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Please forgive the God of War Ragnarok spam: I’ve now finished the game and I’ll drop a few spoiler-tagged thoughts now I’m wrapped up.

Shorter, non-spoilery version: an extremely impressive sequel in that line of Sony first party singleplayer games that I’m mostly a sucker for. I think it does a lot right in picking up the father-son dynamics of the first game and running with them to interesting places now that Atreus is older, as well as massively expanding the world, lore, and most importantly cast of its predecessor. It’s kind of wild how in God of War you could almost count the characters with speaking roles - never mind major roles - on one hand, and in Ragnarok… well, that’s for the spoiler tag.

It’s by no means a flawless game; at times the hugely expanded scope felt like it got away from it and I wondered if it could find its way back to the core of the story (but it always did), some of the plot beats and/or characters they were attached to didn’t quite land for me, and for such a big budget, prestige presentation the minor technical hitches I ran into here and there really stood out (even though they never caused any major grief). But mostly my takeaway is simply one of being blown away by the performances, delivered in ever more nuanced voice, motion, and facial capture and being genuinely moved by more than a few character interactions and story turns.

Now, spoilers. Proper end of game, don’t read this unless you’ve finished it (or don’t care) spoilers. I think the thing I’ll be grappling with in digesting how much I actually liked Ragnarok will be the extent to which it was a story about Kratos, and the extent to which it was a story about Atreus. The easy answer is “it’s both, stupid”, but there’s a fascinating interplay between the mechanical reasons that Kratos remains the primary protagonist while Atreus arguably gets the narrative spotlight even though you play as him for far less of the total runtime. I do think they managed to strike a balance that worked though, and I was constantly surprised by the way, just when I thought I was going to roll my eyes at some contrived reason for family discord, one or the other of them would reach out to the other - often Kratos, less trapped by his grief of the first game, but also Atreus, usually after doing some (entirely understandable) stupid teen thing and then coming home when he realises his mistake.

I thought loads of the new characters were brilliant - Richard Schiff’s aging mobster Odin is stellar, but I loved spending time with Thrud and Angrbodr, got watery-eyed over Fenrir’s arc (multiple times. he is the largest, goodest boy), and enjoyed what they did with giving Thor some nuance and pathos to mirror Kratos’ journey, only cut short. Less impressed with Freyr who just never really landed for me, which made his final sacrifice feel hollow. It’s a shame because on the other hand they do spectacular work turning Brok and Sindri into another emotional pillar of the story, two comic relief characters who by all rights should not be able to carry that weight, and yet I was gutted by Brok’s death and staggered by the performance behind Sindri’s loss and rage.

A thing that I’m still curious about, after the game builds it up so much, has to be the fate of Kratos - so long is spent debating prophecy, whether people can change their fate. I was reasonably sure he’d survive just because I was expecting the game to be structured the same as 2018 where you continue playing after the credits and, bluntly, you’d need the skillset and equipment Kratos has. I’d wondered if, just maybe, another character would step into that role (as Freya did for Atreus). I came up with theories like that Kratos would die in battle and ascend to Valhalla and that would be both a way to fulfil the prophecy and see him return to Asgard unscathed. After the Norns describe destiny not so much as seeing the future as people being so predictable, I wondered if the game would make a big show of Kratos not being predictable, of refusing to kill - and now I think about it and rehash it here, I suppose he does offer mercy to both Thor and Odin. I guess I just find it remarkable that after all that, his survival goes so unremarked upon, but Atreus makes such a hasty exit maybe it got lost in the shuffle. Thematically, I do think I’m okay with Atreus going on his hero’s journey alone, and it’s obvious what they’re doing as Kratos watches him leave and become independent, but I can’t help but feel it’s kind of a rushed moment for the sake of that shot of him leaving when it would probably feel more natural for him to stay and just know he was going to search for the giants next.

Anyway, sorry for the long post/stream of consciousness reaction, it’s a game that left me with a lot of thoughts and desire to talk through scenes, share jokes (there is one from Mimir that absolutely killed me when I realised what he was asking where he prompts Kratos about his past and if he ever took part in a tournament, and it turns out he’s referencing PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale), and dig into what drove certain characters and narrative turns. Good stuff. I don’t think it can unseat Citizen Sleeper as my GOTY but it’s definitely in the top five for this year. Now, to get back to Return to Monkey Island and Horizon Forbidden West to see if they’ll make the list.

