The Best Moves

PlayStation

God of War • Fully upgrade a Runic Attack • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 53.8% (Common)

I wore some criticism yesterday for ‘giving too much away’ when it comes to God of War, which I suppose is a subjective assessment, but it still gives me an emotional reaction at the injustice of being called out. The modern risk of putting yourself out there is not so much an occupational hazard, but one of the vissictudes of life. Que Sera Sera.

Anyway, as much as I’d like to be spiteful and try and ‘spoil’ something else (yes, I’m that kind of person), I went with a trophy that’s a little more ‘mainstream’ tonight. My intent isn’t so much as to labor the substance of this achievement – I feel like it’s one that most people will get to in their course of learning the game (and a 53% completion rate seems to support that), but more so just to talk about these final few beats of the God of War narrative.

Tonight I had a range of battles, puzzles and encounters that start to tie-up the threads that have been left throughout the journey. I feel like the game is moving at a cracking pace, but sure enough, it’s nearly midnight and I have just put the controller down for the night – talk about a time-sink. I am left glancing at the clock every twenty minutes while willing the game to draw to an end, just so I can scratch this one off my ‘played’ list and return to hating on PlayStation and Sony.

Another solid session like today should bring the main narrative to an end, but a glance at the checklist to complete shows a much greater list of side missions and tasks to complete before I even get close to a Platinum trophy. I’m not sure if this is an ‘immediate’ priority for me, or whether it’s something I’ll go back to later in the year.

Either way, I’ve enjoyed the journey so far – and I intend to enjoy these final few steps as well.

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Hello, Old Friend

PlayStation

God of War • Retrieve the Blades of Chaos • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 56.6% (Common)

I’ve tried to stifle the unbridled praise for God of War that swamped the internet. Quite against my character, I’ve tried to add nuance to the echo chamber of the Sony fanboi chorus holding God of War up as some idol of gaming in 2018.

Tonight, however, I am gladly adding God of War to my short list for Game of the Year.

To be honest, not much has changed. The puzzles are still on par with Tomb Raider. The graphics are brilliantly matched to the best the Xbox can offer and the combat is as good as anything else on the market (sans the satisfying thunk of an axe returning to your hand). But it was this very moment in the achievement which got me – the return of Kratos’ Blades of Chaos, made famous through – well, pretty much his entire career, and they look and feel just as wonderful as they did the first time you played God of War … and that goes for any platform at any point in history. You never forget your first time playing, and tonight I had every piece of nostalgia not just tickled, but caressed lovingly as Kratos flung those babies around like no tomorrow.

It was glorious. Glorious.

I really have no idea where I’m up to narrative-wise. I’m still stopping to complete the odd side-quest, so I’m probably not being as prompt as I could be, but Sony Santa Monica have done a brilliant job of making a quick half hour turn into a four-hour gaming session.

That’s a special kind of magic.

I feel like that if there was three acts, then we’d be about to kick-off the third, but I’m simply hypothesising, so don’t mind my shoot-from-the-hip approach to blogging. I’m just happy I got to experience this game despite my ongoing bitterness towards Sony.

Yes. God of War even has the power to break through that. If that doesn’t get bonus points for Game of the Year – nothing will.

Dragon Slayer

PlayStation

God of War • Defeat the Dragon of The Mountain • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 65.1% (Common)

Well, in terms of big battles, this really tickled my tits. It’s what I want out of Dark Souls, but it offers a level of accessibility that far surpasses any of From Software’s catalogue. This was a big, meaty fight that let you learn and respond to attacks along the way, rather than punishing you from the first strike for failing to study up on a particular combatants techniques.

I guess this also gives you a placeholder in terms of where I’m up to in God of War. Kratos and Son have been working their way to the summit of the mountain, and found a new friend (with echoes from Game of Thrones and Fallout 3), and started their journey back to the witch in the forest.

You can begin to see why you hear whispers of so many ‘false endings.’ Even now I have become accustomed to not getting comfortable about my place in the narrative, so every session continues to surprise and delight me.

With a few more setpiece battles like this … it might even start to convince me that it deserves Game of the Year.

Death Happened Here

PlayStation

God of War • Fully explore Veithurgard • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 25.6% (Rare)

I thought it was worth following up on yesterday’s assessment of God of War, just to make sure that I hadn’t left it feeling cold and alone. If anything, I’m quite invested in the development of Kratos 2.0 now, so I’m keen to follow the story through to completion.

