Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Daylight Review: Wasted Potential

While most of the AAA gaming industry may have completely forgotten how to make a decent horror game, certain companies and smaller studios have proved that the formula for a good horror game has not been lost. With the release of games like Outlast, and the upcoming Alien: Isolation, there may yet be hope for the genre. However, there are still horror games released that miss the mark badly or don't live up to their potential. The latter is the case for Zombie Studio's Daylight. 

Daylight is about a woman named Sarah who is trying to escape from an abandoned hospital. Her only source of light is a cellphone, and any glow sticks and flares that she happens to come across. Playing as Sarah, the player must navigate the various and oddly connected environments of the hospital and beyond to unveil the story and escape. This kind of story is pretty typical for a horror game, but that wasn't the problem for Daylight. The problem is that they try to convey the entire story and all the necessary information needed to have any idea what is going on into a game that is way too short. There is no pacing, and Daylight relies far too much on having all the story be told through scattered notes and images.

Badly implemented story aside, one of Daylight's few saving graces is that it always stays suspenseful. In each level your objective is to find the remnants that try to tell the story. Once you have all those, you can pick up an object that acts as a key on a gate somewhere in the level. The location of all these items is never the same, as all the levels are randomized each time you play them. As you collect remnants, the odds of you encountering the entity known as the witch increases. Even if you haven't collected a single remnant, the witch could appear at any time. As a result the game remains suspenseful, which can lead to some wonderful jump scare moments when you turn around and the witch sudden spawns right in front of you.

When the witch does inevitably attack, it can be temporarily banished by using a flare. As long as you have the flare up, the witch cannot harm you. However, if you have picked up the sigil needed to unlock the gate you will not be able to use a flare. In those situations, your only option is to run and hope the witch doesn't kill you or that you run into a dead end.

While the randomization of the level helps keep the game fresh, it also works against Daylight. Daylight uses a lot of locations that are standard fare in horror games, ranging from a hospital, a prison, a sewer, and even a forest near the end. None of the maze like environments are particularly appealing from a visual standpoint, and everything looks the same. Where other horror games use their environments to tell a story, Daylight does not and presents only lifeless environments that is there only for the repetitive gameplay and nothing else. There isn't any logical connection between environments, and the small transitional areas between levels where you push a switch or two is not enough to explain how the player got from one area to another one that looks completely different.

No horror game is complete without its own set of sounds that make the player stop and wonder what on earth they just heard. Daylight does this fairly well with random sounds that go off to mess with the player. Not only that, but the sound the witch makes when it is nearby becomes easily recognizable and will make the player say a few colorful words as they either run or prepare for an encounter with the frightening apparition. Unfortunately, the music and voice acting fall short in Daylight.

Sarah's voice is mediocre at best, and I found myself wishing she would be more like Miles Upshur from Outlast and not talk. Often Sarah will yell out random statements like: “I know someone's there!” or “What was that sound?” when there is nothing there. I'm not sure if she is picking up on triggers that haven't been activated or if it is just there to mess with the player, either way it was annoying. Also, who in their right mind would start yelling things like that when being stalked by a ghost that is out for blood?

From the start, the developers seem to have some idea what they wanted to do with Daylight. However, somewhere along the way that all fell apart. The end result is a forgettable, and unremarkable horror game that is only occasionally scary. There was a lot of potential here in the project, especially with it running on the new Unreal 4 engine. Yet somehow all that potential got wasted. If you are looking for a cheap horror game, walk past Daylight and go straight to Outlast. It may cost $5 more than Daylight, but you'll have a better experience with Outlast.

RBFB Rating: D+

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bungie Reveals Strike Gameplay in Destiny

Happy Monday!  I know the first day of the week always sucks, but hopefully some new information about Destiny will cheer you up and make the rest of the week seem even a little brighter.  If you haven't seen teaser yet, you can check it out on YouTube below:


For those unfamiliar with terminology in Destiny, a Strike is a private zone that can be accessed by you and your fireteam.  In other words, don't expect any back up from other Guardians (similar to an instance in most MMORPGs).  At present, there is no word on if Strikes can be soloed or require a full team to have any hope of victory.  

