Thoughts: Yakuza 0

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If you’re into anime at all1 you’ve probably seen One Punch Man. One Punch Man was something of an anime phenomena a few years ago; it’s essentially a comedy that mercilessly parodies all of the cliched Dragonball Z knockoffs out there, while also having the self-awareness not to fall into the same traps by delivering some exquisitely well-animated fight scenes interspersed with a plot decent enough to stitch them together and held up by believable, natural character arcs. Basically, it’s an anime that has its cake and eats it too; it’s a parody of action anime that’s also a better anime, period, than the things it’s parodying. I mention this because watching One Punch Man is the best analogue I can come up with for what playing Yakuza 0 feels like — of course it’s a little different, as Yakuza is first and foremost a crime drama about factional politicking within the Japanese yakuza, but the dramatic story bits are juxtaposed with scenes of such insane frivolity that it can’t help but feel like it’s taking the piss out of itself at the same time.

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  1. I’m not all that much, but I’ll idly watch stuff when it shows up on Netflix in the hope that it’ll be entertaining.
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Thoughts: Hollow Knight

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For someone who really likes the Metroidvania style of games1 it’s possibly a little strange that it’s taken me this long to get around to playing Hollow Knight. It came out at the start of last year, it costs almost nothing (thanks to Brexit any game priced at £10 or less counts as “almost nothing” these days), it looks absolutely gorgeous and it’s by far the most Metroidvania game I’ve played since Portrait of Ruin of my ancient DS. These are all significant points in Hollow Knight’s favour, but counting against it is a word that is rather unfortunately all the rage these days: Soulslike.

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  1. In which levels are linked together into a sprawling world with lots of alternate routes and secret areas gated by mobility powerups such as double jump and wallclimb.
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Thoughts: The Banner Saga 3

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Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. This won’t do at all.

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Thoughts: Wolfenstein 2 – The New Colossus

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Not really played anything worth writing about in the last two weeks. I’d like to keep up some sort of momentum, though, and so went back and finished off this review of Wolfenstein 2, which was mostly written at the end of October last year but which I never got around to putting up on the blog.

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Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus strikes me as an exceedingly confused game.

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Thoughts: Vampyr

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Vampire legends have been around for centuries. At first the product of superstition and folklore, they’ve transitioned into the modern age almost seamlessly, and this is thanks to a reinvention of the vampire from monstrous, decomposing bloodsucker to a charismatic, ageless villain. This modern vampire is almost ubiquitous in fiction and has achieved its tremendous success for two reasons. One is the sexy allure of vampirism, which has driven the creation of so many novels that there’s now a dedicated subcategory for them in many bookshops called Paranormal Romance. The other, though, is that being a vampire is increasingly portrayed as A Generally Awesome Experience. Vampires are superhumanly strong and fast, have mind control powers, do not age, and regenerate from almost any wound — and that’s before you start mixing in author-specific traits such as the ability to transform into animals and sparkling in sunlight. It’s no coincidence that a lot of modern vampire fiction tends to gloss over the less salubrious aspects of vampirism, like the blood drinking or the inability to go sunbathing; nobody really wants to spend much time dwelling on the drawbacks when it’s far more fun to treat it as the ultimate power fantasy.

It is something of a shame, then, that nobody told Dontnod any of this when they were developing Vampyr.

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Thoughts: Cultist Simulator

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The very first thing you see upon loading Cultist Simulator for the first time is a black screen with some white text. The top half of this text is a suitably otherworldly quote from one of Cultist Simulator’s fictional occult authors, but the bottom half consists of the following, far more foreboding statement:

Explore. Take risks.

You won’t always know what to do next. Keep experimenting, and you’ll master it.

In a way I suppose this is at least thematically appropriate. With these four short sentences Cultist Simulator managed to instill a feeling of nameless dread before I’d even gotten into the game proper. Unfortunately it wasn’t the dread of eldritch abominations or unspeakable nightmares, the sort of thing which a game called Cultist Simulator might choose to make its stock in trade. Instead I was assailed with a dire premonition that I was, once again, about to embark upon an unpleasant journey into the waking nightmare that is the Trash Game Dimension.

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Thoughts: Pillars Of Eternity 2 – Deadfire

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I must admit to approaching Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire with an unaccustomed mix of resentment and resignation. It’s a feeling that reflects Obsidian’s fall from grace; after Pillars 1 and Tyranny, both extremely flawed games with only the Obsidian-brand reputation and faction systems to really make them stand out, in my eyes they’re no longer the accomplished masters of quest and mission narrative who came up with Mask of the Betrayer, Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol. Partially this is to do with other RPG developers raising their game, but there’s very little separating Tyranny from something like Torment: Tides of Numenera and Obsidian games have to do rather more to sell themselves to me these days. I had all but ignored the Deadfire crowdfunding campaign, was not really up for another game set in the rather tedious Pillars world, and only really bought it because I was done with BattleTech and Thrones of Britannia really wasn’t grabbing me.

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