Despite that, I didn’t spend a lot of time on the story today – instead working through a couple of side missions, which I thought would never eventuate (or I was missing them to begin with). In what is essentially ‘Act 2’ (of who knows how many parts), the world opens up considerably – and you are left to explore and undertake these side missions at your leisure.

One of the things that bothered me about Fallout 4 was the drive for the protagonist to find their son falls by the narrative wayside as side missions and other story beats take shape. Even core story places the pursuit on the back burner which just doesn’t make any sense. Bethesda’s mistakes are Santa Monica Studio’s gain though, and Kratos and Son’s exploits are thematically framed as ‘gathering resources’ for the journey ahead. It’s a little thing, but damn it makes a difference.

I haven’t changed my stance from yesterday though, I still think that God of War is subjectively as good as a range of titles on-offer both exclusive and cross-platform, and while it’s good – it’s not good at the exclusion of all else.

Nonetheless, the journey continues. Let’s see where it takes us.

A New Friend

PlayStation

God of War • Survive the Witch’s Woods • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 80.6% (Common)

Here’s an unpopular opinion: I don’t think God of War is ‘all that’. That’s probably a bit unfair to launch into – but let me explain my reasoning, and I hope that everybody can at least put their pitchforks down for ten minutes before the next scheduled hype train is about to depart.

Perhaps I’ll start by saying this: God of War is a great game. It is visually stunning, the graphics are crisp on a vanilla PS4 on a 1080p TV, so I can only imagine how great they look on a Pro with HDR.

In terms of narrative, Kratos kicks off his latest adventure with the same poignancy as The Last of Us. That intimate, family-driven exposition intermingled with a tutorial is now both expected and cliche, but it works in this setting.

And the gameplay itself is well-paced and satisfying. There is a satisfying buzz you get from throwing your axe and having it return to you, Thor-style.

But is it, or should it be, the centrepiece of gaming in 2018? Perhaps, but I also think it should share the mantle.

I made the mistake of hunting for an old tweet that compared God of War to Dark Souls … and I’m sure that the comparison might be true on a harder difficulty (I’m playing on easy), but if I thought I was being harsh on GoW, then there’s plenty of hate online already there for it. Rage ranges from ‘it’s just not God of War’ through to criticism about Kratos’ repeated utterance of “Boy”.

For what it’s worth, the minor quibbles about dialogue or gameplay – a departure from the original GoW approach which I think is welcome – don’t really bother me. What I do find frustrating is the pedestal that GoW has been put on as the game to beat in 2018.

Here’s a controversial opinion: I think there’s plenty of games that could do it.

The game that comes to mind straight away is Tomb Raider, which might be as a result of my earlier session on its sequel today – but the visuals and the puzzles in Tomb Raider are (for now) as complicated as anything on offer in GoW, and as pretty as anything in GoW.

The pedestal of great games does not, and should not, be reserved solely for first-party games.

What this does demonstrate though is the popularity of hating Microsoft. When Tomb Raider was brought out as a timed console exclusive, Microsoft and Square Enix were utterly slammed for the decision. The hypocrisy is staggering, but shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

Of course, there’s a new Tomb Raider and Red Dead Redemption due out this year – neither of which are platform-exclusive. Far Cry 5 only has to keep its award-winning formula to keep everyone happy and let’s not forget the well received A Way Out.

So, yes, it’s a great game. But it’s not the only game out there to give you the same puzzle-exploration-combat aesthetic with high-end visuals. I’m sure it’s nice for PlayStation otaku to be able to hold something up with this level of quality and say that ‘it’s all mine’, but when you clear off the fanboi fog and compare games with games – yes, you’re left with a contemporary masterpiece, but it’s not the last game you’ll ever need to take with you on a deserted island.

Who’s A Good Snagglebeast?

PlayStation

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Ratchet and Clank • Defeat the Snagglebeast on Nebula G34 • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 47.1% (Rare)

I’ve been meaning to write about Ratchet and Clank for a while, as I’ve been playing on-and-off with the kids. I think it was a PlayStation Plus title that I’ve just blindly added to my library over time (I still add the freebies each month), but – I’m just going to say it: it is visually stunning. For a game that has its roots in a cartoon-esque caricature, somehow Insomniac have done a good job of finding the middle ground in the Venn Diagram of cartoon and … realism? That might be a bit of a stretch, but it is very hard to articulate the what and why it looks so good.

