Agents of Mayhem: Pretty mediocre so far

I’ve played a few hours of Volition’s new game, Agents of Mayhem, this evening and my feelings so far are pretty “MEH”. I was never blown away by the Saints Row games, but they certainly had style and some pretty good voice acting for what they were. From my time with Agents of Mayhem so far I can’t say much of anything has stood out. If anything, I’ve felt like the dialogue and voice acting so far has been entirely generic and at some points the lines feel outright forced. It seems like there’s cursing just for the sake of cursing, and I can’t tell whether the characters are supposed to come across as funny or serious most of the time. It would seem they’re going for a Saints Row kind of attitude, but everything so far has missed the mark.

As for the missions, again I feel like I’m running through things I’ve done hundreds of times before. You run (or drive) to a point, hack some stuff, defend it, and move to the next point. It feels like something I’ve already done in Saints Row IV. I’m not even two hours in and there’s already been a capture an outpost mission which is as dry as missions come in my book, and they mention there will be more outposts to capture as the game progresses (oh goody!).

The actual gameplay leaves much to be desired as well. Something just feels off about the shooting and abilities. They almost seem like they were just slapped into the game without a lot of love. I haven’t gotten any satisfaction from taking out enemies, firing weapons or using abilities. Rama’s bow seemed like it would be fun to use at first, but it became frustrating before I even finished her mission. To make matters worse, her dialogue during her mission has been some of the worst yet. Maybe it’s not necessarily bad, but it feels like there’s no purpose to it, it’s so generic you could ignore it altogether and not be missing anything.

The progression between missions doesn’t feel good either. You go back to a central hub and can initiate a new mission from there, or visit a few different shops, but it all feels so already done. The open world so far hasn’t done anything for me, and even recklessly mowing down civilians has no impact at all. Nothing feels alive, and there doesn’t seem to be much reason for it to be an open world game at this point.

I’m left not sure that I even want to launch the game again. Maybe it gets better, but so far it seems so generic that I think I’d be better off moving on to something else.

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Nier’s second playthrough is kind of a slog

I’m not one who enjoys playing the same sequence in a game multiple times. In fact, if I’ve had to play the same sequence in a game too many times (usually due to me dying / failing) I’ve walked away from games and have never gone back (the first Uncharted game for example). I simply don’t find repetitiveness enjoyable. When I first heard that you have to “replay” Nier more than once to get the most out of the story, I was a little put off, but after finishing the A ending last week I decided to jump back in.

Unfortunately, replaying the same sequences from the first playthrough as 9S has not been enjoyable so far. I wasn’t a huge fan of the combat the first time around, and it’s even worse as 9S (his most powerful attack is hacking which forces you into a repetitive mini-game that I got tired of after the third time seeing it. What’s worse is not enough feels different. You’re slogging through the same areas, fighting the same enemies and bosses for very little payoff. You’ll get some unique cut scenes and flashbacks that further fill in the story, but I’m already contemplating putting the game down for good. I wish they would have found a better way to fill in the story than running through the same thing twice.

I understand that the third playthrough is entirely different than the first two, but at this point it feels like a laborious grind stands in the way of something more rewarding. Why am I doing the same thing again when I could be working my way through Persona 5 instead? I’m still undecided whether I’m going to see it through or just look everything up on YouTube. I feel like the latter would be a wiser use of my time.

I’m really not into Mass Effect Andromeda

The Mass Effect series has provided some of my favorite moments of my entire ‘video game life’ (even Mass Effect 3!). Up until last night I was incredibly excited for Mass Effect Andromeda, and thought for sure I would be buying the game. The only decision I had yet to make was whether I’d get it for the Xbox One or PC. However, the two hours I spent with the 10 hour EA Access trial last night has almost entirely dissuaded me from buying the game.

Right off the bat I found myself annoyed with the writing. Not only was the set up a bore, but the dialogue between characters, both during cut scenes and during background conversations was cringe worthy. At one point one of my squad mates uttered something to the effect of “Did that hurt? YEAH BECAUSE I SHOT YOU IN THE FACE!”. I almost shut the Xbox off right then and there, but I decided to keep trudging through to see if anything exciting would happen. It never did.

