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Recent reviews by alex.n.gregory

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Showing 1-10 of 37 entries
163 people found this review helpful
5 people found this review funny
0.0 hrs on record
It's clear that Mankind Divided's season pass was a rushed, unsatisfying affair -- where content and essential story information was gated off by Square-Enix in an apparent bid to extract more money from consumers. The only way I'd recommend buying this is if it's on sale at a deep, deep discount.

Mixing a handful of interesting missions and weapons with lackluster consumable items and weak mission formats will most likely leave players frustrated and annoyed, which is not something I thought I'd say about this franchise.

The biggest letdown is the consumable items, which have been tied to one use per account most likely as a way not to take away from the microtransaction backend. While you don't necessarily need them to progress (there's so many Praxis Kits littered throughout the game world that I had 14 by the time I reached Koller, not counting the 5 offered by the SP), it's an infuriating and ultimately-pointless notion that only served to alienate fans, especially when Eidos were able to integrate all of the pre-order bonus content from Human Revolution (including bonus Praxis Kits) into the Director's Cut version.

It doesn't help that all of the items offered by this season pass are buried in a submenu that's obscure enough to be easily missed, and the game even tells you that you can't put the consumable Praxis Kits back in your storage just in case you don't want to use them.

I've spoken about the two major story DLCs (System Rift and Criminal Past) here and here, so I'll instead focus on the rest of what's included in this pack:

Desperate Measures: As this DLC was previously a pre-order bonus and later locked off from purchasing separately, I have no choice but to talk about it here. This is an underwhelming, ultimately-pointless, mission that was very obviously cut from the main game -- but given how short it is, perhaps that's for the best. The first third of the mission is just conversation cutscenes, and the back half is rooting around a security office that poses very little challenge to anyone who's semi-competent with the main game. I finished this DLC last in my playthrough, and wasn't even going to play it but decided to do so for completeness' sake. The only thing you learn here is that Ivan Berk (the guy who bombs the train station in the main game) is a tragic figure. Whoop-de-do. If there were some compelling computer conversations or secrets to find, I might have been more interested, but as it stands, this is a dud. Took me two hours with full completion (all Praxis Kits found, all enemies knocked out, everything hacked).

Assault Pack: An ultimately-pointless weapon pack with a Battle Rifle reskin that isn't any better than its base-game counterpart, a bunch of consumable items and an augmentation that has very little utility usage (the ability to escape from armed grenades on walls), and is buried within the submenu of another augmentation to boot. If you're playing a stealth character, this has little to no value for you.

Tactical Pack: On the other hand, this pack is incredible. The tranq rifle it gives you is light-years better than its regular version -- it can shoot darts very fast and has exceptional damage output, not to mention it takes up less room in your inventory. The Micro-Assembler Aug might be the most broken thing in the game, as it lets you convert just about anything into spare weapon or crafting parts. It opens up playstyles that are normally unfeasible (like someone who could exclusively use the TESLA, for instance), and it breaks any sort of challenge in the main game. You could literally go through the whole game not putting any points into hacking and just crafting Multitools for days. I had two stacks of Biocells and sold a good four-five stacks of Multitools by the time I completed the game.

If you can get this for sale at a very cheap price (like it is during the Steam Winter Sale, when I wrote this review), do so. The bonus items and Criminal Past DLC are worth the price of admission by themselves. Otherwise, steer clear.
Posted December 28, 2017. Last edited December 28, 2017.
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92 people found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
0.0 hrs on record
The best DLC of the lot, and up there with Human Revolution's Missing Link DLC as the best in the franchise.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy Criminal Past as much as I did. After the plodding and small-stakes System Rift, I assumed this was something that Eidos just kind of pushed out in order to fulfill a contractual obligation for the season pass. Little did I know that this DLC is essentially an entire game unto itself.

The freedom you have to try different playstyles and have your decisions acknowledged by the rest of the story is A-plus, a marked departure from the other DLC stories where you're funneled into one linear route and there's no real reason to explore.

