So far, this year’s new release has been pretty flat to me. Hopefully the big names in October and November can bring some changes.
The game successfully creates a diversified universe with different races and terrains. What is more impressive is it creates these by pure visuals in the absence of any meaningful narratives. Every race’s living place has its personality in every corner. The downside is that they are not massively produced and you soon began to find exactly same colonies in two distant planets. Outside the life of a visitor, you will have a short good time mining to gather crafting materials but it wears out rather quickly as the crafting list is not that long and lacks diversity. Most side activities, such as colony building, fishing and cooking, are very faithful about being a side activity, as none of them provide any incentives for me to go deeper. And the over-intensive combat is definitely at odds with the exploration nature of this game.
I would rate it higher if it allows me to automatically resolve some combat on the strategic map. On strategic level, XCOM2 constantly pushes so many choices to your table, forcing you to put your resources into different baskets and experiment their effects, from upgrading soldiers to directing the mother ships. The system wears out a little as you will be able to secure an absolutely safe position against aliens and turn the whole battle into a grinding routine and after that, the alien will not launch any real threats. But this can be seen as a reward of fighting through the early stages. I like most things about the tactical combat especially it discourages the hide and seek in its predecessor and offers you many options to boost your fire output in short time intervals. But the encounter mechanism is as sick as it was in XCOM. Enemies have a free move on encounter and if your squad already use up moves, they will have a full round of move immediately after that. A squad of enemy who are on vacation will suddenly attack your back line just because one of your soldier walks one more grid to the right and trigger them into battle states. It is an outsider so inconsistent with real life logic but shape your experience of battle more deeply than other elements.
The Witness (PS4)
A great collection of puzzles. Though I hate some puzzles which rely heavily on your sensitivity to visual and audio signals and have a ton of ambiguity. I especially like those panels which associate simple rules to those symbols and then push your limit of dancing with them. It is extremely good at politely inviting players into new puzzles and then taunting them for being unable to complete it. But the game is too weak in narratives. You can tell from the first second that there is “something”, but after you visit all the places, solve all puzzles, listen to all the video and audio logs and see the ending, that “something” is still “something”. Nothing pull those elements together to form a powerful message.
Grand Kingdom (PS4)
I rarely bash a game simply for technical performance, but here is one. The frame rate and resolution is unacceptable and reveal all the ugliness of its PS3 graphics. Framerate drop isn’t only present at some special effects but also persistent in the main menu background. This is more hilarious considering PS4 is the most powerful platform this game is on (I really wonder what happens on Vita). Another fun killer is the opacity of battle system. Character’s stats and their growth are never explained. Skills’ effects are wrapped in some bizarre notations which are hardly accessible during combat. What shines in the game is a relatively more relaxing and fast paced dungeon crawling comparing to Etrian Odyssey-style. Though I do not have much time to experience it before I put the disk on eBay.