Saturday, January 21, 2023

What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch is the third game I completed in 2023. And . . . wow. If you want to make the case that video games can be a unique art form, this is your prime example. 

 It’s a very short game. Two hours and change. I completed it in one sitting. And it’s not really a game in the sense that there’s no way to lose, and there’s not really any winning, or challenge, or puzzle solving. But I’m not sure I would call it a walking simulator either. 

 You explore a bizarre house, uncovering various stories of tragedy of the family who lived there. It looks great, and the stories are intriguing. The quirks of the house both present a mystery to solve and dictate how you navigate it, and its geometry is extremely well thought out to guide you through the story without wondering what to do next. 

 The way you experience the different stories you uncover is varied. One plays out as a Tales from the Crypt style comic book. Another lets you fly a kite. One simulates getting lost in imagination at a monotonous job by controlling reality and imagination with the right and left sticks, respectively. It does not get stale. 

And it is emotionally effective. A very tight and beautiful experience. It’s similar to Gone Home but without the mild puzzle solving, less freedom, and so much more . . . perfect. 

 Is it a game? I don’t know. It does allow you to play, a few times. 

 But it is art. 

 It’s a 10 out of 10.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Nier: Automata The End of YoRHa Edition

Nier: Automata is the second game I finished in 2023. It’s an action RPG blended with a bullet hell shooter both in the traditional scrolling style and twin stick, in different places. 

 I started it several months ago, but took a break after the first ending, and then another after I lost half an hour into the second story and had to start it over. I ended up switching to easy at this point just to see the story, which really pulled me in by the time I got to the second ending. I did turn off all the auto combat chips, though, so I could still get the satisfaction of fighting even if I was rarely in danger of actually dying. 

Visuals, performance, and story are all excellent. Although I have to say I saw the big twist coming very early, it was satisfying to see it confirmed. 

The combat is fun but when there are a lot of enemies it can get difficult to keep track of what’s going on, and you can take cheap shots as a result. It’s also frustrating how the lock on function doesn’t work as well as you would expect. 

The many fetch quests available don’t really add much, so I only completed about a third of them. 

After you get most of the endings it opens up a chapter select option so you can jump in at any point and complete quests or follow other choices to see where they go. This is a very nice touch that hardly seems to fit the same ethos that would have let you die an hour into the game and have to start over. 

All in all, it’s an 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut

My first game finished in 2023 was Disco Elysium. 

The game is quite distinctive. It’s like playing a tabletop role playing game like D&D, giving you a lot of different options through dialogue. The success of your choices is sometimes predetermined but often is dictated by a combination of your stats and chance. And many problems can be solved in multiple ways, and in different orders. If you have physical prowess you can jump over a gap or break down a door, or intimidate people. Alternatively, you can figure people out, lie to them, or endear yourself to them to get them to let you in. 

The story has you solving a murder in a poor city in a fictional world, with a union led by a corrupt man squaring off against mercenaries hired by the capitalists. It also veers into various levels of strange magical realism. 

It was well written, with distinctive characters each having their own motivations and quirks. And given how open your choices are I was surprised at how well the entirely voice acted story remained consistent. You would think at some point someone would say something anachronistic, but that didn’t happen. 

It took a little bit to become invested in the story, but once I did I didn’t want to stop playing. A solid 10.