Road to the Review – Assassin’s Creed Unity Part 1

Reviews, Road to the Review, Video Games

I’ve decided to try out a new format for video game reviews. Basically, my problem has been that, with school and my job, I can’t sit down and blast through a game like a traditional reviewer would. Now, I’m not trying to keep up with those guys and don’t care if a review comes out a few weeks (or months) after the game has released; however, by stretching my playtime over a few weeks (or months) I inevitably end up forgetting certain details when it comes time to write up my full thoughts on a game.

Therefore, this is going to be the first instance of my “Road to the Review”. I’ll sit down every few days and write up a post of the game I’m currently playing through. This lets me get some thoughts out and gives me something to refer back to when I’m ready to write an actual review. If it’s something people want to read, then that’s great, but mostly I’m just trying to help myself out and not miss anything in the reviews I post. Anyways, on to Assassin’s Creed Unity.

If there’s ever a case to be made for everyone just waiting a few months before playing a brand new Triple A release, then Assassin’ Creed Unity is it. When this game released in November, it was a complete and utter train wreck. The graphics were terribly glitchy and quite a few of the sidequests/collectibles were intrusive, forcing you to use various apps to access all the content. Plus, Ubisoft, in their infinite wisdom, decided it was a good idea to put a plethora of unneeded in-game purchases into a $60 game. Those purchases get you things like three minutes of added health or five minutes of more damage, which seems pointless for a 10-20 hour experience.

Fortunately, quite a bit of that is gone in February.

All the Nomad and Initiate crap that others had to deal with has been patched out and you can access almost everything without ever having to leave the main game. Obviously, it would’ve been better to see that content unlocked from the jump, but it’s possible that the latest changes signify that Ubisoft recognizes they made a mistake and they’ll correct it in the future. Sadly, the game still has in-app purchases, but they’re so buried in menus and are generally not necessary that you probably won’t notice them.

The game also looks much better than it did upon release. Most of the framerate issues seem to be gone. In fact, I’ve only noticed slowdown three or four times in the four hours I’ve played. It’s not perfect, but it’s not the slop we had in November. Which is great because, when it’s working, the game looks pretty incredible. The facial animation, in particular, is stunning. Really, the only problem I’ve had graphically is that video game hair continues to be terrible and Arno, the main character, might have the worst hair on current gen consoles.

From my experience so far, Unity controls much like its predecessors. The parkour mostly works, but when it doesn’t, it’s endlessly frustrating. They’ve added “free-run up” and “free-run down” options, which take a little of the guesswork out; however, I still spent too much trying in vain to get to a specific point in the world.

Combat is supposed to be more difficult, but thus far, I haven’t noticed it being any harder. You’re still parrying attacks and dodging out of the way of heavies. The only major differences (at least four hours in) are that you can’t auto-kill someone after a parry and you can’t take a human shield to protect yourself from bullets. I have yet to experience any of the weapons outside of a one-handed sword, so I can’t speak to how things like polearms and two-handed weapons change up the combat. That said, it doesn’t seem like different weapons would really change the moment-to-moment combat too much.

I’m not too deep into the main campaign, but the story seems intriguing so far. I’ve done the first of the more open-ended assassinations where you’re given a large area and told to go kill a person in whatever way you can. It reminded me a lot of the Hitman games I played on PS2. I stole a key to Notre Dame from a local thief and then killed a man to open an option that let me get into the church’s confessional booth. From there, I snuck into Notre Dame and worked my way through four or five guards before slipping into the confessional booth. When my target joined me in the booth, I let him talk for a minute before reaching through the window and stabbing him in the throat. Then, I snuck out of the church and into a crazy computer simulation that opened up more of the game.

That kind of mission structure is really fun to play through and I’m hopeful that more of the game is like that. The little side quests are a fun diversion (particularly the murder mystery missions), but big, open-ended missions like this one could really energize the franchise. Give me five or six of those missions in between the usual Assassin’s Creed fare, and I’m sold. That said, I could easily see this one being the best the game has to offer and the mission structure taking a massive dive as I move forward.

All in all, Unity is a likeable game in its current state. Obviously, the game had some massive problems when it launched, but I think enough of those have been rectified to make this game worth your time. If you were on the fence or even put the game down the first time through, I’d ask you to go back and give it another look. The controls still leave a bit to be desired, but everything else is greatly improved.

The Roman Empire (Raw Reactions, Feb. 23)

