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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.

Watch dogs 2

Marcus Holloway is a new entry on the likable protagonist list. Optimist, clever and light hearted. 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, Dušan, is both idiot and annoying.

References

The hacker theme is presented as the usual Hollywood cliché. 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.

Watch dogs 2

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 played™. 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.

Watch dogs 2
My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 75
2017.10.27

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Yesterday I finally finished Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Great great game. Under appreciated and under sold.

Enslaved odyssey to the west

It tells the story of Monkey, a brute man that is really flexible and versatile. Gameplay and game story wise, this character makes much more sense those characters on Assassin’s Creed, parkouring around. He is a humble and simple man, that was captured as a slave. He finds Trip, a beautiful and resourceful girl that faces the same destiny. However, their destiny changes when the transport airplane suffers a problem and crashes. Trip and Money survive. Trip wants to return to her father and see the opportunity to so something really bold: uses a device to enslave Monkey using a special collar. Or he helps her to return to her home, or he dies. If he tries to remove the collar, he dies. If he gets too far from her, he dies.

He wants to live. So he decide to help. So the game starts.

Enslaved odyssey to the west

The gameplay is basically a combat and 3D exploration and parkour. In a sense, is a mix of old Mario 64/Lara Croft, with Assassin’s Creed combat. It sometimes require some puzzle solving, but generally they are very easy. The combat is rudimentary and only require some tactics and button smashing. Bosses are difficult, however. Time to time, the mechanics change to something special, like controlling a gun turret, but 99% of the game is very straight forward. In fact it is probably my biggest complain about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West: after while, you will not get anything new to do. It’s just repetition of the same things. That is the reason I played about half of the game, stopped and only returned several months later, with the mission in my head to finish it once and for all. It was surprisingly good, nevertheless.

Oh, there is another thing: every time you die, you are moved back to the last checkpoint to try again. Great. HOWEVER, you are forced to see the cinematic that often are played before the action. Every time. If it a difficult part like a boss, I bet you are going nuts for the time wasted. Developers, never (I repeat, never) do this. It is super annoying.

Enslaved odyssey to the west

The visuals is a big big plus here. Even for a older game (originally released in 2010), the game is still gorgeous. It have personality, flavor. The scenarios are all very pretty as well the characters. Money and Trip show emotions in a level that more modern games still struggle to accomplish. The animations are great and fluid very plastic.

Enslaved odyssey to the west

The story is also a great point for the game. It is original, personal and compelling. You will love the couple. The protagonist is likable! What a great feature, so rare! The companion is a bit arrogant but she is also very likable. Only the third guy, named Pigsy, falls into the typical NPC of boring, arrogant and annoying. Yet he is cool. 3 characters total and the story is still super cool. Great achievement. The ending is a bit of “the architect moment in the Matrix”, trowing a lot of information to give it all a closure, but it is really great and memorable. The main “villain” is also played by Andy Serkis, which plays the main character Monkey, is a big surprise (dont worry, it is not exactly a spoiler).

Enslaved odyssey to the west

Overall it was a great experience. I believe is is a new classic. The same kind as Blade Runner, that was critic acclaimed but a commercial failure.

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 70
2017.10.23

Sing

I was wandering in the giant wasteland of TV shows, changing channels every 15 seconds, when I noticed that animation Sing was about to start. I decided to give it a try, but I had no expectations about it. For me it would be another cashin animation movie.

When it ended I felt super surprised about how good it is. I was crying like a baby, but it something I do often. 😛

Sing

The movie is about a theater owner that dreamed about having a great and successful show but got failure after failure. Deeply in debt, he decided to create a singing competition. It attracted hundreds of contestants, which one with a unique style. The narrative is very predictable, but nevertheless very emotional one. The main themes is believe in your dreams. But there is a bit of father-son relationship for some characters. They don’t run away from the typical stereotypes. And there a very few surprises along the way.

Sing

Visually stunning, the song selection is very nice (could be great, however) and the characters are very well realized. My personal favorite is the chameleon assistant. 😛 The cast is very good here, with solid performances. Some of them I did not noticed who as who. I dont know if the actors actually sang for the movie, but I doubt it.

