Kingdom Hearts 3 & Disney’s Controlling Hand

I’ve been playing Kingdom Hearts 3 and it’s been an up and down journey. While on the one hand I’m enjoying the moment to moment gameplay and there have been some genuinely great scenes and events, there’s also been something missing from a lot of the worlds so far.

Kingdom Hearts as a series is ostensibly about being able to interact with the Disney worlds and characters you love. It’s what attracted hordes of children and teenagers to the series when it debuted in the early 2000s. There was something magical about getting to explore Agrabah with Aladdin and swim through the ocean with Ariel.

But some of that magic is missing in KH3. Perhaps it’s because the Disney of 2019 is different from the Disney of 2002, but there is a corporate oppression lurking in the shadows of KH3’s overall design. I just completed Arendelle, the world based on Disney’s Frozen, and it was by far the worst and most glaringly obvious showing of Disney’s influence on the game. And considering I’m a person who hasn’t seen Frozen but was still frustrated with the world…well, that’s saying something.

Spoilers for KH3 Disney worlds and their plots will follow – no spoilers for any overarching KH plots will be in this article.

Continue reading “Kingdom Hearts 3 & Disney’s Controlling Hand”

Overwatch & LGBT+ Representation

Soldier 76 is gay. Blizzard has now revealed both of what would be considered the “primary” Overwatch characters to be LGBT+. The first reveal was Tracer being in a lesbian relationship in a comic, and now Soldier 76 through the short story Bastet. Tracer is the face of Overwatch – she’s on the box when you buy it and was the primary good guy of the very first Overwatch short. And Soldier 76 is the grizzled veteran who is who you control when you boot up the tutorial in Overwatch and is considered to be one of the easiest and most basic characters to introduce you to the game.

Blizzard has been very inclusive with Overwatch with characters of all different races hailing from all different countries. Aside from the continued controversy over a lack of a playable black female character, the representation has been wide enough to include most everyone. So it’s no surprise that some of the characters are LGBT+.

But the question I pose with this article is: is Overwatch gay enough? Is Blizzard taking the right approach to sexual representation in their game, or is this more of an appeal to the masses for good press?

Continue reading “Overwatch & LGBT+ Representation”

After The Hype: The Witcher 3

So this past weekend I started playing Witcher 3 for the first time. I read The Last Wish (the first chronological book in the Witcher series, although it is a collection of short stories and not a full novel) for a book club my friends and I participate in. The characters and world building were enough to intrigue me and finally got enough of my attention to actually start the Witcher 3. I’d bought the complete edition for PS4 during a sale who knows how long ago and it’s been sitting on my shelf as a “to play” game for a long time.

Despite it getting rave reviews and it winning a ton of Game of the Year awards back in 2015, I was never super jazzed about the game. I’d played the Witcher 2 on the XBox 360 and finished the first chapter, but I didn’t end up completing the game. I don’t remember a lot about the story (other than Triss was there and Geralt was in a town doing witcher things) and I ended up dropping it in favor of other games. It always struck me as generic fantasy – well done and in an interesting world – but generic fantasy nonetheless.

I watched everyone rave about how good it was and how the sidequests and stories were very well developed and meaningful. But I was hesitant to jump in since I knew I’d already given up on Witcher 2 and I have a low tolerance for generic high fantasy worlds. But nonetheless I ended up with a copy of it since it’s reputation was so strong and it just laid in wait until I was inspired enough to play it.

Which is apparently now. So for today’s article I’m going to talk a little bit about my first few hours of Witcher 3…just three and a half years later than everybody else did.

Continue reading “After The Hype: The Witcher 3”

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Traversal Problem

My play timer on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey sits at around 25 hours right now. It’s not entirely accurate – I have a short attention span and will often be doing things on my computer at the same time – or sometimes I will leave the game running and forget about it until the PS4 auto-sleep modes after an hour. But I’ve definitely been playing for somewhere between 20 and 25 hours, which I estimate is about how long it took me to 100% Spider-Man on the PS4. Meanwhile in AC: Odyssey I’ve explored maybe a fourth of the map at most, the main plot of the game is only barely beginning to come into focus and I’m only level 20 out of a soft level cap of 50. (Spider-Man’s soft level cap was also 50 – in both games you can level past 50 but the rewards are minimal.)

