Also available on PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, and iOS
I decided to play through Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc on the suggestion of some of the folks in the Racketboy Slack chat. I'd picked up the PS4 port of the first two games not long ago, and they all said it was totally my type of game, so I figured I'd give it a shot. While I was interested right from the start, it did take me a little while to really "get into" the game. Once I did, however, I got more and more intrigued as time went on, staying up past midnight on multiple occasions to see the end of that chapter or class trial - something I've not done with work the next day in six or seven years.
Danganronpa is a visual novel similar in many ways to Corpse Party; most of the narrative is delivered through the standard visual novel dialogue, but there is no small amount of exploration, puzzle solving, and mystery unraveling that you must do as well. The basic premise of the game is that you're in a school for "ultimate" students - the Ultimate Pop Star, the Ultimate Baseball Player, the Ultimate Writer, etc. The only problem is that you're trapped in the school by a psychopathic bear, and the only way to "graduate" and leave the school is to kill one of your classmates and not get caught.
One of the first things that attracted me to the game early on was the memorable and diverse cast of characters. This is also one of the things that broke my heart early on. I started referring to the game with my friends - and aptly so, I believe - as Trust Issues Simulator 2017. As soon as I start to feel like I can trust a character, he or she stabs me in the back; as soon as I find a character I really dig and pick her as a waifu, she goes off and gets killed. This game is a lot like The Walking Dead in that it goes out of its way to play with my emotions. Unlike The Walking Dead, however, the storyline and characters were enough to keep me playing despite the emotional abuse (I quit watching The Walking Dead after three or four seasons because the emotional cost began to outweigh the benefit).
The core of the "gameplay," however, is not the visual novel aspect but the mystery aspect. I've not played this series (a travesty, I know), but I've been told that it's very similar to the Ace Attorney series in this regard. Whenever one of your classmates is murdered, you have to investigate the murder scene and the available areas of the school to uncover the culprit because a certain amount of time after each murder is a class trial; if you correctly determine the murderer, only that murderer is punished (read: executed in an increasingly horrific fashion), but if the group comes to an incorrect judgement, the murderer is allowed to leave the school while everyone else is killed in some unspeakable way. Being an oblivious dolt, I was utterly rubbish at this part of the game. As with most games, however, my pure trash-itude did not stop me from thoroughly enjoying it. If anything, the investigation and trial parts of the game were what kept me playing despite how terrible I usually was at them.
When I was told that this game was right up my alley, I went in expecting there to be some amount of waifu seducing. While you certainly have a few waifus to choose from (though you'll never know who lives and who dies until you've finished the game), and you can spend some free time with each character to build up your relationship, there's not much actual "waifu" aspect; you don't get any substantial dating sim aspect until you clear the game once and unlock "School Mode." That's not to say that spending time with your classmates is useless, however; you can unlock skills that you can equip and extra skill points to help you in various ways during the class trials.
I wasn't sure how to feel about Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc at first, but Bogus kept telling me how much of a "me" game it was, so I stuck with it, and I'm extremely glad that I did. I've played through a lot of visual novels - it's a guilty pleasure of mine - and while I'm not sure I can say that this first Danganronpa game is my favorite, it's definitely the most intellectually stimulating one that I've yet played. If you're not into games that are largely very passive and text based, this may not be the game for you, but if you like games that really make you think and uncover secrets and mysteries, then this definitely needs to go on your queue.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Alienation is a game steeped in mediocrity and garnished with a light touch of "meh." I grabbed my copy about a month or so ago from Play-Asia's PS4 sale. It was only $20, and it involved killing aliens; that's all I needed to get sold. Needing a pallet cleanser after my series of extremely long games, I figured that Alienation sounded perfect.