The concept of the DLC (which takes place after the main game and has Adam recounting the first mission he did for TF29) puts you at a distinct disadvantage from the get-go -- you're fitted with a suppressor chip that disables all your augs. While you do have the choice to reactivate them at different capacities (either by taking a pill offered to you at the start of the mission or finding an altered Biocell that gives you extra Praxis points), you're not forced to do anything and can instead run the storyline 100% un-upgraded, in a manner similar to the "Factory Zero" achievement from the aforementioned MIssing Link.

The characters, almost by default, are more memorable than the supporting characters you find in the base game, probably because they're not all interchangable civilians with thick accents, but a group of murderers, thieves and loathsome folks who are visually distinctive. Whether it's the tattooed D-Town (who has trouble remembering "Walthers"' actual name, the media-seeking Frederick Flossy, the vaguely-ambiguous disordered Fixer or Mr. "Little Red Shoes" himself, there are plenty of amusing personalities that make finding and speaking with them very entertaining.

The exploration and attention to player choices is on a whole other level versus System Rift. The Pent House maximum security prison is a surprisingly-sprawling place, and I was actually invested in hunting around for hours for hidden Praxis Kits, which are often placed in devious places, forcing you to make platforming jumps, navigated a booby-trapped back area or risking a fatal drop in a solitary confinement cell in order to get them. There's also a lot of compelling story here, such as Guerrero's fall from grace and the alternate situations that play out depending on whether you choose to do certain tasks for inmates.

The story moves at a good pace, and there's a lot of interesting character work with Warden Stenger (who defies the "affably evil" trope), and the dichotomy between the Fixer and Guerrero's philosophies. It helps that this is buoyed by some fiendishly-tough challenges that force you to adapt, like getting caught up in the prisoner riot, searching for a jumpsuit that will help you blend in better and avoiding a horde of cameras and bots as you seek to turn off the anti-air defenses.

I almost went back to play this a second time through, but after a combined 70 hours playing the main game and the DLC, I was a bit burned out. This is certainly a worthwhile experience, though, and I'm sure there were story beats and little collectibles I missed.

Well worth a look.
Posted December 28, 2017. Last edited December 28, 2017.
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57 people found this review helpful
0.0 hrs on record
If the concept of breaking into (yet another) bank sounds appealing to you, the System Rift DLC is up your alley. Everyone else should steer clear.

Going into this DLC after the main game, I was very excited. A high-tech bank heist with your old hacker buddy from Human Revolution along for the ride? Awesome! However, the execution and overall feeling of this DLC is limited despite the setting and potential stakes presented by the plot.

To start with, the gameplay area is comparatively small. The main game presented the Palisade Bank, a building that had seven levels worth of offices, back passages, plenty of interesting information to find, different ways of dealing with the objective (you could either assault the bank, get an ID card that lets the bank think you're a valued client or sneak in through the underground entrance) and a horde of loot to collect, not to mention that it directly tied in to a main story mission that takes place later in the game.

Here, you're dispatched to the Palisade Blade, a glorified server farm where the most interesting things to find are repetitive joke emails on the computers talking about company policies or dealing with spam emails. For all the interesting questions the DLC sets up (namely, the involvement of a minor character from the original game using the Palisade as part of an Illuminati scheme, and the fact that you'll be learning more about the CEO of the bank and his wife), it doesn't do anything compelling with the narrative and simply ends with another standard "now I know who they are, so I'm going to go find them" sequel hook. It didn't work in the main game, so I'm unsure why Eidos thought it would work here.

That's not getting into the rest of the DLC area, which is limited to a single street and comprises the first half of the mission. Frankly, it's insultingly-small, with little to do in the way of exploration and the most interesting thing being a homeless woman who sleeps in the sewers underneath a wine store and carries a pistol underneath her pillow. The whole thing about the bar being anti-aug and deeper questions about aug rights amounts to a bunch of women with shaved heads arbitrarily yelling at you for no reason.

The overall storyline can be boiled down to "go see a couple of people in the exact same Prague plaza, go into the server, go up a few floors, avoid some robots and play a VR minigame." It doesn't help matters that the DLC is a prologue for the Breach multiplayer mode, despite being produced after the main game. With how underwhelming that mode ended up being, it doesn't help that the whole setup is "some mealy-mouthed Prague chick left an exploit in a server somewhere for people to steal data from". And that's not getting into the fact that I was stuck for half-an-hour on the Breach challenges because my custom commands reset themselves and didn't give me any clear directions.

