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2022.11.29

Wingspan

Stonemaier games got famous when the owner, Jamey Stegmaier, blogged every aspect of his upcoming Kickstarter campaign. People felt confident with his struggles, thoughts and solutions.

After some success, Stonemaier created another hit. This time the game was not design by Jamey, but by the first comer Elizabeth Hargrave. Wingspan (which is currently at the high tier in BoardGameGeek) let you collect birds that provide special powers, that accumulate turn after turn. I bought it as a last year Christmas gift for my wife last year and it became one of the most played games in our collection.

Little eggs

Positives

Components and art, OMG, are all high quality and adorable. The board, the cards, the dice tower, the eggs… ohhh… don’t even mention the colorful eggs. The color do not have any gameplay meaning, but they are adorable. People always react when seeing those little eggs.

The care in creating each bird card is astonishing. The flavor text is rich of details, and most of them have a real implication in the game itself. Bird size, breeding pattern, type of food… it’s all grounded in reality!

There are objectively better birds than others, but the external objectives and bonuses may increase the usefulness of birds on each play. Considering also the large amount of cards, at least for the sake of replayability, it’s a major plus.

The core value of this game is the engine building mechanism. Each time you get a new bird, it’s powers will be used in subsequent turns. So by the end of the match, some super powerful combos will be created. It’s very satisfying to activate a multi-point machine!

Wigspan components

Negatives

This game is a multiplayer solitaire: while you can somewhat manipulates resources and face up birds a bit, it is best to be occupied to “do your best”. My nephews were hooked all the time, but mostly commenting about the birds looks and imagining their next moves.

It is very difficult to keep track of other people’s boards. So it is really hard to counter act. None will take mental notes tracking other players. But for those who actually do this, it could represent a major strategic advantage.

The abilities are fun but and require a lot of reading to understand. While the text are not long, the font is bit small.

The dice tower, despite being cute, is prone to damage over time. I already not using it in my sessions, in order to preserve it.

Wigspan components

My Rating:9β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
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2022.01.31

Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order

Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order was mouth-full sub-titled titled title. I don’t particularly like this cascading naming convention, but it’s rather common in big franchises. Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, PokΓ©mon all suffer from.

So, EA publishing another Star Wars game. The default expectation is TRASH game loop with micro transactions and paid loot. Battlefront 2 and FIFA will not let me lie…

But this one was… really good!

I got it “for free” in Amazon Prime deal. My original intention was to get both “free” shipping and streaming service for a fixed and low monthly fee. But they do give some video games for free too. And they are eventually good games. After activation in the yet-another-game-launcher Origin launcher, I decided to give it a try.

TLDR: it has all the mediocre elements of recent games. But visuals and gameplay hooked me in. I liked it very much.

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Characters

The main protagonist is bland. Another white impetuous generic dude. The amnesia trope was also employed here. The guy, once fully skilled, now have to relearn everything.

The companions, however, are much more varied. They never are very relevant to the plot, nor we participate in their own journeys, but they add a great flavor to the story. Particularly the pilot Greez: funny, warm hearted but scared little creature. And, of course, your droid companion. The villains are good. Some visually memorable like the Ninth Sister. Some are, like Malicos, from those type that appears, brags and dies. Next.

The general assortment of goons are the stars of the show. From low rank troopers, big machines, monsters and fallen Jedis, the list is varied throughout the whole game. They provoke fear and anxiety and relaxation. They generally do not talk or express any particular personality, but all portrait a very specific role.

The appearance of iconic characters is definitively a high point to mention. But not spoilers here.

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Visuals

No much to add beyond you can see in screenshots and trailers. The game is gorgeous. EA at least have to praised in this regard: despite being bad games, all recent SW games are visually stunning. Squadrons, another Amazon free game that I’m still playing, is also amazing.

Gameplay

The main core loop is great. In the Metrovania style, maps are presented but inaccessible until the player acquire some special ability. It implies that, when acquired, the player must revisit the same areas over and over again. There is a kind of fast travel mechanism, but the travel points are sparse and will still require some time traversing.

The combat is challenging. Being a Jedi presupposes being god-like fighter. The game gives the player enough abilities to make one feel powerful but not overpowered. Even on late levels it’s possible to lose health fighting goons. Health that is important in order to face bosses and harder enemies.

Boss encounter do not change the general gameplay substantially, which is a plus. You fight using the same muscle memory developed until it. There are always the annoying pre-cutscene that will be played over and over if you die a lot on these fights.

Visiting 5 different planets gives the scenery a great variation, even to being particular different regarding the traversal challenges. Ice planet, fire planet, vegetation planet, futurist planet/installation, underground… And all are beautiful to look at.

