Ah, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I like this game but it keeps defeating me! Every few years I pull it out and attempt a run through the Palace of Azad, only to be whipped by Sand Creatures along the way, and end up ragequitting. With the recent news that Ubisoft is remaking this for a 2021 release, I thought it time to give it another spin. I still can't beat it, but I progressed farther into the game than I've ever progressed before! Enough to make a review.
You, the Prince, were betrayed by a treacherous Vizier into unleashing the Sands of Time upon a hapless world. The Palace of Azad has been transformed into a death trap filled with traps and hostile Sand monsters. Now it's up to you and the plucky Princess Farah to battle through the Palace to reach the evil Vizier and reverse the damage you've done to the world!
I usually don't follow game release hype and almost never pre-purchase games. But I made a special exception for Horizon Zero Dawn's arrival to PC (Steam). It had a lot of my favourite things: epic story, strong main character, science-fiction setting, great combat, crafting and exploration -- to say nothing of hunting robots with a bow and arrow, how badass must Aloy be to pull that off?? When I first heard the acclaim from the PlayStation community I resolved to avoid all media and spoilers until I got to play it. I pre-purchased it on Steam, updated my PC with the officially recommended drivers, and loaded in on release day. (Trust me, no other game I've played has received this kind of red-carpet treatment!) So, was this going to be my game of the year?
The verdict: Horizon Zero Dawn is an outstanding game. However, it frustrated me in ways I didn't expect, there were parts I didn't enjoy at all, and I nearly abandoned the game partway through. I'm surprised to say that no, it is not Vega's game of the year, and it may not even make my Top 5 played in 2020. Why not? Let's find out…
You awaken in a world that's experienced an apocalyptic event. Your first task is to find the Bastion, a refuge for your people in case of trouble. As you journey to the damaged Bastion, and then throughout your broken world searching for powerful cores to repair it, you discover more about the Calamity that struck your world, and why. Did anyone else survive the Calamity? How? And who exactly is this narrator, telling your story like it's already happened?
A sequel is tricky to assess. It's always compared to the first/original game, so it has a lot to live up to. Where are the story and characters going next? How will the developers tweak the gameplay formula this time? Is it going to be more of the same, or wildly different? Can it meet everyone's expectations??
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a sequel that's more of the same. Everything I reviewed about XIII -- a cool technomagical world, pedestrian story and characters, pretty graphics, fun and fast-paced gameplay -- holds true for XIII-2. Square-Enix tweaked the formula here and there, but by-and-large this is a conservative sequel that struggles to stand on its own.
Escape a death sentence, get roped into a life-transforming quest. Work with a motley crew of fellow misfits, learn to become allies and even friends. Discover the truth about your society -- and discover you can't go back to the status quo anymore. Defy the powers-that-be, defy your fate: overcome both. Save the world.
Isn't that the theme of all Final Fantasy games? Alright, maybe not -- I haven't played many of them -- but that is the core of Final Fantasy XIII. It's the second FF game I ever started, and the first I played to the end. (My first ever was the famous Final Fantasy VII, which I played when it released on Steam. Let's just say that that experience was decidedly underwhelming.)
The FF franchise is known for syncretizing magic and technology in its settings, and XIII is no different. It's set in a technomagical world that looks modern, even futuristic, but also fantastic, fanciful and otherworldly. This "technomagical" style happens to be an aesthetic that really appeals to me, and XIII delivers the eye candy in spades. Landscapes and buildings and creatures are lushly designed, with locations calculated to wow the player. Combat has a lot of spectacle. There were many times where I just stopped in the middle of travel just to look at the scenery. Say what you want about the rest of the game, it looks amazing.
You are BEL/S, a fire elemental bound to a piece of arcane software. You were created to protect your summoners' neighbourhood and cleanse it of magical corruption, so people can go about their daily lives free from mystic trouble. You embody Fire and Order, but the world is full of chaos and surprises. How will you respond to your world and the people in it, and what will you learn? And you'll have to learn fast, because trouble is already looming in your peaceful, quirky neighbourhood...
Open Sorcery is a text-based narrative game set in our world with an urban fantasy flavour -- everyday magicians and spellcasting, fairies and elemental spirits. As BEL/S, you patrol various locations in the neighbourhood, interact with denizens both human and non, learn new skills, and become more self-aware. It's a light-hearted "coming-of-age" tale filled with diverse and quirky characters.