There's no real stakes or danger in the DLC, despite an attempt to do so by having Pritchard be stuck in the server for a few minutes as Adam and ShadowChild try to bail him out. Compare this to Human Revolution's Missing Link DLC, where you're on your own and forced to survive with the help of unfamiliar allies, or Divided's own Criminal Past, where you have to complete your mission while staying undercover and dealing with high-tech prison security at the same time. It's just more of the same from the base game, which might have worked if the DLC was properly integrated and there was some lasting effect to the whole thing. Relegating it to the Jensen's Stories menu devalues it from the get-go. Hell, they completely waste Pritchard's character and just have him get cut off by Jensen at the end. This is the guy who had Jensen's back all through Human Revolution and helped him escape Alaska and break into Sarif HQ in the Black Light novel, and his only function here is a couple of vidcalls and some ambient chatter.

There are a couple of saving graces, like the new "heat sensor" mechanic (which will bite you hard unless you've upgraded your hacking skills enough and set the robots on each other before you complete one part of the mission) and a couple of neat nods where your past actions are reflected (Slaw will acknowledge if you've knocked him out in the bar before talking with him in the Blade).

Otherwise, this DLC can be safely skipped without losing anything from the main story. It's a shame, too, because I was really hoping this would be the standout of the lot.
Posted December 28, 2017. Last edited December 28, 2017.
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30 people found this review helpful
5.9 hrs on record
You travel within the glory of my memories, insect. I can feel your fear as you tread the endless expanse of my mind...

I was 12 years old when I first played System Shock 2. I had just received some spending money at Christmas, and decided to go to a local game store to pick up something to play. It was there that I ran across an unassuming box, stamped with an "EA Classics" banner (which I still own) that had what appeared to be a sinister-looking woman hovering over a ship in deep space. Thinking it could be a fun little title, I took it home expecting to be entertained.

It wasn't long until I was reloading a save, practically wetting myself in terror as my character stood outside a cargo bay, listening to ambient chatter from robots that busted out of containers and were trying to hunt me down, and getting instasniped by a turret when I rounded the corner.

SS2 is a game that is absolutely dripping in atmosphere and dread. It makes the very act of walking down a hallway an unnerving, terrifying experience. Yet it remains one of my favorite games of all time, and one I've returned to many times over the years. It is an action-RPG that takes everything great about horror games and applies it to the sci-fi/cyberpunk genre.

The game may seem a little dated and archaic now, but back then there was nothing like it. Everything from the interesting set-up (your four-year tour of duty is actually a class/skill selection process), the way the backstory is told through audio logs and final journals, the desolate and unnerving atmosphere and the variety of weapons/armor that could be found (and crafted) added up to a landmark experience.

I have so many fond memories of this game. Seeing my health whittled down to nothing and taking potshots at robots in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Failing to catch an escape pod and walking back through a hallway, only to have to retreat and start firing madly with a shotgun when a horde of techno-zombies appeared in front of me. Crafting a crystal sword and using it to great effect... on dangerous monkeys in a gym that were firing off bolts of energy in my direction.

I couldn't even finish the game the first time I played it, as I crafted a build that was way too reliant on tech skills. I then found myself low on ammo and medicine while trying to sprint through the Body of the Many as a horde of grotesque abominations chased me. SS2 is a game that definitely doesn't hold your hand, but rewards exploration and experimentation.

And that's not even getting into the original queen bee herself, SHODAN. Everything from Terri Brosius' masterful performance to the worst-kept secret (and simultaneous best surprise) in the game oozes villainous appeal. You can be fighting off Machine Mothers while trying to dodge security cameras, and SHODAN will still be pushing you to continue on while simultaneously telling you that you're an "insect" and that you can't comprehend what she's doing. SHODAN is a terrifying but oddly reassuring companion throughout the game and a large part of what has made it so iconic.

This is a title I've carried the torch for over the years, via its CD version, an abandonware copy I turned to because it fixed a major bug and this most recent release from Night Dive Studio, who did a stellar job negotiating the rights to publish both this and the original 1994 title.

