricciardo could be fought off after he made a mistake and left the track after a collision, Räikkönen felt comfortably fine with the rain. Fortunately, the rain became so hard that the box recommended putting on intermediates in the final lap, which was insane as Räikkönen didn’t pit so with both cars struggling, Rabidgames managed to somehow slide the car to the chequered flag, meaning a historical first race victory for Luxembourg!

Truth be told, doing all of that on easy and with most assists activated might diminish the feat, but for a racing noob, it still felt hard and challenging. F1 2016 asks quite a lot from inexperienced racers on easy difficulties, where mistakes are punished quickly. Yes, you can rewind to before the accident, but that’s really cheating now!

As you can see, lots of things can happen in F1 2016, and that was just one race! However, the A.I. is far from perfect and while you pretty push a car off the tracks, sometimes you get punished for leaving the track although lost time and positions … which seems odd.

Apart from the career mode, there’s a season mode with all current drivers (feeling kind of superfluous), a custom race/season mode, time trials which let you race against others players’ online times, and then F1 2016 also offers multiplayer (single races or an entire championship, that’s up to you) with up to 22 drivers. One weird thing is that A.I. cars become transparent during online races, which is a very weird design choice … But apart from this and some lag that can appear at times, it is actually lots of fun to just watch online races, too, as quite a few pan out like the one below:

So, who should play F1 2016? The obvious answer is Formula 1 fans, of course! What better way to start into a race weekend than power on your console and get to know the track yourself so you can laugh at drivers making mistakes later? Or maybe just spend a few races crashing into that one driver that always gets you mad?

Furthermore, the game should also be suited to racing pros who prefer Assetto Corsa, Forza or Gran Turismo, but then again, it’s hard to say how hardcore F1 2016 is when you’re not a big racing fan yourself, and it’s also difficult to judge the flaws of this game (A.I., punishment system, online lags) against the competition.

One thing is for sure though – for the best experience of F1 2016, a racing wheel is almost mandatory – while it is okay in the dry with new tyres, as soon as you have wet conditions and/or older tyres, the controller just feels inaccurate. Obviously, you should be a die-hard racer who keeps playing racing games for a long time …

Rabidgames admits: For amateur console racers, F1 2016 offers a lot, but it may offer a bit too much as well – if you don’t really know the tracks and just want to play the game in short bursts, you won’t go too far with the game. If you have patience and you’re willing to learn every nook and corner of the F1 business though, this game and the drama, the victories and the defeats of Formula 1 should be yours. And please, for the love of Ayrton Senna and the other greats, let’s have another team but Mercedes win races!

 

 

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness or What a Shame

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , , on August 22, 2016 by Rabidgames

Sometimes, games can feel like friends indeed. Some, you’ve known for decades, and some always stay close, some however, grow distant or disappear. And while Star Ocean: The Last Hope was the first sign that this friendship was changing, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness emphasises that sometimes, friendships can be hanging by a thread.

First of all, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness … wow, what a title, right? What poetry, how philosophical. Yet after finishing the game – wow, what a pompous, vain, almost flatulent title! It’s meaningless. Utterly devoid of meaning. Two words combined just because. True, some characters show more integrity than others, but faithlessness? If you look deep, you might find a hint of it somewhere, perhaps. But you could do so with each and every game. For instance, Trevor feels betrayed by Michael in GTA V, or just remember the end of Red Dead Redemption. See? But at the end of the day, it’s a meaningless title.

Sadly, the characters are entirely meaningless and forgettable, too. You have two guys with swords (this time, no teenagers at least), two girls with magic powers, one space dude with a cross-bow or a laser gun (yep, both, and no one seems to care) and a female martial artists fighter, and then, there’s a little girl hanging with you most of the time who is the key to the events of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. The problem – there is hardly any character development going on, and the bit that is happening is mostly happening in Private Actions, a series staple that has never felt that meaningless before: You have to circle the hubs to talk to your party members, and mostly, it’s small talk about trivial shit. Perhaps it’s an allegory on how small talk is a waste of time, but come on, it shouldn’t literally feel like you’re wasting your time in the game! Why do them, you ask? Well, after some random Private Actions, new roles can get unlocked. Hooray!