Alienation is a twin stick third person shooter. You move with the left stick and aim with the right stick. Right trigger fires your weapon, right bumper uses your melee attack, and triangle changes weapons. You can equip up to three weapons - primary (your machine gun), secondary (revolver or shotgun), and heavy (flamethrower, rocket launcher, or minigun). The game is broken into 20 levels, the first of which is a tutorial. Levels 2 through 19 are a hell of a lot of fun, though. Level 20 would be fun, but it's merciless. In the first 19 levels, there are respawn points throughout the level, and activating one respawns you at that point if you die. The enemies respawn, but you don't lose your objective progress, so it's fairly forgiving. You also have six difficulties from which to choose. The last level has no difficulty settings, and there are no respawn points - die at any point, and it's game over. This is also the hardest level in the entire game by FAR. It's not that it's unfair, per se, but given how starkly contrasting it is with the previous 95% of the game, it's just too jarring a change in my opinion.
Graphically, the game looks pretty good. It's not a marvel or anything, but it looks nice. The camera is fairly zoomed out, so you don't see any texture issues, and the framerate stays pretty smooth throughout. The sound design is...bland. It's not bad. But it's not impressive. The music is okay. The voice acting is okay. The sound effects are okay. Nothing really stands out, though. It's just...okay. Same with the story. Aliens invade the planet, you're part of a military force armed with power armor that fights to retake the planet. I lost interest once it started getting more detailed than that. It's basically every post-alien invasion game ever.
The one shining point of the game is the multiplayer. There's no local multiplayer, which is a MAJOR bummer, but the online co-op is great. When you choose a mission to play, you're automatically given the option of starting a new game (which you can set to either public or private) or joining a game from the list of ongoing missions other people around the world are playing. I had a lovely (and extremely helpful) Japanese fellow join a few of my missions and help me out. The guy was like four times my level, so I don't know if he just pitied me or what, but he tore through the aliens like tissue paper whereas I was having to fight tooth and nail just to advance. The extremely small player base does negate this positive aspect somewhat, but if you can find a mission online, it really is a lot of fun, even without knowing the other folks or an option for voice chat.
Overall, Alienation is an okay game. If you happen to see it cheap (which is unlikely; the game doesn't seem to be all that common) and you like alien shooters, I'd say give it a try, but it's definitely not a game one should rush out to buy. It doesn't do anything remarkably well, but it is a decently fun romp for what it is. If anyone does have this and wants to play, however, definitely hit me up.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3
Holy shit. This game, yo. I wouldn't say that it exceeded my expectations because of how high Persona always sets the bar, but it fully lived up to my expectations, and that alone is a remarkable feat coming after Persona 3 and Persona 4. There's literally nothing about this game that's disappointing in the slightest. I mean, there's no Chie, but it has two waifus who are even BETTER, so I'll take it.
If you've ever played a game in the Shin Megami Tensei series, you know that they're among the premier JRPG series. If you've ever played a game in the Persona sub-series, you know that they're the best of the best of the best in the genre. Everything about Persona is perfect. The art style is anime af, the characters are developed so masterfully that you almost feel like you know them, the soundtracks range from "bitchin'" to "audible orgasm," and the storylines are fabulously written and complex enough to be engaging without being pedantic. This was perfect with Persona 4, but Persona 5 is no exception; this game retains the god-tier quality of its predecessors.
Whereas Persona 3 had the Midnight Hour and Persona 4 had the Midnight Channel, Persona 5 has the Metaverse, accessed not by being awake at the right time or jumping into a TV but by accessing a mysterious smartphone app. On your quest to right the wrongs of the world and gather waifus, you'll meet a wonderful cast of characters that seriously gives Persona 4 a run for its money. You've obviously got your protagonist, but you also meet Fucking Cat, Stupid Bromance, Foreigner Jailbait, Tsundere Prez, Timid Billionaire, Gay Artist, Bitch-Ass Punk, and Kawaii Hacker Jailbait along with a whole handful of NPC waifus and bros I'm too lazy to give sarcastic nicknames.
So let's talk about what I think is always the greatest strength of any Persona game - the soundtrack. Let's go ahead and get this comparison out of the way: it's not as good as Persona 4's soundtrack. It is, however, DAMN close and amazing in its own right. The soundtrack alone justified the extra $30 for the Take Your Heart Edition IMO even without the Shujin Academy bag, artbook, and Morgana plush. The battle music especially is extraordinarily fitting for the mood of the fights and really helps to get your blood pumping for a tough boss encounter.