There's a reason why this is considered part of the late-90s "holy trinity" alongside Thief 2 and Deus Ex. The innovations SS2 pioneered are still being felt in large and small ways in the gaming industry, both in its influences for franchises like Dead Space and Bioshock and narrative techniques that fully immerse the player into the world without being preachy.

I highly, highly recommend the game. It's one you should play if you haven't done so already.
Posted January 22, 2017. Last edited January 22, 2017.
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30 people found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
2.5 hrs on record
108 minutes played. In that time, I obtained more than 1700 achievements. We're through the looking glass here, folks.

As much as I enjoyed Zup! and Zup! 2 (a deceptively-simple pair of puzzle games that have you clicking on explosive red blocks in order to get a blue block over to a green platform and unlock the next stage), this third installment is already pushing the limits of what I'm willing to tolerate. I considered the DLC for the second game a neat little bonus, but it's as if the developers saw how much people were playing their little title and decided to go all post-modern and edgy on their player base.

You can't start this game for the first time without getting 20 achievements. Click on anything on the screen, another 3-6 achievements. There are so many achievement messages coming on-screen at once that it actually messes with the flow of the game in certain situations, by making it so that you either have to wait or click through the achievements in order to activate the exit gate.

And that's not even getting into the game itself, whose sole innovation this time is that the item you have to get into the green "safe" area is now a ball instead of a square, and there are white tiles you have to click on in later levels in order to make them vanish and solve certain puzzles. Couldn't this have just been produced as an add-on for the previous title?

I'm not sure who this game was intended for. The achievement symbols themselves are noticeably less polished and refined than the ones from the original game (which look very nice in an achievement showcase, similar to how LYNE had its set of achievements). There's no real innovation or unique designs on display here other than a reliance in the later levels of using "step" tiles to roll the ball into certain areas. The achievements feel like a giant joke that was designed to undermine and trivialize Steam's achievement system.

You're better off sticking with the first two games and not wasting your time on this unless you're desperate for more achievements. Even then, the sheer absurdity of the way achievements are integrated with the game is off-putting.
Posted January 16, 2017. Last edited January 16, 2017.
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5 people found this review helpful
0.1 hrs on record
(This review contains major spoilers.)

Marginally better than the main game, but that's not saying much.

Stasis Interrupted (the sole story DLC for Aliens: Colonial Marines) attempts to explain Corporal Dwayne Hicks' whereabouts after the events of Aliens via a rotating cast of characters and a remixed set of locations from the main game. While it does have a handful of interesting moments and unique mechanics, I don't think it salvages the main game, and is only worth pursuing for completionists or hardcore fans.

After starting with a cutscene that shows a character who you'll later play as being executed, the storyline cuts to a young woman named Lisbeth, who wakes up on a ship called the Legato as it's being cleared by Weyland-Yutani forces and brimming with xenomorphs. The best parts of the DLC are on display here - lots of stealth action combined with new animations (see Lisbeth releasing facehuggers to attack W-Y mercs) and a couple of surprisingly effective dramatic cues. However, this whole chapter is short-lived and somewhat hollow, as you already know that Lisbeth has been infected with a chestburster when you wake up and her "heroic sacrifice" feels less like a noble act and more a way to tie off a lingering plot thread so other pieces can get into place. It feels like some of this material (especially the activation of the self-destruct protocol and the ensuing scene with the xenomorphs watching as the chestburster comes out) inspired a similar sequence in Creative Assembly's Alien: Isolation.

The second and third parts of the story have you playing as a soldier and doctor who are trying to help Hicks. In one of the weirdest scenes I've ever seen in this franchise, the game tries to retcon/reframe the chain of events that kicked off Alien 3, to little success. After that, you go through a remixed version of levels from the base game, with a bit more exposition as to what happened after Aliens and a couple of marginally-interesting audio logs to find.

The final setpiece is the main draw of the mission, even if it feels a little "fan-fictiony". Hicks and a turncoat doctor who worked for W-Y infiltrate the company's research lab on LV-426, where they discover that they didn't quite kill all the xenomorphs and there's another queen hiding in a cave system. The biggest and best setpiece in both this and the main game is on full display, as you'll have to dodge xenos and damage the queen in an arena-like setting.