A Strike, from the looks of it, will likely be a hybrid of a Firefight Match and Campaign Mode in Halo.  You kill enemies while occasionally completing other objectives like waiting for the Ghost (the floating AI construct, not the vehicle from Halo) to finish turning off a barrier that blocks your path.  This isn't surprising, given that sort of style of gameplay is something Bungie does very well.  The encounters look well polished, and the AI are what you'd expect from a Bungie game.  

The video itself shows off a lot of interesting abilities and a variety of weapons.  How specials also work appears to have been revealed as well through the bar in the lower left corner of the screen that charges each time the player kills an enemy.  Each ability depicted was both powerful and awesome looking.  As I haven't played Destiny I can only speculate on this, but it is likely that these abilities will make the player feel empowered to take down even the toughest of enemies.  

Speaking of enemies, both the Fallen and the Hive were encountered in this Strike.  Interestingly, the Fallen and the Hive appear to be at war with one another.  Both groups of enemies will still attack the player of course, but they never help one another out in battle.  Even in the gameplay, it is clear that each kind of enemy you face will react differently in battle.  The Fallen applied more tactics and used cover whereas the Hive would mostly just charge at the players without any regard for their own lives.  

Bosses will appear in the Strikes as well, like the Devil Walker shown at E3 last year.  Then there is brief mention of a boss at the end of the Strike which appears to either be a floating sphere or it could just be a shield for whatever the boss really is.  Expect lots of loot should you and your Fireteam succeed in beating the Strike.    

Already Destiny looks like it will be a very beautiful game.  The graphics are absolutely stunning, and the skyboxes are incredibly detailed, and every inch of the environment looks completely explorable.  Not only that, but the music is incredible.  It is hard to believe that Destiny is still in alpha stage when it looks and sounds so good. 

Destiny will certain be a very pretty game, no denying that.

However, not everything is sunshine and flowers in Destiny.  To be honest it seems like a wasted opportunity to show other environments in Destiny.  I mean, it is cool to see more of Old Russia, however it would have been far more interesting to see other locations or even other planets.  Bungie claims that Destiny is massive, but we haven't really seen all that much in terms of gameplay.  I'm surprised that they aren't taking the initiative to show us how big Destiny really is.  Talk is cheap, and showing content that we know Bungie can do and do well makes the notion of Destiny being a big game nothing more than PR speak in an attempt to get loads of pre-orders. 

Don't get me wrong, I still believe that Destiny is going to be an incredible game.  But sooner or later, Bungie will need to show something that proves that Destiny will be the game that they claim it is.  Perhaps they are waiting for the beta to show the true scale of Destiny?  Or maybe that will be part of the demonstration at E3 this year?  Even just showing some raid content would improve Destiny's image considerably in the eyes of the media. 

Speaking of E3, the video revealed that Destiny will be shown at E3 2014 and it is implied that it might be playable as well.  So hopefully Bungie will show some new and beautiful things in Destiny during E3.  Also, if they announce the start date for the beta that would be great. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

This Week On RBFB: Horror and Fairy Tales

Good news, everyone!  Unless Square Enix makes some sudden announcement in the near future, I do believe that there is going to be no more FFX related articles.  That said, every week (usually on a Sunday) I'll discuss what is coming up next on Rated B For Blog along with any interesting news stories that I've found. 

Something tells me this game is going to be pretty scary.
First off, a horror game by the name of Daylight will be released on April 29th on PS4 and PC.  The game was developed by Zombie Studios and published by Atlus.  I'll be reviewing Daylight this week, and I can honestly say that I'm very excited for it.  If it is anything like Outlast,  I get the feeling I'll have a terrifyingly awesome time playing it.  Supposedly no two playthroughs of the game will be the same, and I look forward to seeing how that system works.

