So, I have built up a sizable video game backlog. I pretty much made my way through most of it during the pandemic, but it built back up again. So I figured I'd go through the games I've checked off the list this year with some mini reviews.
Tales of Arise.
This game is absolutely beautiful. They knocked it out of the park on visuals. The music is pretty bland and generic. There are some very good characters, and a few that are pretty meh. The story was decent, but I felt that it really started to drag in the last third of the game or so. The combat is pretty badly balanced. It's not difficult, but enemies have such a ridiculous pile of HP that it just takes forever, even on normal difficulty. And, well, the combat is not exactly what I'd call engaging, so pounding away at weak stuff that should go down pretty easily for way, way longer than you should have to gets old fast. I ended up setting it to the lowest difficulty level because I was sick of the ridiculous amount of time this game expects you to spend on 700 hit combos just to get through a single battle against the weakest of trash mobs. And after so many times, the flashy combat animations really start to get old and feel like they're wasting your time. Previous entries in the Tales series did not have this problem. They were all pretty well balanced combat-wise. If you like Tales games, or enjoy decently made action JRPGs, you'll probably enjoy this one. I'd say it's probably my fourth favorite in the Tales series behind Berseria, Symphonia, and Xillia. Maybe fifth, I think Vesperia may have also been a bit better, though it's been a long time since I played it.
Shin Megami Tensei V
Okay, Whichever asshole said, "Hey, why don't we make this next game in the series open world" is suffering from a severe deficiency of my boot in his ass. This game has the exact same problem that the majority of open world games have. It's a big open world WITH NO FREAKING PLOT. Which is extremely disappointing as the Shin Megami Tensei series and it's spinoff series Persona have always been deeply story and character driven games. To come into this, expecting more of the same, only to get this big open world that is basically completely empty with nothing at all to do in it but explore, and maybe have a quick story cutscene to string the bare bones of a plot they shoved into it along was just not cool. I like that there are other difficulty levels than "why god, why" and "hard as balls" but when there's literally nothing but repetitive exploration in an completely empty world, it's kind of wasted. I didn't bother finishing it. I got bored and moved on to something else.
Unfortunately, that something else happened to be:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
So, yes. I understand that there are many, many, many people out there that just absolutely love this game. I can see WHY people would. I get it. But this game really just was not for me. It throws an enormous cast of characters at you right off with very little in the way of introduction. Then it just keeps piling more and more complicated systems of gameplay on top of them, and I was like come on, game, give me a few minutes to catch my breath here. At the end of the day, the game just dumped way too much complicated crap on top of me at the very beginning, and the story and characters were not engaging enough for me to stick it out and learn how to play the game.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
This is the one that everyone hates, apparently. I've only played 2 Call of Duty games, this one and WWII, and only for the campaign, so I don't really have much to compare it to in the series. I had a lot of fun with the campaign. I really do not care for online multiplayer BS, so I skipped it entirely. I thought the campaign was a pretty decent sci-fi story. It had some interesting mission design, especially the ones that involved zero-G, or staying out of the sunlight on an asteroid close to the sun. I'm not a huge fan of shooters, but the gameplay wasn't too complicated, and was easy to grasp for a scrub like me.
Okay, I really liked this one. It's a cool throwback to older turn-based JRPGs. It's got 8 characters. Each of them has their own storyline. I enjoyed all 8 storylines and played all of them through to completion. In addition it has an excellent soundtrack, a great battle system that has a surprising amount of depth, and was just a fun, nostalgic little game.
I've attempted to get into the Atelier series a couple times, but the games I've tried have generally just bored me, and I don't like arbitrary time limits. This game is pretty different from the others I've tried. It actually has a plot, for one, and there's no time limit BS, plus the combat was a pretty huge upgrade to the other games I've played in the series. It's a pretty laid back game with a kind of cute story about a teenage girl and her two childhood friends basically having a last little bout of being children before it's time to grow up and be adults.
Doki Doki Literature Club
WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL!?!?!? Starts out as a bland high school harem visual novel and turns into an insane psychological horror story. I was pretty bored with it at first, but holy crap, I'm glad i stuck it out to the end.
This game has a cool visual style, and good combat. The story seems interesting to me on the surface, but I just kept losing interest in it for some reason. It just didn't hold me. And the prospect of having to play the game twice, once with each character, to get the whole story annoyed me, so I gave up on it about 10 hours into my first character's playthrough.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker
I was really hyped for this one, because Shadowbringers, the previous expansion, was the best that Final Fantasy has been in DECADES, and had the absolute best villain in any Final Fantasy game ever. Period. I was a little disappointed. It had some serious pacing issues throughout the story, it felt really long for the sake of being long. Though it had a few very hard emotional gut punches, it felt like a cobbled together mess. Shadowbringers was a very tight character driven story. Endwalker could have used a few more drafts to get everything focused, and remove some of the needless fluff. It really suffered from the comparison. Had this one come out directly after Stormblood, which I absolutely hated, I probably would have loved it, but coming right after Shadowbringers, it felt kind of mediocre. Plus they removed literally every shred of complexity from my favorite class, Summoner.
Whichever asshole said, "Hey, why don't we make this next game in the series open world" is suffering from a severe deficiency of my boot in his ass. Yes. I know I said the exact same thing about Shin Megami Tensei V. It applies to this one too. You know why previous Halo games have just cutscened us to the next mission instead of making you walk cross country to it? BECAUSE IT'S FREAKING BORING AND NO ONE WANTS TO DO IT!!!!! The story was garbage. The open world idea was absolute garbage. And, it seems, that you are REQUIRED to read several novels that take place between Halo 5 and Infinite to know what's happening. 5 stars to that hookshot though. 0 stars to the rest of the game. But that hookshot was cool and fun to play around with. I got bored with the game and gave up before finishing. Who the hell actually enjoys a completely empty open world with nothing to do in it, and zero plot in a series that, until now, has been very story driven, and has not been open world until now? STOP DOING THIS, game developers! No one freaking wants it!
I actually really liked the campaign of this game. It was on sale for $3.99, and I thought to myself, I feel like shooting things for a few hours. I got exactly that, and I can't argue with the price. The combat was surprisingly deep, there were a lot of cool mechanics, and I really enjoyed the story. Never bothered with multiplayer, because I don't care.
The Outer Worlds
The best way I can describe this game would be if Mass Effect was a comedy. I thought it was a lot of fun. It didn't have a whole lot in the way of memorable characters, but it was pretty entertaining for what it was.
The best way I can describe this game would be if Mass Effect was boring with terrible characters. It's fun to play, but the story and characters are utter garbage. I can't even remember if I finished it or not, that's how impactful the story is.
So yeah, there's a lot of games there I gave up on because they just weren't all that engaging to me. The ones that I did finish I generally liked, though some of them did have some issues. I think I'm going to give Triangle Strategy a try next.