The rest is a mixed bag. Continuity is all over the place, with the sequence of events that lead to Hicks waking up not jiving with anything we learned in the third film (apparently Hicks and Stone were present on Fury 161 when Ripley took her swandive into molten lead). The voice acting itself feels extremely phoned-in, and Michael Biehn sounds even more bored and detached than he did in the main game.

By and large, Stasis Interrupted doesn't do anything particularly noteworthy, but it does have a handful of interesting moments that will appeal to people who already completed the main campaign and want to know a bit more about the backstory.

It's just a shame that the parent title was so mediocre, because this would have been better received.
Posted January 2, 2017.
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26 people found this review helpful
6.0 hrs on record
If the purpose of this game was to sum up a fighter's life as an endless series of roundabout tasks with very little to show for it, then the developers admirably succeeded.

I don't think that's what they were going for, though.

Punch Club is an incredibly frustrating game that has hints of greatness that shine through. You'd think that a game about a scrappy fighter who's orphaned at a young age and works his way up through the ranks to become a winner in his home city would be a can't-miss proposition, but this game unbelievably gets bogged down in random nonsense, grinding with little in the way of manageable gains and a collection of half-written characters. I'll usually defend any of TinyBuild Games' products, and seeing as I received a copy of this during their anniversary celebrations, I was hoping it would be another stellar title.

How wrong I was.

Yes, the grinding is the worst part of the game. After spending a couple hours ineffectually trying to boost my stats to little effect and seeing most of the training slip away by day's end, I got fed up, started a new game and set the difficulty down to "easy" mode (which itself mocks you by claiming that you're breaking the game). Not only does it not change the flow of the game much -- as in getting your tail handed back to you even with significant training -- but achievements are disabled by default in that mode.

You'd think that with a mechanic as infuriating as this, the story would be solid-to-great. Right? Right?

Nope. Just a bizarre setup for the plot with next-to-no backstory. Your father gets shot for... reasons, some policeman (who you don't even see in person after this scene) decides to raise you as his foster child, and the action cuts to many years later when you're a young man who decides to work his way up the ranks of the local fighting league. The characters seem to have been cribbed wholesale from works like The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Oh look, there's a shopkeeper named Apu who's always getting robbed! And a man-sized turtle who's constantly asking for pizza in the sewers! What am I, 12 years old? Nearly every person you meet is a caricature of a better written character.

I'd be willing to forgive this stuff if the combat mechanics were any good, but frankly, I just didn't care at all. Despite having the ability to track your round-over-round performance, it's a bunch of meaningless numbers and the only way to advance is to grind, grind and grind again. On normal difficulty, it's an extremely frustrating balancing act between working to get enough money to buy food and training enough so that all your stats don't decay by the next day.

On easy mode, it's a repetitive series of back-and-forth with no real reward or plot advancement beyond random events (a cat shows up in your apartment, there's some kind of magical suitcase that may or may not be related to said cat, an "Ultimate" fighting club where you can sustain serious injuries). It's like the people who made this game (Lazy Bear Studios) thought about stats first and completely ignored any player engagement. And then they have the balls (no pun intended) to put in an "Easy Mode" and make sly digs about it after complaints from the player base.

Punch Club should be seen as a cautionary tale of what not to do in a fighting game. The few interesting or unique aspects -- stat-building, the entire "Fight Club" aspect, a couple of supporting characters -- are lost in a haze of frustation and monotony. It's a shame, because TinyBuild is usually capable of much better than this (see No Time to Explain, a game that draws the player in right from the get-go).

Not recommended.
Posted December 30, 2016. Last edited December 30, 2016.
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79 people found this review helpful
4 people found this review funny
22.7 hrs on record
(This review contains major spoilers.)

You know what I remember the most about the Thief series? Being inventive.

Thief 2. The second-last mission of the game. Making my way stealthily through a sprawling manor, taking out guards and heavily-armored security robots while grabbing as many trinkets as I could. Finding myself with only two rope arrows left and a booby-trapped room where stepping on the floor would kill me instantly. Cue me jumping like Tarzan between a pair of carefully-positioned ropes dangling from the rafters, trying to nab a set of masks while worrying about the danger beneath my feet.