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I’m not nearly as far in the game as you are (I think I’m about 40% of the way through the main story) but, as you say, I’m blown away by the quality of the performances in this game. There are times where I will just take laps around in whatever relevant vehicle the game provides so I can listen to the stories your companions tell. I’ll save the details for my final write-up but the game feels like something crafted by storytellers and it’s cool to see.

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I’m back! Still been hanging on the Waypoint Discord, but not here as much.

I finished Elden Ring and that game is a full meal of a large pizza, cheese bread, coke zero, veggies, and dessert. This is both a good and bad thing. At the end of the day, I can’t believe that this game got made, but I’m glad it did and I think it’s incredible it reached the audience it did.

I skipped Dragon Quest III (I’ll get to it once I decide which version to play) and modded my 3ds and am playing Dragon Quest IV. I really like this entry a lot. It’s not perfect, but I’ve had a really fun time with it. I’ve put in 27 hours and think I’m close-ish to the end? I also think the how long to beat kind of underestimates how long this takes to play without a guide. I really enjoy the characters in this, particularly Alena/Kiryl/Borya who form my main party along with the hero.

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I guess the first thing to say about Pokemon Scarlet is that two things are true:

  1. It runs on Switch a little more successfully than reviews would have you believe.
  2. Chris Person (The Highlight Reel Guy a.k.a. Papapishu) is going to have his rent paid for the month lol

I think a lot of people said “If this is just Arceus catch mechanics plus a more traditional Pokemon structure this is the Pokemon game of forever.” The Arceus mechanics are…not here (you just engage in battles as normal) but Game Freak made an open-world Pokemon game. Very open (I say “very” because content is both level-gated and event-gated but you’re free to tackle things in whatever order suits your fancy) world with three principal quests: the normal Gym grind, taking out “Team Star” bases, and finding so-called “Titan” Pokemon. The new “Mega” mechanic this time out is called “Terastalizing,” in which your Pokemon can change type(!) and moves associated with the Pokemon’s “Tera” type become much more powerful. TMs are single-use again, but there’s a whole TM crafting system in which you can collect ingredients from Pokemon to craft any TM you’ve already found (plus presumably more - I’m still very early). The Camping mechanic from the last game is back in the form of “Picnicking,” in which you feed your Pokemon specialty sandwiches with certain ingredients to both make them happy and attempt to achieve certain bonus buffs. It’s…a lot to absorb and they don’t really parcel it out that well but, hilarious performance issues aside (prepare for a lot of NPCs that look like they’re doing the single-frame stop-motion animation things do when they’re 10,000 feet away from you but they’re only 10 feet away), it’s amazing that Game Freak got as much contact with the ball as they did, so to speak.

Also there’s a lot of discussion of a secret ingredient guarded by Titan Pokemon called “Herba Mystica” and I laugh about it every time.

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Hiya. Been on a bit of a gaming hiatus for a while, for both work and vibes related reasons, but there’s a new Pokémon game and for the first time in pretty much ever it’s one for which I have not spoiled anything for myself. I picked Violet because I’ve been weirdly craving some cyberpunk and I like future Opelucid City more than past Opelucid (from B/W to be clear) and that seemed like the aesthetic choice being made here. I’m an hour or so in and I’m… conflicted. (These are very early impressions.)

Required Thoughts About Performance

I think this is maybe a bridge to something pretty special, and I also, maybe in disagreement with some folks, am kinda stunned with how unfavorably it compares to SwSh and especially Arceus in the moment to moment performance department. I can’t pan the camera without stuttering, there are huge pauses in the battle animations that really break their pacing, and while I actually really, really like the game’s artstyle and visual design — like so far it’s probably my favorite of their attempts at 3D work — I feel like I’m playing an upscaled GameCube game. I don’t think this is a limitation of the Switch’s hardware; I think it’s a limitation of a relatively small studio trying to do a yearly development cycle with vastly shortened timespans between new generations. I wish they’d give themselves more time, especially if it would allow for optimization that could bring these in line with just like… average Switch games.

Also, the cutscene character animations are… extremely strange and jolting. To the point where the characters feel like marionettes. Odd.

(idk maybe my launch Switch is also a bit long in the tooth at this point, maybe this isn’t as bad on newer machines)

Arceus mechanics are neat but underbaked

I think the ways it’s pulling from Arceus are well-intentioned and would be more successful if they’d actually gone all the way. Throwing a poke ball to trigger a battle with a wild pokemon specifically works in Arceus because you can also just… try to catch it. Here it just feels like an extra step and it already feels a little tedious, especially considering the sluggishness of the battles themselves. I am looking forward to seeing how the game uses traversal, because I think that could be a really interesting direction for these games to go, but I’m too early to say.