Sing

Very good pop corn time movie to watch with the family.

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 73
Rotten Tomatoes: 72
2017.07.22

My Neighbor Totoro

This 30 years old cartoon is still a charm.

This Japanese animation showed me the importance of being open to alternative views. The theme and pace of the movie is completely different from the western animations.

The story is about 2 girls (and their dad) moving to a new house. Nearby there are some fantastical creatures that co-exist in this world.

My neighbor totoro

The pace is super slow. But not dragging-type of slow. It is contemplative kinda slow. They present the characters step by step, thru small events. The two kids will slowly conquest your heart. They are so adorable. It was a great pleasure to care about someone, on the contrary of many of the western movies and games, that I could not care a thing about them. I loved  Mei and Satsuki.

The visuals are great. Like watercolor paintings and classic anime style of drawings. The Totoro character is particularly funny! The other creatures are cool, but they are not throughly explored, so I cannot say they are great. The music is a bit sparse, with long moments of silence.

My mainly, maybe only, complain is the abrupt ending. With much spoilers, at a certain point of the story there is a big problem that the characters try to solve. But at any point it as said that is was the major final problem. I was personally expecting to, after solving it, to get to the final major problem. It ends in moment that I was not expecting to happen. It left the story with too many open questions, too many mysteries. When the credits started to roll I was shocked.

My neighbor totoro

It is a short excellent movie. It ends suddenly but the whole ride is a enjoyable one. Totoro (the character) is now among my favorite anime characters ever.

Totally recommend you to watch it.

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 86
Rotten Tomatoes: 94
2017.06.28

The Swapper

I bought The Swapper yesterday because I heard good things about it. And man, I loved the game.

It is a platformer puzzle game, like the classic Braid, but the major feature is the ability to create a clone of yourself and migrate the controls to it. It might be considered a form of teleportation, but your old ones will still be there. It opens opportunities for several interesting challenges. It also uses, [minor spoiler alert] at mid game, a similarly feature as VVVVV that is changing the direction of gravity. The puzzles have a nice and steady evolution in difficulty, combining the new features each time they are added to your repertoire.

The swapper

The only thing that I was a bit confused it the collectible orbs. For a completionist like me, and a pleasing game like The Swapper, I felt compelled to collect of of them. But the counter that shows in the UI does not have a one-to-one relationship to the amount of orbs you collect. At the beginning of the game, it is one-to-one, but in later stages, each orb you get adds you dozens into the orb counter. It is confusing to track the general progress you are making. I guess the developers wanted to make the reward the player more the more complex the puzzle is, but I did not fell this way. This orbs are not just optional. In order to progress, you have to collect a certain number of them to open locked areas. But in most cases, you have to collect almost all orbs possible to reach the required number, so it turns out to be even more useless the multiple orb value per orb collected intended feature. Minor complain thou.

The swapper

The game have a very great visuals. Dark and a bit spooky, but not in the way of horror games. It is designed to be just uncomfortable, just like Limbo and (presumably Inside, but I didn’t play it yet). But unlike Limbo, it rarely inputs pressure. You are always in a lonely and calm journey. It imprints the sense of loneliness, desolation, mystery and insanity.

The swapper

The overall theme is a science fiction. During the game you face several dialogues and recordings of a technological discovery. It present the theme in a more philosophical approach, similar to Talos Principle. However, due the super short texts and obtuse ways to tell it, it does not feel very mind melting like Talos. It was a bit unsatisfying. A professional scientist would never write a log in such enigmatic way. It would be much clearer and direct to the point. This obtuse style of storytelling is typical on horror and mystery games, novels and movies. They rely on telling the audience so little that you do not understand the meaning way to the end. Despite it, I like the approach.

The swapper

The game is short, which I would say that is a plus, because it gives the sense of completion and that it is not dragging you for hours for the sake of appearing more substantial.

I totally recommend this game. One of the best indies and best games overall I played this year so far.