There is no such moment that compares to that in 2014's Thief reboot. At its best, it's completely average. At its worst, it's a set of compelling ideas buried under mediocrity and subsystems you have to fight through the entire time to get some semblance of fun.

I wanted so badly to love this game. The Thief series is my favorite stealth series of all time, and one I've played for many years (and even reviewed on this site). There's a reason why Thief 2 is often referred to as one of the "holy trinity" of late 90s video games - it's the one that defined the stealth genre, via creative and expansive level design, an extremely-memorable villain (Karras), awesome (and sarcastic) voice acting and the freedom to approach objectives as you saw fit.

That's why it's so frustrating to see something that feels like the worst excesses of console-oriented development grafted onto the skeleton of the previous titles. You can tell that there was the seed of something amazing here, but it's lost in a haze of its troubled development and conflicting plots.

In a better game, some of the elements introduced here could have been amazing. Nearby animals that alert enemies to your presence if you make a wrong move while picking a lock. A dynamic hub world that slowly opens up to you as you progress through the plot and get more tools (a la Deadly Shadows). Feeling like Garrett has an actual presence in the gameworld as opposed to just a floating pair of hands. The use of tools at your disposal. Finding sets of collectibles, all with their own unique models. At every turn, these advancements are marred by a gallery of bugs, glitches and underwhelming aspects.

The level design in particular is shockingly bad. You can tell that this was developed for consoles first and foremost. Areas are very small compared to the previous games. Thief 2's "Life of the Party" had you go all the way from several blocks away from the Keep, inside and up through several floors without any loading whatsoever. This time around, you can barely turn a corner without having to lift up a board or fade to black while jimmying open a window. The use of hidden loading screens (especially ones tied to button-mashing prompts) kills any sense of exploration or enthusiasm. Not helping are strange access routes - instead of walking through a gate to go from Baron's Way North to Baron's Way South, I have to get to a second-storey window, pry it open so I can get in, then jimmy open another window and wait while a new area loads.

In many ways, the enemy AI feels like a regression compared to the earlier games. They used to search for you for prolonged periods of time (sometimes for several minutes before audibly telling their comrades that they were giving up), In this game, they search for a few seconds before mindlessly going back to their original patrol routes. It feels like the exact same AI from the past. The difference is that it was 2014 when they released this, and they didn't make any advancements whatsoever.

The plot itself is the worst part. You can definitely tell that it's a Frankenstein-like amalgamation between two different plots.

* The entire concept of Garrett's Focus abilities are shown in the last cutscene from the prologue, where Garrett somehow gets a piece of the Primal stuck in his eye... by looking at the Primal for a moment. And even worse, another supporting character knows this, but doesn't tell him about it until the end of the game. Yet you can buy Focus upgrades from her.
* Erin herself (who I'm fairly sure was originally supposed to be the young girl from the ending of Deadly Shadows) is introduced as an impulsive, brash, arrogant woman who seems to have been designed just so she can be hated. The player is then expected to be sympathetic hours after her apparent "death" when she randomly shows up in visions whining about how much she hates Garrett for what he did to her. There's a reference to Erin having unresolved feelings for Garrett that isn't supported in any way by the plot.
* Garrett decides to leave his one true companion, Basso, who is injured and alone in the middle of a dangerous/exploding tower, so he can rob a giant safe. Even worse, this act is the entire lynchpin the story revolves around. The plot can't advance otherwise.
* For some reason, the game tries to have an emotional moment over a bird. I get the sense that the creature in question was supposed to be an actual person in an earlier plot.
* We learn midway through the game (in a blink-and-you-miss it sidestory) that the original Garrett went to Moira Asylum, hid caches throughout the place, got locked up, had a guy named the Architect trying to find him, and somehow escaped the prison but left behind his famous mechanical eye. Wait, WHAT?!?
* The final mission is a mishmash of conflicting images, cutting from two characters standing in the middle of a closed room to one of the characters hanging onto the edge of a collapsed deck, with the wall having been blown open suddenly for no reason.

