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2021.09.02

Pandemic (The Game)

Since I started to follow the rising popularity of board games, 15 years ago, one game the games that was recurrently recommended is Pandemic, designed by Matt Leacock. When I finally had the chance to buy a game from US, it was one of the 4 games I’ve got.

At the prestigious BoardGameGeek’s top ranked games, Pandemic figured in the top 10 games for quite some time. Now the Legacy version is currently in the top 3.

Pandemic ( the game)

The main attractive at the time is the idea of a cooperative game. All players fight against the game itself. On video games its common, but was kinda a novelty for tabletop games. It plays well with 2 to 5 people and you can even play with children, because it’s all information is open so you can help the decisions for each player. Also because of been cooperative, it’s very easy to teach other people, because you can teach and repeat the rules while playing.

The let’s Save the World from a Pandemic theme was already fun, but now it has a almost historical and technical value to it. The game popularity spawned several expansions, spin offs and the most successful Legacy series, the campaign story-drive version.

Pandemic ( the game)

It’s my most played board game to date. For a reason.

My Rating: 10
2017.06.26

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

I first “met” Yuval Noah Harari in a TED talk last year. He was talking about Nationalism vs. Globalism: the new political divide. I like him and his ideas. Very interesting and compelling. I didn’t know at the time he was a writer. By accident, I found his book.

I read it entirely in 2 days. Love it.

It is a comprehensive visual of the mankind. Several sub subjects are in my top interest subjects, like religion (in a scientific perspective), politics, economics and scientific advances. It dedicate several initial chapters explaining what we know about the origin of our own species. The point when we forked our hereditary tree from other primates and from other man-like species, like Neanderthals (in fact, he argues that it is not exactly like this). It is a 50000+ years analysis of the importance of agriculture, language and religion. The origin of states. It is mind blowing.

Sapiens a brief history of humankind

Then he enters in a revision of the know history, also, focusing one layer at time. He explains why the Homo Sapiens because the rulers of the planet Earth. Why we managed to be so successful. The book is very centered on religion and religion-like lines of through, like capitalism (yes… very thought provoking).

The book is mostly founded on science and data. But also on plausible extrapolations and reasoning. And his writing style is quite convincing.

It is not an accident it is a best seller. It is not an accident it is a loved book by many.

Simple: READ IT.

My Rating: 10
Goodreads: 4.4
2017.06.01

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine

Beautiful. This new expansion of my favorite game of all time, The Witcher 3, have a major single adjective. It all happens in a different territory of the main game. A vibrant and colorful Toussaint. It was clearly (and admittedly) inspired by southern France and Italy. The very first minutes into the expansion and your head will probably explode. It is gorgeous. The city of Beauclair is amazing. The mountain that is always at the horizon looks amazing (is it possible to climb it? I did not tried)

The witcher 3 wild hunt – blood and wine

I started a new game dedicated to the expansion .Mostly because I player the whole game in the original TW3 game but when I bought the Season pass including both expansions, it made available the the TW3 complete edition for me. However, it does not include all the playing data from the original one, including achievements. Unfortunate. So I decided to test the feature that it generates a new game but the main mission was already finished. It works fine. Geralt started the game in level 25 or so with a basic high level armor and sword kits.

The witcher 3 wild hunt – blood and wine

I also wanted to test the game using the Brazilian Portuguese audio, and English subtitles for the sake of from-to mapping of concepts. I was impressed the not only CD Projekt Red did a text translation of the game but a full voice over and the same for the expansions! That’s why they are my top 3 favorite developers. However, the Brazilian audio is a hit and miss. The actor choices are not perfect (Geralt is really cool, but there are some that are weird) but the most critical point is the pronunciation of the Witcher 3 specific things. They are a mess. Beauclair, Toussaint and even Geralt are pronounced differently actor from actor and even from the same actor in the same dialog tree. Using the English subtitles helped be to surpass the confusion.

The witcher 3 wild hunt – blood and wine

[this post have mentions of the game story]

The gameplay continues top-notch. Added some extra features in the leveling system and the possibility to have your own vineyard. And getting a custom armor with the banners of your family is a very Game of Thrones coolness. However, I personally disliked one of the main recurring enemies: the giant centipedes. Not obvious why they are so difficult.