And then, the story of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is as hollow – there is exactly one nice twist that took Rabidgames by surprise around the middle of the game, but the rest of it is foreseeable, dull and often boring. It doesn’t help most of the cutscenes just is the characters talking in-game, with horrible lip-sync from the 90s and an adjustable camera that hardly captures any emotions or importance.

But hey, there are emotes you can unlock to comment on the things said. No one wanted it, and yet it’s there. 95% of all the cutscenes in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness are just fluff and too long, and guess what – there is no fucking way to skip them! Honestly, this game expects you to play it several times in different difficulties, but with these shitty cutscenes that last way too long too often, no fucking way!

So, we have a meaningless title, hollow characters, dumbed-down non-skippable cutscenes and a flat story – and the world design is as bad! There are around 10 maps you constantly have to run through back and fort, forth and back and back and forth. The amount of backtracking in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is utterly ridiculous! The maps are okay though, enemy variety is alright (they change as the story progresses), but graphically, some environments clearly look last-gen. And the handful of hubs aka towns are tiny and lifeless as well. Furthermore, there’s a huge in-game glossary you can read … or you could if it was any useful. (Hint: Assassin’s Creed is the prime example how in-game info can be provided in a humorous way.)

So far so bad. Thankfully, fighting in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is fun. It’s more Till the End of Time than The Last Hope, but that’s fine. Having up to 7 characters on-screen can be a bit hectic when there’s explosions and flashes all over the screen, but it’s still fun, the kind of fun battle system Star Ocean is known for.

Plus, there is some depth to customising and upgrading your characters’ equipment, levelling up roles and finding out which work well together will keep you busy for hours, and as in every other Star Ocean title, crafting and synthesising are well worth experimenting and satisfying. The game gives you plenty of room to find out many things for yourself, which is a nice change.

The playtime is also alright, albeit a bit short if you’re used to the 100+ hours of the past just for the main story. For RabidgamesStar Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness the clock showed 45 hours when the final boss fell, and there still the obligatory and pretty tough post-game dungeons to explore.

It’s clear by now there are a shitloads of cons and only a few pros when it comes to Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, but it’s still worth checking out if you have an itch for a JRPG; not for the story obviously, but for the gameplay, which keeps things interesting! But unless you’re big fan, don’t buy it for the full price, or you’ll be disappointed.

Rabidgames wonders: After completing the game, it just feels like this friend might get another chance – while times have changed and it falls flat in many regards, you can still see why you wanted to hang around with that friend in the first place. But after two disappointments, it’s now Last Chance Hotel for Star Ocean! Which is a sad thing to say if you once thought you’d love Star Ocean Till the End of Time …

 

Saints Row or Fun Trumps All

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Played & Explained with tags , , , on December 2, 2015 by Rabidgames

The throne of “modern times” open world/sandbox gaming is a heavily contested one – while GTA V has the most publicly accepted claim now, there are two more series also asking for the crown – the Just Cause series, hellbent on chaos, explosions and beautiful sceneries (although thematically a bit different), and the Saints Row series, that rose from a humble beginnings to the most outlandish and batshit gaming experience ever.

So, in case you haven’t played any of them, let’s have a look at how it all started, shall we?

Saints Row – Humble beginnings in the shadow of San Andreas

True, the first Saints Row kind of earns the title “GTA clone” – not only do you play the from rags to criminal riches story, Saints Row is also dominated by different gangs fighting for control. Even more enervating for San Andreas veterans, your gang is dressed in purple …

But it is definitely the best San Andreas clone – and the first Saints Row already added a few activities that are now trademarks of the series, e.g. the amazing Insurance Fraud where you have to throw yourself in front of racing cars to ragdoll around in a most hurtful manner to proceed, or Mayhem where you just have to rack up points by killing and/or blowing up everyone and everything – weirdly enough, the best way to get points has always been vandalising fences …

The story deserves some mention as well – in Saints Row (as well as in the next two games), you would battle three different gangs in three different story arcs – and there was always an end game with yet another story to tell!

If you wanted more San Andreas and then some, Saints Row was your game. And yes, some originality was already there, but the game and also the cliffhanger ending with a few decisive twists served mostly as a blueprint for the sandbox revolution:

Saints Row 2 – Fuck your cousin, let’s blow shit up – literally!

