Quickie Reviews #25

Skyrim Special Edition

Skyrim is one of my favorite games of all time, so I’d gladly take any excuse to play through it again. First, the good stuff. I’m playing Special Edition on PS4, and the game looks immeasurably better. I did play it on my under-powered PC back in 2011, and comparatively, the game looks great on console now. The lighting is particularly good. Everything looks crisper and sounds cleaner, and the load times are thankfully much shorter. In general, it runs much better than on PS3, but that’s an admittedly low bar.

There weren’t really any gameplay improvements made, which is a bit of a shame. The first person melee combat was not one of the stronger aspects of Skyrim. Special Edition does also include all of the DLC, which is nice because you can play through things piecemeal rather than one big chunk like when it originally released.

The biggest selling point of Special Edition on consoles is the inclusion of mods. The interface works like you’d want it to, and it’s very easy to install whatever mods you want to change the game however you want. However, since I’m playing on PS4, the available mods are much fewer than on Xbox One because Sony didn’t want any of the nude-type mods on their console. I understand their reasoning, but I think they went too far in limiting the mods available. The blame isn’t solely on them, however, I’m sure Bethesda was as hard to work with as ever. Still, the whole situation is a bummer.

I was also really disappointed to find out that enabling mods disables trophies. Admittedly some people may not care about that, but I got the platinum trophy in Skyrim and I wanted to get it again in Special Edition. That means I have to play through everything with no mods installed the first time. That sucks. It’s a single player game, who cares if some mods make things easy? Still, I’ve had six different playthroughs of this game including my current one, so I’m sure I’ll make it to seven. If you haven’t played Skryim before, or if you’d like to try out some of the amazing mods available on console, Skyrim Special Edition is definitely worth your time.

9.0/10

Battlefield 1

I would consider myself a lapsed Battlefield fan. The last game I played religiously was BF3. While I enjoyed my time with BF4, it was so broken for so long at launch that I kind of moved on by the time things were working properly, and I skipped Hardline entirely after being underwhelmed by the demo. Battlefield 1 has a great multiplayer feel, but it just doesn’t do enough to bring me back to multiplayer shooters. Honestly, I think that period of my life might be over, and it’s probably for the best.

That said, the multiplayer in Battlefield 1 is exactly what you’d want from a modern WWI shooter. This isn’t a simulation type of game, and yes there are way more automatic weapons than are realistic for the time period, but come on, it’s a video game and only using bolt action rifles would get very old very quick. The game looks gorgeous, especially considering how large most of the maps are, and the sounds are as engrossing as ever. I was kind of disappointed with how few weapons there are available, and having a few variations of each doesn’t really solve that problem. The institution of the behemoth blimps, trains, etc are a cool touch for the larger game modes, but they do tend to feel a bit overpowered if the team knows how to use them.

The single player is what it is. It works as an introduction to gameplay concepts and mechanics, but doesn’t really do anything from a storytelling perspective. The vignettes taking place with different characters and different locations could have been cool, but you spend so little time in any one of them that the impact is lost. There’s really no reason to replay any of them. Even though the single player was forgettable, I enjoyed my time with Battlefield 1’s multiplayer for the several hours that I played. Take my opinion with a grain of salt, though. I just don’t really enjoy competitive shooters anymore, the other players ruin them for me.

8.4/10

Abzu

Journey was my favorite game of 2012, so I was obviously excited when Abzu was announced, since it was coming from a lot of the same creative team. While I’ll say that it doesn’t quite hold up to Journey in a lot of areas, it’s still a gorgeous game with the same ambient storytelling.

The actual story of Abzu seems very open to interpretation, and I like that. Little things are hinted at in the environment via paintings on walls and old looking machines. What I took from the game is that your player character comes from a seemingly extinct race of people that were partially responsible for creating the oceans and creatures in them. During the game, you’re revitalizing areas of the ocean that have become lifeless and without color. You may come away with something entirely different, and that’s really cool.

The game is absolutely stunning. While Uncharted 4 is probably the best looking game I saw this year from a technical perspective, Abzu definitely gives A Thief’s End a run for its money in the art direction department. The team behind Abzu went through a painstaking research process on sea creatures and environments, and it shows. Everything has a ton of detail, despite the somewhat simplistic art style. I also want to applaud the color of the game. It seems like more and more modern video games go for that gritty post-apocalyptic aesthetic where everything is a different shade of brown. Even Journey, for all its beautiful visuals, mostly played with earth tones. Abzu flies (or swims) in the face of that, shining with reds and greens and yellows everywhere. The game has a contemplative tone, but the colors give it a very welcome cheery feel.

The movement of the game does fall a bit short, however. Look, it’s really hard to make swimming underwater fun, and Abzu comes about as close as any other game. But it’s still just a really tricky thing to be able to move in any direction in a 3D space while also controlling the camera. It became a bit of a “pat your head while rubbing your stomach” type of thing, and due to the short nature of the game, I never really mastered it. Still, Abzu is a wonderful little game that celebrates the ocean in a way I’ve never seen before. There’s very little gameplay to speak of, but I just enjoyed taking a ride with sea turtles or watching a barracuda hunt down some lunch.

9.2/10

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