I get what they originally wanted to do. Judging from what we see in the game itself and the leaked trailer with Stephen Russell voicing Garrett, you can figure out that the original plot was an "older and wiser Garrett" story, where he loses his protege and fights to avenge her while coming to terms with a new age. Except it's been lost in a haze of muddled character motivations (Garrett is more of a kleptomaniac mechanic than an actual thief), the two faction leaders only show up to hammer their respective goals in before disappearing for long stretches of time, and the main antagonist you face throughout the game (the Thief-Taker General) feels like a laundry list of the worst villain cliches.

It's a shame, because the sidequests come close to salvaging the whole thing. Whether you're trying to steal an enchanted skull (that talks to you - seriously), robbing a fellow thief who's trying to muscle in on your territory or attempting to disrupt the black market, the side jobs and the questgivers are more animated and varied than what you find in the main storyline.

It is extremely, extremely frustrating, because the game fights you the entire way. Between the horrid map system, the underwhelming hub areas (run into an empty apartment, grab a fork and knife, leave, repeat 50 times), the loading screens and the terrible enemy AI, you'll be spending half your time just trying to navigate to where you want to go. Yeah, it looks pretty, but it's just not worth it.

And that's not even getting into the bugs. An emotional moment with Basso affirming his trust in Garrett was ruined by an NPC rambling about nothing in the background. A guard got caught on a street tile and began spinning at mach speed as the AI tried to freeze itself. Guards sound extremely close, even if they're on the other side of a market square.

At the end of the day, Thief (2014) is an muddled experience that is brought down by its fractured development cycle, a confusing and kitbashed plot, and a wide assortment of bugs, glitches and dodgy gameplay elements that actually keep the game from being fun.

TLDR: No stealth title should end up like this.
Posted November 27, 2016. Last edited November 28, 2016.
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69 people found this review helpful
10 people found this review funny
289.0 hrs on record
Somewhere between convincing a young boy to hand over the trigger for an orbital death laser, and running into a trio of elderly women howling for my blood after I reprogrammed a sexbot to work for the local bar, I found myself thinking, "This might be one of the best RPGs I've ever played."

More than any other game in recent memory, Fallout: New Vegas is an RPG that encourages - and rewards - you for exploring strange or out-there possibilities. Whether you want to be the savior of the Mojave Wasteland or the Devil Incarnate when it comes to the way you deal with the world and its residents, this game actively relishes in allowing you to mold the experience in any way, shape or form you choose.

As a courier who is double-crossed and shot in the head, the game immediately sets itself apart from previous Fallout titles (which all had you start in a Vault and bring you slowly into the outside world) by having you wake up in a small town and immediately get caught up in a (sometimes-overwhelming) amount of oddball characters, sidequests and machinations from various factions within the Mojave. When you set out, you'll quickly find yourself making enemies, running across all sorts of strange locations and getting lost in a mountain of sidequests that will quickly have you glued to your computer saying "just one more mission".

The most interesting aspect of the game is the care that's taken to giving the player unique, memorable experiences. Whether it's strolling into a new town as the sound of Marty Robbins' "Big Iron" plays on your Pip-Boy radio, the oddball encounters given by the Wild Wasteland perk, the unmarked quests peppered throughout the wasteland or the fact that you can literally run around killing everything and everyone (up to and including the heads of major factions), the game has an unbeatable sense of world-building and freedom. You can quite literally massacre everyone and still achieve an ending that's on par (or arguably better) than one of the faction endings.

Much care has also been given to the wide assortment of companions you can recruit throughout the game, who all provide incredible benefits during combat. They all have their own quirks and unique conversations, strong companion quests, insight into the various factions and amusing chatter during combat and encounters. Likewise, it shows how much care Obsidian Entertainment put into the game when you see some of the minor NPCs, who have surprisingly-intricate conversations and mini-questlines.

New Vegas also has some of the most interesting and, I would argue, iconic encounters and quest designs in the entire series. Whether it's the surreal "social experiment" in Vault 22 (and arguably, the rest of the Vaults in the Mojave), menial tasks like the picture-taking sidequest at the south end of the Vegas Strip, or just being able to sell your companion to a group of high-society cannibals for no other reason than "for the evulz", the game does an incredible job of keeping things fresh and varied throughout a playthrough.