There are more jokes and culture references that the main installment. The mid-game side story in the world of fairy tales is super-hyper-mega bizarre. And I loved it! No further spoilers. Even inserted there as 100% out of nowhere plot.

The witcher 3 wild hunt – blood and wine

The story is original but not particularly fun. The main villain is forgettable. It is a legendary character that you have to meet very few moments so you never are convinced that he is so good and powerful and charming and wisdom and cool as described by almost all NPCs that managed to know him. I would love to have more interactions with him, becoming friends and then being betrayed. The way it is now, I don’t care much about him. You companion, however, is much more likable.

The witcher 3 wild hunt – blood and wine

The final mission (no spoilers) was a bit disappointing. There are a few problems: I locks the player in a series of events, the final boss have a multi step fight and if you die in the last stage, you come back just before the first. Even worse, it brings you back before a cinematic sequence. Arg. CDPR used the same technique on the main game. I hated it. I would never pass this unnoticed if I was called to do beta testing. I was a mix of relief and satisfaction when I finally managed to finish him.

Now I’m going to play the first expansion, knowing that I might be too powerful. If it half of the fun that I had, I would love it too.

The witcher 3 wild hunt – blood and wine

The best game expansion I ever played.

My Rating: 10
Metacritic: 92
2015.11.01

The Witcher 3 – The Wild Hunt

Spoiler alert: It is now my favorite game of all time. Period.

I played The Witcher (1) couple of years ago, after reading an interesting review saying that it was one of the best RPGs ever made. The review also alerted that the game suffered deeply from bad translation and bugs when first came to english markets. The second edition, called Enhanced Edition, fixed most of these issues and indeed enhanced some aspects of the game. When I played, I had to agree that the game and the universe were fantastic. I loved the idea of playing with a anti-hero.

The Witcher 2 came and I also loved it. It departed from the Aurora Engine (used in Obsidian’s classic RPGs like Neverwinter Nights) to a home made. The art direction took a overhaul and started to show the real vision. The general gameplay also transitioned to a more action oriented, with a third person over-the-shoulder camera style.

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

The Witcher 3 was announced and I had to confess that I was a bit worried about the open world nature. The Witcher main strength, as a series, was the strong story telling. Open world games tend to have a loose and light story. See Bethesda’s Elder Scroll and RockStar’s GTA series.

The closer to the release, the more excited I was getting. It was one of the very few titles that I have ever pre-ordered.

And it delivered!

Since from the very start, the game shows that it has a fantastic story driven gameplay and strong action mechanics. Since from the very start, it will keep your mouth and eyes opened. It is how I stayed for hours of playing. There are 3 pillars that make this game so awesome:

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

Story

The most surprising good feature is the story elements. As I said before, open world games tend to be a bit light in order to accommodate a generic and open nature of the game. They generally just introduce the gameplay elements. But in Wild Hunt, the main story have a purpose, a true life. The plot is complex and it raises in tension each step.

But what surprised me most is the richness of  the side quests. They did not fall into the trap of creating a bunch of generic side quests, like most Assassin’s Creed or Borderlands, or even Skyrim, with several missions that are purely kill a target or get an item. They are more elaborate, with an introduction of context on each of them, multi stepped and often with resolution with a moral dilemma. Combat and violence is not always the way of resolving things. In summary, they put a lot of effort on creating all of them, avoiding the generic content-fill approach.

The characters fell deep and believable. They have different motivations: some are greedy, some are brutal, some are kind, some are funny. Geralt cannot be defined as good or evil. He is more complex. You can save one beautiful lady by letting dozens die. You can take part of a monster that is counter attacking humans that are invading its territory. You can date some different girls, but notice that for every decision, there are consequences. You will never face a “right” decision.

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

Gameplay

They listened to the players from previous games and they changed and tweaked The Witcher formula while maintaining the series main concepts. Alchemy is proved to be useful, magic and combat are complementary. The players are constantly forced to change styles and mastering all the techniques. It creates variable combats and protects the players from being a mere button presser, with monotonous single style of play.

The map traversal is fun and interesting. The land is filled with monsters and mysterious characters. Beautiful landscapes. Detailed cities. Do yourself a favor and avoid the main roads and explore the map. The horse Roach is useful and fun. Fast travel is done nicely (altought I hate where the Crow’s Perch).

