Greatness Delayed Podcast #036: We Deserve Better

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Is God Of War As Good As People Say?

When God of War (2018) had finally been delivered to the masses, it was smothered with 9’s and 10’s out of adoration by virtually every respectable review outlet known to man. The praise was due to a culmination of the game’s great graphics, an in-game camera that never cuts away, a more measured approach to combat, its story, side-quests, and open world design. Just like that, any and all concerns associated with the studio’s decision to change the franchise so drastically had melted away overnight.

But is God of War really one of the best games of all time?

For those unfamiliar with God of War’s previous story, it was about a man turned demigod by the name of Kratos. He pledged his life on the battlefield to Ares, the original god of war, for victory in return. As a result, Kratos was granted great power and had a pair of blades permanently chained to his forearms. He used these to carry out the god’s bidding time and time again, but his thirst for blood was redirected when his wife and daughter were killed by his own hands. He destroyed Ares and became the new god of war, but was then forsaken by the remaining pantheon up on Mount Olympus. Needless to say, this didn’t go over well and Kratos went on his most destructive rampage yet, not stopping until Zeus was reduced to little more than a bloody pulp. This was the end of the main trilogy, leaving Kratos’ fate ambiguous to the audience.

2018’s God of War picks up many years later. Kratos has aged, settled in to the world of Norse mythology, had seemingly found a new love and had a son. The woman of his life recently deceased, to respect her wishes, he and the boy are tasked with releasing her ashes from atop the highest mountain in all the land. But before they’re able to set off proper, a mysterious stranger appears with an ominous message, something along the lines of, “We know who you are and you’re not welcome here.” With nowhere to hide, the demigod and his boy – a mere survivalist in training (you can’t quite call him a warrior, not yet) – decide to push forward with the task at hand before something worse catches up with them.

It’s a straightforward premise to be sure, but the heart and soul of this adventure is the relationship between Kratos and Atreus. It’s clear that Kratos was too busy providing for his family to be much of a father, and when he was around, the pressure he put on his son had strained their relationship. Kratos was all business and no play, and unlike his actions in Greece, we can sort of understand why. He knows the world is full of unsavory beasts and beings, and if his boy is to survive, he needs tough love.

Some of the more critical fans out there don’t care for Atreus’ inclusion, because he’s not just there at the beginning, but stays by Kratos’ side throughout. This isn’t unlike Ellie from The Last of Us, but she, wittier and wiser than her years let on, was a far compelling companion.

Personally, I don’t love Atreus but I don’t hate him. I appreciate Atreus because he’s roughly my son’s age and acts the part. When it comes to exploring the world he’s quite green but also acts like he knows everything. So, when the game wants you to explore every nook and cranny to find all the hidden goodies, Atreus attempts to pull you off the path… and I can’t understand why. Is it to remind us how to get back to the main quest? I’ve yet to get lost in God of War and certainly don’t need Atreus’ help. This game may be open world, but it’s not Skyrim. In fact, I question the ‘open world’ claim in the first place (more on that in a bit). We really don’t need Atreus to mimic Ocarina of Time’s Navi – “Hey, LISTEN!” – and that’s something that every developer should do their best to avoid.

Atreus is a handy extension during battle though… eventually. He’s useless at the beginning, but the more he learns (and the more you upgrade his skillset), the more he’s able to help. Halfway through the game the kid is a bonafide life saver. He’ll unleash arrows (at your command) that either stun or deal damage to foes, so he’s viable for reducing their health and managing crowd control. As he strengthens and grows, Kratos will acknowledge his child’s improvements and thus improves their bond. They still have their issues though. Kratos clearly wants to comfort his son but feels he can’t. Atreus wants a father figure but resents the one he has. This plays out in interesting ways.

Now, I’ve seen people say that the secondary characters are great, and they are… but only to a certain extent. They’re written and acted quite well, but God of War relies too much on recycling the few it has as opposed to presenting new ones. The two you’ll see time and time again are a pair of estranged dwarven brothers, and while they’re entertaining, you almost feel like they’re the only two characters you meet throughout the game. There are others, sure, but none as prominent as they are. The game does a good job of explaining how they manage to pop up in each location before Kratos and Atreus are even able to get there, but without an expansive cast to back them up, their inclusion makes God of War feel a bit hollow. You could certainly argue the previous games lacked in the same area, but they also weren’t nearly as story driven.

It’s worth noting that the story, by the way, is barely there. The writers do a decent job at exploring the world’s lore and providing some back information on its characters, but God of War never feels, at least narratively, as epic as its visuals. There’s some surprises, yes, but considering the slogging ‘slow burn’ technique employed – which I’m usually a fan of – those payoffs come way too late in the campaign.

