Monday, December 10, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider:
I should have known better than to get this game after getting bored with the second one but several reviews promised that the parts I hated had been improved and I was in need of a birthday game to purchase and waste time on. I only made it 7 hours in before quitting in regret. The only redeeming feature is that the graphics are beautiful. The game still beats you over the head with a pointless story and forces you to pay attention to cutscenes when you just want to raid some tombs. This philosophy is encapsulated in the fifteen minute opening sequence where you're forced to walk (run is disabled) through a crowded market admiring the work of the art team while the story happens around you.

The overall package is actually worse than the previous game because of new bugs and a weird floatiness to jumps that used to be tightly controlled -- if the actual tomb-raiding part can't be done right, there's no reason at all to play. Finally, the difficult levels are poorly implemented -- instead of making the game more and less difficult, they just make the game more and less tedious.

Final Grade: D

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: I first reviewed this game back in January and gave it a solid C- because of its flaws. Over the end of the summer and throughout the fall, I finally beat the game after about 80 hours of play (50 of which was probably waiting for loading screens). Instead of directly following the storyline, I chose instead to visit all 120 required-yet-optional Shrines first so I could max out my stats and not fall down cliffs due to lack of stamina all of the time. Extra stamina did help me enjoy traveling more but my final grade doesn't change -- it is still difficult to feel like you're making progress in any sitting. I would bump this game up to a solid B with the following changes: merge the 120 shrines into 30, each of which gives you a full heart or a stamina vessel, reduce loading screen time by 50% or more (or allow me to teleport out of a shrine to a destination of my choice), and reduce the size of the world by about 15% to make it feel less empty and more worthwhile to explore.

Final Grade: C-

Nintendo Switch:
I'm pretty ambivalent on the Switch after having played 5 or 6 games on it so far. I play mostly in docked TV mode with the Joycons in the awkward controller-like holder shown on the box. The double shoulder buttons are sized weirdly (it seems like the larger button should be on top, since my fingers naturally rest on the bottom button which is often some kind of "cancel" action). The ability to go portable is a nice gimmick, but the control schemes rarely carry over well between one and the other (especially games that require touchscreen or motion support). Games that look great on the TV can get too chaotic on the little screen as well.

My biggest concern is simply the lack of NEW first-party games. Browsing the Switch wall at Gamestop requires me to wade through endless shovelware, ports from other consoles, and reworked Wii U games. Give me some solid single-player games designed exclusively for the Switch -- I can play Stardew Valley on literally every single other device I own (including my toaster oven).

Final Grade: C+

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