It’s August 2016 and I finally Played The Last of Us

Just going to say this early on that this post will contain major spoilers for the game.

You good?

Okay. Onward.

Overall thoughts: I would recommend the game to others. Aside from narrative, how much I was entertained by a game is a huge factor in whether or not I enjoy it. I will also say that the entertainment spiked in the beginning and then didn’t quite resurface until the last third of the game for me. However, there is A LOT that this game offers and I fully acknowledge it.

Favorite things: Soundtrack, environment, character development, writing, and voice acting.

Not so favorite things: Mechanics, story.. did I mention mechanics?

I do realize that I have an unpopular opinion here when I say that story wasn’t  my favorite thing. And let me differentiate between writing and story. The dialogue was superb. I loved the characters and how their paths were executed. But the story as a whole didn’t grasp me. I will explain that later.

I believe there are quite a few things that have affected my experience of the game.

The hype. As much as I try to stay away from hype (as opposed to strong recommendations), I do believe the constant telling of “OMFG THIS IS THE BEST GAME EVER. IT’S MY FAVORITE. YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE IT” killed some of the hype I would have experienced with it. I try to keep my expectations to a reasonable standard, but once I announced my desire to play the game, my expectations of it inevitably grew. I wanted my feelings to mirror those of who played the game previously. More than a few people have told me that they wish they could wipe the game from their memory just so they could experience it again. That’s quite a compliment. Unfortunately, after completion, it ended up being that I did not share the sentiment.

Streaming. Entertaining an audience while trying to focus on a game exhausts a lot of energy. I think I did a pretty good job of equally distributing my energy between the two, so I can’t fully say if this contributed to me not being completely connected to the game. I know how I feel once I bond to a game regardless if I am streaming or not, and I did not quite feel that with TLoU though I really wanted to.

Predictability. Aside from David being revealed to be creepy AF (seriously, eff that guy), the story was highly predictable. It wasn’t hard to determine what would happen to who ie…Tess and Henry, and it was pretty easy to figure out how the game would end. Admittedly, I was about 80% right. For fun, I will write out how the ending played out in my head. I came up with the scenario after I played the Winter chapter. And hands down, Winter was the best part of the entire game aside from the DLC.

However, as I said before, I separate writing from overall story. I very much enjoyed the characters. They were done so well, even David. Each of them served a purpose, each of them were different and held their own. I don’t believe there was a weak character in the story. Certainly, some were held longer in the spotlight than others, but I didn’t feel that any of them were filler or fluff. I didn’t have to question why they existed. Even a damn deer played an important role.

The game itself was damn beautiful. That paired with its amazing effing soundtrack was such a lovely experience for those particular senses. I couldn’t get over the details of the world. Everything about the environment was 10/10 would stare at again. The parts that were beautiful were mesmerizing and the parts that were meant to scare you were pretty terrifying. Seriously, hats off to the teams who were involved with all of the above. My eyeballs and earholes thank you.

What did take me completely away from the game many times was the mechanics. I. Loathed. The. Mechanics. Most of my rage spewed out of me whenever an NPC was being anything but stealthy or when I had to make sure that I had my firearm selected because I couldn’t remember exactly what I had currently equipped in my invisible arsenal. Seriously, the gun would be holstered after about five seconds of inactivity. Anything you would have equipped (bow, firearm, smoke bomb) would be “put away” after inactivity, however, when it came down to the second you needed your firearm, that trigger function would bring up whatever item you selected last. You ever try to shoot a Clicker with a mine? It’s not very effective.

I’m horrible at stealth games, always have been. I was genuinely scared that a lot of the gameplay in TLoU relied on stealth, but I did my best. It was incredibly difficult for me to gauge how far away I had to be from infected so they wouldn’t be able to detect me. It was near impossible for me to effectively use bottles and bricks because everywhere I threw them, they were apparently just outside of an enemy’s “awareness range” or what have you. And if I was successfully sneaking around, an NPC would just fire a round off and alert the whole damn city where we were. That last one enraged me to no end. If a game wants to add stealth, then either give a player NPCs that are also stealthy or give the player the option to make an NPC aggressive or pull back entirely. I cannot tell you how many times Ellie or Bill or whoever got me killed or made my experience a living hell because they were too trigger happy.

