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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Digital Chicken Soup.

I bought Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Jesus, look at that hyphenated number.) last December foolishly hoping it was ported. But it was an unoptimized mess brought to hideous second life. It was rough watching it constantly lurch back and forth between 60-30 fps and I dropped it like a stone.

Fast forward a year and a month and... well I'm having a rough go of it. FF's time traveling claptrap is actually soothing to me now. For lack of a more elegant phrase, I needed something both intense and inoffensive to devour my weekend's waking hours. Something new, without spending any more money. In other words, no reaching for the dusty ol' copy of Requiem for a Dream for Alex. No sir.

But it's a damn good game! The actors are actors dedicated but the script spouts the most laughable drivel I've heard in a looooooong time. But that's a good thing when you want to turn your brain off so hard it's practically meditation. It's also secretly a Pokemon game and I'm all for that at the moment.

 I finally realized in order to appreciate what Square Enix has been up to these past 7 years you have to be at least a little drunk.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Darkest Dungeon Review: Gambler's Ruin.

This is the first game I've ever reviewed that I didn't finish. I don't think I ever will. But I have played it, shall we say, enough?  I had to bum a ride from a friend the second day after I bought it and this was maybe the third week of it's early access. I hadn't really spoken to him in week or two and after stumbling into his car, bleary eyed and anxious, I barked "HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT DARKEST DUNGEON?!" He gave me the exact look I deserved.

I was completely enraptured. It's loops of bitterly difficult turn-based combat, worthwhile loot, town building; and the slow motion heart break of watching one wrong step gradually sending your favorite band of mercenaries into early graves made me manic. This game hurt me and had me begging for more.
I'll let the art speak for itself. And if you do experience the art actually speaking for itself, well... I'd light another torch.

There have been accusations that this game is too random, too cruel, and I'll get to my many caveats in a second. That specific charge is simply not true. Darkest Dungeon does not cheat. It demands perfection and that is not possible all of the time. Sometimes you try a buckshot method instead of a surgical strike, the game raps you hard on the knuckles. "Again!" It screams in an otherworldly screech without even moving it's lips. And you listen... for a while. But you will fall back on bad habits eventually and it will be none too pleased about it. The next time you put a toe over the line it will throw hours of progress into the proverbial hearth and force you to watch it all twist into ash.

You can't keep all your tin soldiers. Some will go mad, others will die too soon, and there are those who were just worthless from the start. This game is about learning your place in it's eldritch universe and that includes adapting to seemingly impossible odds. Once you realize you can always start over, often times with superior facilities, the heart of darkness is yours to reach.

Yeah, surprise motherf*&#ers!!!!!
But I do have serious misgivings. I watched this game grow over a year and I did not like everything I saw. Red Rook loves their fans... but they listened to their lunatic fringe a little too closely. They started adding features that had no business being outside of an "iron man mode" to name check another wonderful and notoriously difficult strategy game.

Enemies started leaving corpses. Barriers between you and the ranged enemies in the back of the row. Killing these freaks once was enough of a struggle and for a while the game forced me to kill them all twice! You can turn that off in the pause menu but it's on by default. Near the end they were designing the game for people that had been playing it for months already. They were all bored and wanted a harder mode. Instead of actually doing that, they catered to the reining champions and left those that were already struggling (this guy) in the dust. That was a huge mistake in my opinion. Especially with their stalwart "no easy mode" approach.

...but I digress.

Darkest Dungeon is a wild, wonderful, and original work of art, make no mistake. It's visual design is so evocative it barely needs to be animated. It's menagerie of eldritch horrors are so lovingly crafted they're hard to look at. Seriously, years down the line you'll hear people talking about how they walked in on their dad one night as a small child while he was fighting "the flesh." Kind of like the way we talk about Penny Wise the clown. Even if you never beat it (yo.), even if you barely tolerate turn based strategy, if you stick with it for at least a couple hours you will have had an experience worth your time and money.

Darkest Dungeon is truly unforgettable.

Just... look at it!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

You're goddamn right Kotaku. You're goddamn right.

I know, I know, boo! gawker empire, BOOOO! Look, journalism was a cut throat business before it became completely free, and thus, impossible to live off of. I'm not bitter about my degree choice at all!

But more to the point, Hot Fuzz is a masterpiece and my most favorite movie. It's reversible murder mystery notwithstanding; I'm still laughing at it and I will never, EVER, stop trying to get my girlfriend to watch it. If she doesn't at least... tolerate it, I may have to do some serious thinking about our future.

Happy Endless Day!

It's Amplitude's 5th birthday today, and they are just the bestest little studio I ever did see. Each of their 3 games have this fun little shared universe that comes together over a three day period (an Auriga day lasts three earth days *pushes glasses back up*) Each game has fun little extras you can only grab during that window.

I can't stop singing the praises of Endless Legend and Dungeon of the Endless. The first, a game so rich in originality both mechanically and artistically it's screaming close to a Civilization killer. The other a fun, sardonic, 16 bit, sci-fi dungeon crawler.  I love them both and I only want the best for this studio.

I've bought an expansion for EL I haven't really played, just out of a sense of duty. These guys are force to be reckoned with and with a new EL expansion on the way, I couldn't be happier for them. And Endless Space 2! Forgot about that...

Blow this up full screen. It's worth it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I wasn't sure I was going to see Deadpool...

But these little one on one ads Ryan Reynolds has been doing are just too much. If nothing else, he truly, madly, and deeply believes in this movie/character. It's more than a little infectious.

See if you can find the crew laugh. I fuggin' LOVE crew laughs, they're like laugh tracks with a soul.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Layers of Fear: This looks like the real deal.