But let’s get away from the narrative and cast and talk about design.

There’s been a lot of buzz about God of War’s open world and how you’re able to return to old areas to unlock things that were previously forecasted as late game content.

Personally, I don’t see it.

You could technically call this an open world, but it’s not, at least not in the strictest sense. It’s more like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (two references in one article… niiiiice). They N64 classic used Hyrule as a central hub area with each unique area branching off of that. God of War is quite similar as it uses a large lake as its central hub. Once you branch off to chase the story or side quests, things get extremely linear. The backdrops along the way are breathtaking and make your environment feel expansive, but from a travel perspective, you’re basically dealing with a bunch of corridors that are occasionally broken up by small battle arenas and puzzle rooms. This illusion of an open world mixed with the reality of linearity makes God of War feel like it has something of an identity crisis.

And by the way, even those linear paths can be a chore to traverse. Nearly every time you turn around, there’s a new chest just begging to be unlocked. There’s a few ways of doing this: by finding and smashing three vases with runes etched on them, by doing the same but with a strict time limit, or by rotating runic columns until you find the right combination. I applaud the developers for wanting to add more content to the game, but this is virtually all they offer until you’re at least halfway through the game. At that point, you have the option of going back to certain areas and engaging in battle with corrupted Valkyries, but the ‘open the chest’ variants are what make a good portion of this game’s ‘things to do’ list. You could blow past these time wasters to carry on with the main story, but then you have to live with knowing you probably passed up something that could have permanently increased your health.

Lack of variety also rears an ugly head with the adversaries you face. You pretty much go up against the same enemies over and over again, and that includes the mini-boss trolls. The surprising thing is that God of War seems to space out the major bosses few and far between. In my first fifteen hours or so, I think I’ve had three actual boss fights. Otherwise, the developers have said, “More trolls!” I believe Cory Barlog himself had stated that the reason there weren’t more epic boss battles is that they simply didn’t have time to include any. That’s a pretty big omission, considering the most memorable moments from previous installments had been going up against the Colossus of Rhodes, Poseidon, etc.

The combat itself feels pretty good, although it takes a bit of time before it finally gets to an appreciable state. The early game leaves Kratos with few moves and skills at his disposal, so it gets tiresome doing the same combination over and over again. But once you’re able to string more things together and can actually count on Atreus to help you out, it’s extremely fun to unleash upon the hordes of enemies that come your way. You can throw your axe, use it for melee, or drop it altogether and pound someone with your fists. The variety of ways in which you can approach your adversaries isn’t vast, but boy, does it feel good. But the fact that it takes some hours before combat feels fun is definitely a problem.

That’s really the running theme here, isn’t it? This game’s pacing feels off, mainly because while the game boasts about 30 hours of content (if you’re looking to do everything along the way), very little of what’s offered outside the main quest feels substantial. Instead, it’s just the same rigmarole on repeat ad nauseum. This game would have been much leaner, and for the better, if the developers stopped looking for excuses to pad things out. But they probably didn’t because despite what you’re led to feel with the ‘open world’ and all that ‘content’, most of the given areas in God of War aren’t very big… they just appear that way. These pacing issues are what caused me to take a break halfway through the game and come back a couple of months later, because I just got to a point where I felt like it wasn’t respecting my time.

That’s not to say that God of War isn’t a good game, because it most certainly is. It does plenty of things right, but for so many reviewers to overlook its flaws sort of baffles me. Some people say that God of War is the greatest game of all time. Some have said it’s the greatest game this generation. Others have said it’s the best game on the Playstation 4. I know my opinion is subjective, but I postulate that it’s neither of these things. I think what we’ve got is a game that didn’t have enough time in the proverbial oven to become fully realized, and that the studio was pretty darn lucky that everything shaped up as well as it did. With another year or maybe two, God of War probably could have reached the upper echelons of greatness that people already claim it’s at, but as of now, I think it’s just ‘pretty good’ with occasional flashes of greatness.

A 9 out of 10, in my opinion, it is not.

Greatness Delayed Podcast #035: We’ve Got To Stop Taking Such Long Breaks

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Mike and Gus talk about God of War, Microsoft’s first party problem, Nintendo’s Labo and Switch cracking, and E3 wishes!

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Dead By Daylight or Friday the 13th? HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Happy Halloween everyone! It’s one of my favorite holidays (I’m a sucker for Christmas, too), and I thought I’d celebrate the occasion by discussing two of the hottest horror games out there: Friday the 13th The Game, and Dead By Daylight! More specifically, I’m going to tell you which is more worth your time.

