Friday, January 29, 2016

Tales of Zestiria, An Adventure That Was Just Okay

Among my backlog of games, I chose Tales of Zestiria as the next one to play. I like the Tales series and have liked them since the beginning so I was looking forward to playing this one. I'm starting in easy when I say this, because while I did like the game there were some issues and one of them in particular really set me off because it was a pretty underhanded thing to do. So let's get started.

Tales of Zestiria opens with an introduction to the main character Sorey who is Human and his friend Mikleo who is a Seraph; an angelic being exploring an ancient ruin. This gives you an introduction to the battle system controls and the items menu. The open world feel of the game is stunning and the art work is beautiful with bright colors, a variety of creatures, and lots of places to explore.

Sorey and Mikleo exploring.

The combat system is well done especially with a technique known as Armitization which lets Sorey fuse with any Seraph partnering with him like Mikleo in order to do powerful combo chained attacks which lead to some gorgeous over the top anime style cut scenes for some of them.  It actually makes the fights fun and there's plenty of customization choices giving you endless possibilities with your combat style preferences. 

Armitization comes in handy when fighting a dragon. 

The story's concept about the strength of people's convictions and the depths of their passion is interesting, but there isn't enough of a spark to really get you invested in it. Some of the characters are great and you do like them and their interactions with each other like the powerful friendship between Sorey and Mikleo. The other characters however, lack a certain something and it feels uneven somehow. I also didn't understand why the game would introduce a character only to have them leave before the story has fully begun. Then there is a character death that happens as part of the story, yet it felt empty and like it was just an excuse to get rid of them so they could insert another character with the same abilities. There are the usual skits that are in the Tales games and those offer a bit of lighthearted humor that are needed from some of the darker aspects of the story. The pacing is uneven towards the end and when it disables the teleportation so you can't fast travel and you have to run very long distances or try to work around that, it becomes a bit frustrating. 

A Tales skit with Sorey and Mikleo.

Another thing that can become tedious is constantly having to fight monsters. Sometimes when you want to explore or you've cleared a dungeon the monsters reappear quickly which is great for level grinding, but after a while it  feels like you're fighting every two minutes. Luckily that's when a holy bottle comes in handy since it makes the monsters disappear for a brief bit of time. 

Battling monsters in a dungeon.

There are plenty of side quests to do as well as optional bosses that offer a challenge for you and your party members. If a fight gets too hard, you do have the choice of turning down the difficulty level to simple which is convenient. I just wish the story had been a bit more memorable. While it doesn't deviate from the usual Tales formula; the story could have been a lot stronger. It starts off pretty strong, but by the second half of the story it feels weak and falls a little flat. 

The game is beautiful with the the designs.

Now, we come to the big thing about the game that made me incredibly irritated. I take a lot of screenshots for my Mother Gamer blog posts so I can pick and choose which ones I want to use. When I tried to take screenshots of my Tales of Zestiria game, I got a message saying I couldn't take a screenshot. I thought that was odd, but then I received the same message when I tried to use shareplay or tried to record video. I looked it up because I thought that was very strange and found that a lot of people had the same issue. Here's the why. Apparently, a few gamers asked Bandai Namco directly on Twitter about it and the response was the entire game was blocked because of licensing issues and that seemed to be the only reason. Look, I get it. Licensing in Japan can be a royal pain in the ass to handle and deal with. That I understand. What I don't understand is blocking the ENTIRE damn game so no one can take screenshots or video. Yes, it was because they had several costumes from a variety of anime titles such as Evangelion and Godeater so I understand not wanting to get in trouble and that was their work around. However, they could have just blocked those and let people take screenshots. I also think it's pretty damn underhanded to release a game and not mention at all that the game's shareplay and screenshots function will be blocked until you get a ton of gamers demanding to know what's going on. Was it a big deal? No, not really. I worked around it and took photos with my phone for the blog post. My issue was the level of dishonesty. If they had just said something from the start about it, I think people would have gone a little easier on them about it. 

Overall, Tales of Zestiria isn't a terrible game in the Tales series. It's got solid combat, some likable characters, and a beautiful open world exploration aspect going for it. It's a solid game, but not a great one. It's good for one play through and it's an adventure that is just okay. 

Note: Tales of Zestiria is playable on the PS3 and the PS4

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Just Include Everyone

Heads up, there are spoilers in this article for Star Wars. So if you don't like spoilers don't read this and don't read the link to the article. Okay, now I read this article:

After reading it, I found myself rather annoyed again. I say again, because I had this reaction when there were complaints all across the board about the fact that there were no Black Widow and Gamora toys or merchandise anywhere to be found with the Marvel lineup. To refresh your memory a bit about why that bullshit happened here is an article from The Mary Sue:

Even J.J. Abrams knew this was a problem as shown here:

Oh come on. No Rey, really?