Remember this hilarious ad for Saints Row 2, mocking Rockstar for the less fun and mayhem yet more going bowling with your cousin approach in GTA IV:

Actually, this trailer describes Saints Row 2 perfectly – crazy missions and crazier side activities (septic trucks, streaking, being a bodyguard and brutalising people), insane depth of customisation, immature, dark and savage humour … plus, you have a story that ends up connecting all dots in a clever way (big, bad corporate crooks involved) … hell, there are some disturbing and emotional moments in there – Saints Row 2 ticked many boxes, but above all, the game wants you to have fun while playing it. While the first Saints Row copied Rockstar’s formula, part 2 refined it, added bits of insanity and scat. Yep, Saints Row 2 sat comfortably on the urban crime sandbox throne.

Another reason was the honesty of Saints Row 2 – while CJ in San Andreas was still somehow a nice guy, the protagonist was a ruthless son/daughter of a bitch, showing no mercy or regrets akin to Tommy Vercetti in Vice City. And yet despite dealing with drugs, thousands of homicides, the protagonist still was some sort of good guy compared to the corporate nightmare visions of Ultor!

Hands down, Saints Row 2 is at least one of the best games of the last generation, and perhaps the best in combining a convincing story and an urban sandbox. So yes, it is fair to say Saints Row 2 beats GTA IV in the urban crime sandbox competition! As we witnessed a few years later on, combining is the key word here!

Saints Row The Third – A few steps forward, quite a few back

Sadly, the third Saints Row couldn’t live up to its predecessor’s fame and glory. Customisation got severely crippled (no more layers, no more customisable cribs), the serious undertones vanished, the story had absolutely no depth and neither had the characters, old or new.

The missions? Fragmented, sometimes even disconnected, plus the introduction of activities counted as main missions. Yep. The big villain? Dies in the first half! Johnny motherfucking Gat? Dies off-screen in the beginning, and then that’s it. What the fuck, Volition?

Another ugly byproduct of Saints Row The Third was the abundance of shallow to useless to shameless DLC pieces of worthless junk – even advertised as “40 weeks of DLC” – paying money for cheat codes is still a bad fucking joke! Pretty much the only worthwhile minor DLC is the Shark Shotgun!

But Saints Row The Third isn’t a bad game despite all these flaws – gameplay was refined with more fluent controls and the “awesome button”, the action was more explosive, the graphics were overhauled as well, and at least weapons could be customised. And yeah, while the James Bond villain dies early on, the second half of the game develops a completely new dynamic at least, a pretext to the aliens and sci-fi in its successor!

And if you look beyond the flaws and at the fun factor – hell yeah, it is lots of fun to create havoc in this game! You have the tools – from stink bombs to airstrikes and tanks of today and tomorrow, you have the opportunities, pretty much every minute you play the Saints Row The Third is tailor made for our amusement, be it missions or the open world. From a sandbox perspective, THIS is one of the greatest – and even more so in co-op.

So yes, the game is still fun and gained a lot of new fans, but just as GTA IV was a let-down to many fans who enjoyed the size, the crude, immature humour and the general hilarities of San Andreas, the new direction of Saints Row The Third felt a bit shallow – depth was sacrificed for over-the-top action, the humour was just silly at times … But that would change soon …

Saints Row 4 – The best of virtual and virtual² worlds

How can the crazy insanities of Saints Row The Third be even crazier and more insane? By mixing in an alien invasion and the Matrix, of course! This stroke of genius solved the problem of limitations to the over-the-top approach as well as not connected story arcs in next to no time! Two birs with one stone – in Saints Row terms, it’s rather two planets with one death star!

By explaining it all (well, most) happens in virtual Steelport, everything was permitted and the over-the-top attitude culminated in a game full of super powers – including a nuke bomb from high above – the most outlandish weapons ever (black hole launchers, rectifier probes, inflato-ray guns – to name a few and leave them to your imagination), batshit-crazy missions full of easter eggs, nods (from Metal Gear Solid to Mass Effect to They Live) and Keith David as himself aka Vice President! Oh, and Johnny Gat is back  in Saints Row 4 – fuck yeah!

You even get to recruit some of the Saints’ departed antagonists as virtual homies – and they even have a back story to tell! And then there’s the most insane DLC ever – How the Saints saved Christmas is surely one of the craziest experiments in gaming ever. Plus, you can have 3 Shaundies at the same time! Enter the Dominatrix isn’t as great unfortunately, although the ending that is even crazy for Saints Row standard sis something that has to be seen to be believed! Oh, and that throne …

Now, Saints Row 4 certainly is the brawns of the series, while Saints Row 2 is the brains – but it is hard to establish which one is the heart and soul. Probably both, because they are deep yet entirely different.