Dead by Daylight came first, and it’s a fairly simple game. One person gets to be the villain stalking their prey, while four survivors must escape the semi-large arena they’re placed in. In order to do so, they must go around the map and repair five generators which power the escape gate. The villain, of course, has to stop them.

One major thing this game gets right is the intensity of the chase. A villain’s proximity can be determined by musical cues, so when they’re close, it’s time to run, and once you’re being chased, you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat. Villains. Are. FAST. They have that ‘power walk’ thing going for them, but they can catch up to you if you’re not careful. As a survivor, your job is to outmaneuver them by hopping over short walls or windows, and to slow the villain down by knocking pallets over. Of course, these pallets are destroyed in a couple of short seconds and the chase is on again. You’ll feel hopeless, but there’s plenty of chances to escape. You can temporarily blind the villain with a flashlight. Your teammates can help create a distraction, or maybe the villain wants to go make sure nobody’s about to start a generator. Even if the villain grabs you and (painfully) tosses you on a hook, your teammates can save the day… as long as they’re not too busy running for their lives.

Another plus is that this game allows horror fans to live out their fantasies. Want to be Leatherface, Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger? You can! Fancy Laurie Strode on the survivor side? Well you can do that too!

The downside to this game is that the ‘repair the generators’ bit is the only means for escape, leaving the game with a distinct lack of variety, at least on the survivor’s side. It takes a long time for the repair process, too. It probably takes over a minute without any complications, such as the villain showing up. You can also have setbacks during repair as well… that is, if your reflexes aren’t fast enough. Having to run around and do this time and time again is a chore, and once all the generators are started, guess what? The gate needs to be powered on… which is another ‘hold a button for over a minute and hope the villain doesn’t show up’ game. And, of course, because that’s the only way out, they tend to camp that part of the map. Not the most brilliant design. This game has been out for quite some time now, and they still haven’t added any escape-based variety.

Also, if you want to be a villain, you’ll rarely jump right into a match. You’ll have to wait for people to join your lobby, whereas with survivors, you can jump from game, to game, to game, without having to wait.

Still, the thrill of the chase is what makes this game so addicting and fun. Being able to play as your favorite horror villains helps, too.

It’s worth noting that the base game is fairly cheap… $20. If you want to play as these other villains, you’re going to have to pony up some money for DLC. The good news is that players are never segregated according to what DLC they own or not. You can play with anyone on any map, and play against any villain or survivor… you just can’t play as the DLC characters themselves. If you want everything this game has to offer, it’s best to pick it all up during a sale (like right now).

Friday the 13th The Game is similar to Dead by Daylight, in the respect that one person gets to be Jason, and everyone else – 8 people, to be exact – play as counselors who need to either survive for 20 minutes or escape. There’s a small handful of maps to play in, but everything is generated at random. Cabins and other key areas or items will always change up match to match, so neither Jason nor the counselors can cheese by memorizing where everything is.

I’ve never seen anyone last a full 20 minutes against Jason. He is, without question, overpowered. I mean, he’s supposed to be, right? He’s Jason! So, escape is what you’ll want to focus on. Try running cabin to cabin, looking for useful items. You’ll want a map to find other key points on the map, some first aid spray, something to arm yourself with, as well as things which will aid in your escape.

Maps will have a car or cars to repair and possibly a boat. Cars require gas, a battery, and keys. Boats require gas and a propeller. You can also find a fuse to fix an electrical box which allows access to a phone to call the police. Five minutes later they’ll arrive at one of the major roadways… but can you hold out that long? Even entering a car or boat doesn’t entirely guarantee your safety, as Jason can get right in front of you, effectively totaling the vehicles.

As Jason, you have certain powers at your disposal. You can teleport to any point on the map, see counselors outlined in red, or speed to them sort like the evil entity in the Evil Dead films. The counselors CAN kill you, but they’d all have to work together and be extremely lucky. Counselors can outrun you, at least for a little while. Eventually their stamina runs out, and if you chop them up with a weapon along the way, they’ll accrue damage and slow down. Another thing you’ll want to make sure doesn’t happen, is someone finding a stationary radio to call for help. If they do this, Tommy Jarvis will come equipped with a gun and loads of stamina. His job is to make sure everyone else gets out alive.

While Dead By Daylight is quite a bit of fun, I’m a much bigger fan of Friday the 13th. The developers really nailed the look and feel of the films, and you couldn’t really ask for more than what they’re providing with this multiplayer experience. What sets it above its competition is the variety of ways in which you can plot your escape, because Dead By Daylight is lacking sorely in that regard.

Friday the 13th is also on sale currently for 50% off, but I can’t recommend a purchase to everyone. You have to be a fan of the franchise in order to really appreciate this, otherwise you might feel the game is too simplistic, or may not be able to wave off Jason being overpowered. But if you are a fan, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play this game!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!