The developers got almost all the design choices right. All the information is presented clearly and most of the boring aspects, like loot and inventory administration, streamlined.

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

Graphics

The third element that hooked me also stunned almost everyone in the world: the graphical presentation is absolutely the best. Skyrim did quite a splash when it came out, but it is nothing, nothing compared to The Witcher. They extracted the most of the technology to bring a very detailed and brilliant world even imagined.

They animated EVERY dialog. All the set pieces are cinema like, with moving, talking, gesticulating and vivid characters. For sure they invented some animation editor to allow to procedurally change camera angles and some gestures, but man, it works really well.

The cities are huge. It takes quite a time to cross one city. One of many. The terrain is so beautiful that they put some situations in the story that the main character itself stops and take a moment watching the view.

In the sound department, all the dialogues are voiced, in a enormous production challenge.

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

Bonus: Customer friendly

Unlike most of today’s businessmen in these industry, the guys from CD Prokect really mean customers-first. They proved in the past, creating the Good Old Game (not only GOG.com) with no DRM, and they proved this time. The game was fixed and really enhanced patch after patch, mostly due the players feedback. They are for me the ultimate inspiration for business management for an digital company. It should definitively a inspiration for Konami or EA heads.

My final thoughts are quite simple: it took me months to complete the 130+ hours of the main campaign. I was delaying it on purpose, fearing it would end. I liked so much that I could say that it is probably my favorite game of all time.

My Rating: 10
Metacritic: 93
2015.01.31

Mark of the Ninja

Without any delay, I give it to you: Mark of the Ninja entered to my Top 10 Games of All Time. That is the how much I liked the game.

This beautifully crafted 2D action stealth game. You are asked to go thru the stealthy approach in the entire game, but if you are more willing to make it a blood bath, it is a viable option too.

Mark of the ninja

The controls are sharp and the levels are very well designed. And just like Super Meat Boy, the difficulty level is at the point that it you will get compelled to replay it for a better score.

Music is great, story also very good (makes you wanting to know more about the mysteries ahead). I got really inspired by the Klei production.

I played it until I got almost all the badges and challenges completed. When I finally got almost everything possible, it made me sad to uninstall it.

Mark of the ninja
My Rating: 10
Metacritic: 91
2011.05.20

Game of Thrones

This year i watched several TV shows. Battlestar Gallactica (which i hated), Downton Abbey (which i loved), Breaking Bad… But Game of Thrones, oh my… Game of Thrones is an amazing show!

I’ve read the book as soon as I’ve heard that it would become a show produced by HBO. HBO series are generally very well conceived. I still remember Rome. The book is very good, with a great environment and great characters. I still have to read the others books from the A Song of Ice and Fire series (A Game of Thrones is only the first book), but that one is great enough to make me happy.

Back to the TV show…

Game of thrones

There are several characters that you can empathize – you can understand their motives and actions. No one is purely good or purely evil. The show does a great job by presenting them with a reasoning depth. This is a great achievement because the story uses dozens of characters.

Game of thrones

The cast is great. It’s natural to question some cast choices when we read the book first. When reading, we only could imagine their faces and quite often we did not pay attention to some details that the author really put there. But in Game of Thrones, I liked all the choices. I was particularly afraid to see the implementation of my favorite characters: Arya, Tyrion and Ned Stark. But all 3 impressed me.

Game of thrones

The first and second episodes exaggerate a bit in sex scenes. I liked 😉 but some people might complain. Violence, that I thought would be pure gore, was quite moderate. The adaptation took the advantage of one of the book’s greatest features: the cliffhanger ending on each chapter. We finish a chapter or a episode wanting more.

Game of thrones

Most of the critics are a bit correct about the difficulty on following some parts. It’s due the rich and complex universe created for the books. The producers had to choose if the series would or not contain the deep ambient. And they chose yes. I agree, but there are several other films and shows that are much worse (ex Matrix trilogy). I really really recommend to see Game of Thrones. The opening sequence will be enough to you embrace this amazing series.

My Rating: 10
Metacritic: 86
Rotten Tomatoes: 89