What does the future hold for the Saints?

Well, no one knows. But since that’s a boring answer, chances are Volition could go for one of these three options:

  1. Time travel: In Saints Row 4, time travel is introduced, and certainly, the fusion of Assassin’s Creed and Saints Row could be mindblowing. After all, what’s left to do without the earth?
  2. A reboot: The easiest option. Let’s return to Stilwater and let’s re-visit the beginning of the Saints saga. While it worked for Tomb Raider, knowing we already know about the betrayals of Julius, Troy and Dex would mean the story would have to be completely rewritten.
  3. Wrestling Stilwater back from the Syndicate: While the Saints battle the Syndicate in Steelport, we could retake Stilwater from the Syndicate – and other gangs. Afterwards, the game could end with us getting honoured by the president …

Whatever will happen, let’s just hope the next Saints Row will live up to its big name and give us some good stories and gameplay antics. Or, as good old Johnny would describe what Saints Row is all about: “Let’s kill some shit!”

WWE 2K16 or Improved yet Flawed – Believe That!

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , on November 9, 2015 by Rabidgames

Honestly, it is quite easy for WWE 2K16 to be better than last year’s expensive beta. Just give us more wrestlers, a better creation suite, and more to do in MyCareer. Obviously, WWE 2K16 delivers here. Hardly a surprise – but how good is it exactly? Have Yukes and 2K been eating their vitamins?

Well, Rabidgames 3:16 says it is pretty good but not fully there to raise all kinds of hell. So, let’s start with the roster – here, WWE 2K16 brings us almost everything we desire – half the roster of NXT, pretty much every current worker and tons of legends. Well, there’s no Hulkamania running wild this year, but it’s a loss we can deal with. But there is one thing even the power of positivity cannot heal – the exclusion of the Four Horsewomen (in  the main game and in future DLC) is inexcusable and deserves a stunner to two, be it in 2K’s or WWE’s headquarters. Or maybe rather RKOs?

At least we can create divas in the creation suite again in WWE 2K16, and quite decent looking ones at that. Coupled with the Community Creations, the ability to upload face photos (which is hit and miss unfortunately) and lots of clothing and tons of moves it is rather easy to recreate Sasha, Becky, Charlotte and Bayley – but still, shame on you for asking us to do it! While there are lots of options, some either don’t work properly (eye makeup for instance) or are weird throughout – why different hairstyles for men and women? But all in all, the creation suite is awesome – you can also create.titles, arenas and shows – but unfortunately, still no finishers. And why on earth there is a limit of 20 downloads a day … fuck knows, Rabidgames doesn’t.

So where to play with your created wrestler? MyCareer has massively improved in WWE 2K16 – heel/face is more organic, there are more decisions to make and there is more variety to be found in here, but it can still feel repetitive at times. Well at least that feels like the real product … The Universe mode now features character development like in RPGs, injuries and more customisation. Sadly, the cutscenes are mostly as predictable as a John Cena match so it is still highly dependent on our own fantasy to make it work properly.

There’s also an Austin showcase to be enjoy– played in WWE 2K16, but bottom line is, it sucks. Highly linear, there are fucking QTEs once more, and getting everything there takes ages. Besides, if you know your Austina 3:16 and your attitude era basics, there’s nothing new in here for you. The showcases should really rest in peace! Even worse, since 99% of the unlockables are in there, and the other 1% are title belts you get by reaching online ranks (Rabidgames won’t even touch laggy online beyond a stoic “you suck!”), 2K practically begs you to buy the Accelerator, something yours truly has done – via Season Pass – but hey, everyone has a price, right?

Last but not least, there have been some tweaks to gameplay in WWE 2K16 – first, counters are now limited! Now more counter spamming, yay! Good news though – you only spend one reversal when you succeed – if you fail, nothing is lost. Limited reversals give the game some tactical depth which is always nice. Matches are now fluent with plenty new animations and it looks more and more like the real thing. There are also tiny details like R-Truth falling on his knees begging Lesnar not to punch him in the face anymore! And yes, as usual, there’s funny glitch galore, especially with foreign objects:

But Rabidgames is afraid he has also bad news for you: The new submission system in WWE 2K16 is crap. Utter crap. Eva Marie in the ring kind of crap!!! Seriously, never ask a drunk intern to come up with an idea and then follow through. Rarely has a game mechanic been that counter-intuitive, unnecessarily complicated and simply flawed. And yes, since submissions are a big part of wrestling, this is even bigger bullshit. Not giving us the option of using the not-perfect-yet-still-better button mashing from last year is 2K’s version of telling us to suck it. But here, 2K clearly says “it doesn’t matter what you think!”

