Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Rise of the Tomb Raider

Playing through all the Uncharted games last year may have ruined Tomb Raider for me.

Adventuring through my backlog of games, one game at a time. 

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Played On: PlayStation 4

A funny thing happened on my way to playing the second game of the rebooted Tomb Raider trilogy: I played all five Uncharted games. Particularly Uncharted 4 and The Lost Legacy have set my personal standard for cinematic third-person action games. I couldn’t help but constantly compare them to everything that annoyed me about Rise of the Tomb Raider, resulting in an experience that is middling at best.

The Uncharted comparisons are not entirely fair. Rise of the Tomb Raider precedes Uncharted 4 by a year, but such is the curse of backlog gaming!

Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Rise of the Tomb Raider”

Kingdom Hearts 3 Has a Nostlagia Problem [Pixelkin]

Read the full opinion piece at Pixelkin

A YA-friendly, easy-to-play action-adventure that explores and celebrates Disney animated movies should be a winning formula. It certainly was in 2002 when the original Kingdom Hearts launched on the PlayStation 2. The popularity of the series and decade plus drought of a main-line game created a huge amount of anticipation for Kingdom Hearts 3.

Unfortunately, Kingdom Hearts 3 feels like a PS2 game in all the worst ways.

Read the full opinion piece at Pixelkin

My Top Ten Games of 2018: #3

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Dead Cells
#9 Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
#8 Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee!
#7 Frostpunk
#6 Jurassic World Evolution
#5 Into the Breach
#4 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

#3 Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC, PS4

I’m not an old school Dragon Quest fan but I’m also not quite a newcomer. I fell in love with Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies back in 2009 on the Nintendo DS, then recently dabbled in the 3DS remakes of Dragon Quest 7 and 8.

The series defiantly sticks to its very traditional JRPG roots, and Dragon Quest 11 is no different. It’a tale as old as time, or at least the mid-80s. You play as the chosen one, an orphan from a small village, where you set off to gather a group of diverse friends and travel across a pristine fantasy land full of monsters and dungeons.

Yet within that seemingly stale plot the world comes alive thanks to Akira Toryiama’s colorful art style and some of the best writing and voice acting I’ve ever seen in a Japanese RPG. Yes there’s a big bad villain out there but it’s really more about the engaging microstories of each town, like the mermaid who fell in love with a sailor, or the kidnappings around a fighting arena. When the main story does pick up it definitely delivers with several legitimately shocking twists, including a stunning moment that gave me fond flashbacks of one of my all-time favorite games, Final Fantasy 6.

The party members are all amazing, memorable characters with their own emotional hangups and narrative arcs. It’s easily my favorite cast since the last good Mass Effect or Dragon Age. All their perceived archetypes defied my expectations. On the surface Sylvando looks like a hyper-homosexual joke, but his bravery, quick wit, and endless optimism makes him my favorite character of the year.

Many RPGs live and die by their combat system and Dragon Quest‘s traditional turn-based battles is simple yet effective. Seeing enemies on the world map gives me the agency to choose when to fight, and not once in my 60 plus hours did I ever feel the need to grind. Each party member has their own skill tree to develop, giving them far more distinct roles and personalities than previous Dragon Quest games of mixing and matching classes, and discovering new combos and synergy remained satisfying throughout the lengthy campaign.

Dragon Quest 11 also includes lots of helpful modern game design features that really makes everything go down smoothly, like the ability to swap out party members in the midst of combat, frequent campsites between towns to rest and heal, and a surprisingly enjoyable and rewarding crafting minigame.

If you’ve ever sighed wistfully and declared that they don’t make them like they used to in regards to traditional RPGs, Dragon Quest 11 is here to grab you by the arm and usher you into a gloriously sincere world of monsters and charm.

Dragon Quest 11 Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

It’s easy to get jaded about the RPG genre, specifically Japanese RPGs. Every trope has been well-worn, every character archetype has been fully exploited. Dating back to the 1980s the Dragon Quest series is one of the most egregious examples of many tiresome gameplay elements and story beats.

Yet each new Dragon Quest game proves why the series remains beloved and resilient. With an irresistible charm, modern design conveniences, and excellent writing, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is a wonderful RPG for newcomers and a delightful return for series veterans.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Dragon Quest 11 First Impression [Pixelkin]

Read the full article at Pixelkin

I’m about a dozen hours into Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age and the smile has rarely left my face. Dragon Quest is one of the most resilient RPG franchises in video game history. The latest installment proves why it’s such a winning formula by embracing its classic roots while sprinkling in many welcoming improvements and features.

If you’re a newcomer to the series, Dragon Quest is a bit like Final Fantasy. It’s a classic 50+ hour Japanese RPG with each entry a standalone adventure (save DQ 10, which was an MMO).

Read the full article at Pixelkin

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

It took five years to get a sequel to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. How does Mankind Divided hold up?

Check out my previous Final Thoughts for Rogues’ Adventures. Keep up with my adventures in backlog gaming via the Facebook group.

Rogues’ Adventures Season Eight

Final Thoughts #59

Developer: Eidos Montréal

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: August 23, 2016

I’m finally back on the backlog gaming grind! As I feared I already got behind in my first game of season eight, but not nearly as bad as last season.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the long-awaited sequel to 2011’s Deus Ex reboot/prequel, Human Revolution. I adored Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It presented a unique mixture of open-world RPG with linear missions that still offered plenty of options and ways to tackle them. The stealth gameplay and cool cyber-tech stuff was top notch.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is basically more of the same. That makes it a solid sequel, but it’s astonishing that it took five years. Many of the basic gameplay mechanics, particularly the UI, now feel dated. The story is decently compelling as you work as an agent to foil a terrorist plot, but it feels like it’s building to a much grander tale only to abruptly end once the immediate threat is over. Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided”

Dragon Quest VII Review [Pixelkin]

If you have the time to dig in this 3DS remake should easily become the definitive version of Dragon Quest VII.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Back when the original Dragon Quest VII (called Dragon Warrior VII in the US) was released for the Sony PlayStation in 2000, it was already dated. The old-school 2D sprites were a big step backward compared to Final Fantasy VII’s fully 3D polygons. This new 3DS remake brings a much-needed graphical facelift, improved translations, and streamlined additions to entice turn-based JRPG fans to one of the genre’s forgotten gems.

Dragon Quest VII is all about time travel. Your hero and some childhood friends open an ancient shrine on your home island – the only island in the world. The shrine contains portals to other islands in the past. Each new island brings new characters, quests, monsters, and dungeons. The islands then appear in the present for even more monster-slaying content.

Time-travel requires assembling the tablet portals from fragments you find scattered throughout these islands. The main story focuses on exploring new islands, righting the wrongs of the past, and defeating Dragon Quest’s colorful array of enemies.

READ THE FULL REVIEW AT PIXELKIN