Why I Just Spent Over $200 On God of War

God of War

Zack Layton "The New Hire"

 
I wanted to start off by thanking Darcy, my Editor in Chief here at Replay Value, for giving me the opportunity as a new contributor for the blog. As much bullshit as I spew, it obviously must mean I know a thing or two, if he wants me to keep writing for him!

Pre-Orders

That being said, I just broke one of the top 5 rules to not break as a serious gamer. I, Zack Layton, pre-ordered a game. Holy crap, I’m the worst right? To make matters worse, I also bought the most expensive version of a collector’s edition that they had to offer. (For the record I’m shelling $200 Canadian for this).

Now for some of you reading this, (who aren’t thinking “he’s an idiot for spending that much on a video game”), you might think, “so what?” Long story short, the reason why people are so upset that everyone is pre-ordering games, is that it is argued that it’s the main reason why we have loot-boxes today. As there are both sides to this argument, I really want to focus on why I spent $200 on a video game…because who cares on the other boring topics right?

A New Me

Like I mentioned in my previous article, I am a very picky gamer. It’s very rare that I play a game and feel that I was successfully immersed in a game world. The games that come to mind that succeeded in this however, were What Remains of Edith Finch, Last of Us, The Witcher 3, and now most recently Nier Automata. Throughout these games, there has been a significant amount of time between these releases. So it’s been quite stale recently in my opinion. (I’m sure I’m going to get some arguments on that statement *eye roll*).

So now, I believe the next incredible, ground-breaking game that will come out and the reason why I spent over $200 on a game is for God of War.

 Now before I go more into my point, I have to preface something because I have yet another confession. As Darcy knows, more so than any other person, (because I chewed his ear off constantly regarding this), I was one of those gamers who predicted that No Mans Sky was going to be THE next big thing. Well we can see how that turned out right? I’m human and I make mistakes… That being said, I believe that God of War is going to be in the running for game of the year, once it comes out.

Narrative Depth

I’m a long time fan of the God of War series, and I can confidently say that it is the first series that brought me into the action button mashing gaming world. As I grew up playing the games, the narrative also developed for a more mature audience. However, near the end of the series, everyone felt that the narrative was starting to get repetitive. Essentially it was the gods backstabbed Kratos, he needed to get his powers back, then seek revenge on those same gods, and repeat. Needless to say, it got stale.

When Cory Barlog, (the Creative Director on God of War II and the new God of War), announced that they are taking the narrative in a whole new direction and adding an even more mature aspect to the narrative, fans rejoiced in this.

Now a beloved series will have the “Last of Usapproach and I know that may piss some people off, but I am only comparing it to that game because it is one of the only games that is grounded in realism. It will be very interesting to have a continued God of War narrative grounded in that same aspect of realism.

Of course, there were some fans that weren’t too happy about this and are upset because they believe that the old game mechanics were essential to the series. I believe that if a series needs to grow and develop, it needs to evolve and change with their audience. As a fellow purist for other beloved series, I understand how frustrating it could be. However, fans can’t seriously expect to get the same story and mechanics for a game to survive 10+ years. It’s only natural that it needs to change and add new elements to still feel fresh for the audience.

Pre Order.jpg

This is why I can confidently spend over $200 Canadian for the collector’s edition of God of War because it finally understands how a series can be successful over a long period of time. God of War will evolve from being a 5 game length revenge tale to now showing the emotional struggle that Kratos endures.

I am excited to see this approach because it may actually make him a redeemable character in the future. Most developers would just make a new character in the same gaming world to continue the series, however Santa Monica Studios decided to accept the challenge to make the audience finally connect with Kratos emotionally for the first time. As I’ve posted below, this new story trailer will show you the emotional depth that the game will achieve and I am counting down the days until I get to open my $200 package.

Thank you for reading this and if you have any questions or have any other games that you spent a lot on, please share in the comments section. I’d love to hear about it and maybe it will make me feel a bit less crazy for what I just spent on God of War.

Advertisements

Nostalgic Gamer: KOTOR Gets Classic Star Wars Right

Darcy Selke "Editor in Chief"

First off let me start by giving a heartfelt thank you to Replay Value’s new contributor Zack Layton, who did a fantastic job with his article about a…Walking Simulator?

