Game Night! – Dad of War

Happy Friday, humans!  So, technically yes, I know, the game is God of War…but let’s face it, the hook is that Kratos and Atreus are learning to be father and son every bit as much as they are an ass-kicking combo of gods.  We tried something a little different for tonight’s stream, as Dad of War is obviously a single player game and I have not wanted to spoil the main story beats of the game.  So, since Beefer has advanced the furthest in terms of combat ability and accessed a difficult optional battle with a Valkyrie Queen, we elected to stream his attempts to defeat her…with the rest of the crew providing him with, ahem “encouragement.”  Hopefully you find it as entertaining as we found ourselves!  Except Beefer.  He didn’t appear to be entertained by it at all.  You can find the video on YouTube or below.

Until next time! – EWE

Advertisements

God of War – First Impressions

(Editor’s Note: While the following will contain spoilers for the previous games in the God of War series, there will be NO SPOILERS of anything not previously made public about the newest entry just released for PS4.)

Early on in God of War, there is a moment when Kratos’s son, Atreus, is despondent and unresponsive after a brutal battle.  “You’re in your head, boy,” remarks Kratos, “Close your heart to it.”  Atreus doesn’t respond, and so Kratos gruffly states “Then we return home,” before slyly adding, “A shame…to quit the journey so soon after we began…”  Atreus immediately snaps out of his shell shock, exclaiming, “What?!  No!  I’m fine!  See, here…I’m dropping the chain!  I’m fine now!”  It was a moment that made me, and would make any father or parent, smile.

Related image

I am still early on in my journey through the Norse lands in God of War, but Sony Santa Monica has already taken a character in Kratos, who was once the poster child for one-note characters – literally just an anthropomorphic personification of rage – and transformed him into one of my favorite nuanced characters, and fathers, in all of fiction.  This isn’t an exaggeration.  I am a father of two sons myself, and perhaps that is part and parcel of why I find myself relating so, so much to the struggles and the strengths of Kratos in this adventure in these latter days of the demi-god’s life.

Related image

It isn’t a spoiler to say that Kratos and Atreus are on a journey following the death of Kratos’s wife and Atreus’s mother – that much was made obvious from the prerelease trailers and campaign from Sony.  And yet, despite sharing this deeply personal loss, it is obvious in the early hours that Kratos struggles with the emotional bonds of fatherhood.  There have been several times where Atreus has appeared in need of comfort, while Kratos reaches an unseen hand toward his back, only to hesitate at the last moment and then drop the hand away.  Many have speculated that this is indicative of Kratos’s struggles with “adjusting to fatherhood,” but for me this misses the mark and overlooks a huge chunk of the character’s history.  He’s already been a father – and it came to a brutal, tragic end at his own, albeit unwitting, hands.  So it isn’t that the bonds and emotions of fatherhood are foreign to Kratos – instead, he is all too familiar with them, and knows the pain of having them ripped away, and thus has been torn between nurturing them with his new family or keeping them at arm’s distance to avoid the risk of repeating his tragic and violent past.

Related image

While much has been made of how this game represented a “fresh start” and would not necessarily be tied to the prior games, but would still “honor” them, for me personally, the ties to Kratos’s journey through the previous games have been pervasive through the early hours of his new quest.  From multiple characters referencing Kratos’s past, to Kratos’s starting equipment referencing that it covers a “dark secret,” to a mysterious illness that Atreus suffered from as a child that Kratos seems to know more about than he is telling…and then there is the growth of Kratos himself.  Gone is the blind rage of Kratos rampaging through the Greek pantheon.  In its place is an older, wiser man, still capable of tremendous violence when challenged, but more focused on imparting reason and wisdom to his son than in engaging in the slaughter of all who oppose him.  He is a deeper, nuanced character that can be related to much more easily than in past installments in the franchise.

