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Some spoilers for the beginning of Uncharted 4 and the Witcher 3 expansion Blood and Wine

Butch:

Hooray! We have something to talk about! I mean, besides all the experiences we’ve shared being friends for 20 years….our kids….that sort of thing.

So I drove a boat, was a kid, was in prison (nice transition), climbed a tower, solved a puzzle, I’m in a pirate’s cell.

Not too shabby.

Initial thoughts:

1) WHERE’S CHLOE???? (kidding) Let’s try that again.

1) It really is a gorgeous game, isn’t it? When you mentioned that, I must admit I was thinking “Well, she just played three games on the PS3, maybe she’s just adjusting back to pretty current gen graphics” but no, it really is that gorgeous. The detail? Adding sprinklers in the dorm room? The dust in the lights? Just that motorcycle! Damn, man.

2) So the first three, if you squinted, you could see that these were the guys who did TLOU. Don’t have to squint anymore, do we? MAN this looks, plays, feels like The Last Of Us. Especially in the orphanage, I kept expecting a clicker to jump out. Indeed, I was so in that groove that I thought, when that nun kept catching me, that I had to find a bottle or something to distract her like she WAS a clicker. Old habits die hard. (Not a nun joke. Ha.) Maybe it’s just a reaction to the little circle/triangle prompts to interact, but I think it’s more than that. The way cutscenes are blocked? The sound on them? (They get ambient noises like footsteps in cutscenes SO right. It’s the little things) I dunno. But holy cow, this is the same dudes.

3) I like the rope mechanic, I do, (I can just see little Nathan: “WAAAAAA! Lara gets cool rope arrows! Why don’t I get a rope? I WANNA ROPE!”) but I’m hoping, though not expecting, that the button prompt goes away after the tutorial bits. I’m not so into the button prompts. Lara didn’t need button prompts. She let the player just find nice convenient rope coils. The button prompts seem intrusive.

On that, I don’t think we need the little tiny circle that floats in space above things you can interact with. Same beef. Sure, I get they want you to find these things, cuz plot, but dudes. Trust your players. The last three games did.

4) One always gets nervous when a series, in any medium, introduces an important character that’s “been there all along” in the fourth installment. It induces eye rolls, it does. I’m giving this the benefit of the doubt, because they’re handling it ok so far, but I’m not 100% sold yet. I reserve the right to roll my eyes.

Ok, we can start there.

Feminina:

Hooray!

Alas, no Chloe. But yes, it’s a good-looking game. They’re still slacking a bit on the hair, but otherwise it looks pretty amazing. Lovely details, beautiful lighting. A pleasure to just wander around settings. I was particularly taken with the transitions from light areas to dark and vice versa…when you come out into sunlight from underground, or the opposite, it goes briefly white/black as if you’re momentarily blinded. Not for long, or too dramatically: just a nice touch.

There were definitely parts of this that felt very TLOU. I never got caught by the nun (one of my areas of expertise in games, in addition to staircases, is nun-evasion), but the stealth bits there were reminiscent. It would have been kind of awesome if you really could have distracted her with a thrown bottle.

On that, I quite liked being kid Nathan again, and the flashback was kind of a clever way of making us FEEL as though we’d known about Sam for a long time, even though this is actually the first we’ve heard of him. I tried to work out where this is in terms of his age, compared to the flashback in 3 where he met Sully. He must be younger, but by how much? The two kids don’t seem all that far apart in age, so what’s the chronology here?

I like the rope bits as well, but I have to disappoint you with the news that the R2 (L2? Was that it? This is how quickly I forget) prompt never does go away. It becomes a bit of a QTE at certain points, when you have to pick just the right moment to throw your hook, but otherwise it just kind of handholds for you the whole game.

I was also a little dubious about this late stage introduction of a brother we’d never heard of, but in the end I think it worked reasonably well. We’ll obviously talk later.