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I’ve actually made considerable progress on Ratchet and Clank today, well – I think I have. The trophies have been coming on fairly heavy, and I’m making my way through the planets with comfort, so unless there’s a big swing back around all of the levels, then I’d say I’m travelling ‘well’ for a completion ‘soon’.

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The Snagglebeast trophy itself is for, you guessed it, defeating a Snagglebeast. The battle itself was actually moderately difficult, and I’ll be lying if I said I ‘breezed’ through – but a couple of deaths and leaning into the full arsenal available to Ratchet saw this battle turn far less complicated than something out of Dark Souls.

I’ll keep the good fight going … since Max and the Curse of Brotherhood, I’ve been left with the LEGO games and a few other indie games to play with my kids, so this – at the very least – is a welcome break in momentum.

Cleric Beast

PlayStation

Bloodborne • Defeat Cleric Beast • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 51.6% (Common)

Look, I wasn’t going to bother with another blog entry today, but I was so pleased with finally getting ‘something’ on the trophy board that this seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.

I am uncertain if I’ve talked about my success, or serious lack thereof, in the Dark Souls series, so I’m expecting an incredibly slow burn when it comes to Bloodborne. The Cleric Beast is essentially the first boss that you encounter in the game, and my previous attempts has whittled him down to about a half to two-thirds health. Tonight, I decided to try and invoke a bit of help and I rang a small bell that invites other players into your game.

And along came Harold.

Harold was obviously a seasoned player. He darted around the opening stages of the game with ease, and while he essentially tanked some of the bad guys – the werewolves in particular – I was able to get a few good blows in from behind and finish them off. It was a match made in heaven.

I’m sure some purists would like to have a dig at me for not beating the Cleric Beast on my own. I sent a message to a mate (who thrives on smashing through solo – and getting a platinum – on the Dark Souls games), who made a point of sending me a disappointed silence (literally, a text message that read “…”) when I said I asked for help. I don’t really have any counter-argument, it is what it is … and you know what? I don’t really care either. If it lets me push on and enjoy the game a bit more, so be it … I’ll keep on calling for help as the need arises.

And thus, my three day weekend begins! What a great way to kick it off!

You, The Master of Unlocking

Xbox

Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered • Opened a treasure chest with no incorrect guesses • 50G • 17.71% of gamers unlocked this

Banana. That was the word I earned this achievement on, and I think that’s fairly special.

I’ve played quite a bit of Letter Quest, between the Vita and the PlayStation 4, it’s one of those games that are fun to play with the kids around – plus it feels like you’re working your brain at the same time. I’ve never played the remaster though – but, to be honest, this feels like, if not is, the same thing. This morning, I wanted to cap-off at least one of the achievements that I have been working towards in the past 24 hours … and I did, I earned two! But this one seemed like an actual challenge so it earns a place in today’s blog … making Banana not only a delicious afternoon snack, but also my word of the day.

The game of what is, essentially, hangman, was probably made easier through my application of the good old-fashioned technique of going vowels-first. A, E, I, O, U. So, when I started with A and managed to clear most of the entire word, it became apparent quite quickly that Banana was going to be the challenge word, earning me not only some crystals, but a sweet, sweet achievement as well.

I’m kind of glad I went for an achievement this morning actually. The weather is particularly nasty here at the moment, so it seems like it’s a good candidate for a power outage tonight … meaning that I’m somewhat insulated from that eventuality tonight if it happens.

Before all that happens though – I have personal training to go to. I’m just not feeling it today … I’m tired, my muscles are sore, and I’ve still got an afternoon’s worth of work to accomplish.

Someone cue the world’s smallest violin.

Some flies 

PlayStation

Spy Chameleon • Complete the fly challenge on 15 levels • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 41.2% (Rare)

It’s the last day of August and, if I’m perfectly honest, the only time I’ve turned on my PlayStation 4 this month was to watch Game of Thrones as the horrible Foxtel Now App keeps crashing on Xbox, and, judging by internet comments, there is no appetite from Rupert to fix it. Such is life.

So, I stuck with a Vita game again for my trophy this month. And while I was tempted to use one of the trophies I earned back in the first week of August, the spirit of the challenge is that I document my encounter the day-of. So, over breakfast this morning, I spent some time tidying up a few levels on Spy Chamelon to earn the trophy for grabbing all the flies in 15 levels – otherwise known as the ‘first stage’ of the game.