The ending. Just FYI, this is my blog, so I’m writing entirely in my own opinion. I was fine with the ending up until Joel lied. Now there’s a lot to process here. Is Joel a bad man? Yes and no. He acted as I think most loving parents would. I did say multiple times that I believe Joel would say “phuq mankind” in the end and he did. I did not anticipate him doing the same to Ellie. What I mean by that is by lying to her, he effectively damaged or even destroyed his relationship with her. All that time building that bond, putting up with all the BS that the world had to throw at them and he lies to her. She’s not stupid. She already has her suspicions and I don’t think she bought his “yeah, I was telling the truth” either.

Is Joel a good man? Yes and no. He’s an average guy who was placed in very traumatic situations. He has protected people he’s cared for, but it’s no secret that he’s done some shady shit in his past. He has never been completely selfless, so it wasn’t a surprise for me when he took Ellie from the Fireflies. But I was not expecting him to be so selfish as to lie to her. I think it was part a) he knew Marlene was right and that Ellie would sacrifice herself b) he didn’t want to lose a second daughter  and c) he would rather Ellie hate him while she was alive.

I don’t think he realizes that her hating him for what he did will be, in a way, worse than if she were dead. Should she figure out that he lied, she could do everything she can to leave him and go back to the Fireflies. The world had taken everyone she ever loved from her. And now the one person she loves betrays her; she wouldn’t be able to trust again and could set her down an escalated tragic hero path. Speculation, but the lying just threw me. It struck me as instead of the Fireflies killing her, he did, but metaphorically.

I could write a lot more, but this post is long enough as it is. Bottom line is that the good things about the game were great and the bad things about the game made me miserable. I recognize why so many people have such high praise for TLoU, and while I wouldn’t say that the game is a top 3 favorite, there is no doubt that it’s a good game overall, and again, I would recommend it to friends.

If you care to read more, this was my end game prediction I concocted in my head after I played Winter. I’m more than likely going to write this as a fanfiction. Don’t judge. Fanfiction is awesome.

Joel and Ellie would make it to the Fireflies. Of course, they have every intent on creating a cure; however, they find that the process to make this vaccine would ultimately end up killing Ellie. And it wouldn’t be a humane death. She would suffer. Joel wasn’t going to have any of that. So he thinks “phuq mankind” and tries to bust him and Ellie out of there. He fails. Ellie ends up mid-process in whatever round of testing they run on her, it goes wrong and she’s in so much pain ,there is no way to reverse it or help her. Joel is placed in a very emotional position. He makes the decision to kill her. The last scene is Ellie’s grave next to Sarah’s and he’s singing to them.

The refreshing experience that is Quantum Break

Remedy Games has created a special little gem with Xbox/PC exclusive Quantum Break and it has become a very notable gaming experience for me for a variety of reasons. I rarely read or watch reviews of games I know I will play, so I went into the game almost completely blind. I knew only that time travel was the main theme, it was a third person shooter, and the game was split into an episodic format.

I was grateful to receive a code of the game from a friend right before launch, so I decided to stream the entire experience. There are only a handful of games that I have played on launch date. I believe the last one was Dragon Age Inquisition, so to have the ability to play QB on April 5th was pretty special.

Off the bat, I experienced a pretty brutal download time; however, I don’t feel that should detract the experience of the game itself. Saying slow download times makes a game bad is like giving a one star review of a product on Amazon because the shipping box it came in was damaged. Once the download was complete, I hopped on Twitch and let friends know I was diving in QB.

When it comes to understanding the details of time travel, I get lost, but I was pretty happy with how the story presented itself. QB gave you some time (hah, badumtss!) to understand your surroundings and the environment. The game is pretty linear but if you are ever lost, your character, Jack Joyce, will give you hints along the way of where to go and/or what to do. Very helpful for someone like me since I am guaranteed to go through a few rounds of “wanderage” (as dubbed by my community) in every game I will ever play.

The game is also split between gameplay and live action sequences. That was SO cool. I was taken back by how pretty QB is. Look at this!

Cut scene in game.

3004874-quantum_break_jack_joyce_1_v2

Live action

Quantum-Break-Beth-Wilder-large_trans++NJjoeBT78QIaYdkJdEY4CnGTJFJS74MYhNY6w3GNbO8

Holy phuq.

Each scene was well done, the acting was awesome and there wasn’t much of an immersion break between them. I highly dislike moments in video games that jolt your mind around and make you lose focus, but the transitions between the game itself and live action episodes were smooth and didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story.

QB isn’t a very long game. It’s actually possible that you would spend more time reading up on the exposition of the story and exploring the immediate world around you. There’s tons of narrative items that you can collect throughout the game and they only add to an already solid experience. With straight gameplay on normal difficulty, I believe the game can be completed within 15 hours.