Then on April 30th, an RPG called Child of Light will be released on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.  While it's appearance would lead one to believe it is an indie title, Child of Light is in fact developed and released by Ubisoft.  Child of Light has a very unique art style, making it look like moving illustrations from a fairy tale book you'd read to a child.  Given that the story is apparently inspired by fairy tales, it makes sense to go with such a unique and beautiful looking art style.  Naturally, I'll be taking a look at Child of Light and that review should be posted by Thursday or Friday.

Urban Legend No More

As some of you have probably already heard, a documentary team working with Microsoft recently uncovered a landfill out in the deserts of New Mexico that contained a whole bunch of ET cartridges (yes, the infamous game for the Atari 2600).  For those of you unfamiliar with the story, back in 1983 Atari attempted to create a game based on the upcoming movie ET.  It didn't end well, and ET was considered one of the biggest failures in the gaming industry.  It was reported that millions of unsold copies were ditched into a landfill out in New Mexico, many of which were still shrink wrapped and ready to be sold.  For the longest time, this story was considered to be nothing more than an urban legend.  But now it turns out that this actually happened, as the team has already found many copies of the game and believe that countless more are still buried deep in the landfill.  

Allegedly there are other Atari 2600 games in the landfill as well, but I'm puzzled as to why games like Space Invaders and Asteroids would have been thrown into the same landfill to be forgotten like ET was.  Its not like those games wouldn't sell, although after the disaster with ET I suppose Atari would have thought getting rid of some of their stock might be a good idea.  If you ask me, they should have kept some around in storage and sold them years later.  I can imagine that certain popular titles for the Atari 2600 would sell quite well on ebay if they are in  a shrink wrapped, brand new condition.

In conclusion, a lot of stuff is going on this week.  Apparently some new information on Bungie's next game, Destiny, will be revealed tomorrow.  Expect to see coverage of whatever it will be.  Then later this week you'll see reviews for both Daylight and Child of Light.  So keep being awesome, I'll be back soon! 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Should There Be a Final Fantasy X-3?

Now that I've completed my review for the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster bundle, I've decided that now would be a good time to take a look and see if there is any reason why Square Enix should or shouldn't consider the possibility of Final Fantasy X-3. But before that, let's discuss the most recent addition to the series that was Final Fantasy X -Will-.

-Will- was a thirty minute audio drama included with Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. It is meant to be a continuation of the story, taking place three years after the events of Final Fantasy X. As a warning, I will be discussing the audio drama in depth so if you intend to listen to it without any knowledge of what happens, stop reading now as there is going to be a few spoilers from here on out.

Still reading? Then find yourself a comfy seat and we'll get started. The two main characters of the drama are two brand new characters. The first one is Chuami, whom is a seventeen year old girl that narrates her thoughts on what is going on very much like Tidus and Yuna in X/X-2. She is the childhood friend of Kurgum, who is the other new character.

If there is to be a X-3, I hope to god that neither of these characters will be in it. Chaumi is bound and determined to make herself completely unlikeable through excessive sass and being outright rude toward essentially every single character that fans of Final Fantasy X have come to know and love. Most of the audio drama consists of Chuami whining like Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. She is supposed to be Kurgum's assistant, but seems to not understand her place at all. There's also that part about her being supposedly the daughter of Auron, which I'm going to call BS on as I don't see how Auron would have had the time to be with a woman between his dedicated life as a warrior monk of Yevon and then a guardian for both Yuna and her father.

As for Kurgum he isn't as bad as Chuami in terms of personality, until closer to the end of the drama in which he devolves into a badly written character out of a crack ship fan fiction. At first Kurgum shows a great deal of admiration and respect for High Summoner Yuna, which makes sense given her accomplishments in both X and X-2. But then out of nowhere near the end, Kurgum suddenly bursts into tears and declares that he is in love with Yuna and that is why he and Chuami can not be together even though there has never been any romantic subplot between the two at any point in the audio drama. If I want badly written characters in Spira, I'll read some fan fiction. It's disappointing that the writers couldn't come up with more quality characters for this particular entry in the series.

