Just wanted to share thoughts on some games that was all ready to love but couldn't quiet get there
Sunset Overdrive – An original IP from Insomniac, a studio whose games I have loved without fail for nearly 2 decades. What's not to love!?! Everyone praises the traversal and the colorful atmosphere with interesting weapons (an Insomniac specialty).
It just….didn't click for me. The only game they've ever made that didn't. I couldn't get the movement down, I constantly felt like I was fighting to get where I wanted to go. The enemies felt uninteresting and the weapons didn't feel especially fun. I also didn't feel particularly motivated to progress the story and get better at the mechanics.
The only game on this list that I didn't complete.
I might attempt a re-visit some day but after Spider-man basically did everything this game did but better, I don't think it would go very well.
Jedi Fallen Order – Like many, I was primed for an original Star Wars story in the vein of Jedi Knight or Shadows of the Empire after a long hiatus. On the surface this game had everything that was great about those classics. Cinematic set pieces, original characters, exploration in exotic environments and light saber combat that was promised to be dynamic and challenging. I was ready to be over the moon for this one.
It starts out with a bang. That first 30 minutes is easily the best opening to any Star Wars game I've ever played. Unfortunately after that, the game "opens up" and frankly grinds to a halt.
You technically have a choice to visit multiple planets but this design doesn't really work when the path forward is still pretty linear. There is little incentive to explore given the collectibles you get are un-exciting (Ponchos? Really?) and the game is in desperate need of fast travel. re-visiting old areas is an absolute chore. While the map tool is well designed, I don't think that helps when the levels are not.
Beyond that the combat really doesn't stick the landing. I get what they were going for but the Soul-like system of re-spawning enemies and slower, parry-focused fighting does not translate well to story-based Star Wars adventure IMO.
Even after leveling up all of your Jedi powers, you just never feel particularly powerful against even the most mundane enemies. One-on-One duels were the highlight but too many of these enemies were just nameless jobbers with glowing batons instead of force users. That would have been more exciting for me.
There also wasn't enough variety between one-handed, dual wielding or double bladed saber combat.
The story also didn't take any chances at all. It's as cookie cutter Star Wars as it gets with some truly wasted characters and some hilariously shoe-horned cameos. The only twist is telegraphed a mile away so I didn't find it impactful and given where in the lore this takes place, it feels like we are ultimately headed for a dead-end.
Hopefully the sequel tightens up a lot of the issues and takes its time to feel more finished.
Horizon Zero Dawn – I feel like opinion of this game falls into one of two buckets. Whether you played it before Breath of the Wild or after.
I played it after BOTW and as a result some aspects felt dated for an open world game.
It's got a lot to love. An interesting premise, awesome enemy design and great production values make sure the game looks absolutely gorgeous.
A couple of things hold it back though. Obviously, limited traversal is a biggie. Having to go through old school Assassin's Creed style climbing puzzles to get to places of interest feels frustrating. This is the biggest consequence of playing in a post-BOTW world.
The world is very pretty but there wasn't quite enough to organically discover. The game is unable to tell you any part of the story without a lore item explicitly giving you an audio log or wall of text.
Combat seems great at first but once you get the Rope Caster weapon, you basically break the game. It's almost an auto-win weapon for most enemy types…Lock'em down to the ground, hit them with whatever they are weak to, repeat. I kept waiting for the enemies to force me to break that loop and throw something new at me but it didn't happen.
There is very little incentive to set up clever traps or stealthily observe enemy patterns once you can immobilize even the biggest machines.
Conversely, you have to fight human enemies way too often and it feels boring by comparison. Like a worse version of the new Tomb Raider games.
Quest design is also fairly "last-gen" with a lot of fetch-quests delivered by some talking heads. Most of the characters are forgettable and badly animated/voiced unless they have a major role.
Lastly, maybe it's because I consume too much sci-fi but I felt like I was so far ahead of Alloy in terms of knowing what the whole story was that I got annoyed waiting for her to catch up to me for most of the game. I knew who she was, I knew what Zero Dawn was and I knew why the machines were there way early on just from scattered pieces of lore around the world. It's typically not a good thing from a narrative perspective for the player to be ahead of the protagonist this much.
That being said, I enjoyed the game enough to play the Frozen Wilds DLC and let me me say that they saved their absolute BEST stuff for this part. The story, characters and combat all take a big leap forward here. I am absolutely excited for Forbidden West because of the Frozen Wilds when I otherwise would have likely been fairly luke warm on it.
Thanks for reading!
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