Both are considered “open-world action” games that have an RPG element to them. Both have skill trees that you can upgrade and customize your play-style through. Assassin’s Creed has loot-drops and equipment to upgrade, along with a system of tracking mercenaries out to kill you and the ability to recruit people for your ship crew, while Spider-Man has gadgets to acquire and special suits and powers to unlock and upgrade. Spider-Man, however is a very story-focused game with a smaller overall map that allows for a high density of things to do in the playground you’re given, while AC: Odyssey gives you an extremely large map that is still dense with things to do, but is more focused on letting you explore and find those quests at your leisure.

So why is it that, even though the map is clearly larger and encouraging you to explore everywhere, getting anywhere in Assassin’s Creed is a chore? But in the smaller map of Spider-Man I had the most fun I’ve ever had getting from point A to point B?

Continue reading “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Traversal Problem”

Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

Earlier in April of this year I posted this article – and on September 7th, I was finally able to get my hands on Spider-Man to play it. I got the Collector’s Edition and also upgraded my PS4 to the limited edition Spider-Man PS4 Pro. It is an understatement to say that I was excited to play the game. And a little over a week later I’ve completed the game – I earned the Platinum trophy (only one of five that I’ve earned, the others being Horizon: Zero Dawn, Day of the Tentacle Remastered, and two Telltale games which basically only require you to play the entire game to get them).

Spider-Man was an amazing game that I loved almost every minute of – it will almost assuredly be between it and God of War for what I consider my personal game of the year, unless something coming in the next three months manage to impress me more (here’s looking at you Super Smash Bros). It wasn’t a perfect game, though – in fact it actually had a few glaring problems. But considering how Insomniac absolutely nailed everything else, the highs totally outweighed the lows.

So as someone who’s pretty much done everything the base game has to offer, it’s time for my review. There will be mild spoilers for certain parts of the game, but nothing regarding the major plot points that Insomniac wanted to keep secret.

Continue reading “Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man”

Heavy Rain Is Bad

On Friday the newest game by David Cage and Quantum Dream arrives – Detroit: Become Human. It’s a theoretically interesting game that explores three different perspectives in a futuristic sci-fi world where androids walk among humans. It will likely cover the usual sci-fi tropes of whether artificial beings are actually people and I can understand why people could be excited by this. Especially since the game boasts many different branching narrative paths including the possible deaths of all your characters.

I’m personally avoiding getting the game (at least for now) due to a multitude of reasons. First off, Quantic Dream is rumored to be a bit of an awful workplace. There’s been accusations of racist, sexist, and homophobic behavior from people in charge, along with unhealthy forced working conditions. David Cage himself is an egoist who is rumored to asked to be called “God” and “Sun King” by his employees. While Cage and the studio executives have denied this and sued the media for covering the story, these rumors came from several different sources and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, and thus my enthusiasm for giving Cage money is limited.

The other reason is that, well, the game I have played of his – Heavy Rain – sucks. When you break the game down, it’s just not a good game. I didn’t always have this opinion – in fact I raved about Heavy Rain after I finished my first playthrough of it. However as time has passed and I’ve looked back on the game, I’ve come to realize that the game itself is pretty terribly designed and a decent analysis of it can help unlock the so-called Sun King’s psyche.

(Spoilers for the entirety of Heavy Rain will follow – so if you haven’t played it and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t continue. Otherwise, read on.)

Continue reading “Heavy Rain Is Bad”

Review: God of War

I finished God of War about a week and a half ago. I started trying to write a review for it but ended up with an immense case of writer’s block, which struck me as weird because I really, really liked the game. So I shelved the review and stepped back to think about why I was having issues writing it out. And the writer’s block basically creeped into all writing as I just sat and stared at the computer screen any time I attempted to write for the last week.

What I finally realized was that I was trying to contextualize my review and base it off of my pre-God of War post – which you can read here – and trying to discuss all the things I brought up in that post and that was not only overwhelming me but it was causing me blockage (heh heh) because I didn’t know where to begin or how to approach all the issues. So instead I’m just going to review the game like I would normally and maybe touch on a few things here or there related to my initial musings on the game before I actually got my hands on it.

There will be some mild spoilers on early game story beats in the review, so if you aren’t a few hours into the game and care about those sorts of things this is your last chance to abandon ship. For the rest of you, let’s begin!

Continue reading “Review: God of War”