Related image

These changes to the God of War formula are immediately apparent in the gameplay itself.  Gone are the days of the zoomed out, fixed camera angles – instead we now have a controllable camera that is zoomed in over the shoulder of Kratos, making combat much more visceral, brutal, and tactical.  Every encounter, even on normal difficulty, has the potential to end your game if you just mash an attack button and don’t pay attention to your surroundings.  Enemies are brutal and intelligent, engaging in flanking tactics, adapting to your battle maneuvers, and attacking in well-balanced packs that require employing varying battle tactics to succeed against.

Image result for god of war ps4

But this isn’t to say that combat is in any way unfair – if you plan well, you’ll succeed.  Time your blocks, look for openings, call for Atreus to send in arrow strikes at opportune moments, and unleash hell, and you’ll be rending enemies limb from limb in short order.  Boss fights, however, are still tense affairs requiring you to observe and identify patterns and weaknesses.  Rushing in without knowing what you’re doing is going to get you quickly killed – and honestly, that feels right in a game set amongst gods and monsters.

Image result for god of war ps4

I spent all weekend and as much time this week as I could playing God of War and I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface – and that thrills me.  I don’t ever want it to end.  Everything about this game has amazed me, and it has been one of my favorite gaming experiences that I have had in a long, long time.  More thoughts will assuredly come as I continue my journey alongside Kratos and Atreus, but for now, all I can say is that if you haven’t begun your own journey at their side, you should.  This isn’t just a game – it is a piece of art, it is a timeless story that should be told and listened to and experienced.  Do not miss it. – EWE

EWE’s Take On E3 2017 – Part 2

Greets, people!  After last time, when we took a look at individual publisher’s press presentations at E3, it’s now time for the Big 3 – Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.  However, unlike last time, and unlike many other places where you can find coverage of E3, I’m not going to go blow by blow with all the particular news, announcements, and other info from each conference.  This is primarily because it’s late, and I’m tired – but also because you don’t need me for that.  If you just want to know everything that happened, there are plenty of sources.  But instead, here are my general impressions of how each one fared in their particular event.

Sony

First up, we have Sony.  The purveyors of Playstation had quite the reputation to live up to this year, as their last few E3 press events have been absolutely stellar, culminating last year with having a FULL FUCKING SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at their event and unveiling God of War 4.  Seriously – these weren’t just press events – they were epic live performance art.  So could Sony do it again this year?

So I think the best summation I’ve heard about Sony’s event this year in comparison to past years came from Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller, who said “I think of the last few years’ of Sony events as being grand slams, and this year they ‘just’ hit a home run.  So you see it and go, ‘oh, it’s just a home run’ because of all the grand slams but it’s STILL a home run!”  Look, at the end of the day, is some complacency likely settling in at Sony?  Sure, but they’ve kinda earned it.  The PS4 has won this generation of the console war, from an install base perspective.  They have an amazing string of first and third party exclusives behind them, and a number still to come.  So this year consisted almost entirely of additional footage and trailers of games that we’ve known about already.  The primary exception was a remake of Shadow of the Colossus.  That said, the principal complaint I hear about Sony’s event is essentially “hey, they had one or two things I liked, but the rest didn’t really do much for me.”  Except here’s the thing – those “one or two things” have varied from almost each person.  So essentially what Sony did is have something for everyone.  To me, that’s a damn good showing.  Special shout out to Monster Hunter World!

Xbox-One-X

I have an Xbox One.  I love my Xbox One.  I don’t think less of Microsoft because they are second in the install base behind Playstation.  But when your entire press conference is essentially “here is a $500 upgrade to your existing console, that is capable of 4K but will have no exclusive games, but some of your favorites will get 4K support like, um…Minecraft!” then you’ve fucking lost me.  I mean…I don’t have a 4K tv.  I’m sure I will one day…but that day isn’t today, or tomorrow, or, you know…soon.  So the only way you’re going to get me to give you $500 is to either have TREMENDOUS performance upgrades that I will actually notice, or games that I can’t play anywhere else.  This didn’t do either of those for me, and is far too expensive to warrant a mid-cycle upgrade for anyone without tremendous expendable income.  Lets assume I DON’T upgrade – that’s 8+ new games I can buy instead of a console.  I’m sorry – I know the hardware manufacturers are insisting that “it’s just like a cell phone!  Everyone buys the iterative upgrades!” but I’m just not going to support that in the console gaming market.  You want me to drop that kind of money?  Start the next console generation cycle.  Otherwise you’re going to have to do a lot more than handing out godawful t-shirts and talking about almost no games at your conference to get a passing grade from me.