Jump scares. Cheap and effective, despite what most horror critics will tell you. Even the most hardened cynic gets got by a good jump scare after a while. But, like the fart joke, you never respect it.

Which is why this Lovecraft trend in the "vidja" game space has me so jacked. Because eventually we will see an RPG or a so called "walking simulator" that really nails psychological horror. They say Silent Hill 2 did it first. I don't know... I have problems with it's story. The point is, layers of fear got under my skin with a 30 second trailer. I think it's got the right mood to just stick with me for a couple days. The imagery form a couple screenshots already has. And it's overwhelmingly positive reviews from 2000 users has forced me to prick up my ears.

I'm gonna give it a shot. I am ALL about creepy oil paintings.

I got your attention now, huh?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Yeah, no. The Oscars are too white.

Thanks, Dydyrock

I hate to get political here, that's not what this blog is about. But this is in defense of good art getting it's time in the sun. The fact Samuel L. Jackson isn't nominated for his Hateful 8 Monologue is a bushwackin' nut-shootin' travesty.

I mean, I love Bryan Cranston. And the idea his Walter White performance was so good it got him an honorary Oscar tickles me pretty pink. But he did not deserve to be on that list. And Redmayne won last year!

I'm with Spike Lee on this one, that so rarely happens in context of his own films. These awards have been cooped up in their porcelain tower long enough. It's time to dust up their voting process.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Kraken Recommends: Dragon's Dogma.

I've just dipped my toe into this 40 hour affair and I'm reminded of another JRPG gem. Rogue Galaxy. That game... that game made me turn the voices off. It was constantly vomiting trite, D grade, Saturday morning cartoon drivel from the word "go." But under all that, beyond it's charming anime ascetic, was a truly marvelous action RPG. Why no one's tried to spin a decent yarn under it's template since remains a mystery.

But here we are with Dragon's Dogma. It's very much the same scenario. It looks like a slightly upgraded 360 launch title, but I can roll with that. The opening area looks like your everyday fantasy fishing villige with just a touch of Mediterranean flair to keep it from being too traditional. The acting is fine, the dialogue awful, but that's not why we're here.

Everything Dragon Age Inquisition tried to do this game did better 2 years before. It's more Devil May Cry than DA:I's real time strategy. And it's soooooo much more fun. I had a blast before I realized the grapple button pretty much made this "Shadow of the Colossus: Skyrim." You can climb all the giant baddies and stab them in the eye.

This is the Shadow of the Colossus RPG. Why... why didn't they lead with that?!

It doesn't matter, because while the game is great, most everything else is crushingly mediocre. This is a western RPG by a Japanese studio, I feel, really didn't want to make a western RPG. But they gritted their teeth and turned in exemplary work all the same.

... but I'll probably turn the voices off eventually.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

X-COM 2 feels like a Masterpeice.

I can never play 2012's X-COM ever again. I'm stuffed. I've never been anything braver than a save scrubber ( I reload every time a I loose a soldier) so I've gotten all I can out that game. And what I got was a year and a half of positively sublime white-knuckled strategy.

X-COM 2 is coming down the pike in less than a month and every last bit of information about it has me giddy. First of all, there's been tons of it. Last Tuesday, it seems like every major outlet released original game play footage over 2 hours each. Most games aren't allowed in the sunlight a fraction as much before the drop date. The marketing strategy oozes so much confidence and the material looks so good... I think, that they think, they have a game of the year on their hands.

I'm inclined to agree.

One, I'm a sucker for solid animation and the solders this time around act far beyond what I would reasonably expect. Look at that screen shot up there. Look how perfectly nonchalant their faces are! That right there is hard goddamn work almost no company bothers to spend money on. I've seen footage of a berserker throwing a soldier into a truck windshield (not a cut scene but actual gameplay) and she rolls off the hood and curls up into a realistically painful-looking fetal position.

They know the greatest thing about this series is your attachment to your little tin men and women. They threw millions of dollars at them so you could relate to them even more. That alone tells me their hearts were in the right place from day one. Every time I swear I'm not going to spend 20 minutes watching a let's play I haven't seen... I break.

I submit to you, the gaming public, that at the very least this is going to be in 2016's top 3. I think this is going to be a masterpiece.

But don't just take my word for it:

Friday, January 8, 2016

Take a deep breath.

Relax. Realize tomorrow's always a second chance. Now watch some guy futz over the X-COM 2 soldier customization settings for 20 minutes.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

So I planed on writing a fallout 4 review...

I am not amused

But! I found a but so big it caused me to rethink the whole affair. Once again, a game's choice of endings is forcing me to reconsider my previous gushing enthusiasm. They're just all so reductive and terrible.

 You know how we're all sick to death (I'm actually pretty medically sick at the mo') of "go here and kill that?" Every single ending boils down to it. Find a faction you like, then kill everyone else. This... is a nightmarish interpretation of what made New Vegas great. Making the New California Republic surrender to you is ten times more satisfying than actually mowing down it's high command. But you need to do that twice to beat the game.

I honestly don't know what else to say. It'll be up this week though. And you bet your ass I just rolled another character too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Kraken Recommends: Making a Murderer.

Nothing is spoiled past episode 2!

This is the best true crime documentary since The Thin Blue Line. That was a documentary so crazily convincing it got an innocent man out of prison. MAM is a lot like that, except the happy ending. Though redditers are desperately trying.

I'm only halfway through this legalese mouth of madness and I'm already floored. Steven Avery was wrongfully convicted of rape, which he served 18 years. Then he sued the Manitowoc Sherrif's departmen for $36 Million. Then he stayed in Manitowoc county.

The rest will fill you with a righteous fury. If that sounds like something you want to feel, binge my friends. Binge.