Just kidding, I think Zack is a great addition and I’m hoping with a few different writers it might start to spice up what Replay Value can offer. Zack and I basically have a friendship based on arguing about games and movies so I’m sure those arguments will find a home on the site. Anyway moving on…

The latest Star Wars movie came out in December to some mixed reviews including one I wrote. With that in mind, this article might be one of the most interesting to come out after the movie. TLDR: Everything The Last Jedi tried to argue about Star Wars fans of the game series Knights of The Old Republic had already seen.

Reading that article spurred me to download the very first KOTOR and see how it stacks up after 2 new Star Wars Movies ($10 on Steam!).

I have to say with confidence, if you have never played KOTOR or haven’t played it in years, go buy it right now. It’s amazing and while iPad ports can be tricky due to control issues, it’s still great and if you grab it for a PC I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Itunes Store

Screen cap from the Itunes Store

Story

The best part of KOTOR is it’s classic Star Wars. Anyone who has watched the original trilogy can see how KOTOR is almost a recreation of it.

-Evil Empire vs Good Republic (Empire vs Rebellion)

-Empire Blows Up a Planet (Death Star Blows Up Aldeeran)

-Big Revelation in the Middle (Darth Vader= Luke’s Father)

-Story of Redemption (Vader is Redeemed at the End)

So while the story mimics the original trilogy it does it without you realising that’s what it’s doing. With the added role playing element it effectively lets you play through the original trilogy as a character YOU control.

Star Wars All Grown Up

Some of the praise being lauded on The Last Jedi movie is that it showed a grown up version of Star Wars. Heroes don’t exist, Redemption is a myth etc etc.

I think KOTOR was a grown up Star Wars without resorting to just breaking Star Wars themes. Sure you could play a version of your character who was Evil but even still the game took careful steps to show you how one would fall to the dark side. First the Jedi went to war to defend people, they needed power to do so and that quest for power corrupted them. They took steps to show what a true “seduction” to the dark side meant.

Themes of slavery, native rights and ends justifying the means are all dealt with in KOTOR but with respect. The Wookie Planet is a great example of this, while your initial instinct is to side with the Wookies and that the Czerka Corporation is enslaving them, the game takes it’s time to reveal to you just how many Wookies are in on the slave trade. Selling out their relatives and family for a few bucks.

It’s a powerful reminder that there is evil on both sides of any conflict. While of course as a “Light Side” Jedi I helped free the planet from Czerka the game does a good job of showing how in many ways the Wookies are to blame for their own problems.

Compare that to The Last Jedi where the giant Casino city is demolished to free a few CGI horses and somehow freeing those horses at the expense of human lives in a war for survival is seen as “worth it”. (K sorry last criticism of The Last Jedi I swear).

Characters

I write this in every review but KOTOR has some really memorable characters:

Carth comes off as an annoying paranoid soldier but his story really makes you think of all the soldiers who volunteer to join the Empire. It’s one thing to think of a Jedi “Falling” to the Dark Side, it’s another to think of the everyday soldiers who watched their mentors, friends and family turn on them.

HK-47 remains an absolute treasure, in many ways he became the mascot of the franchise. A sarcastic assassin droid who refers to humans as “meatbags”? Sign me up.

My one complaint is some of the characters are a tad dull, the young scoundrel Mission comes off as insecure and bratty and really once I left the first world I never used her again.

Canderous gets a bit tiresome after you’ve heard 4 stories of “war is amazing, being a soldier is honourable and sometimes civilians.” The writers seemed to not know where they wanted to fit Canderous, often flipping between war criminal and cool guy you’re supposed to want to talk to.

Lastly Jolee Bindo is perhaps the best character in my opinion. An Ex-Jedi who left the order after his failed attempt to train an apprentice led to her turning to the dark side and killing many more Jedi. Bindo was left stunned when the Jedi Council tried to promote him instead to Jedi Knight where he felt he deserved punishment.

The conversations with Jolee allow for an actual examination on what the Jedi as a Star Wars universe staple are. What does being a Jedi really mean, are they necessary etc.

Gameplay

I really loved the Real-Time/Turn Based Hybrid. locking in your attacks to then sit back and watch the fight happen gave a really cool cinematic feel to the game, like you’re watching a Lightsaber fight that’s been choreographed beautifully. Compared to other action heavy games where your weapons just seem to unnaturally wave at people (looking at you Jedi Academy).