Nintendo-Logo

I saved what was, in my less-than-humble opinion, the best for last.  Nintendo essentially split its big news between two presentations – but damn did they kill it.  Mario Odyssey is going to be fantastic – we all knew that.  But Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is going to bring XCOM style tactics to a whole new generation.  While the excitement of Monster Hunter World on PS4 took a hit by the announcement that as of now Monster Hunter XX for Switch isn’t coming West, I quickly didn’t care anymore because METROID IS BACK, BITCHES!  And not just Metroid Prime 4 on Switch – I mean, that’s great, but for me the killer news was a full 2.5D remake of Metroid 2 from the original GB is coming to 3DS in September.  I’ve been waiting for a 2D Metroid since before many of you were fucking born, and the end of that wait is finally in sight!  Nintendo essentially announced major Switch entries in every one of their front-line first-party franchises.  I love the Switch, its launch has been a tremendous success, and if this software lineup continues as strongly as it has begun, Nintendo is poised to leap back to the prominence that it lost with the Wii U.  Strong, strong showing for Nintendo.

That covers the major news from E3, but before I go, I’ll quickly address this being the “first” E3 that is open to the public.  I say that somewhat sarcastically because since I’ve been a young EWE, fans have been finding ways to attend the “industry only” show, but this year marked the first year that they were officially invited.  While I am sure this was a dream come true for many, I think it could have been handled FAR better by the ESA based upon what I have heard from my friends in the game journalism industry.  Those folks work far beyond hard enough as it is in covering E3 every year – essentially it is the largest undertaking they have each year.  To a man and woman, each said that it was far more difficult this year due to the unchecked crowding and lines clogging the show floor and making getting to appointments and meetings incredibly difficult.  I’m not saying that the public shouldn’t be let in – and even if I did, who the fuck cares what I think – but the ESA needs to contact its friends at events like PAX and get tips on how to properly handle such a mass of humanity for next year.

Until next time, humans! – EWE

Dragon Quest Retrospective, Part 3 – Return to the West

When last we were here, brace adventurers and adventurettes, we were faced with the harsh reality of Dragon Quests V and VI for the SNES never making their way across the Pacific, until many years and a company merger later.  It was a dark time for fans of traditional, turn-based JRPGs.  Yet there was hope on the horizon, and that hope was in the form of the numeral VII.  Two numeral VIIs, actually – both released for Sony’s inaugural effort into the home gaming console realm, the PlayStation.  One was a small, niche title from some company called Squaresoft called Final Fantasy VII – you’ve probably never heard of it.  And the other was the final Dragon Quest to be developed and released by Enix on its own – Dragon Quest VII.

Released in Japan in 2000, Dragon Quest VII was notable for several reasons.  It was the first Dragon Quest game to be developed and released for a non-Nintendo platform, being released for the Sony PlayStation.  It also was the first Dragon Quest game to be released in CD format rather than on a cartridge.  And with its US release in 2001, it marked the return of Dragon Quest to Western shores.  Gameplay wise, most of the core fundamentals remained intact – turn-based combat, an expansive world, and the deepest class system yet in the series.  The sheer scope of VII made it stand out – a standard playthrough of the game would easily reach 100 hours, and delving deeply into the different classes could double that number.  However, the Western release was marred by two flaws – a poor, incomplete localization, and the gigantic shadow cast by Final Fantasy VII.  This led to limited sales in America, and the game quickly went out of production and became something of a collector’s item among JRPG fans.  This ended in 2016 when the game was remade for the 3DS, with improved visuals as well as an entirely new, much better translation.  This is definitely the way to experience this game.