I think for now it would be best to push both Final Fantasy X -Will- and the X-2.5 novel to the side and consider them as non-canon since Final Fantasy X-3 is, according to Square Enix, not in development. However, if they did do a X-3 I'm hoping they could somehow avoid any of the contents of these two particular entries in the series. If -Will- is canon, that would mean that Square would have to recycle Sin from Final Fantasy X since it was somehow revived during the audio drama. I don't know about you, but I really don't want to fight Sin in another game beyond Final Fantasy X. That is, unless it appears as an optional superboss in Kingdom Hearts III in which case recycling would be fine.

Perhaps, and this is all hypothetical, they could do prequels that would either cover the pilgrimage of summoners like Braska or even go into detail about the Machina War one thousand years prior to the events of Final Fantasy X. Just a few ideas. But since X-3 is merely an idea that Square Enix is considering at this point, there isn't much to do but speculate.

Personally, I think that another sequel for Final Fantasy X is unnecessary. X-2 was a decent addition to the story overall, but I don't think they need to go any further. Honestly it would be better if Square Enix instead focused on making more new worlds in the Final Fantasy series. The occasional HD Remaster or remake is fine, but most people would prefer Final Fantasy XV to come out already. The story of Spira and it's inhabitants is over, and I think it is time that we saw the stories of other worlds that Square Enix could come up with. They've shown that they have a great deal of potential to create worlds that capture the player's imagination and free time for weeks, if not months and years. So let the older stories rest, as new ones are written.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster

I recently reviewed Final Fantasy X HD Remaster, so it made sense to review the sequel as well since it was on the disc. Like the first game, Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster is based on the International release that added a wide variety of content to the game including the Creature Creator and Last Mission.

That said, the new coat of paint freshens X-2 up very nicely. Even the secondary characters throughout the game look better than they did in Final Fantasy X, but not by much. Although like I said in the previous review, there are some areas that show there age; particularly in Bevelle where some of the buildings are clearly flat surfaces stretched to look three dimensional. As far as I can tell, the music remains the same. In several places it seems like Final Fantasy X got more attention than the sequel, but that is fine with me since X is the better of the two games. FFX-2's only strength is the quality of at least one of its new features, the Creature Creator.

The Creature Creator allows the player to capture various fiends throughout all of Spira and use them in battle. Fiends come in all shapes and sizes, but are AI controlled when used in battle. Leveling a fiend up unlocks a story that is unique to each creature known as a fiend tale. After leveling the creature five times (in most cases), you have the option of releasing the fiend to see it's fiend tale ending. Some fiends, especially humanoids, do not have fiend tales but give you more options as to who you have in your party. Through the Creature Creator, the player has more variety of endgame objectives than in the original version.

Last Mission is included with Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster, which has previously never been available anywhere else other than Japan. Although Last Mission is easily the second weakest part of the entire package. In Last Mission you play as either Yuna, Riku, or Paine and explore a eighty floor tower. Last Mission is a turn based RPG in which you move across a series of squares to pick up items, dress spheres, and books. Last Mission becomes very dull very quickly and the game doesn't feel particularly well polished. There is a cutscene every ten floors in an attempt to break up the awfully designed and boring gameplay, but fails to be the saving grace that keeps Last Mission from being a monotonous, glorified mini-game.

Overall, Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster offers a lot of content for people who would be interested in it. If you liked Final Fantasy X-2 on the PS2, then you will have a blast with this game. I'd even recommend that anyone who never played X-2 should at least try it out since it comes with Final Fantasy X. It isn't for everyone, but Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster offers a great deal of content for fans to enjoy for countless hours. 

RBFB Rating: B

Tomorrow I'll be discussing the Audio Drama included with the two games, and I will speculate on what this series has in store for it. So keep an eye out for that.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Garrus Vs. Rail

Well the review for Final Fantasy X-2 is taking a little longer than I had hoped it would, but hopefully that will get done soon.  In the mean time I figured I'd share this video that I recorded while playing Mass Effect a few weeks back. 

I loaded up my save file and when I turned around, Garrus had somehow gotten stuck on the rail and was doing insanely fast jumping jacks.  Check out the video below, enjoy! :) 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Final Fantasy X HD Remaster Review

While I'm still working on beating Final Fantasy X-2 HD, I thought I'd review Final Fantsy X HD now and then review X-2 when I'm ready. That will probably be sometime in the middle of next week. So for now let's take a look at Final Fantasy X HD.