If I were to pick a grip, I have to very minor ones. First, the grind dungeon where most of your side quests will be done, Momentos, feels a little lackluster to me when compared to Tartarus or the TV world. Take out that comparison and it's great, but when you put it up against its Persona 3 and Persona 4 counterparts, it does feel as if a little bit is left to be desired. Second, that stupid cat keeps making me waste time. It's evening, and I want to go work on a Social Link - "Aren't you tired? Let's go to bed." Bitch, I don't want to go to bed. But fine, I'll make some infiltration tools. "Let's not do that tonight." Look, you furry piece of shit, you're not my dad. But fine. I'll train to boost my HP in battle. "Let's not do that tonight." Whyyyy??? Who cares if I'm going somewhere with all my friends tomorrow? They sell some Red Bull equivalent in Japan, I'm sure. Does it really hinder the experience? Of course not, but it is annoying as shit.
To avoid spoiling anything else, I'm going to cut it off here, but this game is truly incredible. After I played Breath of the Wild, I thought "This is my game of the year, no doubt." Then Persona 5 comes along, and shit man, I don't even know anymore. This is a truly god-tier JRPG, the kind that gets remembered as "The best of a generation" years down the light the way Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger get remembered. It doesn't matter if you've got a Playstation 3 or a Playstation 4; you need to get this game. If you don't have either of systems, shame on you! Go fix that! With difficulties ranging from "Not Even Stephen Is This Pathetic" all the way up to "Dark Souls," the game is approachable for players of any skill level. Do NOT give Persona 5 a pass. It's at the very least in the running for "Game of the Decade."
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
Has-Been Heroes is a game that, despite my disdain for rogue-like games, caught my eye quickly when I saw its reveal. Yes, it's a rogue-like, and I typically hate those types of games, but it's a strategy-heavy game, and that's something that I usually really enjoy. I wasn't sure about this one since it's got one aspect I hate and one aspect that I love. Fortunately, however, that seems to even out to a game that serves as fun time killer every now and then for me.
The premise of the game is that you've got a small group of heroes who, once upon a time, were legendary and well-known warriors who fought for the glory of the kingdom. Today, however, they're old and wrinkly, but they're epic wrinkly old geezers! The king has called upon these glorious heroes to fulfill a critical, harrowing task - escort the princesses to school! It sounds funny, but there's apparently a horde of monsters and an army of the undead between the palace and the princesses' school. Oh yeah, and there's an annoying fangirl rogue who insists on tagging along. But whatever.
If you've ever played Theatrythm: Final Fantasy, the combat looks very similar to that. It's not a rhythm game, but the combat takes place in horizontal lanes with each of your heroes occupying a different lane. Enemies will also come at you based on lanes. Each of your heroes has a different cooldown speed for melee attacks as well as different spells, each of which have their own cooldowns. Where the strategy comes in is that you have to attack an enemy to drain his or her stamina before you can actually deal damage, and you get game over if ANY of your heroes die. Your enemies will always outnumber you, and you're just a squishy as your enemies are. The only advantage you have is a wider array of abilities and the ability to act way more often; you can rush forward and act as soon as your cooldown is ready, but your enemies can't attack you until they get to the far left end of the screen. The aspect that allows you to craft more intricate strategies is that you can have your selected hero swap lanes with another hero, allowing you attack the same opponent three times in rapid succession, tearing through your enemy's stamina and HP in one go. The downside, of course, is that your heroes will all be on cooldown, giving the remaining enemies the opportunity to advance on you. Will you bum rush one enemy at a time, or will you try to juggle the horde with more balance?
The visual style is has a light-hearted almost webcomic feel to it, and that serves to accentuate the game's relaxed atmosphere. This isn't a serious game like Final Fantasy; Has-Been Heroes is a goofy romp from beginning to end. There's some serious challenge and difficulty presented, but one thing the game never does is take itself too seriously. As you counter and defeat enemies, your compendium will fill with information about them. The same goes for different biomes you fight through. You'll get a lot of game over screens, but it never starts to feel stale or repeated ad nauseum as many rogue-likes do.
