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In Which I Apologized

This isn't my pool, but I really wished it was.

Hey folks, I’ve landed safely in Los Angeles, more or less, and I’m adjusting to life in California. It’s different than Michigan, to say the least. I know I said in my last post I’d put up my review/thoughts of Death’s Gambit, and I meant it. I even had a gloriously awful pun of a title, CaSOULSvania. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. My living situation has turned out to be significantly different from what I thought it was going to be, and right now I’m not really in a place where I can play video-games for any length of time. So, I’m unlikely to have any game reviews until November, for which I apologize. For what it’s worth, believe me when I say I’m more annoyed about it than you. I certainly won’t be playing Spider-Man, Fallout 76 or Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey when they come out. It’s kind of hard to play for any length of time when you have 12 roommates. Yes, you read that right. But Jason, is that legal? Probably not. California has all sorts of housing and political shenanigans going on that I really don’t want to get into. Suffice to say, I’m hoping to be in a new place by November. Anyhoo, I hate to leave a post this small, so I am going to give my initial impressions of Death’s Gambit, because I did play through the first three or so hours, and I do want to talk about it. Suffice to say, these are my initial impressions which are pretty limited, so please don’t take it as a full review.

Death’s Gambit has been touted and advertised as a 2D Soulslike platformer, and that’s a fairly accurate description. Because its 2D, it’s probably more comparable to Salt & Sanctuary than anything else. However, I haven’t played Salt & Sanctuary yet, it’s still on my backlog of games. So, I can’t really make that comparison. Stylistically it’s gorgeous, the colors are vibrant, and it evokes the best of the 16-bit era, when the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo (both excellent systems, arguably two of the best ever) battled for domination of America’s living rooms. Side note, if you want to know more about that era, check out the book Console Wars by Blake J. Harris. Death’s Gambit feels like a hybrid between platformer and RPG; like a platformer, it has puzzles to solve, platforms to jump from and traps to avoid. But like an RPG, it has a class system that allows you to play as a variant of the usual Fighter/Mage/Thief. However, you choose which abilities you level up, so despite whatever class you start as, you don’t have to play that way completely, although each class has certain abilities that do not change. If this sounds like Dark Souls, that’s because it is: you get XP when you kill enemies, when you rest at a Death Idol, all the enemies, save bosses, respawn, and souls are used for both XP and currency. However, the twist on the souls' formula here is that you don’t lose your XP when you die, you lose your feathers. Feathers are items that have two purposes, for starters they’re your main healing item, and you only have a limited number of them. They replenish at Idols, much like the Dark Souls Estus Flasks or Nioh’s Elixirs, but in addition, you can sacrifice the number of feathers you carry with you for an increase in damage. The more feathers you sacrifice, the less you can heal, but the more damage you do. It adds a unique spin on the soulsborne style of “high risk, high reward,” gameplay that’s more prevalent in Bloodborne and Nioh. You can also rechallenge bosses at a higher level for a bigger challenge and (I presume) more experience.

The Metroidvania aspects come into play more in world design than gameplay. In a traditional Metroidvania game you travel an interconnected world, unlocking new abilities as you defeat bosses that allow you to backtrack to previous locations and open up new areas. Death’s Gambit features an interconnected world with many different paths and some backtracking, but overall, it’s still closer to Soulsborne than Metroidvania.

Lastly, Death’s Gambit is difficult. REALLY difficult. You WILL die in this game, and the only way you’ll progress is learning enemy attack patterns. If you try and rush through like a traditional platformer, you won’t win. So, for you sadists who love this type of thing, like me, you’re probably going to love this.

I wish I had more to say here, I really do, and under normal circumstances I’d probably have beaten this game by now. From everything I’ve played so far, I get the feeling that this game is much closer in length to Metroid than Dark Souls. However, it does feature immense replayability. I don’t think I can really give this game a fair rating because I haven’t played for long enough or gotten far enough, but I can tell you what I think so far. I like this game, I like it a lot. It wears its inspiration on its sleeve, and gameplay wise it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, but that’s okay. What it does it does well. If you love Soulsborne or Metroidvania style games, then I think you’ll probably really enjoy Death’s Gambit, and if you’re looking for a game to scratch that Soulsborne itch until Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice comes out, you could do a lot worse.

There’s a few other things I’d like to talk about this week, if only to keep this post from being 1 ½ pages.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. The more I see of this game, the more excited I get, and that’s surprises me. I got burned out on Assassin’s Creed after III, although a friend did eventually convince me to buy Black Flag and Syndicate (I have played neither as of yet). Assassin’s Creed: Origins restored my faith in the series. The combat was the best so far, the open world seemed to borrow the best aspects from The Witcher 3 and Horizon Zero Dawn, and I personally found Bayek to be the most compelling protagonist since Ezio. I also really liked that at the core of Origins, it was a story about a marriage, that made it unique.