One thing I like

Obviously I’m barely into anything but this rival/friend is about 10,000x less annoying in every conceivable moment than Hop was so I’m already way happier with that.

My feeling on recent Pokémon games are that, when Game Freak has put out something I really liked, whatever they did next made me feel like it was a total accident. I still think Sun and Moon are the best games they’ve made and after the last few efforts I feel like all that stuff, the changes to the formula, the creative world design, the actual characters, were all lucky accidents. I though PLA was a mechanically brilliant game and so far it feels like they tried to pull things from it into this game without the best sense of why those things actually worked. I’m sure I’ll keep going, and maybe they’ll surprise me again, but this feels like when a baseball player doesn’t quite swing and miss, but hits a long foul ball that a half-section over would have been a home run.

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Yeah, I should be clear: this game is extremely on fire. I just haven’t found it en fuego enough to detract from my enjoyment.

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Spent a few hours with The Witcher 2 (360 version) for a spell. Even with the reduced colour depth, it’s still remarkable how much of an extremely flashy PC game they managed to cram onto that console.

The game itself is kind of an aesthetic nightmare - aggressively 2011 in some of most boring and superficial ways. QTEs are somehow incredibly frequent and quite punishing. Geralt’s involvement in the central plot feels very out of step with the character’s main priorities of getting paid, getting laid, and unravelling his own personal issues. Yeah yeah Triss is the worst and is roping him into all of this - and let’s be clear - Triss is The Worst, but this high-stakes politicking isn’t as fun as it is in Dragon Age.

For all my reservations about The Wild Hunt’s bloated content-munching structure that has helped put upward pressure on narrative game lengths and openness of worlds for almost a decade, that structure really does suit the Witcher as a series. Even the traditional Western RPG (which Assassins of Kings isn’t) would feel directed and coercive by comparison.

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Well, I finally completed The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles and, as a long-time lover of the franchise I…think Resolve might be my favourite game in the entire series? It’s just constant payoff, every mystery delivering the kinds of turns (or “turnabouts”? I’ll see myself out) the games usually reserve for the last couple of cases. Add in some great one-off characters (always the sign of a good Ace Attorney title) and an adorable puppy and, yeah, it’s great. Was not expecting that after the first game (which I thoroughly enjoyed, but would put near the middle of my Ace Attorney power rankings).

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Ok I’ve played another hour and I’ve heard the Team Star battle theme and my god, what a banger. 11/10 one of the best battle themes in franchise history.

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I just hit the first timeskip in Pentiment and it’s a really effective way of letting you sit with what you did so far and giving Andreas some interesting character development that is out of the player’s control (I don’t know how much of him completely ghosting everyone in Tassing is based on previous dialogue options that I chose, but it works either way).
I think Dragon Age 2 is the closest game I’ve played that does something like this, which is why it’s probably my favorite DA game even though it doesn’t take as much advantage of its timeskips as I’d like.
Regarding the murder mystery I had the most info on Ferenc, who only seemed kind of scummy and was probably innocent and Matilda, who – even if she did kill the baron – would be perfectly justified, so I ended up chickening out on recommending someone specific. But the only proof I had both managed to find and was willing to give up was on Ferenc so he ended up getting sentenced. I felt like shit watching it.
Great game.

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Ughh! I’ve been playing Ys VIII, and I just cannot bring myself to finish it. I am a HUGE fan of the Ys series and have really enjoyed the previous 7+ games in the series, but man Ys VIII just kind of fails to deliver, which is a shame because it plays really well, and has some really fun mechanics added to it, but the story which initially starts out pretty good, just draaaagggggssss. There are way too many pointless and distracting cut scenes and things to take you away from the exploring and combat, which are still really fun. Its a real downer that I’m choosing to throw in the towel. I have Ys IX Monstrum Nox on the short list to play as well, but if it continues in the same direction as VIII, I don’t think I can convince myself yet to play it…

Hmm. So, I started Outer Wilds, a game that’s been deemed a must-play by pretty much every outlet I trust. Made it through the tutorial area, and I was having a good time! Very charming, very clean art style, good setup for some outer space adventures. Then I got in the spaceship and…I hate playing it. Something about moving in zero-g space like that completely messes up my brain; I can never get my bearings, I’m just wildly flinging myself around and hoping that I land somewhere vaguely adjacent to my goal. This isn’t the games fault: there’s nothing wrong with how it controls, but for some reason I’ve just never been able to click with this kind of fully three-dimensional movement in games. I wanna keep going, cause there’s some really intriguing stuff going on narratively, but this might be one of those great games that just Isn’t For Me, alas.

