Game Review – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt + Game Critics and Hype

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Rexis here!

How’s it going, internet? Come sit with me here, right here, and let’s have a little talk about video games as we’re apt to do here at Ability Points. We have something important to discuss. Something you probably won’t want to hear. Let’s just do this like a band-aid and rip it right off. Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I’m not a fan. (And I should preface this by telling you I never played prequels.)

I can hear your jimmies rustling from across the internet dimension. Let me explain. I found the game to be astonishingly beautiful. The atmosphere was definitely there. Everything you would expect about the world they designed was right on par. On par doesn’t mean exceptional, however. My first big complaint with this game was the world itself. It was lauded as a massive world, but I never really felt like diverging from the story laid out before me. I tried to venture out a few times, but was always drawn back into the town I’d left. The side quests I did partake in were not really worth my time and the whole “adventuring” aspect felt like a chore. Sure, you can make this argument for any adventure game, but it was especially so in this case.

I was put off almost immediately when the game started by the overt and unnecessary nudity. Not that I normally have a problem with it, but it felt so out of place to me. (Also, I’ve seen an ending involving the back of a unicorn and I thought it was stupid. It’s hard to take this game seriously after that.) Once I’d gained control of Geralt, I found that I had never really gained control of him at all. His controls are very slippery and I never know what he’s going to do next. Some people say you get used to it, but come on. I have to “get used to it”? That’s unacceptable to me. He should handle in exactly the manner I expect him to, which is “tight with the controls”.

The gameplay is not much better. There is a bevy of things to learn when it comes to inventory, magic, crafting, and alchemy that the game becomes menu intensive. This really distracts from the beauty of the game overall because I’m constantly looking at menus and trying to sort myself out. Oh and the potion making. For the love of god, why is a monster hunter so dependent on potions? It’s just not a fun aspect of the game.

With all that out of the way, let’s talk about the world this game exists in. I found the story to be interesting, although some knowledge of the lore would have helped a great deal before going into this. The world surrounding that story, though, I found to be stupid. You see, Witchers are kind of hated and they kind of only help people for money. So when townsfolk are telling you how much you suck then begging you to save their lives, it’s stupid. When you, the player, want to behave altruistically by being the hero and helping for no reward, Geralt seems to demand payment for services, which is stupid and makes me kind of hate him. Townsfolk seem to think they have a chance fighting Witchers and will do so anytime someone feels slighted. Again, these are FREAKING MONSTER SLAYERS! These townsfolk are stupid and deserve their imminent deaths. I can suspend my disbelief just as well as the next comic book nerd, but this game is asking A LOT!

So… The slippery controls, tedious gameplay, uninteresting landscape, world of idiots, and my general distaste for all of the characters are the reasons this game is listed for sale on my local garage sale website. This brings me to the next point of this post, because you get more than a review when you come here. Hype is bad for you.

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was overhyped. People were clamoring for this game. I had no interest in playing it at all and had never even heard of this series prior to this title. I picked it up because, hey, I like adventure games and exploring open worlds and stuff, but was sorely disappointed. There have been a ton of games that were overhyped and turned into letdowns. A recent title that I never played was Destiny. This game had a huge advertising budget so the hype makes sense, but the day after launch people had all but forgotten it. I couldn’t find anyone who could tell me one unique and original reason to buy this game.

Over hyping games is nothing new and while Peter Molyneux gets the brunt of the jokes when it comes to this topic, I like to think he was just a dreamer whose words were taken out of context. Fable, for example, wasn’t a bad game, but it didn’t live up to its hype. This is the first big title I can recall being psyched about and subsequently let down. Many years and blunders later, you might ask why I hadn’t learned my lesson. The reason why I gave Witcher 3 a chance is because of a game called The Order: 1886.

That’s right. Another overhyped game that amounted to a ton of cinematics. I didn’t play this game but I enjoyed the YouTube Let’s Plays on it, just I enjoyed watching Heavy Rain. Critics panned it, but it is a good game! It just may not be the type of game you expected it to be. We have so many different genres these days that people can easily mistake what they are buying. We don’t need critics rating games with preconceived bias. If you’re forte is shooters, I don’t care what you think of Ori and the Blind Forest. What we need are people who can explain what a game is, then give a small review of what they thought of it. Ratings need to go away because a little number can destroy someone’s hard work. The people behind The Order: 1886 did an amazing job and were genuinely excited about the release, but had to listen to critics who have never done anything productive tear their hard work down over a misunderstanding. It’s sad.

I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t you just do the same thing here to Witcher 3?” No. Witcher 3 is well within my comfort zone. I understand its mechanics and genre. I knew what I was getting into. People who played The Order: 1886 made references to games outside of its genre, like Skyrim. They expected the game to be something it wasn’t. That’s biased. My review clearly explains this games genre and style without resorting to comparisons with other titles. It tells you what to expect rather than telling you what not to expect. This is a subtle difference that paid critics tend to fail in. (Yes, I’m generalizing critics, but they are so often wrong.) And finally, this is my blog about my gaming experiences. I’m not being paid to give you a fair and unbiased review, though I’ll strive for that regardless. In short, I didn’t say “Witcher 3 is bad because it’s not Skyrim, pllllt!” Those are the reviews that hurt the industry.

If you take away anything from this post, let it be this: Don’t trust critics. Don’t trust hype. Read gameplay reviews, sure. Watch Let’s Play videos. And rent the title before you buy it, if you can. You’ll save a lot of money and time. Don’t let others do your thinking for you.

Backwards Compatibility Indifference

retro gaming

Rexis here!

In the most Seinfeld-esque voice I can muster, I must ask “What is the deal with backwards compatibility?” XBOX One made headlines at E3 this year when they announced backwards compatibility with 360 titles. I had a mixed response. I had recently purchased my One and this will open a library of games I haven’t played. You see, I never owned a 360, but my lack of purchase was for a good reason. I wasn’t impressed with the games lineup. So to me, XBOX One’s backward compatibility is a non-issue. I simply don’t care.

There are certainly a lot of people out there that do care, however. Every time a new console is released, people complain about the lack of this basic function. It’s really not basic. It is hard to make a system play games from previous consoles. My laptop is a gaming rig, a bit more powerful than PS3, and it can’t run GameCube and PS1 emulators. Microsoft will tell you this themselves. Read about the process of bringing this feature to the One and you’ll understand.

I’ve always had one question for people who want backwards compatibility; Why did you sell your previous console in the first place? Seriously, if the games were so great why did you part with your only means to play them? I have a friend at work who sold his entire 360 setup and all his games as soon as the One was available for pre-order. As a collector, I was baffled. He got quite a bit of money towards the new console, but he gave up all his old stuff. When I asked him why, he said he was ready for the next thing. He doesn’t have that collector’s mindset. He moves to the next technology without looking back, a trait I can admire. His thoughts on backwards compatibility? He’s happy he can play games he liked in the past, but it amounts to indifference because he sold those titles and isn’t likely to buy them again, digitally or otherwise.

Nintendo spoiled us a bit. The Wii plays GameCube games. The Wii U plays Wii games. GBA plays Game Boy Games. DS plays Advance Games. 3DS plays DS games. They obviously have some skill in incorporating backwards compatibility. PlayStation is similar. PS2 plays PS1. PS3 first gen consoles play PS2 games. They’ve dropped the feature for PS4 and have no interest in developing it. Should they? I don’t think so. Of course, I still have a PS3 on my shelf.

It seems to be a hotly debated feature but the only real arguments I can find for including it are along these lines; A bigger game library for the console, less shelf space is required for consoles, and less systems to hook to the TV. That pretty much sums it up. Perhaps I’m missing something? I have a TV with lots of inputs, a nice switcher, and a custom TV stand with room for plenty of consoles. Maybe that is why I don’t get it? I’m not having an issue backwards compatibility can solve, perhaps?

I personally think some of this is brought on by nostalgia. People hate to let go of the things they enjoyed in the past. It’s in our nature. We want to know that our new consoles can play our favorite classics even if we have no actual intention of returning to them. The fact that we can is enough to appease us. This may be the same mindset some collectors have. I, for one, have no intention of revisiting Link’s Awakening on Gameboy. I’d rather play it on my 3DS, but I still own it and the idea of parting with it, well, you must be joking to suggest such a thing! I can’t believe you’d even say that to my face….

Jokes aside, maybe we should embrace Sony’s mindset and let backwards compatibility fall to the wayside like motion controls and embrace the future. We stand on the threshold of virtual reality. We are on the verge of flying spacecraft as if we were actually in them, but first we have to appease a small audience of gamers who didn’t get enough Syphon Filter? Look, I’m all about the freedom to play what you want and if you want to be stuck in the past, that’s fine. I enjoy a retro game or two every once in a while, but I sure don’t expect my Wii U to play Contra. Stop expecting the big three to cater to your regret for parting with a system you loved. Stop selling your consoles if having a bigger game library is important to you. Just so you know, a switcher is not expensive and bigger TV stands are not hard to come by. They are certainly cheaper than parting with and subsequently purchasing your collection all over again.

Finally, if any game companies can hear me, stop making backwards compatibility an issue and focus on your games. Customers will eventually forget about this feature and you can invest more in making good games. Atari 7800 played games from the 2600 way back in the day, but when NES and SNES came around, no one was clamoring to rock Bubble Bobble carts on their 16 bit systems. Same applied to the N64 and GameCube. No complaints. Let’s get it together and stop trying to appease a sub-genre of gamers who have seller’s remorse. Please? Does it matter if I say please? No? Just checking…

Arigatō, Iwata-san.

Gaming in the Fifth Generation

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Playing Duke Nukem 64 while listening to Eric Cartman sing Styx.

Rexis here!

And yes. That really happened. Multiple times. It might sound crazy, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it. (That’s a weird old phrase.) I will always contend that Come Sail Away is the best song for a Surge fueled revenge mission against the aliens who captured our babes. Our babes! Won’t someone think of the babes!