There are so many reasons this annoys me; the big one being that it's boys and girls asking where Rey is. The other is I was one of those young girls. I found a love of comic books thanks to one of my uncles who is a huge comic book fan. I even remember the first comic book from his comic collection that he let me read that got me hooked on comics. I loved Star Wars and I loved Star Trek thanks to my grandmother who was a huge science fiction fan. Video games were things my brother Rob and I discovered on our own through our friends, but I loved those too. These were things I grew up with, that mean a lot to me, that are part of my childhood and that came with me into adulthood where I love them still.

The other thing that bugged me is this mentality among some people of oh the women and the girls don't matter even though in this day and age there is so much proof that more and more women/girls are playing video games, reading comic books, and loving things like Star Wars and Star Trek. There's also the "surprise" that so many people wanted merchandise of Rey that really bothered me. I mean, really? They're surprised that people wanted to buy toys and other merchandise of THE main character from the movie? Right, and I'm surprised that they know that ONLY boys like Star Wars. Yes, that was sarcasm.

I'm just going to go out on a limb here and say that not every girl is about Disney princesses. Yes, some are and that's great, but some of those very same girls love Star Wars too. To sit there and imply that they don't is not only ridiculous, it says a lot about how little they respect the fact that girls and women are also nerds and geeks.

It brought me back to days growing up in my home town where some of the meaner boys and girls in my class would tell me disdainfully that video games weren't for girls or that I was weird for liking Star Wars and Star Trek. There were also times where I would buy comic books from the used book store/comic shop or go into the comic book shop across the street and I'd have a few guys act like I had come into their bedroom at night watching them sleep like a creeper. I'd also get a couple that would see I was buying comic books (something that I wanted to do in peace, I mean fellas really you were rude) and it would treat me like I was a contestant on Jeopardy and grill me with questions challenging my comic book knowledge basically implying I had to prove that I was worthy enough to be in their domain. People who do that seriously need to grow up.

It's not a good feeling to feel like you're being excluded simply because of your gender especially from something like Star Wars that's meant to be for everyone to enjoy. This thinking that girls and women don't belong because "it's for boys" is a total crock. That's not how things are now. There are so many girls and women who are into comic books, Star Wars, video games, and all the wonderful nerdy and geeky things that are out there. It's not okay to say they don't matter or they don't belong. They DO belong just like all the boys and men belong so that everyone can share their love of something they feel is truly amazing be it Star Wars, video games, cosplay, and more.

I've found that as an adult, there are less people telling me I don't belong because I'm a woman. Instead they ask me what I think of this or that comic, or ask if I've played a certain video game and if it's worth buying and that makes me feel great. It gives me hope for my daughters who are also into a lot of the same nerdy and geeky stuff that I am; hope that more and more people won't worry about whether or not something is "for boys" or "for girls" and just celebrate the fact that they truly enjoy something and share it with others. We need more of that and less "surprise" that there are girls and women who are nerds and geeks that love all this awesome stuff too. Just include everyone. The kids today seem to understand that, why can't these people?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Assassin's Creed Syndicate and Jack the Ripper DLC Totally Worth It

I just finished my first play through of Assassin's Creed Syndicate and the Jack the Ripper DLC and I feel this is one of the best games in the Assassin's Creed series. Why do I feel that way? Well, let's get started. Set in 1868 London, you don't get to play as just one assassin; you get two. Jacob and Evie Frye who are twins and assassins. Each has their own special skills that you can upgrade as the game progresses. For example, Jacob has some impressive brawler skills and Evie has a very handy stealth skill known as chameleon where she can blend in and become invisible. For the majority of the game you can switch between them in the menu system quite easily depending on who you want to play as. There are missions as part of the story that are specifically designed for Jacob while others are designed for Evie.

The Frye Twins, Evie and Jacob.

Both Jacob and Evie are likable main characters with differences in how they do things. Evie wants to hunt down the remaining Pieces of Eden to stop the Templars while Jacob wants to help their city in a more straightforward way without the mysticism, which does bring up their sibling rivalry during some cut scenes, but it's done in a way that is meaningful and shows that in spite of their differing worldviews they do love each other. Guiding them along the way in the various missions is fellow assassin Henry Green. Henry Green became a favorite of mine because he was this interesting person who was great at handling arguments between Evie and Jacob with such graceful diplomacy. I also loved the interaction between him and Evie because it was sweet and it was clear that they were both fond of each other which was why I found the collecting all the pressed flowers around London for Henry side quest so endearing, because it leads up to a wonderful moment between the two.

This is Henry Green and he's fantastic!

Victorian London is impressive. I mean, there are some truly beautiful scenes in the game that show tons of details right down to the background people. There is a lot to see and do in the game that can keep you busy for hours. There are side missions where you can take over different gang boroughs and then you have a gang war where you have to eliminate the gang leader of that neighborhood adding power to Jacob and Evie's gang The Rooks. There are also Templar hunts where you find and assassinate them from a variety of locations.

One of the many gorgeous views in Assassin's Creed Syndicate.
Another impressive view. 