In my opinion, Has-Been Heroes is an example of what a great rogue-like be. It's not necessarily a masterpiece game - it is, after all, still a rogue-like - but it's damn fun. It's light-hearted, but it's surprisingly deep in its strategic complexity. When you do you use each spell? Which enemies do you attack when? Do you switch lanes or keep your characters where they are? It's not going to be for everyone, but if you want a game to kill some time while you take a shit or pretend to listen during a meeting, you can do a lot worse than Has-Been Heroes.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Wii U, 3DS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, iOS, Windows, OSX, and Linux
The Binding of Isaac is a game that I've been interested in trying for a couple years but had never bothered with given my usual prejudice against digital games. Retail release on Switch, however, means that I'll take the plunge. Having spent a bit of time with the game, it's certainly...interesting...though I must confess that I don't quite understand the cult love of the game.
The Binding of Isaac is a rogue-like shooter, and it's a pseudo-twin stick shooter at that. I say "pseudo" because the A/B/X/Y buttons determine where you shoot. It's not a true twin stick shooter since you don't use the right control stick to aim and shoot, but when you press the left face button, you shoot left, so on and so forth, regardless of which direction you're moving. It's actually a pretty comfortable control scheme despite my initial expectation of hating it. I would still prefer a true twin stick scheme, of course, but I've got no gripes with this control scheme.
As a rogue-like, there's not a concrete or linear storyline, but the basic premise of the game is rooted in Judeo-Christian mythology. "The Binding of Isaac" refers to the biblical story in which Abraham took his son, Isaac, to be sacrificed to God. In the game's premise, Isaac is a creepy naked clay-looking kid who lives a secluded life with his crazy mother who spends her time watching psychotic televangelists on TV. The lady, showing clear symptoms of schizophrenia, hears "God" telling her that her son is corrupted by sin and needs to cleansed. So she takes away all his clothes and toys and locks him in his bedroom. Then "God" tells her that her devotion is still questioned and orders her to kill her son. She takes a butcher knife and goes to kill him. Isaac finds a trapdoor underneath a rug and hides from his mother. The game consists of Isaac's thoughts and fears taking the form of hallucinations.
As I said at the beginning, I don't really understand the hype behind this game. The gameplay is fun, and the premise is interesting, but I just wasn't as ensnared as most folks seem to be. Part of that, I think, is my general dislike of rogue-like games. While there are certainly exceptions, I generally don't care for procedurally generated games. I want my games to be defined narratives, defined dungeons and maps and progression. That's not to say that rogue-likes are bad, but they're not my cup of tea, and because of that, I'm naturally a bit predisposed to be unimpressed with The Binding of Isaac. One thing I can say is solidly positive, even with my relative dislike of the game's design, is the art design. The visual style is very distinctive, and it really gives the game a dark, hopeless feel.
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is certainly an interesting game with an interesting premise. For those who enjoy the new-game-every-time nature of rogue-likes, there's a lot to love here. I, personally, am not a fan, and the scenery gets a bit stale after a few games for me. The visual design is great, but some more landscape variation in the basement rooms would be a welcome change. Overall, definitely check it out if you're a fan of rogue-likes, and if you see it on sale, I'd check it out even if you're not. I didn't find it to be as groundbreaking as some, but it's definitely a well-made game, and it's clear that a lot of care went into its development.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Fast RMX is probably the Switch game for which I was the most hyped after Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It's essentially a "definitive" edition of Fast Racing Neo on the Wii U with all of the DLC included, but it feels like so much more than that. For starters, Neo on Wii U rendered at 720p and just upscaled to 1080p; on Switch while docked, it usually keeps a solid native 1080p, though it does drop to 900p at times. More important than the resolution, though, is the frame rate; no matter whether it's running at 720p undocked or 1080p docked, it keeps a solid 60 fps with no noticeable frame rate drops whatsoever. For a high speed racer, that's critical, and it's what makes this game really shine.
