Quickie Reviews #12

Fallout 4: Automatron
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If you missed my 2015 Game of the Year post, it’s important to note that I named Fallout 4 as my game of the year. If you didn’t really care for the game or thought it was too similar to Fallout 3, then Automatron probably isn’t for you. But, if you enjoyed Fallout 4 and are happy experiencing a small variation of the same content, then Automatron will be right up your alley. This first DLC doesn’t add many new mechanics or areas, and it’s definitely on the short side, but I still had a great time playing through it.

First, let’s get the negative out of the way. There isn’t a ton of content here from a story perspective. There are a few short missions and boss battles, and while fun, I found myself wanting more after the story had wrapped up. It does introduce two new enemy types, custom robots and a new raider faction called the “Rust Devils.” While robots have been a staple enemy since Fallout’s inception, these new types are completely over the top and awesome. The difficulty level is definitely increased when fighting some variations, and I died more during this DLC than my entire playtime of the vanilla game combined. It is annoying that most robots will explode upon death, which tend to instant-kill you even at full health. Losing twenty minutes of progress due to an unavoidable death is pretty annoying. Still, finding random overpowered robots out in the Commonwealth adds more variety to the exploration, which is fun. The armor and weapons you get during the story missions are also neat, but don’t add or change much to the gameplay experience.

The biggest thing worth noting about Automatron is the new ability to build custom robot companions of your own. You find blueprints on dead robot enemies, and can use them to create new robots loyal to you. It’s a lot of fun playing around with the different combinations, and I now have a robot guardian at most of my settlements. You do need to have certain perks unlocked to utilize everything, so be careful when leveling up. While Automatron is short on story content, the addition of custom robots is a welcome one, and this DLC serves as a great consolation until the eventual release of Far Harbor, Fallout 4’s first proper large expansion.

8.5/10

 

X-Men: First Class
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I remember being relatively underwhelmed with X-Men: First Class when it first came out, and that’s the primary thing that stopped me from following the franchise. But since I’m running a blog dedicated to video games, movies, and comics, I thought that I should probably give the series another shot. Unfortunately, my memory of this movie still holds true, as First Class fails to live up to the potential of the franchise.

To be fair, I’ve never really loved any of the X-Men films thus far. Some of them are decent, others are downright horrible. By that weak standard, First Class is fine. But we live in a world where Marvel is consistently raising the bar for superhero movies, so I just expect more than a popcorn movie with cliched characters and obvious dialogue, which is exactly what First Class brings to the table. The movie is written as if the writers didn’t trust the audience at all, with characters constantly stating exactly how they feel instead of just allowing the actors to, you know, act. There’s even a scene where the young superheroes are coming up with code names, and everything feels so on the nose. It’s like “Hey, what do you want your code name to be?” “Well, I scream like a Banshee, so how about Banshee?” Obviously that’s paraphrasing, but that’s how the scene felt.

I enjoyed the focus on Charles and Erik’s relationship, but the film mistakenly puts the perspective on James McAvoy’s Professor X. McAvoy is a fine actor, but Charles Xavier just isn’t as interesting as Michael Fassbender’s Magneto in this film. The scenes of him seeking revenge are some of the best in the movie, and I almost would have rather that been the main story, instead of the cliched “world coming to an end” cold war crisis. The villain’s story isn’t helped by the wooden performance by January Jones as Emma Frost. Seriously, could she have looked more bored? Emma Frost is one of the sexiest, most powerful mutants in the world, and Jones brings none of that to her performance. The minions Azazel and Riptide are also completely under-utilized. I don’t think either one had a single line in the movie. Hopefully as the franchise moves forwards, there’s less of a focus on these new X-Men being teenagers, because I just really did not enjoy most of the characters. And of course, the black mutant dies within the first ten minutes of meeting him and the only other minority character ends up joining the bad guys, leaving a completely white superhero squad for the remainder of the film. Come on, guys.

6.6/10

Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo
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Now, this is obviously a free demo, so this “review” should be considered with that in mind. If you’re interested in FF XV, you should still check this out while it’s available, but I wanted to at least talk about my experience and expectations for the game after playing it. The short version is: I’m significantly less excited for Final Fantasy XV now. I understand that this is a demo, and not necessarily representative of the final product. In fact, in the Platinum Demo’s case, it was created entirely from scratch, and nothing in the demo will actually be in the game. This is both a positive and a negative. It’s cool because in theory, you can get a glimpse of the systems and mechanics of the game without actually spoiling anything for yourself. But the way this was executed, I’m not confident that I really got a good representation of how the game plays.

To set the stage, in the demo you play as Noctis, the main character from the proper game, but you play him (mostly) as a kid. Instead of using real weapons to fight real monsters, you’re using toy weapons to fight nightmares, as Noctis is dreaming throughout the demo. This is a fun idea for a demo, and could have given a window into the game in a unique way. Unfortunately, everything is far too simplified from a combat perspective, and far too complicated from a story perspective. The combat shows promise, if there’s more to it than seen in the demo. You can equip four weapons or spells, and alter between them to create combos. While this could be great, magic in this game isn’t what I want out of magic. You don’t use mana, and instead spells are inventory items that you can run out of. You also have to aim them in real time, which takes some getting used to and never really feels right. On the weapon side, I ended up just holding down the attack button to create an automatic combo on every enemy, and it wasn’t particularly interesting.

At the end of the demo, you play as older Noctis against a real boss with real weapons. Here, however, the demo introduces a new ability to teleport around the battlefield, but it never clicked for me. The controls aren’t very responsive, and Noctis seems to get stuck in animations. As far as the story goes, I have no idea what the point of this was. You’re playing as kid Noctis in a dream. That’s it. There’s a lot of existential dialogue between Noctis and his little furry friend seen in the banner above, but none of it really makes sense. The story in Final Fantasy games has taken a nose-dive in recent years, with FF XII being overly complicated and political, while FF XIII was just kind of uninteresting. Japanese games really need to be thrust into the 21st century of video game storytelling. It feels like everything I see coming from the East is melodramatic, confusing, and overwhelming.

As I said up top, take all of this with a grain of salt, because nothing in the demo is final. Hopefully things are far more interesting in the actual game. Videos I’ve seen show a beautiful, expansive world, diverse enemy types, and a sense of humor not usually seen in Final Fantasy games, but none of that was present in this demo. Since this is all I have to go on, my excitement for Final Fantasy XV is highly tempered. I’m still getting the game, and I hope to love it, but the new combat system and same old storytelling conventions that are in place are worrying.

5.8/10

 

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