Sunday, May 21, 2017

Batman Arkham Asylum (PC) Review

This is the first comic book based video game I played to completion. There are a lot of things to like about Arkham Asylum, but it has the usual console game design flaws.

The highlight of this game is the combat. It is a lot of fun when they let you have a free reign on how to approach enemies. There are often multiple ways of approaching an area. Stealth is almost always a viable option, and the game does a good job of giving player the tools needed to make different strategies possible. Chaining combos and using the batarangs to stun enemies is fantastic. I did not mind retrying certain sections a few times over to get the perfect result.

Gothic art inside the asylum

Visuals and audio are fantastic. The game is locked at 60FPS. I did not mind this. The graphics are excellent, and I loved the setting. The game is set in the asylum at night. The art stays true to the source with the gothic architecture and the nighttime setting.



Music and voice acting are also excellent. Joker is the highlight among all the characters. Batman as usual is very monotone, Joker being the exact opposite. Mark Hamill did a fantastic job as the voice of Joker. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Player movement is a common complaint with console ports. GTA 4 is an example of sluggish player movement. Not the case here. It’s smooth and responsive.

All the complaints I have with this game are the console design choices. Checkpoint saves only, with no save slots. The only option allows you to load the last checkpoint. Yet again, the PC version suffers due to console limitations. While this is not a major problem, it can be annoying during certain tedious sections, especially the longwinded boss fights.

Asylum courtyard

In certain sections, the camera perspective switches to either a fixed perspective or turns the game into a platformer. The scarecrow sections could have been so much better, but in the name of gameplay variety, they felt compelled to do this. I do not care for it at all. These are by far the most boring parts of the game. Thankfully, the game is not very difficult, except for the final boss fight, which is needlessly frustrating.

Another annoying issue is the unskippable intos whenever the game is launched. There is a manual fix for this. http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=186804991

There are far too many hints throughout the game, and the interface can be very cluttered because of this. It doesn't leave a lot to the player imagination. I looked through the game options to see if I could disable the hints, like I could in Bioshock and Deus Ex Human Revolution, but there is no such option.

Joker Asylum

The game employs this very unoriginal concept of magically locking doors to restrict movement, and they magically unlock after whatever predefined event is completed. A console classic, the low hanging fruit of game design. It was annoying when Wolfinstein (2009) did it, and its annoying now.

I paid $4.99 for this game, and I think its worth it. I would not recommend paying anything more than that. Also, I did not try for 100% completion. I do not have that kind of time in life. I have a lot of games to finish, so I stuck to the main quest. Steam tells me I played a total of 16 hours to beat the game.

In closing, it can be a lot of fun, but it suffers somewhat because the developers did not take full advantage of the PC platform.

Verdict - Wait for sale.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Witcher (PC) Review

I am not sure how to review a game like this. I enjoyed it, but it has flaws. It reminds me a lot of STALKER in that way. Good story, and level design made me play this game to the end, but quite a few of mechanics are unpolished. I am hoping the sequels address these issues.

The highlights of this game are characters, environment, story and music. I thoroughly enjoyed the setting, and the music is perfect. It is a true classic in my opinion, right up there with Deus Ex and STALKER. I have not played any of the other games in the series yet, but this game has set an excellent platform for future games.

The world is fairly well built. The game involves you revisiting some locations, after they have transformed quite a bit, and I think the art team has done a great job showing this transformation. Vizima levels are fantastic, and the swamp and sewer areas are my least favorite.

Vizima on fire

The story is well told, and they do a good job of keeping the player invested. It was interesting to see how the choices I made are going to impact the the end game.

Controls takes some getting used to. This game is somewhat like Mass Effect; there is no jump, or crouch, and the movement is very stiff. I never felt I had full control over the character's actions. During combat this lack of control will result in some very cheap deaths, especially because Geralt puts his sword away at the beginning of most cutscenes before battle, and as soon as the cutscene is over, a number of enemies will jump at you, and the delay in drawing out the sword will drain some precious health. Who thought this was a good idea? They had to have done this intentionally. One wonders what their rationale was for such a silly mechanic.

Boss battles can be extremely annoying. Just about every boss battle follows the same formula. A cutscene, followed by some dialogue and then combat begins by trapping you in the area in some manner. This may not sound bad, but considering it is not possible to save the game  during combat, dying would mean having to go through the cutscene and dialogue each time. The lack of quick save and quick load only adds to the pain. This is bad game design in my opinion.

Propaganda

Health system is needlessly convoluted. As I understand it, health regenerates automatically at a very slow rate. Eating food should accelerate the rate of regeneration, but its hardly helpful in a combat situation. Geralt has to stop in his tracks and consume food, and this will most likely get you killed. Same goes for health potions. Why the character cannot be in motion while consuming food or potions, I do not know.

The dialogue and voice acting can range from excellent to goofy. Same character models are used all over the game, to the point where, you can have four NPC characters talking to each other that look identical.



Alchemy is another mechanic that was not fully fleshed out. It is possible to craft a lot of potions, but the ones I used most frequently are for regenerating health faster, and then a potion to reduce the toxicity caused by using these health potions. This never made any sense to me. Why would health potions have toxic properties? Either way, I felt like Alchemy was a wasted opportunity in terms of affecting gameplay. The fact that all potions increase toxicity, meant that I had no real to use them, unless absolutely necessary.

Day night cycle are done very well

I still maintain that this game, in-spite of its flaws, is a lot of fun and it is worth playing. I am contemplating installing Witcher 2 right now to pick up where I left off.

Verdict - Must play