Some of the side missions I really liked were the ones with Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Alexander Graham Bell. They're fun to do and add a little extra something to the story. You also get some very cool assassin's tools to use courtesy of Mr. Bell like voltaic bombs which when dropped shock people with some massive electricity. That's right. You get an electric ball of doom which works great when you're fighting a mob of enemies. There's also some side missions with Queen Victoria.

The main story isn't too shabby either and it is interesting to see how Evie and Jacob handle the situation in their own unique ways. I did find that I played as Evie more because I loved her stealth abilities and I enjoyed the heck out of her weapon of choice; the sword cane. I also liked Evie herself a lot because she is this intelligent, independent woman in a time when women were not really allowed to be and she can handle her own in a fight and be totally ruthless. I also loved that she looked like a real person; not an over the top sexual fantasy ideal. I also felt that this made up a little (not a lot, but a little) for the whole "women are difficult to animate" fiasco and found that I enjoyed the heck out of the game running around London playing as Evie. 

Evie is awesome!

Evie kicking ass. 

That's not to say I didn't love Jacob too. His fighting skills are equally impressive with his weapon of choice, brass knuckles. I also had a fan girl moment when I recognized the voice actor for Jacob as Paul Amos (that's the actor who plays Vex; one of my favorite characters on the show Lost Girl folks) and that just added to the fun for me. I even took Jacob to some of the Fight Club areas to earn some cash (yes, I took Evie too) for the various crafting and upgrades needed and it was so much fun to play.

Jacob goes to town at the Fight Club. 

That's not to say there aren't any flaws in the game. There were a couple that drove me crazy. Let's highlight the Queen Victoria missions, because that's where I noticed this particular problem. I know that there are timed missions in Assassin's Creed and they can be insanely frustrating. For the record, I hate timed missions. It adds a lot of pressure. All of the Victoria missions were timed which had me swearing a lot, but none as much as the second mission in the series known as Drive for Lives. I HATED Drive for Lives. I hated that mission so much; not only did I swear in all six languages that I know, I thought about finding the sadist that designed this mission and throat punching them repeatedly. It took me at least five tries until I got this done. For starters, the insane challenge of getting a wagon full of lit dynamite across the bridge and into a safe area in 80 seconds was just not going to happen because while the carriage driving controls aren't terrible; they're not great. It felt like I wasn't going very fast at all even with the boost and carriages can't take a corner when you're hurtling at a high speed. Then there was the factor of it felt like every single carriage that ever existed in 1868 London was blocking the path and the bridge completely along with the enemy carriages trying to stop you. I was determined to beat that mission out of sheer pride by the fifth time. I finally did it, but I was pretty angry by the end so I had to take a break from the game for a bit.

Operation: Drive for Lives. Pure Evil. 

Free run still gives me problems occasionally. There are times where it's okay and then there are times where all of a sudden be it Jacob or Evie, I'm sticking to a wall when I didn't want to or climbing up something when I'm chasing a target which can be rather annoying especially when some of those chases require that I be stealthy. Those issues aside, I enjoyed playing the side missions and the main missions a lot. There's also a fun surprise mission in the game that is worth checking out when it appears.

Once I finished the main story, I started up the Jack the Ripper DLC. This puts the Frye Twins in London twenty years later with Jack the Ripper terrorizing London. Jacob has disappeared and Evie arrives in London from India having received a letter from her brother asking for help in dealing with the Ripper. It's refreshing to see Evie as a middle aged woman so well done and the fact that she's still kicking ass is completely awesome. Evie's learned a few new tricks, the big one being the ability to strike fear in enemies. This introduces a couple of new assassin's tools, fear spikes and fear bombs which come in handy during a fight where the challenge is you can't kill or harm anyone as they're non lethal.

Evie older and still amazing.

The side missions and main missions for this DLC are done quite well with a mix of all out brawls and some where you have to do a bit of sleuthing. There are some places in the story where you do get to play as Jack the Ripper and it's done in a subtle way that isn't too in your face about everything and doesn't detract from the story. Most of the events take place in Whitechapel of course, but you are free to explore and get all the side missions done if you wish. Evie really shines here and I loved playing as her again. I do admit that I missed Jacob however, and wished I could have played as him here as well. Another thing I noticed was a rather irritating glitch that happened every time Evie was driving a carriage. There would be a lag spike and the game would stop in places and then start. Luckily, there weren't too many of those carriage chase scenes so I still enjoyed playing the game. Overall, the game is fantastic and so is the DLC. There's tons to explore, even more to do, and I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Black Flag, perhaps even a little more than Black Flag. Assassin's Creed Syndicate and the Jack the Ripper DLC are totally worth it and worth playing through more than once. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016 Gaming Is Looking Great

 First of all, Happy New Year dear readers! I'm still working through my backlog of games, but it's hard not to get excited about the upcoming games for 2016 especially after watching the featured video on the Geeks Are Sexy website about all of the great games coming out. I'm pretty excited for Persona 5, Final Fantasy XV, and The Last Guardian to name a few. It looks like 2016 is looking great for us gamers. You can check out the awesome video here: