All posts by therealmikesori

Review: The Walking Dead Season 3 – The Ties That Bind

The Walking Dead: Season 3 – The Ties that Bind

Developed and Published by Telltale Games

Reviewed on the PS4

Beginning with Season 1 of the Walking Dead back in 2012, developer TellTale Games proved themselves to be expertly capable of creating rich, carefully crafted stories using well established IPs. Since then TellTale has tackled everything from Minecraft to Game of Thrones and has quite obviously left their mark on the modern day adventure game, a veritable roller coaster with the illusion of choice peppered throughout. That has been their formula, and by golly it works, at least for me.

TellTale’s The Walking Dead has been, undoubtedly, my favorite contribution to their extensive catalogue of products (which seemingly grows larger every time I look away). The Walking Dead Season 3 has been the newest entry in the series and it is undeniable that TellTale has learned a new trick with every game they’ve released.

The most quintessential aspect of any TellTale game is the story. I’ve noticed with each subsequent TellTale release that The Walking Dead Season 1 was the pinnacle of that TellTale formula coupled alongside some of the most gripping writing I’ve ever seen in a Video Game, and while The Walking Dead Season 3 doesn’t hit the same marks I can say that it’s still deeply rewarding.

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The most striking difference coming into Season 3 was the fact that Clementine would not be the Player Character for the Season. Instead, we are thrust into the role of Javier Garcia, a former professional baseball player whose Father passes away on the day of the outbreak. The opening scene in the pre-apocalypse is an intriguing scene that establishes a lot of Javier’s prior behavior and his relationship with the individual family members. It’s a quiet, emotional scene driven by a collective grief instilled into each of the character as they wrestle with the father’s passing. Obviously, since this is a Walking Dead game the grief and mourning doesn’t last too long before Javier’s Father turns into one of those feisty zamboni’s that crave human flesh and chaos. It’s a hectic opener and a hell of way to introduce to the cast.

Javier is a great character and an excellent addition to The Walking Dead cast. He may not have the heart or silky smooth voice of Lee but he’s still compelling and interesting, with enough charisma to boot. Clementine also makes a return in a more limited role than the previous seasons. Times have been tough for her after the events of Season 2. Interlaced throughout the main story are some excellent flashback moments that serve as an epilogue to whatever events you choose in Season 2. These flashbacks were easily my favorite part of the episodes, for however limited they are, since they allow you to embody Clementine as horrific events from her past are revealed.

I’ll stay light on specific story spoilers as I feel it would be an absolute injustice to reveal the most important aspect of any TellTale game, but I will say that as the episodes progressed I felt myself caring less about the overall story and more about the interpersonal relationships between the cast. The Walking Dead fails for me when it devolves into an all-out war scenario between two groups. I care about personal drama and how people react to the crazy world they now live in, and how they cope with that, rather than the all-out, guns blazing war movie bonanza that the most recent season of the Walking Dead TV show has gone down. Season 3 of The Walking Dead is taking similar cues from the TV show and I can’t help but feel that it waters down what made the first two seasons so good. The threat is no longer the Walkers, it’s now The New Frontier, the outright evil group that has subtitled this newest season. There’s still a ton of great character moments but the overarching New Frontier storyline is just plain lame. Hopefully they can pick up the pace in the next three seasons.

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Something else that was immediately noticeable in the opening moments and persisted throughout the rest of the episodes was the significant upgrade that TellTale made to their engine. While it still maintains that traditional TellTale art style, everything looks crisper and cleaner. Characters are more detailed and environments are able to accommodate more objects in a scene. Another improvement is the camera work, it seems that TellTale actually spent the time to craft an actual scene with proper character blocking and excellent cinematography. There was a craft to the cinematography that I felt was absent in previous TellTale game. Deliberate attention was paid to what was previously an oversight and I couldn’t be happier. The experience drastically deviated from simply playing a TellTale game to feeling and experiencing the game.

CLOSING COMMENTS:

The Ties That Bind Us are two strong entries into The Walking Dead franchise and I’m intrigued to see where these characters’ path leads us. It may have its faults but overall I felt satisfied with what I played. All I can say is, I’m excited with where the story was left off and I can’t wait to see what happens next time on… The Walking Dead.

Was that lame? I feel like it was a bit lame.