Raw, Wrestling
  • This entire Randy Orton feud that’s started to play out during the Road to Wrestlemania would be so much better if he was fighting Triple H instead of Seth Rollins. Orton and Hunter have, arguably, the most interesting history of any two wrestlers currently in the company. Triple H helped make Orton a champion while they were both in Evolution. Then Hunter got pissed that Orton had taken “his championship” and had Batista kick The Viper out of the group with a devastating Batista Bomb during the group’s celebration of Orton’s title. What followed was a deeply personal and extremely entertaining feud between student and mentor. The WWE has explored the two men’s relationship a few times since then (2003!), but it’s been awhile since they really went all out and gave these two the historical feud their relationship deserves. That feud has an opportunity to be, at the very least, comparable to Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho from 2008, which is saying a lot about Orton and Triple H’s potential. Sadly, Hunter is locked into his Mania angle with Sting and, by the time he finishes that, the window might be near closing for Orton vs. Triple H, at least for the time being. I suppose Rollins is a great consolation prize, I just want to see what Orton and Hunter can put together in a singles Mania feud.
  • JBL summed it up perfectly; Bad News Barrett has had a very bad week, which is pretty typical for mid-card titleholders in the WWE. I’ll never understand why champions are booked to be so weak in the WWE these days. I mean, you have a guy who should be the second or third best wrestler in your company (if we’re assuming that the WWE champion is your number one and the mid-card champions are two and three. You could argue that whoever’s feuding for the main strap is number two, but you get the picture) and he’s just constantly losing each week? It just doesn’t make much sense and really tarnishes the luster of those middle-tier belts. This has been discussed ad nauseam in other places, so I won’t go into more detail. It was just so obvious tonight how poorly the WWE views anything that’s not the WWE title that I felt the need to comment. It’s so sad to see the belt Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, Chris Jericho, and others made so famous reduced to this.
  • This better be a slow burn to Randy Orton just wrecking The Authority at Wrestlemania. There’s no way Seth Rollins is getting out of this one without repercussions and you have to expect Orton will abandon him tonight in their tag team match. That should lead up to a match between the two at Mania. Or at least, that’s what better happen.
  • The smarks are not going to like that segment. The WWE have taken this hard stance that “we’re going to make Roman Reigns look strong no matter what”. Both Daniel Bryan and Paul Heyman came out and spoke at length about how great Reigns is, trying to build him up for the hardcore fans. That feels like a mistake. After all, the smart fans all know that everything is a work and won’t believe for a second that DB and Heyman actually believe everything they said. Instead of trying to make Reigns everyone’s favorite wrestler, wouldn’t it be smarter to let him be a partisan champion like John Cena? Cena’s the obvious template for the Reigns character and, if he’s going to be the face of the show, he’s going to be hated just as much as he’s loved. In fact, Reigns only real chance to be universally loved is probably to continue what he started against Bryan last night. Reigns has to be the most physically dominating superstar on the card if he’s going to succeed. His matches need to almost look like shoot fight to really solidify himself as one of the WWE’s toughest star. Bryan and Heyman’s praise will only go so far, and certainly won’t get the smart fans behind the new face of the company.
  • If the UpperCats can just keep winning matches for forever, I’ll be a happy man. There probably isn’t a heel in the WWE that I love to watch more than Tyson Kidd right now, and I’ve always been a Cesero guy. Unfortunately, this title run probably ends at Mania, but a man can dream, can’t he?
  • Does The Undertaker coming back still move the needle in the WWE after The Streak was broken? Obviously, he’s still a huge name, but that mystique is gone. Will he be as big of a draw now that he doesn’t have that to defend anymore? And who goes over in this feud? Bray Wyatt needs the win, but two losses in a row could tarnish Taker’s Mania career. This is going to be a feud to watch, if only because no one really knows how it’s going to turn out.
  • The Acolyte, eh Cena? I guess it’s not just Roman Reigns that flubs all over his promos. To be fair, Cena is almost always great on the stick; I just couldn’t help but point out his screw-up. Also, it clearly looks we’ll be getting an “I Quit” match between Cena and Rusev. Unfortunately, that sets us up for a Cena victory over the Russian. However, if the WWE is serious about Rusev being the next monster heel, he needs at least one clean victory over The Former Dr. of Thuganomics. Then, you can have Cena finally win the belt at Extreme Rules; get one for America, and all that. Cena isn’t exactly known for putting over young guys, but this is a great opportunity for the WWE to change that image and let Cena put the future of the company ahead of himself.
  • That ending was unexpected. Seth Rollins screwed up and lost the main event match for Randy Orton and himself. At first, Orton seemed livid and it appeared that he would quickly turn on his Authority teammate. However, Orton showed restraint and didn’t do anything to Rollins (though he still gave Jamie Noble an RKO because if we can’t hashtag RKOOuttaNowhere what can we do?). It wasn’t the most likely outcome, but that doesn’t make it a bad one. The WWE is injecting interest into this feud by keeping us guessing. Everyone expects Orton to turn on The Authority and set up a match against Rollins for Mania. When he doesn’t do it, you’re forced to watch next week to see where the story goes. For all the struggles WWE’s creative have had booking surprising feuds over the past few months, this was a good sign for the state of the Wrestlemania card.
  • Closing Thoughts: Looking back, there’s a lot for people to hate about this Raw, especially as it relates to Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan. No matter who you have come out and praise Reigns, you’re never going to get the smart fans behind him. The only way that’s happening is if Reigns demonstrates an improved in-ring product that screams “bad ass”. He began that move during Fastlane with some truly vicious strikes against Bryan. That needs to continue as we move forward toward Wrestlemania. With all that said, I thought this was actually a pretty good Raw to set up some of the stories for Mania. The WWE did a great job of building their stories without making the finishes completely obvious. That’s been a problem of late, so it’s great to see a Mania card that has some built-in intrigue. Here’s hoping the trend of solid booking continues over the next few weeks.

Far Cry 4 Review

Reviews

Far Cry 4 takes the well-respected and fun Far Cry 3 formula, adds a few new twists, and throws in a main storyline that actually matters. In fact, if you didn’t like Far Cry 3’s gameplay, the fourth entry probably won’t be up your alley due to how similar they are. That said, if you’re willing to play a mostly iterative experience, Far Cry 4 is an enjoyable experience.

As mentioned, the game controls very similarly to Far Cry 3, which that isn’t a bad thing. Far Cry 3 controlled like a dream and Far Cry 4 only builds on that. The guns feel tight and getting around the environment is a blast, especially with the Buzzer mini-helicopter. Various wildlife and enemies that interact with your player character and each other in interesting ways break up environment traversal.

It was pretty impressive the sheer number of times I was left dumbfounded by the things happening on my screen during normal (read: not a set piece) gameplay. You’ll see rhinos ramming into enemies’ trucks and tigers fighting against leopards over a recent kill. It doesn’t make a huge difference for gameplay, but it is fun to watch.

The weapons you use in Far Cry all feel so different that it’s worth the time to try out different combinations until you find the perfect setup for your play style. Personally, I stuck with the bow and arrow for the majority of the game (I was on a mean Arrow kick, while playing FC4), but found that, by the end of the game, some of the LMGs were just too powerful to pass up. That said, everything is viable and the developers give you a plethora of choices to tackle each obstacle in front of you.

Speaking of those obstacles, the activities and missions are pretty standard Ubisoft affair. You’re going to be climbing towers (or buying maps) to see various side quests available. There are still 20 or 30 outposts and fortresses for you to take over, which open up even more side quests. Heck, even the main story missions open up a fair number of side activities.

There’s so much content jam-packed into this game, that completing it can sometimes feel like a chore. Too much of the content is just filler to pad out your experience. Fortunately, the core gameplay is so solid that you’ll always be having fun; it’s just not always the most engaging experience. In some ways, the majority of Far Cry 4 feels like one of the best “podcast games” for the PS4. You don’t need to listen to the game. Just turn on your favorite podcast and lose yourself in the gameplay.

Far-Cry-4-1

Luckily, the main storyline goes out of its way to hold your attention. Throughout the campaign, you’re helping an organization known as the Golden Path to take down Kyrat’s evil dictator Pagan Min. What’s interesting is that the Golden Path has two leaders, Amita and Sabal, which you’re forced to choose between every few missions. These choices will dictate which person is going to be leading the Golden Path and will alter the missions you get.

The real attraction is Pagan Min, played expertly by Troy Baker. Min’s nearly as compelling as Far Cry 3’s Vaas, but what he lacks in crazy, he more than makes up in style. Plus, Min actually sticks around for the entire story instead of cutting out halfway through for a less compelling villain. And, depending on a few player choices, Min’s there at the end to deliver one hell of a twist at the end that completely turns the story on its head.

The narrative in Far Cry 3 left a lot to be desired, so it makes sense to go into Far Cry 4 not expecting much. That said, the choices I made actually provided an intriguing storyline. Min is obviously the character everyone is going to remember, but the story between Sabal and Amita might be the most interesting part. As you go through the campaign, you begin to see that things aren’t as black and white as they appear from the onset. You’re constantly confronted with choices that shape how you view the world of Kyrat. It quickly becomes apparent that no one is really the “good guy” in this story, and you simply have to make the best out of a very bad situation.

Online play is mostly restricted to five vs. five death matches and the edit-a-map mode. The death matches are fun for a time, but didn’t really hold my interest. To be fair, I’ve never been a competitive shooter fan; however, Far Cry didn’t seem to be doing anything different that would make it a revelation for “bro-shooter” fans.

The edit-a-map mode is interesting because it takes one of more fun elements of the main game (capturing outposts) and lets the community loose. There’s some crazy stuff in there and it’s worth taking some time to get in and experience them if you liked outposts in the main game. It’s not a mode for everyone, but anyone interested should find a plethora of options to greatly extend their playtime.

Far Cry 4 backs up its story and gameplay with solid visuals that ever so slightly improve upon Far Cry 3. I played through on the PS4 and it runs well there, though conventional wisdom (and reports on Far Cry 3) says the PC is the place to play, if your PC can run it.

Should You Play It? YES

 

Far Cry 4 might just be more of Far Cry 3, but, in this case, that is far from a bad thing. Ubisoft has an excellent job of taking that core Far Cry gameplay and making it much better, particularly narratively. The multi-layered story is interesting and engaging and the moment-to-moment gameplay is almost as good as Shadows of Mordor. Far Cry 4 is a great example of a company iterating on their property to polish it up as much as possible. If Ubisoft can do something similar to this with titles like Watch Dogs, the future could be very bright for the current generation.

Revenge of the Blue Pants (NXT Reactions, Feb. 18)

Wrestling
  • Kevin Owens’ “doing it for my family” gimmick is something I can’t recall ever seeing in the WWE. That immediately makes Owens an intriguing player because we don’t really know how far he’ll go to keep his belt. It’s a situation to monitor as we go forward and something that should play well for Owens as his career develops in the WWE. That gimmick works just as well as a face or a heel. With his heel persona, everything he does is, in his head, justified, so he can go further than anyone else would. As a face, it represents something for his heel opponent to attack (probably not literally) to goad Owens into making mistakes. It’s a very simple character, but it’s effective and someone many older fans can relate to. How many mothers and fathers out there would do anything for their family? I’m guessing most of them, and now they have a character they can easily relate to. That doesn’t necessarily translate to them rooting for Owens, but it will make them watch him.
  • So, Rhyno just came back to NXT, but wasn’t at the Royal Rumble in Philadelphia? Rhyno wasn’t a huge ECW alum, but he played a part in Paul E.’s company. Wouldn’t a Rhyno return mean more to Philly than, say, the Boogeyman? You would expect a bigger reaction there than on a random NXT episode. There can’t be any truth to the announcers saying Rhyno is in NXT to get his career back. Rhyno is a proven commodity who spent some time with the WWE in the 2000s and doesn’t need to “learn the WWE style”. That was a very weird return. At least the crowd was super into it.
  • As much as I think The Vaudevillains deserve a run with the titles, you have to give it up to Enzo and Big Cass actually putting together some quality in-ring action after being out of action for a while. Enzo isn’t a great wrestler and never will be. Big Cass has more potential in that respect, but could still use some work. That said, they delivered well tonight and actually looked like credible contenders. NXT has demonstrated they are no longer afraid to surprise their viewers, so, if Enzo and Big Cass can continue their upward trend maybe they’ll have title gold in their future.
  • Apparently, CJ Parker has now become the enhancement talent that every new NXT star has to beat up before they continue on with their career. That aside, Solomon Crowe’s entrance to NXT was pretty lackluster. Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, and Hideo Itami all had way grander entrances, which made Crowe’s feel kind of lame by association. It certainly begs the question that maybe NXT has setup these debuts too much with these Indie/foreign mega-stars. Will we see more introductions like Crowe when guys like Uhaa Nation or the Shoot Nation faction finally make their respective debuts? That could be for the best. The main event scene is becoming increasingly crowded for an hour-long show and if they hype up too many prospects, it’s going to get difficult to tell stories for all of them from week-to-week. Of course, there’s then the idea that NXT could move to a two-hour show and introduce a “mid-card” belt to bolster that portion of the crowd. We’re probably awhile from that happening, but it seems like NXT is trending toward becoming a longer weekly show, especially if they start touring as has been rumoring lately.
  • Sasha Banks continues to be the best women’s heel in the business. Oh, and Blue Pants is the world’s most hilarious underdog.
  • It’s interesting that Adrian Neville seemed to actually give Kevin Owens more of a fight that Sami Zayn did. It’s hard to say Nevill vs. Owens was better than Zayn vs. Owens, but it was right up there. Neville has more high-impact moves than Zayn, so it makes some sense that he could end up doing more damage than Zayn in a match against a monster. That said, Zayn was the champion when he fought Owens and Neville was just a challenger. At the end of the day, I suppose I’m just glad they look to be booking Owens strongly during his title run. Owens doesn’t need to win every match like Brock Lesnar, he just can’t be another Dolph Ziggler who loses all of his non-title matches when he’s holding a strap. Owens needs to win around 75% of his matches to fit his billing of a monster heel. That keeps him in that “basically impossible to beat” territory that monster heels need to live in. This makes them a gigantic accomplishment for whatever baby face finally takes the title off of him. In fact, I would have him beat Finn Balor when they finally meet and not lose for at least six or more months, depending on how long he’s going to be on the NXT roster. Much like Adrian Neville before him, Owens is a guy you can build the program around. Of course, you can say that about five or six guys on the roster, which means he’ll probably drop the belt in a month. Then again, having that many all-world stars on your roster is never a bad thing.

The Nature Boy (Raw Reactions Feb. 16)

Wrestling
  • Wow, look at John Cena actually making the US Title seem important. Its been the running joke for a few years now that the WWE doesn’t care about the Intercontinental and US titles; however, by putting big-name stars like Dean Ambrose, Bad News Barrett, and John Cena in the mid-card title picture, those titles are slowly becoming relevant again. Of course, the chances of Cena actually having an extended run with a mid-card belt are pretty low, but having the face of the company fighting for a “secondary” strap makes that division seem more credible. Now, the important thing is to continue this trend and actually put the mid-card champions in compelling feuds/let them defend their titles in high-quality matches. Oh, and please don’t have them lose every match that isn’t a title defense. It hasn’t worked for Dolph Ziggler and it won’t work for anyone else either.
  • Where has Luke Harper’s push gone? He was being used so often late last year and looked like the heir apparent to Kane or Big Show’s spot on The Authority. Unfortunately, that has yet to pan out. He’s got the look and the gimmick to pull off an enforcer role for Triple H and Stephanie and, unlike Kane and Big Show, can still go in the ring. However, since TLC in December, he hasn’t really done anything of note. It’ll be interesting to see what the WWE has planned for him at Wrestlemania. He’s proven himself to be a great wrestler for someone of his size (see: his matches with Dolph Ziggler over the IC title) and he’s effective on the mic. Is there any way he gets back with Bray Wyatt (who’s back to doing cryptic promos about someone he used to respect, or something like that)? Or is he just going to continue being a glorified “enhancement talent”, like in recent weeks?
  • Daniel Bryan’s commentary game is another level tonight. It’s not quite CM Punk on NXT Season 3, but it’s up there. Also, the “you can’t wrestle” chants were out in force tonight for Roman Reigns. You have to feel bad for the guy. It’s not like he did anything wrong during his monstrous push outside of not being able to talk as well as you’d like from a main event star. However, he’s been relentlessly booed on the lead up to Fastlane. Hopefully, this whole rigmarole doesn’t throw off his career. Reigns has great potential, its just not there yet, which is why people have reacted the way they have. If he gets through this without Vince McMahon turning sour on his character, he has a shot to be an exciting addition to the main event for the next five to ten years.
  • If Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler get to have a match at Wrestlemania, I won’t complain. They’re both incredible wrestlers and would have an excellent chance of absolutely stealing the show. That DDT from Ziggler was exceptional and it was the just the tip of the iceberg of what these two are capable of. Give these two 20 minutes and get out of the way. We’re not getting Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan, but we can have the next best thing. Sidenote: Please make sure we keep J&J Security and Ryback/Eric Rowan away from ringside. This needs to be a pure showcase of two of the best four or five wrestlers in the company.
  • This Triple H and Sting storyline continues to be compelling television, but you have to wonder exactly what they have planned for Fastlane. This is, very obviously, not a feud that’s ending at a pay-per-view that’s bookended by the two most important PPVs for the company. Therefore, the only logical way Hunter and Sting’s Fastlane ends is to have a non-finish that sets up the two for a Wrestlemania match. Will they let someone like Ric Flair interrupt and have the match end in a disqualification? Or will they go another way to get these two to Mania? This is shaping up to be the most intriguing feud at Fastlane. We should be in for a surprise this Sunday.
  • I’m loving this new wrinkle in the Miz-Mizdow relationship, especially when it lets Miz play his character with the unlikeablity we saw tonight. Miz is at his best when he plays the guy you want to see get the crap kicked out of, and he was on top of that game tonight.
  • Man, Bad News Barrett certainly took advantage of his time off from injury. Barrett always had great size, but now he’s absolutely shredded. Also, that was a fun and very Dean Ambrosey way of getting Ambrose a title shot at Fastlane. I approve of everything that happened in that Mizdow-Barrett contest.
  • Now that’s how you book a go-home show. The Sting-Triple H buildup has been the most interesting over the past few weeks, but Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns did an excellent job of drumming up interest in their feud with an exceptional end to Raw. Just a good, ole fashioned brawl that left both guys looking strong. The story is still a little dry because we already know where this is heading; however, that doesn’t seem to be holding them back right now.
  • Closing Thoughts: This Raw had a slow build to it that featured a lot of the exposition we’ve come to expect with some actual great wrestling thrown in for good measure. The Ziggler-Rollins match, in particular, stands out as a match that deserves to be seen again on a future pay-per-view. The real highlights were the buildup for the Sting-Triple H and Bryan-Reigns matches for Fastlane. Sting’s on-going feud with Hunter is the most compelling thing going in the current WWE climate and Bryan and Reigns have done a great job of wading through the Royal Rumble fallout to put on a solid feud of their own. Neither match will end with an actual finish at Fastlane, but they should be worth the wait.

Video Games I Wish I’d Played in 2014

Lists

I should start by saying that there are quite a few games that aren’t on this list that probably should be. The reason for that is that I choose to not list games on consoles I don’t own. Thus, you won’t be seeing things like Super Smash Brothers or Fantasy Life because I have yet to pull the trigger on a Wii U or a 3DS. So just know that, if I had a Nintendo console, this list would probably be chock full of them. Will 2015 be the year I buy a Wii U? Most likely. They’ve put out more than enough great software to make that system compelling, and the next time I see it on sale, it will likely be an immediate purchase. With all that said, let’s get to the games I wish I’d had the chance to play, but, for whatever reason, wasn’t able to get to in 2014.

The Banner Saga

Banner Saga is an experience I really want to have. The art style looks incredible and I’ve always been a sucker for hard, turn-based combat. Also, it’s a setting we haven’t seen much of in video games and I think it’s important to support developers who go outside the box for their story. That support is what’s keeping the industry from only using repetitive settings that line up with various marketing benchmarks (read: war shooters). The good news is that I’ve already purchased this game months ago. The bad news is that I continually put the Banner Saga on my back burner. I think the problem is that I bought the game at a time when I had no free time to play it. Which led to that initial interest slowly eroding over a few months. And now that I have time to play, there are new, shinier games coming out that I’m more immediately interested it. Thus, Banner Saga has quickly become one of those games that “I’ll get to, at some point…maybe”. Hopefully that point happens soon, because The Banner Saga 2 is coming, and I know I’m going to buy it.

Jazzpunk

Comedy is really hard to do in video games. Mostly because the player has so much control over what they’re doing and what they’re looking at, which makes it a struggle to really hit on your comedic timing. A lot of games have funny moments, but not many games can claim to be pure “comedies”. That’s why I’m so interested in Jazzpunk. From all the reviews and videos I’ve seen, Jazzpunk’s absurdist style is something everyone should really experience. I’ve attempted to stay away from any videos to keep my experience pure, but it was this recent Giant Bomb Quicklook, that finally convinced me to put down 15 bucks and buy Jazzpunk. Luckily, the game doesn’t appear to be too long, so hopefully it gets out of my backlog much quicker than The Banner Saga.

Dark Souls 2

Oh Dark Souls, why couldn’t you just release on the new-gen consoles? I actually rented Dark Souls 2 at one point for the Xbox 360, but I just can’t bring myself to turn on that old console anymore; no matter how badly I want to play a particular game. I know Dark Souls is out on PC, but this is a game I want to play on my big tv with a PS4 controller, not on my laptop’s 17’ screen. Luckily, Dark Souls 2 is going to see a new-gen release later in 2015; however, by that point, we’ll already have access to Bloodborne. Does anyone really have time to play both Bloodborne and Dark Souls 2 before the video game release schedule starts to speed up in the fall? I guess we’ll find out.

Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity is the only game on this list that I’ve actually started. My friend and I run a Youtube channel and Divinity is the first game we started playing in the new year. We’ve only put in about 2 or 3 hours so far, but I’m really enjoying the game. It’s a lot like Wasteland 2, which I’m also playing through on Youtube, but it lets you play the entire game co-op. The game doesn’t hold your hand, so having a friend to help with combat and figuring out puzzles makes Divinity much more enjoyable. Plus, listening to your friend suffer through trying to voice act a character with smoker’s lung is worth the price on its own. I fully expect that this game would’ve made it on my “Best of 2014” list if I’d been able to get to it in time. That said, if you like turn-based RPGs, this is one you should take a look at.

Freedom Wars/Danganronpa 2

I’m lumping these two together because they’re on the list for the exact same reasons. I’ve owned both these games for a few months now and really want to play them, but anytime I turn on my Vita I just keep playing Persona 4 Golden. Persona 3 is one of my favorite games of all time and I’m about 90 hours through its followup. P4G hasn’t quite grabbed me like P3P did, but it’s still a great game and I feel like I have to finish it before starting anything else on my Vita. Thus, games like Freedom Wars and Danganronpa 2 (and Citizens of Earth and Rainbow Moon and…you get the picture) are just sitting by my bed, constantly tempting me. I think I “only” have about 10 or 20 more hours left to go in Persona 4 (depending on how much grinding I need to do), so here’s hoping I can get to some of my other Vita titles before 2016 gets here.

Kentucky Route Zero

I have a pretty strict rule for episodic games that I don’t play or purchase them until all the episodes have released. Therefore, I don’t feel as bad about not playing Kentucky Route Zero as I do with other games on this list. That said, Route Zero just about made me break that rule when all the hype was coming down about Episode Three. I’ve tried to stay away from most information, but, from the limited stuff I have read, this sounds like the kind of game for me. It’s all about the story, with minimal gameplay. It sounds weird to be so excited for a game that’s barely a game, but I’ve almost always been more interested in how video games can tell an interactive narrative than anything else. Gameplay is important, but I get much more out of a game that has a great story and subpar gameplay than one with innovative gameplay and a crap story. Not everyone is like that, but that’s what makes video games so special. I can get my Kentucky Route Zero experience and others can get their Call of Duty. As long as they’re making both, we can all be happy.

Wildstar

I was lucky enough to get into one of the betas for Wildstar and I really enjoyed myself. I just didn’t enjoy myself enough to pay a monthly fee to play the game. If this were a free-to-play game (or even pay-to-play ala what Elder Scrolls Online is about to become) I could easily see myself losing weeks of 2014 to running about the world of Wildstar. Unfortunately, as long as Wildstar keeps its subscription fee, it’s going to be one of those games I wish I could play, but never will. And the problem with waiting so long to drop that fee, is that by the time you pull the trigger, a large portion of your playerbase will have moved on. If Wildstar ever does drop their fee, I’ll probably check it out. I just doubt it holds me like it would have if it had started without that sub fee. Oh well, at least I got to experience the beta. Maybe that’s enough for me.

You know it was a pretty solid year in video games (or I was just really busy with grad school) when you can list that many games for a list of games you didn’t even get to in 2014. Here’s hoping I can shrink this list when I write about 2015, but, who am I kidding? There are just too many good games coming out these days for anyone to realistically get to all of them. Plus, I’ll probably be playing Persona 4 until the day I die, so I’ll always have that gigantic Vita backlog. Well, time for me to get back to Inaba. See you next time!

Fight Owens Fight (NXT Takeover: Rivals Reactions, Feb. 11)

Wrestling
  • We’re five minutes in and NXT: Takeover Rivals is already well worth the price of admission. Tyler Breeze’s selfie stick might be the best thing Prince Pretty has ever done.
  • If Raw could replicate the level of creativity NXT brings each and every week, they might actually have a chance to compete with their developmental league. You’d never see someone on Raw or Smackdown use a ring post to increase the impact of their figure-four leglock in this day-and-age. That’s unfortunate because seeing wrestlers be creative can make a match interesting even if there isn’t a storyline. That’s what we’re seeing in the Breeze-Hideo Itami bout tonight, and it’s exactly what we should be seeing in Raw’s midcard.
  • That was an excellent way to start the night. Two great wrestlers putting together a perfect opening match. It probably won’t be the best match on the card, but it does set the table for some incredible wrestling. Itami and Breeze had a compact match that did just enough to whet the crowd’s appetite. This was like that big order of cheese fries you get at your favorite restaurant. They’re almost good enough that you just want it to be your main course, but that juicy burger just sounds too good to pass up later in the evening.
  • So, Baron Corbin still only knows about three moves. As great as his “presence” is, Corbin still has a lot to prove before I’m a believer in him as a Raw-level star. If anything, tonight just demonstrated how much further along Bull Dempsey is than Corbin (and that’s saying something). If Breeze and Itami were those out-of-this-world cheese fries, then Dempsey-Corbin was the glass of water you sip on until your waiter brings you the soda you ordered. Moving on.
  • The tag match between Blake and Murphy and the Lucha Dragons was equal parts amazing and sloppy. Both teams delivered their fair share of jaw-dropping spots; however, there were just as many awkward sequences that hurt the overall flow of the story being told. Unfortunately, that really hurt the match because the crowd just fizzled after the fourth or fifth botch. Because NXT’s crowd is so great, it makes a huge difference when they’re not into the match. That’s something you’re used to seeing on Raw, but NXT is a different animal. It’ll be interesting to see where the WWE goes from here with Blake and Murphy. They still seem more like transitional champions than anything else at this point, but maybe the Triple H has more faith in them than we know.
  • We have to wait a whole week for Solomon Crowe’s introduction to the NXT universe? I don’t know if I can make it.
  • Is there anyway Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens can top the display we just saw from Finn Balor and Adrian Neville? I would feel pretty comfortable putting money down on that being the match of the year, and its only February. Can you imagine what these two will do in five or ten years when they have a 30 or 40 minute match at Wrestlemania? I’m salivating at the thought. As the NXT crowd so eloquently said, “this is wrestling”, and this is why everyone should be watching NXT. Congrats to both guys for that performance and good luck to the two matches that are tasked with following that masterclass.
  • The personal beef developing between Corey Graves and Becky Lynch is just comedy gold. You have to wonder if Lynch is every going to publicly address Graves essentially calling her a poser every week.
  • When people talk about NXT wrestling, they often use words like jaw dropping to illustrate how great the product is. That said, my jaw literally dropped at the finish of that women’s’ match. I was fully expecting to talk about how well they did of making Charlotte look beatable in route to yet another successful title defense. And then Sasha Banks finally got her title. She’s one of the best heels in the business, regardless of gender, and it’s great to see her finally get her due. You’d expect that Charlotte finally losing the title would hasten her move to being a full-time performer on Raw. That’s probably good for both parties. Charlotte’s kind of done everything she can with the current crop of Divas in NXT and many of her matches are beginning to be stale. And NXT having a new women’s champion resets the deck and lets creative tell some new stories. However, you almost hate to see Charlotte leave because you know that she won’t get near as many pure wrestling matches as she does on NXT. We saw it happen with Paige, and I fully expect for the same to happen to Charlotte. Hopefully, as more NXT women make it to the main roster, the direction of that division will turn. But for now, it’s only prudent to take a pessimistic view on Charlotte’s prospects on Raw and Smackdown.
  • NXT really pulled out all the stops tonight, didn’t they? First, they gave us a match of year candidate between Adrian Neville and Tyler Breeze. Then, the women’s fatal four-way ended in a surprise win by Sasha Banks to finally undo Charlotte’s stranglehold of the Divas’ title. And finally, Kevin Owens just Brock Lesnared Sami Zayn in the main even to win the NXT title in what is one of the most surprising finishes we’ve seen in a long time. Owens always had a chance to win, but I don’t think many would’ve predicted that he’d win it in such dominating fashion. Owens is NXT’s top heel and everyone in the locker room just got put on notice. Zayn, on the other hand, will likely take a break from NXT TV and might be moving to Raw sooner rather than later. That said, there still seems to be a story to be told here. Obviously, Owens just wrecked Zayn, but it didn’t really feel like the end to their feud, did it? Only time will tell. However, the deeply personal storyline put on by Zayn and Owens has been the hottest feud of the new year and if NXT can milk another month or two out of it, why wouldn’t they?
  • Closing Thoughts: Whoever’s in charge of NXT really knows how to book a wrestling show. The only weak match on the card was Baron Corbin vs. Bull Dempsey, but expectations were low coming in. Every other match delivered in a big way. Whether it was the joy of incredible pure wrestling, a jaw-dropping title change, or an excellent in-ring story, this card was one of the best ones you’ll ever see. Do yourself a favor and go watch this if you haven’t.

Rules? What rules? (Raw Reactions Feb. 9)

Wrestling
  • I know I’m not a head booker for WWE, but is anyone else completely perplexed that they’re sending out a guy to lead the show that can’t get through a single promo without garbling his words. Roman Reigns is a lot of things, but he’s not a wordsmith. There’s something to be said about giving young guys an opportunity to shine; however, Roman has had countless opportunities and has yet to show improvement. I have no problem with Reigns as a championship contender. He’s got the look and power moves that will make casual fans pop like crazy. That said, homeboy needs to stay off the stick. At least Daniel Bryan came out to save the segment before The Authority walked out to do their same old song and dance.
  • I really hope that Katie Vick dig wasn’t pre-approved and Bryan just laid it out there for the hardcore fans.
  • Since when does throwing someone into the ringside dividers constitute a disqualification? This is a major problem with WWE today. There really are no rules, which means two things. First, it’s harder to be a true heel in today’s environment because there’s not a way for them to cheat. Second, it makes finishes like this feel fake and pointless because we don’t truly know what will lead to a DQ. If no one understands the rules (or more accurately, your rules don’t make sense), then how will anyone be able to judge the story you’re trying to tell? Even though WWE has pre-determined outcomes, it’s still important to frame that in a way that makes logical sense. Finishes like the one we just saw don’t do that.
  • That’s two-for-two tonight on non-finishes. Why can’t we just get actual endings to a contest? By doing what they did tonight with Ryback and Seth Rollins the WWE effectively makes both performers look weak. Ryback gets hit with yet another loss and Rollins shows once again that he can’t win matches on his own. It’s almost like the WWE is in a holding pattern until after Fastlane. They want to get their pieces in the right place, but don’t want to make a feud feel too stale before it blows off at Wrestlemania. Unfortunately, by staying with this apporach and not letting either star look strong you’re just hurting their future, along with the future of the WWE.
  • Can we just imagine for a second that the WWE didn’t so thoroughly botch Roman Reigns’ Royal Rumble victory? Think about the opportunity that would provide for the WWE to put on two career-making matches with Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar and John Cena vs. Rusev. With a win over John Cena, Rusev would absolutely skyrocket to the top of the card as a monster heel. Obviously, when John Cena is involved, it’s hard to imagine anyone else getting a “W”. However, the WWE needs a new monster heel to take over from Kane and Big Show. Letting Rusev go over on Cena at the grandest stage of them all would certainly send an emphatic message that Rusev is that guy.
  • A little over halfway through this episode of Raw and we finally get an actual finish to a match. Not only that but Bray Wyatt and Dolph Ziggler delivered an incredible bout tonight. When you mix Ziggler’s ability to sell and make everyone look great with Wyatt’s brawling, power style, you get great chemistry. I can’t remember these two having an extended program together, but it’s matches like tonight that make me hope for something to happen between Ziggler and Wyatt that lasts for two or three months. Ziggler had that Twitter feud with Bryan recently, but if nothing comes from that, it’d be great to see the Show-off meet up with the Eater of Worlds at Wrestlemania.
  • Can Paul Heyman just deliver everyone’s promo? Is that an option? That man could be selling me a box of cow poop and I’d give him whatever he asked for. He’s an incredible addition to the Raw roster and it’s going to be a terrible day when he finally has to hang up his microphone. There just isn’t anyone like Heyman on the wrestling scene, and there may never be another manager quite as good as Paul E.
  • As someone who never watched WCW or TNA during Sting’s runs in those companies, I can’t help but be impressed by how unsettling his appearances have been in the WWE. He is so different from anyone else on the roster that you can’t help being compelled to watch every time he’s on the card. It’s not the feud we could’ve had 14 years ago, but Triple H and Sting have done a great job slowly building up interest and intrigue for this contest. Hopefully, it lives up to the hype. Triple H has proven to be an excellent part-time competitor and I have no doubt he’ll bring his “A” game; however, Sting is 10 years older than Hunter and you have to wonder exactly how much he has left. That said, it would be shocking if the two legends didn’t steal the show at Fastlane.
  • You really hate to see someone as talented as Dean Ambrose (and for that matter, Bad News Barrett) regulated to a mostly Smackdown feud. Without an actual brand split, feuds on Smackdown just seem lesser than what’s happening on Raw. Therefore, the wrestlers whose feuds happen on Smackdown have the stigma of being lesser superstars. Ambrose has been in back-to-back mostly Smackdown feuds and that’s caused his stock to cool off some after how white-hot it was during his feud with Seth Rollins. Ambrose almost feels like the odd face out at this point, as the WWE focuses on Reigns, Bryan, and Ziggler. Of course, if they didn’t trot out 45 minutes of Authority programming each Monday, then they’d have more time for talented and over superstars like Ambrose to shine on the flagship show.
  • So, throwing someone into the ringside dividers equals a disqualification, but blatant outside interference means nothing? Does no one else have a problem with this? Can Vince McMahon actually lay out what the rules of wrestling are? Because right now I’m at a loss for how anyone is supposed to actually understand anything about this show. Should we just forget about any semblance of a rule system in the WWE and let the wrestlers do whatever fits the storyline? Doesn’t that immediately confuse your viewers? Am I overthinking this way too much? Probably. That said, it’s hard to get caught up in a product that barely even takes itself seriously. Outside of my personal problems with the WWE’s rule system, you have to wonder if the WWE is setting up Reigns for a heel turn. It certainly merits some consideration due to the reactions he received from the WWE Universe after the Royal Rumble. However, it almost seems like a knee-jerk reaction that’s just pandering to fans. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with pleasing your fans, it’s just questionable booking to let the fans dictate your booking plans completely. After all, the WWE is trying to tell a story and one would assume that there is some forethought in how that those stories will play out. Letting your fans decide the story means that you failed to read them and, more importantly, you’re letting them railroad you into the story they want. Sometimes, that’s great. Other times, people don’t really know what they want until they get it. If the WWE continues to bow to their fans, they won’t be able to produce the compelling and surprising storylines that make people watch. Here’s hoping the WWE sticks to their guns and books this angle in a way that works for both sides.
  • Closing Thoughts: This Raw was pretty boring, with the WWE content to mostly stay in a holding pattern before Fastlane. Sadly, that means some of the larger problems with today’s WWE really stood out and emerged as the big talking points. WWE’s lack of a structured rule system and their complete mishandling of Roman Reigns continue to haunt them and it’s hard to see either things changing for the better before Wrestlemania. Oh well, at there’s NXT to watch!