The swapper
My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 87
2017.01.25

Limbo

One of the modern day indie classic, Limbo was in my shortlist for quite some time. Some days ago I got it and played from begging to end in a single seat. Here are my impressions. (Spoiler, I like it very much)

Limbo

The first impression here is how minimalist is is. From the black and white presentation, controls, story and UI. It tries to be simple, but not simplistic. And it succeeds. It is a remarkable achievement. It conveys a lot of emotions with very few images and sounds. The general visual also transmit a sense of creepiness. All characters are have a bit disturbing visual. The enemies even worse.

Limbo

The game is a simple 2d plataformer. They gameplay focus on puzzle solving a a bit timing action. There is no fights. And dying is a constant. The puzzles are clever but not brain burner. You will fell smart by solving, but not to the point that you can claim better IQ than your friends. It gives a sense of satisfaction and self esteem without felling that you cheated. The action is clever, and due the presentation, represents real threats. Every time the famous spider appears, your heart stops.

Limbo

The story is minimal, but I felt that it had a begging-middle-end. It is a little open and vague. People say that the “sequel” (not exactly a sequel, but it follows the same vibe, and it is from the same company) is even more vague and confusing. So it seems to be a personal mark.

It took me just a few hours to go thru it entirely. I enjoyed it all the time and I recommend you to play.

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 88
2017.01.21

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

This 2013 little indie game is pure charm. It tackles a unusual theme for games: father-son and brother-brother relationships. Generally games uses tragically and over dramatic man-woman love and revenge themes, but it is not what is shown here. It is a tale of two brothers trying to save the like of their father, that is just laying sick in bed. No super natural force. No magic. Everything is very mundane.

Brothers a tale of two sons

Not only the story is charming. The visuals are also really cute. Even on the depths of the Earth, it still maintains the light color palette and the cute aesthetic. In fact, you can literally sit in a bench and admire the view. It delivers the introspective aspect of the story. Death, family bonds, life… a lot for the kids think about.

Brothers a tale of two sons

The world is not, however, mundane. There are some mystical creatures, monsters and a bit of magic. But the story motion force comes from the inner emotions. The narrative comes from very little dialogues. It is mainly a puzzle adventure game, focusing on the experience of guiding two young kids thru obstacles. It is not very action-driven because most of the puzzles can be solved calmly, without hurries.

Brothers a tale of two sons

The main feature of the game is the ability of controlling both kids at the same time. It uses a very weird control scheme, but it works. It requires some brain rewiring and time to time it fails to be very responsive, but works both thematically and for the sake uniqueness.

The game is very short. I was able to finish it in a single long session. But it left a very fond mark on me.

Brothers a tale of two sons

It is inexpensive very cool adventure. Recommend to play.

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 90
2016.07.10

Old Man’s War

John Scalzi’s debut scifi adventure is amazing.

It tells a story of old people from Earth that are recruited for a intergalactic military organization. There, their bodies are reconstructed to it’s younger form and enhanced.

From there, they have to fight against alien races in order to protect humanity. Humans on Earth do not have a clue about this galactic war BTW.

I must recommend the reading.

Old man’s war

Note: I also read the sequel, The Ghost Brigate. And also love it. But much of the original wow was, of course, gone.

My Rating: 8
Goodreads: 4.23
2016.02.21

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Shadow of Mordor is one of that type of game that sucks me in in a way that I cannot stop desiring to play. My last love was The Witcher 3, which I slowed played for more than 125 hours during months. But the scope is so much smaller that TW3 that I was determined to finish the game as soon as possible. It took me about half a week but I did it. SoM is officially over. Credits, like in all modern game or movie, are endless. Satisfaction. Because I am a completionist, I still have it installed to allow me to go back to it and at least finish the 100% mark (I would love to do all the Steam achievements too, but some are too obscure).

The mechanics presented here is nothing new. The main character, Talion, is a Assassin’s Creed wanderer. He climbs castles, towers and hills just like any AC character always do. The advantage here is that the enemies, the orcs, are very stupid and lose track of you almost instantaneously. Each to run away from messy situations. The combat is also very derivative of this new generation of third person action games, just as Assassin’s Creed, Batman and God of War. It is very generous on targeting your enemies. The conter attack time window is very broad.

Shadow of Mordor, therefore, is an easy game once you get the general flow. However, it is very fun.

Middle earth shadow of mordor

One of the main features of this game is the nemesis system (it is how the developer calls it). In the game, orcs have an hierarchical military structure and they interact withing the chain quite often. The challenge rivals, assume the vacant position, are promoted. Killing the high command leaders triggers a series of promotions. Player can also induce rebellions, plot assassinations and other situations that actively shapes a new order. It is really interesting mechanics. You will get furious to see an orc getting more powerful and promoted because he killed you. In their culture, it is a demonstration of mighty.

Another cool concept is that any of these orc leaders have strengths and weaknesses that you can, and should, explore. They can be imune to ranged or melee attacks, forcing you master all the combat techniques. They can also have a critical fear of bees, caragors (a thematic tiger) or traitors infiltrated in their outpost. Exploiting such flaw will make them act erratic and try to run away. It will open a great opportunity window for finishing them off. Every time you need to kill one of them, it is imperative to study these character aspects to plan the strategy.

Middle earth shadow of mordor

Graphically the game is stunning. I could run it in full HD in High preset and several times I had to stop just to take a mental photo of the moment. Nothing to comment further: great.

The story, however, it just ok. There are some problems that annoyed me:

  • It is too fragmented: there are some secondary characters that come and go in matter of two missions. Some are genuinely cool, but vanish from the story too soon.
  • The bosses are mini games: there are basically 3 bosses in the game. Without spoiling the story any further, they are merely a mini game. Almost no interaction. And they are not present throughout the game, so I were never engaged to kill them.
  • The main story is essentially a tutorial: the game have a core mechanics that is supposed to be an infinite loop. The main story presents new combat or gameplay features until almost the last mission! And like any tutorial-mission in games, they are always easy on the player.

There is one aspect of the game story that I liked and I fell worth to mention: the lore of the game. While the game is not about the main events of Lord of the Rings (it happens long before the LotR), it crosses with some cool characters and events that made me feel is was part of the famous story.

Middle earth shadow of mordor

I enjoyed Shadow of Mordor very much. I totally recommend you to play it. I was curious when all major game reviewers were telling very good things about the game (they also were surprised). Due the brazilian current ratio, I had to wait for a better price; and it was worthy!

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 84
2016.01.15

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

The biggest sensation of 2015, Star Wars – Force Awakens was easily the most anticipated movie of the last few years. A lot of expectation was put into it. It was the revival of a beloved franchise, and the first movie under the Disney umbrella. The direction was under the experienced JJ Abrams, famous for the Lost TV show and the Star Trek film reboot. There are no much people in the world that can claim to have worked in these both famous SciFi universes.

It starts from the ashes of the old Galactic Empire; the First Order rises. Kinda lame, because it is essentially the same enemy, with the same military structure. Just a re branding. In fact, if you start to think more deeply, the film tries so much to be a continuation of the universe, that it borrows several elements from other movies. The deja vù sensation is very present throughout the whole time. It is not bad or good by definition, but it makes me think about the artificial nature of the script: it was done to be a commercial success, at all costs.

Star wars episode vii – the force awakens

I liked very much the new characters, heroes and villains. Most are well defined. Their motivations are clear, and their actions make sense. They are also mostly funny. It believe that Disney notice that the most beloved characters from the original movies were those that have a sense of humor, like Han Solo and Chewbacca, or R2-D2. Now almost all, even in dire straits, have fun of the danger. One noticeable exception is the main villain, Kylo Ren. The internal is so strong that makes the audience believe that he is not actually any powerful as it tries to imply.

My main overall criticism is that the movie is very focused on the characters and the intrinsic relationships among them, forgetting the major conflict (not going to tell about specifics, for the sake of spoiling the fun). All the problems that are not personal-related is solved in a so easy fashion that removed the credibility. The villains are so incompetent the heroes surpass them all the time, with no relevant drawback. At the end, it seems that everything was a minor headache episode.

Nostalgic and fun. Total recommendation. Sorry to say, but it is already a far better experience than Lucas' second trilogy. Star Wars is stronger than ever.

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 84
Rotten Tomatoes: 93