On the most basic level, Final Fantasy X HD is essentially the same as the PS2 version only with better graphics and extra content depending on which version of the game you had. The HD Remaster is the International version that was released in Japan and Europe, which included optional bosses like the Dark Aeons, and the Expert Sphere Grid. The HD Remaster also adds a variety of trophies ranging from beating certain bosses in the story, to getting all the Celestial Weapons, and even completing some of the harder optional content like beating Penance.

Visually speaking, Final Fantsy X HD looks great. Most, if not all of the main characters in the game have received new models that were completely built from scratch and they look spectacular. Unfortunately most secondary characters and enemy models only got a minor upgrade, so most of them look like they were imported from the original game and stand out when next to the newer models. Some of the backgrounds featured in places like the Mi'hen Highroad look very dated.

Gameplay for Final Fantasy X hasn't changed at all in this remastered edition. Unlike most Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy X used turn based combat so that players could take their time and focus more on strategy rather than having to stay on their toes with the ATB system. While strategy can help deal with some of the more difficult enemies in the game, most boss battles are easily won by simply doing nothing but summoning Aeons depending on how much you've leveled Yuna up.

Final Fantasy X's soundtrack also got a facelift for the remaster. While most songs have been improved a little, many of the more iconic songs from the game have been redone entirely. Those who played the original Final Fantasy X will immediately notice how different the battle music and victory theme sound. It takes some time to get used to, but then several pieces grew on me and I found myself looking forward to hearing how certain songs had been changed.

With the release of this HD collection, this is a great time for anyone who never played Final Fantasy X to check it out. Not only that but it would be a great opportunity for old fans of the game to relive this classic gem from the previous generation of consoles. Final Fantasy X HD Remastered may show it's age in some places, but it is still a lot of fun to play thirteen years later.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Welcome to Rated B For Blog!

Welcome to Rated B For Blog! I've decided to give writing a blog about video games a try, and I hope that people will enjoy what I post here. Here at Rated B For Blog, a wide variety of content will be available for your reading pleasure. From news, to reviews, and even videos in the near future. Occasionally I'll do some editorials as well to mix things up. So for the very first post on this blog, let's talk about Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster.

These games were released a month ago for the Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita. Square Enix has proved that they can do a spectacular HD remaster of older games when they released Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix back in 2013. Going into 2014, Square Enix has done it again with Final Fantasy X and its sequel X-2. I plan on doing a review for both games in the near future.

Currently I am playing Final Fantasy X-2. I beat X a few weeks ago, but then put X-2 on the back burner for a little bit. Now I've gotten back into it and have reached the end of Chapter 1 and I can honestly say that I am hooked on X-2 once again. I remember playing it through quite a few times on the Playstation 2 back in the day. With the updated graphics and new content from the International release of the game, the game feels brand new. I'm also looking forward to checking out Last Mission, which is included in the collection. I saw the cut scenes for it back when it was a Japan only release, and I honestly thought I'd never get a chance to play it. So once I beat X-2 I'll be checking that out.

Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix aside, I do wonder if Square Enix will do other HD Remasters in the future. If anyone can do them right, Square certainly can. Although as far as Remasters go, I suspect that the only one that would be easier to do would be Final Fantasy XII as that would likely just require them to update the graphics. Any other game before that and Final Fantasy X would require a significant amount of time and money to remaster, especially games like Final Fantasy VII. Odds are they would have to remake those games from scratch, and that would require a lot of time and money. While this would make Final Fantasy VII fans happy, it would also potentially put Square Enix in some serious financial trouble if not enough copies of the game are sold. From a business standpoint, Square wants to play it safe and I don't blame them for that.

Remastered versions of some of their classics are fine, but I personally would want them to use the development time for new games rather than taking a risk with Final Fantasy VII. However, we will just have to wait and see if Square will do more HD Remasters in the future.