There’s also replay value! Love that. There are major choices that you can make in the game that would ultimately affect experiences for yourself, your playable character and NPCs. I have only played QB all the way through once, so I am looking forward to making completely different choices in my second run.

I loved the characters. I especially adored the interactions between Jack Joyce and his brother, William Joyce. They are played by Shawn Ashmore and Dominic Monaghan respectively. Great chemistry. And Aidan Gillen‘s performance is top notch (as always). The acting is good. So good that I wish I had a face cam up and running while I was streaming because my reactions to very emotional and pivotal scenes would have been entertaining for people. I may have gotten a little lost when it came to time travel discussion, but the characters themselves were written so well, it was amazing to see how easily and strongly I bonded to them. And surprisingly, my favorite character ended up being someone I initially hated! That’s very rare for me. Kudos to the writers of QB. I would like to high five you all.

I will close my thoughts about QB with a little sentimental note that was very special for me. When I streamed QB the second time, I had a pretty awesome visitor stop by to say hi.

Capture

Aside from the obvious “this is amazing!” gut reaction, this also makes me happy because here is someone who engages and interacts with his community and that speaks volumes to me. I hope I can meet him one day and thank him personally for being such an awesome and down to earth guy.

Overall, Quantum Break is refreshing to me, and I encourage friends and fellow gamers to check it out. 9/10 will play again.

Also, this post serves as my official request for a sequel.

New Guilty Pleasure: A mobile app called Tiny Tower

Thanks to technology, I find my attention span shorter than my 4’11” mother. I absentmindedly reach for my phone and open the mobile apps that currently litter the first two pages of my “iphone desktop”. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, I found myself downloading Tiny Tower, a free mobile app available for iOS and Android, created by NimbleBit. It starts off with a very easy to understand 2 minute tutorial and then off you go to build your tower full of 8bit sims or bitizens.

It’s a basic concept. In order to add more floors to your tower, you need to build shops, restaurants, etc… and in order for those levels to be successful you need to hire competent workers. When you build a residential floor, five bitizens can move in, and they each have their own skillsets. Match their skills with a suitable business, and you will receive a discount whenever you need to restock your inventory. Three bitizens can be assigned to one business floor and five bitizens can move into a residential floor.

Image

One of the hooks for me is that you can rename the floors, customize their colors, and you can also customize the colors of the clothes your bitizens wear. If you are feeling particularly mean or evil, you can also evict bitizens that do not fit your business needs.

Image

How do you get money to build more stuff? Once a floor is created and workers have been assigned, random bitizens will make purchases on that floor and that is how you obtain income. Once a day, you will also receive rent money from the residential floors.

How does real money get involved? There’s always a hook to make real life purchases with these apps. If you notice in the above picture, there is a little green rectangle that resembles a standard cash bill. You can accumulate these in the following ways:

Image

1) Random bitizens will enter an elevator and request that you send them to a certain floor. There will be instances when that sim will “tip” you a Tower Buck.

2) Occasionally, there will be a “find the sim” moment where you are given a picture of a sim that needs to be located and you must look through each floor to find that sim. A Tower Buck is rewarded to you once the target is found.

3) If a bitizen is assigned to their dream job, you will be awarded two Tower Bucks.

4) If you build a new floor, you are rewarded a Tower Buck.

5) And of course, if you want to, you can pay real money to get Tower Bucks.

Why are Tower Bucks so special? The gold coins are used for restocking inventory and for building a new floor. Tower Bucks are essential because they affect the time factor of the game. Example: if a new floor is being built, it may take a couple of hours (in real time) to be completed. You can use Tower Bucks to speed up the process so that the floor is finished immediately. It is the same concept for restocking inventory of your businesses. Out of sushi? It may take 30 minutes in order to restock the ahi tuna; however, if you spend a Tower Buck, your stock will be replenished immediately.

Special note: Sometimes you will have VIP visitors and each of them have a different function. Some will buy out your entire floor’s inventory while others will help find bitizens to rent rooms from you. Be sure to use them wisely.

And of course, the higher the tower, the longer it will take to maintain everything. All in all, I really love this game and it has kept me entertained for days.  And if I’m ever caught waiting for something to be built or restocked, I just head on over to Candy Crush or Dungeon Raid for puzzle goodness.

Special observation: If you have an iPhone 5, your tower will look longer. Just sayin’.