My time on the first planet felt like nothing but busy work. Run here, then here, then here, Scan some things. Shoot some things. On and on. I know this isn’t wildly different from the other games, but at least on those games there’s a real sense of purpose. The whole Pathfinder concept just comes across as cheesy, right from the start. The opening dialogue trying to make the journey to Andromeda seem like some “grand adventure” just made me cringe, and as I spent more time as Ryder I wished there was a button Nier Automata style to just shoot myself in the head and get a game over screen.

To make matters worse, the combat just feels sloppy. I found it difficult to line up shots (kind of slow, but all over the place at the same time) which sucked because I had been playing Mass Effect 3 all week and loving how solid the combat feels in that game. The guns and abilities feel like they have very little bite, and there’s no satisfying “pop” as you drop enemies like there is in Mass Effect 2 and 3.

Even worse than the combat are the textures, animations and voice acting. The first planet isn’t very pretty to look at (a darn shame after spending time with Horizon Zero Dawn or even Breath of the Wild), but beyond the art style there are some incredibly flat, muddy and ugly textures (the dark matter particularly). The animations have probably been ragged on enough by everyone else on the internet, and I could probably ignore them if it weren’t for the god awful voice acting. Some of it has been so bad that I nearly burst out laughing. Specifically, the first lines out of the female Turian’s mouth on the Nexus are horrendous. Shortly after speaking to her I had to turn the game off and boot up Mass Effect 3 instead, I couldn’t take it anymore. She’s not alone, however, as most of the characters sound like they were voiced by the developers themselves, blandly reading lines into a microphone with no enthusiasm or emotion.

Lastly, there are some really bad pop in issues, most noticeable while on the Nexus. As I found myself running into rooms, entire groups of NPC’s would pop in two or three seconds after I entered a room. Maybe this is a bug that gets fixed with a patch, maybe it’s a limitation of the Xbox One, but regardless, it really screws with any sense of immersion you might have.

Ultimately, I’m not even sure it’s worth my time to play another couple hours of the free trial. I feel like I’ve seen all I need to see. I don’t think I could take another minute of easily the second worst game I’ve played in 2017 (second only to Ghost Recon Wildlands, another game that suffers from some of the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard in a video game).

I don’t mean to hate on Mass Effect, I really wanted to love the game as much as I’ve loved the rest of the series, but I don’t think it’s possible at this point. At least I can take some relief in knowing that Andromeda was developed by an entirely different team than the original trilogy, and I think in the long run many will come to look at Andromeda as a sort of B-level spin off, rather than a continuation of such a great series.

Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is a bore so far

Elder Scrolls Online Xbox One

I participated in the beta for Elder Scrolls Online (for PC) and found it clunky and boring to play even then, yet I was still dumb enough to purchase the game shortly after it launched last year. I played it for a few days and found that my opinion hadn’t changed since the beta. It felt like it had potential, but ultimately I think the entire MMO genre is no longer enjoyable.

This week The Elder Scrolls Online launched on console, and again I had a desire to check it out. I found a copy at a Redbox (they’re finally starting to get Xbox One / PS4 games around here, though not very many) and decided to rent it, against my better judgement.

Redbox Xbox One

I just finished up playing through the first hour of ESO on the Xbox One, and was just as underwhelmed as I was when I first played it on PC. The opening to the game isn’t very strong at all, but I guess most MMO’s are slow to start anyway. Beyond that, I still don’t find the combat enjoyable at all, and none of the characters or the quests they’ve sent me on are interesting at all. When every single side quest in The Witcher 3 features interesting characters, environments and stories, it’s hard to play through dull MMO quests in a game like ESO.

The console version of Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t feature any sort of text chat, so instead communication is accomplished via voice. Voice chat is distance based, and players will begin to fade away as they get far enough away from you. This is certainly an interesting system, and something Destiny desperately needed (or still needs if you’re still into it). I will say the voice chat can be a little jarring, especially while wandering around in the wilderness and all of a sudden a voice cuts in. I’ve been startled by a random voice in mid conversation several times already, and I suppose it’s a nice way of making the game feel less lonely. At the same time I haven’t experienced any sort of meaningful interaction with other players, and all I’ve really done is run from quest to quest skipping through the boring conversations and dull¬†conclusions to the quests.

In a nutshell I can say that Elder Scrolls Online is simply underwhelming. If you’re really into MMO’s then you may just be able to enjoy ESO, and it certainly plays well enough for a console MMO. I think my time will be better spent playing The Witcher and continuing my journey through Fallout: New Vegas, so I doubt I’ll play much more of Elder Scrolls Online.