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Final

I got it for free, but I would pay for it if necessary. The game is fun, front and foremost. The story is a bit lacking, the protagonist is definitively lacking but when I finished, I even tried to complete some extra objectives to extend the experience.

My Rating:8β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 81
2021.12.31

Game List 2021

Last year I published a post of my played games but the title was mistakenly name Media List 2020. It was a games list so this year it was properly named. This year I wrote much less about each individual game, so I dedicated a small space to comment each entry.

By far, the most important game I played was Cyberpunk 2077. At least, it was supposed to be the most loved and commented game. Whatever, here is a list of games of all games I played this year.

2021-01-13: Totally forgot to include both Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1.

Finished

Not finished yet (for a reason or another)

Most of them I barely started. Just to check the general flow or if it was working at all. Some It’s WIP. Few are collecting dust.

Not finished yet (still from previous years)

Yet, there are some games that I did not quit definitively, but they are still to be played (therefor, not yet rated). A few are event still installed.

Continuous playing

I play them eventually. Most of them, strategy games.

Next games in my radar

Finally, here a list of games that I already have in my collection that I plan to play in the next months.

  • Hitman: I’ve never finished Contracts, but just because I was obsessed for being perfect. I hope to play more relaxed this one.
  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: hope to be better then the 3.
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (7β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…): liked the first title, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (8β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…). I hope to like this one too.
  • We Are There Together: I bought to play with my wife using family feature on Steam (she shares all my games). HOWEVER, it is not included in the Play Together, so I am required to buy twice. :/ Trying to convince another soul to play with me.
  • Heavy Rain : I will play this critically acclaimed story-driven games from Quantic Dream with my wife.
  • Beyond: Two Souls (8β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…): another story to play accompanied.
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2021.09.13

Watch Dogs 2

Quite a surprise. After playing several Ubisoft open world games lately, I was expecting another result of a generic and repetitive side quest generator with a superficial storyline over it.

I was a bit reluctant to start WD2. I read that the original title was over promised and under delivered. The second one flew of my radar at the time. Recently I got it thru Epic free game initiative. Then I read some reviews and comments from the launch time and there was good ones. So I decided to check it out. Not without flaws, I enjoyed the time, the story and gameplay.

Likable Protagonist

Far Cry 3 presented the very iconic and infinite memerable villain Vaas Montenegro. However, Ubisoft writing team struggles to create memorable protagonists. I cannot name a single great protagonist in the Far Cry and most Assassin’s Creed’s (old and new entries) are plain boring. AC3’s Ezio Salvatore da Firenze is the top of mind. AS Odyssey’s Kassandra was nice, despite being put a split role with her unnecessary male version Alexios.

The player spend hours living a life of another person that she/he cares so little. It’s sad, really.

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Marcus Holloway is a new entry on the likable protagonist list. Optimist, clever and lighthearted. His motivations seems reasonable and believable. However, there is a cognitive dissonance playing Marcus as a armed gangster, shooting on police and mob armies. From start to finish, all cutscenes present him, as well the other members of the DedSec crew, as non-violent watch dogs. People that fight to preserve individual liberties and respect life and diversity. Using machine guns to kill everybody on site feels wrong. I tried to play as much as possible as the way I understood the character: low profile, clever hacker.

For the rest of the crew, it’s a mixed bag. The only one that will definitively stick in my mind is the masked engineer Wrench. Horatio, the guy that works on Goog… Nudle, becomes relevant. The rest is the rest.

For villains and NPCs, none worth mention. In fact, the main villain, DuΕ‘an, is both idiot and annoying.

References

The hacker theme is presented as the usual Hollywood clichΓ©. Type furiously into the notebook and any bank account in the world is yours!

However, the overall universe are set using are several references of popular culture. Movies, music and video games are often mentioned by characters. Some are more obscure, but most of the time these references are more common sense. For those that know them, they are quite fun. For those that do not, is exotic flavor.

Some references are less subtle: There is a search engine and maps company called Nudle. A rocket launcher Galilei commanded by a millionaire much like SpaceX. I linked the main villain company Blume as Microsoft, but it’s my own thing.

Watch Dogs 2 does not take the story and theme too serious. There is even a good dose of self mockery of being a hacker/programmer. It’s not a like FarCry’s Blood Dragon over-the-topness. WD2 translate complex problems into smaller bites to make it more accessible and fun to a broad audience.

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Gameplay

As I said before, it is possible to be Rambo and shoot everybody. Like GTA, you will attract police attention and will die, respawn and try again. But I totally feel that is not the way it’s meant to be playedβ„’. Harder, but more satisfying, is avoiding direct conflict and using gadgets and powers to sneak. The same could be said to old Assassin’s Creed games (the new ones embrace the direct combat as pillars).