Okay, a little history lesson on this series because it hasn't gotten the recognition it deserves. It started on the Wii as a digital WiiWare game called Fast Racing League, and that's where its legacy of pushing hardware to its limits begins. Even running at 480i on the Wii, Fast Racing League looked remarkable, and it performed extraordinarily well, running smoothly. Fast Racing Neo released on Wii U in 2015 and brought the high speed action into HD. It changed the game mechanics slightly with the ability to shift between orange and blue to take advantage of differently colored boosts. Fast Racing Neo was extremely well received, but the low system sales of the Wii U limited its potential success (though it did see a physical release with all the DLC in Europe). The solution, naturally, was to release an enhanced version of the game - a "remix" - on the Switch, a Nintendo platform that promises much higher success. Higher resolution, the added DLC features, and a system more conducive of local multiplayer? Fuck. Yes.
So what's the actual gameplay like? The best way I can think of to describe it is "The best F-Zero game Nintendo never made." You race in super fast future floating cars - like F-Zero - and the twists and curves in the track require a certain degree of track memorization - like F-Zero - and you explode hella hard if you hit something too hard - like F-Zero. You'll want to collect the orbs floating around the track to collect speed boost energy, and you'll need to swap between your vehicle's orange glow and the blue glow to match the color of the boost strips on the track. Taking advantage of these boost spots and judicious use of your accumulated boost energy is the key to victory.
The game supports local and online multiplayer in addition to the traditional single player races. Completing race cups will unlock additional vehicles to use, and there are 10 cups in the game, each one consisting of four tracks each. For each of the cups, there are three difficulty settings. In addition to the cups, there's also a time attack mode for those who want to take their skills to the next level. Personally, I'm trash at this game - I started having MAJOR trouble winning about 3/4 of the way through the cups on the easiest difficulty - but the game is an incredible amount of fun. This is probably my all-time favorite racing game, and I never thought any game would take that title away from the N64's Beetle Adventure Racing.
Fast RMX is, as far as I'm concerned, the greatest console racing experience of all time. Not all will agree with me, of course - you have to like this particular type of racing game. It's not a driving sim like Forza, and it's not a kart racer like Mario Kart or Hello Kitty Kruisers (that game's shit, never play it). If you're into high speed high adrenaline fast reaction racers, though, you'll never find one better than Fast RMX, and that includes F-Zero in my opinion. All three of Shin'ens racing games have been incredible experiences, but Fast RMX is their masterpiece work. If you have a Switch, do NOT pass this one up.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on Xbox One and Windows
As all hardcore gamers know, the greatest enemies of all time are the Nazis. They're just so damn evil, you can't help but have fun massacring them. As those gamers would also know, one of the greatest non-human enemies of all time (perhaps the greatest, but there's room for debate) are zombies. Make a game built entirely around hoards of Nazi zombies, and it's a recipe for a great time. Treyarch's Call of Duty games may have been the first to popularize the idea of Nazi zombies, but in this teacher's not-particularly-humble opinion, Rebellion perfected the concept when Nazi Zombie Army first released as DLC for Sniper Elite V2 back in 2013; it would later produce a stand alone digital release and two sequels, culminating in the digital and retail release of this all-in-one pack with all three games.
Part of what immediately hooked me on this game was that the premise is actually based (albeit loosely) on actual history. During the second world war, Hitler had a fascination with the supernatural and the occult, and he actually devoted a not insignificant amount of manpower and resources into studying it. Of course, none of this research ever bore any fruits, but it's a fascinating and relatively unknown aspect to the war. The plot of this series is that this research DID turn up a relic with the power to reanimate the dead. When the war began turning against him, Hitler used this to resurrect the fallen German soldiers into an army of the undead to fight against the Allies. Unfortunately for him, he didn't realize that you need all three components of the relic together to control the zombies, resulting in having Berlin overrun by legions of the undead. You play as either an American OSS agent, a British SOE operative, a Soviet soldier, or a German SS defector as you fight fight your way out of Berlin, then fight your way back into Berlin, then fight your way through Berlin, all in an effort to put a stop to the zombie menace.
