Friday! Video games! Let’s talk!
I was out of town last Friday, but I’m oddly available this Thanksgiving weekend. Funny how things work out like that. My plan was actually to make another long road trip to Maryland and spend the holiday with my grandmother and uncle, but my mom is sick so my girlfriend and I decided to stay behind and make her dinner instead. I’m a mama’s boy, after all. Plus, Chavo just returned from his month-long trip to doggy obedience camp and I secretly wanted to stay home and spend time with him since I missed my goodest boy.
Anyway, I’m still being utterly spoiled by Game Pass and recently made my way through Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I loved the 2013 series reboot and its sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, but I think Shadow is my new favorite of the trilogy. It has a few small towns that act as hubs, fit with merchants, side-quests, and tons of collectibles and challenges to seek out, and (for once) the story was super interesting to follow along with.
The game begins with Lara Croft hastily snatching a legendary dagger from a crumbling ruin that unknowingly sets off the Mayan apocalypse. Fucking oops. Of course, the dagger is promptly stolen by her arch-nemesis, the Trinity Corporation, and after narrowly escaping a prophetical flood, she and her trusty BFF (and the series’ best character) Jonah make their way to Peru in search of another relic that could right her incredibly stupid wrong.
It’s just a great mix of exploration and actual tomb raiding, which was something the original greatly lacked and Rise improved on — just not enough. There’s definitely some action-oriented shooty-bang scenarios and stealth sections that sees Lara slathering her body in mud like Arnold in Predator. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is supposed to be the finale in the reboot’s origin story, but hopefully it’s not the end of Crystal Dynamics’ time with our formerly pointy-boobed adventurer. I’d love to see this series continue in some capacity, especially now that the developer seems to have found their footing.
I also rented Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order because of all the hype and ended up mostly enjoying myself. It was very similar to Tomb Raider and, actually, the reason I ended up playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider immediately after, but I finished my 18-hour playthrough feeling like I had experienced multiple titles I’d already seen before.
Not only does Fallen Order have the exploration mechanics of a Tomb Raider or Uncharted (Tomb Raider > Uncharted, in my opinion), but the combat of this year’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice — heavily relying on well-timed parries and counter-attacks to whittle away a stagger/armor meter until the late-game when more Jedi powers are unlocked that help Jedi Fallen Order stand on its own two feet. And then it’s over.
Storywise, you play as Jedi-in-hiding Cal who, through a quick series of events, ends up in a ragtag crew on the hunt for a relic that conceals the location of force-sensitive children. Their goal is to rebuild the fallen Jedi order, of which the game is aptly subtitled, and throughout the game, you’re visiting different planets, unlocking new powers through a Dark Souls-like bonfire system, and raiding tombs as Star Wars’ super agile ginger Jedi.
I played on a regular Xbox One and didn’t experience the crashes that some of my Twitter friends were talking about, but the game did have some serious performance issues. The framerate wasn’t so much a problem, but textures took forever to load in (if they loaded at all) and the load times were downright agonizing.
On the gameplay side, I wish they gave you more force powers to play around with earlier on. The first third of the game is a slog in combat situations, with Cal waiting around for attacks to parry and punishing them accordingly. In a game that spans nearly 20+ hours and has a TON of respawning bad guys to slice through (thanks to the aforementioned Dark Souls bonfire mechanic that acts as a level-up hub, a save point, refreshes your healing potions, and respawns defeated enemies), I found it hard to remain interested in anything but the story.
It’s definitely a game I had more fun with than I didn’t, but I’m certainly glad it was a $7 Red Box rental and not something I purchased. I usually enjoy hunting down collectibles and upgrades, but man, not having a fast travel system and probably one of the worst 3D maps I’ve fiddled with in a while didn’t help matters.
As for this weekend, I’ll most likely be juggling Timespinner and LA Noire.
Timespinner is on Game Pass (again, spoiled) and is Symphony of the Night as hell. There’s the 2D castle map, melee combat, spells, battle pet familiars, loot, a backdash… hell, even the level-up sound reminds me of SOTN.
I guess I’m a hypocrite, though, because I just complained about Jedi Fallen Order having an identity crisis but I find Timespinner to be mostly charming. Maybe it’s because other games that have copied Symphony of the Night’s formula haven’t done so very well and action games like the new Star Wars are a dime a dozen? I dunno.
Either way, Timespinner is supposed to be pretty short and since it feels familiar I don’t possess the need to finish it all in one or two sittings.
LA Noire released during the last console generation but saw a bit of an upgrade this year on modern consoles. Hell, there’s even a VR game now. I’ve never played it, though, and after watching Funhaus’s hilarious videos I decided to give it a go. Actually, I mentioned wanting the game on Twitter and a mutual of mine sent me his copy as a gift! See! Not everyone on the internet is a pile of hot trash!
I’ve managed to finish up the first four cases and I’m digging it so far. The “open world” kinda sucks because it’s barren, but that ended up being a selling point for me because I wasn’t ready for something like a Grand Theft Auto. I just like murder mysteries and adventure games, and so far LA Noire is delivering the goods.
The most confusing thing for me, though, is getting used to the Xbox One’s button layout after spending the last two years glued to my Nintendo Switch. Mixing up my X and Y buttons has led to a fair amount of (often hilarious) slipups over the last month, but my brain will eventually straighten itself out. I hope. God, I hope.
What about you, folks? Any big gaming plans this weekend? Black Friday apparently started a week early, so did you pick up anything cool?
I have a mounted TV that’s a huge pain in the ass to swap HDMI ports on, so I usually stick to whatever console is plugged in. Right now, it’s my Xbox One… and boy did I miss this controller. It’s comfy. Also, Game Pass. Also, backwards compatibility. I only have so much free time and money, and my backlog already sucks something fierce, but I *seriously* think I could get by next-gen with an Xbox console, Game Pass, and my Switch. In that way of thinking, everything I picked up during Black Friday was on Xbox.
I ended up grabbing Divinity: Original Sin 2, Pillars of Eternity, Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition, Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Baldur’s Gate 1 + 2 Collection, Planescape: Torment + Icewind Dale Collection, Red Dead Redemption 2, Greedfall, and a 3-month subscription to Game Pass Ultimate. I still have my eyes on Resident Evil 2, Control, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Divinity: Original Sin, and Code Vein, all on Xbox, but I haven’t made enough from selling off some of my games to cover them.
For anyone interested in what’s for sale, I have a 3DS copy of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse (comes with three promotional pins), PS4 copies of Burnout Paradise Remastered, Valkyria Revolution, Trails of Cold Steel: Decisive Edition (comes with goodies), and Trails of Cold Steel II: Relentless Edition (also comes with goodies), a Switch copy of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and a brand new NES mini console that has never been opened. Shoot me a reply here or a DM on Twitter and we’ll work something out! I’m in the States, though, and international shipping is criminally high, so USA offers only please!
Oh, and I’m 100% willing to trade those games and/or the NES mini for any of the games I mentioned wanting that I haven’t picked up yet.
Enjoy your weekend!