The hacking abilities are more useful for small interventions, like distracting guards, then creating mayhem. Hacking citizens’ phones in the streets is a fun for 10 minutes, than becomes quite useless. Event robbing their bank accounts, money in general, becomes irrelevant mid-game, after upgrading Marcus’ drones.

Most puzzles are repetitive, but fun mini game.

At the end, the core mechanics are solid. Open world games tend to be repetitive, but WD2 scrambles the same basic mechanics offering variety.

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My Rating:8β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 75
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2021.03.10

Cyberpunk 2077

When you read this post you probably already know: Cyberpunk 2077 hype did not paid off. However, I would like to explore some personal insights.

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Me-Character and My Character

As a Role Playing Game, you are being someone else. A player might spend an whole hour tweaking the characters appearance, hair, weight, eye lashes. Then calmly considering to spent the scarce points each attribute. One is not creating himself/herself, but a different being. Maybe a projection or simply experimenting unique approaches.

Than the game starts.

You barely see yourself in the screen.

Shooters are much easier to do in first person. CDPR said they opted for the first person approach as part of the vision that the player should feel he is actually there. They even removed some features of the game because it was not working well in a first person.

But as I said before, since one spent so much love creating the character, it would be a wiser decision if one would see it more often. A third person would be a better decision. It was more valuable to see the custom V fighting than was seeing Geralt’s.

The result is that I have never really connected to the character that I personally created.

Also, there is a second take on character creation that is very unique to Cyberpunk 2077 universe: augmentations and down-the-line customizations. A game advertize as being open regarding your physical appearance, I was noted by many the lack of visual modification during the game. Not even changing the hair style, present in a much less relevant The Witcher 3, was absent.

Clothing functions as both technical improvements and fashion. The game could embrace the idea the each piece of clothing could have any game element or bonus. It would encourage players to find their own style instead keep mixing weird styles just to get specific bonuses.

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Bugs and Cars

The game was plagued by technical issues. There are hundreds of videos in Youtube with hilarious situations. CDPR had to reimburse several players and it was removed by Playstation Store days after the release, due the impossible state!

I personally had no crashes but a ton of buggy behaviors. Citizens reactions, random explosions, enemies misbehavior. In some critical emotional moments, a bug can spoil the fun. I finished the game trying to do ALL the achievements. But one was impossible to achieve due a bug in a side mission.

Then cars… The Witcher’s horse, Roach, was a delicious surprise and set the benchmark to address rideable in video games.Just before launch, Geoff Keighley (one of the few people that tasted it at the time) said driving was super satisfying. The cars felt so bad. Driving was a burden. Felt like balloons, weightless. Bikes even worse.

I was hopping to drive like a vagabond, exploring each inch of the city. But instead I was using the tele transportation all the time.

The pace that the fixes were coming were also much desirable. I finished the game in 3 months, but a small number of patches were released back them. CDPR always had a top-in-industry attitude regarding enhancing their games after release, but this time I believe they are subpar.

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Story

At the very beginning, you have to choose the background story. There are 3 possible starting conditions. And the first act considers this choice important, pointing to it frequently.

Then it becomes irrelevant. The mid game is a generic Ubisoft open world game or GTA. V is in a brink of dying, but the open world nature let her have romantic relationships, racing, and helping other people that, frankly, could wait until you solve your most important issue.

While not very original “there is a dude inside your head”, their take is quite unique e grounded. However, CDPR opted to use other very boring tropes like “I died but I’m too special so I reborn”. No need to put a bullet in V’s head to wake her up in the next scene.

The mid-game is a “ensemble a killer team” theme. It was nice but the team and the final mission is less like Ocean’s Eleven and more The Avengers: group a team of 3 guys and storm into the castle. A good point is the insertion of several recurring characters in side-missions. From love-affairs, super AI or ex-cops, the player start to care about them after some time.

The final orchestrated act was also lacking due a single biggest factor, imho: there are no good villains. A good villain have to be seeing, tasted, and feared often. If you show Adam Smasher only once, 50 hours late you could not care less about him. The other Arasaka family members the same.

Think about great movie and video game villains. They have a considerable amount of screen time so the viewer have the chance to witness his evil intentions. Darth Vader, Joker, Glados, LeChuck, Ganon, Bowser.

A very good aspect of the story is the cultural references and jokes. More than once I was caught laughing out loud with some of them.

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Conclusion

As one of the first games I have ever pre-ordered, I must say that knew what was coming. If I waited for some reviews first…

Cyberpunk 2077 is a ambitious project and several parts of it show it. However, despite the strong beginning, it becomes a generic open world game with amazing graphics.

I finished the game, and most of the achievements. 100+ hours on it. Yet, I fell disappointed. I event might get back to it in a couple of months or years, with extra content and several enhancements.

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My Rating:7β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 86
Bruno π•„π”Έπ•Šπ•Šπ”Έ