What makes this game stand out from other zombie shooters and makes it challenging as well is that it's still very much a Sniper Elite game; I spent the game armed with only a sniper rifle with 100 rounds, a shotgun with 18 rounds, a revolver with 26 rounds, and a handful of grenades. All of this was going against waves of zombies that, at times, reached Dead Rising level of enemies on screen. It takes some careful planning, skillful shots, and no small amount of luck to survive some of the sieges to which the game subjects you. You have the option of playing co-op online with up to three other people very much like Left 4 Dead, but I played through each game's five missions (each of which take between 30 and 60 minutes) solo. Like with the main series Sniper Elite games, you have the option of awesome X-ray kill cams, although you don't get the variety of kill types that you do in other games; here, it will just say "Headshot" if you shoot a zombie in the head or "Kill" if you down one with shots elsewhere. It's worth noting, however, that if you kill a zombie other than with a headshot or an explosive, there's a chance that it will resurrect. I'm not sure what the actual percentage chance is, but it seemed to me to somewhere in the neighborhood of a 20% or 25% chance.
Visually, the game looks fine. It's not the most impressive game in the world, but considering that it was originally DLC for a 2012 game (and all three Nazi Zombie Army games use unmodified the Sniper Elite V2 engine), it looks just fine. The sound design is nice, though; the screams and moans in the background add a definite creepy element to the atmosphere of the game, and the various noises of the different types of zombies - the dull THUMP of the armor zombies, the machine gun of the gunner zombies, the revving of the chainsaw zombies - give you an idea of any particularly dangerous threats around the corner. If I were to pick a complaint about the game, however, it would be the level length. Safehouses aren't ridiculously far apart - maybe 10 minutes from safehouse to safehouse - but the chapters themselves, as I said, average about 45 minutes each, though several of them take longer than that. They're not ridiculously long, but they do tend to hit the "okay, I'm ready for this chapter to end" point about 3/4 of the way through for the most of the time.
For those who want a fast paced high octane shooter, Zombie Army Trilogy might not be for you. For those who want a quick pick up and play for short bursts, Zombie Army Trilogy is definitely not for you. For those who don't mind a more methodical shooter, are willing to invest some time into each chapter, and love killing Nazis and/or zombies, however, Zombie Army Trilogy is definitely one to check out. The whole trilogy is available on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One, you can also get each of the three games individually on Steam if you want. It's definitely not going to be for everyone, but if you're a fan of the main Sniper Elite series, I would definitely recommend checking this out. If you're a PC gamer, they seem to go on sale on Steam fairly frequently.
My Rating - 4 Neps
New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers is one of the early offerings on the Switch eShop. I wasn't entirely sure what to make of it when I saw it on the French eShop (I downloaded it on my EU account before it hit the North American eShop), but I had seen it described as a "city building" sim, so I was willing to give it a shot.
The game has a few different modes - Story, Free Play, and Survival - but they all play largely the same. The "story" mode doesn't really have a story other than "Unnamed homeland sent you to set up a colony! Don't suck!" You have to meet certain key goals to be allowed to progress, and if your money is in the red for too long or if you take too long to meet one of those key goals, your homeland will have you recalled, resulting in a game over. Honestly, given how unfulfilling the story mode is coupled with the lack of any real unique features makes it a bit pointless in my opinion.
Your colony goes through five or six different "ages" of development unlocking new buildings to improve your economy and city. You need to balance gathering a number of different resources, but the most important are food and money since those are the two that are depleted at every yearly "harvest festival." You also have to worry about wild animal attack; normally a stray bear is your biggest threat, but every now and then, you'll have some freakishly mutated giant boar lead a pack of killer pigs and destroy your entire city. That shit sucks.
You can use the buttons or the touch screen to control things, and it's fine visually, but it does have the look and feel of a mobile game. I'm not sure I'm prepared to say outright that it's overpriced, but it's $9.99 price of entry is definitely the top of the reasonable asking price. If you're willing to take the plunge, however, there is some fun to be had as long as you're up for a game focused on building and not defending. After all, this isn't Civilization (though that would kick SO much ass on Switch).
New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers isn't a ground breaking game, and it isn't a particularly action-packed game, but if you're into city building games, it's a neat game that will provide some entertainment. The mobile game feel isn't a check in the "pro" column, but the game is still pretty fun all things considered. Maybe wait for it to go on sale, though.