The dice system can be a tad tricky. Basically any task you want to complete the game rolls a virtual dice and adds your “modifier” (comes from items, skills etc). It’s not bad for a simple thing like your roll to hack a computer but some of the bonuses start to get really confusing. My armour gave me 21 defence total but Jolee with no armour had a 25, and it didn’t really explain how he was getting that number.

The iPad port is pretty brutal for the mini games. Trying to shoot fighters out of mid-air or complete a swoop bike race is pretty annoying because the iPad requires you to both swipe and tap. It’s not the game’s fault but it’s just annoying.

Stray Observations

-The graphics are funny to look back on now, every 5th character has the same face.

-I loved the blurred line between Fantasy and Sci-Fi, where else can you have Dragons and Droids exist in the same universe?

-Customisation is amazing, I loved that you play as a single lightsaber, dual lightsaber or the kick ass “Darth Maul” lightsaber. You could even do a play-through using only a blaster pistol, it’s all up to you.

-They needed a few more reasons to bring along other party members. The Jedi characters are just too overpowered with force abilities. Why would you not bring them.

-I remember the BIG revelation the first time, I was like 13 and it blew my mind. I read a bunch of stuff later about how people saw it coming and yeah I think if you were smart they made it pretty clear but I’m curious now if anyone who hasn’t played it would have the same experience as me.

 

Game Review: Examining What Remains of Edith Finch

Title
Zack Layton "The New Hire"

As I look back on 2017, I can easily say that it has been a rollercoaster full of excitement and letdowns within the gaming industry. We got more detailed open worlds, creative multiplayer content, and we were finally able to “fight the system” and prove to gaming companies that we won’t stand for loot-boxes (I hope you can sense my sarcasm in that).

However, besides the drama that occurred, as I look back at the one game that stuck out to me the most, I have to be clear that it isn’t Breath of the Wild or Mario Odyssey, (I know, It’s a shame I’m not a nerd band wagoner right?). Instead of these over hyped video games, that were pretty much a let down for me, my number one game of 2017 is a walking simulator. Are you still reading this or has your gaming ego been bruised?

I need to start by prefacing that I play games for narrative content. As much as I love Rocket League or Call of Duty, I invest my time on games that will force me to feel emotions and to be “moved” because at the end of the day, isn’t that what makes us human?

Story

What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of short stories about a cursed family in Washington State. Each story offers a chance to experience the life of a different family member with stories ranging from the early 1900’s to the present day. As you progress through each story, you understand the life of each family member in an intelligent and thought provoking way.

What Remains of Edith Finch, might just be a walking simulator in the eyes of some, however it is so much more than that. It flips the genre on its head by adding gameplay elements that you didn’t think would occur in the genre.

One story includes a segment in a fishery, cutting up fish and getting used to the mundane task since the character is bored of his life. While that occurs, the gameplay changes by adding an adventure element because the character starts to daydream. With the left joystick, you need to keep cutting the fish up, while at the same time, using the right joystick, to take your character on the specific adventure, while the narrative continues. It was a breathtaking, creative approach to add excitement to the genre. Of course, this does not end well for the character since these are tragic stories.

Themes

The overall theme throughout the game is death and if you are looking to experience an existential crisis to make you rethink your life choices, this is it. I don’t want to divulge too much of the game, for spoiler purposes, but it’s full of moments where you know exactly what is going to happen, but pray that it won’t because of how dreadful it is.

The game forces you to face these real life situations that make you question what the meaning of life really is. It also doesn’t spoon feed you on which emotions you need to feel. It’s intelligent and doesn’t make the gamer feel stupid because of that. I don’t usually like to compare, but to get the emotional depth of this game; it’s like experiencing the famous Giraffe scene in The Last of Us, over and over again with different elements.

Multiple Playthroughs

It’s rare for a game to keep me wanting to play it over and over again and I can easily say that after my tenth play through, that there is still the desire to dive back into the world of What Remains of Edith Finch. Even though it’s labeled as a walking simulator, it brings new depth to the genre and I know that every gamer will enjoy this for years to come. I’m barely skimming the surface of the story, but it makes every gamer experience something that not many games nowadays achieve: emotion.

Thank you for reading this and if you have any thoughts, please comment below. I would love to hear what games you loved/didn’t love.