When Odyssey was announced at E3 I was a bit worried that it was coming out this year instead of 2019, because the yearly release is what originally ran Assassin’s Creed into the ground. But what’s got me feeling optimistic is how little Odyssey looks like an Assassin’s Creed game. Oh sure, it looks to have the stealth and parkour of the series, but everything else looks like a significant departure. For starters, there’s no hidden blade, instead you get a piece of Leonidas’ spear. The combat looks like Origins, but even more so, with gameplay showing the PC fighting in large scale battles with lots of enemies. I’m of course super happy with a greater focus on combat, because I’m hilariously terrible at stealth games. They always end with me being spotted and forced to kill everything, because you can’t be seen if everybody’s dead. The interviews with the devs indicate that they’re doubling down on the RPG elements, including adding more mystical/supernatural elements, like flaming swords. It also looks like the main story and side quests will having branches paths with decisions changing the story. Origins had quests, but there’s wasn’t that much decision involved, which to me is what kept it from being a true RPG. You can also romance NPCs and choose your character’s gender, things that are traditionally found in many RPGs. Furthermore, this game is set in 431 B.C. roughly 400 years before Origins. This kind of breaks the lore, since Origins is about the start of the Assassin Order, but this honestly has me half convinced that this started out as a new IP that was going to be an RPG in ancient Greece, and UbiSoft decided to slap the AC logo on it to increase sales. Now that’s just speculation on my part, and I don’t have any hard evidence to back that up or anything. It just seems like a big swerve from a game series that has traditionally had a deep lore, and whose origin story only came out last year. UbiSoft has stated that there won’t be an Assassin’s Creed game in 2019, and instead Odyssey will be supported with more DLC than previous games. Fingers crossed that this is the case, because Assassin’s Creed just got its footing back, and the last thing I want is to see it driven right back into the ground again.

Battlefield V delayed because it’s pre-sales are 85% behind Call of Duty. *Plays sad song on world’s smallest violin.

Anthem. According to BioWare, Anthem is “not a departure, it's the continued evolution of our craft and our technique.” Translation, buy this or we’re toast. I won’t lie, I’m really nervous about this game. If it fails I think BioWare is done for, and that’s the end of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, two of my favorite franchises.

Spider-Man. Hooboy, despite all the hype and positive buzz surrounding Spider-Man, it hasn’t had the best week PR wise. For starters, the DLC has been announced as coming out a month after the game, and the devs have said there are clues in the main game that will lead into the DLC, making it look like the DLC was just content that got cut from the main game. If that turns out to be the case, then that’s REALLY frikkin scummy. There’s also been some controversy about a possible graphical downgrade. The trailer from 2017 does look better than the current gameplay graphics wise, but the devs are claiming it's just because “the sun changed position.” I’m 50/50 on this. I want to give the devs the benefit of the doubt, because the game looks legitimately awesome. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t suspicious. I’m not going to be able to play this right when it comes out, so I’ll probably wait for a complete edition when that inevitably launches sometime next year, because I still think it’s going to be a good game. If the downgrade and the DLC controversies turn out to be true though, I’m guessing Insomniac ends up in a situation like the first Watch Dogs.

Cyberpunk 2077. Holy crap where to start. Earlier this week CD Projekt Red put the entire E3 demo online, the game looks amazing. I’m not going to give a complete breakdown of the demo, because that’s already been done by plenty of other bloggers and youtubers, but I do want to share what stood out most to me. The demo starts with V (the player character) and Jackie (your companion/squadmate) going through a building and finding a cybernetic girl barely clinging to life. From there we see aspects of the world, gunplay, customization and dialogue. The amount of customization looks completely insane. Not just in how you can make your character look and craft their backstory, but in terms of cybernetic mods that you can use to enhance yourself. Now at the start of the demo, the devs are upfront that everything is subject to change because this is not the final product, but if this game pulls off only half of what we saw in the demo, we’re potentially looking at a revolutionary game in terms of what can be done in an RPG. The graphics were of course gorgeous, and everything looks real. The game looks like it takes place in California, and the slums look grimy and hopeless. The giant megastructures that V’s apartment is in reminds me of the Mega Blocks from Judge Dredd, and given that the devs are European, I’m betting that was intentional.

I really like that you don’t just open a menu and give yourself a new upgrade or swap a cybernetic piece of equipment out, you need to go see a Ripper-doc who will implant the tech into you, it’s an incredible bit of worldbuilding that I personally found drawing me into the setting.

I won’t lie, when it was announced that Cyberpunk 2077 was going to be first person, I was skeptical. I was expecting something more akin to The Witcher 3 in the future, but this demo put those fears to rest. The combat looks tight and customizable, with all sorts of different builds and possibilities. I’m guessing I’ll most likely lean towards netrunner with some solo and mechanic abilities. I like the idea of being able to hack most enemies and take them out before I start shooting. It also looks like you can play as a charismatic character who can talk themselves out of (or into) situations. As someone who likes to play Bards and high charisma characters, this really appeals to me. And hey, how about that spider-bot? This game can’t get here soon enough.

Sorry for the shorter post, but life happens. I’m hoping to have the living situation fixed soon. Coming up in the next few weeks will be my reviews for The Nun and The Predator. Cuz I like scary movies. Anyway, till next time, surfs up.

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