Released in Japan in 2004 and in the US in 2005, Dragon Quest VIII saw the series jump to the PS2 and into full 3D.  It also was the first time in the series that encounters were not random – enemies appeared on the map and could be avoided (this feature would later be implemented into the 3DS remake of VII).  It was also the first game in the series not to be retitled “Dragon Warrior” when localized for the West, instead retaining its original Dragon Quest moniker.  Finally, VIII was the first title in the series to be developed by the combined might of the merged Square Enix, and as such included a demo of the much- anticipated Final Fantasy XII.  The title saw tremendous critical and commercial success in both Japan and the US, with many thinking that this was the mark of the Dragon Quest series finally “modernizing” by combining its classic turn-based combat with beautiful visuals and a unique character development system that eschewed set classes or roles in favor of developing individual skills for each character.  It also featured a robust alchemy system for the first time in the series.  With this, many expected the next Dragon Quest game to push the visual boundaries and epic storytelling even further – but Square Enix had a surprise in store.


Square Enix shocked many by developing Dragon Quest IX exclusively for Nintendos DS handheld system.  Following the success of the visually impressive DQ VIII and the breathtaking Final Fantasy XII, DQ IX’s release in Japan in 2009 and the US in 2010 left many fans scratching their heads.  In a way, IX represented something of a “concept album” for the series.  Rather than the party being comprised of specific story-based characters, it was comprised entirely of player-created members, something not seen since DQ III.  And for the first time in the series, and rarely seen in any JRPG, there was a multiplayer component to IX’s gameplay – other party members could be controlled by other players in combat.  Further, IX featured online content in the form of items and visiting characters from previous entries in the series, as well as downloadable quests that couldn’t be received any other way.  Gameplay still features turn based combat, again featuring a deep class system.  However, while there was again a central narrative driving the player forward, most of the time in the game was spent completing tasks in a robust quest system inspired by MMO RPGs.  While a tremendous critical success, IX failed to achieve quite the same commercial success as its predecessor, unfortunately leading SE to conclude that the West once again wasn’t a profitable market for the Dragon Quest brand, and leading to some titles not crossing the Pacific again.


Originally released in Japan in 2012, Dragon Quest X is a unique entry in the series.  As of this writing, it is the only main entry in the series that has solely been released in Japan, with no form being localized or announced for the Western market.  It also marked a departure from the series single-player roots – X was a full-fledged MMO RPG.  A class system that combines elements of classic Dragon Quest games and the MMO features of Final Fantasy XI, and a battle system that was a mashup of the legendary Active Time Battle system and real-time MMO combat allowed X to carve out its own niche in the crowded MMO market.  While critically praised and commercially popular in Japan, SE has cited prohibitive localization and development costs as the reason why they have no current plans to bring the title to the West.

And with that, we have reached the end of the current, main series entries in the venerable Dragon Quest franchise.  With the exception of the Japan-exclusive MMO DQ X, I have played every entry in the series and I can personally attest to both their level of craftsmanship as well as their place as a cornerstone of the JRPG genre through the years.  These games served as my gateway into the world of console gaming, and they have a warm spot in the abyss where you humans would keep your heart.  I eagerly await the development and release of Dragon Quest XI, as well as the continued success of the franchise as a whole.

While this retrospective has focused on the main entries in the series, it is no secret that there are a number of spin-offs and side-entries under the Dragon Quest banner.  Should any of you wish a look into those, please let me know in the comments section.  I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed my nostalgic trip down memory lane.  And if you haven’t then I sincerely hope you have your life insurance paid up before the meteor I just summoned lands on your roof.