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Im curious, are you playing this on k+m or controller? I find that i have a really hard time with k+m in zero g games like outer wilds or hardspace. even then, ya gotta be real sensitive with the analog sticks.

My partner and I got sick, so we’re not going anywhere for Thanksgiving and I’m playing Until Dawn.

Just kidding, were now watching the Wednesday show and I’m playing Genshin Impact.

For Outer Wilds it seems like using a controller really is necessary for the space sequences. I’ll also throw out that it’s really helpful to use the auto pilot and match velocity features if you aren’t already. I only bring it up because I played a good chunk of the game before realizing that they existed.

Edit: also using the landing camera. That was a game changer.

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I know people who have been happy using mouse+kb (and, of course, I never tried using a controller because they are of the devil), but yeah, I suspect the variable thrust you get on a controller helps.

That said, I really empathise with Something’s experience with Outer Wilds - as people who read my experiences will know. Even without spoilery comments, I also found just “being in space and controlling the ship” to be fairly uncomfortable - both controller-wise but also in terms of not feeling safe (I hated EVAing, in particular). The opening bits, great. The narrative, great. The idea and design of the discovery portions, fantastic. Actually being in space (and some other spoilery elements)? Awful.

I do not have the anime qualifications to weigh in on this but Twitter has decided that the rival in Scarlet/Violet is basically Lady Goku which makes me laugh. Game’s still on fire, not super convinced by the base-clearing mechanic, still Pokemon, still good.

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For the record, I’m using a Dualshock 4; normally I’m a kb+m kinda person, but I can’t imagine how much more difficult this would be trying to do it without a controller. Put it another hour or so today, and got a bit better with the controls, but also found myself getting a touch of motion sickness with the way up and down constantly re-orient themselves. Again, not the game’s fault! I’m hopeful that I can stick with it to get to the real meat of the narrative. If not, I’m generally fine with putting down a game (even a highly acclaimed one) if I don’t find myself vibing with it mechanically.

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Some more Witcher 2 thoughts

I decided to look up some forum threads on the big decision at the end of Chapter 1 and saw a comment which I’ll paraphrase below:

extremely loser voice ‘Choices in the Witcher are not colored in black and white, but in gray, like real life’.

I realise 2011 is a different country at this point, and relistening to some old Bombcasts where Patrick was playing through it were eye-opening in terms of what counted as media literacy back then. Damn, we really did think Game of Thrones was the epitome of serious adult drama with complex themes back then huh? And yes, the commenter above went on to compare the depiction of the Scoia-atel favourably to Al-Qaeda. So there’s that.

This is not to dunk too much on The Witcher 2. It’s extremely enjoyable dark fantasy in the trashy mode of something like the recent House of the Dragon series. The main difference is the latter knows it’s strengths lie in the medium-to-low art range.

The choice at the end of Chapter 1 is basically about whether you side with the idealistic but ultimately ruthless freedom-fighting elves who will inevitably betray you for their own ends, or you continue dance with the thug fed who brought you. I ended up sticking with Roche (it’s not actually a diametrically opposed choice, it’s just about who you’re hitching a ride with) just because I know anly about 30% of players went with that option.

I think this game thinks it’s a lot smarter than it is, and in turn, players put the series on pedestal because CD Projekt RED excel at writing Machiavellian dialogue. They know we love two powerful people explaining their motivations straightforwardly to each other. That’s what we want!!

On that level, these games are a delight. As a yardstick for writing a game structure though? We can and have done better.

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I’m very tired so this will be brief (not a dig at your post, it’s 2am here!). My thing about The Witcher 2 is it’s a rare example of a game where the choices actually cordon off big chunks of the game. Most games are, understandably, wary of saying “you will not see 1/3 of this content”. I always admired that about Witcher 2. Maybe the quality of writing on those choices could have been higher, but I liked that CDPR took that big swing. The Witcher 3 gets a lot of praise but in comparison you’ll go through all the same locations and plot beats no matter what, you’ll just get different dialogue etc depending on your decisions.

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