The most interesting thing is that you can play the game a number of different ways and get a different experience every time. The first time I beat the game, I was doing a completionist "goody-two-shoes" run where I saved everyone I could and was incredibly thorough. When I went back for a second run, I played as a female melee expert who ran around stealth-killing everyone with sneak attacks, but couldn't shoot guns to save her life. The flexibility and care given to making both character builds have unique advantages is the main part of why New Vegas continues to have such replay value.

Of course, there's also the modding community, which has given the game unparalleled longevity, both through restored content (like the New Vegas Uncut series on Nexusmods) or major gameplay overhauls like Project Nevada. Even if it wasn't on sale, the game is still incredible value thanks to the amount of content both in the game and contributed by the community.

I highly recommend New Vegas for anyone getting into the genre. It's one of my favorite Western RPGs, and an experience that keeps rewarding me time and time again.

Now if I could just get "Big Iron" out of my head...
Posted February 2, 2016. Last edited November 22, 2017.
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15.6 hrs on record
(This review contains some spoilers.)

LISA the Painful isn't so much a "quirky" RPG as it is unrelentingly grim and depressing. It's also one of the best indie RPGs made in a long, long time.

Coming off as the love child of Earthbound and Dark Souls, LISA puts players into the shoes of a man who has been beaten down so thoroughly that he has virtually nothing left, but still perseveres in order to rescue the only woman in the world. More than any other game in a while, LISA forces you to weigh the consequences of your actions and continue on in the face of nonstop tragedy and tough decisions. Make no mistake - this game will leave you drained by the end of it.

LISA may not be the flashiest RPG out there, but it is a masterwork on how to effectively build tension and uncertainty while utilizing various gameplay elements to the fullest. Every step feels like it could be your last. Enemies will routinely wreck your party, even with planning. Sleeping at a campfire runs the risk of a permanent injury, or worse, one of your companions bailing on you. There is no loyalty between anyone, not even between Brad and Buddy. A choice between chopping your arm off or permanently sacrificing a companion is one of the easier decisions forced upon you. Give something to an innocuous pair of NPCs and an entire village could be wiped out.

Somewhere between the game insinuating that a major character was molested and a decision where I had to choose between sacrificing my current party members or chopping off a minor body part, I had to put the game down and step away for a while. The subject matter is unrelentingly dark, and even the few moments of levity the plot and characters provide aren't really balanced with the grim nature of the world Brad and everyone else inhabit.

The game will flip between moods on a dime - one minute, you're taking part in Russian Roulette that can (and will) cause permadeath for your companions, and the next you're in a village where an amateur magician is asking you to find some playing cards for him. You go from a hilarious wrestling sidequest that riffs on the WWF to a pair of decisions that easily qualify as the darkest moment in the game.

Still, LISA does have moments of humor and amusement. The various companions you meet throughout the world all have quirky backstories and interesting little comments after battles (which makes it all the more difficult at the end of the game, during a certain cutscene). There are interesting and funny little notes written throughout the world, and some of the ambient locations you run across (like a McDonalds parody, where fast food meals are gifted from the "heavens" above) are quite unique.

The battles are pretty straightforward, but do rely on a lot of strategy, especially if you're playing in "Pain Mode" (where you can only use savepoints once). There is a definite degree of strategy, and even with overleveled characters, you still have to figure out the weaknesses of bosses and attempt to counter them. The game also does a great job of encouraging replayability through multiple endings, alternate choices and different party configurations.

Also, there's a really great fast-travel system that allows you to get to one of the main hubs instantly. It's always something I harp on about longer RPGs not having, but it was pulled off very well here.

If there's anything I didn't like in the game, it's the fact that a certain character that administers the decisions comes off as a bit too "deus ex machina" for my tastes, and some of the bosses either force you to grind or counter them with a really-overpowered companion. I also didn't feel that many of the companions warranted being part of my active party, and they don't do much of consequence after being recruited.

Still, I was more than satisfied after a single playthrough of the game. LISA is a title that will leave you emotionally drained and weighing the consequences of everything that leads up to that final, nihilistic ending.

And I wouldn't have it any other way. Highly recommended.
Posted November 1, 2015. Last edited November 1, 2015.
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