Meanwhile, I played some more witcher expansion, gradually getting the hang of combat and inventory again. So far so good. A decent basic main story hook, a bunch of side quests, an innkeeper with a whole bunch of gwent cards…oh, wait, that was you getting excited, not me. Anyway, looks like a good few weeks.

I’ve missed looting everything in sight. Broken oars! Mugs! A pile of gold coins left in an outhouse!

A guy who comes in and pees while you’re looting the outhouse! Ah, witcherverse, it’s good to be back.

Butch:

We talked on this when we played TW3, but MAN have games improved with the use of light. I mean, sunsets in that. Now, the way light comes into a room, or reflects off a car, or or or. Graphics for so long have focused on pixels and making things look real. Now, it seems that light and bad hair looks “realer” than flat light and good hair. Who knew?

I got caught twice (she leads you back to bed by the ear as it fades out, funny way to “die”), which is what made me think there was a trick or something else to learn. Like “Is this like the ‘how to throw things’ bit?”

Timewise, this has to be before. One figures that, after 3, he was with, or mostly with, Sully. In fact, there’s some banter with Sully where Nathan mentions that they got into jail soon after meeting up.

The prompt stays? Crap. I already had one such QTE, where I was sliding and had to chuck the thing when I got to the bottom of the slide before falling. Oh, well. Modern games, man. I hope RotTR doesn’t go that way.

One immersion breaker I kinda do like is the “detection meter” or whatever, that tells you how noticed you are, a la AC. Stealth was SUCH a bitch (how many “kill a couple then get seen and shoot 248” fights were there?) that this is a nice change. Indeed, it saved me from a nun in the end.

Also, it’s L1. Memory. We’re screwed when I play Life is Strange.

Witcher loot! Huzzah! Yeah, I do miss it. And it feels pretty “new game” like, right? Like, not just tacked onto a story that ended? It has its own story, yes?

And you played the first expansion, right?

While you had me at “new gwent cards,” this sounds like a must play.

Feminina:

I’ll take bad hair/good light. Hair isn’t everything, after all.

The awareness meter…yeah, this game reminded me more of Assassin’s Creed than previous ones (which felt similar mainly in the climbing mechanics and puzzles). That “someone is going to notice you” warning was not particularly realistic, but certainly handy. (I guess he’s been doing this sort of thing for so long that he just got a sixth sense for when he’s attracted unwanted attention? Which he then…forgot about for three games…and then remembered again…or did it come up in the kid flashback? I can’t remember. Maybe he’s only gained it after three adventures.)

In my defense, the which-button-does-what mechanics, while important, are not what we send most of our time discussing. If I can remember a few key plot points, we’ll still be good to go. Because there’s the internet!

The witcher expansion definitely feels like a whole game. A small game, compared to the main event, but a self-contained adventure with its own side plots and treasures, and of course a new crafter who can make grandmaster witcher gear, just to give us some new weapons and armor to which we can aspire. Potions too, I think.

Must…have…more…potions…

I played the first expansion (Hearts of Stone) and thought it was quite good. In terms of the main game, it feels basically like a “OK, we saved the world, but there are still all these monsters and a witcher’s still gotta make a living” kind of thing. It fit into the main game well, because that’s kind of how we left Geralt…doing his thing. And there’s no reason he can’t have more interesting adventures!

The story in Hearts of Stone was, I thought, very interesting. Good game. I haven’t gotten far enough into Blood and Wine to judge, but I have high hopes.

Butch:

The awareness meter did already come up. With the nun.

It is odd, but the noticing meter was so unpredictable and sensitive in previous games that I welcome it. If they want me to stealth, they gotta throw me a bone here.

As for the harassment about buttons…It’s because I still don’t forgive you for Grim Fandango.

I have high hopes for anything CDPR does. Yes, they’ve only done three games (and a couple expansions) but DAMN. They’re pretty much on my bioware list: They make it, I play it until further notice.

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