(4.0/5.0)

4-rating

Review: Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2

Developed by Arkane Studios

Published by Bethesda Softworks

Reviewed on the PS4

The misadventures of Corvo Attano and Emily Kaldwin were, in my eyes, perfectly encapsulated in the first entry in the now newly titled Dishonored franchise. Dishonored took the weaker aspects of the newly rebooted Deus Ex franchise, at the time Human Revolution, and placed into a refreshing and unique palette that both enthralled and terrified me. A world whose only reliable energy source comes from the blubber of whales. It’s fascinating and enriching to unravel the onionlike quality of the world through the lens of a tightly woven stealth game. The first Dishonored was like lightning in a bottle, was Dishonored 2 able to successfully integrate all the aspects that made Dishonored so unique and still improve upon them to make the game feel like a true sequel to, what I would consider, one of the most outstanding stealth games of the decade?
When it comes to what made Dishonored so successful, I’d have to start with the fact that the game created a compelling, elaborate, and dynamic world to explore. A world that reacted to your actions and allowed you to sit and ruminate hefty decision before executing them. Dishonored 2 carries forth the series’ obsession with the minutia. Small clues and details on the state of the world are scattered throughout the game world. While they provide very little in terms of advancing the plot, they are excellent at presenting the world of Karnaca as a living, breathing locale. I will also add that this change of scenery from Dunwall to Karnaca is refreshing even with the fact that the same tonal drabness is consistent. The plot in itself is straight forward and generally unexciting when taken at face value yet it is its implicit morality and choice system that makes the narrative feel as if you have control.

Within the opening moments of the game, the sister of the now long dead Queen has staged a coup and presented the player with the first pivotal decision of the game: who will I play? For anyone that hasn’t seen the extensive marketing campaigns for Dishonored 2 the playable character decision was the point that Arkane liked to harp upon the loudest and most frequently. My playthrough was done as Corvo as I felt he had more stories to tell after his adventure in Dishonored. He was also an interesting and complex enough character that I felt compelled to listen to his dialogue, read his extensive notes, and generally enjoy crawling around in the headspace of the Royal Protector. My biggest gripe against the game’s narrative is the lack of interesting villains, specifically Jessamine, who is about as interesting as a wet rag. She provides nothing of substance to the story and brings down the quality of a middling story to begin with. The villains who assist Jessamine in rising to power are each unique and interesting in their own way that they make up for Jessamine’s fault. The supporting characters of Anton Sokolov and Meagan are each cool and inspired although slightly generic. And, a particular twist involving Meagan falls so horribly flat that you can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness and melodrama of the situation.

I’ll definitely be going back in for a second playthrough as Emily, which I feel speaks volumes on the overall quality and consistency of the product. No one playthrough will feel the same depending on the choices you’ve made. I played through as a Ghost, killing only when necessary and usually clinging to the cold embrace of the silky shadows, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to quickly and quietly dispatch of the target before anyone realizes they’re gone. Almost every playstyle is accounted for with regards to the plot. If you’d prefer to play Dishonored 2 as an action-adventure hack and slash (however silly that may be) there are definite opportunities for you to do so. If you prefer sticking to the shadows then that playstyle is also accounted for.

The powers in Dishonored have always been fascinating little trickery’s. In almost every aspect they are identical to powers that can be found in other high-profile stealth games. What makes them different, and in turn better, is Arkane’s ability to seamlessly weave their existence into the universe without making it feel ham-fisted or foolish. Everything has a place and was placed where it was for a reason. The Dishonored series has achieved a particular status within the annals of gaming history that allows it to, in my eyes, stand toe-to-toe with giants like Deus Ex and Hitman.

This version of Dishonored 2 was played on PC after the release of Patch 1.3 which added sweeping changes and bug fixes, essentially making the game playable. I did encounter a few stutters and frame drops on occasion, especially around the more complexly designed maze like levels, yet those issues were few and far between.

CLOSING COMMENTS:

Dishonored 2 has allotted itself as the premier stealth game of the year. It hits all the right marks when it comes to story, gameplay, and world-building in such a stupendous fashion that I can’t help but feel giddy when discussing it. As a gamer who absolutely loves deep, richly-crafted worlds and environments the very idea of Dishonored 2 gets me excited. Also, it only helps that Dishonored 2 is one of the most beautiful and stylistically intricate games of the year. If there is a stealth game, or game for that matter, that you absolutely must buy this year then I can’t recommend Dishonored 2 enough.
5.0/5.0

5-rating