			

Game Review: Divinity 2 is a Gift From The Gods

Darcy Selke "Editor In Chief"

I had never played or even heard of the Divinity franchise until about a month ago when a few Dungeons and Dragons streamers I watch were praising the new game. I picked it up on Steam during the holidays and I got to say, I wish I had played it last year because it probably would’ve cracked my top 5 of 2017.

Divinity 2 feels like a Dungeons and Dragons game brought to life through visuals vs other games which feel like Video Games inspired by DnD. I’ll get into it more later but I want to be clear I’m not saying Divinity 2 is a better game than Baldur’s Gate, or Pillars of Eternity or even Dragon Age merely that it nails the “feel” of a DnD Campaign. So if you like playing tabletop RPG’s I HIGHLY recommend Divinity 2

Back To Basics

Divinity does all of the traditional RPG elements very well, and just for the record, I like my RPG’s traditional. They have a robust character creation menu, including an “undead” version of every playable race. All of these races, classes etc have different abilities and drawbacks which are all common things including, *gasp* characters reacting to you if you’re undead?! I love it.

The class system is always something I heavily focus on. I don’t really like games where you’re either a Mage, Warrior or Thief. If 90’s games figured out how to have a big class base you can too. Divinity has enough classes that I really had to think about what I wanted my character to be like. Right now i’m playing a stuck up Rogue who was a former Aristocrat (oooo so much roleplay).

My one gripe is that the NPC’s can change their class whenever you pick them up. It’s sort of a Fourth Wall breaking moment when the mage you met at the beginning of the game says “I can be a magic user if you want, or I can also be a fighter.” It’d be like if in Lord of The Rings Gandalf died and Aragon just said “No problem guys, I’m a caster now” and started doing magic shit.

 

A Team RPG

This was what drew me to Divinity in the first place. The idea of actually forming a party with friends and completing the campaign and the game keeping it’s role playing elements? That’s amazing! I witnessed an NPC die and my character had a completely different reaction than the two characters my actual friends were playing with.

It’s what games like Diablo lack, sure you can play with your friends but all of those character are just blank slates, there’s no “role-playing”, no choices or morals. Star Wars: The Old Republic tried this in their MMO but your characters didn’t really interact with each other, you just got to watch while your friend interacted with an NPC.

So let me reiterate this for any game makers that may be reading, MAKE MORE GAMES WHERE MY CHARACTERS INTERACT WITH MY FRIENDS.

Story

This one is definitely on me for not playing or even reading about Divinity 1 before playing its sequel but I have to say the story is a little confusing right now. All I know is my character is a fugitive who was captured by magic haters and brought to a prison island? I don’t know why my character is a “Sourcerer” considering he’s a Rogue but I’m sure that will all get explained quickly.

The dynamic of them hating magic users because magic people bring terrifying monsters is actually brought with some nuance. Whereas Dragon Age 2 made mage hunters just assholes who get off on killing magic users, Divinity at least attempts some grey area.

The magic users aren’t hated because they’re magic users, they’re feared because they unwillingly can bring these horrible monsters to them. Dragon Age 1 actually had a lot of the same moral questions except they ruined it in the sequel when the mages ended up CHOOSING to ally themselves with the Demons and the Templars went after people who weren’t mages…

Ugh sorry, side tracked..

Anyway, Divinity’s story so far is engaging and there’s plenty of characters to sink your teeth into and they make sense, unlike a certain Templar from a game that shall remain nameless…

 

I’m going attempt to get deeper into the game and even try out their campaign manager mode which sounds basically like I get to run an Online Dungeons and Dragons Campaign (yes please!)  It’s a solid game so far and I think anyone who likes traditional RPG’s will not be disappointed.

Stray Observations

-The art work is a little too “cartoon-ish” for me, everyone’s thighs look like tree trunks.

-This might be the only fantasy world where elves are cannibals, I don’t know how this came up in their writers’ meetings but it’s definitely an interesting spin.

-I wish there was a little more to the levelling system, I want to play a rogue who users a single sword like a swash-buckler but the game rewards dual-wielding too much for me to say not to two daggers.

-I can’t believe how impressed I’ve been with Kickstarter games recently, I don’t know if they’re not making enough money but AAA Games needs to get back on these types of narrative driven games.