Tag Archives: Review

God of War (2005 – 2018)

God of War, 2005:

The game begins in the middle of a storm; the player’s ship is being attacked by a hydra; during the first 10 minutes of play, the player confronts and kills one of the most recognisable creatures in Greek mythology.

God of War, 2018:

The game begins with a funeral. In the first 10 minutes, the player confronts and kills a trio of common enemies, who seem to have been ripped straight from the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

God of War, 2005:

The graphics were good for their age; today, they feel dated, but still hold a certain charm. The panoramic camera gives a good feel for the world’s epic scale.

God of War, 2018:

It’s possibly the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. A true visual tour de force that single-handedly justifies the purchase of a PS4Pro and one of those shiny 4K televisions. The HDR lighting makes the eyes hurt if the camera is pointed directly at the sun. The details are impressive, every millimeter of scenery, the skin of the characters, every fiber of armor… Everything looks unique, tactile, and real.

God of War, 2005:

As the game progresses, the player confronts and defeats a true rogue’s gallery of mythical beasts from Greek folklore, culminating in a final confrontation with Ares, the titular God of War. Our character is made giant, and both titans brawl amidst a burning city whose buildings barely reach their heels. In this final battle, the players must to apply all the techniques and skills that they have become familiar with throughout the game.

God of War, 2018:

With a couple of exceptions, all bosses are reskinned versions of the bosses fought during the first 2 hours of gameplay. The final confrontation is against a god who will be almost unknown to all but those with an intimate acquaintance of the Scandinavian pantheon – and again, it’s no more than a “spiced up“ version of a confrontation that happened during the first hours of play. This final battle is trivially simple if the player has spent but a few hours exploring the world and collecting better equipment.

God of War (2005) was a game made with a modest budget, and suffered from the technical limitations of the time. But it impressed at every juncture, showing itself more ambitious at every step, more capable of surprising, more epic. This is a game that played with the full hand of cards that fate had dealt it, without giving up, with the unique ambition of providing the player with the most ecstatic experience within its reach.

God of War (2018) is a game that will have cost more to produce than the GDP of some African countries. It represents the zenith the industry’s audiovisual craftsmanship, and counts with fantastic feats of digital acting. But it discharges almost all of its creative cannons in the first couple of hours, and from there on, it’s busywork. It’s a game that repeats all of its impressive moments to the point of banality, and that seems to be afraid to use up all the raw material provided by Scandinavian mythology, already thinking about what it will have to save for display in the obligatory sequel.

God of War (2005) is not the best game of its generation, nor that of the library of the console that saw its birth, and not even that of its genre. But it is an entertainment product, and with laser-like focus, it single-mindedly gave all that it had to give in order to do just that: entertain.

It was made for you.

God of War (2018) was ranked by many as game of the year, and by many others as the second best game of 2018. But it is an industrial product, and only entertains to the extent that it must.

It was made for the people who made it, for the people who paid for it, for the people who were going to review it. You?

You didn’t even make the top 3.

Go, Duck

I don’t trust Google. There is something pernicious about all these companies that live by collecting our personal information. Companies that analyse our searches in order to deduce the most efficient ways of manipulating our behaviour as consumers.

Unfortunately, Google retains certain monopolies. YouTube is inescapable. Google Office is the only decent way to collaborate on an online document. Their mobile phone keyboard is light years ahead of any other for iOS or Android.

For three months, I resisted using Google’s search engine; I opted for DuckDuckGo. But it’s still not good enough: there is a crucial flaw for anyone who uses the internet for serious research. That’s the ability to filter results over the past year.

Search engines give priority to what is new – too much, even. Even so, as a general rule, when doing a search, if we do not set a maximum limit for the age of the results, we will get outdated knowledge.

But if we use filters too biased towards recent results – a week, or a month, as DuckDuckGo allows – we run the risk of receiving a bunch of garbage data that was crafted to earn clicks. There is a content creation industry that has to be always spitting out articles without regard to their quality.

When serious research is to be done, the ideal filter is one year – things are not old enough to be out of date, and it is a sufficiently large temporal arc to allow for finding quality articles and not just the latest garbage to be displayed in the internet’s public square .

Unfortunately, only the search engines that subsist on advertising have this option. So I’m back to Google. For a while.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk Flickr via Compfight cc

The Broken Throne

It’s a losing battle, to be the new game in the “The Witcher” franchise. And that’s what Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is, despite its title gymnastics. Even though it is a game in a different genre, it is doomed to being compared – when it comes to character development and narrative – to one of the greats in these areas.

But let’s start with what the game does well: the metaphor. Specifically, the mechanical metaphor that translates, through cards, the tactical and strategic concepts of war. It is surprising how many situations the game’s creators can portray through the various abilities characteristic of each individual card, and how these abilities can, in turn, modulate the basic rules of the game board.

This factor, coupled with the growing variety of cards that become available for the player to build their deck throughout the game, opens the door to a staggering number of strategies – some more obvious than others. It’s a shame that, apart from heading into the multiplayer competitive mode, there’s no way to see the decks that other players are using, because when it comes to deck building, the game is ripe with opportunities for player creativity.

The issue here is that the difficulty curve does not encourage much experimentation. The player’s power level is already so high at the end of the first chapter, based on the most straightforward card and deck upgrades, that you can expect lead your chosen strategy practically unchallenged until the end of the game, right up to the final battle. At that terminus awaits a final enemy who subverts the rules of the game in such a way that, finally, it forces the player to think about how to build a deck specifically geared towards countering his particular advantages.

The result is that, despite the mechanical wealth inherent in the rules, almost everything between the first chapter and the said final battle is filler, a stroll from banal battle to banal battle where we may use the same deck with the same strategy, doing minor tuning as we upgrade cards, but for the occasional confrontation with a / boss / or a puzzle in which we are given a pre-defined deck and a specific goal to fulfill.

It’s left to the story to pull us through the roughly forty hours of play, and this one’s story is mediocre. Once again rises the spectre of Witcher 3, a game superficially about confronting an invading army and a supernaturally powerful foe, yes, but in reality, about a father trying to protect and shape the character of his adopted daughter. And also, a game in which every decision felt meaningful, which led us to think about the consequences that could come from it.

The contrast is deep. The main character – queen Meve – is a mother who is turned against the son. However, rare are the occasions where this seems to be a factor in the character’s inner life.

In Witcher 3, Geralt had a well-defined personality, yet in it, we were able to find justification for any decision we made. In Thronebreaker, Meve is neither; she is a one-dimensional strongwoman, a tabula quasi-rasa in which we are rarely given the opportunity to carve out any sort of bas-relief.

The decisions that have the greatest impact on the game are not those that say something about the character, but those that lead us to lose some favorite cards based on our moral compass. There, at least, is a courageous decision – to make our choices have a direct impact on our strategic capacity.

It is a shame that the game’s designers didn’t bet on this aspect to the point of making the choices that affect the morale of our army be of any real consequence. Each of the game’s sports an abundance of easy ways to raise the army’s morale, ready to be tapped upon whenever the soldiers disagree with our royal decrees.

Thronebreaker is not a bad game, but neither is it a good one. The seeds of a good game are there, buried under a pile of filler and a mission to pander to the masses. 

It lacks the courage Meve has in abundance: the courage to decide which course it wants to take, and to pursue it adamantly, Gods damn the consequences and the displeasure of those left behind.