Look, it’s a good game. It’s exactly the kind of game I’d expect to play on the Vita, but without the killer commute every day, my appetite, and ability, for on-the-road gaming has waned. I think for September I’ll try for one of the PS4 exclusives if I can find an affordable copy somewhere, but I’m going through such an anti-PlayStation phase at the moment that I’m not sure how much enthusiasm I can muster. That didn’t stop me from purchasing the 15 months-for-the-price-of-12 PlayStation Plus though. I’m not completely stupid. But the downside is, is that I had to do it on my original gamertag so I could keep building my Vita library.

As I say, a little bit anti-PlayStation right now.

Spy Chamelon is fine. It’s a fine game. I can’t remember if I got it for free or if I paid a few bucks for it, but either way, it’s cheap and cheerful and worth a few minutes if you want to kill time. That’s what I did, today, from my kitchen table, and I’ve met my PlayStation challenge for another month.

Opinion: Destiny’s Child

PlayStation, Xbox

Destiny 2 • Open Beta

After a fairly solid weekend of playing the Destiny 2 Beta, I thought I would collect a few thoughts about my experience with the sequel and where I think it’s positioned for its end-of-2017 release.

In short: It’s good. It’s darn good.

Everything about the beta drips quality, even the fact that Bungie have held back a lot of content for the beta compared to what they delivered for the original game means that they are taking this second outing much more seriously. [Read:No more complaints about having played the whole game by the end of the Beta]

The opening level, a strike and some crucible matches give an excellent understanding about what is the same, and what’s different for Destiny 2. When you have a good setup with the Titan-Hunter-Warlock trio, you stick with it, and D2 builds on the character classes by introducing a few new tweaks.

Overall, the handling of characters seems a little slower, but there is sufficient substance in the PvE areas of the map to keep things interesting. Enemies, in the beta at least, take a fair effort to take down, and there is a nice variety of enemy types to mix up your strategy with.

Within a few minutes of first arriving in the tower, you are presented with access to Lord Saladin’s armory, where your Guardian helps him or herself to what looks like your first look at an exotic weapon. As an aside, EB Games announced today that preorders are going to receive the Killtracker Ghost and Exotic weapon, Coldheart … so it looks like I won’t have to wait quite as long in the sequel for my first exotic.

For reference, my Xbox Hunter is still running around with the first Exotic I ever earned (the Shotgun, The 4th Horseman), and I’ve just kept upgrading it when I have the currency and the weapon parts needed to buy the components from Xur.

I aimed to try to have some playtime with each of the three character classes with the view to learning more about their super and class abilities. The Titan’s new wall and shield made for some interesting gameplay. During the strike, The Inverted Spire (which I’ll talk about a bit more in a minute), there are wave-on-wave of (what I think were) Vex, so popping a wall to crouch behind while dodging enemies from all sides was, not to understate it, very very helpful. I found the Hunter’s sword swinging special a bit hit-and-miss (pun intended), as a lot of the time I seemed to be simply slamming a fiery blade into the ground with very little damage being done to the enemies surrounding me. That’s not to say it’s a problem with the super – there’s a very high to almost certainty that the issue is between the controller and the console (read:me), and it will take some time to master the eccentricies of each character class.

Perhaps the most fun I had out of D2, was in the strike. Oh, lord that Strike was fun. The setup is fairly straightforward. Work your way through various enemies towards a big end-boss, but it was nice to tackle both a new environment and a new boss, and it gives me enourmous hope that D2 will offer the much-needed reinvigoration of the franchise that I’ve been longing for. For me, it was the combination of environment-use and the end-boss that appealed most to me. For much of D1, the best strikes (and the only raid I’ve ever done, the Vault of Glass) effectively used the environment to shape the story. Without too much spoiling, the big boss does this very effectively during your final battle with him, and it breaks up a lengthy battle with a little fun along the way.

I’ve already preordered Destiny 2, but the beta went a long way to validating my decision. Scoring an exotic at launch is a nice little perk as well, though I’m certain the appeal will wear off once everyone starts levelling and bigger, badder weapons are introduced into the world.

I would love to finally see some PC specs for the game and ultimatly decide where I’m going to play, but overall, I’ve been very satisfied with the experience on Xbox, and even if I carry across my PS4 Guardians and startup a PC team, I am fairly confident that I’ll be at home on Microsoft’s platform for at least another incarnation.

Perhaps PS4’s system update 5.0 could convince me otherwise.