 

 

This Is Why People Revolt Against A Digital Future


More and more these days, people are ditching physical copies for digital, and it isn’t hard to see why. You can pre-load a game and play it right at midnight without having to wait in any launch lines. No more clutter on your shelves. You don’t have to worry about losing a disc, or having someone steal it from you. There’s cons, of course, such as the inability to sell or trade digital products, but there’s an even bigger reason which most people shrug off with indifference: You may not own said product for as long as you’d like.

No, really. Tell people that their purchase is only good for as long as the service provider allows, and they’ll laugh, saying, “Come on, bro. It’s 2017. It costs companies next to nothing to share this stuff on their servers. If you ever need to download your games again, it won’t be a problem.”

Nintendo Wii owners probably have something to say about that.

At the end of September, Nintendo made a statement:

 “Dear Nintendo fans,

 On January 30, 2019, we plan to close the Wii Shop Channel, which has been available on Wii systems since December 2006. We sincerely thank our loyal customers for their support. You can still ad Wii Points until March 26, 2018, and purchase content on the Wii Shop Channel until January 30, 2019. In the future, we will be closing all services related to the Wii Shop Channel, including redownloading purchased WiiWare, Virtual Console titles, and Wii Channel, as well as Wii System Transfer Tool, which transfers data from Wii to the Wii U system.

 If you have Wii Points to spend, content you want to re-download, or content you’d like to transfer from a Wii system to a Wii-U system, we recommend you do so while the services are still available.

 Thank you for supporting the Wii Shop Channel and for being such great fans of Nintendo.”

 This presents a multitude of problems.

 Nintendo may be giving people adequate notice, but that’s the only kudos they get in regards to this announcement. Problems ahoy!

 The Wii may be 11 years old at this point, but people can still access content on the Wii Shop Channel on their Wii-U. This may seem like a non-point, but the Wii had over 200 classic games that never made their way to the Wii-U shop. We’re talking Bonk’s Adventure, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Chrono Trigger, Commando, Double Dribble, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Mega Turrican, Super Turrican, and many, many more. So if you have no interest in the retro game market or emulating old-school games, a lot of these will be disappearing.

 So, why not buy what you’d like in the next year and be done with it?

 Well, hard drives don’t last forever. Nintendo makes products which last for a long time, but if you’ve got a Wii that’s already pushing a decade, it’d be risky to buy stuff now just so it could go belly up in a couple of years. And, that’s really the bottom line here: You could have invested hundreds, or even thousands of dollars through the Wii Shop Channel, and it won’t matter. If that little storage disc inside the system breaks down, it’s all gone.

 We could just say, “Well, that’s just a very Nintendo-like thing to do. We’re not surprised. But Sony and Microsoft will never…”

 But we don’t know that for certain, do we?

 With the PS4 offering zilch in the way of backwards compatibility, I think it’d be great if they kept the PS3 servers alive indefinitely… or, at least, enough to satisfy whatever the demand is. I doubt that’ll be the case, though. One day they’ll want to reallocate those resources. Microsoft, on the other hand, are doing that whole backwards compatible thing, so they’ll probably keep the Xbox 360 economy kicking for some time. But make no mistake about it, folks. The very moment these companies realize they’re spending more money to host these servers than they’d prefer, they’re going to do something about it. I’m not saying this because ‘evil companies are evil’, but because that’s business. When the numbers don’t line up, adjustments will be made.

 So, will access to these servers be available 20 years from now?

 “Who cares about what happens in 20 years!”

 Well, I’m 35, and 20 years ago I was probably playing Super Mario 64… and I still play that game whenever I get the chance. If you’re in your teens or even your 20’s, trust me: Time sneaks up on you faster than you think it will.

 Ask yourself this: Is the convenience that a digital library brings worth an inherently shorter lifespan?

 For some, the answer may be yes. There’s a lot of people who trade up and never look back. Still, I find it hard to believe that people are fine with spending $60 for a game they won’t have access to indefinitely.

 This is something people need to talk about. It needs to become one of the big conversations online. Again, I know it’s easy to wave this off as ‘Nintendo being Nintendo’, but if they’re able to do this without much backlash, it sends a message to Sony and Microsoft that they should have no problem doing the same. If you’re vying for a digital future, do whatever you can to ensure that your library doesn’t eventually disappear!

Greatness Delayed Podcast 032 – It’s Going DOWN Son (Neogaf)

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Mike, Gus, and Gabe discuss the sexual assault allegations against Neogaf’s owner Evilore, why some people continue to buy controversial sellers due to micros and lootboxes, and the ‘all digital’ future.

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