I fell asleep during Avengers: Age of Ultron

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I generally enjoy superhero movies. The Marvel movies have been some of the most enjoyable movie experiences I’ve had. However, with time I feel like I’m enjoying the subsequent movies less and less. The first Iron Man, Captain America and Thor movies were an absolute blast, but their sequels didn’t quite entertain me as much. The Avengers brought everything together and worked wonderfully, especially with its humor which in some way outdid the over the top action sequences.

All week I had been excitedly awaiting Age of Ultron’s release and had been planning to see it in IMAX. We had dinner plans last night so ended up making the 10:30PM IMAX showing, and after a long day of work and a few beers that probably wasn’t the best idea to start with.

The movie started with an action packed sequence already in progress and right out of the gate the typical Marvel movie humor was on point as the Avengers bantered nonchalantly as they battled their way into a seemingly impenetrable fortress. I have to admit, I was a little put off right from the start. The sequence was enjoyable, but I think I would’ve enjoyed a slower start and maybe some more setup.

Before long I felt completely lost and overwhelmed and couldn’t quite follow what was going on. Maybe it was because I was dead tired after a week in which I gave up energy drinks and soda, but I think part of it is that I’m beginning to tire of the Marvel movie formula.

I dozed off for about twenty or thirty minutes in the middle of the movie and wasn’t surprised when I awoke to a movie that was more over the top than ever. I don’t feel that the “twins” really fit into the team. I’m sure they’re from the comics or something, but I was already annoyed with the Hawkeye and Black Widow characters from the first movie. I just don’t feel like they’re necessary, or maybe it’s just that I can’t bring myself to care about them.

I’m sure Age of Ultron will please most Marvel movie fans, and I’m not trying to say it’s a bad movie, I just think I’m a little too tired of Marvel movies.

Final Fantasy XIII-2….what did I get into?

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The last Final Fantasy game I actually finished was Final Fantasy X. Heck, the only two Final Fantasy games I finished are X and VII (in that order). I played XII for awhile but could never figure out what the heck was going on and why any of the characters were relevant and eventually decided it wasn’t worth my time (after maybe 12-15 hours). XIII looked nice but was boring to play and again none of the characters caught my attention (and the story made no sense if there was even one at all). I played about up until the first or second hour of the second disc and never went back.

So why did I pick up XIII-2 tonight? I can’t quite say. I just played through the opening sequence and I’m starting to regret the purchase, even if it was only $12. The game is so far overly flashy with too much happening on screen for seemingly no reason at all. Maybe it’s because I hate anime, but all the flash and pointless acrobatics just bug me.

Maybe it’s because I never finished XIII, but I’m already so lost as to who is who and what is even happening. Not only that, but the abundance of quick time events so far has my grinding my teeth. They haven’t been satisfying at all and I’m not sure why they’re even there.

Hopefully this game will get better with time, but I might not be able to take it much longer. I’m more tempted to just go back and continue my journey with Final Fantasy X HD.

Destiny’s The Dark Below’s lack of content hard to digest

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I really wanted to like Destiny, and to an extent I do enjoy parts of it (the shooting is solid and quite satisfying) but the game has way too many downfalls for it to be enjoyable. I could go into extensive detail, but I’ll just list off a few of Destiny’s shortcomings: Story (there is none), mission variety (you literally do the same mission over and over), the loot (nothing ever feels special), the lack of voice communication (so much for being a multiplayer game) and the lack of matchmaking in raids.

If you expected Destiny’s first expansion, The Dark Below, to make the game more enjoyable you’re probably in for a disappointment. The $20 expansion (which released this week) brings barely any new content to the game which was already lacking in content from the start. For $20 all you get are three new missions, a single strike and a single raid (and a few Crucible maps if that’s your thing). Heck, there aren’t even any new achievements added. It’s really hard to justify coughing up $20 just to breeze through a few new missions before heading into another grind where you’ll repeat the same strikes over and over again just to gain access to a single raid.

Maybe you enjoy Destiny enough to put up with all the repetitiveness, but personally I think it would take two or three¬†more expansions just for there to be a reasonable amount of content in the game. And even then a $120 investment will get you much less bang for your buck than the $60 you could spend on an Dragon Age: Inquisition or the Master Chief Collection. If I were you I’d save your money and skip The Dark Below.