So until next time kids, remember – no matter how you may want to try and spin your support for Trump as not being an indication of you being a hateful, horrific human, when the KKK holds a parade in celebration of your chosen candidate’s victory, you should probably take a long, hard look in the mirror…and then drive your face into it as hard as you possibly can. – EWE

RPG Madness; Profile Pondering

Salutations, my little whispers in the darkness (yeah, I’m running low on creativity).  It has been an incredibly busy week on the work front, which has led to a downturn in the amount of time I have had to spend here with you.  For that, I am sorry – I’m sure you have all missed me.  But on the bright side, after less than a full year practicing law, I am taking an issue before the Ohio Supreme Court.  Despite many, MANY character flaws (which if you’ve followed me this long should be readily apparent) I’m not normally one for bragging much – it feels uncomfortable.  But this is a pretty big career milestone, especially in this short of a time, so I am quite proud of it.  Given how extremely low my self-esteem has been for the past several months, it is gratifying to feel good at something.

But you didn’t come here to hear about me!  Or at least, not that bit.  I mean, this is all really about me and my thoughts.  So you kind of did come here to hear about me.  Huh.  I’ll be damned.  Again.  Anyway, another thing that has me quite excited is all of the recent happenings in the game industry, and particularly in the RPG space.  I’ll have more thoughts on some of the big announcements (PS4 Pro, etc.) in the coming days, but for now, this month is being extremely kind to my addiction to RPGs on handheld systems.

First off, we have The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II.  Yes, the name is a mouthful, but dear sweet mother of god, if you are a fan of turn-based, anime-inspired RPGs, this series is amazing.  Trails in the Sky FC and SC were two of the greatest RPGs I’ve ever played on the PSP, with amazing characterization and combat systems.  Cold Steel I took everything great about Sky and turned it up to 11.  Much like FC and SC, there is one continuous storyline across both games, and I’ve been waiting to play Cold Steel until I had access to both of them because I did not want to get to the end of I and be left hanging until II made it’s way across the Pacific.  Now it is here, and I am delighted.

cold-steel-ii
These kids will kick your ass.

Next up is one near and dear to my heart, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past on the 3DS.  This is a remake of the original Dragon Quest VII released on the PS1 around 2000.  Dragon Quest is one of my most beloved series, in no small part due to nostalgia – I received the original Dragon Quest as a gift for subscribing to Nintendo Power as a kid.  It was the first RPG I ever played, and the second game I ever played after Super Mario Bros.  DQ VII is famous for it’s tremendous amount of content – finishing the PS1 original was easily a 100 hour undertaking.  I can’t wait to relive it all over again.

dqvii
I still think that hat looks fucking stupid, though.

Finally, there is Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse on 3DS.  A retelling of the story in the first SMT IV from a different perspective, the main character in Apocalypse bears a more than passing resemblance to the Demi-Fiend, the player character in the seminal SMT: Nocturne for PS2.  Nocturne is one of my favorite games of all time – I have always loved the dark subject matter and various religious themes explored by the SMT series as a whole, and Apocalypse looks to scratch that itch.

smtiva
I’m telling you right now that I’m siding with Lucifer if I can.

Before I go for now, I wanted to pose a question to anyone still with me – I am wanting to prepare another profile post of someone in the gaming industry.  I have a few ideas, but I am very curious to know if any of you have any preferences?  Let me know in the comments below.  I tend to do most of my research for the profiles from open sources, but I am in no way averse to reaching out to people to see if I can find any information that may not be easily searchable.  If nobody has a preference, I can always go with one of my own.

Fare you well this evening, boys and girls, for I must go and continue binging through Pokemon X/Y in preparation for Sun/Moon’s upcoming release as well, but remember – even if the nutjobs are right (they aren’t) and Hillary Clinton is secretly dying (she isn’t), it means that she is spending her last days and remaining strength trying to save the country from a Donald Trump presidency.  This doesn’t make her unfit to serve – it makes her a goddamn motherfucking hero.  Until next time! – EWE