Unfortunately then, WWE 2K16 is not the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be, it’s neither the new No Mercy nor the new Here comes the Pain – but it can scratch many itches us wrestling geeks have been longing for for years. A massive roster, 100 CAW points to fill, lots of brands, rivalries and statuses to enjoy in Universe, guiding your alter ego to the Hall of Fame – WWE 2K16 score many hits even despite the flawed submission system and the complete and utter exclusion of the real diva revolutionaries.

Rabdigames gets the tables: This game lets you be the man who beats the man, you can smell what The Rock is cooking, and you can lie, cheat and steal to your heart’s content. So put in the game and have a nice day!

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 …

Life is Strange – Strangely Beautiful in this Case

Posted in Played & Explained with tags on February 15, 2015 by Rabidgames

Life is Strange is a strange game indeed. It is slow, quiet and pensive. There is hardly any action. And because of all this, it is wonderful. Contrary to the Telltale formula, Life is Strange doesn’t need to shoehorn simplistic QTE mechanics to give you the impression stuff is going on. What it takes from The Walking Dead & Co. is that making (eventually) irreversible decisions with potentially grave consequences is a key aspect, and of course the episodic nature of the game.

If you start playing as Max, the heroine returned to her home town, you find yourself in a dream before you wake up in class. The first few minutes, it seems to be the tale of an awkward teenager trying to fit in – before Max realises she can reverse time. But because of this ability, Life is Strange never gets too hectic, you can repeat actions and dialogues if you don’t like the outcome – well, you can’t always so better make the decision you want to follow through with … but in general, Life is Strange gives you the freedom to talk, explore and find out what’s going on at your own pace. The soundtrack is stellar here – some songs are best enjoyed in full while Max is telling us her thoughts – or sometimes, it just feels good to sit there and be relaxed while Max is relaxed.

So what exactly is going on? Good question. Think of Life is Strange as a contemporary Twin Peaks – a rather sleepy town threatened by ominous signs, weird characters with their hidden agendas, and lots of buried secrets. Plus, there is symbolism all around. Storms, butterflies, light and dark, strange signs everywhere – there is much happening, and some of it might be important. And of course, photography seems to be an integral part of Max – and the game?

Gameplay-wise, well, expect a bit of exploring, a bit of puzzling, and a bit of dialogue options – Life is Strange is not about inventing anything in terms of gameplay mechanics. But it doesn’t need to have much gameplay if the simplistic approach manages to create an immersive atmosphere where even the most colourful surroundings feel a bit, well, strange …

The characters in Life is Strange all seem to be stereotypes at first sight – rich jocks, poor nerds, bitchy cheerleaders, the prude religious girl, the hipster teacher, a surveillance control freak, the rebelling punk girl smoking weed – name it. But below the surface, there might be more to some, if not all characters. Plus, they seem a bit surreal.

Speaking of surreal – reversing time, the comic-like graphics and the asynchronous lip movements could all be a sign something in Life is Strange is stranger than just strange … Currently, there are quite a few fan theories in the net already, and we can expect more to follow. Maybe everything that happens in the game is just a dream, or it is the past, or maybe even the future? Who knows?

You might have realised Rabidgames is not giving you many details about Life is Strange – yes, and for a reason. Go buy the game. Enjoy it. Make your decisions. Find out what’s going on. But most importantly, discover a welcome change from the hectic shooting and fighting and hacking and driving fast. Life is Strange never ends up as an interactive reaction test, it is always about you taking your time to go on … and if you are too slow and things happen, you can just rewind time in order to proceed. No harm done.

Rabidgames is excited: One episode finished, four to go. You don’t have to be a fan of episodic interactive movies to enjoy Life is Strange, you just have to be willing to take a game slow. Give Life is Strange some time, it will reward you with a feeling of calm enjoyment. This alone is worth playing it. And then, you might want to see what happens if you make different choices …