Single player campaigns used to be an important aspect in game design. The N64 didn’t have a modem and could only host four player split screen matches at its best. In an era without constant connection through cell phones and social media, you had to know how to have fun alone. And nothing beat loud music and a killer shoot ‘em up campaign.

The N64 hit the American scene in 1996 following the first PlayStation in 1995. Around this time, I was in sixth grade and wouldn’t own the 64 for another two years, but that didn’t stop me from playing at friend’s houses. Mario Kart was our game of choice in the early days because of its multiplayer aspects. Mario 64 gets boring if you’re constantly passing the controller back and forth. Duke Nukem 64 and Goldeneye were my first forays into the FPS scene, and arguably started said scene. Final Fantasy VII released in 1997 and was my first true RPG, kick starting my love for the genre, and I had to play that on a friend’s PlayStation in intervals over many, many weekends. I didn’t complete the game until I was able to buy my own copy several years later.

It was truly a time of trial and error when it came to finding fun games, just like the generations before it. There were no Let’s Play videos or internet reviews. The best you could do was to trust the magazines, if you had access to them. We had rental stores in those days. Blockbuster and Hollywood Video come to mind. There were also a myriad of smaller rental shops with no real name. The only information you had to go on was whatever they decided to print on the box. Deciding on a game could take ages. If it sucked, you’re weekend was shot. You really had to trust your friend’s recommendations in this regard.

Truly, the most fun experiences I recall were those Friday and Saturday nights when a few friends would come over, each with their own controller. You had to have your own controller back then. Only 4 player titles were allowed and we would game until the sun came up. Trash talk was personal, unlike today’s gamers stringing profanities and racial slurs across a headset. Your honor as a gamer was on the line. Reputations were at stake! Saying the wrong thing or simply being too good would cause your friends to gang up on you, especially in Smash Brothers. Sometimes, things would go too far and a scuffle would break out, but it was all in good fun.

It was an age of instant gaming. Drop in a cart or disc and just play it. There was no DLC, no updates, no patches. No DDOS attacks blacking out multiplayer. There were no hard drives. Wireless controllers sucked. And God help you if you BUMP THE SYSTEM AND FREEZE THE GAME BEFORE I GET TO A SAVE POINT!

I miss the late 90’s sometimes.

 

Rare and Unique Video Game Consoles

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Rexis here!

So the internet almost broke this week when someone found a Super Nintendo- PlayStation prototype in a box in his attic. This is an epic find to say the least. I’m sure you’re familiar with the history by this point. A quick recap, some bad stuff went down between Sony and Nintendo back in the day, and a SNES disc playing add-on was cancelled. Essentially, Nintendo created their own worst enemy. Sony is smashing sales these days and they wouldn’t even be a thing if not for this early career backstabbing.

There’s been debate about whether this thing is a hoax or not, but I’m inclined to believe its authenticity. I’m sure a number of prototypes like this were created and leaked somehow. Checking this thing out got me interested in finding some other obscure and rare consoles. Here’s a few that I think would look great in my collection.

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Panasonic Q Nintendo GameCube

Here is an interesting amalgamation of Nintendo and Panasonic. This is literally a front loading DVD player with GameCube functionality designed to compete with the PS2 and XBOX. You see, the GameCube couldn’t play DVDs. This Frankenstein of a system could. For about $500. Perhaps the target market was “people who only have one AV input on their TV” seeing as it would have been much cheaper to just buy a DVD player and a console.

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Sega Mega Jet

You may have heard of this one before. I’ve always had a soft spot for retro Sega. It was my first true console and Sonic 2 was the first game I’d ever beaten. When I first heard about the Mega Jet, I thought the Japanese were so lucky! You see, this little console was available for rental on Japanese Air Lines. It was later released to the public, but only in Japan. It is the predecessor to the Sega Nomad which only saw release in North America. At least we got that.

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Nintendo 64 Lodgenet (also SNES and GameCube)

I didn’t get to spend much time in hotels when I was younger, but I remember seeing this controller a couple of times (probably visiting relatives or something). It was attached to a little box on top of the TV and worked on a pay-per-view system, but instead of a movie you get to play a game for a set amount of time. Such a cool idea! It seems that having accessible rental video game consoles was a big deal at one point.

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Sega Dreamcast Zip Drive

One last entry from Sega proves that the Dreamcast was seen as a viable computer option at one point. The Zip Drive (which might be more of a peripheral, but I’m adding it anyway) could be used to save emails and game data for a system with limited storage capacity. This bad boy would add a whopping 100MB for only $199. Unfortunately, this device never saw the light of day, though a prototype was found and sold on eBay in 2007.

 The market is flooded with limited edition consoles these days and they all seem to be variations of the same original system. Slim models eventually join their ranks, followed by super slims, then another generation comes along. The days of fusing NES systems with televisions or making licensed handheld versions of consoles are gone. Do you know of any that deserve to be on this list? Let me know in the comments! Happy collecting, retro junkies!