The Critical Quickie: The Disappointment, The Endearing, and The Epic

The Critical Quickie: Part 2

It’s been a long time, but I finally have some finished games in my back pocket to bust out another edition of The Critical Quickie. For anyone who hasn’t read this column yet and wants to know the idea behind it, refer to the original article here for your edification.

Without further ado, let’s get started…………

Halo 5

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The Halo series has been a ride of ups and downs, with Halo 1 redefining the FPS genre, Bungie had a responsibility to continue creating greatness, but that burden was too great for them as Halo 2 was borderline abysmal, and Halo: Reach being a downright waste of money.  Halo 3 was a decent entry in the series, and probably at the time the best one since Halo 1, but nothing could come quite close to the miracle that was Halo 1. Until Studio 343 Industries came along………

Halo 4, the first game in the series developed by 343i instead of Bungie decided to throw away the trainwreck of a story that the Halo series had become, and bring the franchise back to its roots that made it so great in the beginning. I don’t want to spend too much time on Halo 4 since this isn’t what this is about, I will say that leading into Halo 5, Cortana’s descent into rampancy was enthralling, and a performance that is what video game voice actors should be awarded for. Halo 5 is the result of what happens with Cortana, and it continues to be an incredibly epic adventure that has you not only play as Master Chief’s squad, searching for Cortana, but also as the squad sent to capture him. While the game play suffered from certain issues such as somewhat repetitive boss battles and gun-type shortages, the story and fluidity of the game made sure that it didn’t become boring, and kept you engaged in the game at all times. That I believe, is something all games should strive for, quality over quantityi

I’m sure anyone that got Halo 4 probably got Halo 5 as well, barring a lack of a Xbox One, but I recommend that any early fan of the Halo series give 4 and 5 a chance, as they’re the titles that brought me back from the brink of dropping a series that I tried to continue to love.

 

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

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I greatly enjoyed the first Mirror’s Edge, the idea of just running and jumping over obstacles to complete your puzzle-ish objectives in a Dystopian world was refreshing, much like Portal I enjoyed the new idea and it was something that piqued my interest more than your typical FPS style of game. Needless to say, I was very excited for Catalyst as I’d been wanting a sequel for the longest time and when EA finally announced it, I was jumping for joy. And then the game came out.

I’m not sure what the director thought that people enjoyed from the first game, and it feels like they tried to stuff a bunch of stuff into this game to make it seem like a grand sequel, but all it did was detract from what really made the first game fun. I will say that I appreciated the removal of weapons in this game, but in its place came a very stiff and redundant style of melee combat that made me annoyed every time I ran into a bad guy that I wasn’t allowed to just run past. I think that some more evasion based encounters would have been more appropriate for the game, where maybe every encounter was a puzzle of sorts where you had to figure out how to avoid the enemies attack patterns in order to get past them, or trigger a sequence where you would just knock them out if you were successful. As it stands, you either repeatedly use these Parkour based attacks over and over again, until the enemies are dead, or mash a button for the same 3-hit combo that stops even being a viable option less than halfway through the game.

The biggest flaw with this game though, is the introduction of the open-world platform. Like many games these days, developers seem to think that in order for a game to be successful it needs an open-world, but with Mirror’s Edge, it only hurt it, a lot. I enjoyed in the first Mirror’s Edge that you were always going to new areas, linearly, seeing new environments, and figuring out how to traverse over new areas all the time. Now with an open-world system, you’re constantly returning to a base after missions, and re-visiting areas constantly, and while this is fine in many other types of games, it feels extra repetitive and out of place in Mirror’s Edge.  The other reason I believe they went towards the open-world system was to have these run challenges and player-based content around the world that give you more stuff to do once you’ve beaten the main story, as well as missions which are all either delivering a package (makes sense) or dispatching enemies that offer little to zero fun in fighting. Any game that relies on player-based content to keep replay value up, is not a good gameii

I could go on about many other issues, but I’ll lay this game to rest by touching on the story. I could explain the whole story in 5 minutes, and it’s not even worth it. Original Mirror’s Edge didn’t have a spectacular story either by any means, but at least it wasn’t as unoriginal and trope-tastic as Catalyst. Although I’m not one to generally knock a game for having a crappy story, many games with such lackluster plots can still employ a fun game nonetheless, unfortunately Catalyst fails to do even that. I don’t recommend any fans of the first game pick this up until it goes down to at most $30.

Tales of Zestiria

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I haven’t played as many JRPGs as most fans of the genre probably have, but recently I’ve found myself really enjoying the dynamic gameplay associated with such titles. I played Tales of the Abyss a long time ago, and tried a few others when I was younger, but I didn’t quite have the patience for them. Thousands of hours into MMORPGs later, I’ve found myself, a changed gamer, enjoying JRPGs a lot more, so I’ve been trying out different titles and even some older ones recommended to me.

Tales of Zestiria is an interesting and enjoyable game, but definitely not perfect. I was very excited for this game since having play various other Tales games, I was looking forward to the fast-paced transitioning shown in trailers for Zestiria where your battles would take place right where you walked into the enemy, and not some arbitrary arena textured to look like the area you’re in after a not-too-long, yet annoying loading pause for the battle. To my pleasure, this new system along with the fluid Tales of combat style, really made fighting mob after mob truly enjoying and not a chore.  Unfortunately, it looks like the developers couldn’t quite get the camera system perfect to work alongside the dynamic arenas, as sometimes your camera would get too zoomed in, or even behind a wall so you couldn’t even see what you were doing. I realize that creating a completely new system would have some bugs, but I feel like this is something they could have fleshed out a bit more before the final release. Luckily boss fights happened in predetermined areas so you didn’t get messed up in the actual difficult battles.

If there’s one thing that sets this game apart from many JRPGs I’ve played, it’s the characters, and the characters are what truly drove this game for me. I can’t think of any other game in the genre where I actually liked all of the characters a lot, and in Zestiria they all have their own endearing charm that’s portrayed between themselves, and each of them towards the world. The story leaves quite a bit to be desired, but where the game lacks in plot, it makes up in gameplay and character interactions that leave a loving, lasting impression on the player. Tales of Zestiria definitely isn’t the most iconic, or highly praised Tales game, but I believe overall it’s a fine addition to the series, and not one that would drive fans of the franchise away from continuing to play more in the future. If you like Tales of I say give this game a shot.

P.S. The Japanese voice actress for Lailah, Miyu Matsuki, passed away shortly after this game’s release, making this her last performance. Rest in Peace, you were great.

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