My Rating - 3 Neps
This review is dedicated to Chris Womble and the rest of the BronyCon #TruBros for making sure I had a way to BronyCon when life got in my way
Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Rarely do games have as much to live up to as Mass Effect: Andromeda. The original Mass Effect trilogy - especially the second and third games - are truly legendary hallmarks for the sci-fi western RPG, and even with Mass Effect 3's controversial ending, Andromeda had some pretty damn big shoes to fill. So, does it succeed in living up to the legacy of its predecessors? Well, not quite, but it comes damn close, and it makes up for its shortcomings by letting you make Ryder far uglier than Shepard could ever have hoped to be.
The premise of this game is that you're on an ark with 100,000 other humans who've been in a cryogenic sleep for the past 600 years traveling at 11 time the speed of light to reach and Andromeda Galaxy and establish colonies for the Citadel races. Except you hit a giant wall of space heroin and your ship gets slightly rekt. I played as the intrepid Bhutseks Ryder, the male half of the Ryder twins, on a quest to defeat the nefarious Kett, bring viability to attempted human/salarian/asari/turian/krogan colonies, and overall save the Helius Cluster.
One of the first negatives that one will likely notice is the sharp decline in overall writing quality since the original three Mass Effect games. The dialogue, character development, and overall plot aren't nearly as well written as the first three games. There is, however, a silver lining - Ryder's character, in my opinion, is MUCH better than Shepards, and the replacement of Paragon/Renegade options for Emotional/Logical/Casual/Formal dialogue choices makes dialogue much more interesting (and hilarious if you choose Casual at every opportunity like I did). Ryder's relentless snark really makes the game for me. And it's not as if the writing is god awful, but it's really not. Compared to your average game, the writing is still pretty good; it just doesn't compare particularly well with its downright legendary pedigree.
In addition to the decline in writing quality, Andromeda - at least on PS4 - is extraordinarily buggy. Rarely do these bugs interfere much with gameplay, but there was one time that I fell through the bottom of my ship and into space, and there were a handful of times when an objective didn't spawn, forcing me to save and reload. Out of a probably 40 hour playthrough, however, that's really not too bad. The biggest issues were bizarre NPC movement, extremely finicky dialogue prompt detection, and random slowdown - all annoying, but none gamebreaking, though for what it's worth, my roommate was playing on PC and seemed to experience FAR fewer bugs.. The combat balances it all out, anyway; it's absolutely incredible. Smooth as butter, for real. It makes Mass Effect 3's combat look "meh" in comparison, especially with the weapon customization options. I crafted a minigun that fired about 10 grenades per second with a magazine of 244 rounds, a pistol that fired a shotgun-like spread of seven sticky grenades, an automatic shotgun, an electric asari sword, and a sniper rifle that could punch through metal walls and rocks. Oh, and my hand was a flamethrower. Broken? Yeah, maybe a little. Awesome? You bet your ass.
The Mako also makes a spiritual return as the Nomad. Fortunately, however, this vehicle is actually possible to control, and I came to enjoy driving it around, running over Kett and driving up mountains Skyrim-style. No cannon, unfortunately, but the upgrade options and maneuverability more than make up for that, especially with how rugged the thing's shields are. The only time I ever had the shields deplete was when I accidentally drove through a pond of sulfuric acid. Oops.
So let's talk about Andromeda's elephant in the room - the facial animations. There's been a LOT of shit online about this, and it's...definitely all true. The faces are weird as shit. I think it's the eyes, though. The eyes are EXTREMELY lifelike with the random little ticks and twitches, but the rest of the faces don't have similar unconscious habits. That discrepancy leads to some hardcore uncanny valley. The graphical quality is stunning, but the faces are definitely awkward. There are also some instances (at least on PS4) where the mouths don't quite sync up to the voices and - on one particularly unsettling occasion talking to my twin - one character's mouth moves for EVERY character's dialogue, no matter who's speaking. Creepy but hilarious.
Mass Effect: Andromeda doesn't quite live up its heritage, but given the shoes it had to fill, it did a damn good job. The freedom the games give you is incredible, and the planets you have to explore are unique and diverse. A little more QA, specifically on console releases, would have been nice, and I do wish a little more TLC had been given to the script writing, but the game is absolutely phenomenal overall. Not quite a masterpiece but a definite testament to Bioware's quality as a development studio.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.